I've never shied away from a challenge, so when coach Norman suggested doing the Barry 40 at the end of February, I thought why the hell not! Some may think that 40 miles is a walk in the park for those who have already done 100km races, but the difference here was that it was all on an athletics track - yes, 40 miles of running around an athletics track - 161 laps to be precise.
I had actually heard very good reports about this race, and so in a way, I was looking forward to it despite being a little daunted by the thought of so many laps. I was also worried about what effect it would have on my body in terms of injury, and I wasn't used to running in the same direction over and over again, but thankfully all seems to be ok with no after effects as things stand.
So having set off from home at 6am on Sunday morning, there I was 4 hours later standing on the start line alongside 20 or so other athletes in the pouring rain and howling gale - typical weather for this race, and I was assured that before long, we would get glorious sunshine followed by more rain at some point.
I'd arranged with Norman to run 1.45 laps - approx 7 min miling - and I managed to do this up until about 30 miles. It was really weird just going round in circles, lapping people every so often, but time seemed to be going very quickly and I soon forgot about the laps and got into a rhythm. It was also fantastic the amount of support the runners were getting from the spectators who were few in numbers but certainly vocal, and it was a fantastic atmosphere.
From 30 miles, the thought of another 40 laps really hit home, and I started to slow down somewhat - a combination of "bloody hell, how many more?" and "oops, think I started off a bit too quick!". I'd now dropped from about 6.50 pace to about 7.20, and with the wind picking up down the back straight on each lap, it was getting to be hard work.
With about 5 miles to go, it was announced that if I could keep the pace going, I could be on for a place in the top 10 World Rankings for 40 miles, and that motivated me to try to pick up the pace. I caught Colin Gell and we tried to run together for a short while, but he was much stronger that I was, and I couldn't keep with him. However, I do think that he helped me to maintain my pace to some degree, and I was absolutely delighted to finally finish the race as first lady, in a time of 4.47.59. I'd also become the 3rd fastest British female ever and was ranked 9th in the World on the All-Time List.
All in all, it was a brilliant event and a brilliant day. The other athletes, though small in numbers, were absolutely fantastic, so too were the spectators. Ultra running really is like a small close-knit community, and I feel as though I've made even more new friends by taking part, many of whom I hope I meet again at another race in the not too distant future.
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