I’m a 51 year old grandmother who runs four times a week. As well as running I go to the gym most mornings to do strength work and the occasional spin class. I used to run cross country races as a child and loved the mud and the cold, unlike many of my friends. I didn’t run for years but picked it up again in my thirties.
I’m very much a ‘lone runner’ and rarely run with anyone else. Unlike many of my friends I actually prefer running on my own, early in the morning when there is no-one else about. Add in rain and wind and I usually have a smile on my face.
Have you ever ran an ultra before?
I have never run a marathon before let alone an ultra. I could happily run long distances but my self-imposed ‘phobia’ of mass events meant I never entered races.
What made you sign up for the competitions on the Women’s Running Facebook page to win a place in the Ultrabug 100km, 3-day staged event through the Carpathian Mountains in Romania?
I was recovering from a torn calf muscle when I read about the race in Women’s running. Ultrabug 2015 had my name written all over it and seemed ‘tailor made’ for me. The small numbers with varied and challenging terrain sparked the ‘go on, enter it’ in me. My hubby visited Romania more than 30 years ago and he encouraged me to enter. Bingo – holiday for him and running for me.
How would you describe the course?
I looked at the previous year’s profile so I knew it would be challenging. It didn’t disappoint on the challenge front but it really surpassed all expectations in terms of scenery. I cannot begin to describe how stunning the views were. There was mud, forests, grass, rocky bits and even a vertical stream.
The start on day one was a pretty special view. The local school children came out to cheer us on and waved flags of all the nations taking part, that is a lovely memory.
The views from the top of the mountains were stunning. We were promised spectacular views after a particularly steep climb on day two and we weren’t disappointed.
What were your favourite parts of the course and why?
I have so many favourite parts of the course I could fill a book. The ‘vertical stream’ towards the end of day two was challenging, but I would have happily gone back the following day and done it again to see if it really was like as I remembered it. Being able to splash my way uphill and cool my feet down at the same time helped make the climb feel less arduous. A fellow competitor called it her ‘valley of death’!
The cows scattered in the fields throughout the course brought frequent smiles; listening to their bells clanging away helped me to forget the strain on the legs. The Shepherds’ hut at the top of the last mountain on day two was stunning, it looked like something from a postcard. I have a lovely picture of it.
What were your least favourite parts of the course and why?
The last downhill section on day one. I didn’t think it was possible to go downhill slower than going uphill but believe me it’s possible. I was being a bit cautious but it was definitely a technical challenge. Something for me to work on.
How much crowd support did you get?
There weren’t many crowds between checkpoints but the locals always waved and were very encouraging. Everyone at the checkpoints was so encouraging and made sure you had food and water and knew where you were going next. The local police even came out to give support. Forestry workers and shepherds pointed the way and gave words of encouragement.
What was your overall experience of the race and the organisation?
The race was amazing from start to finish. Every aspect was so well organised. The route was extremely well sign posted. The accommodation and food was fantastic. We were so well looked after by Anne-Marie and her team I could not find fault with anything.
How did you find the aid stations during the race?
The check points were great. Everything you needed was available even sun cream. The volunteers manning the check points were genuinely encouraging and very supportive and made every effort to fuel you up.
Were there official photographers?
There were photographers around the course and at the finish.
The goody bag included a fab sweatshirt, protein bar and leaflets for other events in the area.
What was the medal like and what did you think of it?
The medal is unique and the envy of all my friends who are used to the mass event medals. It’s hand carved by local people which makes it even more special.
How did you find the experiences outside of the race? (Picking up from the airport, additional tours, accommodation)
My experience outside of the race surpassed all expectations; it really did feel like you were being looked after by family. The tour to the monastery, trout farm and the local towns was great, especially as we were taken by people that knew the area so well.
The accommodation and food was absolutely first class. I didn’t know what to expect from a village guest house. It was such a delightful place, with all the mod-cons and stunning views from the balcony and terrace. I would love to go there again.
The food was delicious with plenty of choice and a real effort was made to ensure we sampled traditional food. For those taking part in the race breakfast was tailored to individual needs. Nothing was too much trouble at all.
How involved did your family feel who came to support you?
My hubby loved it as much as I did. The locals made him feel really welcome and the village was so beautiful it really was like being on holiday.
I would definitely recommend the race. For anyone who loves running this race is a must.
Did the race have a magical atmosphere for you?
There was a real magical feel to the entire event. Where else would you find cows on the way to the start line, have cuckoos calling in the woods and a course where you get muddy feet that you can clean in a vertical stream? And to finish, being offered a beer from the cool garden stream at the end of a long day two to help cool you down? Local people made you feel so welcome and went out of their way to make you feel welcome. Add in brilliant blue skies and it was a perfect weekend.
How crowded was the race and was this a positive thing or a negative thing?
Knowing the race numbers were small was one of the main reasons I entered the competition. For me it was perfect, and definitely a positive. There was enough people about to stop me feeling completely isolated. For the most part I ran alone but in between I ran with other competitors. Everyone I met was so encouraging and not in the least bit competitive.
Would you do it again in future?
I would definitely do it again.
On a scale of one to ten, give the race an overall rating for organisation?
Overall rating 10+ for organisation – I would happily rate it 11/10 !
On a scale of one to ten, give the race an overall rating for quality of the course?
Overall rating 10+ for the quality of the course