Absolutely ages ago myself, hubby and a few from the running club decided to take part in an open ended challenge run by the fabulous people at Saxons, Vikings & Normans Club. This club have a number of events throughout the year, mainly on the coast of Kent but pretty accessible to most in the south. Some challenges are completely marathon based but some are laps of about 3 or so miles and you can run as many as you want as long as you complete your run within a certain time limit. This means you can work up to any distance, for beginners you may want to just do 1 lap, some compete a half marathon distance, some a marathon and some crazy dudes want to go on and complete an ultra distance.
We chose the Black Hugin Challenge (found here) held in Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate. Pegwell Bay is famous for two reasons, firstly because of the nationally important Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve and secondly for the Viking Ship, The Hugin, that rests there in all its recently restored glory.
This event had a six hour time limit to run as many, or as few laps as we wished. It was timed and as long as you complete one lap, then you are an official finisher. It started at 5pm and would finish at 11pm meaning that some of the running would be in darkness and headtourches required.
We set off at 5pm and I felt calm as I made my way from he back of the pack. To me it was not a race it was a relaxed jaunt around a beautiful setting. Each lap/loop was 3.2 miles and I knew that if I wanted to make a half marathon distance I would need to get 4 laps under my belt, totally doable in the 6 hour time frame.
As you come back round to the start you get a lap card punched and this was the organisers way of noting your milage. At this point you could either start a new lap immediately, finish the challenge by ringing the bell and getting your medal and goody bag, have a rest and eat/something from the absolutely well stocked aid station, that had cakes, biscuits, sweets, nuts, chocolate, squash and water before heading out again and starting a new lap.
All the runners on the challenge plus the organisers were incredibly friendly everyone wishing those they past luck of gentle encouragement or cheers of well done. I felt right at home and wanted to also encourage those I passed, it soon became second nature to say hello or well done to those on route. The lap took us through the country park, past the sea, up a hill and past the actual Black Hugin looping back round past the Black Hugin again, down the same hill we had gone up earlier part through the park again and back to the start. A small group of runners that included myself got lost on the first lap, we missed an arrow that should have put us on the path back past the Black Hugin for the second part of the loop, as a result added about half a mile onto the first loop.
Once the sun set it became very dark in places with no light from the moon, I was grateful for my head torch. Seeing the other runners with their head torches, glow sticks and flashing lights made it look quite festive at times.
There was some rain but considering we were prepared with waterproof jackets that we grabbed on the second lap it wasn’t a worry and after the weeks of heat it was actually lovely running in the soft rain.
During my third lap my legs felt heavy, I wanted to plough on so I walked some jogged some. Hamstrings getting tighter towards the end. The start of the fourth lap through the park felt never ending, by this time my little group was walking more than running, spirits were high despite the tiredness, I knew that if I completed it then I would have done what I had set out to do earlier in the evening. As we rounded the final bend we went from walking to a light job, finishing strong. Ringing that bell felt so good, as did the medal as it was placed around my neck. I was given my goody bag and I shuffled off to a bench, oh boy I needed that sit down.
We picked over the contents of a rather nice goody bag, one of the best I have ever had, never had cider in a goody bag and the chocolate was very welcome.
However after allowing myself a small treat from he goody bag I have donated the remains to hubby as he completed an ultra during this event and needed to fuel up!
The medal was also one of the best I have received, fitting for marking my first (unofficial) half marathon.
Positives from this event:
- The relaxed, friendly atmosphere no pressure to go out there and bomb round but encouraging enough so you are able to meet your target.
- The medal
- The goody bag
- Timing, it meant running in daylight and night adding a different dimension to a run.
- The aid station.
- Parking was available and well organised from start to finish.
- Great countryside location, but the run was on paths.
- Distance from home, it was a good 90 minute drive there, not a problem but 90 minutes drive back was hard after running and that time of night. I would love to see more events up my way. Or maybe I will just have to book a hotel next time!
I would totally recommend these events and in fact as I type I am already thinking about booking the next one. For more information or if you fancy this yourself click here. If you want to know more about the Hugin or Pegwell Bay itself clicking here will take you to some links.