Who would have thought a year ago I’d be writing a race report for a real life, 26.2 mile, mudfest of a marathon? Not me! But here goes….
I became obsessed with weather reports in the run up to the Stinger. We have had a lot of rain recently and I knew that if it was raining hard then this race would be anything but fun. But the weather gods were obviously on my side when I woke up at 5.30 on Sunday morning and checked the weather report for the millionth time. Sun! Sun and a few clouds but mostly Sun! I was over the moon. Although I knew that the ground would still be soaked from the down pour over night I really felt so much happier that it wouldn’t be a miserable day.
Fabian and I were the first Hjer’s to arrive at Race HQ at 6.50am. I was so unbelievably nervous but the lovely people who gave out the numbers reassured me that no one had ever died running this marathon so really what was the worse that could happen? Hmmmm I thought- broken legs, hypothermia, heart attack… or worse than that FAILURE?!?!
Fabian was glad when the cheerful Amanda and Ralph arrived to distract me from my thoughts of pending doom. Amanda was quick to reassure me that everything would be fine, and Ralph made sure I was adequately equipped.
I had made the decision that I wanted to start as early as possible as to not worry about cut off points and the such, (a lovely part of the race is flexible start times) but I had also decided that I didn’t want to run with anyone despite their kind offers. This for me simply meant two things: Firstly I wouldn’t ruin anyone’s race by slowing them down (and put extra pressure on me to keep up) but also I felt that my marathon training had been a personal journey that I wanted to see out by myself. I had downloaded a new audio book to keep me company and I hoped that it would be interesting enough to see me through.
I walked to the start line feeling a nervous excitement that I had never really felt before. I said goodbye to Fabian who was running the half and then done a last mental check-list that I had put in my pack everything I could possibly need: Water- check, gels- check, jelly babies- check, spare shoe laces- check, toilet roll – check, rain jacket- check. I was more prepared than a boy scout.
Ralph and Amanda set off first, and I decided to let them go and leave a few minutes after. I knew that Mark, Paul, Hugh and Andy would be leaving after me so I took some comfort that if I was really in need of a pick-me-up I could just wait and they’d soon catch me up.
The mud was thick right from the start. Concious of Mark and Hugh’s words of wisdom I took it very slowly, and in no way ‘raced’ anyone around me. By mile 3 I realised that I was feeling surprisingly good. I had the most ridiculous smile on my face that a marshal even asked whether I would be that happy in 20 miles time. I was super glad that I had learnt the route as I was able to shout loudly at a runner in front that she had gone past a turning point as unfortunately a marker had turned around in the wind and without correction the poor runner may have ended up in Storrington.
The first ‘Sting’ is very steep, and very deceiving. Another runner warned me that a photographer was lurking at the mid way point to I made my mind up that I would have to run up to him and then would power walk the rest of the Sting. I was really glad to see that every single one of the runners around me did exactly the same thing. There really wasn’t any shame in walking some of the hills.
It was lovely to have a few words of encouragement at around mile 7 from Marcus who zipped past me, and also wonderful to see Mick and Jenny who were handing out much needed mars bar pieces at the mile 8 checkpoint.
By the time I had reached the turning point where one could decide to go right for the full marathon or straight on for the half marathon I was still feeling really happy. The mud had been horrendous in places but the sunny weather really helped spur me on.
Every single runner, almost without exception that passed me said hello and I really felt the atmosphere helped to keep me going. I fell over in usual Dani style at around Mile 14 but laughed along side the runner next to me who almost did the exact same thing.
I was beginning to really feel the strain of running through such thick mud on the way back from the Lancing loop. But then I saw Duncan running towards me; A hug and the exchange of jelly babies cheered me up and I continued on what I knew was now the last slog.
As I finally headed down hill off of the Downs I was ecstatic! I am nearly done I thought. Yippeee!!! Then the marshal pointed me left. Up another hill, and away from the direction of the finish line. Then I remembered, this was the infamous field Hugh had once mentioned. The last 25 miles had been muddy, but this field took mud to whole extra level. It was almost impossible to walk, let alone run in places. My feet felt like they were laden with concrete. But finally, finally, I saw the sign that said 800 metres to the finish. It took every last bit of energy but I carried on and made it through the finish line. I was so happy to have finished, and really touched that Andy Massindale and Tammy had come to support and cheer on all the finishers.
So I have rambled for far too long now, but for anyone thinking of doing the Steyning Stinger next year my advice is this: DO IT!!!!!! It was so much fun and well worth all the training. You also get a medal, free breakfast and free race photography which is an amazing touch.
For me running a marathon was something other people did. But with such wonderful encouragement from the other Henfield Joggers (in particular Hugh and Mark) I felt really happy to finally be able to say that I did it.
Everyone that took part in both the full and half marathon did so so well. Paul Crowe ran the marathon without even telling his wife what he had planned to do. I think Fabian wished I could have kept quiet too, he is pretty glad that I can now stop going on about Marathon training all the time. Well…. at least for now, Beachy Head Marathon’s in October so a few months break at least!
Fabian Kaelin – 2:19:42
Ilidia Campbell – 2:47:47
Jackie Parsons – 2:47:47
Andy Ralph – 2:55:00
Sue Spiers – 3:21:12
Marcus Dwyer – 5:06:23
Amanda Player – 5:29:50
Duncan Blackburn – 5:37:31
Ralph Bernascone – 5:40:22
Paul Crowe – 5:42:43
Mark Skilton – 5:42:43
Danielle Kaelin – 5:43:08
Hugh Martin – 5:47:00