I'm not going to lie. This was one of the toughest events I have ever done - physically and mentally.
Let me take y back 4 weeks. I had completed the Southampton Half-marathon and had enjoyed the experience. Within two days I had signed up for another half-marathon - the Ox Half.
Yesterday: I arrived with a friend from running club (thanks for the lift Linda!!) and, in the pouring rain, pitched my tent. Got utterly soaked but in the end got it up and all my things in. Having done that we went to see the start of the Light Ox, a 10k race. We hung around waiting for the spouse of another club member finish his race. In that time I collected my run number for the next day, sampled the chips on offer (gluten free), and enjoyed a nice hot cup of tea. After that we went back to our tents to wile away some time until the Dark Ox race, of which Linda, Tiggy and Mike were taking part. Thankfully the rain has eased considerably by this time. Whilst waiting for them we were treated to this wonderful view:
So once they were successfully back it was bedtime.
Nice 6.30 view on opening my tent doors:
However after a trip to the loo I went back to sleep.
By the time I got up my nerves had started kicking in and I was seriously doubting my decision to take part. White Star Running, who organises these events, has a reputation for hilly trail runs. I didn't fully appreciate how hilly they would be, and the endurance I would need to complete the course. They also have a reputation for well organised and enjoyable events.
By the first hill, the steepness of that hill had installed a panic in me, and I really started to struggle. The downhills were fabulous, but each hill that we encountered seemed to get steeper and longer. We were even caught in a very heavy shower at one point also. One hill, known as Garlic Hill (wild garlic grows in these forests), was one of the worse. I was struggling knowing that I had a blister on one heel, my hip and thigh on the other leg were quite sore, and made anymore running quite hard. This hill I found particularly hard, mentally and physically. The 'path' was just a strip of sticky thick mud in which my feet slipped and slid in all directions, nearly landing me in the bushes in several occasions. The hill was steep and seemed endless. Mentally, I really was not coping with this and it was purely one foot in front of the other that kept me moving forward, plus the fact that I had to carry on. It really was a test of my endurance, both physically and mentally. My feet were slipping in thickly sticky mud along the route, I struggled with the narrowness of walking paths. Tears and panic did make an appearance on several occasions, particularly the last hill.
On the upside, the views were spectacular. Here's one we were treated to:
The final hill led to the finish. How I stayed on my feet was a miracle, and it was the longest 400m I have done to the end of a race. I had nothing left in me and couldn't even quicken up to a jog to the finish the last 50 metres. But ultimately I did it. I got around within the time limit allowed (just!!!) Although some one had assured me the organisers were fairly flexible with the times had I been a little slower.
So here are the elevations and I've circled with what I recall was Garlic Hill:
Looking down Garlic Hill (picture borrowed from a friend) and still had a while to the top:
So, I finished it. I felt broken mentally and physically. The hugs from running club members were much welcome. This really was a tough challenge. I then had to pack up my tent and belongings to go home!! I think that nearly broke me altogether when the wind suddenly picked up, the rain started and the thought of taking my tent down was nearly too much for me.