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FIRST LADY! 🥇Lyme Park Half Marathon 2024 💚


🚨BREAKING NEWS!

‼️Call the BBC!

🔔Call CNN!

😱 YA GIRL WORE TRAIL SHOES!!!!

 

… I bring you this blog from ‘the other side.’

Nope, I’ve not died (although, after yesterday, I think my calves might have… 🥴).

By ‘the other side,’ I’m referring to the trail shoe tribe.

Guys – I’ve joined the club! I’m about 10 years and 12 injuries too late to the party, but I’ve finally arrived! I did it! I took the plunge! I was finally brave enough to trade my beloved road shoes in for a trail pair.

And you know what? It was actually fine. It was more than fine, actually. After years of resistance, I don't really know why I was so opposed to the idea.

Whenever anybody used to tell me that I needed trail shoes, I’d roll my eyes and scoff, dismissing these surely fictitious treads in the same way that one might throw shade at the Loch Ness Monster, or the devil. To me, trail shoes were the devil.

What did I need trail shoes for, anyway?! There was nothing my trusty New Balance roadies couldn’t withstand – no mountain high enough, no terrain treacherous enough.

Well, that was until last year’s Lyme Park Half Marathon, where I spent an embarrassing amount of time clinging desperately to the banks of White Nancy like a baby Orangutan, after my road shoes failed quite catastrophically. That was the moment I was forced to admit that perhaps trail shoes weren’t a myth after all…


I begrudgingly bought my first pair of trail shoes back in February, and I’ve refused point blank to wear them ever since. The Gritstone Grind Ultra is gaining on me quicker than I’d like, and I knew it was time to start breaking these bad boys in. And where better to give them a spin, then the very course that made me a [albeit very dubious] trail shoe convert just 12 months ago?

On Sunday 7th July 2024, I donned my trail shoes for the very first time, and headed to the Big Feat Lyme Park Half Marathon

Trail shoes feat. my Marple Runners socks 🥰


The Lyme Park Half Marathon had an 8am start, which really suited me as I do tend to run better in the morning.

Somehow, a 5am wakeup doesn’t feel so bad when you know that the countdown is on and in just three hours, you’ll be doing the thing you adore more than anything else in the entire world. ❤️🏃🏻‍♀️

My mum is lucky enough to live relatively local to Lyme Park, so I stayed at her house the night before the race.

I bloody love race day. I mean, when else is it acceptable to eat a hearty breakfast of potato cakes, Skittles, and a Yorkie bar at 5:30am?!

Big Feat is a brilliant company to run with, and their events have a striking personal feel about them.

Chris and Claire absolutely nail it: top notch organisation, the BEST medals in the business, and the most challenging yet stunning courses across the UK. The route was well sign-posted, the aid stations plentifully stocked, and the marshals were fabulous.


The Lyme Park Half Marathon is one of those races that you curse yourself for entering the whole way round, swear blind you’ll never run again… then find yourself feverishly signing up for the following year. 😅

There’s trail running… and then there’s whatever THAT was! The course had it all: walls, stiles, vertical hills, rocks, mud, rogue cows, oh, and cattle grids! 🥵 …. But I’d do it all again right this minute if I could. The sense of pride upon defeating that tough course was immense.

I’d say that this is an event for the more seasoned trail runner (which I am certainly NOT 🤣), and would recommend it to anyone seeking a very different type of challenge.


I didn’t really have any expectations for Sunday’s race. Last year, I ran it in 2 hours and finished 2nd female.  I’d have liked a sub-2-hour time, but wasn’t sure if the slippy conditions this year would allow for it. That’s the thing with trail running – you can never plan for a time, because anything can happen out there. From tree roots and cows, to slippery rocks and heavy gates, there are so many things that can hamper your pace.


The first couple of kilometres passed without ordeal, which surprised me, given the size of the horns on those Highland Cattle on the moors. 🥴

Of course, that first mile is utterly brutal and grants no mercy. My bloody God, the climb just didn't end! But, I got through it at a pleasingly even pace, and I actually felt stronger than I had done the previous year.

So far, so good. Everything was going well (apart from the weather, which Chris had seemed to curse by drawing attention to the sun during the pre-race brief! Is it even normal to regret not wearing gloves... In JULY?!).


Out on the course ❤️


At around 4k, I started to feel pretty ropey. ‘Women’s cramps’ flared up, and as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t run through it. This is nothing new for me, and if you’re a regular on my blog, you’ll know that I write about this topic a lot (soz, guys).  I do tend to suffer quite badly with this type of pain, and racing at certain points in my cycle can leave me in absolute agony. Unfortunately, this was one of those days, and I had to stop for a couple of minutes while the worst of the pain subsided.

 

It was at this point that I was reminded yet again just how incredible the running community is. When they saw me pulled over, countless runners checked to see if I was okay, and one absolute gentleman even offered me his jacket in-case I needed to walk back to the start.

The marshal I pulled up next to was an actual angel. She was literally Mary Poppins, offering to produce cordial and cereal bars from her bag to keep me going. I saw her again later on at a different marshalling point, where she put her thumbs up and asked how I was feeling. I wish I’d got her name to thank her - she was my hero!

 

It was a bit soul destroying to watch numerous runners pass me while I was pulled over, with the clocking ticking on, but I know my body, and I know how much I relish this distance, so I was confident that I’d be able to make up ground later on. Although, I was gutted at the thought that I’d missed the opportunity to beat last years’ time of 2 hours.

 

After my brief stop, I wasn’t taking any prisoners and worked hard to regain my position. I ran up all of the hills, which I was quite proud of, and I made the most of the flat sections by going hell for leather. (I say ‘hell for leather’ – anyone who’s ever had the displeasure of watching me run will probably confirm that I’m less Road Runner, and more unidentified stick insect, with my elbows jutting out at all angles, and my trademark Wednesday Addams plaits whipping about).


Around 4k in. I won’t ‘treat’ you all to the canal section pictures at 15k… 🤣 legit look like a drowned rat!! I think this is probably the last picture taken where I still have dignity, and my adult acne isn’t absolutely beaming across my chin 🤦🏻‍♀️🤣


The early downpour set the tone for the rest of the race, which made the going really quite perilous in parts.

To be fair, my trail shoes did their job and kept me upright, but I still struggled with that hideous vertical downhill section at White Nancy. I shuffled down sideways, gingerly edging out of the path of the men who boldly leapt down (teach me!).

I reckon I lost about 5 minutes dithering about, but at least it was an improvement on last year, when I spent more time on my backside than I did my feet.

I know I need to be more fearless when running downhill and not give in to the vertigo, but I just don’t trust the combination of my weedy breadstick legs and huge clown’s feet (seriously, it’s no wonder I fall over as often as I do – WHO looked at a petite 5 foot woman and thought, ‘ah yes, I know what she needs! Size 6 feet!’).

 

After miles of undulating terrain and evil hills, I was more than ready for the canal stretch.

This is actually where I overtook the First Lady, who won the event last year, and is an absolutely unreal runner! Incredibly, she’d led for the entire course, was absolutely smashing it, and still appeared fresh as anything. I, on the other hand, was not feeling fresh, and genuinely didn’t even know whether my calves were still attached to my body.

 

For me, the worst section of the race BY FAR was the last 2k, where the course snaked through the Lyme Park woods. I can’t work out if there was a gradual ascent, or if I was just hallucinating. My legs felt like pure lead.

As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, I don’t wear a watch, so I had no idea what finishing time I was on for. Given the fact that I’d stopped with stomach pains early on and had the fiasco of White Nancy to contend with, I imagined that I was going to finish in around 2 hours, 10 minutes.

I couldn’t have ever imagined the actual outcome… I completed the Lyme Park Half Marathon in 1:57, placing first lady, and 11th overall out of 271 runners. 🥇❤️

Another unbelievably gorgeous medal from Big Feat! 😍


To say that I’m gobsmacked (and utterly BUZZING!) would be an understatement. 3 whole minutes faster than last year!! I’ve no idea how I managed to claw back so much time after my stop. I’ve also no idea how I ran sub-2 hours in such testing conditions! Less than 15 runners completed the course in under 2 hours - and I was one of them! I still just cannot believe it?! 🤯


Not a day goes by that my body doesn’t surprise me with its capabilities. I’m eternally thankful that it gave me a second chance to love it after years of punishing it with anorexia.

I can’t get over the life that running has given me. It goes way beyond being ‘just a hobby.’ I don’t want to go off on an emotionally charged tangent, because I seem to do that in every blog when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the love I feel for running… But just WOW. What a sport. What a life. ❤️


Up on the moors during those first few kilometres, I watched the storm clouds break over the spiralling countryside down below. I felt at immense peace in the solitude, but at the same time, empowered by the fact that I was surrounded by strangers, united by our shared passion. There is such liberty to be found in running. These are the moments, the days, and the experiences that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

We see things they’ll never see’ – Oasis.

I believe this sentiment to be true for all runners; we really do have a different way of viewing the beauty of the world, attributable to the sport that makes it possible, time after time.

 

From the gent who cheerily waved us in from the main gates at 7am, the photographer who dedicatedly sat out in the pouring rain,

every single person involved in the Lyme Park Half Marathon made it so, so special.

I really do need to mention my fellow runners here. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of people to spend my Sunday morning with. From the lads who kept me laughing with banter along the way, to the lovely Irish gent who helped me decode one of the sign posts when I got confused on the canal, it was a real pleasure to experience the event with every single runner on that course.

While the scenery was breath-taking, and the result was obviously thrilling, it was the camaraderie and support that made this event for me. ❤️

Thank you also to my awesome Mum who was there to cheer me on at the end. She’s seen me a race a couple of times, but she’s never seen me win, so Sunday meant a lot to both of us.

My Mum had packed a rucksack of dry clothes and shoes for me to change into, and informed me that she’d bought me a box of French Fancies as a post-race snack.

I was just thinking what a total legend she is, when she – stood in front of about 10 other runners - decided to loudly add, “There’s even a spare pair of knickers in there for you." 🤣🤣🤣


Cara Jasmine Bradley


💚 Big Feat Events - Home - BigFeat Events


📸 Photography by the fantastically talented Geoff Quinn - About Geoff Quinn Sports Photography | Flickr

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