Mission complete!

It all was getting a bit too much on the build up side of things. Tuesday at work and I was getting butterflies. Four days before the start of the event! I don’t usually mind getting such feelings as it shows that I’m still in respect for just how tough it will be. Four days early though is just silly!
Finally, Friday came round. All week I’d been faffing around with my bags and equipment, so all I had to do was ride home from work get changed and walk to the train station.
After a couple hours on the train and a 30 minutes bus journey, I was at the Red Lion pub in Birmingham, which was the meeting/signing in point. I signed in, picked up my British Waterways Key so that I could use their facilities along the canal path, and also picked up my T-shirts, which I daren’t put on till after I’d finished.
I then met up with Alistair Parker who I was to share a room with that night at the Travelodge. We sat down and had a pint and a good chat. Was nice and relaxing just waffling away, almost forgetting the impending pain. Got a lift back to the hotel and had a big bag of fish and chips before further faffing around before bed. Alarm was set for 4!
In the morning, we got fully prepped and got a lift down to Gas street for the start an hour later.
It’s always interesting at the start line for races like this seeing just what sort of people have decided to have a go.
Once we’d started at 0600, I settled quickly into my planned pace of running for 25 mins then walking for 5, giving me time to eat and drink every half hour. The sun was already out at this point, but I was still my usual cold self. Hands where losing feeling.
After about 30 mins, Alistair and I decided to stop and take off some of our warm kit. Things where getting very warm already! The pace was sustained as we made our way to the first cp, which was at 10miles. Starting to really buzz off this race now. Really enjoying it, and so grateful to actually be doing it now.
We stuck together as we plugged away with the same pace towards cp2 at 20 miles. Was starting to feel the tiredness setting in as we approached it. Filled up my bladder, picked up some more snacks for the next stage and drunk loads of squash before setting off again. After a couple of hours, I’d slowly pulled away from Alistair, and felt pretty strong.
Just before I reached the fourth cp I met an old school friend, Shirley and her boyfriend Mike on the track which was a wonderful sight to behold. I’d been running alone for hours with barely any sightings of other runners, so to see a friend was great! She’d bought me a pasty as well which was great. I stopped briefly then we walked on to the cp together. I stopped there and took on board as much food and water as my stomach would allow. I then said goodbye to the guys and forged on. Such a shame that I couldn’t stop for longer with them seing as they’d travelled for 2.5 hrs! After about half an hour I turned a corner, and there they were again! What a great suprise. They did this two more times which did amazing things for moral and helped kill some time. Sadly they then said goodbye!
As the day drew on I overtook more and more people who said that the heat was killing them and they had given up running. I had been coping with the heat ok, that is till the early evening, when my body starting complaining, and I was desperately willing the coolness of the night.
I got to a cp just as darkness fell. I sat down and ate a baked potato with beans, couldn’t wait for my tea to cool enough to drink, so I put on my headtorch and made my way into the darkness.
Although it had cooled down alot, I was starting to feel really tired now. I found runnng in the night quite exciting, but my head torch was lacking a bit on the power side of things. I’ve ran before with this torch and it is not bright, but perfectly adequate for night running. The problem is that the route takes us back and forth over various bridges changing sides of the canal. These bridges are numbered with a small number, often placed in the centre of the arch. My torch would not always be powerful enough to illuminate these numbers so would have to watch runners lights ahead of me, and hope that they’d gone the right way. Finally dawn approached, and things started to heat up again. I reached the 100 mile point at almost exactly 24hrs which was quite sattisfying.
By this stage though, both my shins, near the bottom were really starting to slow me down. The pain was getting worse and worse and they were swelling quite badly. I pushed out of my mind that if this progressed then 45 miles just might not be possible. I tried not to dwell on what could be the cause of the pain, as my number one uneducated guess was stress fractures, which I’d suffered from before. From this previous experience, I knew that rest was the order, as to carry on was to encourage a complete break!
Keep on plodding, keep on plodding!
I was now turning a little zombie like. The heat was truly beating down again, and I was wishing for rain.
Finally, with much pain, I slowly stumbled into cp8 at 120 miles. A gazebo was up and I gladly slumped into a chair in the shade. My ankles and feet were throbbing. The staff asked me what I wanted, and all I could manage was water. They made me a bowl of cereal with a banana chopped up in it, but I could only manage a couple mouthfuls. I couldn’t think straight. I could fel that the heat was affecting my poor cooked brain. I decided I should try to go, but upon standing, my feet and legs had shooting pains pass through them, I felt very dizzy and fell back into the chair. I tried to compose myself but had waves of nausea pass over me. Then one of the staff informed me that I only had 10 mins left of my maximum allowable rest time before I was disqualified. This was the one time when I truly considered abandoning. Luckily, I gave myself a telling off for letting such a thought enter my mind, slowly got my self up and very slowly staggered off.
Only one marathon left! Normally something that wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. Was really bothering me now though considering my ever slowing pace. Was barely running atall now. Even when I did attempt to, It was slower than some peoples walking. Not great for moral!
What was good though, was that in 13 miles time I would meet my girlfriend Andrea and her cousin Lee, and Lee would guide me in for the final push.
It seemed to take an eternity to finally see Lee and Andrea a few hundred metres ahead. As soon as met up, I gave my rucksack to Andrea which felt amazing. I felt light and relaxed in the upper body. I’d try not to think to much about my lower half. I couldn’t really run by this stage, so Lee made sure he was a little ahead at all times to try and squeeze what speed he could out of me. We had a 15 minute detour through Southall which was an interesting change. Not the nicest looking of places, but plenty to be looking at to keep my mind off of the pain. We rejoined the canal then hit the final cp. Andrea had parked the car here and so I said goodbye, I WILL see her again at the end, I told myself. I drank some juice as I stood in the shade, then pushed on.
Lee pushed as much as my body would allow, but not only was the pain excrutiating, but energy levels were bottoming out. He drip fed me Red Bull in an attempt to kick start me but even when I started running, Lee could usually keep up with a fast walk!
And so I plodded on till we passed Paddington station and I knew I’d done it.
Just as darkness was beginning to fall, My friend Shirley, this time with Lisa, approached and met me! Stunned with just what great support was provided to me. I gave some poor introductions then pushed on, Being told that it was about 15 mins from here.
Finally, after 40 hours and 3 minutes I crossed the line, a happy broken man. My feet and legs were shot and my head was jelly, but I did have around my neck the most amazing medal I have yet to be awarded.
It was so good to have my friends there to see me at this moment and to experience this being my biggest physical and mental acheivement to date.
I couldn’t walk the next day, and three days later I went to A&E to get my shins checked out. They reckon it’s probably tendinitis of the tibialis anterior, though it could possibly be stress fractures, so to be sure, I’ll go back in a week. Since then though, they seem to be recovering pretty quickly. I ride my bike to work, and can walk around for a fair while before I need to put it up. The swelling has largely gone too!
All in all I’m very happy with how things went. My body held up well other than my shins, and mentally I’ve learnt that I have what it takes for at least 40 hours of continual exercise.
Next target…. 24hr track race!

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