The Brecon Beacons Ultramarathon by the Might Contain Nuts race company was my first “proper ultra” – non-stop running as opposed to the race in the summer which included lots of stops and rest (from running at least, but perhaps not resting our brains!) and allowed 45miles to be spread over more than 24 hours.
The race is the 4th in the series (a summer and winter race in the Black Mountains, and a summer and winter race in the Brecon Beacons), and advertised as being 43(ish) miles with 2,800m of ascent.
I had recently run a coastal marathon in Rhosilli, posting a picture from it on Instagram, and because of that connected with another runner Naomi. Hanging around at the start line for this race, I thought I recognised her across the crowd and vice versa. She came over and we started running together and chatting, and ended up doing the whole race together. It’s rare to find a running match who maintains the same pace as you throughout a race like this, and her company really helped at the low points when I may otherwise have dropped out had I been alone out in the dark clambering across rivers using rocks as stepping stones and branches to hang on to!
It’s been such a while since the race, that I forget the majority of the course details, but the highlights were the frosty ground, being up high with beautiful views of lakes below, allowing ourselves our bags of crisps at the half way point (crisps are great during this type of race when you crave something salty), seeing the beautiful huskies with the canicross runners (people who run with dogs on leads attached to waistbelts), and actually the pitch black river crossing mentioned above. I remember some steep hills which required walking and I remember a burning pain in the glutes and found I could ease it by walking up backwards. This was my first time realising that sometimes it’s more effective to walk the hills, an important lesson in ultrarunning.
We did spend a good while as it became dusk and then dark refusing to stop and get our headtorches out, trying to push on (and for a while run in the light of another runner’s headtorch), and refusing to believe we had much further to go and therefore a need to use our torches, but we were out a good way past dark. Had I not been with Naomi, and alone in the blackness, I don’t think I could have carried on. We were both spooked when we walked into a field and saw strange glowing lights all over the place before realising they were sheep eyes! We also discussed in depth how it was a good job that neither of us were axe murderers since we met online and were now out in the middle of nowhere in the welsh mountains together. We also discussed the futility of the contents of our mandatory first aid kits given any likely injuries we were like to encounter, joking that we could manage a gun shot wound with the cling film from our sandwiches, but would be a bit stuck with a broken ankle, and the former wasn’t exactly likely out here. We got a little lost at one point and finished the race on approximately 46 miles, but not before me tripping and falling flat out in a mud puddle, emerging looking like a swamp monster just 1 mile before the finish! I also had concerns I’d broken my scaphoid with the pain and bruising, but xrays at work during the week confirmed otherwise.
I was so proud to finish my first ultra, and definitely felt deserving of my KFC on the way home. Thankyou Naomi for your company!