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Steyning Stinger 2016 report by Caroline

If you had said to me a year ago that I would have even contemplated running a marathon I would have said ‘no way’!  On mothers day Sunday 6th March, as my alarm went off at 5.30am, I knew that my traditional lay in and breakfast in bed was definitely not happening. As I forced myself to eat porridge and banana the nerves really started to kick in. I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked. A calf injury on my 20 mile training run three weeks before and a cold two days before is not the best preparation for 26.2 hilly, muddy miles. If it wasn’t for the encouragement of fellow Henfield Joggers and my husband Dave (who was running the half) I think I may have considered postponing this madness until the following year.

We picked Daren and Les up on route to Steyning and already I was starting to feel better with the thought of meeting everyone at the start. The weather was looking amazing and I had a feeling it was going to be a good day with beautiful views! We arrived early and collected our race numbers. I couldn’t believe it when they handed me number 13!! Yes 13!!! And I went to the toilet about five times (nerves I think!) I was also really happy to see one of my best friends Dave Hatton who had suffered a heart attack on the Steyning Stinger the year before. He and his wife were back one year on to walk the half marathon route. As I hugged him and watched him greet the lady from St John’s Ambulance who had saved his life I felt very emotional and the determination kicked in, as part of me was also doing this for him.

As we waited for Mark to finish his tea, the rest of the joggers arrived and we headed over to the muddy field and small tent which is the start line. They counted us down from 10 and we were finally off. The first couple of miles were hard and undulating as everyone settled into their own pace and Daren disappeared into the horizon. As I chatted to my fellow runners Colin, Pugs, Les and Mark the first 6 miles seemed to go by relatively easily. They were very challenging, muddy and hilly but we seemed to be doing well. Unfortunately Les took a bit of a tumble on a particularly muddy track and was worried about her hamstring from then on. After the two biggest hills (which go on for miles) I found myself at the top of Chanctonbury Ring with just Colin and Pugs. We forced ourselves at the cut off point, around 10.7 miles to take the right turn to continue on the marathon route rather then the half route which turned back to Steyning.

From then on my legs started to tell me that I had run quite far already but I was absolutely determined to get as far as I could. As we passed more and more friendly marshal points with water, biscuits and mars bar pieces on offer it really started to get tough. The 5 mile loop around Cissbury that had seemed easy on our practice run back in November was feeling hard and now every hill seemed to go on forever. As I got to the marshal point for the second time on the loop I noticed Colin and Pugs were a little way behind me. They waved me on and I then realised that I had to do the next 10 miles or so on my own. Something I hadn’t even considered would happen (apart from if I had got left behind – which had been one of my fears!) I carried on and reached the highdown 3 mile loop. A rather grueling section where I was for the most of it alone with only a couple of other runners in sight. I was so happy to see my brother’s friendly face at mile 21 who told me to ‘get a biscuit down me’ and keep going!

The next section was one of the hardest I have experienced running. The pain from my previous calf/knee injury really kicked in and I now know what the meaning of ‘hitting the wall’ feels like. I started to feel very light headed and my legs felt like they had lead bricks attached to them so I knew I had to get a gel down me. (disgusting at the best of times!) My legs somehow kept moving and I was then greeted by Amanda Player at the top of the final hill. She beamed at me and gave me a big hug (although I now realize I must have been horribly sweaty – sorry Amanda!) I was then also cheered on by Lorna and her husband. This unexpected HJ support really got me through those difficult miles and I thank everyone who came out to support. The final few miles and muddy fields were hard. A cheerful Simon cheered us on at mile 25 and it was only then that I actually let myself believe that I was going to make it to the magical 26.2.

As I turned the corner into the last field, I saw my family, Dave Hatton and his wife who had stayed on to see me finish. I crossed the line with my four year old twins and the feeling was amazing. Daren was already there waiting for us all and not long after Hugh, Colin, Pugs, Mark and Les crossed the line. We had all made it and I can honestly say that without all the support of HJ and my family over the past few months I would never have thought it possible. Hugh’s legendary Saturday morning runs really help you to get the miles in and with the guidance of guys like Mark Skilton and Paul Crowe I had proved to myself that I could do it. I would say to anyone considering training for a trail marathon to give it a go. You never know, you may actually enjoy it. I know I did. Beachy next anyone…?