On Saturday 14th May, I headed into the unknown! I was going to run the furthest I had ever run as one of sixteen challenges for the Alzheimer’s Society.
I set the alarm for 5.00am, had my normal running breakfast, grabbed my kit and drove to Walesby, where the Dukeries 30 started. Reminisced a little as I drove past the international scout camp of my time helping with cubs many years ago.
Parked up and registered and went for a final check through my kit. It was at this point I couldn’t find my maps! I began to worry a little at this point, but luckily the organisers had spare copies of the overview map.
Richard and Rob were also running this event for Sixteen in 16, crazily completing the 40 mile route. We met up as you inevitabley do at races in the queue for the toilet! An amusing race briefing from Ronnie Staton, the race director, and it was almost time to go. We grabbed a quick picture before the start and lined up to begin the adventure.
The route of the Dukeries 30 takes you through Sherwood Forest, the Welbeck Estate and Clumber Park.
We started and it was a slow pace to begin with as the field of 250 were closely packed together. Around a mile in the race suddenly it got a lot more interesting as a stream had burst its banks and completely flooded the path. At that point I was regretting not wearing trail shoes as we waded through the freezing cold, thigh deep water. Luckily the sun was out and shoes and feet soon dried out!
I ran with Richard and Rob for the first seven miles until the first checkpoint. It was good to have the company, chatting about festivals, children’s parties and running shoes, passed the time. At the checkpoint we grabbed a drink and some food and they headed off towards the major oak and I started the rest of my journey alone.
The miles were ticking by and I was maintaining a pace between 9.30 and 10.30 miles depending on the terrain, which is mixed throughout the course. I had been a little worried about wayfinding before we started but the course was excellently marked and throughout the whole course I only had to double check was on the right route once.
I was really enjoying running through the countryside now; always a runner in sight but not crowded and running at a relaxed pace. The second check point was at Cresswell Crags. I had never visited there but after running through will definitely be heading back with the family to have a look around. At the checkpoint at 13 miles I had a jam sandwich and some peanuts and headed on my way.
On I went through the countryside passing through 15 miles in 2 hours 35 minutes.
From this point until the end I was basically following a couple of runners in front of me and they acted as useful pacers, walking up the steep inclines and then upping the pace on the flats and down hills.
Through 20 miles we ran and I’m used to really struggling at this point in a marathon, but this didn’t happen. It was a lovely day; sunny but not too hot and I was releaxed. 26.2 miles came and passed in 4 hours 35 minutes.
It was getting warmer by this point and my pace was slowing but still felt ok until 29 miles and was trying to hold on for the last mile. 30 miles came and the finish wasn’t in sight and then I remembered back to the race briefing where they said the course was an extra 0.8 mile long. This did throw me a little as I was tired. I lost sight of the people whose pacing I had been following and started walking more regularly. In hindsight, should have stayed stronger and kept running and would have been fine, but for the first time in the whole race lost my way mentally.
As always happens the finish appears and crossed the finish line in just over 5 hours 31 minutes for the 31 miles I ran. Had hope at half way to sneak under 5 hours 30 but was over the moon in completing my first ultra marathon.
The Dukeries 30 was really well organised, the course was excellently marked with a good mix of terrain, but not too challenging for the first time ultra runner. The volunteers on the route were amazing, motivating you along the way and checking everything was fine. I said before the race this would be my only ultra marathon, but I am not sure now! Really enjoyed this race and may well be back next year.
Rob and Richard completed the 40 miles course in an excellent time and all our efforts took our total fundraising for Sixteen in 16 for the Alzheimer’s Society past £3000. If you want to sponsor us you can do at www.justgiving.co.uk/sixteenin16