I spent most of last Saturday morning running. That’s most as in the majority, not just a bit, but pretty much all of it. My two year old son had had enough before the race had even started. He wanted fish and chips – there weren’t any. I was waved off by my husband and a screaming toddler, with many ‘ahhs’ from the other runners. Yes, this is how I spend a morning off from the children – running up and down hills.

The longest run of my life

I was running in the Endurance Life Sussex coastal trail marathon. Inspired by a shortish run along the Cornish coastal path last summer, as I was just starting to get my fitness back post-babies, I decided to sign up for this challenge. I was also at the time, not looking forward to building up the miles again and so I thought that a challenge like this would be easier to persuade myself to train for than just another London Marathon (yes, I’m running that too in a month’s time). Ahemm…

With a whole morning to kill, I had lots of time to think about what I do and don’t like about trail running (and hills…), so here are a few to summarise last week’s experience.

Pro: the scenery and course is varied. Seriously, I hardly even noticed the first hour go by, I was so busy just going with the flow!

Con: the scenery and course is varied. There are hills. And if you live in east London like me, you probably won’t be very good at them.

Pro: you are treated to some lovely sea views from the cliff tops

Con: the wind. Just a lot of wind.

Pro: the varied terrain is easier on your legs and you should feel less stiff after the race than normal

Con: you’ll be running for longer than you normally would because of the varied terrain.

Pro: it’s ok to walk a bit up the hills some times

Con: I’m a runner. I prefer running to walking. And all those people out for there Saturday morning stroll were probably laughing at me as I huffed and puffed past them in a slightly funny walk

Pro: it’s possible to have a sandwich mid-run. Yes, I did abandon those sugary gels for this race, opting instead for flapjack and a peanut butter and honey sandwich. A picnic mid-run? Why not?

Con: not possible to carry a picnic blanket. Or sit down.

Pro: I didn’t get attacked by a horse

Con: the guy in a high-viz t-shirt in front of me nearly did

Pro: it didn’t rain

Con: the wind. Again.

Pro: free biscuits and jelly babies on the way round

Con: are these worse than those sugary gels??

Pro: gentler hills than Cornwall, thank God

Con: still hills

So the key lesson I’ve learnt from my Sussex experience is a pretty obvious one. To race well, you have to train on the same terrain as you’re going to race. I live in Hackney. It’s pretty flat and I also do most of my running with a double buggy so tend to avoid hills wherever possible. Probably not ideal preparation. Still, I managed to finish in 4h22, was 25th overall and 4th lady, so I’m pretty happy with that. I paced it will with pretty even splits for first and second half and was feeling good at the end in spite of it being my longest ever run!

Now here’s to a swift recovery so that I can see what I can manage on the flat at the London Marathon in a few weeks time! Surely it’ll feel like a breeze.