November saw me heading back to the Chilterns to take part in the three day 84mile (135km) Druids Challenge, this time with Wendy who had broken her ankle just before the event last year. This time we had opted for the luxury option and we stayed with Wendy’s friends in Wendover the first night and a hotel the second night, rather than the gym floor option I had taken last year! As well as being very much more comfortable, this also meant we could celebrate Wendy’s birthday in nice surroundings and with friends.
It was grey, damp and foggy as we were dropped off at the start of the run on Ivinghoe Beacon – I wasn’t feeling ready for this at all and by Wendover, just a few miles in I was feeling completely worn out, no energy in my legs and a niggle in my thigh that had been there since summer was really bothering me. Despite this I kept going, spirits lifted when Wendy’s friend appeared in Wendover to cheer us on. Towards the end of the run Wendy started getting cramp in her calf and despite trying various things to resolve it, eventually is seized and sent her flat to the floor, her head-torch hitting the ground and saving her face. Luckily, she was able to get moving again and eventually we made it to the finish where her husband met us and took us back to Wendover for a very welcome meal and rest.
Day two was long and hard for me and I was disappointed not to be enjoying it more than I was, it started raining as we climbed back up on to the ridge and the rain became torrential – Wendy reached the last checkpoint before me and I told her not to wait as it was now cold and wet, I would see her at the overnight base. As it turned out, I finished just three minutes behind Wendy, but as she finished a minibus was waiting to go to base, I had a very long wait for the next minibus and then a very very cold journey as the driver insisted on having the windows open despite us being soaked to the skin. At base we gathered our things and were very quickly taken to the overnight hotel… I opened my room door, dropped everything, took all my wet clothes off and stood under the hot shower for ages getting warmed through. It was certainly more luxurious than the leisure centre showers back at base!
The third day I again found tough, this time with 10 miles to go I asked Wendy to go on and I would see her at the end. I was struggling to keep running and so spent some sections doing ‘scouts pace’ just to keep moving faster than a walk. Again, at the finish I wasn’t many minutes behind Wendy and I was pleased to finish and sit down with a drink and sandwich! We had a shower and a photo at the finish before we got in the car and headed home. Surprisingly, despite struggling from the start, I completed each day faster than I had last year and I was very pleased to have kept going and made it to the end of the challenge.
Marianne Heading discovered winter endurance racing in 2007, while working as a volunteer for the Yukon Arctic Ultra. This experience inspired her to take up running and go back to the Yukon as a competitor. Since 2007 she has been back to the YAU multiple times, completing both the 100 and 300mile races, in 2011 she became the first European female to complete the 300mile YAU and in 2019 won the 300mile MYUA. Events are not a very regular feature, but other races include the Semi-Raid Reunion, Roveaneimi150, ITI350, Karwendelmarsch and closer to home the Four Inns, the Druids Challenge, Equinox24, run to the castle, Hardmoors55. Being outdoors and enjoying the countryside and wildlife are a higher priority than being fast... luckily! Training runs and walks are often prolonged by a break to watch wildlife and take in the surroundings!