Roald Dahl Challenge

I have been looking forward to this event since booking it, and even before when it was just an idea! I grew up on Roald Dahl and was excited to see (and receive I guess!) the medal.

I think I was excited as there were not high expectations for this run: it is as many 3.65 mile laps as you can/want to cover in 6 hours. When I first signed up I was hoping for a good half marathon distance, but due to a lack of training that wasn’t on the cards now. Especially when it suddenly dawned on me a couple of weeks ago that I would have to complete 4 laps and not the 3 that I originally thought it would be to get to 13.1 miles.

So I turned up with no real plan. Adam was planning on completing a marathon (7 laps totalling 27m) or maybe even getting in an eighth to cover an ultra. I just wanted the medal.

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I hoped to complete at least two, but upon setting off and feeling the heat of the day and what felt like the complete absence of any air I did start thinking that just one would be fine enough!

The start was amusing: those who were ‘on it’ went straight to the front, including Adam, while the rest of us stood at the back, 10 foot off the front pack. Myself and another lady tried to get people to move forward but to no avail so I just joined the back of the ‘elites’ and planned to stay tucked off to one side once we started, which I did.

I was wearing my Garmin 235 again (for my second run since getting it) and the HRM seemed to be working this time, so I pressed start and tried to remember not to randomly press ‘lap’ while running.

The first half mile is on undulating bike track before descending a steep, graveled hill then through a gate and onto the sea wall. I am used to laps after Kent Roadrunner’s 21 back in May, but this was an out and back lap with a looooonnnng straight in middle, so that was quite daunting to look at, but I knew it was coming after walking it for 4 hours when Adam ran his first marathon here back in August last year.

The scenery is lovely the entire way around (as long as you stop looking down which is an issue of mine) but it was slightly marred by someone who seemed to be matching me step for step a metre from my right arm for the first 2 miles. She was breathing loudly and had music on which gave a slightly tinny sound over the sound of the English Channel. I was not a fan. I thought about going ahead of her to shake her off but new I wouldn’t be able to to maintain that, and dropping back I thought would be annoying as I liked my current pace.

But we separated at some point, and I really can’t remember which of us went ahead, but by lap two she was definitely behind me and then not even in sight, so I liked that. I am not competitive in running as I know my limitations, but Adam has always said you should fix someone in your head as someone to beat (usually on the finish line) and it has worked for me in previous runs, and she was it. Though it was easy on that last lap. (We’ll pretend that she didn’t keep running more laps which she may well have done: I need to do some Googling to track her down and find out…)

I am glad to say that I ran all of the first lap, as I intended, obviously ignoring walking up the massive steep hill and slowing through the gate. I was glad of that, and as I wandered around the aid station, trying to cool down, hydrate and eat jelly babies because they were there, I decided I would head out for another lap and just enjoy the sun, the view and run what I could. So I did.

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I felt OK, so started with a run, then got into a conversation with a woman who was running a marathon (having missed out on finishing one 2 weeks ago) who completed the three Outlaw triathlons this year including the Ironman, which she followed with another Ironman three weeks later… wow. She was at least twice the size of me at the waist but she was a machine: just getting through the miles at a decent pace. All I could counteract with was we were going to watch a friend do an Olympic triathlon at the end of the month: of course, she was going to be there too the day before competing… I couldn’t take anymore of the amazing-ness of it all, so held back to walk and drink and watch her go on her merry way. I did then run when I could, but found it difficult to for more than a couple of minutes at a time. But I kept it up, did kind of enjoy it, even through the sweat, and even contemplated going for a third lap.

But that thought didn’t stick with me for long – I came off the sea wall and onto the hills and trotted along, before attacking the end, knowing it was all nearly over. I tried to chase down the lady in front of me; I failed but did manage to keep in front of a guy who was gaining on me. A cheap victory as he went straight out again while I got to ring the bell and stop!

SVN have made a big thing about keeping the medal for this event a surprise. They teased us with a view of the back on Facebook, stating it had 38 colours on it, but that was it. Even when we arrived it wasn’t hanging up on the board as usual, but still hidden away in boxes… I think the feeling was the same amongst all the runners – don’t see it until you are being given it. I saw it from a distance after lap 1 but kept myself from seeing it properly.

20160915_102502.jpgFinishing lap two, I continued past the people trying to punch my lap card and ran to ring the bell. Time captured, name given and the world’s heaviest medal was placed around my neck and a goodie bag was thrust into my hand. Nice!

But, I removed the medal, dropped the bag and kept running. The two laps should have come to 7.9 miles in my head and I wasn’t at that yet: I wanted to make sure I covered the right distance, so I headed off around the car parks to make it up. Then I decided to get to 8 miles so it would be a round number for the furthest I have run since the marathon. It wasn’t until hours later, on the drive home that Adam helped me realise that two laps should have been 7.7 miles and I was only slightly under that… oh well, I got to 8 miles anyway.

I then turned my attention to cooling down, drinking lots and waiting to see Adam who I thought was coming through as I passed him maybe 1 mile from the end of my lap and so he should be back at the start soon. But he never came… I finally worked out he must have been just behind me and I missed him as I was running around the car park… Damn!

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But I caught up with him on every other lap both down on the sea wall and at the end of the lap, helping to provide him with more drinks.

Adam finished the 7 laps in a personal worst of 4:25, but while he was recovering, someone mentioned that he had done really well and must have come about fourth for the marathon distance. This piqued his interest and he went and checked… He only went and came second! Second! That is amazing! His best result in previous races has been 4th in a parkrun once, and now second in a marathon! He did point out that this was a mid-week run so the usual ‘elites’ weren’t there, but still – a great achievement as you can only race those who turn up on the day!

Once recovered, we tootled home for food, showers (and an Epsom salt bath for Ad) and plenty of sitting down.

We also took some time to appreciate, and weigh, the medal (568g) and to count how many Roald Dahl books were referenced: we counted nine, but are willing to be corrected if anyone can see any others.

A good day, an amazing event, the best medal I think I will ever see, and a great achievement for Ad!

One learning: not sure whether I would want to run again at Samphire Hoe as the course is not friendly and the weather can never be trusted there. But SVN events are just brilliant, so if you fancy a themed run, or just an any-distance run with an awesome medal then take a look at what they do.

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