Foxtrail Half Marathon @ Harvest Moon

by Ali Wyllie & Chiara Franzosi

The Boardside Cafe ladies - the real heroes of the day

The Boardside Cafe ladies - the real heroes of the day

Having been floored with the dreaded lurgy for a couple of weeks, it was with a heavy heart that I made the final assessment and decided not to run the half marathon.  Given I was struggling to walk up stairs let alone run 13 miles, I feel this was the right decision.  

Jasper illustrating how horrendous I was feeling 

Jasper illustrating how horrendous I was feeling 

I hadn't even run for 2 weeks due to this lurgy I was in a state of panic that my fitness was dissipating into thin air.  How do other runners cope with illness and periods of no exercise?  

Whilst I knew I could not run, I still went along to the race to support my fellow runners.   I love watching races, but I find it particularly difficult to merely spectate if I should have been running.   I rocked up after the runners had started and whilst I was annoyed with myself for this I was impressed I had made it full stop, as I had really struggled to drag myself out of my warm bed.  

Fellow spectators with big happy smiles

Fellow spectators with big happy smiles

The weather was cold, wet and windy, I wasn't actually prepared for how brutal it was, luckily the amazing Boardside cafe ladies were there; as always, with their selection of hot drinks.  I warmed myself up with a coffee and joined friends who were also unable to run for various reasons, and together we cheered on all the runners as they passed the tent.  I have to admit that I also spent a lot of my time clinging to the outdoor heaters inside the tent.  

Nicola Duncan powering in to scoop first female

Nicola Duncan powering in to scoop first female

Owain Williams bolted through the site as first male with a huge lead on 2nd and 3rd place.  I was ecstatic to see Nicola Duncan powering along in first female position.  I watched, cheered and felt increasingly envious as all the runners and some canirossers ran through, heading back out onto the trail with the tough beach section still to come (maybe I wasn't so jealous of this section).  

Chiara with her game face on at a previous Foxtrail race

Chiara with her game face on at a previous Foxtrail race

It is very difficult to write a blog on a race I haven't actually run, so it gives me great delight to introduce my favourite Italian lady, the wonderfully kind and amazing Chaira Franzosi, who penned a few words of her own experience.  

"This time, the most difficult part of the race was getting to the race itself. I always look forward to a FoxTrail event; but for the Harvest Moon Half Marathon, I was quite nervous and worried about the rain, the snow, and the 50mph freezing wind. I could feel my apprehension growing when I arrived at the site: my eyes got a thermal shock as soon as I stepped out of the car and I was struggling on the way to the marquee for the race registration. I couldn’t walk, was I meant to run in that weather?

Fortunately, the friendly atmosphere I found in the tent managed to change my attitude towards the race. A lot of friends who were unable to run (because of flu) had been driving in the awful weather conditions just to come to support. I was grateful for this and felt like I should have run for them as well.

As soon as the runners gathered at the start line, I started getting excited about the race and remembered that I was there to enjoy it. I was ready to run and I started to believe I could have a great race.

I soon realised that it was going to be the worst weather conditions and the most stunning course I had ever run in. The scenery was spectacular and changing all the time – 21 kilometres of breath-taking trails, woodland, farm fields, cliffs, and a magnificent section on the beach.

Around half way, I was running on my own: the very fast people were further ahead and nobody was immediately behind me. It was ok to be alone, but I felt it was a quite long portion of the race – 6 or 7 kilometres. I was constantly listening to my body, checking every part was good, focusing on the arms and on the short steps. I was very focused and enjoying it.  

Chiara's lucky omen

Chiara's lucky omen

The wind became music and I was singing to myself:  

I love my life / I am powerful / I am beautiful / I am free

I love my life / I am wonderful / I am magical / I am me

I was smiling all the way!

In the second half of the course, we had the section on the beach. It was tremendous. An overwhelming force of Nature. The legs got tired as they were hitting the sand and the wind was pushing hard from the sea, however I was loving it. My trail shoes were now running on the ebb tide, stepping on a thick sea foam. The waves were enormous on my right hand side and, from a distance, I could see the Bass Rock standing up wonderfully against the storm. It was epic. I could spot people again and I remembered I was not alone.

I had great fun crossing the shallow Peffer Burn – to the marshal who was standing there, you are a superhero!! – and after turning point, waving at the cani-crossers Lee and Steph – Lee & Bear, when did you overtake me? I did not see you overtaking at all, you speedy! I felt a well-deserved coffee was getting closer and closer as soon as we left the beach and turned back into the trails, one last great scenery with the farm enclosures and some horses that got curious about the passing runners.

I feel like this race can reflect quite well the state of my life at the moment - in fact, this is probably one of the toughest and most beautiful periods of it. The Harvest Moon Half Marathon was a great reminder that no matter how chilly and windy and stormy is, no matter how many trip hazard there are going to be… everything is going to be alright. There will always be someone beautiful I will be running with, some running gurus to meet, some amazing people cheering me up, giving encouragement, and sharing their emotions."

The podium crew

The podium crew

Chiara finished in a very respectable 01:48:09 and as has become standard for this series Owain Williams of the Running Beside. Me blog, scooped the first male place with an amazing 01:24:00 with Colin Williams and Richard Laucht 2nd and 3rd place respectfully.  Nicola Duncan stole the first female place in 01:34:51 with Amanda Ferguson and Jacqui Thomson in 2nd and 3rd place.  For a full breakdown of results see here.  

Whilst I am incredibly gutted to have missed this epic race, I was delighted to have been part of it in a small way and to celebrate other people enjoying the podium and to watch racers sheer delight as they crossed the finish line after accomplishing such a difficult race in tough conditions.  As ever James, Cal, John, Mandy and all the team did an amazing job and what a wicked venue Harvest Moon was.   

See you at the next one:  13k on 4th March at Foxlake.  More info can be found here.  In the meantime, I will be hoping to shift this lurgy and get out running again, when this happens, I will be the one counting my blessings and feeling extremely grateful for my health and the sense of freedom and release running provides. 

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