Revenge of the Fifth Half Marathon

I won’t lie, I’m definitely more of a road runner than a trail runner. That said, I do really enjoy running on trails and doing beautiful scenic runs. I think my main preference for road is just that I like the predictability and control of road running compared to the often craziness of the trails.

Saying this, I was excited about doing this half marathon as it looked to be so different to what I’d been doing recently. It was in a beautiful part of the UK (Church Stretton in Shropshire) and I had absolutely zero goals. It was supposed to be ridiculously hilly (run by the guys at How Hard Can it Be… case and point) and I wasn’t after anything more than an enjoyable run round a pretty place. It was called Revenge of the Fifth as it was May 5th, and the day before they’d had a half and a marathon called May the Forth. I do like a theme!James and I arrived at 9am, an hour before the half would begin. It was beautifully sunny and clear. But yes, starting to get warm. We collected our bibs and headed to the loos in the tearoom a short walk away. To pass the time we did this twice. As runners before a race I think you just live in a cycle of waiting to pee and peeing.The medals were really funky, all Star Wars themed of course. Everyone was super friendly and it very much had the vibe of “trailer running” rather than “road racing”. Super chilled. Lots of sturdy legged bearded men and hydration belts all over the shop. I’m making sweeping generalisations of course but you get the idea.As well as the half marathon the marathon would be starting at the same time. It wasn’t a huge race (just over 100 for the half and 40 or so for the full). Probably good because the trail was quite narrow and windy at points and over-taking people had to be navigated carefully.We lined up and got ready to go. I wasn’t really sure what I was fancying running. I thought I’d just see how I felt (I mean, let’s be honest this is mostly how I approach all races…). I didn’t want to kill myself, I quite fancied an enjoyable “sight-seeing” run but at the same time not go completely easy. One of James’ friends had done the race the day before (it was the same course) and had gotten 2.5 hours and he was roughly around my speed so I thought that was a good gauge of pace. And to give you an idea of the elevation…The first part of the run was TOUGH. I set off at a run and within a few minutes we were uphill and it felt hard. I had the crushing thought of “only two and half hours left of this”. It was a bit soul destroying. As we got onto the start of the incline basically everyone ground to a halt and started walking. Of course, so did I. I spotted a few females ahead of me and decided to see if I could pick them off eventually. I passed one girl but then she very quickly ran ahead of me again up the hill – someone saying to her “you should probably save your energy” and she happily replied “where’s the fun in that!”. To be fair, she did well! She headed off in to the distance and finished first female.

As I plodded as quickly as I could walking up the steep hill (I want to say mountain because honestly that’s what it was like) I decided to snap a few pics. It was so pretty I just had to!It never looks that steep in a photo does it? But it was.There’s a the first female dashing off into the distance ahead. She looked so much like Chrissie Wellington it was bizarre. We wondered if she was somehow related!

So anyway we finally got to the top and it was a relief to start running again. There was a nice bit of flat and downhill and I made the most of it to speed up as much as I could to make up for the previous walking. I was flying downhill and couldn’t believe I was seeing 7 min/mile pace on my watch. I wondered if by having these downhill moments I could make up for the uphills and try and even out my pace to be 9min/miles overall. This was quite a faraway thought in my mind as I knew my target was 2.5 hours anyway and I didn’t want to be too ambitious.I did a bit of over-taking and being over-taken by the second female ahead of me and we joked that this might happen for a while. As we got onto some seriously fun downhill action (we’re talking jumping over little streams, craggy bits of rock and fun little trails) and I followed her closely. We gained another person to our crew and all three of us had a whale of a time. It really was such good fun and certainly made up for the slog of the uphill earlier.The three of us stuck together for a couple of miles before the guy, his name was Dexter I found out later, and I peeled off ahead. It was nice to run with someone and chat though I was worried I was holding him back. It definitely helped pass the miles to run alongside him.We ran through a caravan park and were helpfully directed the right way by some campers as we momentarily were puzzles where to go. There weren’t any marshals on the course but they’d used signs where they could or hung strips of ribbon on branches to help guide. It was mostly easy to navigate and it helped that I had the course on my watch. Though this suddenly made me a guru of directions to others around me, not a good position to be in for someone like me…Then we almost got taken out by some sheep dashing away from us… there were a lot of sheep on the course! But otherwise it was relatively event-less. My legs felt good, I felt good… I was enjoying myself. The constant variations of the trail, the elevation and the surroundings meant you never got board. I didn’t miss listening to music, I was having a great time.

Eventually Dexter’s calves began to feel the burn and I was running on my own again. It was now time for the final uphill. I was quite thirsty at this point. It was warm, not unbearably hot, but I hadn’t taken any water and thought I’d be OK with the two water stations on the course. I spotted a man ahead walking slower than me with a hydration bag on. I decided to make it my mission to get to him and ask him for some water.

It took some time but I made it and asked if he’d mind sharing a tiny bit. He was very friendly and offered the tube to drink from. What was somewhat awkward was how short the tube was. It meant I had to walk very close to him to him and try not to fall over while navigating over the bumpy trail. Happily he wasn’t too bothered and I was super grateful for the water!Eventually I made it to the last water station and stopped to chug down three cups of water. I was gently chastised by the marshal for not asking for a single cup to be refilled rather than just take three separate cups and create more waste. I literally hadn’t even thought! I apologised – they were very nice but I still feel a bit stupid.

Then I headed off. I managed to overtake a few more people and found myself with no one ahead of me. Always a huge concern for someone not gifted with a sense of direction or common sense. Thankfully I had my watch to help guide me but I did have to shout back to other runners to double check where to go – they were a bit confused too. The sheep apparently like to eat the ribbons (we had been pre-warned of this).

Mile 12 was a crazy and scary downhill section. It was actually my least favourite mile because it felt so mental. You wanted to continually stop yourself and the pounding on your feet wasn’t pleasant. It felt ridiculous scary and hard. Then there was one cheeky nasty uphill left and then finally to the finish. Whew.My time was 2:03:46, 2nd female and 6th overall. So pleased!I felt really strong during this race and at no point felt like I was flagging (asides from slogging the uphills but I think this is natural). The variation in the course and changing in pace definitely helped with this I think. I’m mostly really happy that I beat my target so significantly. I would have loved a sub two hour time and had the course been a bit shorter I guess I would have achieved that but I’m super happy regardless.James did really well too. He also came second place and his time was a super speedy 1:47:33. So an awesome result for us both. James’ friend Lee also smashed the marathon coming first with a ridiculous time of 4:18:19. He finished and literally walked straight past the medal table and straight into the river behind where he laid himself out flat in it. It was quite funny.

The event was really well organised and good fun. There was a good spread of cakes at the end as well. Always a winner!It was a really nice day. James and I chilled in the finish area, laying out on the grass chatting to the other runners who’d finished. It was such a friendly affair. I chatted to the first and third lady and they seemed super strong runners. The first lady had a half PB of 1:25 so I mean she is FAST.

We grabbed some food from the tearoom while we chilled and I got a cheese scone…And the most insanely tasty cheese and chutney toasty. It literally rocked my world. Such a good combo.Unfortunately neither of us had put on sun scream and went home with some very nasty tan lines (sports bra tan lines for the win eh).So a lovely but challenging trail half! Fully recommend.

Do you prefer road or trails?

How do you tackle downhills?

Do you walk hills or try and run them?

Post Marathon

I’ve had such a blissful week off but now it’s back to reality. It was exactly what I needed. A whole week of no gym and no running post marathon.

After I finished the marathon I was walking along on cloud nine. I was just so flabbergasted at what I’d achieved. I genuinely hadn’t expected it to go as well as it did so I was fairly chuffed and surprised with myself.

As we headed out of the race village we spotted the area where the winners of the horse races go (the race village was situated in the Chester Racecourse). It did look cordoned off from the public…but the gate was slightly ajar and I couldn’t help but quickly grab a few amusing photos.chester-racecourseAs we snuck out of the area a few fellow runners noticed the ideal photo spot and trickled through. We felt a bit naughty but hey ho, it’s got to be done!

As food is obviously a crucial factor in any post-marathon experience 😉 I’d previously hunted a good spot online for lunch earlier that week. This saved us having to walk around Chester hunting while I slowly become more and more hangry. We had a bit of time to kill as I’d sensibly booked the table for 2pm which would give me some time to feel a bit more normal post marathon. For me it goes something like this: ooof don’t show me any food… bleurgh food… can’t eat a single thing… I can’t even look at a cake right now… SHOW ME ALL THE FOOD… I NEED FEEDING. The switch-over happens very quickly 😉

The restaurant was a Turkish restaurant called Meze. It was an ideal spot for me because it was all about the meat but it was actually fairly healthy so it was ideal for my parents, who are trying to lose weight. It had lots of options like grilled meats, hummus, vegetarian plates, salads and rice so it was a good all-rounder. I went for the mixed grill and it was divine.img_5569Very handy that as I got a bit chilly I had this lovely long-sleeved technical t-shirt to put on! The restaurant was really nice and the service was fantastic. The chef even sent over a freebie little plate for us to try – it was some sort of Turkish-style salsa creation. Very tasty.
After eating, we wandered around Chester and had a look at the Cathedral. The bells were going and the sun was shining so it was perfect.chester-cathderalAfter we got back to the cottage and I’d showered, we headed to the hot tub. Honestly I had been dreaming about this moment. And it was FABULOUS.img_5595Well it would have been fabulous had I not dramatically face-planted into the to tub when I got in. I slipped, fell forwards and then knocked my shin on the side. It wasn’t quite the graceful dip I was hoping to achieve and it was rather painful. I now have the most ridiculous bruises on my shin *sighs*. But the bottle of Prosecco we shared helped!

If I could do this after every marathon I definitely would (sit in a hot tub, not the falling in part). Bruised shin aside, I didn’t actually ache that much. I remember after my first few marathons every step was tough, though my calf was definitely feeling unhappy and niggly.

The rest of the week was very low key and chilled. I woke naturally most mornings between 7am and 8am, had a leisurely breakfast in the cottage (the ease of having self-catering accommodation) and then we’d set off to explore nearby places, such as Ludlow.ludlowAnd Powis Castle, which was just beautiful.powis-castleIt was full of peacocks as well, wandering about all casually. The grounds were beautiful and we had a lovely cup of tea in the cafe (isn’t that what National Trust locations are all about??)img_0902Over the week I ate lots of good food of course. Nothing crazily outrageous. Just a few scones here or there, some hearty sandwiches and a few puddings.
post-marathon-foodI did lots of walking and it was just so blissful. We were very lucky with the weather we had as well. Lots of sunshine, albeit a chill in the air indicating that autumn is very much en route.img_5655One of my favourite days was going on a 5 mile hike with my granddad around Longnor.

longnor-hike

We did this on the Tuesday and it was a perfect way to stretch the legs a bit after the marathon. Though during the steepest sections I could definitely tell I’d run 26.2 miles!longnor-hike

It took just over three hours and was fairly hard going but we survived. Not too shabby for an almost 83 year old and a post-marathoner, eh? Both my grandparents are in fantastic shape – heading off for bike rides and long walks.

It was, as always, lovely spending time with my grandparents and my family. It was just nice to switch off, sleep lots and rest. I ate whatever I fancied and reset myself basically. On the last day we went back to Chester before heading to pick up the dogs from my other granddad who lives in Stoke and we had a lovely time shopping and then a gorgeous meal at The Botanist.the-botanistI had literally a basket of chicken wings which weren’t amazing but tasty nonetheless (bit too overdone) – though the presentation was amusing. But the showstoppers were the main and pudding. I had a deli board for my main which you could pick lots of different things to have. I went for a baked Camembert with fig syrup, rollmops, honey glazed ham hummus and a fougasse bread (yes, the same as in the Bake Off!). It was delicious.

But the pudding… oh the pudding. It was the perfect end to such a fantastic holiday. A baked cookie with toffee ice cream and salted caramel sauce.img_5843I died and went to heaven. GLORIOUSLY tasty.

Though it’s sad it’s over, I feel very happy and content now I’m back. Exactly how you should do after a good holiday 🙂

What do you like to do after a big race or marathon?

What’s your favourite type of bread?

Have you been hiking anywhere interesting?