Kielder Marathon

Kielder marathon has been on my bucket list for some time. Whilst I am aware there are several Kielder marathon the one I wanted to do was the Dark skies marathon organised by Trail outlaws, and the reason is because it is run all at night.

I had booked and paid for [before anyone asks] a cottage for the weekend. Letterbox cottage and it was simply perfect. Our host was amazing leaving us a hamper of treats for when we arrived and nothing was too much trouble. The cottage was 20 minutes from the race start so a perfect base for the kids, my Mum and I. 

The cottage itself was just lovely. It looked small on the outside but there was so much space inside. The girls didn't want to leave and I got total bathroom envy. 

Everything was clean and modern and felt very cosy. The kitchen was well stocked with all the modern cooking equipment you could need. All that was missing was food and to be honest we were provided with a lovely welcome basket that we didn't need to buy all that much. 

We chose not to fetch the dog but we could have as it was dog friendly. There are three bedrooms all doubles and a great sitting area with dining table. A small outdoor space and parking at the front.

One of the bedrooms was upstairs in the attic of the cottage and I will confess to hitting my head on the beams a few times and getting mad with myself every time I did. 

I had booked for us to stay for a long weekend. We had arrived late on Friday as had driven straight from school. Saturday morning we were up early and ready to explore. I was unsure with what to do for the best. My marathon started at 5.30pm. I had never run a race through the night before and therefore had no idea how best to prepare before hand or what fuel strategy I should use.

We decided to just have a steady family day so went to explore more of Kielder part itself. The area is just beautiful and it gave me some idea of what I would be running on later. We found a maze which all three children loved running round.

There was just so much to explore outside. The girls found mouse

Then as we ventured even further along the beautiful trails we stumbled upon the Gruffalo himself!

Maybe not the best prep before a marathon walking several miles with the kids but we all had lots of fun exploring the grounds and I was starting to look forward to the marathon even more now I had seen the terrain. 

I took the kids and my Mum back to the cottage and had dinner with them before heading back out to the start of the race. The car park was full so I had to park in the overflow a good few miles away but thankfully there was a free shuttle bus. Myself and several other runners huddled together under the shelter from the rain as we waited for the bus to arrive.

The start of the race was in the scout camp. It appeared for quite some time that there were not many runners. I stood and chatted to a lady I had met on the bus and we passed those nervous minutes before the start. I was still unsure what to expect and how to plan for this run. I instead opted to just enjoy it. I started with my coat on and my head torch so as to not have to find them later on when it got cold. I was glad I made that decision.

The race started and after a small loop around the start area, which was rather hilly we were off into the forest itself. The terrain was all shingle paths apart from one very wobbly bridge that swayed whenever someone ran on it! The terrain undulating, and it was great to watch how the majority of runners were opting to walk the hills and run everything else. I could see why, some of those hills were quite tough.

The night started to draw in and it seemed especially dark with the lack of town lights and high trees. There was no light pollution and just after the 6 mile mark darkness had truly set in.

I was still passing runners by this point and so even though it was black I could still see thanks to the large amount of runners around me and their head torches. Soon though I was on my own and following the florescent flags that marked the course. I watched the headlights bob up and down on the other side of the lake and it looked really pretty. There was pure silence except for the odd occasional runner slowly catching you up. You would hear their breath and their footsteps behind you. It would appear when you run in the dark your hearing increases.

One of the hardest things about this run was not been able to judge the effort needed. Normally when you can see the top of a hill or downhill you know how much work is needed and just how much you can push yourself. When you can't see this it all becomes a guessing game and sometimes you get it wrong.

The race also heightens all the other senses. As you can't see your mind starts playing tricks on you. You begin to wonder what it was you heard in the distance. The fatigue from a marathon aids to this mental game and it really does become a battle of wills with yourself.

The route had well stocked checkpoints and in my mind I had broken the route up to go from checkpoint to checkpoint. It became easier to cope with mentally as well as the distance was much shorter. For the first 16 miles I was absolutely fine and really enjoying the route. At the dam checkpoint I made the mistake of drinking, or rather taking a sip or some fizzy pop. I don't drink this usually but always crave it during a marathon. The fizzy pop really upset my stomach and around mile 18 I started to feel really ill. I had bumped into a fellow runner and we chatted up until the final checkpoint at mile 25. It passed the time and took my mind away from the pain.

The final section seemed to last forever. I passed the 26 mile point and I still had ages to go. In the distance I saw some fairy lights and some volunteers cheering rather loudly. I was at the bottom of the drive where the bus had dropped me off earlier. All I had to do now was run up the hill to the finish.

The final section leads you up the drive and round into the scout camp. You finish by running into the hall itself where your chip is scanned. The chip is on a wrist band and mine had got tangled in my coat. My hands were so cold I could not remove it to be scanned and it took a good few minutes to locate it. My finish time was just under 6 hours, on the official results it was just over 6. 

I felt really shaky and sick. I walked my way back down the drive and past the runners finishing. I was holding a plastic cup which I have no idea where I got that from and just stood in the bus queue. The bus hadn't arrived yet so I took the opportunity to take my mind off the tiredness and talk to another runner. The bus arrived and it was time to head back to the cottage.

My legs wouldn't settle that night, I simply couldn't sleep. It was such an amazing experience though and one I would love to repeat. Next time though I would be tempted to go for the triple! At least in the future I know a little more about how to prepare for a run through the night!

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