Chichester Challenge

10th July 2011, a Sunday morning, 06:10, I beat the alarm clock by ten minutes.

We were staying at the old man’s so were at least in Sussex to begin with. Got my shit together, had the little ladies’ clothes laid out, reluctantly woke them from their sleep but they seemed happy enough to be up and at’em and about to head out on our adventure. An hour’s drive south and we arrived in Lavant near Chichester.

Soon after the beginning of this year, after I’d got back into running, Frankie would ask to join me on my long runs. So with Alex too, we started doing the parkruns (an organisation I can’t speak highly enough about) together. We were obviously slower than me on me tod but it was extra exercise, an opportunity to let Kate have a small lie in of a Saturday morning and good to involve them, getting them to see what running was all about. When I then did the Brighton Marathon in April, Frankie asked when she could do a marathon too. She was outgrowing her pram so we didn’t really have an option, if we were going to do it, we best get on with it. I told a few people that I’d be doing this. Why do I do that? So that I’m then less inclined to back out on the quiet.

So just after 9am on that sunny day we trundled off across the fields around Chichester. Within 5 minutes, we were lost. A herd of about 50 of us realised we were heading in the wrong direction (actually I didn’t have a clue and would have quite happily just carried on meandering regardless). Collectively turned around, stumbled around a cowpat laden field then repicked up the path. Even at that stage I was already thinking that just one extra metre more than was required was not welcome, let alone 5 minutes’ aimless wanderings in some shitty field. Back on track again we were then cramped between a fence and the edge of some impenetrable field as the human traffic made its way at the pace of the slowest man (or woman’s). Once the paths opened up a little we got into a steady pace and were properly away.

Naturally I was pushing the old Phil&Teds Classic – surely a firm favourite amongst marathon-pushing-fathers (or -mothers). In the stowage area of the pram we had crammed in: about 4 litres of Ribena, a couple of bottles of milk, Fruit Shoots and water; ham sandwiches, flapjacks, chocolate crispy cakes, a pram rain cover; 3 coats; 2 jumpers and a puncture repair kit. Most of that was gone by the time we made it round.

Running through the woods, over roots, fallen logs, brambles, nettles, mud, puddles (“muddle puddles”), flint stones, I realised fairly quickly that I’d bitten off a lot to chew. I had emailed the organiser before booking our entrance to confirm whether we are even allowed to enter in our chosen format. ‘Doug’ replied trying his best to deter us but said it was up to me but he was unable even to give us the route to peruse as lots of the course was on farmers’ land that they didn’t want people practising on before the event.

There were 5 checkpoints to go via.  It’s always nice to have some lights along the way towards the end of the tunnel. Somewhere between the 1st and the 2nd, I decided that it was acceptable (soft?) to only run on the flats and downhills and we would walk the uphills. We were constantly overtaking then re-overtaking a friendly bunch of 3 middle-aged runners who also very kindly helped us with the 2 or 3 stiles that sprung up when we least wanted them to (i.e. during the race). I shouldn’t mark them out as friendly in particular as everyone we encountered was great – much camaraderie going on all day long. Which is one of the things I love about entering races – it’s not really competing against them, well not at my level it isn’t. It’s competing against yourself whilst encouraging your fellow runners to keep digging deep too.

Both ladies were perfect throughout. For me, trying to hold a conversation about absolute bollocks with a 1 and 3 year old whilst you sweating your socks off, can’t really hear what they’re saying and are generally feeling quite puffed is a ninja test I won’t forget quickly. By around 1pm Frankie was the person initiating the countryside ‘hellos’ to walkers coming our way. They did me proud as ever. Alex didn’t get out of her seat for the full 6 hours, 21 minutes and 30 seconds. Anybody else would object to that. She’s a good girl that one. And heading up 2 rather severe hills I have to admit to asking (telling?) Frankie to get out of the pram and walk up. She’s a good girl that one. How lucky I am to have my girls. What a great day out.running girlsA couple of weeks after the run, when Kate next needed to use the pram, she asked me why I did nothing to fix the sheered front tyre and puncture. Eh? I wonder how long that had slowed us down for?

My perfect girls

And here I’ll make a prediction: One day these girls will run their own marathon.









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