THE COMMONWEALTH CHALLENGE, KESWICK
I was always planning to go down to Keswick to support our 24 hour runners, but when I was selected to run in the 100K race (6 weeks before the event!- plenty time to prepare then…) I was so pleased to be going down as part of the running team. To be taking part in such a big event and running for Scotland again. Who couldn’t be chuffed to bits. As part of 4 runners in the 100K ladies team, I was the slowest on paper. I hadn’t even run the qualifying guideline of sub 9 hours, and in the overall rankings I was very low indeed. I was going down to Keswick with a few goals. Firstly I wanted to enjoy more of a 100K than I’d enjoyed before i.e. more than 4 hours. I didn’t want to be last. And if the team did win a medal I wanted to be a counter in the team. I wasn’t going for a time as I knew the course was hard and hilly and a PB was unlikely. The 9 hour time was more of a benchmark than a goal.
We arrived in Keswick on the Wednesday night, attended the opening ceremony on the Thursday morning. We then went along to Fitz Park to see the build up and start of the 24 hour race. The atmosphere was great. After a few hours Steven + I went to recce the 100K course and had a wee half hour jog on the course. We then went back to see how the 24 hour runners were getting on. Lynne was wobbling a bit, but the rest were OK. She soon recovered and they all seemed settled into the race into the evening. It was great to have the opportunity to support them, but I was aware I shouldn’t overdo it. Very difficult not to get wrapped up in it though. I was quite happy jogging back and forward. Much better than standing still. After our dinner, I went back to the B+B to get a good night’s sleep while Steven went back to support overnight. So much for a good night’s sleep! I hardly slept a wink thinking about everyone else in the park. I kept phoning for updates. Finding out they were going through really difficult patches didn’t help me sleep at all. After breakfast, we headed back down to the park to watch the last few hours of the race. Richie was in a bad way and had made the decision to stop till the end of the race. His tank was completely empty. Fiona was in walk mode now, Lynne was run/ walking and Pauline looked the strongest. The last hour was amazing as Pauline looked like there was an outside possibility she could make 200K by the end of the race. We were all doubtful but Sue was not going to miss the opportunity to push Pauline as hard as possible to achieve this. I’ve never seen anyone push themselves like it and the last lap was quite the most remarkable thing I think I’ve ever seen. To run the fastest lap of the race after 24 hours. Everyone was screaming at her. I was running along trying to keep up with her, screaming at her, with tears streaming down my face. “Where’s the 200K marker?” she was shouting at Steven. She passed it and kept going till a minute or so later and the hooter went and it was all over. It is the best finish to a race I have ever seen and I was so glad to witness it and be part of it.
And what an inspiration to go into the 100K with. I slept well that night. I was so knackered from the night before. I had been quite relaxed about my race until the Friday night when I began to get a bit irritable and uptight. I was nervous the next morning and strangely emotional. This doesn’t usually happen to me. Must be Lynne rubbing off on me! It was great to see people come down to the start of my race – Simon, Lynne, Sue + Ken, and Steven and Val were still around before they headed up to the support point at the lake. A few hugs later and we were off. It wasn’t long before we hit the hills. I knew they were coming and was prepared to take it as easy as possible. I settled into 2nd last place very easily and didn’t try to chase anyone, despite them all pulling away from me. After a mile or so I got chatting to a Canadian girl, Laurie. She was the only person I really talked to in the race. We passed each other a few times then settled down when we got to the end of the lake. It was good to see Steven + Val. I felt more secure knowing they were close if I had any problems. Then I got into a rhythm going up and down the lake. It was also great to know Simon + Lynne were up the other end of the lake to support me. Especially when they must have been exhausted themselves. Then as time went on Ken + Sue appeared on the loop and supported me for several loops as they walked the length of the lake. Then the dulcet tones of “Happy Birthday to you” could be heard in the distance. The twins had arrived! Then seeing Richie at the other end. It was great to have everyone there supporting us all. After 5 laps of the lakeside I was beginning to tire. But hey, I’d got a lot further than in my previous 100Ks before feeling too bad. I was determined not to walk at the feeding stations unless absolutely necessary. I couldn’t wait till the last lap so I’d be homeward bound. The race had changed over a few hours from Izzy being in front, to Sandra, then me, positions changing all the time, but as time went on they seemed to be having more trouble than me. Lucy was looking strong and it was good to be able to watch the race unfold as she moved into third position. Everybody was so supportive of each other, men and women, no matter how they felt. We really were a good team. The girls knew I was on for a possible sub 9 hours, in the later stages, and they were shouting at me and willing me to do it.
I walked at one feeding station to drink my Ensure plus – otherwise I’d have worn it rather than swallowed it, and walked for about 20 seconds at 85K just really to gather myself before the final push home. I was knackered but knew I could keep going and after all, it was meant to be downhill all the way home, with just a few wee hills on the way. Well, how wrong was I? These “wee hills” were more like mountains and they just kept coming. When I hit the final big hill I decided walking would possibly preserve some energy and I’d be just as fast. I even had my hands on me knees at one point. Had I entered the hill race by mistake? I saw Murray at 95 K, a very welcome sight. I’d have one gel (which had been doing me well all day), some water then I’d kick for home. Instead, I had 1 mouthful of gel and vomited it all up. But I felt better for it and left with my bottle of water, hoping I wasn’t going to have a nightmare last section. But tired as I was, I kept the pace going. I ran down the main road knowing it was all downhill from now on. I could smell the finish. Thoughts of Pauline’s finish flashed through my mind. I knew sub 9 hours was possible. I wanted it so badly. I entered the park, Ken was shouting at me, gave me the saltire, where was the finish? Did I have to run all the way round the park? No, just to the red flags he shouted. My head said go for the sprint finish, my legs said bugger off! I almost fell over the line, into Simon’s arms for hug then promptly vomited again! – NOT Simon’s fault! I guess I did push myself a bit!...
Then I saw everyone there looking so pleased for me, hugs galore. Who’d have thought it? Sub 9 hours on that course, yeehaa! What a day, what a weekend, what a birthday! Not bad for an old woman! (and I’d finally got the qualifying guideline to be at Keswick!) I feel now that I justified my selection into the team. And we got a silver team medal! Previous 100Ks had been dominated by being miserable for the last 5 hours and saying I never wanted to do it again. This time I never really had any major low points in comparison. Or maybe I’ve just forgotten them already….. Not long after I finished I knew I’d want to do another. I felt much more experienced going into this race and felt I ran it sensibly. I witnessed Lucy having a good run, and Izzy and Sandra have bad days at the office. We’ve all been there with the bad runs, but all had great days too. We just seem to take it in turns. All the great performances are inspirational, but equally so are the gutsy ones to get to the end.
It was a tremendous weekend. Special for the Carnegie team – the runners and the support. So good to share it with such good friends. And to make a lot more friends besides. The runners are nothing on their own. Never more will you see that, than in ultra running. Can’t wait to do it all again.
Gail Murdoch 2009