In the words of Buddy the Elf: I’M IN LOVE! I’M IN LOVE, AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS IT! 🤣
I am taking this opportunity to make a public announcement. I’m ‘coming out’ … As a trail runner.
I NEVER thought I would utter the above sentence; literally never. I have always been fiercely loyal to road running and to be honest, trail running never really appealed to me. I have skinny, spindly legs that one might usually associate with a tiny baby bird – suffice to say that I am not built for leaping over sticks and launching myself up and down dirt tracks!
BUT, having said that, I am a complete sucker for a race, and it’s very rare these days that I turn down any event that comes my way…
On Sunday 19th June 2022, I took the plunge and took part in my first ever trail run: the Marple Runners 10k. And guess what? It was my favourite event… EVER.
Seriously – I am a complete convert!
The week leading up to the event was a bit rubbish.
I’ve been smitten with the sunny evenings and have had intense cravings to go out and run pretty much every night after work. I am pleased to report that this was genuinely down to me enjoying my running so much, and not attributable to anorexia forcing me out, however my lust did backfire. In eight days, I ran two half-marathons, two 15ks and two 10ks, which perhaps quite inevitably resulted in an injury. The entirety of the bottom half of my outside left leg and ankle bone felt bruised and tender to the touch. Walking was painful, and running was even worse.
Very begrudgingly, I took a week off running.
Rockin' the sexy calf compression...
Anorexia was on the prowl, guzzling up my unease and using it to charge its batteries.
Over the past year, running has become my ultimate tool against anorexia, so I always feel extremely anxious when I can’t do it for whatever reason.
My anorexia-based anxiety grew in momentum as the run-less days passed, but I knew I needed to persevere.
I tried to focus on rehabilitating myself so that I could lace up my running shoes again ASAP. I foam-rolled to within an inch of my life, took daily Epsom salt baths, ordered a new calf compression, and used a combination of heat pads and ice.
On Saturday – the day before the trail run – I missed ParkRun and felt so low and irritable.
It’s amazing how much running alters my mood. I firmly believe running to be the cure for all of life’s disdain. My overall outlook has changed considerably since running saved me 12 months ago. With running lighting up my life, I am so much more relaxed and positive nowadays.
My withdrawal symptoms from running were intense, and my mood plummeted.
I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to run at the event on Sunday. Deep down, I knew it probably wasn’t a good idea… But I’m a runner, and we’re not very good at, well, not running, are we?
I get running FOMO! I NEED to run!
It didn’t exactly fill me with confidence when I received an email from the race director just hours before the event that stated: If you have been ill or injured recently, this is not a course to test yourself on…
I mean, at that point, common sense should probably have prevailed and I should have de-registered myself from the event with my legs still just about intact.
Obviously, I didn’t de-register – I simply set my alarm half an hour earlier and dedicated 6am on Sunday morning to foam-rolling the absolute MUFFINS out of my calf.
And it seemed to work. Luck was on my side – as if by magic, the pain dissipated and I went on to have one of the best runs of my life!
Well, it wasn’t a record breaker, but I hadn’t expected it to be. I just bloody loved it and enjoyed every single second of this new discipline!
Having never run trail before, I had zero expectations, especially when it came to time.
My 10k PB on the flat is 40:24, but I knew I wouldn’t even touch that time. I reasoned with myself that – given my recent injury and the new terrain – I’d take anything under one hour.
I ended up finishing with a chip time of 46:19 – 6th out of 110 females.
The course was tough and boasted a combination of steps, slopes, gates, vertical hill climbs, and pretty much every terrain under the sun. The more challenging aspects of the course were broken up with welcome stretches of canal. It was a divine mix that really challenged me and kept me on my toes – quite literally during some parts!
The thing that I relished the most about trail running was how much it strengthened the relationship that I have with my body. It encouraged us to work together as we dodged wayward tree routes and sashayed down steep steps. My mind and body were forced to work alongside one another, rather than anorexia polluting my mind and bullying my body, pushing it to ungodly limits.
The event was impeccably organised – definitely the most seamless race I have ever had the privilege of attending. Everything from the wonderfully informative pre-event emails, right up to Dennis the Menace handing out the goodie bags at the end was just done to absolute perfection. It was obvious how much work had gone into organising the event, with every single little detail tended to. I think you can always tell when an event has been planned with passion and a shared love of running, and this was definitely one of those precious events. The Marshalls were brilliant.
The event was the first my Mum had ever been to watch, and given the fab family atmosphere, it was a perfect one for her to experience. She said even she got caught up in the finish line excitement… And she was pretty star-struck by Dennis the Menace, too! 😁🥰
And I have to say – Marple Runners deffo take the prize for the COOLEST goodie bags in history!! Give me a copy of the Beano over an out-of-date protein bar ANY day!
I thought the route was absolutely breath-taking in its shy beauty. The serene maze of canals sat demurely between explosive roars of stunning greenery, and an umbrella of trees whispered overhead.
In that moment, as I was finally reunited with my beloved sport after a week of pain, there was nowhere else in the world I would have rather been. ❤️
Cara Jasmine Bradley