We set off under blue skies and the drive was exceptionally pretty. These were the views that greeted us as we entered Northumbria:
As it turned out, there was no risk of setting off too fast as I'd started at the back and the trail was quite crowded. As we turned a corner about a kilometre in, I realised that I was actually quite near the back of the field - there were probably only 50 people behind me. I found this slightly alarming but tried to stick to my pace, figuring it would pay off later.
As the sun set further, every corner treated us to more pretty views:
The other time I consistently overtook people when I was running the downhills. I'm fearless at running fast downhill because I've never had knee issues, I think a lot of runners are more cautious. I was wearing trail shoes with really good grip so I wasn't afraid of skidding, even when I couldn't see where I was going.
LED Lenser MH10. I kept it on low beam when behind a group of runners, then turned it onto full as I overtook and it was like a new dawn! Several other runners commented on it - definitely the most useful bit of kit I had today. The stars were incredible, though it was difficult to properly appreciate them whilst running and even more difficult to photograph them with my phone...
After the 30k point, there were some sections where I was running through thick forest and couldn't see either the runners ahead of me or behind me. I was completely alone, in the cold and pitch black, in the middle of a forest. I won't lie, I was a bit scared, and that definitely spurred me on to pick up the pace a bit! I felt really strong around the 37km mark and overtook loads of people towards the end, including some on the last uphill towards the finish line.
According to Garmin I did the first 21 km in 2:22 and the second 21 km in 2:29 - still not quite negative splits but a hell of a lot closer. Only a 7 minute difference - really not bad especially considering the terrain - there was 2200 feet of ascent.
Compare that with Milton Keynes, where I did the first 16km in 1:33 and the second 16km in 1:42, an 11 minute difference over a considerably shorter, flatter distance).
Thankfully, I'd decided to book food in advance so straight after these pictures at around 11pm I tucked into veggie chilli and rice before the freezing walk back to the car and the pub where we were staying. There was no time to stand around appreciating the beautiful stars as it was bitterly cold. When I checked the results the next day, I'd finished 146th out of 285 finishers, so about halfway through the field, despite my slow start. Not bad! And not a bad medal either :)