The Road to the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc: The Hastings Half Marathon
Running events take you all over the country and perhaps to somewhere you wouldn’t usually choose to visit for a weekend – this time it was Hastings for the annual half marathon. Around 3,500 runners, some from as far afield as Kenya, braved the freezing temperatures to take part in a great race but one of the coldest in its 29-year-history. Conditions made it much harder for the marshals and supporters to cope than for the runners – at least we keep on the move – and their support was second to none.
People have different reasons why they want to stretch the limits of their own endurance – as with anything in life, the phrase ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ applies. Psychologists believe the only way for each of us to be truly happy and content is to know we are striving towards and accomplishing something each and every day. Running gives you that buzz. Reaching beyond what you think you are capable of, you stand to learn a lot about yourself. And this hilly challenge meant something different to the two friends I was lucky enough to run with.
Tess Gomm and Helen Hall were fighting their own battle of Hastings. Tess heard about an informal running group for women and signed up last summer. All were “beginners” and she joined knowing that the goal was a half marathon seven months down the line. When training got under way, to run for an hour run was unthinkable for her but a gradual build-up of miles meant that she completed an 11-mile run a couple of weeks before the half marathon. That was enough to give her the confidence that on the day, she’d do the full distance and enjoy it. She challenged herself because she wanted to tone up, get fit and focus on something other than work or home. Not having done something like this before, it was a test she passed with flying colours.
Helen’s job is mostly office-based and she loves being outside – living in the South Downs means it’s always great to be out running whatever the weather. She joined Lewes Athletics a year ago and found a committed and dedicated running group. A mixture of track sessions and cross country runs improved her running and she is more than ready to tackle next month’s Virgin London Marathon, which is her ultimate goal. She also gets to train with her teenage daughter who runs at the same club, so it’s a nice bit of mother-daughter bonding.
Runs raise lots of money for charity and over £150,000 was raised on Sunday – both Helen and Tess were running for different causes and that’s sometimes the only motivation you need.
Completing lots of races helps with the nerves but even so, having Tess and Helen with me was great. There’s nothing like sharing adventures like these with friends. I clocked 1.57 which after my recent enforced lay-off I had to be a happy with. Not that I avoided a bit of a low point when I found myself being overtaken by a runner dressed as Dr Seuss. He was pushing a cart with a Cat in the Hat dummy in it, and his sound system would have put Fabric to shame. Fortunately for my fragile running ego, I finished ahead of the man who piggy-backed his wife the entire way. Less than five months to go now till the UTMB.
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