Wednesday 29 November 2023

The LDWA Blackwater Marathon - #110

In October, I completed my 110th marathon or ultra. 

Surprisingly, after all those events, I managed to find a different way of doing a marathon - I walked it. All the way.... 

I knew I wasn't really fit enough to manage running a marathon, but the race was booked, it was quite local, and the weather was meant to be good! As it was the LDWA's Blackwater Marathon Challenge event, it was primarily aimed at walkers with a generous cut off of nine and a half hours so I knew I would be able to finish, even if I was only pottering along. It was to be my first event for a whole year, and I was so excited - so off I went, with a lot of hope that it would be a great day and my limited fitness and lack of training wouldn't be an issue.

I wasn't disappointed.

Being an LDWA event it was all very friendly, but also totally low key. I forget to take my route instructions (you had to print them out yourself at home, I left them on the printer) but assumed I'd be able to get a copy at registration. I was wrong! Luckily I had two phones with me, and I'd downloaded the route on the OS map, so I was pretty confident that I would have enough battery to follow a map on my phone. Also, they didn't have race numbers, so I had to make a note on my phone as there was no way I was going to remember my number to give at checkpoints. 

Anyway, eventually I managed to sort myself out and left at 8am with all the walkers - I was in my running gear, because, well, that's what I've got, but most everyone else was in their walking boots and normal clothes. Felt a little out of place but I soon got over that. Unexpectedly, having been away from the circuit for so long, I did see a few friends on the day which was wonderful. 

The route, especially for the first section in the morning sunshine, was absolutely stunning.

We were along the coast and I was incredibly happy to be out on the road and the trail, and as the day went on, my mood didn't change - I felt really lucky to be able to be there. 

Walking made it very much less stressful that it would have been if I was trying to run, and although I found it a bit soul destroying to be overtaken by all the runners, who started an hour later than the walkers, I was still thoroughly enjoying myself. 

Luck was definitely on my side when the wonderful Apryl passed me and I told her I'd managed to forget my instructions - and she had a spare set, just in time before the field started to thin out and I couldn't follow people! Was such a relief, as using the map isn't my forte. Absolutely eternally grateful as I'm pretty sure I would have got lost later on in the race. 

A special mention must be made to the wonderful volunteers who supported the event, and who arranged the quite astonishing aid stations - buffets beyond belief with such variety! Without a doubt, there were treats, or a three course meal, available for everyone and it was very impressive. 

Somehow I managed to drag myself away from the food at each CP and walked through quaint villages, across fields and farmland, passing boatyards and the marshes. It was a real mix and a great example of the beautiful Essex countryside - I finally finished in a Garmin time of 7hrs 30mins for 27 miles, with a smile still on my face, and without any aches or pains (until I got home, having stiffened up after the drive back). 

It was a wonderful day, although it made me a little sad that I had left it so long since my last event, and although walking the marathon was a great experience, I definitely want to get back to being able to run for my next one!