When Lisa Smith asked me whether I thought she could do a 50k of course I said yes, you can do anything you want but most 50k runs are off-road so she set about including cross country into training seriously over a year ago. I started to guide her around Fritton parkrun as well as other routes and with my off road and ultra experience we began to attack some different trails and tricky terrain to get used to it. Even after breaking her arm last summer she faced her fears and got on the trails. Being off road is a joy and we live in an amazing area with lots of interesting trails rather than running on roads and being around traffic. Lisa loves the freedom of these routes as much as me, so I sought out a race and emailed the organisers to see whether the route would be suitable.
The 50k route started in Ham Hill country park near Yeovil and snaked its way up and down over hills and streams to Lyme Regis on the coast so a real adventure following the Liberty trail and Monarchs Way. The total elevation was 6 k and the scenery stunning. We arrived at the start in plenty of time and met with David the race director and I took his number. We got under some shade and chilled for a bit as the race didn't start until 9.30 am. Both Lisa and I felt calm and excited about the prospect of the day ahead. We had 4 checkpoints to get drinks etc the first of which was at our hotel 9 miles away but as the day was so bloody hot, 30 degrees in fact a club member and farmer had extra water along the way. We needed it.
The start was a steep hill on road then we went off onto a trail. I can only compare a lot of the route to the South downs 100 mile I did last year. Not only steep coming up and down, but terrain underfoot was slippy with rocks and debris. We opened up into fields and dales continuing up and down crossing many stiles and gates and over streams. Lisa is just like me she doesn't faff about and we did get frustrated at times about how long people took to get over things when we caught people up. The course generally was well marked but in places could have been much better. I had instructions and maps and was following tape but because I was guiding I really had to have my wits about me. We did get lost a couple of times the last time costing us valuable time nearing the last checkpoint. There were about 6 other people that caught us up at this point and there was a bit of frustration about where to go. In the end I rang David and we doubled back a short way to get back on route. This was about 4 miles from the finish.
We had been joined by a guy who later on down route introduced himself. Ben was struggling but was determined to hang onto us. We crossed a busy road and got away from the group. Only just over 3 miles to go. I felt really good and so did Lisa, so we ran strongly Ben still with us. There was some very tricky terrain in the last section with the worst bit about a foot wide. We were on a high trail with a large drop to the left. I instructed Lisa to stay as right as she could as I held onto her hand and we got past it with Ben behind us thankfully in case anyone slipped. Her hand had slipped from mine earlier as we were so hot and sweaty but luckily Lisa just slipped on her bum on a very leafy section so a soft landing. We navigated down a very stony slope with streams to cross and as soon as we got going again I tripped over. 1- 1 on the tripping over stakes. Luckily no damage apart from a bruised knee later discovered. We didn't have far to go now so were pushing with Lisa making sure Ben was still with us as he had a couple of blisters. Her usual encouraging self.
We ran strongly into the last mile the only thing stopping us in our victory shouting and screaming to the finish was about a dozen big steps down to the seafront luckily with a handrail. I think we were the noisiest finishing, naturally. 5 miles previous we had felt very competitive to get past people. Most people were so encouraging of Lisa doing this event but it did bring out some unusual competitiveness with others. I don't think they wanted to be beaten by Lisa, if you know what I mean.
Hugs all round at the finish and unfortunately we missed our dip in the sea as we were getting an organised coach back to the start. We did miss that as it looked beautiful and so clear being on the south coast.
A magnificent day on a gorgeous route and I am super proud of Lisa. She has so much strength and determination and like me she doesn't let anything or anyone stand in her way. It has to be said that the route was much more challenging than I thought it would be but the distance not an issue. Lisa didn't complain once and must be congratulated on her first ultra marathon. An amazing achievement and the guide didn't do too badly either. I learnt a lot and it was an excellent training run for Scotland in 6 weeks time. As Bachman Turner Overdrive sings 1974 - You ain't seen nothing yet, from either of us!
Don't be afraid to take on challenge or risks because the experience and joy you get is amazing.
Thank you Lisa for an amazing weekend and some great running memories.
Report by Karen Peck.