Twelveathon tackles the trail

Jim PatersonA while ago we featured Jim Paterson who’s attempting to run 12 marathons for charity.

After his first trail marathon, and with the Virgin London Marathon next on his list, he got back in touch to let us know how his running has been going.

The going gets tough

“Is this anyones first trail run?”

A few hands, my own included, went up.

“And is this anyone’s first marathon ever?”

About three or four hands went up.

The announcer laughed and grinned to himself for a moment. “Right, well…good luck to you…”

This didn’t fill me with confidence.

In truth, I was very nervous about this marathon anyway (the Sussex Coastal Trail marathon, organised by Endurance life, around the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head areas of Sussex). Having tagged it in my head as a ‘sort of cross-country run’ when I signed up, I didn’t really think any more about it, pleased it was relatively close to London and thinking it would make “a nice change”.

Reviewing the map two days beforehand, to work out if there were any good points from which my girlfriend could watch, was the first time I paid attention to the information on ‘ascent’ or in layman’s terms ‘how hilly it is’. If you’re ever doing a trail or cross-country race, I recommend you look at this a few weeks before. It might mean you do some, oh I don’t know, hill training or something beforehand? And might not turn up looking like a Dad competing in his first school sports day.

So it quickly became apparent that this might be a very different race from what I’d had before. A fact quickly confirmed by the first time I HAD TO RUN UP A CLIFF.

I started to panic a bit after the first couple of miles had left me gasping and making ill-considered whimpers, before I adopted a new “let’s just get round” strategy that meant walking up and then running down the other side, which I think was a tactical masterstroke.

By the halfway point I was steady but feeling the toll of the terrain, but was lucky enough to fall into step with two other runners, Martin and Tim, who were also trying to manage their pace. This ended up making the second half a lot easier as we supported and encouraged each other, which was a welcome reminder of the camaraderie you can find in what is often considered a solitary pursuit. We ended up running most of the rest of the race together (until Martin and I got lost and separated from Tim).

My finishing time was a personal-worst-breaking 7 hours, 29 minutes, 57 seconds. Not fast at all, but I got round, learned a little more about trail runs, and was left rather grateful for the fact that my next few runs are traditional road races.

See my (only mildly harrowing) video diary from Sussex here:

Jim Paterson is running the Twelveathon – 12 marathon in 2012 to raise £12,000 for UNICEF and Scene & Heard. Find out more and sponsor him here

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