One week of work in UK seems always as a chance to get another marathon, and I found the Mega Challenge as the most suitable race. To be held in King´s Wood Park, between Ashord and Wye, in Kent, in the southwestern coast of England, is a multi-distance event. The time limit is 6 hours and is run on a 4.37-mile loop. A marathon will require 6 laps, with the medal offered to everyone running more than a half marathon (or 3 laps). Registration was priced at £39.95, with £5 going to the Park.
I decided to book accommodation in the small village of Wye. The morning appears cloudy, and the forecast is not promising, with rain expected as the storm Freya arrives to the area from midday accompanied of strong winds. A cab in the morning gets me to the start area, the parking lot of King´s Wood, after picking my running partner from her hotel.
With 30 minutes to the start, there is really nothing to do around. Besides the parking lot, two portable toilets and the tent where organisers are covered, there is no much in the sense of facilities. I get changed between some trees, avoiding the mud covering the grounds. With no tent for keeping runners’ stuff dry, we keep our backpacks, inside a rubbish bag, under the organisers tent. Probably we were the only two participants lacking a car. A small table is facilitated to allocate participants supplies.
Around 50 runners get a 9 am start. Temperature is not bad, despite the cloudy and light rain, and I go uniquely for long-sleeve t-shirt, shorts and my trail running shoes. Rapidly I found that the selection of shoes was the most appropriate, as a heavily muddy section welcomes us just from the start area.
Soon I realise that people are taking the run easily, as I keep the front runner in sight well into the first lap. The course is muddy in some areas, and the woods are always present, sometimes on a side of the path, and others we run through them. Course doesn´t feel boring, as flat sections intercalate with undulating ones, and two uphill slopes breaking the pace. With difficulty to know exactly who is running what distance, I found myself in the top 5 as we finish the first lap.
I get my lap-counting card punched and sip my drink (testing Maurten 320 Drink mix in racing conditions), before heading rapidly back to the course. Temperature keeps constant while rain appears occasionally, as laps keep adding and I start lapping slower runners. Finishing lap 4, that somehow seemed harder, the runner in front of me finish his race after 17 miles. With only two laps to go, and feeling well, it is time for a final push.
Without more energy drink, but all my gels, if there is a day to achieve something it must be today. Trying to avoid a fall, as terrain has become even muddier with every lap, I am in nobody´s ground, with no notion of where the next runner in front of me is, or the nearest behind me. I reach the marathon distance in 4.21.33, and although temptation to add another lap and go for the 50k came to my mind, I touch the bell marking the end of my attempt.
Luckily for me, a right decision, as I am third in finishing the marathon. A podium position without trophy, totally unusual for me. The medal and a bag with chocolates are a good reward. Because of the cold and the lack of any facility to get covered and wait for my friend (she was doing the 50k), I start walking towards Wye to get the suitcase I left at my hotel in the morning.
A good 3 miles walk, downhill, with beautiful views of the Kent countryside, and a good chance to stretch my legs, as cabs were unavailable from the parking lot.
UK marathon number 30, for a 75 overall.
Pros: trail course in a forest area; variable distances offering runners of different levels an objective to achieve in the 6 hours limit.
Cons: start area difficult to reach without a car; instead of two portable toilets, being the race in the middle of the forest, a tent could be more useful to protect the runners kit from weather conditions.