This weekend it was time for the last two runs of my Running for Hannah Challenge. My friend Hannah is battling bowel cancer, and I've been spelling out her name with ultra marathons, to show my support for her, and to raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, and the Pelican Cancer Foundation, two charities from the centres she is having treatment.
Due to some logistical trouble, and races beginning with the right letters not being on the right days (how inconvenient!) they were the wrong way around, so 'H' the Hallow 12 Parish 40 miles was on Saturday, and 'A' the Andredsweald Circuit was on Sunday. So technically it was the Hannha Challenge, I suppose. So, I'm really sorry Hannah, but it was the best that I could find, and I hope it's OK!
Due to the lack of H and A races this weekend, the two I found were quite far apart from each other, so it was a bit of logistics to get to the right places at the right times. Thanks Andrew for coming too, and running as well, and helping with getting between them! I love these parts of doing events - staying in random places, travelling at weird times, portable food....
The Hallows 12 Parish 40 miles Challenge was in Worcester, and it was organised by the Worcester Scout Group. Fabulous surprise to see my friend Kirsty at the start! I only realised the night before when I looked at the map that she lived close to the start, so big thanks to her for at the last moment getting up really early on a Saturday, and seeking out a random scout hut in a little village (and on the wrong side of the River Severn), to come to say hi!
The route started in Hallow, then followed the River Severn for a few miles, before making a big loop around Worcester, the Malvern Hills, and the surrounding 12 parishes.
It was pretty scenery......
There were lots of helpful signs,
And some really helpful ones,
It was pretty tricky underfoot for most of it, and some parts were even like a jungle,
And we had to run through fire,
And Andrew wasn't too well (nothing to do with the fire). So it took longer than usual to complete it. But it was still a very good run!
My favourite bit was seeing, not just llamas,
But a baby llama!
The checkpoints the whole way round were brilliant, but special mention has to go to the food at the end. I was worried might not be any (that's just a general worry, not just specific to today), or worse, that it was going to be Worcestershire sauce based. But no! It was a giant baked potato with homemade veggie chilli. It was completely delicious. I've never seen such a big portion in my life. I think the cost of ingredients for that alone must have cost more than the entry fee (which, I must say, at £15 was incredible value for money, even without the potato). I definitely recommend the event, well organised, friendly, brilliant marshals and checkpoints, and a good route - thank you 12 Parish Challenge! And, Run H = done!
All too soon it was time to head off, for a long drive to the Premier Inn (#2 of the weekend) at Gatwick (glamour!) in time for the last part of the challenge tomorrow.....
Which was the Andredsweald Circuit, organised by the Kent LDWA. This was a marathon, so, as I wanted all of the runs in the challenge to be ultras, we got there a bit early and I ran about 3-4 miles before the race started, to make it an ultra. So to prove I did it, here is me leaving at the start,
Here is the path (The Forest Way) that I ran along,
And here is me at the turn around point:
Then it was back to the start for half an hour or so, for some coffee and chats (which I'm sure was how I used to spend Sunday mornings before I started running), then it was off for the main event...
I was pretty happy to have completed my challenge up to this point, I didn't really think at the start that I could do any of what I'd signed up to at all, but I had a reason to be doing it, and I've always focused on that, whenever things have been difficult. Knowing why I'm doing it makes it easy; I would keep running forever, through mountains/ fire/ storms/ anything, to support Hannah.
So I kind of thought that this would be the most straightforward run of the challenge, it was the shortest, and I have lots of experience with marathons (way more than 100s!), plus it was the final run, and in my mind I knew I was almost there so I thought it would feel easier. As always, I was wrong, and, genuinely, I think this one felt the toughest of the lot! I couldn't understand how I could go from feeling so in control the day before, to feeling so incompetent the next day! But, like I just said, I had a reason to do it, and I was going to do it no matter what!
The run was all around Ashdown Forest (including Pooh Bridge!), which is close to where my Mum is from, so I've spent a lot of time around there, and I love it so much. It was brilliant to be back, and it was a really beautiful route,
The route description was fantastic, including guidance such as "begin a remorseless ascent" , "turn right to shimmy thru clump" and "pass lonely small metal gate on left". But it was just a tricky route to follow, and we spent most of the day being lost, to be honest, which was mostly my fault, although Andrew and Craig were too busy poncing around to help correct my mistakes much, until the directions mentioned a pub, and then they were suddenly all over it (😂😂😂 - just kidding!)...
A pub stop part way through a marathon might not be seen as that professional, I suppose, but in my defence, it did say in the route description "turn right to Foresters Arms, if needed", and well, it was needed. I know that people think Kent is flat. I thought Kent was flat. Until I did the Andredsweald Circuit. It was really tough, and difficult to run, and it was totally knackering. And I don't care if I sound ridiculous saying a marathon in Kent was harder than 100 miles in Northumbria, because that's how I felt, and the route description said that we could go to the pub if we needed to, and we needed hydration, and so we went. I think there should actually have been a self clip in there to be honest, and everyone else should have been disqualified for not following the route.
Anyway, I felt, briefly at least, much better for the pit stop, until we realised that we were actually quite close to getting timed out at the next checkpoint, it was still about a mile away uphill, and there was a herd of cows in the way. An elderly gentleman, when we said hello to him, smiled back and called "are you hoping to get lost?" Which made absolutely no sense anyway, but especially because 1) why would you hope that, and 2) yes, we already were.
We made it to the checkpoint, which was only at about 16 miles, and we still had about 10 miles to go. Or, so we thought, but as it was LDWA, it turned out to be about 28 miles by the end (extra, free, bonus miles!), but I'm glad we didn't know that then. Soon after, we went through a gateway, which set of a sensor, and Victor Meldrew's voice started bellowing out. I'm not making it up, I promise. Then right after that, we saw a dead snake, which was probably quite small and brownish in colour, but I remember now as being at least a foot long, maybe two, and bright green with black zig zags and definitely looked deadly. I'm not making this up either. It was all quite bizarre. I began to wonder, what had I had 1/2 a pint of in that pub?
Anyway, we made it to the end, without too many other things to deal with, other than a mile or two where the instructions included avoiding cricket balls, bowling balls and golf balls, which we made it through without injuries. Thank you Andrew and Craig for a great run! It was really really really hard, but it was so much fun with you guys!
So, my Running For Hannah Challenge is complete! 290 miles in total, and I'm so happy I managed to do it all. Thank you so much everyone for your support. I've been totally bowled over by your kindnesses, messages of support, good wishes for Hannah, and your donations. Together we've raised over £1000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and The Pelican Cancer Foundation, which is absolutely brilliant, and I know this money will be put to good use, and make a difference!
And, Hannah, the reason I did this! Every step I thought of you .... you are the most amazing, strong, positive, and inspiring person I know. I am so sorry you are having to go through all that you are. Even though I've completed the challenge now, I'll carry on running every step thinking of you! I know you can beat this, and so do all the people who I've spoken to throughout the challenge, who send you their love, wishes, and who think you are amazing. Sending you all of my love 💜💙💚💛🧡❤️