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Race Reports

race on the first day through stupidity. I tried running again when I got to the top of a small hill, as the gentle decline allowed gravity to help me out. Then, in what can only be described as one of the greatest sights of my life, two men got out of a minibus and started clapping at me - it was the checkpoint. I ran to them and found a whole table full of fruit cakes, pasties, Jaffa Cakes, Jelly Babies, biscuits and cup after cup of orange juice and water. I swiped my card and then emptied about 6 cups straight off without stopping for air. I followed this up by filling my face with something from every plate on the table. The guys were full of sympathy for me and gave me a bottle of water for the rest of the stage. Later in the weekend when chatting with me, one of them said that when I arrived at the checkpoint that day I had looked ghostly and eaten as if I hadn’t eaten in a month. It had felt like it. After about 5 minutes of pulling myself together I picked up some food for my pockets and

earlier on.

My watch beeped at 27 miles and again I found myself stopping and walking. I’d simply had enough. I’ve always considered myself mentally tough and strong, but at that point, in that muddy field slipping from one tree root to another, soaking wet from the rain and freezing cold from the wind, I had never felt mentally weaker. I wanted to sit down and cry. I wanted to lie down in the bushes and go to sleep. I would have given anything to have pulled out then, to get into a dry car and go somewhere warm. I started telling myself that it would be okay, I started to try and find excuses about why. I blamed inexperience, I blamed Amsterdam, I blamed anything I could think of and then from nowhere I got angry again and told myself how in reality it was all my fault. I thought of something my brother, Stephen, says, and had been told during his time in the Navy - Piss, poor preparation leads to piss poor

have to stop and walk for a bit, but I only allowed myself 10 seconds of walking whenever I did stop.

At 29 miles I looked at my watch and it read 3 hours 50 minutes. I should have been finished, but instead I had 3 more miles to run as a result of my stupidity. This somehow seemed to have a major affect on me, as I suddenly found some more pace and I was no longer stopping for walking breaks. Maybe the food and drink from the check point had started to refuel my body, but for whatever reason I was running again, at pace and not stopping. I went though mile 30 in 9 minutes, a marked improvement on the previous three or four miles. Not long after mile 30 I saw the yellow and black arrows we had been told would be there to lead us to the town and school we would be staying in that night. It felt great, mostly because I knew I wouldn’t be getting lost anymore, but also because I knew it was only a mile and a half away. I turned off the Ridgeway and on to the road.

Oh, how I had missed the road! I am still a road runner at heart! I picked up the pace and fuelled by Jaffa Cakes, fruit loaf and a longing for a shower I banged out my last 2 miles in 15 minutes. Seeing the school gates and the final line I felt totally empty. I barely acknowledged the applause from the gathered organisers, helpers and volunteers as I crossed the line and swiped my card to mark the end of the stage. I’d finished in 4 hours and 14 minutes and my GPS read 32 miles, 3 miles more than I had meant to.

wearily set off, knowing that there was still seven miles to go.

Within yards I felt sick. I had eaten too much, too quickly. My stomach started to spasm and cramp, as I struggled to hold everything in. I slowed to a real gentle jog to try and allow things to settle.

It was terribly slow and my legs began to cramp as well. Now, my body was paying for all those stupidly quick miles

performance. That’s what I had done.

Yes, I’d trained well and I was in good physical shape, but I had done little by way of preparation for taking on this challenge, which was so different from anything else I have done. I should have studied a map. I should have taken more water and some food. I should have run at a better, more controlled pace and evenly. This anger made me pick up my pace and begin running again. I did

I asked the guy how many people were ahead of me. I could see four runners sitting inside drinking coffee, so didn’t expect to be anywhere but at least fifth. It was then that I was told that I was the first of the late starters back and that the four in front of me had been from the early start meaning they had been given an hour’s head start. I was told I had won. I had won the first stage. I simply couldn’t believe it. I moved through into the building to get a coffee and collect my head.

Despite everything I had been through I had still won. It was hard to enjoy the moment, as I still felt a combination of anger, despair, and depression from everything that had happened. Not to mention the fact that I was utterly shattered!

February/March 2011 | Ultrarunning World 17

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