The race briefing was drowned out by the torrential rain lashing against the flimsy walls of the marquee. Three hundred runners shivered inside as the wind whipped off the sea and threatened to launch it, tent-poles and all to somewhere over the rainbow. “It’ll burn off!” I yelled to my running mates. How wrong I was.
This was it, three months of training, swearing my way up hills, tutting up the trails and clocking up the kilometers on the flattish Spen Valley Greenway. I was as ready as I’d ever be to take up the Women’s Running Project Trail challenge.
In my head, I saw myself gliding up the hills, taking in the spectacular views of the Gower peninsula, maybe stopping for photographs in the warm November sun. After all, this was a charmed challenge, it was going in a magazine, it was bound to be perfect.
Six hours of driving took us to Rhossili where the race organisers had battled in 50mph winds to pitch the marquee. With heavy rain followed by more heavy rain and strong wind and gusts forecast, we were instructed to check in the morning for an update, safety must come first, even if you’ve trained to within an inch of your life. Part of me secretly hoped it would be cancelled, I wanted sun and beautiful views, but more of me wanted to run whatever, I was race ready and my legs were itching to go.
We were doing the half marathon, one of four events the same day, ranging from the 34-mile ultra and 26.2-mile marathon to a 10km. As we arrived, many of the half marathon entrants were swapping to the 10km, for us, it wasn’t an option, it was what we were there to do.
The start was abrupt, with us dashing from the marquee to the line, where all the flags and signs had been removed, or they too would have ended up in Oz. I ran with the lovely Lou, we were the oldest (me) and the youngest Project Trailers. She is a speedy road runner but wanted to take the trail challenge. Vicki, the third member of the team, ran with her friend John. Noel was up and off like a whippet, stopping only to tumble in the brambles somewhere in the next 13 and a bit miles, but he was still back way ahead of us.
My dreams of a leisurely run were quickly washed away by the rain and rivers of mud. I can honestly say I have never run in such atrocious conditions in my life, thank goodness for running with mates, because we just had to laugh as the wind nearly launched us into the sea, it blew my hat off, for heaven’s sake, and the mud got everywhere. We did stop for photos, but only where we were sheltered from the elements.
As I staggered up the finishing strait, encouraged by Lou, I could already feel the endorphins kick in. The miles and 710m of ascent had gone quickly, even though most of them were under water or mud. I only fell once, and that was a rather pathetic slip that left me caked in mud, I really should have tried harder. The wind and rain hadn’t let up, it hadn’t burned off, but I was on a high. This was probably the hardest run I had ever done and all I could think was, what’s next?!