Event Type: Multi-terrain marathon that goes along around the Ladybower reservoir with parts that can be quite exposed to the sun. This is a small friendly event with a couple of hundred doing 1/2 marathon or full marathon distances.
Sustainability: It is a cupless event in a beautiful area around a part of the peak district so BYOB.
Start Time: 09:30
Weather: @25-28 degs C by mid-day
During: Checkpoints every 5 miles stocked with fruit, jelly babies + gels + water + isotonic to refill
At the End: Medal + t-shirt + water
When oi was a wee lass, me mother taught us how to play card games & then as a family used to play contract bridge. I used to play with my father & at times we’d take a gamble on contracts. My father likes to recall the time when we played together in the Pesta Sukan bridge competition in Singapore against one of the top Singaporean pairs. We somehow found ourselves in a risky 7NT contract and got lucky. This event reminded me of that game. With a relatively good hand, I started the bidding conservatively with 1NT (One No Trump playing Standard American). David (RD) responded positively and helped make the cards “look nice”. So I booked the accommodation, organised how to get to the destination, the calf was feeling great…..and parked ourselves in a safe 3NT contract. But as things go, sometimes the opposition will interfere to snatch a contract away.
A key family member (affectionately known as “Pa”) passed on to his “next journey” on the Wednesday on the week of the event. His funeral was scheduled on the Tuesday after the weekend of the marthon…..in New Zealand. From the UK, this would be a 30 hour journey and Kenny Rogers has started to sing a song.
I counted my cards and contemplated my next actions. This marathon was on the Saturday, in the Peak District, about 3-4 hours away from Heathrow. A 30 hour journey plus the time travel would see me 2 days into the future. The latest I could leave would be the Saturday evening of the event, for a Monday evening arrival.
…and Kenny sings: “If you’re gonna play the game, girl
You gotta learn to play it right”….
Ahh the choices:
A. Let the opposition steal the contract: that is let the organiser know that I cannot attend and focus on organising myself to leave with plenty of time or,
B. Check for Aces: that is see if the RD would allow an early marathon start, book an evening flight for the Saturday evening and then the rest would be up to me + a bit of luck.
Organiser checked, flight checked…..though a top card was questionable, the calculation was possible if everything aligned correctly. I put myself in 7NT (the best contract possible with the highest amount of points to collect).
Yes a flight was booked for 9:30pm on Saturday evening, RD kindly gave me the green light to start the event two hours early at 07:30am. It would be down to me to play the cards well.
Here’s the algorithm:
Completion times at the last 2 events were Sundown 7 hours 58 minutes one month ago and Glorious Gargrave 8 hours 7 minutes one week ago. David was allowing me a special 07:30am start.
Airport at 7:30pm latest = 4 hour journey time to airport + 30 minutes shower/change + 20 minutes faff after the marathon + x unknown time to complete marathon.
Thus x = 7 hours 30 minutes worst case roughly knocking off at least half an hour from the last 2 events.
Of course Freeus-Blod would be coming along – am still trying to complete 100 marathons / ultras with a tyre! Just needed to focus on the event instead of stopping to yabber to passer-bys, and reach 13.5 miles at least by 11:00am.
And Kenny sings…..”You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them”…
The course is in the Peak District….nice undulations and somewhere along, there is a steep hill to climb to admire the views.
At 07:30am RD flagged me off.
At about 10:00am the cards were unfolding nicely and the 10 mile check point had been reached. The volunteers were lovely and encouraging. By 10:30am a tall runner loped along, his t-shirt thoroughly soaked. He was the lead runner and had overtaken me at what I thought was about 11.5 miles.
…and the song continues – “Know when to walk away, know when to run”
I needed to push on… that’s what Salt N Pepa tell me…
Coming round at the bottom of the lake, a couple of cyclists held a gate open for me to pass through, and stopped me to ask what Freeus-Blod was doing. We chatted for a couple of minutes, they gave me some money for EarthWatch, we talked some more, took some photos and then I hurried on (thank you to the man and woman cyclist) towards a road, which was a 2 mile entrance towards the Lady Bower car park where I had registered earlier on.
Another lady stopped me to have a chat. Had a quick conversation to find out she was walking to a pub to meet her daughter to later cheer her son who was in the event. Of course she asked for a ride….Freeus was in no mood to entertain the thought. Time was ticking on and the tricks were being taken, but it didn’t seem enough. Arrowhead 135 had shown me how the mind can distort time and distance, so the confidence was a little low.
Back to Kenny…
“You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done”
Having not reviewed the route prior to the event, had thought this was a double loop, hence the mid-point (13 miles) should be from whence we started. The clock struck 11am, the sun was beating down and the mind told me “how about adding another 15 minutes more?”. 15 minutes went by and the mind told me “it would be sensible to quit when you get to the next check point to ensure time to get to the airport”.
Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser
By 11:35am a check point appeared diverting us away from heading onwards to the “Start” point. Am ready to throw in the towel except the marshal tells me “It is mile 14 and you’re doing really well”. Am confused but a voice in my head dares me to continue reminding me the RD had earlier told me that at mile 15 there is a steep hill to the edge….and at this check point there is a steep hill! A triple check with everyone and the head said “get on that hill”.
Freeus jumped on me shoulder, for a ride. In fact she stayed on for most of that section as she clung on to so many rocks and roots sticking out of the ground. There are some glorious panoramic views of the Peaks at the top but there is no time to take pretty pictures.
As we leave that section and returned to a couple of miles into the route of the first lap, another group of runners stopped to have a chat, estimating that we are at mile 17 at 12:15pm
I wanted to believe the possibility, but didn’t want to disappoint myself, so the demon voice told me “you’re a foolish idiot, Uncle will be mad at you and it’s probably only mile 16 you need to quit”.
Ahh yes Queen…..
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that brings a building down
Splits a family in two
…and then Pa popped into my head cheerily smiling, telling me “You nutter but you’ll do good. Go for it.”
The point about a bridge contract is you create a plan of play at the start and adapt as the cards unveil themselves.
Another cyclist stopped to have a chat. He and family were heading to the lakes for a swim. With the clear blue sky and strong sun, that sounded a dream. But “allons-y”, I had to go and the cyclist pressed a 5 pound note in my hand for my cause (EarthWatch). A feeling of guilt rushed over me for moving on so quickly but I couldn’t let Pa down.
Some distance on, a runner is limping and stretching at the side of the road. I stopped to check he is okay and if he needed any water. This is his first marathon and he is now at the furthest distance, thinking it is mile 18-19. I get him going for a short while, but the ticking clock in my head urged me to keep moving. We get to the next check point at mile 20. Yummy melon and oranges were being served up – perfect for the hot day but no time to chat.
I assumed the next check point would be at mile 23. Again the demon brain told me “You’re so selfish jeopardising family for your own selfish ego….”. Yes I am imperfect and embrace my imperfections.
There aren’t many cards left and with the heat bearing down, am starting to believe have played the wrong card. My mind reflects on Arrowhead135 when the space, time and distance were all out of sync…. my demon brain tells me “You’ll never make it. You probably have 3 more miles and you won’t make it to the airport”. It is nearly 14:30 and having to cover 3 more miles would mean about another hour.
As another runner passes, I panickingly ask “Do you know how many more miles it is to the end?”
Runner: “About one!”
We turned a corner to a downhill slope all the way to the end.
The finish line is crossed in 7:07. Made it back home to have a shower and caught flight. Contract completed.
Many thank yous to Dave and Amanda (RDs) for your very kind generosity. Always to the volunteers to where very encouraging all the way and to the various cyclists who kindly pressed money into my hand £14.30 to EarthWatch.
Well stocked check points, loved the reusing of bottles to make up isotonic and appreciated the fruit offerings. Way better than jelly babies.
Would definitely recommend this marathon event.
Next write up: Plym Trail Marathon