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Sussex Trail Marathon, 14 March 2020
This was not Barcelona. I had been looking forward to a weekend away with a flat(ish) big city marathon for a change but COVID-19 left me looking for an alternative at short notice. Fortunately the folks at Endurance life were a) holding their race and b) able to accommodate me. However, just when I thought I had hit bottom thanks to the marathon in Northumberland I found myself plumbing new depths through the forests and over the clifftops of East Sussex.
Its another beautiful part of the world and we were pretty lucky with the weather generally. The race starts over the “Seven Sisters” clifftops with a mad series of “up-and-downs” for about 3 miles before turning inland.
Things were reasonable for about 7 miles and while it got muddy underfoot there was a mix of firm ground along with the slippy mud and the inclines were manageable. Then, from miles 7 to 10, it was a crazy uphill grind with ‘flats’ at a lateral angle on very slippery mud. The 10th mile was up the steepest hill I’ve ever experienced while running and I remember thinking “I have no business being out here”. I felt like I should have been better prepared somehow. Sure, there were basically un-runnable sections but I felt I should have been doing more running and been in better shape generally.
My thoughts moved ahead to the 100miler and whether or not I will be able cope with that given the struggle with just the current marathon distance. I resolved to chalk this up to “time on feet” and experience. All good and what better way to explore the amazing scenery of this beautiful country!!
Miles 10 – 17 were even more of a mud-fest and I remember thinking that I could have done with my cross country spikes. My Hoka Speedgoats, while super comfortable, were no match for the sludge and I even managed to take an ignominious tumble (in fact surprising to only have one).
The last 10 miles or so were just head down and grind. Brilliant to have Carolyn and Vicky pop up every now and then to provide a welcome yell of support.
Training has been a bit of a challenge this year. I’ve found I’ve needed a decent period of recovery post-race and have not been able to get the mileage back up before the next one comes along. Going forward I plan to try and just get back to regular running and not view the race schedule in any ‘normal’ train-taper-race kind of way. Each race will be a building block towards the 100 miler and I aim to view them more as training runs.
In the last half mile or so I caught up the the chap in front of me. We had been trading places along the way and he was suffering as much me by this stage. We got chatting and he said he’d been fool enough to return after doing the run last year. I laughed. That’s mistake I won’t make anytime soon. One and done for this race. If you’re looking for a hilly mudathon – give it a go! You have been warned.
So much still to learn and so much more strength and endurance still to build. Good thing I’m enjoying the journey albeit with a few pain points along the way. I guess its always the tough ones you remember and what’s the game for anyway if not to make memories 🙂