It's been a few days since the Cross Bay Challenge and the experience seems even less real than it did at the time. I've never been in any other place like that bay. There were few landmarks aside from the other runners so it seemed that running took you nowhere.
The race was planned between Flookburgh and Hest Bank. The distance would have been 13 miles, more or less, but the River Kent rose after the start meaning the race had to be turned back to the starting point. Given the location the change is understandable – the organisers certainly weren't messing around. Everyone issued with wristbands and checked on and off the sands, and the list of runners was shared with the RNLI and coastguard. We were warned not to stray from the course because of quicksand.
The actual distance was 10.8 miles, which I ran in just over 100 minutes. The first five miles I was going faster than I've run before because of the wind behind me. I remember thinking how tough it would be if we ran against it. And, as we approached the river Kent the line of runners turned and we were led straight into the wind.
For the first half mile the wind was so strong it knocked me back to walking speed and I stopped running to conserve my energy. When it relented I started running again. I couldn't figure out what was happening since I had little idea of the geography. There should have been distance markers and water stops but after 4 miles these disappeared. It was just the sands and the runners.
The bay was the most desolate place I've ever been and felt strangely spiritual. The wind gathered up wisps of sand, forcing me to keep my eyes on the floor for long periods. Running into the wind felt like a nightmare, that dream where you run and seem to be going nowhere. Every so often we'd reach water and I'd speed up to cross as quick as I could.
It was only when someone pointed out we were reaching the place we'd started that I knew for sure what had happened. Yes, it was obvious we were going the wrong way, but at the same time the wilderness was disorientating. I kept expecting to reach the Kent crossing and approach Morecambe.
My only criticism of the race was the mess left at the water stops. The instructions had said to drop the bottles near the stations, but they ended up littered for some distance. There must have been a better way to handle that. I also feel a little sorry for Mum and Dad,who spent several hours waiting at the finish line with little information on what was happening. They seemed to have enjoyed themselves anyway.
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