After the North Downs

Well, I, and 500 other runners (nutters), certainly knew what we had signed up for. But as we stood nervously in unseasonable wind and gusts of rain waiting for the start gun, the finish line 18.8 miles away seemed a tantalisingly distant prospect.

The first 5k passed in a blur, with the wind behind us as we ran through fields of waist-high corn and into single-file on chalky tracks. It was then it got hard, and harder, as the route took on a twisty, unpredictable nature making it difficult to find a rhythm.

The scenery really was beautiful, but I am a Devon girl and not much, for me, can top the north Devon coastline. There were long sweeps across fields where you could see runners stretching for miles in front of you, like coloured beacons.
Miles through Ashenbank and Shorne woods, jumping over tree roots. Steep climbs where walking became more economical than running (or so I told myself). Then wild downhill sections where I had to reluctantly put the brakes on. I was overtaken by a few men here in fell shoes who danced down. I was in awe..but too scared to just let my legs go. The many stiles and kissing gates were a relief as I got a rest while I waited for my turn to climb them.  Beautiful poppies and oil seed rape vivid against grey clouds. Oast houses and the lovely village of Cobham, straight from a Ladybird book.
It wasn't all bucolic which gave it a sharpness. The Thames in the distance, and the Dartford Crossing at the edge of the landscape, the arterial roads criss-crossing beneath us - all placed the course sharply in the south east.

After two hours, I began to find it hard and my toes began to cramp up in my right foot. I had to keep scrunching them up while i ran to get the blood flowing. I was grateful that each km was marked as they seem to come so much more frequently than mile markers.
The final 5k was hard. "Just a Park Run," I told myself..then as we got closer to the end "what's 3k between friends?" Pant, puff, plod..The final 5 minutes was tough - running into the relentless wind that had helped us off so quickly. I actually found it tougher than the end of the London Marathon.
I managed a sprint and high five as I rounded the final bend to find my lovely family waiting for me. Including the dog.
Anyway I finished in 3 hours 2 minutes. I guess it's ok but if I do it again, I definitely would aim for under 3 hours.
PS there was free cake and tea for runners at the end, and a free swim for runners and their families at the "Cascades" leisure centre (straight from 1991). Plus a slightly incongruous folk music duo. Well, what more could you want?!


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