Believe you can do it and you are halfway there
Daunting, exciting, painful, inspiring, brutal, rewarding and fun – words that sum up my first ultra marathon. The ‘Race to the King’ on 23 June 2018 – 53.5 miles along the stunning, but very hilly, South Downs Way. It was an incredible day and one that I was very proud to be part of with my two friends, Jonathon and Leo. I wrote about how we came to agree to do this challenge in The long trek to the summit of Mera Peak: kit preparation and an ultra marathon.
The nerves and excitement were growing throughout the week before the event. For several months, I had simply followed a training programme and not really allowed myself to think about what I was attempting to do. I had also focused on this simply being training for my trek to Mera Peak, Nepal. This pretence didn’t work, however, when we arrived at the event! Amazingly there were another 650 people who wanted to run 53.5 miles and, worryingly, they all looked much more prepared than I did!
Jonathon and I planned to run together, trying to pace ourselves so that we had enough energy to complete the event. Leo, who is experienced at these events and much quicker than us, was going to run ahead. We kept in touch throughout the day via phone so that we all knew how we were doing – creating a sense of team spirit which was uplifting.
The first ten miles were great fun, with lots of people and a huge sense of excitement. We tried not to think about the fact that we still had 40+ miles to go! The second ten miles was incredibly hard. It was very sunny and hot, with no shade. There were also three tough climbs which everyone had to walk up. They were energy sapping and I forced myself not to think that we still had over 30 miles to go. I swore for the first time of the day when we had clambered to the top of the second hill, expecting to see our other halves, Matt and Hannah, and then realised they were at the top of the third hill! Seeing them was a huge boost and we took time to rest, regroup and get our strength back.
We set off again and soon got to the overnight stopping point for those who were doing the event over two days or the finish point for those ‘only’ doing half the event. As we left that pit stop, the numbers of people taking part had dropped significantly and we realised that we were now embarking on something serious. The next few miles to mile 30 were probably the toughest of the day. It was still extremely hot, with little shade and we were tired. And we still had over 20 miles to go! We both had points when we struggled but we supported and encouraged each other and never voiced how we were feeling. Importantly, we kept putting one foot in front of the other and never considered stopping.
We saw Matt and Hannah at mile 31 who were incredibly supportive and, oddly, it started to get a bit easier after that. It became a bit cooler, the sun went in and when we passed the 34 mile marker, we knew we had less than 20 miles to go and it really felt that we were ‘heading home’. You know your life has become slightly surreal when 20 miles to go feels like you are ‘almost done’!
As we saw our families for the last time on the route at mile 48, the sun was setting and the most amazing sunset guided us home.
As we passed the 50 mile marker, the two miles to go marker and then the one mile to go marker, we ran (or ‘shuffled’) with smiles on our faces and finally turned into Winchester cathedral close. Our families and Leo were waiting for us and cheered us in. We crossed the line holding hands and then I fell in to Matt’s arms with disbelief, relief and an immense sense of pride overwhelming me.
It was a simply incredible day. The tagline of the event is ‘There is more in you’. It is so true – we are able to push ourselves far more than we think is possible. What is equally true, though, is that I couldn’t have done it on my own. A huge thank you to Leo for his inspiration and relentless positivity, Jonathon for his support and encouragement throughout the 53.5 miles and Matt and Hannah who were life savers at points during the day, running to meet us, bringing food, drinks and, importantly, hugs. We were a team that I was incredibly proud to be part of.
I am blistered and hobbling today but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. And it was fantastic training, physically and mentally, for my trek to Nepal.
Thank you so much to everyone who has kindly sponsored me for my trek to Mera Peak. I am doing this to raise money for the wonderful charity, Cancer Research, to help those who are suffering from the cruel disease of Cancer now and to help to find a cure to avoid others having to suffer in the future.