It was a frosty Saturday morning at the start line of the XNRG Pilgrims Challenge; 66-miles over two days following the North Downs Way from Farnham to Merstham. My training over Christmas and January went well considering that it was all done very early in the morning in complete darkness but my aim for this race was just to enjoy the route so close to home and get some mileage in. I estimated a 6h30 finish for day one but decided not to look at my pace too much. That was a good thing as I didn’t get much sleep due to my daughter and the cat. At the moment I know that I can do the distance but I’m mentally struggling a lot more than what I should. Without a clear answer as to how to fix my problem I decided to just have fun and enjoy the run.
Most of the course is either up or down with the first part of Day 1 the easy section, leaving the big hills for the last part of the race. The cold weather didn’t bother me too much due to a good kit selection. I was working hard but enjoying a very well organised event. I must take my hat off to all of the volunteers at the checkpoints. As runners and walkers we stay warm but they have been manning the checkpoints with a friendly smile and a helping hand, despite the sleet and freezing temperatures.
Reaching the steps at Box Hill 35km into the race was an interesting experience on my legs. Mentally I kept telling myself that this will come in handy for my Vertical Rush Challenge in March. My mind wandered off to who made these steps? A giant, someone with very long legs or a random person who just randomly place them up this hill. The reason for it was that it was too big to climb up one by one and too small to get any rhythm of walking or running. They felt never ending but I knew that with every muddy step I was closer to the end. I don’t like running on roads but appreciated being out of the slippery mud when we reached some tarmac. Reaching the finish line I felt happy and after a cup of hot soup and a hot shower I was ready to set up my bed in the hall where we would be sleeping. After dinner we got the opportunity to listen to different presentations.
When the lights turned on for the start of Day 2 a part of me was thinking “why?” Another night with hardly any sleep I stumbled to breakfast and yes I did sleep in my running clothes incase you where wondering. My knees were throbbing through the night, something I’ve never had before so the first few miles were slow. At least we started with the hard section and finish with the well somewhat easier section. The snow made everything look pretty, peaceful and slippery!
Progress was slow. The muddy route was technical and my running soon turned into mud sliding something my poor knees didn’t like at all. I was dreading going down Box Hill steps the whole morning but was pleasantly surprised that going down them there seems to be less of them, however, to save my knees I did try “crab style”. Reversing yesterday’s route you get some sort of idea as to what’s ahead however I also realise how much my brain blocks out as there were sections which looked very unfamiliar. Seeing my daughter gave me a mental boost to keep running. Only a few more miles!
I crossed the finish line happy with my achievement.
I can thoroughly recommend XNRG events. They are well organised and the staff and volunteers are great. XNRG run a few events during the year.
Find out more at http://www.xnrg.co.uk