I ran the South Downs Way 100 at the weekend. A proper race report will be on Run247.com once I’ve written it but the overwhelming feeling I have after running the race is what a huge part other people play in your run. I honestly feel like I just moved my legs and other people did the rest. I’ll try to illustrate with an hour by hour breakdown:
4am to 6am – my husband Pete took this shift. This consisted of nervous silence, some mild whingeing (me), a little bit of ‘what on earth am I doing?’ (probably both of us) and just in no way answering back or questioning anything I said (him).
6am, the start. I met up with Ultra Luke (@Ashton378) and Tim from the 2013 Trail Team (@JediRider), which calmed the nerves a bit. You have to man up a bit once you meet up with people you know, don’t you? Pretend you’re not nervous and you don’t really want to cry.
6am to 10am – I ended up running a lot of this stretch with Gemma Carter from the Trail Team day in London. She was a) lovely, b) really wonderfully positive and c) happy to have a very geeky running chat. She was the ideal running buddy and these miles flew by.
10am – my pacer for later on, Bill, turned up early to cheer me on at checkpoints! This was really kind and a big boost, and also really timely because I was feeling sick and Bill encouraged me to get some salt down me, which worked a treat.
10am – 12.30pm – this bit flew by as I knew I’d now have crew at the next checkpoint where they were allowed. And when I got there, two really good friends (Julie and Eileen) were also there to surprise me. I was completely overwhelmed but I tried not to show it (see earlier point about manning up).
12.30pm – 4pm – knowing that my friends would be at Washington (mile 53) and that I was picking up my pacer, Bill, there, these hours were just a blur and I breezed through the next couple of checkpoints and did everything I could to get to Washington as quickly as possible. Though 50 miles in, speed is relative. I felt like a greyhound; I was probably a bit more like one of those ploddy old labradors. At one point there was a huge rain shower but just as my spirits started to dip a bit my friends Tracey and Tom appeared in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know it was them at first because they were sheltering from the rain under big hobo blankets. It was amazing to see them and they made it easy for me to push on.
4pm – Washington checkpoint: friends, a cup of tea, new trainers and socks, husband and dog! When you’re 10 hours into an ultra any one of these items feels like a lottery win and Christmas combined.
4pm – 11.30pm – my friend Bill paced me, we chatted away, he understood when the degree incline of a hill that had to be walked became smaller and smaller, he encouraged me, he got me to eat and drink, he was a superstar in every way.
11.30pm to 4.12am – Bill handed over babysitting/pacing duties to my friend Mel the Merciless, badass personal trainer. Again, we chatted a lot, she was really encouraging, she understood when I could no longer run any hills, then when I could no longer run down steep hills because my quads hurt too much, no longer get over stiles very well, no longer make any sense, no longer keep that food down. Oh yes, I was a dream running buddy.
4.12am – Mel delivered me to the finish line, momentarily wrong-footed by my last minute sprint finish (no idea where that came from) and a hug from my coach, Marvellous Mimi Anderson, who was giving out the medals. Husband and dog were there and Bill completed almost as much of an endurance event as me by being at the finish line too.
I might have run for 22 hours but there wasn’t one minute in that time that I didn’t feel supported. If I wasn’t with somebody I was looking forward to seeing people or feeling the afterglow of a hug. This ultra business is definitely a team sport.
Photos by runphoto.co.uk/Tracey Moggeridge/Eileen Naughton