For some reason my weekend seemed to blur into one long day… probably because I didn’t make it to bed on Saturday night. In fact, with the exception of some short intermissions, I was awake for 36 hours straight.
The reason for this long day started at 7.30pm on Saturday, after a circuit around the London Eye, when 15 of us started running along the Embankment in the direction of… well, the Brighton Eye.
I have been vehement in my absence at any such Ultra events that the other guys have been competing in over the years, but this one was conceived by Cliff and Andy so it seemed rude not to participate… though only after a considerable battle of willpower with myself!
We had two support cars which carried Andy’s spare shoes and most of his running wardrobe, though, to be fair, most of the others also had large kit bags. This enabled the ensemble to run with micro-packs holding water and emergency supplies only.
Since I was avidly trying to avoid doing the run in the first place, I had not attended the planning sessions and so pitched up with all my gear in my running pack… which weighed about 7kg including 2 litres of water. Dai tried to persuade me to decant some weight into the support cars but… well, I didn’t, choosing instead to lighten it slowly by consuming all the edibles!
The support cars met up with us at predetermined locations along the route and provided additional snacks, hot cups of tea and, for those that had them, fresh socks, shirts, trainers, legs etc. This also meant that we could choose which sections we wanted to run, with some people running only a few sections and others running the whole way.
The general idea seemed to be to walk up any hills and run the rest of the time and I had hoped to complete the whole distance by going more slowly. It quickly became apparent that this was not going to be possible since, in order to maximise the time spent off-road, the route was torturous. Map-reading never having been my strong suite, I had to keep with the pace or get lost… although keeping up didn’t prevent the group from getting lost on a number of occasions!
As evening turned into night turned into morning, so the differential between my pace and the others’ slowly widened until I would catch up with them only when they stopped to figure out which way to go or at the next refreshment stop.
Eventually, on reaching the support cars at Weir Wood Reservoir at just after 7am , I decided to hang up my sodden shoes… everyone else having already taken refreshments and continued on. I had covered more than 43 miles in just under 12 hours.
My legs were tired and my shoulders ached from the pack but I could probably have continued further… but only at a much slower pace. My mind was also tired though and the lure of an escape was too appealing so I joined the kit bags riding between check points.
The aim was that everybody would at least complete the first and last sections so I was fortunate to have more than six hours to recover until the last of the others had completed the next 18 miles.
I then rejoined the ensemble as we ran the final four miles into Brighton… though run is not the right word in my case and the others had to wait for me to catch up before we ran the final hundred metres together.
The event, which covered more than 65 miles in about 19.5 hours, was topped off by a ride on the Brighton Eye.
The gang of 16 (including Paula, our one permanent driver) were amazing throughout, though my Top Banana award has to go to Nikki who intended to do half but managed to complete the whole distance… and still managed to disappear off ahead of me in the final section!
I didn’t ask for sponsorship, but if anyone would like to donate a little money to charity in recognition of my efforts, then please go to my Just Giving site. The charity, set up 20 years ago in memory of Big Man Daren’s brother Clive Packham, encourages Scouts to participate in adventurous activities by offsetting some of the costs of travel or training. I particularly like it because they insist that the Scouts themselves present a formal case for the money they need and then make a final presentation of the event to the Trustees.
Even small donations will be very welcome!