Surreal… the only word that summarises how I am feeling right now. Having completed the Race to the Stones yesterday in 11hours 5mins – and coming home as 2nd Senior Female it’s unsurprising that it hasn’t all quite sunk in yet.
The Race to the Stones has been voted as the Number One Ultra Marathon in the UK and I can totally understand why. The organisation was phenomenal, from picking up race numbers at 6:30am to crossing the finish line 11 hours later everything ran incredibly smoothly. The pit stops were impeccable, from the staff running them, to the choices on offer, there really was nothing to fault! The encouragement from everyone (in particular my support team) was overwhelming throughout, even when the weather was super bleak! So a massive thank you goes out to all those who were on the course!
Now to the nitty gritty… the race itself. Everything became a little bit real before heading to be on Friday night, when it sunk in that just over 15 months ago I had never run a marathon, and now I was about to run two and a half of them all in one day! What was I thinking. I have read many a time that running an ultra-marathon is ‘mind over matter’ and nothing rang more true yesterday, I’d even go as far to say its 90% mental strength that will get anyone through this type of feat.
Apprehension was inevitable, but standing on the start line I was actually strangely looking forward to what was ahead – something I hadn’t quite expected! Surrounded by those planning on completing the race in sub-12 hours I felt extremely out of my depth, and being the youngest female to ever take on the Race to the Stones was adding the pressure. However, 1km in and all these thoughts were banished and the aim of the day was just to get the finish line in one piece.
The first 50km brought a great bought of rain, something I was not quite prepared for, and spent most of the pit stops being patted dry and trying to warm up by my support team! (ps.. ALWAYS PACK A RAIN JACKET) — something I read many a time, and continued to ignore. Prior to the race I was expecting the half way point to be the toughest mentally, crossing the ‘Finish’ line, yet knowing I wasn’t heading to the relaxation tent like the majority of the other runners. (In the Race to the Stones you can opt to take on the challenge over two days – the sensible choice. Or you can throw yourself in at the deep-end and take it all on in one day – no surprises as to which option I opted for). But surprisingly the half way point was a blessing in disguise, I took on some fuel and got going again.
It was between 58km – 70km that was probably the toughest battle, the hills were relentless and I was struggling to take on any fuel – truly indecisive over what I wanted (that horrible feeling of complete and utter exhaustion) – however, I plodded along! My dad was a hero for the second part of the course, spending the majority of it on his bike following the route along and supporting me with haribo (the fuel of champions) and water as and when I needed!
Quite honestly, this was where I thought I would hit ‘the wall’. Knowing that this was the furthest I had ever run, and unsure of what would be ahead of me. But much to my complete and utter surprise ‘the wall’ was never hit, and evidently the mental preparation was clearly paying off. Don’t get me wrong, this was the toughest venture I have ever endured – and much to the relief of my friends and family it’s not something I will be entering anytime soon – think I’ll be sticking to the marathon distance!
This was a bit of a blur, running up and down over rolling hills that quite honestly felt like Kilimanjaro. But hitting the 85km point was incredible, and something I never thought would be possible. The organisers didn’t make this quest easy, some of the toughest hills and trails came at this part of the course, and it was the sheer concentration of ‘left foot.. right foot.. don’t trip up’ that was exhausting.
But then came the final 10km, something by this point I felt I could probably do in my sleep.. until I realised there were runners running the other direction – NOT A LOOP BACK! Anyone that knows me, knows that any race you have to go back on yourself is a big no-no. I can’t stand running in one direction to know I’m just going to have to run that part of the course all over again. Even more disappointing, we were running to ‘The Stones’ (the most underwhelming neolithic stone circle I have ever come across. Once you reached the stones you got your ‘photo opportunity’. and left. To head back down the same path you just ran down.. great.
But then you hit THE SIGN – 1km to go! You’d think this would bring with it a great deal of excitement, but to be honest I was overheating at this point, and just didn’t want to fall at the last hurdle. So the focus turned to counting down from 1000 backwards and hoping by the time I got to the end the finish line would be in sight. I couldn’t tell you what number I got to as the finish line made it’s appearance much sooner than expected! All in all an insane day – with an insane support crew – and something I am still coming to terms with – an insane result!
Back when I entered I had written about hoping to finish in 15hours, to finish in 11hours, as 2nd Senior Female and 50th overall, I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything more! Thank you again to everyone who came out to support. And if you’re thinking of entering – do it! But only if you’re willing to put in the mental training. Being physically fit is one thing – mentally fit is a whole different ball game!
The Habit Hunter x