A lot has occurred since the last blog! Parkruns; a couple of Kevin League Races; coaching the amazing Ely Runners Beginners and general training. Among all of this, two awards for work around inclusive approaches on the beginners’ course as well as promotion of access to parkrun for people with a learning disability and/ or autism. The first was the Ely Heroes ‘Sporting Hero’, which I won having been nominated by the amazing Lauren girlrunninglate and then, winner of the Eastern Region of the England Athletics Inclusion Awards; nominated by the amazing Natalie Andrews. All very flattering and a little surprising! One of the most touching aspects of these awards was the Ely Runners Coaches and current beginners rocking up to the awards to surprise me!
Back to running! The Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog might be THE event of the year! The race is hugely popular and takes runners through winding and undulating forest trail at High Lodge. It’s so much fun that it’s hard to describe! Just do it some day!
I had my fourth stab at RunNorwich 10K, it’s another favourite of mine, and a big event. There’s a tough hill in this one, with amazing crowd support and a great medal! Do try this one!
I was introduced to plogging recently. I feel guilty that I hadn’t heard of it before. Fellow Ely Runner, Shaun grabbed a few Ely Runners and we ran/ jogged a brief route on the outskirts of Ely whilst picking up litter, which Shaun then went on to recycle. This was a satisfying experience, we had a laugh and managed to clear a lot of litter! It is rather a shame that plogging is necessary, but I did win the strangest item of the plog having discovered a peeled boiled egg! We will be plogging again soon!
I had been so looking forward to the Stour Vally Path 50K Ultra marathon as it was due to be the first ultra for fellow Ely Runners, Jon and Emily. I had arranged to run it with them: they have both trained so hard and shown pure determination in their approach. So there now follows an account of the event, with plenty of pics! With permission from Jon and Emily, it is ‘warts and all’!
It was quite a journey to get to the start having dropped a car off at the end of the route, and it was great to see Ely Runner, Charlotte at registration. Having registered and as we waited to start I sensed some nerves and anticipation from Jon, while Emily organised herself, clearly uncomfortable at having to do so really close to the off! Eventually we were all herded off to the start.
From the offset it was clear how stunning the Suffolk countryside is along the Stour Valley Path; being a Suffolk boy, I know some of the area, and it being hilly was no surprise to me. Jon and Emily did not expect the hills to be as sudden and steep as they were! We hit a good few climbs, and we used the perfectly acceptable ultra approach of power walking them, often adopting the hands pushing on quads and knees technique.
It would be fair to say that although Emily and Jon enjoyed their first ultra, it was a strange kind of ‘enjoyed’: both of them longed for the first aid station, and there was much grumbling about the hills. As I was there in the capacity of support and encouragement, I had to read them both carefully to judge when pushing just became annoying: Jon only insulted me and told me to ++++ off a few times, and as for Emily, I was more wary of her, and took silence as a sign to ease off a bit. Later in the event, they both told me that they had appreciated the approach, which I was really pleased to hear. The first aid station was at mile 11, and it really was the most amazing oasis! I have to say that the food was the best I have encountered at an event: they laid on boiled new potatoes rolled in crushed rock salt! We all ate a little too much at this point! Emily clearly felt better at having reached this milestone, and her mood visibly lifted. Off we went!
Leaving the first aid station was tough, and we faffed about a bit too much to avoid the inevitable, but we were rewarded with even more beautiful countryside as we progressed. It was during this stage that Jon rather poetically commented “I think it was round here that Constable painted all his sh*t”: beautiful.
Moving on to section leading to the aid station at around mile 26, Emily started to struggle mentally: she was a little tearful and could not see this particular check point soon enough. I had been encouraging them to run on the flats and downhill, and leading slow runs where it was favourable. Mood-wise, Emily really picked up at the aid station, as she knew it was only a matter of 4.5 to 5 miles to go!
The final push saw a total change in Emily, who took the lead in initiating the run sections, so I backed off a bit. Jon became more chatty and less resentful at my pushing, and we covered this final section pretty rapidly: the dark had set in and we used head torches to work our way through the final sheep-filled fields and onto the finish, which was marked out with ribbons and glow sticks.
There was a short run into Cattawade before we spotted Charlotte, who had ran amazingly! She trotted along with us to the finish, which was emotional given how relieved and happy Jon and Emily looked. There was an amazing women handing out the medals, who administered hugs, whether they were wanted or not: this was superb! Emily was visibly moved, whereas Jon was more reserved, until things sank in on the way home, when he admitted to feeling a little emotional. It was a joy to see them finish what was a tough 31 miles of trial.
Ultra events make you think; they put you through a range of emotions, and they test you much more mentally than they do physically. So what next? The Kings Forest Ultra in October!
Emily and Jon, well done, and Charlotte, thank you!