After successfully completing the Cross Bay Challenge on Sunday, Sarah Briggs tells us about a unique race that saw her run across sea, sand and county borders.
Being told to run straight across sand towards the sea is not something that happens at the beginning of many races. And it perhaps sounds strange to say that running across wet sand is in many ways similar to a road race, but having done more trail and fell running than road running over the past few years, that was exactly my conclusion having run the 13.1 miles across the sands of Morecambe Bay.
My second conclusion was that this race is perfect for those considering the transition from road to trail. The similarities to road running were that it was a race where you could keep up a consistent steady pace, that the course was more-or-less flat, and that the surface underfoot was fairly even. Even so, I wore my trail shoes as I felt they'd give me more grip on wet sand as unlike tarmac the surface does give a bit beneath your feet. I saw several barefoot runners and it struck me that the course was ideal for not wearing shoes: especially by the time they're full of water and sand and your socks are soaking.
Crossing two rivers was great fun; the leg press work I had done in preparation paid off as striding through water up to mid-thigh forced you to use muscles that are not needed for road-running. The views are glorious for the entire route and the weather was kind to us: overcast but not raining, and just the right temperature.
I certainly hadn't expected a personal best but was pleasantly surprised by my time, which was far quicker than I had anticipated. There weren't the hills or uneven footing of trail races, so whilst this is not a 'PB' course, you wouldn't be likely to add half an hour on to your normal half-marathon time.
I'm not convinced the monks who apparently first guided people across the bay would have followed exactly this route, but this is a unique race - the only one in the world to be run across a tidal bay - and it was good to feel part of something so special, and so rooted in history.