The Belvoir Challenge is a 15 or 26 mile event for walkers and runners around the Vale of Belvoir and Belvoir Escarpment in north-east Leicestershire. It's famous for the amazing checkpoints fully loaded with cake.
Not 'healthy', 'clean' cake.
We're talking proper cake. With jam, and chocolate and sprinkles, and icing and cream and.... well you get the idea.
And because this year is the 25th year of the challenge - there were rumours of cream teas.
This year, two Shabbas were entered - Nikki 'Tigger' Reeves, and Sarah 'Lady P' Tucker.
Our Roving Reporter caught up with Sarah....
- Run the 16 miles
- Run as much as I could, but walk the hills if needed.
I met up with Nikki and her friend Mark and got registered. I wasn't the only one caught out by the traffic problems, so the start was delayed to 9.15, which meant we had time for a quick #shabbasister picture.
The atmosphere was fun, chatty and everyone was laughing at how bad it was. Particularly when I felt my ankle go and I landed heavily on my knee. I was not impressed, but not injured thankfully. After checking I was ok, Nikki asked me "What else would you be doing on a Saturday morning?" to which she got the reply "PARKRUN AND A TOBY BREAKFAST!"
As we got out of the first muddy section, Nikki and her pacer (she was on a PB Mission!) managed to get some traction and took off.
The first four miles were stop, start due to the mud , as you can see!
The 1st checkpoint was a water stop, and had just run out, but as we arrived a car pulled up with supplies, so refreshed, I got moving again.
The next few miles were a bit of a blur. I had a new plan. Run when I could, walk when I couldn't. The mud was just too slippery and sticky to get any kind of traction. So the pattern kind of went:
- Path - run and shake off as much mud as I could
- Mud - attempt to stay on my feet, not get stuck and do a bambi on ice impression
- Stile - climb carefully over, and try not to fall off
I've never been so relieved to see the checkpoint at Eaton. Where there was cake. Sweet, sweet cake. There was water, squash and tea and coffee!
I bumped into him enjoying the cake at this point and had a short chat.
He was running with friends and we set off around the same time for the next section.
There were more stiles, new obstacles of planks across ditches, and an iron ladder to climb. That was fun in wet, slippy shoes!
There was a good downhill here that Mike and his friends aeroplane-armed down.
By now, we were about 8 miles in, and I was starting to struggle with the stop, start, run, walk, climb, slip, slide. I just couldn't find any kind of rhythm and think the changing of pace was taking it's toll. Mike took a great picture, that I can now see the funny side of, but captures how I was beginning to feel. But the scenery was amazing. When you could look up from trying to watch where your feet were landing.
By now, we were in the grounds of Lord Grantham, Belvoir Castle. I was keeping any eye out for landmarks from Equinox, but the 15m route doesn't cross that part of the estate, although the marathon distance does.
This is around the time I began to have the real battle. Where I was in the pack, everyone was running in groups of at least two. Occasionally I'd be caught, or catch a group and we'd have a chat, moan about the stiles and the mud, and then spread out. I was running (walking really) very much alone. And I was very much aware of this. Knowing Nikki was out there was pretty much the only thing I was hanging onto at this point - particularly as I was having Equinox last lap flashbacks and yearning for the company, and good spirits, and camaraderie we had running that lap together.
I'd also realised my prediction of around 4 hours (based on my road time of 3 hours) was optimistic. I was looking at about 5 hours.
The thought of trudging through the mud, fields and woods, for 5 hours on my own was soul destroying.
By mile 9, I was decided. At the 11 mile checkpoint I would retire.
Waste the place of an injured runner.
Challenge myself and not succeed.
I was done.
It was too hard.
I couldn't do 5 hours of this.
Manchester marathon was going to take me at least 5 hours.
If I can't stay on my feet for 5 hours in a beautiful place, how the hell am I going to do it through the city streets?
I was going to finish this.
I decided to walk the remaining miles to the next checkpoint, regroup. and walk the last 4.6 miles.
All of a sudden, I wasn't trudging any more.
I was striding.
Pressure off, I was going to experience being out there on my feet for 5 hours. This would be helpful for the marathon.
It was afterwards I saw the elevation profile, and realised this had contributed to my battle, and you can also see the moment the battle happened on my Garmin stats.
Nikki's friend Mark came flying past me at this point - he was doing the marathon distance and looked fast! I was doing an ice skating impression in yet more mud - but it lifted me to see a friendly face and exchange encouragement.
Mile 14. Another stile. More mud.
And my right foot wouldn't come out. And the more I pulled, the deeper my left foot went.
At this point I was rescued. I was the muddiest, most ridiculous damsel in distress - but I got a knight in a camelback! He helped steady me while my left foot came out, and inevitably my right shoe got left behind, and right foot went into the mud. He held me steady while I physically dug my shoe out of the mud and got me to the grass bank where I could sort myself out.
I've since randomly tracked him down through a twitter conversation, with a girl who turned out to be his girlfriend - Paul Brown - I thank you again!!
I then travelled a mile with a group from Sphinx AC Coventry, one girl I suddenly clicked that I'd run with at a race in Rugby last year.
And then a short splash through a bog, and it was over.
I'd lost my wrist band with my number on at some point in the mud, but managed to got registered as a finisher, and then sobbed all over Nikki who was waiting for me. She made sure I got a drink and some hot soup and gave me some amazing hugs. I was then delighted to find out that she'd got her PB and Mark had as well, he'd somehow gone sub 4 hours - utterly gobsmacking!
We then posed for some pictures before we walked back to the car park and said our goodbyes.
Yes, but most of that was due to circumstances, and my own lack of experience rather than anything else.
Am I disappointed with the result?
No. I learnt a lot about my abilities, I had the time on my feet and the miles in my legs.
I'm pretty certain I won't be doing this challenge again. It was well organised and a really great event, but although I loved
the location, and the cake, and I don't mind puddles and a bit of mud, I'm not cut out for that kind of terrain and battle.
But I did it. I may not have run it, but I made it. Survival. A mental battle that I had to have and win with no one to help me. Miles in the bag, and a new experience. Bring on Manchester!!!