The Broadway Marathon offers runners the opportunity to challenge themselves and each other amid the stunning scenery of the northern Cotswolds. Starting and finishing in the scenic Broadway village, the route follows trails and roads among picturesque villages, woodlands, and (most importantly) hills - total ascent 2800feet. The majority of the course is trail or unpaved track, including some challenging sections of the Cotswold Way; a few minor road sections are included to link the trails. The route is marked with marshals at a few key points along the way, making this an ideal first ultra-marathon.
I was hoping to hold 10min/mile for the race (my target pace for the A2A run) which would give me a finishing time of 4hrs 33mins for the 27.5miles. I was pretty confident that I could maintain that pace for 21 miles as I’d managed it comfortably in a couple of my long training sessions (I’d done two 3.5 hour runs as my longest preparation runs). I was trying not to get too competitive as I didn’t really feel in my heart of hearts that I had done as much mileage as I should have in preparation, and also it was my first attempt at anything over marathon distance on such challenging terrain. However, the competitive animal inside me could not resist ‘anoraking’ the 2013 results and I saw that Sheila Barbour from Evesham Vale RC (who had placed a very close 2nd in 2013 in 4:21) was perhaps the lady to beat! I was therefore really pleased to find that I was running just behind her when I reached the top of the first big climb up to Broadway Tower. About an hour and a half or so in to the race I was starting to feel a bit fatigued and had dropped back off Shelia’s pace as we climbed up the road out of Snowshill. I checked my Garmin and noticed that I had not really been paying much attention to my pace and has started much faster than the intended 10min/mile pace. I decided not to worry too much and just pushed on (I was keen to try and hold on to 2nd place). ‘Embrace the discomfort’ I told myself, ‘nothing worth achieving comes easy!’
I’d not been running for much more that another 30minutes or so when I took a wrong turn at a gate and ran across a field in the wrong direction. It was only an error of about 500m as I realised my mistake when I reached the gate at the other side of the field and there was no direction arrow to follow. However, by the time I had turned back and got to the gate where I made my mistake there was another lady in the field just ahead. I got really cross with myself for making this mistake and losing another place and this is there I made another error. Instead of trying to lock on to this runner and use her to help me push on I let my head go down and, as I was trudging across a uneven field feeling grumpy, she disappeared into the distance! Fortunately, not long after that I came across Paul at a gate and he gave me lots of encouragement and cheered me on, really lifting my spirits. However, the final really big hill of the route (out of Winchcombe) had really taken it out of me and I succumbed to walking through feed stations (and a bit past them too!) and my target pace had gone well out of the window! I lost a couple more places too and it seemed like a long slog (through a fair bit of mud) until I finally made it back to Broadway. The last off-road section was uphill through a field and I could see Ollie and Paul at the top cheering me towards them. It was all I could do to run up this last hill and they were both laughing at my bandy-legged, stiff running technique. My hip flexors had completely gone and for some reason there was no way I could run with my knees together; Paul even commented that it looked like I was running wearing a massive nappy!
So, first ultra completed in 4:41.17 and 5th lady. A bit slower and further down the field than I would have liked but lots of lessons learnt – the main one regarding pacing and going off too fast at the start. Congratulations to Sheila Barbour who held on to the lead and finished in 4:07.48 knocking a massive 14 minutes off her previous time! Thank you to Cotswold Running for putting on a fantastic event and I would thoroughly recommend this race – follow this link to their website to check out their other events. I’m already planning to go back to try this race again next year – but next time with a bit more knowledge and experience under my belt!