• girl done good

    Not only did I finish the Saltmarsh 75, I finished as the second place female and joint 11th overall! I'm pretty chuffed with that!

    It was a tough course - undeniably pretty, but after miles and miles of running along a coastal path surrounded by marsh land and open seas the sight of a tree was enough to make me weep.

    The weather on the first day added it's own challenges; it started off sunny and warm and ended up with 30mph winds, driving rain, and at one point even driving sleet. It became so important to focus on just putting one foot in front of the other that I became incapable of getting my waterproof jacket out of my rucksack. I attempted to reason with myself that skin is more waterproof than any other material. It was only later when I heard other runners telling me that putting on a jacket really lifted their morale that it occured to me that having an extra layer might have provided more than just waterproofing: it also offered warmth, an extra layer of support against the elements, and in those extreme conditions, it became a representation of looking after yourself. Being kind to yourself.

    Lesson learnt: the next day I didn't carry the rucksack as I hadn't used anything in it and it had rubbed my skin raw where it didn't fit properly. Instead I carried what I knew I would need to keep going. The aid stations were fantastic, lots of drink and a variety of snacks, both salty and sweet, so that helped me to reduce the amount I needed to carry. It was due to be sunny so I put on sunscreen and took my hat with me.

    My plan was to keep going and do my best. I was overwhelmed by the generous nature of the other runners, everyone was doing their best and supporting others in the same endeavour. On the first day, I met up with someone I only previously knew through twitter, Ian, and we began 'leapfrogging' each other along the route. Sometimes he would go quicker and pass me, sometimes I would go quicker and pass him. After a while we started doing the same with Graham, another runner, until eventually we all started to go at roughly the same pace and we all finished together. I ended up running a lot of the second day with Graham too and the comaraderie (and navigational!!) support from both Graham and Ian really helped me to keep going.

    After the race we were greeted with tea, toast and beans and foil blankets. The runners helped each other get an extra cup of tea, we handed out the blankets to each other, we celebrated and we shared our stories of the route. We had faced a challenge as individuals but ended up as a community of people who had overcome great difficulties. And we were going to get up and do it again the next day!

    The organisers of the Saltmarsh 75 said it wasn't a race, but it was. The competitors were racing against time: trying to do their best, get a good time, beat their time from last year, do as much as possible in as little time as possible. The volunteers were facing their own race against time: how long had they been there for (in all weathers), how long until they got to go home? How many people had they helped in the time they had available to them?

    Part of the excitement and the attraction of an ultra run is that you have to 'dig deep', you have to go further than you thought you were capable of. You might hate moments of it, but in the clarity of that hatred and that despair you get to glimpse simple beauty, simple joy. Ordinarily the sight of a tree wouldn't move me to tears, but I'm glad that doing the Saltmarsh gave me the opportunity to witness, feel and experience the glory of something I would normally ignore.

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