It’s 5am; Pete Tong is laying down the beats and we are chilling in our seats, with the lights down.
This could have been an average Friday night/ Saturday morning during my twenties, as a night on the town was nearing its end, but instead, it was this weekend and 5am was the beginning of our party.
For Teams Shite Runners 1, Shite Runners Number 2 and Shite Runners 3 were chilling (literally) in a minibus heading towards Jedburgh for the inaugural Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon Relay.
The clue is probably in our team names, but the majority of us are social runners and although several of us have ran a marathon (have I ever mentioned this??!!), for all but one, an ultramarathon is on our to do (or never to do) list.
The relay is the perfect way to sample the atmosphere of an Ultramarathon. It’s also a great way to get an Ultramarathon medal and t-shirt without having to complete the gruelling 38 miles of the Jedburgh Three Peaks.
That’s not to say the relay legs were easy. With three peaks (again, the clue is in the name) to climb, woods and muddy trails to navigate (wrongly, but we’ll come back to that later) and the title of the Best Shite Runners to claim, this was going to be a tough run.
On paper, Team 1 were possibly the favourites. Not only because they had Mr Stuart Ainslie, our token ultramarathoner, in their team, but also having within their ranks some international class in the shape of Dimitris and Joseph. But we had a plan to scuttle their chances……mhuahahaha!!
For my team’s vice captain, and one of three Hoka Highland Fling relay veterans in our team, had planted his wife, Sarah, in Stuart’s team. Poor Sarah was due to run the 2nd seven mile leg, but on the morning of the race, after a pretty horrid night, she announced that her cold had ruled her out. Stuart, being both a good guy and a legend, agreed to run her leg and then his leg, consecutively. Even with his experience and training, I don’t think he was envisaging a 7 mile warm up to his climb up the Eildon Peaks.
Despite Kirsty’s heroics in leg one (it was pissing with rain) and Andy’s magnificent seven mile leg two, Team Shite Runners 1 had a 15 minute advantage at the handover (or keep goinger, for Stuart). So, imagine our surprise and delight as our Nick came storming home ahead of Stuart at the final exchange of baton, otherwise known as a rubber wristband, and set me on the final leg.
And I played a blinder. Well, sort of.
Some might see my slow shuffling as a weakness. however my steady gait helped me to avoid a speedy slip into the mire that made the Jedburgh course one of the most challenging I have ever faced. Although the sun had made a late appearance for my leg, it had rained for much of the day and by the time I was running the final 10 miles, the route was thick with mud. A route advertised as flat, but which had a few uppies and doonies for me to walk up (if it’s good enough for ultra runners….).
I am not sure how much running the 18 miles had hindered Stuart, but Joseph overtook me around mile 5 and after a pleasant exchange, he left me for dust or should that be mud? I settled into an even slower pace and enjoyed the route and the scenery. I had fun running over a wobbly bridge and made some friendly chat with a few runners (overtaking me).
My lack of proper training and proper shoes (note to self and everyone else, for that matter: Hi-Tec are not recognised as trail shoes manufacturers for a reason) made the last two miles along the streets of Jedburgh slightly uncomfortable.
That was until I rounded the corner and saw the finish line approaching. I pressed ahead and was literally lifted off of my feet by the cheers of the crowd and fellow runners. I am not sure if it was because I was a Shite Runner giving it my all or if this was simply an illustration of the famed friendliness of the ultra community, but I have honestly never experienced such an noise. I crossed the finishing line feeling like I had I won.
And in some twist of fate, I almost had.
The route was well marshalled and well marked and the instructions clearly stated that we should keep going unless instructed. That didn’t prevent some of us taking wrong turns and needing to be ushered around by friendly dog walkers or closed gates. Thankfully my own detour lasted all of about one minute of running, before I was set again on the right path.
However, at the finish line, I learned that some had not been so fortunate. Joseph had gotten so far ahead of me that I hadn’t noticed him (honest!) taking a wrong turn along with the other runner who had overtaken me only minutes before.
Joseph ended up running 13 miles and ended up in the losing team, finishing behind me, who also ended up on the losing team. We had forgotten about Shite Runners 3. Sharon, Rachael, Jen and token lad Chris had proven that these girls can and had steamed ahead to the top of the pile of Shite Runners. They hadn’t been a runner down, they hadn’t got lost and they all had ran their hearts out, gaining valuable time at each and every leg.
They thoroughly deserved to be crowned the Best of Shite Runners.
And our day hadn’t ended. With Sharon’s partner, Michael at the helm (huge thanks to him for driving us and putting up with us) we made stops at an off-licence and Krispy Kremes. We celebrated our first jaunt to Jedburgh in the way only shite runners can. With donuts, beer and rum.
Huge thanks to the volunteers and organisers of the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon; to Dimitris for pictures and to all of my fellow shite runners for making this day anything but shite.
And who knows, maybe next year I’ll look to see howmanymiles I can run.