Piece of Cake Marathon – 16th July 2016
A marathon with the name “Piece of Cake” conjures up images of a nice, flat, possible pb course. Unfortunately this was anything but. It is organised by CODRC “How Hard Can It Be” events, who I have run with before and therefore having checked the course profile knew exactly what I had let myself in for.
They have the most fantastic medals, which make the journey and gruelling runs worthwhile.
James drove us from Hull, setting off at 6.00am, heading down the M62, M18, M1, A38, M54 and finally the A59 towards Church Stretton. This is now a well-travelled journey for James and I taking between 3 and 3 ½ hours to make. Being a weekend it was a little quieter than the midweek journeys and was a trouble free trip.
The race was due to start at 10.00am and we arrived at around 9.15am, giving ample time to say hello to familiar faces, get changed and stretch.
Some of the competitors and their supporters also bring cakes, a welcome refreshment to look forward to at the end of the event. Although no prize is given, this is a competition in itself.
Denzil, the race director, gave the obligatory race instructions and we set off from Carding Mill Valley National Trust car park and headed North. This is a 2 lap course and although it was a well marked route, we were told to take an OS map, compass and other race kit. With this in mind I thought I would take in the surroundings during the first lap and try and remember the way aournd for lap 2.
The first 3 miles was quite a harsh climb, initially going along a narrow rocky path, before opening out onto open heather covered hills. As we went North and then turned to the West, the wind was bellowing in our faces and the countryside brought with it swathes of flies. My calves were hurting already, however from experience I knew that the first few miles are always my worst, until my body settles down and starts to relax, knowing that 26 miles of battering are to come.
Quite a few people passed me over the next few miles; however I had set my mind on taking it relatively easy and to just enjoy myself. All I needed to do was to have a glance at my surroundings to remind myself what it was all about, being out in the open and taking in the idyllic views.
After around 3.5 miles we arrived at the first check point, which also acted as the 3rd checkpoint at around 11.5 miles, the course being a figure 8. The path continued to the West and was now a steady downhill, affording the first chance to get the legs moving.
I was happy to bump into Rich Whittaker at around 6 miles. He’s a regular marathon runner, who I see up and down the country, completing his 100th last year. He is also an ultra-runner, competing in a number of events, including 100 and 110 milers.
Around mile 7, just after the Bridges Pub, where the 2nd check point was, the course had been tampered with and we ended up in a field, off route. Unfortunately we had also taken a few other runners with us. Seeing quite a few others ahead we caught up and all decided to nip across a couple of fields and back onto the correct path. It was a little tricky negotiating as we had to hurdle over a barbed wire fence and the farmer wasn’t too happy, however no-one caused any damage and the fields seemed to be overgrown with wild grass, with no crops being grown.
Most of the other runners seemed undeterred by this incident and everyone seemed to be helping each other getting over the obstacles.
I lost Rich for a while, however gradually caught him about a mile later. You never stop learning and Rich gave me a couple of handy pieces of ultra advice. If a marble will roll down it, you walk up it and a run isn’t about time, it’s about survival. Being lazy, I thought these were great pieces of advice, particularly the fabulous excuse for walking the uphills.
The course looped back to the East and started to climb uphill again for around 3 miles, with a short detour South, picking up The Port Way back North and then again heading East. Arriving at the checkpoint at around 11.5 miles. I treated myself to a mixture of half coke, half water. The body appreciates sugary drinks on these kind of runs and it’s important to replace lost fluids. I did have my camel bak, however it is handy to make use of the friendly aid stations.
Continuing downhill again, some of it quite steep and rocky, we went through the halfway mark at around 2hrs 17mins. We now began the second lap of the course, knowing what to expect.
I’d been running with Rich for the best part of the race and we agreed that we’d stick together for the rest of the race, hoping not to hold each other back.
We continued running parts and walking the more difficult sections, generally having a good gas. For me time seemed to flow by, slowly passing some of the other runners.
Around mile 20, we chummed up with another runner, Gary and agreed that it would be good to stay together. It would help to pass the time, plus it is always difficult running on your own, particularly through desolate locations and I think Gary appreciated the company.
Arriving at the final check point, we were encouraged by the marshals to race each other, as we were competing for 2nd place. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had spent so much time talking, walking and taking photos, I didn’t think it was possible that we were in this position.
Having already agreed with Rich early on that we would run together and similarly come to the same agreement with Gary we confirmed that we wouldn’t break up and would continue as we were and cross the line together. It’s always nice to run in a group and personal glory wasn’t a priority for any of us.
The next couple of miles or so were kind and downhill, if a little steep and rocky, however we kept to our word and all arrived at the finish line together in joint 2nd position.
It was a great feeling to finish a pretty harsh event, even better to sample the cake that had been provided by other runners and the organisers.
There were a couple of red bull girls, promoting new flavours and I was more than happy to sample the tropical one.
I had a stretch and clapped some of the other runners coming in. Chatting with Denzil, the race director and his Mum. James arriving shortly after. He has been struggling with injuries and form, so it was good to see him at the finish line, in a respectable time.
Rich, Gary and I finished in a time of around 4 hours 40 minutes, which is a lot slower than I would usually expect for a marathon. However the course was one of the hardest and prettiest I have encountered. The total climb was 1406 metres (4612 feet).
A well deserved rest from racing next week. Next up is Enigma World Cup Winners Marathon on 30th July 2016.