North Downs Way 50 mile race

May 29, 2021

It's early.
I'm ready to run
Am I ready to race?
It's been so long.
A knee operation
A pandemic
I don't know what I'm doing any more
James tells me there are 2 ladies down the road
I start

Start line

📷 Stuart March Photography http://www.stuartmarchphotography.co.uk/

I ran this trail before the pandemic
The ground feels familiar
The sensation in my stomach does not
I sing Eminem to myself
My breathing is shallow
I try to relax
I've missed this.

An aid station
People cheering!
What a great feeling
I cruise through
I feel ok
I feel amazing
Forests of bluebells
The smell of wild garlic
I think of Aisling
She'd like this trail

Mile 13 is hard
Am I going too fast
Or not fast enough?
This shouldn't feel hard
Ry flies past in Helios
I'm envious
My steps feel heavy
Maybe in Helios I would fly too

Approaching the second aid station

📷 Stuart March Photography http://www.stuartmarchphotography.co.uk/

Aid stations are hard
Hands slick from sanitizer can't open bottles
Can't turn the tap off
I remember eating chips at Newlands Corner
And trampling mud into the cafe
Back in a different world where you could go to a cafe and relax

The endless trail to Denbie's
Sue is a surprise and a delight
Memories of Heathside rabbling on muddy hills
Much like this
But I'm much more tired
I remember racing through vineyards in the rain
Up one row
Down the next

Still smiling

📷 Stuart March Photography http://www.stuartmarchphotography.co.uk/

We double back to the underpass
Why didn't they put it closer to Box Hill?
I'm not fast on the road
I think I used to be faster
At least I should be good at hills
I'm not good at steps

Up, down.
Up, down.
I see Caroline out for a run
We both double take
It's a small running world
More supporters on the hill
"It's Rachel from Scotland!"
Thank you.
Thank you for being here.

I used to run cross country in Reigate.
It's as muddy as I remember
The views stretch for miles
Rolling fields
Shades of green
This is the England I remember
This is why I keep running
Mile 32 and James says I'm doing well
I don't believe him

Flat coke has given me a speed boost
I stretch out downhill
I zigzag with a few guys
They run away from me in the villages
I'm not fast on flat roads

I'm tired
And my legs feel sore
But I felt worse at mile 13
So I may as well keep going

School buildings and astroturfs
Who invented astroturf?
Why is it covered in sand?
Does Mike Lebowski blink or wink?
So many questions

I've abandoned my time goal
I just want to finish
I'm glad I kept my goal to myself
But maybe I'm my own worst critic

I reach the final checkpoint
Seven miles to go
I plod on
Just keep running
No excuses
I think of Chiara
She wouldn't flinch.

I get into a rhythm with a chant:
"Clear eyes
Full hearts
Can't lose"

In one field
Out another
I wait at a kissing gate
A lady and a dog can't decide
"It's fine, no rush"
Not true
I can't stop
Don't let me stop
I can't think yet

Time has slowed down
I slip and slide through muddy puddles
Puddy muddles
My head feels muddled
When can I stop?

Mile 49 and I can see the finish arch
Always finish strong
I remember to smile
It's done

My first Centurion medal

📷 Stuart March Photography http://www.stuartmarchphotography.co.uk/

3rd Female
13th Overall

A huge thanks to James Elson and the Centurion Running team for making this race happen. I loved it.

Race website and report.