Three weeks ago, at the very end of May, was the time for the Kettlewell Half Marathon. Training had not been perfect, but with Staveley (11 miles) three weeks before and some hill training, I’d hoped it would be enough.
This race is held in a stunning part of the world – rivers, hills, woods and more, around Wharfedale. We knew it was going to be tough, the elevation gain listed as around 900m. Friday off work meant that we could set off without rushing and made our way to the Buckden Farm campsite, only 15 mins away from the race start. This was a great campsite for us, with a stream and footpaths heading off from right at the site.
Saturday morning and the usual pre-race routine of porridge, sorting race pack, panicking that we had everything, applying sunscreen and generally getting more nervous. A short drive from Buckden to the race field and we had a bit of time to get numbers pinned on and double check we had everything. I really appreciate having the campervan for race mornings – not having to stand in the loo queue (which was long) and just being able to have my own little bit of space. The start of the race and car park is alongside the river, a really beautiful place – on grass, but there was no problem with parking.
Sunscreen…. The forecast was overcast in the morning, getting sunnier in the afternoon. But the sun came early. We set off just after 10am and it was bright sunshine and already warm. I was very glad that I’d applied sunscreen, I had my sunglasses and a cap, and a full hydration pack of water.
The start is a really nice section – pretty level along roads and then across a bridge and several grass fields. I settled into quite a nice rhythm but was already getting very warm and I was trying to sip water regularly to keep on top of the hydration. Around the three mile point we hit the first hill – the hill that kept on giving. There was no way of running this hill, it was just a battle to keep on walking at some points, and every time I thought I could see the summit, a few more steps, round a slight bend and realised that I was nowhere near the top – again and again. This was really tough and I was glad when finally we made it over the top – to come straight down the other side! With the lack of activity over the last year or so I’m out of practice of running downhill as well as uphill. There were bogs, rocks, paths with lots of tree roots and steep descents – hard work on the legs!
Dropping down to the village of Starbotton, a very short bit of road and back into fields for a quick uphill before a level ish section along the side of a hill, through paddocks, over lots of walls and stiles towards Kettlewell and through the village with an uphill road section before back on grass to head upwards. By this point I was feeling very nauseous, I’d taken ham sandwiches, cut into little bite size pieces and had had a few of those which had seemed to settle my stomach initially. As we reached the top of the second hill, with stunning views all around, I tried a small bite of a Nakd bar – it was a struggle! Another mile or so later tried another bite, barely managed to get it down and gave up on trying to get any food in at all. I hadn’t even touched the sweets I had. Fighting the urge to throw up, I just had to keep trying to sip at water. I am getting really frustrated by nausea, not always on a run, but often afterwards. I’ve just purchased some Saltsticks fastchews to see if they help at all – will report back when I’ve tried them (any advice on using them?).
Heading downhill and looping back towards Kettlewell I tried to find a bit of rhythm again but once we hit the section of road at around 11.5 miles I just couldn’t see how I could finish. I’ll admit to bursting into tears again, asking my husband if he was OK to carry on and said I was going to pull out at Kettlewell – about the 12 mile point. I think this is the first time I’ve seriously considered just stopping – I knew there was another hill before the finish, couldn’t see how I could make it over, I didn’t think I had anything left to give. But I was told to pull myself together and there was no way that he was letting me stop (tough love?!).
Just through Kettlewell and I went for a sip of water and realised that I’d run out as we were heading up the final hill (just after this husband ran out too). For someone who doesn’t normally drink lots whilst running I was very surprised that I’d had it all – shows how hot it was – I wished I’d taken some soft flasks as well as my bladder as they would have been easy to refill. This last hill was tough, another one where you’d think you were nearly at the top, to come round a stone wall and see more climbing ahead. Very much one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, try not to be sick.
I was so grateful to reach the top of the hill, I could see the finish and that was the point I believed that I was going to finish. Running downhill, across rough grass, my only thought was to stay upright. Through the finish and I knew I couldn’t talk – that would result in either tears or being ill – I managed to have a quick drink of water, get the van keys from my husband and headed back to the van. I opened the side door, pack off, threw the keys into the van and headed straight down to the river – where I sat in the water for at least 15 minutes. I just needed to cool down. Cold water over my head was perfect!
Still feeling sick, but knowing I needed something, tinned pineapple was just the thing to eat and I managed to get it together to go and talk to friends. The setting is fab, and we sat by the river chatting and making plans for quite a while until I felt more human again.
- Distance: 13.96 miles
- Time: 04:02
Would I do it again? No. Not unless I was much fitter and with regular hill running practice.
I was feeling quite despondent about the race until I spoke to others – everyone had struggled, everyone ran out of water – others had considered pulling out. That made me feel a bit better – that it was a really tough day and not just me being rubbish.
I love this area and will spend more time exploring here, but in a less intense way. On Sunday, despite our sore legs and blisters, we went out for a walk, taking in Buckden Pike, a stop at the pub in Starbotton, before coming back along the river to Buckden.
It was a fab weekend, one to put down to experience and I’m proud that I completed, but wow it was tough.