I often get called inspirational. To be honest, I find it really hard to accept a compliment, especially one like this.
Yes, I run a lot of marathons but I am surrounded by normal people doing extraordinary things on a weekly basis which make my running achievements look tiny in comparison.
This year, I have had the honour of running with some truly inspiring people. First and foremost, my dad. Despite injury and complications with his diabetes and asthma, he ran 60 marathons in a year to celebrate his 60th birthday (I mean how else would you celebrate such a milestone birthday eh?).
I had the pleasure of running 10 marathons in 10 days in May with Davey Green. Not only did he make it all look easy, he only went out and ran another 10 marathons in 10 days a few months later at the hottest time of the year!
Next up is Diane, an incredible lady, who didn't think running 10 marathons in 10 days was a big enough challenge. She continued her running journey by aiming to do 52 marathons in 52 weeks and that is how we ended up at the Newark Christmas Showground Challenge marathon yesterday. Yesterday saw Diane run her 52nd marathon of the year and we signed up too to support her.
I have been injured for a little while and I am not particularly fit at the moment so after running the Christmas Cracker last week, I knew yesterday was tough. My plan was just to go out slow and steady and keep plodding as long as possible, with limited walking.
Sadly, I was struck down with a head cold mid week (I tend to get some sort of illness over New Year, so it had kindly arrived early). I had pain in my head, especially around my ears but as it was not on my chest (and as I am extremely stubborn), I chose to crack on.
The event was organised by Adam Holland's company, Maramile. It was really well organised and was a 6 hour challenge around laps of a showground, which also comprised a runway. It was about 3.3 miles per lap, so I needed to run 8 laps to complete the marathon.
Well, the world threw absolutely everything at me yesterday. To say it was cold, would be an understatement. It was absolutely freezing and the wind just ripped through your clothing. There were certain bits of the course where the bitter wind would just take your breath away. Having a cold didn't help as it was hard enough to breathe already.
It was a true mental battle yesterday. I was ready to give up after lap one. It was a quirky little lap around the showground and the airfield but a few long out and backs which made parts of the course mentally challenging. My calves were super tight on the first lap and towards the end of it, the little devil on my shoulder told me to quit - there are other races right? You would still get a medal for one lap, although it would be a pretty slow lap. The angel on my other shoulder told me to crack on, stop being a wuss and that I'd warm up on the next lap, so on I went.
I didn't want to be overtaken but by the end of lap two, I felt like I had been passed by half of the runners already.
My dad seemed to be on fine form, as did my 10in10 teammates Diane and Graham - all were ahead of me shortly after setting off and they were soon running off in to the distance. My initial plan had been to get home in around 5 hours which would hopefully see me witness Diane being awarded her shirt and medal but that was soon a distant dream.
My aim was then to get around 4 laps. A half marathon is a respectable distance. I could rest, get warm and cheer Diane in as she finished.
It was nice to see some cheery faces on the first few laps. Several well dones, nods and smiles from jovial runners wearing Santa hats were soon replaced by straight faced runners clearly battling their own demons to get around the course.
The course wasn't challenging in itself - it was as flat as a pancake but the conditions were possibly the worst I've run in. The wind wasn't even a headwind - it blew from the side and as the route was so exposed, there were very few areas where you could escape it.
I was wearing several layers, compression socks and leggings and wearing a buff but there were runners out there wearing hoodies and coats to run in!
After lap 4, I felt a better - half way there and I could now count the laps down. But sadly the world was conspiring against me and just when I was starting to run quite comfortably, they threw crippling period pains in to the mix. Nice. At points they were bearable and I could plod through them, but at times it felt like I had been kicked in the stomach, which caused me to double up and adapt a running stance, much like Groucho Marx (without the cigar - and the tache!)
As the laps went on, the fewer runners there were out on the course and by lap 7 there were times when it was just me out there which was extremely challenging. I was helped through by my music - it just took the focus off what I was actually doing (which was running up and down and airfield 8 times in the freezing cold!)
My dad and Graham were slowly catching me. I didn't want them to lap me! It was nice to be greeted by them as I was heading back on lap 7 - we stopped for a penguin hug! My dad was so cold, his jaw didn't work so he couldn't talk properly, Graham had the ingenious idea of wearing running buffs over his gloves to keep his hands warm. The crazy man was running in shorts. I'm surprised his knee joints didn't freeze.
At the end of lap 7, Sandra greeted me with a pair of gloves which she had warmed in the car and some hand warmers. I was so grateful. At this point I was just under 5 hours with just 3.3 miles to go. Easy. Just over a Parkrun right?
It was the longest 3.3 miles I have ever run. Not only was it windy, it kindly decided to rain. Trying to run with these side winds and being beaten by freezing rain was awful! Every time I walked I gave myself a kicking and told myself if I didn't keep running, I would probably freeze on the spot! My dad came out to meet me with about a mile to go. I was trying to run but kept being crippled by bloody period pains.
As the rain beat down, I told him to go back to the car - no point in us both freezing to death out there! He had already completed his race.
The last mile was a long one but I finally made it - I believe it took me about 45 to 50 minutes to run 3.3 miles and I use the word "run" loosely!
I was so grateful to finish. I was greeted by Diane and a foil blanket (very welcome), Adam with my medal (a sparkly Christmas tree) and with 2 cups of tea (one to warm each hand).
All in all, it was a good course and a well organised event but sadly the conditions conspired against us.
Huge congratulation to Diane for her massive achievement! Absolutely incredible. Not only that but both Diane and Graham returned to do day 2 of the event today. I, on the other hand, chose to stay at home and chill!
The cold affected me in a very strange way! I usually have tiny little, child like hands but they swelled up yesterday, so much so, that you couldn't even see my knuckles - I had sausage fingers - weird. Various parts of my body froze - including my jaw, my hips and the tips of my fingers. My achey bits today are, surprisingly, not my legs, but my back and the back of my arms - probably from tensing with the tummy cramps. It took 2 cups of tea, one hot chocolate, one hot shower, 2 layers of clothes, a hot water bottle and a duvet to finally thaw me out.
Looking back at yesterday, I have absolutely no idea how I finished it! That was marathon number 69 overall and number 19 for the year.
Thankfully, I get to rest up next week before marathon number 70 which I've managed to squeeze in before the end of the year. I cannot end the year on an odd number, so I'm determined to finish this next race, hopefully without the drama of this one. First up, I need to shift this cold! Being able to breathe is a crucial part of running you know?!
Buff hair and fat hands!! I look like a baddy in a Batman movie!