The Malvern Hills Ultra was my second trail race, having come from a background of road running. I’m used to racing in endurance events but have never run over such a long distance and over varying terrain. I had really looked forward to the challenge, while at the same time having the opportunity to take in some stunning views over the Malvern range and local countryside.
I started the race in good company and the chat certainly helped take my mind off the awful weather. The cold and rain is perhaps not the best way to start a race like this as it doesn’t fill you with a very positive attitude. The pace from the start was quite fast and I wondered whether or not I should contain myself before I reached the Malvern Hills, but I was enjoying myself, so after the first checkpoint at Diglis I decided to press on and get as many quick miles in as I could because I would inevitably tire later anyway!
The marshals at all checkpoints were extremely welcoming and I struggled to tear myself away from their hospitality. The food provided was tasty and provided a welcome change from the sticky gels I’d been consuming.
After around three hours of running I finally started closing on the Malvern Hills. My plan was to drive uphill in a staggered run/walk for as long as possible and just about managed to get through in one piece although my knees were starting to get quite sore. The pain of climbing however was compensated for by the views along the peaks and the fast descents. Thankfully the weather was a lot more forgiving at this point with some bright skies, although I was starting to get a little dehydrated. I’d been easily getting through two bottles between each checkpoint which was still not enough, and my heart went out to those that would take a lot longer.
The final hours along the Worcestershire Way and back towards Holt Castle were a bit of a blur. I’d been guided by my Garmin for most of the way but the fatigue and dehydration were starting to have an effect on my judgement as I had to double-back a few times having taken wrong turns. With just a few miles to go I tripped over a tree stump in the woods and went sprawling. The ground was actually quite soft and it was actually the process of getting back on my feet that was the most painful. The final mile into Holt Castle was quite special for me. It was the first time my parents and girlfriend had been present to see me win an event and made the effort even more worth it.
I’m really looking forward to doing the Malvern Hills Ultra again next year. Many thanks to the organisers and marshalls, and congratulations to all those that finished such a challenging event!
Just as much acclaim though goes to all other finishers who battled the dark woods of Ockeridge in torrential rain and wind. Sisters Jane Andrews and Kate Freeman crossed the finishing line in just over nineteen hours having taking up the challenge of walking the course.