The Holly Challenge Trail Marathon, Lightmoor, Shropshire: 16 June 2012: I don’t think that I could have been totally compos mentis when I signed up for this 31.4 lap race. It started to rain as I left the Travelodge in Wolverhampton and continued throughout the race. On the first time round I discovered that each lap contained one very steep muddy hill, one long, but gradual hill and one short hill. There must have been some downhills as well, but these didn’t really register with many runners and everybody was convinced that there was more uphill than downhill. It defied logic. Another matter for speculation and discussion as the race progressed was whether or not the water level in the two lakes we ran between would rise high enough to flood the narrow footpath running between them before we finished. Given how hard the course was I was satisfied with my time of 4:16:44. The medal was also nice, but far more attractive was the engraved pint glass filled with Pimms that I received as I crossed the line. I returned to St Albans with a substantial chunk of Shropshire caked to my legs.
Hamsterley Forest Trail Marathon, County Durham: 1 July 2012: Having run the St Albans 7 mile mid-week road race on 28 June I wasn’t sure how my legs would cope with the steep hills in the Durham Dales. I started off cautiously and ran the first couple of miles with one of the girls I’d run with at Druridge Bay Marathon in May. The course comprises an out section followed by 3 laps and then a return stretch of about 2 miles to the finish at the Visitor’s Centre. We quickly discovered the 2 major uphills in the first half of each lap. The consolation was that a good proportion of the second half of each lap was downhill. I finished in 4:21:00 satisfied that there were still quite a few people behind me and pleased to have completed my 100th different UK marathon in one piece. This was yet another well-organised marathon put on by the North East Marathon Club. I’m now looking forward to running their Northumberland Coast Marathon in August.
Summer Enigma Trail Marathons 1 and 2, Milton Keynes: 7 and 8 July 2012: I knew July would be a tough month with 5 marathons in the first 4 weekends and it was the Enigma marathons that I was dreading most. The course for each marathon is described as 7.5 scenic laps around Caldecotte Lake. Unfortunately, the large puddle we had to run through on each lap was much deeper on the second day than on the first and my left shoe developed a Donald Duck squeak that became increasingly irritating as I grew more tired. Each lap had plenty of twists, turns, puddles and undulations, but this is still definitely not my favourite lake to run around. It was good to see another Strider (Kathryn Hall) beating me in on day 1 finishing in 4:15:19, but she had more sense than to turn up on day 2. Instead, on day 2 there was a fresh influx of runners to add to those of us demented enough to run both races. My times were 4:21:35 and 4:50:15 respectively placing me 20th out of 45 on day 1 and 26th out of 40 on day 2.
Fairlands Valley Challenge Trail Marathon, Stevenage: 15 July 2012: For me this local event is one of the highlights of the year with the added bonuses that we rarely get rain while we are out running the Challenge and that the scenery is breathtaking. This year there were more Striders running the various distances than I can recall since I ran my first one in 1996. Steve Smith and Liz Walls ran the 50k route. Gary Warren, John Jones and David Perry were 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively in the 18.7 mile event, whilst Gladstone and 7 other Striders completed that distance at a more leisurely pace. In the marathon Ross Nugent (called back from Sweden to assist with Olympic Security) was 24th, Nick Bradley 44th and Jonathan Milne 104th. 7 of us (Petra Grosse, Peter Rogers, Abby Reilly, Fiona Snailham, Kathryn Hall and her cousin Caroline, and me) ran round together with plenty of photo stops and consuming copious amounts of bread pudding at the check points. We had a brilliant time and a thoroughly enjoyable day in spite of the mud.
Konigsschlosser Romantikmarathon 2012, Fussen, Bavaria: 22 July 2012: This was one of the most scenic trail marathons I have run. From Fussen the route takes runners through the Hopfer Forest, round Lake Hopfensee, across the floodplain of the river Lech, along the banks of Lake Forggensee, across lush green meadows and past the royal castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau before returning to Fussen through the Schwansee woodlands. Unbelievably, with Austria and the Alps only 5 kilometres away from Fussen, the organisers managed to devise a fairly flat course and the views changed every time you turned a corner. There were plenty of cows with cowbells to add support as runners made their way towards the finish. Everybody I spoke to thoroughly enjoyed the event although it would have been even better if the rain had held off and produced a few less puddles. My finishing time was 4:13:32. Most important is the fact that Fussen is a beautiful town in which to celebrate post race.
This was my 295th marathon. My aim is to run my 300th in North Carolina on 4 November, so I am now allowing myself a few weeks of rest before my next race.