To those who know us it would come as no surprise that last November Seamus asked if we could go to Italy, on our Wedding Anniversary….so he could run a 53k trail race in The Dolomites. What was a surprise was that he encouraged me to enter the 20k supporter’s race, an easier, though still challenging, route.
Despite training since Christmas, it was a hard race to prepare for as neither of us really knew what we were in for and quite how to best train for it. 3 weeks before the event we were notified that my route had been changed completely and I would now be running the last 20k of Seamus’s Ultra. A glance at the elevation gave the impression it was slightly easier, though had I thought about it more carefully I would have realised I had just been handed 20k of the hardest race in Italy.
There are no words for how it felt driving into the mountains last Friday. Your stomach drops away as you see the sheer height and scale of the Dolomites. I couldn’t speak for a good 2 hours when we arrived – an early anniversary present for Mr. Kelleher! We headed up to the Expo to collect our numbers which were only handed over after we had signed disclaimers that stated we wouldn’t hold the organisers responsible should we lose our lives, and medical certificates signed by our GP to say we were medically fit to run. Seamus also got fitted for his prize, should he finish, a pair of Haglofs trail running shoes!
The start line for the Ultra was set up on the veranda of our hotel, and you would be forgiven for thinking even Seamus couldn’t be late for that start… but you would be wrong. At 5:30 the next morning, with music blasting and a helicopter circling above they were off. Starting at 850m above sea level and climbing to more than 2400 m over rocky cliff faces, snow and glaciers.
I was left on my own, and absolutely terrified, not helped any when they announced over the tannoy ‘representing England, Holly Kelleher’! Really?! No pressure there then. Our buses came to take us to our start which was in the middle of nowhere at 1650m altitude. At this point I realised I was surrounded by some pretty serious looking athletes, and this wasn’t entertainment for the supporters of the Ultra runners, this was a race for crazy people, who weren’t quite crazy enough to do 53k! Continue reading