I love the St Aidan’s Nature Park as a place to run, particularly that it connects to another reserve, Fairburn Ings, which gives a vast network of footpaths through wonderfully scenic wetlands. Therefore the St Aidan’s Half Marathon is too good to miss.
As the days leading up to the event passed it was increasingly apparent that with all the rain that had been falling, the rivers and lakes were high and that on the day torrential rain was forecast. Now I’ve done trail races in similar conditions before and while afterwards you feel fantastic, running is pretty grim. When we did the Chevin Chase in 2015, at least we were able to shower afterwards but only just got home before the floods closed in. The prospect of having to drive home looking and feeling like the Creature from the Black Lagoon didn’t really appeal!
This morning I was expecting to wake up with rain lashing on the window but it was suspiciously quiet! There had been some rain overnight but it looked dry. Even though I had packed a plastic poncho and towel, it wasn’t raining at the venue. Nor was it too cold and I was glad I wasn’t over-dressed, having chosen to wear my running vest.
Although it wasn’t raining, the ground was extremely damp as we set off though 6 inch deep puddles covering the whole width of the path. Any prospect of dry feet went out of the window straight away (although strangely there were many runners trying to dance around the puddles). My combination of Solomon trail shoes and Sealskinz waterproof socks were definitely the business and although I can’t say my feet were kept completely dry, they were comfortable.
So, the first 5 miles felt relatively OK and I was sustaining a reasonable pace (under 9 minute miles). Then the path took a turn up a hill into the wind and this was the beginning of the end. It couldn’t have been just me because I wasn’t being passed by a herd of other runners, but my legs were definitely feeling it!
It wasn’t quite as bad as having to concentrate on simply putting one foot in front of the other but I did have to dig deep to sustain a semirespectable pace for the rest of the race. I was fortunate to be running with some other athletes with the same mindset so we kept each other going.
Running on soft muddy ground with puddles is hard and I think the effort of doing that rather than the relatively modest hill was to blame. The last couple of miles were through St Aidan’s on fairly good paths and I could pick things up again and chase down a couple of runners who had overtaken me earlier. I managed a descent finish.
At first I was disappointed being just over 2 hours for the course but looking at how hard it was (and by the organisers own admission, a bit long), I am quite pleased with today. It has been the first half marathon sized effort since I have been recovering from a virus, so overall it was a great result.
“Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.’”