It all started the day I arrived back in the UKhaving just run 250 km through the Saharadesert. I was in Whsmiths in Euston train station on my way home and picked up a running magazine while waiting for my train. As I flicked through I noticed an article about Ed Stafford, the 1st person to walk the length of theAmazon River. It finished with an invitation to join him and other runners on a 103 mile run from a small village in Leicestershire to the coast ofNorfolk. There was a cycle race following the same course and the plan was to arrive at around the same time. It was in 6 weeks time, so I thought it was more than enough recovery time. After a couple of emails and a phone call I was in business.
6 weeks later and hardly any running miles under my belt since finishing in the desert I was on the train to do my first +100 mile run. It had taken longer to recover but I was more than ready, it wasn’t a competition but a challenge to see if we could do it and finish. I met the other 5 members of the team (Ed, Cho, Rich, James, Charlotte and myself) that was up for the challenge and our support crew from “Rampant Sporting”. Laura and Fred had found themselves having to crew for us for the next 24 hours. After waiting all day for it to start, the start was only 30 mins to go and we still had photos to go, I had to get changed and get my feet prepared. I had left too much too late. Between photos with the local press I was hurriedly getting ready and as the others called me to start I had my socks partly on but had to shove my trainers on regardless and start as I threw my travel clothes into the back of the van that was to be our home for the next 24 hours or so.
As we introduced ourselves to each other having never met or really spoken other than the odd email it became evident that although we were all strong runners but none of us had done anything like this before. Mentally we were in a good place however it was going to be a steep learning curve.
Having never done a road marathon my 1st one and with still 3 to go was certainly fast at around 4 hours 30mins. I also had the pleasure of visiting ever pub toilet along that section of road as my stomach was doing cartwheels. I wasn’t sure whether it was something I had eaten, drunk or just nerves but it wasn’t pleasant. Trying to rectify this problem on the run was pretty difficult. My stomach didn’t want anything else but I had to try to balance this with the food and water that I needed to keep performing in a couple of hour’s time. It was certainly a challenge that I hadn’t anticipated at such an early stage.
What I had learnt from my running in the desert was the lag between the choices, decisions and actions I make don’t usually have an immediately but do in several hours time by which stage it can be too late and the damage already done. Whether it is the sore spot on your foot or the amount of food and water I was consuming at each stop.
“Every action or more importantly inaction has a reaction.”
We slowed the pace, especially as one of the runners Cho became increasingly sore as he ran. He done incredibly well and run the furthest he had ever done at about 30 miles, but it was over for him as he jumped in the back of the van for some well deserved rest.
The sunset was incredible as we watched the sun slowly cross and then sink from the sky. We were eating up the miles. We seemed even quicker in the dark with no points of reference to go by other than what we could see with our head torches and the vans headlights cutting into the darkness. It was a crisp night and the music pumping out of the vans speakers helped pass the time as we became engrossed in our own thoughts as if our minds slept while our bodies continued.
Sun rise came at about 4am as our beanies and extra clothes that had kept us warm over night began to come off. Morning revealed the flat surroundings as we came into a small village and we were feeling strong.
We were coming up to our next stop and breakfast arrived, which charlotte had prepared consisting of banana sandwiches, wheatabix and 9bar cereal bars. Rich had a quick snooze. As we continued leaving the village behind the smell of cooking bacon was wafting from one of the nearby cottages, it smelt delicious! The day was already heating up and as the day wore on Rich unfortunately had to drop out after reaching a monstrous 70 miles. We were all disappointed.
It wasn’t long after this that we were passed by the first cyclist of the day, what was to be one of many. The day was heating up and after being up for almost 30 hours it was beginning to show. The final marathon was going to be very tough and as the breaks became longer we realised we would be pushing it to reach the 24 hour mark. The now stream of cyclist passing us helped keep our spirits high with them shouting out to us as they shot passed. We increased the pace as we made our way towards the final check point for the cyclists, after a brief chat and top up with mars bars and water we continued on. Passing through the park we tried to get in as much shade under the tall trees as possible.
The final 3 miles were the longest and hardest 3 miles I think I have ever done the heat felt like it was increasing and the final section of the course felt incredibly hilly. Getting treats off some of the support vehicles for the cyclists helped lift our spirits and the addition of charlottes family coming along for the final trundle in the last few miles down to the coast. Our pace at this point was painfully slow but all we could manage.
The finishing line marked by a pub came into view helping us jog it in at a better pace and despite the miles already done, the tiredness we felt remarkably fresh. After 26 hours we had done it, not quite as a full team but Ed, James, Charlotte and I. It had been an incredible effort. The reception by the cyclists was incredible and completely unexpected. Thoughts of a cold pint were swapped to that of a seat and a pint of lemonade in the evening sun. Hobbling round the pub chatting to the cyclists and telling the story of the last 24 or so hours it felt fantastic to be finished.
Finally a big thank you has to be given to the support provided by Rampant Sporting, check them out http://www.rampantsporting.com/