I had a look at the route map posted online and recognised about 75% of the route from various training runs in the past few years. I didn't really know any of the last 10 miles but went out and did a few recces in the nice dry, sunny Autumn weather. The first thing that struck me was how flat the route is (compared to my typical races these days). Also with the route being so dry even across the fields it made for easy running at a good pace. I also noticed that even though it was stressed that you should be able to find your own way, on the day it was to be marked really well with tape. I decided after recceing a few parts in such nice conditions I'd get an entry. More on those conditions later!!
Having covered all the route in advance I knew what was coming and wouldn't need to get the map out on the day and could just focus on running. I reckoned that a sub 5 hour time was comfortably achievable. I was initially thinking somewhere just under the 4.40 mark would be my aim. Then it rained on and off for a couple of weeks and in a final recce run a few days before, even running 7 min mile pace was taking a bit too much effort over the fields. I came up with a rough schedule to hit each 10 mile checkpoint considering where the worst of the mud was and fields, elevation etc
10 mile = 1.07
20 mile = 2.20
26 mile = 3.03
30 mile = 3.35
40 mile = 4.50 Finish!
*The last 10 miles have the most fields and most of the elevation comes between 27 and 30 miles.
So on to race day.... I could hear the rain outside when I woke up. I did a warm up before leaving home for 6am registration. After arriving and parking there was water running along the road and it had been raining hard for some time now. A quick and painless registration before a briefing in which we were told of a small diversion at mile 18 giving us an extra mile and then gathering on the start line just as it was turning light at 7am. The weather actually wasn't that bad overall once we got running, after a couple of miles of rain it was showery on and off though I had a good patch of sunshine when I finished.
I was straight to the front from the start and over the first few miles relaxed into an intensity that felt right. I'd been totally alone until nearly 9 mile when I heard some breathing and footsteps behind. It was Mat another local runner. We chatted over the next few miles and cruised straight through cp1 in 1hr 6 min 58 sec.... 2 seconds faster than I expected! No complaints. Shortly after the cp was the second longish field section where it can get quite muddy but we moved over there taking in the sights such as the M62 and B&Q and it wasn't as muddy as I expected. I slowed slightly to have a quick drink and a gel as we passed Buzzard Alley (that's where a Buzzard swooped me and cut the back of my head a few months ago) Mat moved about 5 seconds or so in front briefly and we were back together into the next section of fields before heading toward Burtonwood Services.
I don't think there was a quick way to run over the paths in that field so we just did our best and kept to it. The majority of the next few miles from mile 14 all the way to the 2nd cp at mile 20 is on farm tracks though we had the diversion to follow which meant we would arrive at cp2 at 21 miles. Just as we crossed the A57 at Bold Heath Mat dropped back and shouted something along the lines of see you at the finish. I turned to see he was ok and waved as I continued on to reach the cp in 2 hours 22 min so 2 minutes behind schedule but having done a mile extra. There was a lot of cheering as I passed and headed on toward Fiddlers Ferry and the Trans Pennine Trail.
As I was running alone my mind was drifting around in a trance, I did wonder where the relay runners were, I'd expected there might be a few ahead of me by now. Before long I realised I was almost at marathon distance and glanced at my watch to see it pass at 2 hours 58 mins. Next up is Moore Nature Reserve and the path drops down to the right down some stairs to weave along the path before starting with the gentle hills that make up the majority of the elevation. I was focused on getting to the next cp at 30 miles and I thought if I could get there with 1 hour 20 to spare as a worse case scenario I could average 8 min miles over the last leg and still make sub 5.
I felt like I was working a bit harder to maintain the pace but in reality it is slightly uphill over that section as you pass the Appleton Reservoir behind Walton Gardens. Once across the fields and closing in on Hatton the pace came back ticking off 50km in 3 hr 36 min and passing the final cp in 3 hours 40 mins. I knew I was 5 minutes over my estimate but having followed the extra mile detour I thought I must actually be running just a bit quicker than my estimates. There were plenty of fields to come but I knew the route in my head and was expecting the mud that was to come. Behind Spooky world the infamous cow slurry did not disappoint.
I was closing in fast on the M6 crossing and managed to leap the electric fences clean, as we crossed the sheep field. After getting out on the A50 road crossing I knew there were only 3 fields left before the woods and the first two were fairly straight forward. Some friendly cows in the 3rd came with me although they hadn't quite figured out how to use the style at the other end of the field. I glanced at the watch knowing I was within about 10 mins of the finish line and pushed on passing the Lymm Dam and down the Dingle before popping out in the middle of town getting some strange looks as I darted across the roads past the memorial and up the cobbled street toward the finish.
4 hours 51 mins for 41 miles... That'll do! Really happy to have been able to take part in the race and I think Kieran and Lymm Runners have done a great job of putting together the race and making use of a lot of tracks and trails that I'm sure a lot of local runners, never knew existed! In terms of organisation it was pretty much spot on... Can't think of anything that would need changing? I got some fantastic support around the route which was amazing and a huge boost! Going from what I heard after the race a lot of people had pushed themselves to new limits which is awesome too!
So was it muddy? ...
Jump over to www.charliesharpe.co.uk for free training videos and the latest race reports.