Posted by: intrepidjane | June 19, 2010

God Doesn’t Work On A Saturday Afternoon : Runner 46’s Race Report From The Back!

At the beginning of my training journey : athletic and toned in a very curvy way 😉

On the 8th September 2009 I started training for a summer 2010 ultramarathon – heaving me and my then size 16 body a full 3 miles. (Actually my partner doesn’t realise that I was so “curvy” then – due to me describing myself as “athletic and toned” before we met on a blind date and also because he is ,fortunately, as blind as a bat – even with his glasses on!)

I was running from a standing start after a 6-year lay-off (a crisp and pizza holiday that went a little out of control), motivated by a programme I had seen on television about soldiers who left the military and who needed support to resolve post-traumatic stress but just weren’t getting it.

As a mother myself, I found it hard to watch these children of other women suffer. As a professional working in the field of emotional well-being, I found it ludicrous that these men who had served their country were not being served in return. In that moment, I decided to run to raise money for Help For Heroes : if that were my son, I’d want him cared for properly.

5:45 am race day!

Fast-forward 9 months and I find myself standing at the start line of the Mourne Way Ultramarathon in Northern Ireland, ready to heave myself a full 52 miles. Since September, I had trained 6 days a week (with a brief stay in hospital for a pair of tonsils that grew out of control), lost 3 stone in weight, reduced the size of my chest by 4 cup sizes and had become a willowy size 8 (okay – I’m 44, so perhaps willowy in a Bag Puss kind of way might be a better description: a bit loose at the seams here and there but nothing Gok Wan’s advice on structured underwear couldn’t rectify).

They are now dead and in shoe heaven

By 5:45am, my partner (who had generously decided to run the race with me – and carry extra peanut butter sandwiches in case of emergency along with a copy of my will should I, at any point, lose the will to live) and I had arrived in Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor on the edge of a glorious summer’s day. There were about 50 of us participating in the ultramarathon : all shapes and sizes, all ages and all very friendly. Our boxes for the half-way point had been delivered for onward transport : a stash of peanut butter sandwiches, sports drink and clean socks. I think I must have been quite nervous because I went to the loo about 4 times before we started – the enormity of the undertaking was just sinking in!

By 6:15am we were off, with a full day’s running along the full distance of the Mourne Way (and back) ahead. We had taken a team decision to run slowly and eat regularly – and I had also organised a little help for us in the form of a bit of Uri-Geller style mind-bending. (Go to the comments at the bottom of this page to read about all the mind-bending activity ) At 9.30am, midday, 3pm and 5.30pm, my friends in Scotland, England and the US had planned to send us various mind-gifts of a “cosmic” nature. Gifts ranged from surges of energy to soothing leg balm and we were both looking forward to arrivals from the sky at these key times.

All I can say is that I’m not so sure that I am a fan of this mind-bending lark. At 9.30am I sunk my right foot into a bog (just before the road section by the Spelga Dam). My partner laughed, I called him a bastard and the runner behind us overtook with a gazelle- like surge that, technically speaking, was obviously meant for me 😉

The Fofanny Dam section was very quiet indeed – actually a stoney silence reigned in that part of County Down for a good wee while, broken only by my occasional Mutley-like growls as my team-mate Dick Dastardly floated effortlessly along behind me and by the squelch of my sodden Mizunos. (Oh and someone whistling to us because we had taken a wrong turn : thank you Stuart, runner 35 😉 By the Tollymore Forest section, we were back on speaking terms, refreshed by a friendly welcome at the mile 18 feed station and by ground that was much easier going under foot.

Mars Bar break at 19 miles

Just after 11am we stopped for a Mars Bar break and were amazed minutes later to see the first male runner on his way back from Donnard Park. He looked completely relaxed – and to be frank with you, so were we because we were, by this stage, looking forward to our next mind-bending treat around midday.

The midday treats were to be loaded with sky-rockets of energy. All I can say is that I didn’t realise that skyrockets could be so lethargic and slow as we cruised into Donnard Park at the 26 mile mark and promptly assumed a totally horizontal position. They obviously don’t make skyrockets the way they used to.

At the 26-mile point!

We had a lovely welcome into Donnard Park by the marathon runners who were waiting to start their race at 12.30. After they left – and after a malt-loaf stop and a change of socks – we hauled ourselves back into the vertical position and set off on the way back. And do you know what? We still were travelling in hope at this stage. Do you know why? Well, at 3.30pm God himself was supposed to intervene (thanks to a Theta healing group in Loch Lomond who were praying for us at this time) and a huge flock of transcendental jackdaws from Glastonbury Tor were being sent to us to spirit us along. What more could a weary ultra-runner hope for: divine intervention and wings!

Well, you are probably getting the hang of this by now. Needless to say, God didn’t turn up and, to be honest, I wouldn’t know what a transcendental jackdaw would actually look like anyway (but there weren’t flocks of anything at all and our feet did not sprout the wings we expected). Instead, something very strange happened : the laws of physics warped themselves somewhere between mile 34 and mile 44. Whilst, to the naked eye, we appeared to be moving forwards, we could have both sworn that we were actually moving backwards!

Savaged by a plague of midges

As 5.30pm approached we were positively nervous about what kind of gifts would arrive next (and we were nowhere near the finish line, might I add!) and I was up to my hips in deep spiritual crisis (I could tell how severe the crisis was because I appeared to be running like John Wayne. Well, not actually running as such…) All I can remember is heat and then endless forest and then instead of cosmic healing leg balm…a plague of midges. Yes, a plague so large you could have probably seen it from space. I donned my buff and gloves (I was starting to bear an uncanny resemblance to Mother Theresa – when she wasn’t in her prime- at this stage.)

We've just done a whole 52 miles!

The last stage of the race in the forest was all a bit of a blur – as was the runner who hared past us at about 8pm (he probably got the wings and the skyrocket). As he sped by us he shouted that he could smell the finishing line (actually I think it was either my socks or my partner’s “wind-assistance” techniques )Just before 9pm we crossed the finish line back in Rostrevor. In spite of the fact that we were nearly last to finish, we received a very warm welcome from remaining fellow runners, race organisers and a second tsunami of midges.

Would we do it again?

It was a really well organised, scenic and friendly race : of course we would 😉

Key Insight Gained During The Race

Darts is a worthy sport.

Top Pre-Race Training Runs

Torridon in the snow (January 2010) – most scenic.

Drymen along the West Highland Way (February 14 2010) – most romantic

Out to the Antrim coast and back (April 2010) – longest (34.5 miles)

Celebrated Completion of The Mourne Way Ultra By

Refuelling in style!

Eating steak, potatoes, asparagus, corn on the cob and cauliflower nicoise.

Drinking Irish coffee and a wee dram of Talisker.

Watching an inspirational film about the Eiger where everybody died (thus inspiring us to run another ultramarathon in Mongolia 2011 – obviously).

Race Injuries


1 blister and sore metatarsals!

Help For Heroes Fundraising

So far, I’ve managed to raise over £1000 for Help For Heroes via my Just Giving page . Over the next year I am undertaking a range of challenges, supported by my tireless partner (sometimes I wish he would actually get tired – especially during ultramatrathons!) to raise a further £99 000. The challenges will culminate in an unsupported cycle ride -on a home-made tandem tricycle- to St Petersburg and participation in the 2011 running of the Sunris To Sunset 100k ultra race in Mongolia.  You can keep track of what I am doing here on my blog

You can read more about the Mourne Way series of races here :

Gotta run!  JT 😉 Last Lady Finisher in her first ultra marathon 14:45:32 😉

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