Exmoor Endurance Life 10k / Half Marathon
Seven of us + two offspring went to Somerset for the weekend to take part in the Endurance Life Exmoor events. I am going to tell you about the 10k that I ran with Steve and Ian; I hope someone else will write about the half.
Due to Covid-19, there were lots of changes to the races, including the start times. Usually, the 10k is the last event to start, but this time we started before the half. We were issued with very precise (to the second!) times to proceed to the start line but were told that we could start with one other person if we wished, so Ian came with me (while Steve had started about five minutes earlier). Ian stopped to adjust his laces, so I actually set off alone and the route took us about half a mile steeply down a winding road before the 10k/Half routes turned off from the Ultra/Marathon routes onto a woodland track. It was not until about 3 ½ hours later that Steve and I found out that Ian had missed this turn-off.
Because of the nature of the start, we were all basically running alone throughout the route – I only saw the occasional other runner as they passed me; the only person I passed was a lady who had fallen badly in the wood and was lying down. Someone else was already helping her, so I said I would go on and alert the next available marshal (which turned out to be at least 40 minutes later!). We were on the coast path for the first half of the run, then we turned inland up a valley, then turned again back eastwards, up above our original path. This couple of miles trek steadily uphill was rather deadly; it was not steep but I personally found it impossible to maintain a running pace and had to walk quite long sections.
At the water stop (where there was only water, no cups) at the turn in the route, I found Steve walking; he had twisted (or perhaps even sprained) his ankle quite early on and was planning on walking the rest of the way back. At the point where my watch told me there was possibly only about 150m to go, I still could not hear any noise (cheering, clapping, music etc.) The path turned off the wide track and ascended almost vertically up a narrow, muddy path; this was horrendous! As I climbed, I gradually became aware of some sound – indicating that the couple who were about 100m ahead of me were perhaps finishing. At last, the path emerged into the sunlight and there was the finish, about 50m away down a beautiful grassy incline. Having been barely able to put one foot in front of another just seconds earlier, I found that I could run this bit easily!
I collected my T-shirt, medal and cereal bar and waited for the others to finish. I was surprised when Steve arrived before Ian and we both wondered what might have happened to him. We returned to Ian’s car and went to open his petrol cap flap, where he had put the keys. We could not open it! We tried and tried until Steve suggested that perhaps this was not the right car; it wasn’t! Once in the right car, Steve lay on the back seat to prop up his injured foot and I got in the front and we waited. After about an hour, I returned to the start/finish and asked if they could track down my colleague. A few walkie-talkie conversations later, they informed me that Ian was last seen at a point several miles to the east, and that he would probably take 1-1 ½ hours to get back from there – he was on the Marathon/Ultra route! Thank goodness, this did double back after 6-7 miles and join the Half route. I returned to the car to tell Steve the news and we put the radio on to pass the time, feeling rather hungry and (in Steve’s case) in need of an ice pack. About 75 minutes later, I spied Ian walking across the field towards us, looking weary. He had been brought part of the way back by car, but he had still run probably 20k.
On the way back to the house that we were renting, we stopped at a tiny village shop to get some frozen peas for Steve’s ankle and water for Ian; it was obvious at this point that Ian was not well, so I took over the driving while he sat next to me looking increasingly queasy. On a winding, narrow lane he announced that he needed to be sick, so I had to try to get to as straight a bit of road as possible before this happened!
By the late afternoon, the half-marathoners had returned brimming with their success stories, Ian was looking better and Steve’s ankle had a swelling the size of a tennis ball on the side of it. When we checked the results later, we found that Ian had come first in his age category and last in the whole race! The moral of this tale is: whatever length of race you are doing, go prepared for the unexpected; take water, a phone and a watch with you and study the route in advance!