Starting 2015 with a big run was a bit of a pipe dream just over a month ago as I was coughing up the heaviest chest infection I think I've ever had. I had the lung capacity of a heavy smoker and was struggling to breathe, let alone run.
Christmas came and went and I found myself improving and all of a sudden, 15 days of consecutive running. No drinking as of new year and I woke up in the morning of Sunday 11th Jan and met my good friend and neighbour John who was running his first ultra: The Winter Tanners 30.
A quick drive at 7am from chilly South London to Leatherhead and after dropping the car at the station car park and some sorting out of race admin in the local leisure centre it was off to the start. Twitter chums had agreed an 8.30am start and we milled around for a few moments and said good mornings to David from Springfield Striders and also to Mark Thornberry. Later in the run John commented on there being quite a tight-knit bunch of runners in the ultra community and although I had never met Mark before, banter started quickly and it was more like we had known each other from before......
Out of the traps and local boy Mark showed us the way so we didn't need to look at the directions, not that this stopped me from doing so and on the occasional corner, I would slow from the other two and check bearings. The course is different every year and getting lost is not an option for me on an LDWA. Denbies vineyard was a long drag up but we were welcomed with majestic views of the recent sunrise over the Surrey Hills. Gravelled paths and tarmac quickly gave way to muddy tracks as we headed away from Dorking with a brief stop at CP1 and up the high point of the day. We were welcomed to the 965ft Leith Hill after a 5km drag to the top. Mark recounted the story of why the tower was built on the top, to raise the height to 1000ft. Coming down off the top was a blast. Soft wooded twisty path. Perfect for jumping and running all the way down, although much steeper than the way up. Fun though.
CP1-CP2 was a good 10 miles and this got hard going. Some sections between Holmbury and Shere were calf deep in really claggy mud. Some poor chap lost his shoe in a recce run last weekend. I can see why. After a drier spell, Mark slipped and fell. We all pulled up and walked to check he was OK, but clearly he had done some ankle damage. Bravely he soldiered on, just behind, catching up when we stopped to get directions and again at the next CP at Hurtwood Control. One heck of a climb up Pitch Hill preceded this. Normally we would take the Peaselake route aka Founders Route, but this 'faint path' was nuts. Hands on knees straight up the side! After a quick feast, we were on our way, skirting woods through farmers fiends towards Abinger. After being overtaken by David for the 10th time John recounted how much he was in his element and enjoying the run. We were having a blast and it wasn't until another claggy field that I realised that I had better neck a gel at 20 miles having not yet eaten sugar. CP3 was at 25.7 miles and after a lot of valley bottom, a steep ascent onto the NDW. John's effervescent self had withdrawn into a pale-faced wall hitting death march. Plenty of encouragement was required up to Steer's field at Ranmore Common, where we also caught up with Richard Stewart and Dave Barker. I ensured John's face was stuffed at CP3 and we rammed a chocolate and caffeine gel down his face. After a gentle and tentative descent to Tanners Hatch and the Wilberforce monument, it was banter time with Rich and Dave. We had 4 miles to go and with colour back in the bearded-one, we hit a cameo blast for the last few. Chit chat gave way to some full tilt running and from the field gate after crossing the Guildford Rd it was sub 7s for the last 2 miles. This was an awesome way to finish an awesome race. 5.58 is not quick by any standards but the mud was pretty bad.
Not only did we all finish like juggernauts, the legs felt great. Not only was this day #30 of a running streack, I've continued and now at day #35. It may well be a 100km week. That has not happened for a while! Lets see how far I go after parkrun tomorrow.
Marathon #56 DONE.