Okay this one should be mostly pictures, but I wanted to put a bit of preamble in first as to what the circumstances were behind me completing marathon number 7 (if you include my ultra) or 6 (if you don’t).
Those regular readers will know that in January I went to Manchester to become a 261 Fearless Coach. Personal circumstances following completion of the course have meant that I haven’t managed to put this training to use by forming the first club in Scotland, but that will happen and hopefully soon once I’ve gathered some thoughts and ideas together.
There are still so many barriers encountered by women (sorry guys), which actually make me quite sad. Society and social media have placed so much emphasis on how they think women ‘should’ look and when women try to better themselves, get fitter and healthier, the same society and social media are quick to shoot them down in flames. We are so very lucky to live in a country where activity and exercise is actively encouraged. There are still many women in countries who would love to participate but are unable to do so.
I know the difference being active and running has made to my physical and mental health. It helps me keep fit, it is my escape when I need some time to think, it is fun when I can get out of with friends, it is a challenge when I do a difficult event. Running gives me so much and is so much a part of my life. It makes me a better person.
The Women Can Marathon is the first 261 Fearless Partner Event in the UK, so really how could I refuse 🙂 The charity partner for the event was Free to Run whose mission is to use running and outdoor adventure to empower and educate women and girls who have been affected by conflict. You can find out more about them at their website: http://www.freetorun.org/
This would not be the first time I’d gone away for a running weekend with folks I didn’t know that well, so I duly signed up and then fretted about how close to Manchester it was and where I would be staying. There were 8 of us altogether in the end. The ladies came from 261 Fearless Club Greenwich in London and from 261 Fearless Club Wray in Lancashire. Then there was me 🙂
Juliet, one of the coaches from Greenwich had sorted out accommodation and together with their team had brought food. We were staying about 30 minutes away from Tipton Saint John (which was actually only about 11 or so miles away, but roads there are narrow and twisty) in a beautiful Airbnb cottage.
I flew down from Aberdeen and picked up a hire car in Exeter and went to explore before heading to Tipton Saint John to pick up my number and have a look around. There I met some of the race organisers and eventually Dr Juliet (who was one of the trainers when I did my 261 Fearless Coach course) and Nicky who is Juliet’s fellow coach in Wray.
Dr Juliet had the honour of running under number 261, which was awesome 🙂
I followed them to our accommodation and met the rest of the ladies, who comprised Juliet (yes there were two of them), Lorrae, Liz, Amy and Valentina. We quickly sorted out who was sleeping where and settled into plans for race day and then got ourselves fed and watered (there may have been some alcohol consumed) :). Valentina had made some fantastic Lasagne which we all tucked in to.
It was a lovely and relaxed evening, but we had our fill of food and drink it was off to bed. I’m not going to write that much about the race itself. I would like the Devon countryside to speak for itself 🙂
This is us at the start taken from the Women Can Facebook page. L-R Liz, Amy, Juliet, me, Nicky, Valentina, Lorrae, Dr Juliet. It was to be the first marathon for Valentina and Liz.
After a fun warm up and a few moving words from Jo, the race organiser, we were off. Settled into a slow pace at the back and ended up running alongside Amy, which is where I stayed for the duration of the race. She put up with my chat, singing and bad jokes. What a trouper 🙂
Now, here is the scenery 🙂
The photos don’t really do the route justice. It was absolutely stunning and the terrain with varied with riverside tracks, cliff paths, woodland, fields and gravel tracks. It was also pretty tough and hilly.
My hydration and fueling was pretty good until the last few miles when I had a bit of a wobble. I was very grateful for the company provided by Juliet (a completely different one) and Gillian who were the sweepers as I got grumpy and weepy and was thankfully that Amy didn’t see that either!
It was a long day out, but Dr Juliet and Peg (one of the organisers) came to meet us as we neared the finish. As soon as she saw the finish line, Amy bolted towards it, leaving me in her wake. I managed a bit of a run, but my feet were sore as we had been out there for a long time. My provisional finish time was 09:32:53. A personal worst by a long way, but it was completely different to anything I’ve ever done before.
We were given our medals and got a hug from Jo (organiser). I think I may have complained to her about the hills! Then the best bit, a cream tea.
We headed back to our accommodation for some celebratory bubbles and to refuel. We were all a bit stiff and sore, but thankfully Dr Juliet had brought some instruments of torture (foam roller and the like), which got passed around and did make things better in the long run.
After a good nights sleep and breakfasted, we tidied up and left our accommodation. I headed into Sidmouth with the Greenwich girls who did this:
Amy and I stayed on the beach! We all headed to a cafe for second breakfast and headed off our separate ways.
Over the weekend I spent time with 7 ladies I didn’t know. I would consider them all friends now.
Thank you to all those lovely 261 Fearless ladies. You showed that Women Can and you did.
There is already talk that this may not be a one off event. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I’m keeping my eye on the webpage already 🙂