Having put the disappointment of not finishing the Nottingham Ultra a bit quicker behind me, and actually reminding myself of the achievement of having run my first ultra, my next challenge was the Round Rotherham 50 mile run around South Yorkshire.
I travelled up the night before and stayed in a B&B above a pub near to the start line. I couldn’t sleep well – not only due to the faint din of disco music percolating through the floorboards from downstairs, but also from the sheer adrenaline of what I was about to attempt. I had to be off early in the morning for a 7am start and therefore missing out on breakfast, so the landlady kindly let me have a couple of bread rolls and marmalade in my room to fuel me up the following morning.
Unfortunately / fortunately it was a cold shower in the morning at early o’clock and I set off in the dark aiming for the start line about a mile away. It wasn’t a particularly nice road along what seemed to be an industrial estate so I was grateful when a fellow runner, having spotted me in racing kit, pulled up in her car asking for directions and invited me to hop in and navigate.
In no time at all we arrived at Dearne Valley College. I hopped out and registered for the event. Some time later, the familiar friendly faces of Rory Coleman and Jen Salter appeared and, once again, I went through the process of rationalising my kit. I dispensed with the waterproof jacket, putting my faith in the weather forecast, and ditched some of my energy gels. When we hit the start line, I was togged up from head to toe to keep warm surrounded by a horde of hardy Yorkshire men mainly dressed simply in vest tops and shorts, with me shivering away bewildered at how they managed to survive with next to nothing on.
At 7am (still in the dark) we were off. Jen sped ahead with the elite runners, while Rory (whom I train with), Mike (aka Ultra Marathon Mike), Chris and I set off together at a comfortable pace. We kept on getting faster and faster, (guilty as charged) with Rory gently advising us to slow down a tad if we wished to get round in sub-10 hours and to avoid burn out before the finish line.
The first twenty five miles were relatively OK, although I had a bit of a mishap early on approaching Sheffield City Airport when I slipped on a wet stone. It all happened in slow mo, when I thought I was about to get my leg trapped and twist an ankle … or worse. However, I survived with a few superficial scratches to my arms and legs, sprung back up saying it was nothing (probably something to do with putting on a brave face in front of the others) and carried on bearing my bloody battle scars (i.e. scratches) with pride.
Along the way Rory pointed out Eleanor Robinson to me – a well-known endurance athlete who has a number of world records under her belt (some unbeaten) and still going strong at a cracking pace in her 60s. I was so full of admiration. The adage is true: “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running.”
The second half required a bit more mental focus. My left hip (always the left) started to ache so I took a couple of ibuprofen. The thing that I found amazing was that every time I nipped behind a bush for a “comfort break”, despite thinking that I was being quick, the rest of the gang were well ahead and I had to put in quite a bit of effort to catch up with them again.
Unfortunately, Mike had to slow down around the 25 mile mark. Rory also decided to slow down a little to save himself for the end. Chris and I, the novices, took off on our own between the 30 and 40 mile mark. I can only speak for myself, but my legs were starting to wobble a little like jelly, and Chris and I walked some of the way on the uphills. I’m afraid that I didn’t pay much attention to my surrounds by this point, although I did notice the beautiful ruins of Roche Abbey on my way round.
Rory caught up with Chris and me around the 40 mile point and we continued the last ten miles together, mainly in silence, with a determination to finish the course in under 10 hours. As soon as the finishing line came into view, I did my usual attempt at a sprint finish, although I’m sure that my arms were moving a lot faster than my legs by this stage.
I learnt a lot from Rory that day in terms of pacing myself and not stopping too long at the checkpoints to avoid getting too comfortable and not wishing to move on again. The race was well-organised and exceptional value for money at £12 entry fee, lovely food and hot drinks at the various checkpoints, plus a T-shirt at the end. Thanks to the Rotherham Harriers and A.C. Thanks also to Chris for running me back to the B&B – I couldn’t face moving my legs any further. If you had told me a few months ago that I would be capable of running 50 miles in one go, I wouldn’t have believed you.
And my finish time? …. 9 hours 51 minutes and 53 seconds!!
77th overall and from what I can work out 16th women across the line! Happy or what?!