5 Nov 2013

900.92 - 924.77KM: Follow The Blind (The 3 River Challenge)

As of 6pm Saturday the weekend was going to be a rare, race free weekend. There was a shortage of local races and after the hundreds of miles I had racked up over the past couple of weeks I was reluctant to drive hours to one. Then I found a flyer for a race barely 20 minutes away and all my plans changed. The bat signal went up and it became a case of whether I could find a lift to a small Lincolnshire village by 10am.

The event in question was the 3 River Challenge in South Kyme, a race I had completely forgotten about after finding a flyer pinned to the windscreen of the car a month or so ago. After asking around on Twitter on Sunday evening I got a text message at 1am from a friend asking if I wanted a lift. Some frantic texting the next morning, followed by a nervous wait for a reply and the race to the erm.....race was on.

I joked on the way down that I wasn't even sure this race existed. The only trace I could find of it on the internet was a copy of the same flyer I had been handed, so I was unsure whether the race was still taking place and then even if it was I wasn't expecting a large turnout. A 10am start outside a church on a Sunday seemed like an odd starting place. An elaborate plan by the Church of England to 'recruit' a group who religiously spend their Sunday mornings on the road? Perhaps. I was slightly relieved to see other runners, particularly some familiar faces, as we arrived at the venue, so I knew I wouldn't be the only one running. 

10am on a Sunday....Race Time
I wasn't surprised to hear that the race was in its inaugural year given its lack of advertising, even less so when handed a sticky label at the registration to act as the race bib. A traditional visit to the toilet later and we were beckoned over by the race organiser for the pre race instructions and 'rough' directions. I say rough as seeing the organiser get confused about the route didn't fill me with confidence. All I knew was that there was something about running along the bank of three different rivers, before the home straight across the field currently occupied by 20 something bulls. Given the overdramatized, but still damn scary to me damn it, showdown with a couple of cows last month it's safe to say I wasn't particularly looking forward to the finish.

With little time to pick the useful bits out of the instructions we were lined up and ready to go. In most races like this I typically ensure that I keep pace behind another runner, regardless of how difficult this is, for no reason other than having someone to follow on the inevitable badly signed sections. Almost immediately as soon as the race started there was confusion whether to carry straight on or to follow the path round, it felt like it was going to be a long race. The majority of the race was along riverbank, but the first few miles through long grass and stinging nettles was particularly tough. After frivolously treading carefully, trying to avoid getting stung it ultimately felt like a waste of time and energy, so I gave up and made a mental note to grab some Aloe Vera on the way home.

Some unenthusiastic support
The lack of preparation before the race was felt early on. With the amount of running I'm doing this year, no race is really a struggle, but only knowing I would be doing the race less than 90 minutes from the start left little time for any proper preparation. After a tough run last week in Portsmouth and still very much in the recovery stage of my three marathons last month, my legs felt very heavy from the start. In most races when I've started off bad it's taken a couple of miles to loosen up, but Sunday was different, my running legs had definitely been left in York.

Unfortunately the same could not be said for the wind, which had definitely been brought up with me from the South Coast. For the first time this year I felt like I really didn't want to be out there and it felt like one of the tougher races of the year. The race was advertised as 14(ish) miles, but as the 14th mile ticked over on my watch with no finish line in sight I wondered how big this 'ish' would be. The race clocked in much closer to 15 miles and I crossed the line in around 2 hours 10. When I tend to average 1 hour 40 minute Half Marathons, taking an extra 30 minutes for the 1 and a bit extra miles is testament to how much the conditions (mine, the weather and course's) slowed me down.

Wait...is that cake?
News soon reached me when I crossed the line of Banana Cake waiting inside, a very welcome treat after a horrible run. This was soon demolished alongside a cup of tea. Was it a race I would do again? Probably not. With 40+ other races to compare it to this one is likely to get forgotten about. The wind and complete spontaneousness of it didn't help, but long stretches of easily replaceable scenery made the race feel much longer than it was.

On Halloween I finally bit the bullet and entered the Liverbird New Years Eve marathon. Whilst I wouldn't have needed to enter the race to reach the 1000km target, particularly after Sundays impromptu race, it will make for a nice finale for this year's challenge. Last week I spoke about how it was a case of when, not if I reached the target, and after running my 42nd race in 44 weeks on Sunday it looks like this celebration may have been brought forward.

As always, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I am doing with others.

Distance: 23.85km | 14.82 miles
Time: 01:21:37
Official Time: 02:11:10
Average Pace: 05:31 min/km | 08:53 min/mi
Playlist: Alter Bridge
Goody Bag: Tea & Cake

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