If you were waiting until the Bristol half-marathon on 15th September 2013 to make a donation to my fundraising effort (http://www.justgiving.com/fak), don’t. The Cheddar Gorge 10km today was the hardest physical challenge of my life to date, the half-marathon surely can’t be as bad as that. I began to realise this when I decided to walk to the start point as I had arrived early. It was a 15 minute scramble through a wood over slippery boulders, tree roots, loose branches and stones, and lots and lots of mud. A lot of respect to the half-marathon and marathon runners who had that as part of their course, I anticipate many drop outs and a fair few people not meeting the marathon cut-off time by the 13 mile point). I was puffing when I finally made it to the top (the view was nice, if a bit blurred by the sweat in my eyes), then had to turn round and go back to get myself ready for the actual race (this is the only race I’ve been to that had a drinks station at the start).
The first 6 or 7km were pretty much OK, a couple of scary (and slow) descents down steep hills punctuated with rocks, and a nasty bit of woodland where the bright sun made it even harder to tell through the shadows where it was safe to place your foot, but the ascent up towards the 8km marker broke me. I’d already done more than 8km at this stage picking my way through the gorge and the steep hill (so steep it had steps) was almost too much. I very nearly threw up halfway up and if I had been able to drop out then I probably would have, but the only way down was via the finish line so I very slowly ascended. There was a flatish but twisting section after this, where there was a lot of support from people out walking (thanks), then down into the basin where we started and another wooded section before the finish. I had to check myself a couple of times here as I was descending out of control at times, and towards the end the path seemed to disappear and there was a real possibility of getting lost (with only bits of ribbon in the trees to guide you). My GPS watch gave up the ghost at this point, so I will have to wait for my official finishing time, but it was well over an hour, probably an hour and 10 minutes. I could maybe have gone a little faster at the finish, but the last 250m or so was uphill and I decided “bugger that”, it wasn’t worth it for a few seconds off the time at that stage. Getting round was the main achievement in this one.
The hardest won medal to date: