Saturday, December 26, 2015

My 60th Birthday Challenge is complete, or is it? (this is a bit long and rambling, sorry!)

How can that be, you're not 60 for another 18 months are you?


What started out as one of my usual 'it's got something to do with my age' challenges for ARUK has morphed into something I really did not expect. I was supposed to be running 13 marathons to celebrate 13 years of running and it just so happened that 13 is the sum of the digits in my age this year, 58, so 5+8=13. I also set myself the task of only running events in Kent, Sussex and Surrey (with the exception of London marathon) to help publicise Join dementia research in those regions. At the time I was choosing my marathons I'd only just met the lovely people from Saxons Vikings & Normans but their venues fitted the bill perfectly.

I had already intended doing London again so I selected lots more marathons from their list plus I added a couple more in case of injury and saved my favourite, Beachy Head, to finish off the year.

What I hadn't banked on was meeting so many inspirational and supportive people at these marathons and little by little I felt less like the silly old woman at the back who runs marathons for charity and more like a real runner. It was a good feeling I can tell you!

During the year Traviss and Rachel introduced more and more marathons to seduce me and so one week in April I found myself entered into the St. George's Day marathon, the Wonderland Caucus Race & the London marathon meaning I had to run 3 marathons in 4 days. Mike was worried that I'd taken on too much as I'd only done a double weekend once before in Dover last year. I felt great during the first 2 marathons, on Thursday & Friday, had a rest day on Saturday and then went to London with no expectations of finishing in a decent time. London is the one marathon Mike comes to and we agreed that I'd probably be finishing in 6 hours+ so imagine his surprise when I phoned him to say I'd just run a pb of 4:42:17 - he was sitting in a pub watching football and enjoying a pint thinking he'd got at least another hour to wait!!!

Slowly I began to believe in myself more, well apart from a couple of blips when the gremlins got inside my head, and I realised that I'd been running well so it would be a good idea to take advantage of it and finish off my 60 marathons this year. So that's exactly what I've done, with only one slight blip when asthma forced me to abandon Beachy Head but all was not lost as Traviss came to the rescue with a spare place at an event the week after.

OK, enough of the waffle, let's get on with the race report.

Marathon 60 of 60 - The Usual Suspects Challenge

Regular runners on the long distance circuit are known as 'the usual suspects' as they are the people that you see time and time again at different events. Little by little I seem to have become one of them so I was excited to have entered this event as my final marathon of the year. Traviss had promised us a very special medal with all our names engraved on it and he didn't give us a sneaky peak at it beforehand which is most unusual!

This was another event held at the beautiful Samphire Hoe which has appeared on my blog 4 times this year so I won't link to all the pages. I'd decided I was going to wear my Christmas Tree outfit which I will also be wearing for my run on Christmas Day. For those of you who don't know already, this was created to celebrate the Christmas Tree Festival in our village for which I'd created a 'Memory Tree' but I was running the Christmas Pudding Dash on that day so I wore my costume for the run then went along later wearing it to the delight of everyone there.

As the day of the event was supposed to be the start of the great Christmas getaway I thought the M20 might be busy so gave myself plenty of time for my journey. It certainly was busy up until the exit for the Channel Tunnel but then the traffic thinned out until 6 miles before Dover when the lorries in front started flashing their hazard warnings lights and moving over to the lefthand lane. 'Operation Stack' was in place.

Thankfully it didn't slow other traffic down and I found myself in Dover with time for a coffee at the Service Station. Note the classy tights.

As I sipped my coffee and looked at the rather dull view I realised something I'd been putting out of my mind - it was the 30th anniversary of my dad's death. Sometimes dates come and go with just happy memories but this time it brought a lump to my throat and I wished he could have seen what I've been doing in mum's memory.

After I'd slurped my coffee I decided to take a couple of shots of the view around there for completeness. Sorry they aren't exotic but sometimes the mundane can be interesting too:

The Port of Dover

Dover Castle high up on the hill

Then it was time to double back up the motorway for a short way to reach the turning for Samphire Hoe. Don't worry, I wasn't driving when I took these photos, there is a 3 minute waiting time at the traffic lights as you have to go through a narrow, single track tunnel to reach it.

You can see the row of lorries on the motorway on the right

It was just getting light when I parked up.

Rachel and Janet were dressed in their Christmas finery as they handed out our numbers

Some of The Usual Suspects were gathering, so many of them I see at every marathon

I headed back to my car to get changed and there was also a Christmas card from Traviss and Rachel with my number which was a lovely surprise

Fancy dress was optional of course but many people dressed for the occasion:

Trisha looking fab in her outfit. She was there supporting her hubby Karl and she took loads of photos throughout the day (thanks Trisha)

Karl looking suitably festive

Kat always looks colourful!

Ruth's leggings were positively luminous!

The lovely Dee who always adds a touch of glamour to these events

His jacket didn't stay on very long as it was warm but I think he kept the trousers on!

Paul had a Christmas pudding on his head & on his right you can just spot Philip with his cap and elf ears

You can get a feel for the height of the cliffs from how small the cars and people seem

We all gathered around for the usual announcements but there were some extra special awards for people who'd run the most miles at Traviss and Rachels' events this year and for those who had done lots of baking at each events so that their fellow runners were well supplied with cake and nibbles (a special thank you to them).

On the podium below you may recognise Brenda from an earlier post. That day was her 100th marathon……..for the year! That wasn't it for her though as she has another 4 marathons planned. Inspirational and amazing in equal measures.

So what did I look like? Very silly indeed!

When I met up with Maryanne I was really jealous of her red and green tights and must update mine as these red/white ones are the ones I use with my Mrs Santa outfit (yes, I do have several Christmas outfits!).

Little and Large (thanks to Scotty for the photo)

When we started off it was unseasonably warm at around 14 degrees so it wasn't long before I was feeling rather hot in my cosy felt costume. You can see I was wearing a long-sleeved top underneath so after the first lap I decided to bite the bullet and take it off (with apologies to anyone in the vicinity who had to witness me taking off my tree to remove it!).

Traviss had warned us that there cows and sheep grazing so we had to make sure we shut a gate behind us.

This little chap was having a jolly good scratch against the bridge and he let me stroke his nose until someone else tried to touch him and he backed off - you can just see her hand in the right of the photo. I grew up with cows around so am quite happy in their presence although I know some people are rather nervous about them.

It was a roiling sea and there were some big waves crashing against the seawall section. On one occasion I got well and truly soaked by one even though I was well away from the edge! I didn't mind at all as I was very hot and it helped cool me down. Jono, who was running just behind me at the time, said it looked really pretty with the sunlight gleaming in the spray as it drenched the poor wet Christmas tree!

As always there was loads of banter between runners and my costume caused much laughter which was nice. Quite a few people took photos and this one, taken by Mel, sums up the day for me - I just loved it and really enjoyed running with so many fab people.

Posing for Philip the queue jumper (tee hee!) on my last lap. I've always wondered what that blue structure in the background is and so I emailed the Visitor Centre at the Hoe and they said it is the Samphire Tower. It used to have a telescope in it but the glass disappeared and so now it's mainly used for observation. Mystery solved. 

The low light really set this small pond alight with interesting patterns and shapes. I loved the rust-coloured reeds which have grown in a pattern echoing its shape

This is the cinder incline we had to go up on each lap. I always try not to walk up it until my 4th lap at the earliest.

Heading for the finish line and still smiling!

I was running quite strongly and felt good throughout and I didn't loiter too long at the aid station (which is really difficult as there's always someone to chat with and scrummy things to eat!) and even though I took lots of photos I still got a course pb finishing in 5:29:45.

Now for the medal. Traviss had promised us something special and we weren't disappointed - I've put 2 of my other medals next to it for size comparison.  The figures in the centre have the names of the 5 people who have run the most miles at their events this year, which was a lovely touch, with the names of all the other runners around the edge. Mike spotted my name easily (underneath Greg's right foot as you look at it).

This was on the Saturday before Christmas and I was relieved that the Sunday was free as I still had several projects to complete. I had hoped to give Carolyn something for her little boy at the marathon but I still had some finishing touches to add so it had to be posted to her instead. I'll post photos of that in my next write-up.

So that's it. My challenge for 2015 and my 60th birthday challenge have been amalgamated and completed in the same year so next year I can sit back on my laurels. I think not!!!! My next challenge for Alzheimer's Research UK will be announced at the start of 2016 and it's going to be my toughest yet.

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