Round Rotherham 50

Round Rotherham was my first ever 50 mile race last year and I was keen to go back, not only because it’s a friendly, well organised event but they also have the best cakes! As a Sheffield lass, I know the area reasonably well and it also meant I could combine a trip home to see the folks with a race – winner!IMG_4763 (2)

Now at this point, I can see some of you wondering why the hell anyone would want to run 50 miles around Rotherham… my thoughts exactly when I heard about this race. However, I was pleasantly surprised! The race has a bit of everything, canal towpaths, forest trail, farmer’s field, road etc. If I’m completely honest it isn’t the most scenic race I have ever done but it is excellent value for money (only £15!), it’s flat so very runnable, it’s really well organised by Rotherham Harriers who are a friendly bunch and the checkpoints and volunteers are amazing. There are 8 checkpoints in total.

I had taken Friday before the race off work so we could travel down to Sheffield, when I say we; I mean other half, Ryan and our handsome (but very naughty) beagle, Bernard! Parents still live in Sheffield so that was our base for the weekend. We had a relaxed evening, scoffed loads of food and then had an early night.

As with many ultra’s, it was a reasonably early start with a 5.20am alarm call. Unusually I was awake for the alarm, which was probably because I had barely slept at all! I love my sleep and am no good without it so I felt a bit apprehensive about the task ahead. As usual Ryan was up and dressed before my eyes had even adjusted to light. He went to get everything organised so all I had to worry about was getting dressed! We grabbed out porridge pots, said goodbye to the beagle bum and were in the car by 5.50am to make the short journey to Rotherham.

We arrived at Dearne Valley College sports hall, which was the start and finish point ridiculously early!  We were registered quickly and given our numbers and dibbers (first year the event has used them) to be used at each of the checkpoints. There were also a selection of route maps and directions for everyone. I then made at least 5 visits to the loo before we gathered outside for our race briefing and we were off at 7am. I had somehow ended up near the front as we started, absolutely not intentional as this is a quick race! As I mentioned in my last race report, I don’t generally have race strategies, I just aim to finish. However, for this race I had a rough starting pace set in my mind so I stuck to this and allowed a few people to overtake me… I’ve made the mistake of getting carried away early in a race and it wasn’t pleasant! Ryan and I were running together and we chatted the miles away. We were in a group with about 6 other guys and this remained the case through for about the first 17-18 miles or so. I was using Tailwind Nutrition again today so made sure I sipped regularly in between chatting. When we arrived at the first checkpoint, around 11 miles I topped up the Tailwind quickly and got straight back into our little group of runners and away we went with about 6.5miles until the next checkpoint.

I seemed to recall having a few navigation issues on this section last year, but then that’s not difficult as I can get lost in a car with a sat nav! However, this year there seemed to be lots more new signs for the route so I didn’t get lost which was a total bonus! RR

We hit the next checkpoint somewhere between 17 and 18 miles and I didn’t feel too great. I passed straight through and tried to focus on making it to the next checkpoint which would be the half way point. By now Ryan and I had teamed up with a great guy called Gary Hoka (not his actual surname!). We shared a love of Hoka’s and talked about them for ages… much to Ryan’s disgust. In our house we have the minimalist / maximalist divide!

We arrived at the next checkpoint… half way in excatly 4 hours. I was really pleased about this, it was so much quicker than last year but suddenly realised I was really tired and still didn’t feel great. I started to worry I had set off too fast (clearly I never learn!). I topped up the Tailwind and told Ryan and Gary Hoka that I needed to bring out the music and its magical powers. With that I popped an ibuprofen, put in the headphones and got my head down. At this point I started setting little challenges in my mind to distract myself. It also involved singing…. even though I had my headphones in and music on full whack… I can only imagine the delight the runners around me felt. In fact several people later commented on my ‘singing’! I dropped back from Ryan and Gary Hoka but kept them in my sights. I knew the ‘singing’ had got out of control when they started dancing as I belted out a bit of ‘you’re so vain’. The gap opened up between us but I didn’t want to push too much, after all it was still a long way to go. I couldn’t help feeling a little disheartened that I couldn’t keep up the pace but kept plodding along.

The next checkpoint was around 31 miles. Ryan had arrived slightly before me and as I came in told me our bags with clothes for the end (and car keys!) had ended up here… oops this was because I had put them in the ‘drop bags’ pile by mistake. A quick chat with a nice man and he assured us our bags would be taken to the end for our arrival. I noticed Ryan looked annoyingly sprightly and still feeling less than great I told him he should push on. He seemed unsure and said he wanted to run together but I know what he was really thinking is oh my god she’ll get lost on her own! I promised I’d be fine, there were lots of people around but deep down I did feel a bit nervous about navigation.

As I left this checkpoint, I ran properly alone for the first time and it allowed some time for reflection. I thought back to last year’s race… my first 50 miler. I remember the nerves, feeling completely inadequate at the start line and having no clue if I could make it to the end. I also remembered leaving this same checkpoint and having a few tears after seeing my mum who was so worried about me running these ‘stupid distances’. This made me think about how far I’ve come in the last year and gave me little boost. Almost before I knew it I’d arrived at the next checkpoint, just over 36 miles.

By this time Ryan was long gone but I teamed back up with my mate Gary Hoka who informed me he’d tried to stick with Ryan but he was clearly ‘on a mission’. I was due to top up with Tailwind but realised it was only about 4 miles until the next checkpoint and as I had some left I decided to hold off. Gary had raided the food table at the checkpoint which had an amazing selection of food (as with all the checkpoints – incredible when you consider its 15 quid to enter!). Unfortunately my stomach just can’t handle food. Gary seemed concerned that I he hadn’t seen me eat anything at any of the checkpoints but I reassured him the Tailwind had everything I needed. Gary ran slightly ahead of me along the single tracks but we continued to chat and 4 miles flew by.

As I arrived at the next checkpoint, just over 40 miles in I started to do calculations. My dream for today (which I hadn’t really dared say out loud to anyone) was to finish in under 1o hours which would still be just under an hour quicker than last year when I finished in 10:56. I realised at this point that I could probably walk most of the next 10 miles and still finish under 10 hours. That feeling was amazing, knowing that unless something went seriously wrong I could and would achieve my goal. I chatted to a few people at the checkpoint and thanked them all for their support. Someone told me they thought I was third lady at this point… what?! Not possible. This was quick race with some quick runners. I smiled and just assumed they’d got it wrong. As I left the checkpoint I text my mum to let her know I’d be finishing earlier than expected. Mum, step-dad and Bernard were meeting us at the finish line.

Gary Hoka and I ran together for a while but I felt really tired and struggled to keep up. I told Gary to push on. Gary said he was tired too and for a few miles we kept swapping places… I would go ahead and then Gary and on the last time this happened I had to let him go and slowed down. I ran into the next and final checkpoint at 47 miles on my own. I was exhausted and elated. I only had just over 3 miles left to go and another check of the watch told me I was on for a much, much quicker time than last year. The support at the final checkpoint, as with all the others was fantastic. I remembered this section of the run from last year and was glad; otherwise I think I might have got lost.

I ran most of this section alone until in the last mile I caught up with Gary Hoka and another guy. He seemed pleased to see me. Knowing I was on for a quick time, combined with having only 3 miles left meant I had managed to pick up the pace. By this point, everything hurt but especially my hips… ouch! I ignored the pain and focussed on the finish. Gary was full of kind words about my performance today and I told him that I might not have the strongest legs but I have a strong mind and I think this is what you need to succeed in ultra-running. Obviously, goes without saying the strong legs are kind of important too but when training well, this looks after itself. With about half a mile to go I was excited, I knew we were going to finish in under 9 hours…. 9 HOURS! I couldn’t believe it. I would have never dreamt this was possible. Gary Hoka’s previous PB for 50 miles had been 9.20 so we were both on for PB’s. I decided to finish the only way I know how and that was to run as fast as I possibly could for the final few hundred meters and enjoying the ‘glory stretch’ as I like to call it.

But then hang on… where the hell was the finish line?? They’d moved it from in front of the sports hall! Thank god someone was there to tell me where to go… I was diverted around the back of the sports hall, bolted straight past the door which was the finish line before doing a u-turn and finally crossing the line… 8 HOURS AND 47 MINUTES. I can’t describe the excitement and emotion I felt.

Ryan came running (hobbling) over to congratulate me and Gary Hoka. He’d had a great race and finished in 8.17. I had even managed to beat mum, stepdad and Bernard!IMG_4744 (2)

A quick check of the results screen confirmed that in fact I had finished 3rd female and was presented with a trophy… wow what a day! Made even better when my family walked into the sports hall! Mum was clearly relieved to see I had survived. Bernard seemed somewhat unimpressed that we’d left him all day to run and he hadn’t been able to come. A doggy treat soon changed that and he loved me again.

Perfect day rounded off with a lovely meal and wine with the family before collapsing into bed and reliving the whole day.

Full race results can be found here and details about the race here.

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