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22nd November 2013

Druid Challenge Ultra Challenge 2013 when you finish in the sun you forget all the rain!!

druid, marathon des sables, ultramarathon

It was great to arrive in Tring and see so many familiar, friendly faces. We met an inspiring chap on the train who was looking forward to his first ultra, we laughed when he said he had done a 5 km training run in preparation- we later found out that he was serious. He set off in a very absorbent wooly hat and scarf and he completed the day- fair play! Never found out if he made it to work for 630 am Saturday morning though?!

The leading guys completed day 1 in lightening speed, it was muddy but didn’t slow you down too much- it was actually quite fun. That said, some had a few falls and those in road trainers were cursing their choice as they slipped and slid. The forecast was pretty bleak and it did get cold once wet, but the rain came and went and it made you appreciate the dry spells! The trick was not to stop too long at the check points, which I found hard, as they are always well stocked and so friendly and lovely at Xnrg events. We finished just before it turned dark, but some were out with head torches for a good few hours. The course was well marked but a few managed to log some extra miles. The day finished with very welcome cake and coffee and a growing collection of very muddy trainers filling the entrance.

There were many rumours of heavy rain all day Saturday filling the hall, but we were pleasantly surprised to see a brief glimmer of sun through the clouds when we set off for day 2. The ridgeway is a lovely run, fields and woods and open chalky tracks, undulating but not too hilly, nicely varied which keeps it interesting. As in all Xnrg events there was a really mixed field of runners and walkers, ages and motivations, but everyone is always upbeat and friendly and there is always a great feeling of camaraderie throughout the field. The last few miles of day 2 you can see the finish which is rather nice. Steam was coming off us in the mini bus that transported us to the leisure centre! There were Fantastic facilities with use of the gym- should you want it?! One guy was pleased about this as after day one he had gone for rather wet cool down run… I think the rest of us stuck to the pool and the sauna- which was amazing! It was nice to have a wonder into Wantage and there were a few good pubs close by. We got back in time to hear Joey’s talk about her amazing journey from a non runner to MDS in 18 months and she gave some great tips for those preparing for MDS. I have little desire to do this race, but Joey actually made it sound pretty fun! Then Roary gave some good training tips in an amusing and motivating pitch basically telling everyone to hammer it on day 3.. The medics were looking slightly worried!

There were a few trainer swaps as due to the heavy mud coverage some people took the wrong shoes, but apart from that everyone was pretty excited about the prospect of a dry day 3. We were transported back onto the ridgeway and had our minutes silence for remembrance Sunday before setting off. It was pretty exposed at the start, but the sun shone and the British countryside looked stunning. Personally I loved day 3, it was perfect running conditions, pretty, and a clear easy track to follow. I kept thinking – this is what I run for. When you come off the ridgeway it’s a few miles along the track to the finish, there was a lot of support at the finish which was a nice surprise and helped spur on our sprint finish!

84 miles complete, some fantastic performances across the field. I managed my personal goal of beating my time in 2011- which was my first proper multi day ultra run when I set off pretty clueless with a bottle of lucozade and road trainers- I’ve learnt a lot about ultra running since then but with hindsight I am pretty impressed with how I performed back then- it just shows how much of ultra running is in the mind – where there is a will there is a way – you just ache more when your not as fit!

XNRG events are always my favourite, this one lived up to the usual standard of fantastic planning, organisation and support. Neil, Anna, Brian and Rich and all the checkpoint teams, massage team and medics give such a caring and dedicated support, willing everyone to achieve their own personal goals, so all we need to do is get out there and put one foot in front of the other… What could be better than that.

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8th September 2013

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