Defeated by Spires and Steeples 2013

Today I have mostly been sat on my sofa, nursing sore knees and a sore back, moping a bit. Yesterday was the annual Spires and Steeples Challenge, a fantastic local running and walking event taking people from Lincoln to Sleaford via lots of lovely Lincolnshire villages along riverside paths, through farms, along country lanes and over meadows. I’ve done it twice before (see here for 2010 and here for 2011) and, after not taking part last year due to being on holiday, I was really looking forward to a day of walking the 26 miles with my good friend Mark. 

Unfortunately at midday, having reached Metheringham – the 13 mile point – Mark and I decided we needed to pull out of the event. The mud and rain proved too much for us; we were soaked, our feet were heavy, and we already felt like we’d walked the whole thing. What a shame. We both felt defeated, disappointed, and like we’d failed. But at the same time we knew that was the right thing to do – neither of us could see ourselves getting to the next checkpoint, let alone the finish.

We started at 8.30am at Lincoln Castle wish what seemed like a lot fewer walkers than normal. I suspect some decided to stay at home due to the disgusting weather. It was raining, quite hard, and the forecast was that it would get heavier through the day. LincsGeek captured this shot of us – all smiles.

I’m no professional outdoors-woman by any stretch of the imagination (I wouldn’t mind that, though!), but I do know what I’m doing when it comes to walking. I mean, I have the right boots and socks, had spare socks in my bag, had the right food with me, had a decent waterproof coat on (a review item, I’ll write about that another day), and have had plenty of practice walking in the Great British weather over the years. But there was something that got to me. We got to the first checkpoint in great time, and although very wet we were in good spirits. It was from the seven mile mark that we struggled. Making our way across two soft and squelchy ploughed fields was tough going, followed by an incredibly slippery track on which I could get no real traction and so did not feel sure footed at all. And while there were two short breaks in the rain during the morning (and a hint of blue sky at one point), the damage had been done and we were also done. It was beyond character building.

When I posted on facebook and twitter about giving up half way I received lots of lovely comments from my friends and followers about looking at this in a different way. And I know you’re right. I achieved the half marathon Spires and Steeples Challenge. So thank you all, your support means an awful lot. Within 10 minutes of calling LincsGeek for that lift home and letting the event officials at Metheringham know we were calling it a day my legs felt like they weighed 30 stone and I was shivering with cold. I was definitely defeated. Despite that, and because I know this is a distance – and even a route – that I have done before, I still feel like it should have been pretty easy. But it wasn’t. It was really hard. And I gave up and went home. I guess I’m left with something to prove to myself, and so will be watching out for the date of the 2014 challenge.

A massive well done to everyone who started and finished Spires and Steeples Challenge this year. Especially if you ran it – you are hardcore! I admire you – you had more strength and willpower than I did. It really is a good and well organised event and I’d recommend it. I’ll be back to give it another go next year, and will be hoping for a nice dry day.

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