The Eddum 2019

Firstly I apologise – I havent been here for months. Then again I havent really run properly for months. As some of you know when you cant run its easier to not be involved in running things at all, so thats where I’ve been – its nothing personal!  I had the Eddum 50 miler planned for August the 3rd and I also had this niggling butt injury that wouldnt go away. So all I’ve done over the past few months in preperation is a lot of walking with murph and the odd jog here and there. Hardly ideal for my first 50 miler.

But as I was doing it for charity and had already raised money not starting the race wasn’t an option so last friday my friend Claire, the two dogs Murph and Tilly and I packed up the car and went on a camping/ultrarunning trip!  Yes the leg still hurt but there was absolutely nothing I could do at that point it was to be sink or swim.

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Here we go!
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Friends at the campsite

The campsite was perfect, just a quiet farm with few people to freak murph out.  Didn’t have the greatest nights sleep before the race but we were up at 5 to get ready and drive to the start.

The usual registration stuff, kit checks (thankfully we didnt have to take waterproof trousers, I need a lightweight pair) and lots of nerves, But eventually at 7AM we were underway. The Epynt way runs around the edge of the Sennybridge MOD training area so were were warned about gunfire and explosions and told not to touch any ordanance left lying around. We were also given the MOD number as they were aware we were out there and would be able to reach us in event of an emergency much faster than the race organisers. A nice touch from the MOD really.  Its a permissive route that they have created by placing yellow topped posts every few hundred metres or so for the whole 50 miles.

The first few miles were the usual adrenaline fuelled thing, probably going a little too fast but not as bad as usual. I knew I was injured and probably relying on base fitness from the last few years and so I had decided that my best chance of finishing was to have a plan and stick to it. I was going to walk everything uphill apart from smaller inclines and run from aid station to aid station and take them one at a time. Experience told me I had to do better with hydration and so I was planning to drink both bottles between each station and eat something between too. I stuck to that all day until I couldnt eat the last 6 or so.

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Early starts are the best

The injury hurt after a few miles and I could feel the rising panic that it was going to go south and I was going to be done much sooner than even I thought. The trick was to just run through it, fight the mental side of it off and simply ignore it until other things started hurting too. It’s something I’m learning – pain isnt necessarily catastrophic, every niggle , every ache doesnt mean that the race is done. They come and go, and come back … and go again. After a while you stop noticing them so much and the panic subsides. I cramped around 12 or 13 miles in which was early but again managed to calm the panic, accept it and limped on for a while until it cleared.

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The whiole course had views like this

I was lucky and fell into a group of 5 runners and we all seemed to have a similar plan and pace. And I was grateful for that as the navigation at times was hard, it was like it all day, although the route is marked by the yellow posts and some signs they can be very hard to spot and I was thankful for the extra eyes. Although i usually like to run alone the company in this case was nice as we clicked off miles slowly and steadily.

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Some monument around 16 miles in
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The course was hilly – some of the early hills were like this – ok going down
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But a bitch grinding back up the other side
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Just a beautiful day to be out
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This is the path …

The course itself is a brute – as described by the race director (who it turns out has run Badwater)  Its got 8000 feet of ascent and descent but it feels like so much more, apparently this this the 3 peaks total. Or so someone told me halfway around.  As it turns out for much of the route there is no path at all, just the marker posts to navigate to, one to another and picking the best route.  It means that  on the climbs and descents youre beating your own path through the grass which adds to the …. fun? We didnt pass a single walker all day in either direction – It really does seem barely used which is amazing as its so beautiful but also understandable as the terrain is such a bitch.

But I love running the hard stuff as its always more interesting than the gravel paths and I was enjoying myself despite the growing heat and aches and pains. I was growing in confidence and that was helped knowing I had a crew out there. For the first time I had an official crew! I was so so so lucky to have Claire following me around all day with the dogs in the car, she would stop, walk them and chill with them until I reappeared and I could pick up whatever I needed from them (I also had a dropbag at mile 28) so I changed shoes and socks at halfway and that felt great! I also had a few blisters but they neve got much worse and im grateful for that.

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The views just kept coming along with the hills
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Top of another climb
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The yellow posts – We actually missed this turn somehow and had to backtrack to it. It was getting harder to concentrate on things
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Hey look a hill! This is the “path” – I spent so many hours climbing so many of these. they seemed neverending and were probably the toughest part mentally. Just grinding one after another

We were down to three of us now, one guy had gone ahead and one had dropped behind. I know we all felt bad about him dropping off the back but it’s just one of those things in ultras I guess, he wasnt keeping up on the hills and stopped catching us on the downhills and so we had to stop waiting for him. That felt odd as it almost felt like we were letting him down but he knew the game well enough and it’s one of those things.

I hadnt run more than 32 miles before so this was new territory, we were still running well on flats and downhills but it was so attritional. The hill going up to the 5th aid station was utterly brutal. But claire and the dogs were at the top and with 10 miles to go there was no way she was letting me drop. As I ran from that station I could hear Murph crying  (the only time he did it) which broke my heart and almost broke me but I managed to not turna around and just ran on.

That last 10 miles will stay with me a while. It was hard, physically I was pretty shot, climbing was just an intense effort which just went on and on, my quads were blown out so downhills were incredibly painful but we still found we could run whatever flats we could find – simply because somehow it was less painful than walking. Mentally I was very low by this point, looking back its easy to say I should have tried to be more positive but all I could think of was the end and why weren’t the miles going by quick enough. 10 miles sounds nothing, Ive knocked it off in training so many times. But when at the end of a race you realise 10 miles is pretty much 3 hours more of suffering its hard to take in.

But as dusk fell we climbed a final fence (literally had to haul ourselves over it) and hit the road which would lead to the end. 4 of us finished together as we had caught and passed a few people in the final miles including the guy who dropped us 30 miles before.

As we rounded the corner to the finish it was such a fantastic feeling, mainly so the pain would stop, I passed claire and the dogs and finally finished in 14.09 in 29th place. I’m not usually emotional at the end of races but this one felt like it had meant a lot to me.

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It had also meant a lot to others. Claire had crewed me and been up supporting me from 5 that morning – 16 hours plus and she still had to drive me to the campsite. I had turned live tracking on my phone and the village back home had been watching my progress all day in the local pub as had my mum and dad at home (keep getting well dad!)

And as we drove back I had the news from the pub that I had topped £1000 in my charity fundraising for the dog sanctuary I adopted Murph from.

So although the racing between start and finish was I guess all about me, the day taken as a whole was more about a lot of people who got me there one way or another. I couldnt have done it without them.

The race itself is superbly organised, I cant recommend the races run by Pegasus Ultrarunning enough. Rhys the race direction is a lovely guy and the whole thing is so professional. The aid stations were amazing and the volunteers manning them were so supportive. They really made for a great day.

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Glad to have his dad back walking him

The next day we walked the dogs a lot, I was sore and stiff but it did me good to keep moving, looks like I didnt even aggravate the injury – So who knows whats going on there but its not worrying me anymore lets put it that way.

So thats the story of my first 50 miler. It’s a bit of a long report but I wanted to get it written down as memories inevitably fade. Everytime I run an ultra I learn something new. I learned a hell of a lot from this one. I learned not to give up even before you start. I learned that not all pain is significant (I stole that line from somewhere) I learned that fitness is great but a plan and executing that plan is just as important. I learned that I have the mental strength to overcome my physical weaknesses.

But most of all I learned that with belief and the help of your friends you can achieve things you’d never have thought possible.  Summer 4 years ago I couldnt run 200 yards. This summer I ran 50 miles.

Never give up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here’s the news

Trainings picking up very slowly but very surely which is a good thing because on the 3rd August I’m running my first 50 miler! Been planning it a while and it’s one of the reasons I didnt start the Preseli Ultra last month. The injury has been a knockback on the trianing front but I’ve still been walking Murph 30 odd miles a week and now back to running.

The raace is around the Epynt Way in Mid Wales and as I say is 50 miels with around 8000 feet of elevation gain and loss.  Its a big challenge for me but one to look forward to. There will be plenty of walking the ups no doubt! Link to race details is here https://www.pegasusultrarunning.com/the-eddum/

Plus here is the good bit there is extra motivation – I’m doing it to raise money for charity – specifically the dog sanctuary I got Murph from. Its a really special place that homes dogs no-one else will take, sometimes for life – they call these “the forgotten ones” which breaks my heart.  They rehome dogs like Murph that people generally don’t want because they are emotionally scarred – Murph is still very scared of people (but improving slowly with lots of love).  They always need funds as it’s privately run and recently they’ve suffered terrible flooding so need money to repair and strengthen flood defences.

I’ve waited til now to start fundraising due to the injuries but it’s about time to get out there and start raising some cash!  So if any of you lot out there would like to donate theres a new page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/helplizziesbarn

Any donation is appreciated, much of my fundraising will be done in the local village and in all my schools that i work in but with the kindness of everyone off and online I hope to raise £500.  It’ll actually be odd not running purely for myself, Im expecting to feel some sort of extra pressure to finish but I’m also expecting it to act as an extra spur to get to that finish line no matter how long it takes. If I have to walk it I will. Luckily I have a friend coming to crew me and she will also be bringing Murph and his little pal Tilly so I’m sure seeing them at aid stations will be a great boost.

So for now I’ll leave you with some pictures of the reason i’m doing this… If it wasnt for lizzies Barn this little monster wouldn’t have a life like this

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Sense & Perseverence

Well today I should be running the Preseli Ultrabeast as I did last year. Sadly I won’t be. The last few months have been a race in themselves in an attempt to rehab the left leg. It’s been a process thats been tortuous with good days and bad days, I honestly believed I could run it up until the middle of this week. I did a 7 mile test run on tuesday and it felt ok. And thats the kicker it didn’t feel good it felt ok and I knew I was favouring the right leg instead. It felt a bit like running on a glass leg – I was expecting it to break at any point.

So really then on wednesday when it was aching badly I knew deep down it was over for this year. I was going to give it a go but I knew deep down that it was going to cause much more damage, 7 miles is not 32 and not 32 over extreme terrain. Not going to lie I’m gutted. I love the Preseli races and look forward to it so much every year. I told a friend a while ago it’s like my late christmas day seeing as I dont like the real one much. And now I sit here writing this instead of running out on the hills all day.  Sometimes I feel like saying to hell with it I dont need to run anyway, I have Murph I can walk with him and its as good, it would remove all the disappointment and frustration of not running and racing.

But you know what, that’s feeling sorry for myself, thats giving up, thats taking the easy route and this whole thing was never about taking the easy route. It’s been a long journey and I need to remember there are lows as well as the highs. Otherwise the highs would be meaningless.

So I’m going to finish off this post with some photos of the walks we’ve done recently. I’m going to walk back out the door and start again. I’m not giving up, this was always the long haul.

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What goes up

 

Something different for this year as I’ve joined the WFRA (Welsh Rell Running Assocaiation) and decided to run some fell races this year. Not just the long ones I’ve already done such as Preseli but the short ones too. To see what it’s like as much as anything. i’ve never run a race less than 11 miles so I have no idea how to pace myself in races such as the one I did yesterday up in the Brecon Beacons near Llangorse. It was 3 miles and pretty much straight up and down – around 1000ft of climbing and descent.

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Up and down this one – Mynydd Llangorse

As seems to be the case with races when you turn up everyone looks extremely fit and serious and in the majority of cases younger. Everyones got the kit and does stretching and stuff and looks like they know what theyre doing so instead I went and bought a coffee and sat with Murph (Everyone needs a co-pilot for map reading) in the van until the start time.

Lining up I considered my options (never plan too early it brings on self doubts) and as the start was literally stright uphill through fields at some crazy angle I decided the best plan was to go full gas until the wheels came off. I figured that 3 miles is a short run for me and it would be worth going nuts to see what happened. So off we went and to my surprise I found myself able to hang with the lead group as they charged off at some suicidal pace straight up. After a while it levelled out into a flatter climb and I found I could hang on there too.  Then came a bastard of the main climb as per the image above and I dropped back a bit as eventually the wheels started to come off and although the legs felt really good I simply couldnt get enough oxygen in to keep up full speed. This is what comes of long long training with little speedwork I guess.

Up at the top it was foggy, windy and mercifully not as steep, we hit the trig point (kudos to the marshall up there!) and started the steep and in places slippery descent.  By now I was running alone and was guessing the best lines to take (fell running allows you to pick a route in many sections) but made it down as fast as I could without blowing out my ankles. I did miss one turn slightly which cost me 20 seconds or so and 2 places but finally the line was in sight and its a joyous (yeah right) bound through the line.

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Me bounding joyously through the line – Thats as joyous as I get

I didnt really have a clue what time I’d done or where I’d placed, there were the serious looking runners milling around the finish so more coffee, went to watch the presentations and then off out with Murph to give him some time.

And here’s the mad bit – when I saw the results later on their website – I was 17th in a time of 28′ 06′ – Which I’m utterly astounded by.  I had no idea how to run the race and out of 70 odd runners came in the top 20.

So what did I learn about short races – go full gas and redline it until the wheels fall off and then pray that no-one catches you on the descent.  I really enjoyed it as a change to the longer stuff, less time to think and more time to really hurt – for a shorter time.  Mynydd Ddu who organised it did a superb job and it was a great event to kick off the year, I’ll see what happenes next – Might even do some speedwork in training …. or not

 

Preseli recon and newfound common sense!

I was down in West Wales yesterday and as you do figured I could add an hour or two to my journey to get to the Preselis and have a bit of a practice ready for the Ultra there in May.  I know most of the course and only intended on running the Beast Bach course which is around 11 miles and I was fairly sure I could navigate that.  By the time I got there around half two I noticed that the clouds were covering the peaks. Ah well let’s go up and see what happens.

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Clouds – bastards
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One of the nice things about the Preseli races is the variety of terrain, it isnt all fell. At the start (and end) there are some lovely forestry parts
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And you get to run through and old slate quarry
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Then a right bastard of a drag up and up and up the neverending drag bastard hill
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So I got to the top of the bastard drag where the Beast and beast Bach split and this was the view – around 20 yards visibility and everything pretty damn boggy.  Now I don’t care about freezing cold bog water, In fact i kinda like it in an odd way but the fog? I know the route – I don’t know it well enough to navigate sheep tracks in order to follow the route safely. I know from being up here on fine days the place is massive and I was likely to end up lost.  So for once common sense kicked in and I took a route that followed a fence and bridleway. At least I could easily retrace my steps and had a landmark.
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A few miles later I was glad I did – This is a completely different section of the fells … note similarity to first photo. I would have been totally lost up here. It all looks identical in the fog
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Following the fence was one thing – running through the streams and marsh was loads of fun though.  I really do love it when it’s a path less trodden
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Out of the fog and the panorama google made me looks kinda cool
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On the way back down I passed the beautiful wild ponies I’ve seen a number of times.  The thing about training here yesterday was there was no rush, no other people and it was more of an explore.  When I race here there’s no time to take photos or just chill out.  I honestly couldn’t tell you which I prefer.  I only covered 9 or 10 miles but it was a breeze compared to the 32 to come.

 

My way or the high way …

I’ll do both.  The best thing about christmas is the 2 week break coming up which means I can get out and begin to train properly for next year.  When I say train I mean enjoy myself outside and by properly I mean pretend I know what i’m doing. Thoughts are turning towards what I want to achieve next year. Well to be fair they turned a while ago and my plans are coming together. What I will need more of in 18 is altitude. Time to get up in them that hills and get used to ascents (and descents – damn you quads we WILL get along)

Why the high life? Well this is the plan. In May its the Preseli Beast again, so having done the 11 miler 2 years ago and the 24 last year I’ll give the hat-trick a go and try the 32 mile ultrabeast.  So 4 months or so to get ready for that.

Then I’ve actually already signed up for another race in July – bear with me here it’s all part of the bigger plan.  So I get 2 months between Preseli and the Scafell Pike marathon which looks horrendously fun and painful.

And this is where it gets a little more complicated – The Scafell race provides 2 qualifying points for UTMB – the OCC race not the 100 miler!

So assuming I finish Scafell I need another 2 points to go into the draw for 2019. So I’m looking at a “holiday” in the summer to run abroad and snaffle a few more points.  The beauty of this plan to me is that I’m holding distances at around 30 miles but upping the climbing as running longer flat ultras doesn’t really appeal at the moment.

At the moment I’m looking at this … Pitzal Glacier

So no I’ve probably not thought it through but I’m gonna try for it anyway, why not?

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I ran another 10 miles on sunday – 10 is to be the new short

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Roseland Cornish Coastal Ultra Report

Yeah so last saturday I was set to run a 32 mile ultra in Cornwall from St Anthonys Head to Porthpean as part of the Mudcrew Trail Running Festival.

As you’ll know if you follow the blog I did indeed finish as I posted just afterwards so this post contains a little more detail for those interested.

I travelled down on the friday afternoon early to beat the notorious M5 weekend traffic and so got to spend a few hours reading and chilling on Porthpean beach before heading up to the campsite to set up my tent. The weather turned from sun to drizzle and I wasn’t envious of the Plague runners who were starting the 64 mile run at midnight from the site. I vaguely heard them starting off as I tried to get a few hours sleep as we were having our pre race briefing at half six!

I was wide awake by 5 and took my time to get ready and recheck my kit. We did the briefing and got on buses which were to take us to St Anthonys head which was our start and halfway turnaround for the Plague (64 mile) runners. We were to set off at half eight so there was some waiting around to get going which added to the nerves. No matter how ready you think you are there are always nerves when you haven’t attempted the distance before. It had also dawned on me just how hilly the Cornish coast is ….

We had a last minute briefing on the line and words of advice from the resident cheif paramedic dude, apparently around 25 plague runners had dropped during the night due to the weather and conditions underfoot. Some had fallen into rabbit and badger holes in the dark.  Some hadn’t hydrated properly it seems as that was the main message he had to give us – and I quote “I really thought this would be teaching you lot to suck eggs but keep drinking”  It was good advice because the drizzle had gone but it was getting so so humid already.

Finally we were off and everyone settled into follow the leader. Its pretty much single track at the beginning so it was a case of settling into groups and knocking out a few miles while the terrain was reasonably flat. The views of the coastline were fantastic but the trail was difficult enough to mean you couldn’t really take a good look for fear of being a rabbit hole casualty.

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I won’t do the mile by mile account as it’ll bore you to tears but everything was clicking nicely for the first section of around 12 miles. I was sweating heavily due to the humidity but I kept on top of the hydration nicely and refilled at the 12 mile aidstation where the 20 mile race was about to begin – about 5 minutes after I passed through!  It was kinda nice though as we had to run through the runners waiting there to start and so got a lot of support and applause as we hit the aid station which was a nice boost.

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The next issue was that we were now about to be overtaken by the faster 20 mile runners so the next few miles were spent keeping an eye out behind and letting fresher runners through. The course was starting to get seriously hilly now and most of the climbs were requiring a powerwalk. Every now and again I’d run past a Plague runner who had covered 32 miles more than me! I take my hat off to these guys and gals, each one got encouragement from all the other runners going past which I hope gave them small boosts as they were going to need it.

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Somewhere between 12 and 20 miles the left ankle started nagging and I knew it wasnt going to go away so it was time to start sucking it up and learning to manage the pain. Everything else felt pretty fine but I was finding descending trickier due to the impacts plus as its a coastal ultra the paths on hillsides tend to leave one foot higher than the other and angled which wasn’t helping.

The next aid station at around mile 20 was awesome – mainly as it had so much food! I ate everything I could stomach, mainly anything covered in salt as I knew I was losing loads through sweat.  There were medics with massage tables and the back of teh hall looked a little like a hospital. It seemed that there were quite a few struggling more than me. I was glad to see two ladies I’d talked to earlier arrive as they were struggling with the climbs especially. One was helped out by a medic and I encouraged the other to get help now to see if they could get her moving properly again.

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It was after mile 20 things started to get really tricky, from here on in it just seemed like hill after hill after hill. There was nowhere to pick up any sort of rythym. These hills were seriously steep too, many of them having steps cut into them which soon became an issue as the legs started to tire I could feel the first twinges of cramps.  Somewhere around 25 miles I had a massive cramp attack in my thighs on a downhill section dropping into a town harbour. I clung to the rail at the top of a steep flight of steps and tried to stretch out. This was the only point where I seriously thought I might not make it. I was scared I couldn’t fix the cramps, I’d had calf cramps before but upper leg cramps are truly scary. After a few minutes though they faded and I hobbled down the steps. Thankfully there was a flat section through the harbour and I recovered a little.

The support from the public was fantastic all the way, through every village and from walkers on the path everyone shouted and cheered and clapped encouragement. It really is a boost when you’re in pain to have support and it was so appreciated. The same from the marshalls who must have been out there for ages considering the Plague runners had set uot 8 hours prior to us!

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The last 8 miles of so are a blur of agonies, hope, hills and sheer fuck this, get it done and die later mentality. I was sort of comforted that it wasnt just me. It was easy to tell that the group of us together at that point were in the same boat.  Everyone cursed the steps, everyone creaked over stiles trying not to cramp their legs. We kind of stuck together in a loose rolling ball of pain for those last miles. Maybe half a dozen or so of us, all within a few hundred metres and drifting back and forth together and all encouraging each other. One of the ladies I mentioned earlier was with us and I really admired her efforts on the steps. Despite her obvious pain she shuffled up every step and just kept going.

Every now and again you’d find someone sat and cramping. You’d stop and check on them and they would always do the same thing. Smile and say I’ll be ok in a minute you go on. And you would indeed go on hoping it wouldnt be you going down next.

Looking back now I know those last few miles seemed to take forever but clearly didn’t I ran when I could though it was more of a shuffle. I was determined that I wouldn’t walk it in until I could do nothing but.  The last hill was a cruel one, from the beach I’d spent the previous afternoon on relaxing up an incredibly steep road to the campsite. It was like a deathmarch going up there. With less than a mile to go noone was celebrating, everyone was utterly spent. And then it was over, we could hear the clapping and cheering ahead and suddenly we ran onto the campsite and the finish line was there, 50 metres away. The crowds cheered and clapped and I even put on a normal run for a few metres over the line, they dropped a medal over my neck and I prompty wandered off and collapsed in a world of hurt.

It took an hour or so to be able to move without instant cramps, I’m not sure how muich further I could have gone if it hadn’t ended there. I don’t think very far. I felt pretty unwell for that hour but rehydration and some solid foods helped and I was ok enough to go out and clap some people through. There were so many people finishing after me I was astonished including lots from the 20 mile run who never managed to catch and pass me. I guess I wasn’t going that slow after all. The biggest cheers were reserved for the plague runners. Some of them had been out there for 19 hours, its hard to comprehend that, I finished in 8 hours and 7 minutes … another 11 hours out there? Not me thanks .. not yet

The whole event was superbly organised, I’ve emailed them to congratulate them on a superb effort. Everything was thought of, the aid stations were well stocked, they had medics and massages at each station. It was well marshalled and signed. I’d definitely recommened it if you want a weekend away in Cornwall with a race included. Just be warned the course is brutal.

So yeah that was my first ultra. It’s kinda hard to digest what I’ve achieved in two years. I made a promise to Soaky and I kept it. I ran the whole thing carrying her collar with me. Might have been a little extra weight but it was a whole lot of inspiration. Two years ago I couldnt run a single field on the way back from the beach. Last weekend I ran my first ultramarathon. Go figure. It does go to show if you’re willing to put in the hard yards, keep going despite setbacks, ignore the doubters and trust in yourself for once you can achieve your goals no matter what they are.

Christ this is sounding like an Oscars speech now but bear with me, I need to thank my parents, not for the first time for all the love and support they’ve given me, not just through my running but for my entire life, I certainly got lucky there.

I’d also like to thank you lot that read this blog and comment and provide me with inspiration and support. It really is appreciated. Even the bits where you tell me off and make me see sense 😉

Oh yeah and I guess there is finally a photo of me!

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It’s been a long journey and its only just beginnning ….

That one was indeed for you Soak.

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