The Illuminator is up there as one of the toughest races I’ve ever ran. At just over 15 miles through the Cairngorms at night the race brought plenty of challenges!
I had really been excited for the Illuminator in the months leading up to it. After a year focused on obstacle course racing this was my first pure running race of 2017, and it felt great to be back to where it all began, all be it with a little dark hilly twist!
Back in 2015 it was Edinburgh half marathon that made me fall in love with running. Something changed for me that May, and I’ve never look back since.
The Illuminator felt like the perfect test two years on to see how far I’d come, and man was it full of tests!
It’s at night. So I spent the whole of Saturday trying to carefully balance my food intake whilst getting more and more anxious!
It’s hilly. Not just undulating hilly. Proper fuck off, lungs heaving hilly. The first four miles are pretty much solidly spent climbing and then at mile 12 they throw in what felt like a vertical scrabble. (There may have been dry heaving).
Refer to Test 1: “it’s at night”. Now think about the challenge of running purely by the light of your head torch. There was definitely a couple of moments where I nearly made friends with the ground.
Prepare for the overshare. I felt like I was going to poop myself for the first 7 miles. I have an over-dramatic stomach at the best of times, however the race nerves had really got to me. I was one of the lucky ones (there was some more unlucky people in the team, no naming names!) and after some tactical farts my stomach seemed to settle. If you’ve ever experience tummy issues whilst running I am sure you’ll understand my pain!
(Don’t worry the overshare is finished…for now). It was 15miles. It can be really easy when you have friends around you completing ultras or marathons to forget that 15miles is still a bloody long way!
So, with all these tests in mind you would think that it wouldn’t of been a very enjoyable race. In fact it was the complete opposite!
It was one of my favourite races to date
Yes, there was times I wanted to stop, yes there was times I questioned what I was doing. But that’s what competing in longer distance races is all about.
I promise you, every long run or race we all have moments where we start to doubt ourselves, want to stop or simply don’t feel like our legs can move forward. If anyone tries to say they find every part of a race a piece of cake, they are talking shite.
But, it’s pushing past those doubts and struggles where the special stuff happens. It’s no secret that I’ve struggled at races recently. After surgery at the beginning of the year and then an infected leg abscess (all the sexiness) I’ve not felt 100% myself out on a race course since September 2016.
But this weekend, blowing out my arse at mile 12, I grinned from ear to ear finally feeling like I was getting back to my pre-surgery fitness levels.
And in fact the race was full of wins
I finished 42 minutes faster than I thought I would, in 2hrs 48minutes.
Playing out in the forest at night was so much fun! The Illuminator team have cleverly fashioned the route so you see a snake of head torches in front and behind you most of the way. Plus they have an awesome light zone around mile 8. It was stunning seeing all the trees lit up.
It was so far away from being your standard half marathon. The whole event from start to finish was really well organised and the venison soup afterwards was amazing!
I got to spend the weekend surrounded by friends whole all took on their own challenges on the night and did amazing. And that is one of the biggest wins of all.
Currently: Enjoying the jelly legs feeling after my sports rub.
Training today: Nothing! Rest all the way
Adventure this week: Project Awesome Halloween. I may or may not have a unicorn onesie!!!
P.S. A massive thank you to the Illuminator team for this wee surprise in my race envelope!