The Big Weekend …………………
Since finding out that I had an entry to the 2011 Marathon Des Sable I have been training hard, running in various Ultrathons and attending the odd desert racing Seminar to gain an insight into it all.During these events I have been fortunate enough to meet a few of the other UK entrants this year , Big Gav from Edinburgh , Dave from Gateshead and Marti from Glasgow.I decided that we should all get together for a hard weekend of training before the main event , a chance to really test ourselves and to gel as friends before we are thrown together in a Berber tent then kicked out into the Sahara …We agreed to set it here in the Scottish Borders , easily accessible for all and with great potential for long hill runs , beautiful scenery and dry weather … A nice settled gap in the weather appeared, so Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th of January 2011 was to be the” Borders Ultra” big weekend …..
Marti arrived on Friday night , he was travelling from Glasgow so thought it best to come down early , I had met Marti during the Andrew Murray” S2S” Scottish Ultra , a race over a section of the West Highland way where we both had an amazing time , we had a bite to eat , a few laughs and he grabbed a bed and made himself comfortable for the night .Dave and Gav arrived early on Saturday Morning , both looking fit and ready for the off , Gav is an Ironman so I thought he may be the dark horse and I wasn’t wrong , this guy is super fit and very strong .. Dave and I had met up previously and ran Kielder Marathon route together so I already knew he was a strong runner , this was going to be a tough weekend , especially as I had already clocked over 60 miles during the week , I sneaked friday as a rest day though just to help me a little.Our aim was to complete back to back 30+ mile runs on both Saturday and Sunday with well over 5000 feet of climbing … this would be tough going , certainly a test of our endurance and hopefully get to know each other better over the weeekend.
We set off from my cottage at 10 am , crossing the tops of both Minto Hills where I met Judy Allot ,treasurer of the MS Society Borders branch out walking , it was an amazing coincidence as that is the charity that I am trying to support , we all said hello and headed down to Fatlips plateau , we paused briefly at the castle to enjoy the beautiful view http://zoom.it/fgm before heading over the hills to Ancrum , Peniel then Timpendean where we climbed steeply to the skyline and ran the Justice Trail to Jedburgh Golf Course , heading up the the top of the Dunion Quarry and on to Bedrule before climbing steeply to the Summit of Ruberslaw , an extinct Volcano overlooking Hawick and the surrounding area , the lads were treated to a beautiful view with a red sky in the horizon , we shared the view with fellow mountain lover Stuart Williams who had summited at the same time with his beautiful baby daughter, we ran from the summit and descended all the way to Denholm before heading back to Horsley Hill , we all fell into my cottage cold and hungry to the smell of my mothers home made vegetable soup “Big Pats Broth” , she had brought a huge pot of it along to my house when we were out and left it with a dozen rolls …. mother we salute you !!!!
Unfortunately Gav had to head home on Saturday night for his mother in laws birthday party ,we said goodbye and promised to meet up soon for another , the rest of us showered and settled in for the night , we chilled out to Pizza and DVDs , I willl save sleeping on the ground for the Sahara thanks !!
On Sunday morning Marti had to pull out , his feet were too badly messed up to consider going any further , so Dave and I headed off on “The Big One” … This ran from my cottage at Horsley hill over the fields to the infamous Joogly bridge where we crossed then followed the road up Haysike , a hill that just keeps climbing and really tested our legs , from here we ran over to Acreknowe through the forest and over the hill to Stobs Camp , an old refugee camp during the second world war now used for moto rally’s , then a big calf burning push up and we were at the Penchrise Summit , the view from here is fantastic , 360 degrees of the Borders best.
From here we ran over the hills towards the Maidens Paps and down through the forest trails , I had been here before on my mountain bike but there’s something about running that makes you really connect with your environment , I was having a spiritual experience feeling euphoric and light as I ran effortlessly down the trail, maybe it was the amount of miles I had ran ,maybe it was the endorphins after more than 4 hours of constant running but something was happening as I was giggling and laughing to myself for no apparent reason.
Eventually we left the forest and ran out under Shankend Viaduct , this was coincidentally our exact 30 mile point , hitting the road was tough after all those cross country miles , it felt very hard and I painfully felt every footstep , we ran on past Earlside and down Cogsmill and through Stobs until we eventually we were finished …. we had done it and done it well …..35 hard miles , We shook hands Dave and I , what an amazing day we had both had , we promised to do it again soon and he headed back to Newcastle with tired legs , sore feet and a huge grin from ear to ear .
So in a 7 day period I had ran over 125 miles , finished my week with two 30+ mile cross country runs and finished strong and uninjured , the realisation that I am now almost ready for my task ahead and that my hard work has paid off is slowly sinking in and although there has been a few moments recently where giving up has seemed the sensible thing to do I have stayed strong and hopefully all my hard work will be repaid when I step out to do battle in the Sahara …..