North Downs Way 50
I felt like I could relax. Despite my shin spit problems, I was prepared. I had ran 40 miles on the treadmill and the fact that this run was only half the distance of the Thames Path meant I could consider it part of my training.
It was another 4:30am wake up call and bulletproof coffee with butter and oil to start the day. We left home at 5:30am and had another coffee on route. In comparison to other races I was feeling very relaxed and was looking forward to seeing my friends and other runners from the Centurion family. The kit check was easy, as they only needed to see my cup and foil blanket and the crew (Liam, Lauren and runner Leanne) was kitted out with Centurion goodies. We were ready. After the mandatory talk we walked down to the start and had our picture taken in front of the North Downs Way sign.
Entering the North Downs Way starting point we heard the speaker loudly blast ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ and before we had time to think we were off!
As we started working our way through the first couple of miles our pace was about 9 ½ – 10 minutes per mile, the trail was busy to start with and we found it difficult to hit a comfortable pace. We reached the first aid station and ran straight through as we were both carrying our own supplies. I was trying out a new drink called UCAN, which I found helped me to maintain a continuous energy level, as well as eating walnuts, cashew nuts and coffee beans.
I was set a challenge by Leanne to collect as many selfies as I could which added an element of fun to the race! It was also great to see Alan Rumbles and the famous Bacon Boat as we went past, Alan being a famous Spine Veteran.
We ran on to St. Martha’s church and made our first (and very quick) crew stop with Liam and Lauren. Leanne and I then set off on a newly laid path leading up the hill, this was very sandy and shortly after we found ourselves mixed with a lot of D of E expeditionists! The higher we climbed, the more humid it got and Leanne started to feel sick. When we reached the aid station at Newland’s Corner, we picked up some watermelon and ham wraps to give us some extra fuel. We continued onward onto Ranmore Common and through a forest where another trail race was taking place and met the crew at again. Leanne was able to get food from the car whilst I got more nuts and traybake and we walked while we ate. Leanne also took S!Caps and ibuprofen, this seemed to help and she started to feel better.
We entered Denby wine vineyard and made our way through, passing the tour train on our way, but we had to walk a little as Leanne’s knee started to hurt. Continuing under the bypass and onto Box Hill Stepping Stone, we reached the aid station we spoke to Louise Ayling who was course marking. It was fair to say that the race was going smoothly, and it felt great to support Leanne as well as get a bit of training in. We ran over The Stepping Stone’s, where Stuart March was taking pictures, and then up the 236 steps to meet Liam at the crew stop.
After refueling ourselves, we were waved on by the crew and went happily on our way. Unfortunately, Leanne tripped up over a tree root and hurt her shoulder, leaving her very shaken up. To make matters worse Reigate Hill was tough going and Leanne’s achilles began to hurt so she took some more painkillers.
The humidity was high as we went through the aid station and met up with some of the crew. We passed Fanny’s Farm Shop and went over the M25 and M23 onwards to Caterham. At mile 38 we were surprised by the fact that there was an aid station but it was great to see Sharon Dickson and we had more wraps and dark chocolate to keep us going. As we moved onto Gangers Hill, Leanne took her Gaiters off as they were rubbing her achilles, but we were close to the end, and Leanne certainly wasn’t going to let this stop her.
It was our last chance to see the crew before the finish and we took the Dawn Oxley Steps onward to the final aid station at mile 43 Botley Hill.
It was great to see Warrick Gooch and Keith Simpson on our way. Our steady pace was maintained up Pylon Hill and onto the Chalky Field’s but Leanne just missed a close encounter with a horse as it decided to charge straight for her!
We were edging closer to the finish, running over the final field with the end in sight. There was only mile to go. As soon as the finish was visible we sprinted for the end and finished in 11 hours and 17 seconds, a 45 minute improvement on Leanne’s previous time! Despite a tight ITB and a badly burst achilles Leanne was simply ecstatic. We received our medals and had our photo taken – a picture perfect finish.
I had a great race with good food, my trial with the UCAN being highly successful. Although I was suffering from shin splints, I had a wonderful race and still managed to finish with no further damage.
Ghostwritten by Bethan Keefe-Hammond