The Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 is an event set up bythe firefighters charity. There are various options to choose from. Walk or run and then the distances of 10k, 21k, 30k, 42k and 50k. I had been contemplating on entering the 50k event for some time but the distance seemed so daunting. Could I cover the 31 mile distance? This would be my first ultra-marathon and I had only ever completed two other marathons previously.
As time past, me and a buddy Mike from the running club spoke about it and said we’d give it some thought as Patrick from our club was apparently already running it. We entered and said we’d just run it together slowly and making sure we just got round and finished. No pressure then!
On the big day I found out that Patrick wasn’t running it after-all even though he had talked me and Mike into it. Pretty funny really, but we needed something to believe in to be mad enough to enter in the first place right? We collected our numbers and info packs from the fire station in Salisbury. I had decided against running with my rucksack in the end and just took a bumbag with a flapjack, a couple of energy gels, some toilet roll (you never know!) and most importantly, Vaseline to stop the chafing.
The event is called the 5-4-3-2-1 because of the route and all the great scenery and landmarks that you get to take in on the way round.
5 rivers; Avon/Bourne/Ebble/Nadder and Wylye.
4 hills; Old Sarum/King Manor/Clearbury Hill Fort and Salisbury Race Course.
3 large country estates; Clarendon/Longford and Wilton.
2 castles; Old Sarum and Longford.
1 cathedral; Salisbury cathedral with a 404ft spire.
We started off at 9am and it was really quite slow to start with but we didn’t mind this as we had 50k to cover anyway. The 50k and 42k walkers had already set off at 8am and other distances would follow at various times after us. We had to walk a fair bit on the first two miles of the 10k loop due to the number of runners, narrow pathways and turnstiles. We heard other runners talking about their training for 100 mile races and that the best way to do it was to run 50 mile races back to back. Did me and Mikey belong here? What had we gotten ourselves into? No turning back now. Just keep running and walk when you have to. Remember, this is not a race. Enjoy.
The first 10k we were running on wooden boardwalks with wire mesh over the top and this was next to a river and woodland. A few turnstiles later we were running into and along fields. Within two miles Mikey wanted to stop at the checkpoint for cake. Two miles or so in and he wanted to eat cake already! I don’t know how he does it. After the first 10k the route joins on to the marathon route. At some point some speedy runners flew past us. They were from the 30k event. We saw Valeria from the New forest runners fly past us and managed to exchange a few comments with her before she disappeared and won the first woman in that category. Not surprising really as only one other woman passed us about three minutes after her!
There were many beautiful views along the way with lots of undulations and the four big hills of course. The castles were stunning and it was so nice to run in the private country estates that had been kept in pristine condition. The most memorable place was the woodland of yew trees. It was dark and shaded us from the sun. It was very cool and the ground was so soft like carpet beneath our feet. We took our time and actually walked through this bit following the red string to the other side. There was also the Salisbury horse racing course that we ran alongside. It was so great to have such a variety of terrain to run on. There is no way you’d ever get bored of running on this route. So much to see and take in. One minute you are running through the woods with the cool wind and shade and the next you could be running on a bridge over a river in the beaming sunshine.
I seemed to be achy and tired approaching the 13 mile mark though. How come? Hamstring felt tight and my mind was struggling to stay positive. I kept most of this negativity to myself though. Maybe I was dehydrated? At the next checkpoint I made sure that I ate and drank plenty. Two miles later, I was feeling good again. Legs never felt so good in fact and the hamstring pain had disappeared after those two miles. Mike and myself spoke and joked a fair bit and i’d say most of the way. We decided to walk up the bigger hills for efficiency. We walked when we were eating cake. We chatted to others at the checkpoints. This didn’t feel like a race at all but it sure felt like an adventure and a challenge. We were having the best time ever. I remember hitting the streets at mile 26 and thinking about how good I felt. I had run a marathon distance and the next 5 miles didn’t seem a problem or even daunting like I had first thought. My optimism was at an all time high. Only 5 miles to go! Easy.
We passed the Cathedral, the grounds were busy and we were weaving in and out of people and as we ran closer to the town we had more people to manoeuvre around. Not an easy feat when you had already ran 30 miles. I gave Mikey the countdown. Half a mile to go, quarter of a mile to go. OK, let’s sprint. And we both did. I couldn’t believe it. We still had enough in us for a sprint finish. Or what felt like a sprint finish anyway. We collected our medals and lay in the middle of the carpark for a few minutes. I then staggered bare foot over to the ice-cream van and bought us an ice cold can of coca-cola each that I had been fantasizing about for the last four or five miles.
When we got to the pub to meet the other runners from our club we were greeted with applause and cheers as we walked through the doors. This was so awesome! We were on top of the world. We ordered food but I wasn’t feeling hungry but as soon as the food arrived I was starving.
We had finished the 50k/31 mile race in 5 hours and 13 minutes. We had 5 hours in mind but weren’t too bothered on a time and were super proud of our achievement to finish. We ate lots of cake on the way round, plus bananas, oranges and plums. This day will be remembered by me forever. Such a great day and a great event. We will be back next year to get our sub-five. Watch this space ;) Thanks to the marshals who were very supportive, humourous and kept us going all the way around. You guys are the best.