Signing up for the NDW100 was more than just the act of logging onto the Centurion website and registering for the race. It was a statement, a statement meant for myself as much as anyone else. A motivator to keep losing weight and to knuckle down to the training required to cover 102.5 miles in under 30 hours.
That was the idea anyway. I pored over the maps of the route and read and re-read as many blog posts as I could find. These two from a runner From Sofa to Ultra and his pacer Pacing the Ginger Whinger really highlighted the take no prisoners attitude to mental weakness that is needed to conquer these things.
Unfortunately motivationally, paying £134.00 didn’t work very well in terms of losing weight in fact following my success at the Highland Fling in April it just slowly crept back on climbing back up to near enough 13 Stone just prior to race day. Not good.
As a result I did feel a little bit embarrassed as we gathered for the briefing in Farnham as there seemed to be a much higher proportion of pencil thin, razor sharp focused athletes than I was used to and the event generally had more of a businesslike and elitist feel than say the Lakeland 50/100.
Anyway it was great to get going with a lovely start through mist shrouded meadows before heading up onto the sandstone hills where on occasion ankle deep sand made it nigh on impossible to run even along the flat.
After 10 miles or so I got chatting to another runner who on hearing it was my first 100 miler, complimented me on not going out to fast. I felt a bit of a fraud for not owning up to the fact that it wasn’t good tactics as far as pace went this was as fast as I could run anyway.
There were some wonderful views as we got up onto the escarpments with the sudden appearance of St Martha’s Church and the view from the top especially memorable.
As time went on I started to feel the heat and got through my two 12 oz drinks containers well before I reached Newland’s Corner checkpoint for a refill. The marshals were very attentive and after a good break I headed onto the next section which being largely tree covered was a great relief.
The Chevy, so ably organised by the Wooler Running club was another of the races where I had set a target time, a sub 4 hours for this 20 mile trail run that summited the Cheviot and its near neighbour Hedgehope. Regrettably, though I had managed to lose a few pounds in recent weeks I was nowhere near a weight that would allow me to achieve this. C’est la Vie. More foolishly, I had drunk a bit the night before and was feeling extremely groggy as I drove up to Wooler from South Shields. The registration and walk to the start were marked by torrential (Stair rod) rain which reinforced my fairly subdued mood.
Anyhow off we went, my legs felt like lead and I was praying for the end of the tarmac road c.1 mile ! so that I could start walking. I walked up the grassy slope and kept walking over the top as the dribs and the drabs at the end of the field came past. By the time I got to the first checkpoint there was no question at all that I was bringing up the rear of the field ! I hurried on intent on keeping in sight the tail end of runners ahead. We soon entered thick mist and I slowly developed a bit of a rhythm which took me up to the tailenders and eventually past them. Once we reached the foot of the cheviot proper I just went up it no problem at all climbing past a fair few other competitors on the way. It was a real a peasouper up there about 20 yards visibility if that. Eventually I got to the summit checkpoint and then headed over the fence for the off trail section down to the upper reaches of Langleeford burn. It got really steep and just after I slipped and went down on my back I remembered that I had some overtrousers in my backpack. On with these and then whoosh off I went, flat on my back, whizzing down the hiill. In the thick mist I really had no idea where I was so I took out my phone to check my OS Map App that was bluetoothed to my garmin GPS reciever. An instant fix told me I was off route to the right so headed left and soon found a track of trampled grass where the masses had come down. As I got lower the visibility increased and way off to my right I saw a line of 15-20 people led by someone in a South Shields Harrier Vest. Oh dear. Pleased, I continued to scamper on down, over the burn and up onto the lower slopes of Hedgehope. Unfortunately it was now my turn to go way off route as I blindly followed some other disorientated runners (a la sheep). Whipping out the phone again the OS Map App came to my rescue and I turned 90 degrees and set a determined track up, up and up into the thick mist with 4 or 5 people in my wake. Eventually we made the ridge line fence and thence up to the summit of Hedgehope.
Once off the summit it was a steep descent but half way down the mist thinned and all of a sudden a wonderful green carpet came into view far below. I stopped to take a photo though the pause resulted in acquiring a small throng of flies. On down I went waving my arms around my face, over the moor and up to the next outcrop knowing from previous mishaps that I needed to skirt this well to the right ! Down and across and then up to the next checkpoint at Langlee crags. I was quite enjoying myself….
Of course as I got lower it got hotter and the sun was now beating down. I ran with my hood up, sweating bucketloads and felt my face burning up with the heat. As I wound my way up Hell’s path it got even hotter and in desperation I lay down on a flat bit of grass next to carey burn and totally submerged my head under the freezing water… except the water didn’t feel freezing and though it must have helped I didn’t feel cooled down at all as I resumed my shuffle towards the next checkpoint. Still I was making generally good progress and as has so often been the case in the last few years I felt a hell of a lot stronger towards the end of the race than I did at the start. 5hrs 40mins.
The Blaydon was one of my target races for the year with an objective of coming in under the 40 minute mark for the 5.7 mile course. Alas I had no chance of that as my weight has rebounded since the Hoka Highland Fling and I’m back over 13 Stone. Anyhow no point worrying about that I would just have to do my best. After a lot of hanging about (the race start was delayed about 20 minutes) we were off at a fair old lick. My other half was also taking part and soon zoomed off only for me to catch sight of her again about 150yds ahead held back a bit by the crowds. The biggest issue for me running when substantially overweight is that I tend to get hotter and hotter and this balmy summer’s evening was to be no different. It was taking everything I had to try and keep Lesley in sight my heavy breathing literally blowing a small shower of sweat in front of me as I went along. God I was hot but I’m fairly determined and unless I’m actually dying I am able to keep pushing on. Eventually I managed to catch Lesley (c. Mile 5) long enough to tap her on the arm which caused her to immediately rocket off into the distance with me powerless to keep up. Never she nor me would admit to speeding up/slowing down so I’m not sure what happened. Through to the finish in any event and a couple of minutes after finishing I got a text giving my time as 49:22 Quite chuffed all things considered.