A week has passed since the race and thankfully my recovery is going well apart from a lingering cough that started before the race.
So, what was the race all about? It basically involves a lot of running and trying to still maintain a decent pace. On the 30th March, Ben drove me down to Redwick and we met up with most of the runners. It was a really cold, wet day and we were all bemoaning the weather. I prepared my food and fuel for the next day, spoke to the team, and was mentally preparing for the race.
Redwick was the small village in South East Wales where the race would take place. The route was a 2-mile loop of country roads that we would run 31 times (plus a little extra) to complete the 100 kilometres. The weather was cold and wet and there was a bitter wind. It was the weather for gloves, hat, and long sleeve layers.
On Saturday March 31st I woke up at 5.45am after a broken night's sleep. I woke up knowing deep down that the day was not going to be easy. My preparation for this race was less than ideal. I had been suffering for most of March with a sick bug and then a cough which I was still nursing on race day and still nursing now! However, after months of preparation and with an England vest to wear, I knew a did not start (DNS) was not an option and the same went for a DNF (did not finish). In these races I tell myself that unless I am completely ill, unable to move, or feeling physically sick then I will keep going... so keep going I did.
In fact, rewind a few months and I wasn’t going to put myself forward for selection as training had become stressful with two young children in my sole care. This meant I had to work more hours and be on my own with the kids 24/7 and still find time to train.
So I relied on friends for help and my late mother’s husband who came to stay for the winter months on his canal boat nearby and finally towards the end of 2017 I was settled into a new routine of work and had some help with the children and training was going okay again. That's not to say stress levels were lower. They have been high for a while. When you’re alone with two young children solely responsible for their day to day care and keeping a roof over their head that makes everything emotionally very hard. However, I know and always knew running would be my focus and saviour. It's me time and is what makes me, me.
So how come this single mum managed to get selected to run for England in 100km? Well, last year I ran it for the first time and was second in the country at the event and I was asked by the selectors if I wanted to be considered again. I had no hesitation in saying yes! It was the focus and goal I needed and of course a huge boost and honour running for my country.
Training started properly in December. I started to increase my miles as I had a 50km in January which would help with my selection.
I ran the 50km in January and got a small PB despite cold conditions and my training only having started a few weeks before.
I got the selection for the 100km and got down to really building up the long runs. The snow and winter training were a challenge at times as is everyday life.
So come race day I knew I was not in the shape of my life but I was at the start in some shape and I had the strong will to succeed.
As the race started I was relaxed and feeling good although a little cold. I started with a jacket, thermal layer and vest as well as a hat and gloves. I would have preferred to also be wearing my Sundried leggings!
The 2-mile loop ticked along and I was in a rhythm of just ticking along feeling good. Sadly there was no chip timing and we had to rely on the organisers marking our laps down. I was just thinking about how I was feeling. My support on the race and even before and after was Ben, he was there with my drinks and food and gels and encouragement.
At mile 24, I remember my legs started to seize up and I felt my hamstrings tighten. It made me slow up and I think I had neglected my nutrition so I started to drop the pace and knowing how much further I had left I had a low moment. I told myself 'come on, get to 50km'. Loop after loop ticked by and I knew my 50km time was decent and if I could keep going at this sort of pace I’d get the time I wanted.
Sadly, every step hurt. I was being forced by Ben and Walter to eat more. I find that when running, my body doesn’t tell me it's hungry because it's busy working and it takes someone else to notice that I need to keep eating. That is a lesson I will learn for next time.
Between 30-40 miles was probably a low as I still had a lot of miles to run. The weather was dry yet no sign of sun and still cold. When I got to 40 miles and felt tired I said to myself 'come on, you can run 20 miles when tired'. It's always a constant conversation in your head of 'come on, you can do this'. When times get hard, you pick yourself up and know this will get better.
So at 40 miles I knew it was a case of just getting to the finish. I was firmly in second place. I knew I had no chance of going faster and thought of the hard work to get here and kept going lap after lap. I love running and so it's not hard for me to keep going. I was just disappointed my body was not ready for more and legs aching and tightening. It was also a case of keeping my energy up and to keep sipping and nibbling.
Lap after lap you can see the quiet village move about its day; the familiar smell of the cows in the farm and the dog that barked behind the hedges on the right. Did I get bored? No. Did I enjoy every step? Yes.
I got to what I thought was my last lap and was handed the English flag and finished only to be told I had not finished, so I stood with the clock ticking and just went off for one more lap. It was slow; I really had nothing left in my legs and my heart. It was a lonely solo run for much of the race apart from a few of the others on the course.
I finished in a mix of emotions: tired, amazed, and disappointed I had not achieved a better time.
I was pleased I got another silver medal and second in the British Championships for the second time and again helped the England team to gold for the second time running.
About the author: Sophie Carter is a personal trainer, ultra runner, and Sundried ambassador.