When I finished the NDW 50 last year, I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I didn’t do another race for 10 months. The goal for the 2015 edition then was to finish feeling strong (ish) and happy (within reason).
My mum kindly drove me to the event HQ at St Polycarps Primary in Farnham and walked me to the start of the NDW trail head were we had the race briefing. After having a little moan about leaving my freshly made soy cheese sandwiches in her fridge (fail!) we set off at 8am. I started at the very back and stuck to a very steady pace for the first half an hour.
At one point I had a field to myself which was eerily relaxing but a bit disconcerting too. It’s hard to stick to your plan when everyone else runs off but I was really hoping it would pay off, allowing me to run to the end.
The first few checkpoints came and went quite quickly. The weather was again fantastic and lots of people were out walking and cycling on the trail, most giving a friendly ‘morning’ or well done. At Denbies vineyards, I ran through a group who were out on a tractor trailer wine tasting tour. This made me question the sanity of running for 50 miles when that was the alternative but despite my desire to stop I kept on moving. Thanks to my new pack, I spent several minutes at the Box Hill aid station spilling iso powder and water all over myself as I tried to fill some soft flasks up. I ran off looking like I had chosen to refuel with hard drugs as opposed to a half strength iso drink, potentially explaining the odd stares I elicited from the many Duke of Edinburgh groups who were out on the trail!
I find the NDW route quite mixed with lots of lovely vista’s on the downs punctuated with long, shaded sections through the woods which are quite runnable. Unfortunately I had a bit of an interesting patch here were I felt a bit sick so I was very pleased to see Kris at Reigate Hill with my beloved sandwiches (thank you!) and some ice cold water. Hero.
The next few miles felt ok and I felt ready for the last proper climb to the aid station at the top of Botley hill. Someone had made vegan energy balls which were great, I wish I had had a few more! However I left this checkpoint as quickly as I could as I knew the last section can feel very long although it’s only 6ish miles.
After some shaded paths, we hit the dreaded ‘final fields’. What makes them so bad? The trails have been moulded by tractor wheels when wet and then dried to a rock hard, uneven path. You are exposed to sun but there doesn’t seem to be any breeze. They go on for miles. It feels like days. When you enter the last field you can see the finish gantry in the distance (although they still cruely make you run almost a full circle around to it) but every time you turn the corner into another field, it is nowhere to be seen.
I’m hoping that this is where my earlier loneliness paid off as I managed to run this section, despite cursing the fields. I finished in 10hr27, 13 minutes quicker than last year and feeling happy and fairly strong. Mission accomplished. *side note, I am incredibly stiff this morning – ‘I do not want to leave this chair ever‘ stiff.
As always, a big thank you to the Centurion team and volunteers – the atmosphere was fantastic as usual.