The fun running blog: Mud, mud, glorious mud – The Pilgrim Challenge
Mud, mud, glorious mud. Apparently there’s ‘nothing quite like it for cooling the blood’ – if you’re a hippopotamus but if you’re a runner taking part in this weekend’s Pilgrim Challenge North Downs Multistage Ultra then it almost stopped you in your tracks. Last year it was snow and this year mud. It seemed to me that the whole of the North Downs is built on Surrey clay which feels like running in glue.
It made the 66-mile, two-day event even more of a challenge. But now it’s done and I’ve passed another vital staging post in my progress towards the UTMB in August, a 100-mile circumnavigation of Mont Blanc, with 10,000 metres of elevation and crossing three countries.
The race started early Saturday in Farnham in Surrey and attracted a field of over 240, the youngest of whom was 16 and the oldest 67. We ran, walked, struggled, 33 miles east to the village of Merstham for a night in a school hall before returning, along the same route, the next day.
Day 1 was hard but Day 2 was much much harder. The legs were tired and the elevation over the North Downs was slightly greater. Today I feel like I’ve spent the weekend pulling a truck round the M25.
The weather was very kind to us on both days but the build-up of rain on trail and cross-country paths meant than I hadn’t seen that much mud since Glastonbury 2000 when I stood in a field watching The Chemical Brothers wondering how long it would take for trench foot to set in.
One of the best things about these events is the people you meet. At the start line I bumped into Paul, an ex-work colleague. What I’m aiming for is, I guess, pretty mad, but it’s nothing on what Paul told me he was doing. He is training for the Arch to Arc in 2014, surely the ultimate triathlon. It starts from Marble Arch with a run to Dover, followed by a Channel Swim and then a cycle to finish at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It’s insane! He said he has a very understanding wife…
Many runners were there just for the Pilgrim – extremely well organised by XNRG Extreme Energy – but some, like Paul, were using it as a training run for bigger events. There were quite a few preparing for April’s Marathon des Sables in Morocco. I ran the MDS myself last year and there’s no doubt that all that Surrey mud, coupled with the sand also encountered, is perfect preparation for the Sahara.
My total time of over 15 and a half hours went pretty quickly. The winners would have come in at just over eight hours and I felt sorry for them that they didn’t get the opportunity to listen to half the radio programmes that filled my time.
Today I am eating like a Sumo Wrestler but later in the week I will get back to training and some calorie restraint.
Are you training for the UTMB? Let me know how you’re getting on!
Twitter: @NorsemouseTagged in: Arch to Arc, Pilgrim Challenge North Downs Multistage Ultra, ultra marathon, UTMB, XNRG Events
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