The time was 05:00 on a cold wet and foggy Saturday morning. I have to admit I was feeling nervous. A three hour drive down to Aldershot did nothing to calm the nerves. After five months of training, days week I felt I had trained hard for this but knew somehow it wasn’t enough.
09:00 and registration started. Race number obtained, timing chip too, now to weigh the rucksack to ensure I have enough weight. The Guy in front of me was told he was 5lb light and had to find the weight or be disqualified before he started. So, as I placed by pack on the hanging scales and I was elated to hear the Para PTI state “Happy with that one” and marked my pack as ready to go.
Back to car to get kitted up, Vaseline on the feet, socks on then the boots. Timing chip fixed to the laces, re-balance the pack and ready to go.
10:30 – the call goes up “Stand by” race briefing then a 15 minute warm up led by the Para PTI, it didn’t feel like a warm up, it felt as if I’d run the race already. Then at 11:05 I’m off feeling confident.
The first mile felt good, tarmac road was easy, second mile, well that wiped the smile of my face a near vertical hill made up of…MUD what fun, then I crested the other side and had the same mud to the bottom
then eased out on to a limestone track that was undulating. I thought i’m good to go. A few serious and rocky hills and descents but I’m doing ok, then…
Mile 6, all I can say is Oh my god. I know the race brief stated that there is a 3 mile flat part of the course and I thought great, up for that. What they didn’t say was that the 3 miles was made up of all I can describe as a boggy beach. Sand shale and water. Mile 6 to 7 was basically ponds, knee high water that left your legs drained of the energy I had. By the time I hit the last one I had finally found a pond with a bit of space at the edge to save running in the deep stuff.
Then out of that onto the soft wet sand for the next 1.5 to 2 miles. At this stage I have to say thanks to the Para at the mile 7 point. I caught a small stone that didn’t move which resulted in me taking a face plant into the sand with the ruck sack driving my head in even further. He helped me up, moved the pack back onto the back and pushed me of with a simple, “get a move on, no time to take a rest”, I smiled and ran.
Miles 8 to 10 were quite simply just hard, again undulating ground but by now the legs were knackered, I was at my limit, gasping for air but bloody determined to finish to ensure the sponsorship was well deserved. Up and over the final hill. Theres the finish line in sight, thank god but….NO as I crested the hill I had to turn right and complete what the Para’s call a moral loop. 3/4 of a mile with the finish line in sight.
300m to go and I’m feeling I may just hit the target time of 2h15 to 2h30 for the first run, I see the timing board displaying 2h8m something, spurred on I sprint to the finish ( actually I’m sure it was just faster than a walk but it felt like a sprint), I cross the line in 2h9m and 28 s in 241st place out of 349.
Down the post finish area, and time to get by pack weighed. If was below the 35lb weight I would be disqualified. Now I learn why the Para at the beginning said he was happy. My home scales weren’t accurate and I have 45lbs in the bloody pack, 10lbs more than I needed. Now some of that may be water and sweat, but not 10lb. I’m off to buy a proper luggage scale for the next one.
I Collect my medal and commemorative T shirt, timing chip removed and my legs are know telling me that if I ever consider that again they will refuse to move, and decide to seize up for the next 24 hours.
A fantastic day, extremely well organised and well worth the sponsorship gained so far. Now focus will be turned to training up to 15 miles to complete the SAS Fan dance and the Colchester Para 10 in July. Hopefully I will finish the next Para run around the 2h mark and take a minute per mile of this time.
One week before the first Para’10 challenge in Aldershot on the 9th March. Finally completed a hilly 10 miler in full gear this morning. Definitely confident that the 2h15 to 2h30 target for the first challenge is on.
Legs are tired and feet are a wreck but next week is a rest week before pressing on at the original site of the P Company challenge.
Fingers crossed the adrenalin on the day will kick in and the desire to beat any training times will win over to really get a good time posted.