Firstly sincere apologies for the absolutely huge delay in getting these posts out. It has taken me about one weeks worth of commuting to write these down so I’m going to release them all at once, and this one will start them off with the 87 mile run from Marble Arch to Dover!
I was told the night before that the swim on midnight Saturday/Sunday looked very good which was essentially the all-clear for a 2pm start on Friday. That morning I had a nice big cooked breakfast, just as I would for any other long run, while Elliot, Rosie and Dad met up at my flat with the car, ready to get everything packed. After a bit (lot) of shopping Elliot and I worked on mixing the run feeds while Rosie and Dad worked on getting everything in the car. Already logistical issues were surfacing as we worked out we couldn’t open the boot with the bikes on the rack. No worries, Elliot & Rosie’s problem – not mine ;-).
Just to recap, the support team (below) was Dad & Rosie who shared driving/media duties, Elliot as “Road Butler”, Hamish as “Boat Butler”, Dan Earthquake as the Enduroman official, Mum as “sweeper” (met us and helped in each transition) and Alex as “Boris Bike Returner”.
As we arrived at 1.15pm at Marble Arch for a 2pm start I was definitely starting to get very excited. This was aided by a fantastic crowd to come and see me off which was great. The diary farmers protest added the necessary countryside touch. While the countdown was exciting, the walk away from the crowds was definitely not. Although I was a bit worried that I would get held up by the first set of lights and have to embarrassingly wait while the crowd watched on. Luckily I made the green man. Get in – what a start!
The plan was to walk the first 10.5 miles with Dan and Grantley cycling alongside me and we would meet the car after. Apart from almost forgetting my water bottle it was absolutely bang on target as it took 2.5 hours – a little quicker than the 4 mph I’d hoped. Walking quickly was crucial to my whole run strategy as I didn’t really want to run more than 45 miles in total and knocking off an easy 10 miles at the start does wonders for motivation. When we met up in the car it was time to say goodbye to Alex who had the very important task of returning the Boris bike to a docking station, otherwise Dan Earthquake would “find him”. A few stretches and some work with the physio ball and I set off running.
The first bit was a long uphill so probably not the best place to start but nevertheless I made good progress through miles 10-30. The feeding system working well, having a whey protein / maltodextrin shake (750 ml water) every 45 mins. Solid food included a lot of kettle chips, flap jacks and various treats. In terms of ultra-distance running I find that as long as your stomach can take it shove it in! Got a lot of support from Kev (you’ll see on C4 with me in October) driving up and down while I was walking/running the 25-30 mile part. His daughter looked suitably embarrassed.
At this point I started feeling a bit sore and the rain was really getting strong. I asked for a base layer but had packed one that was too small and got given that. Few minutes later changed out of it but not before it created a nasty rub underneath my arm. Next 20 miles were challenging but where I could I tried to run and whenever I couldn’t I made sure I was walking quickly. The route was tougher than I anticipated as it was hilly and there wasn’t a good running path most the way, with a lot of shrubbery in the way. Safe to say the A20 needs a new gardener – it’s not a pretty route. The rain also ensured my feet stayed fairly wet. Maidstone at 40 miles was a bit fiddly so I walked through with Dan. After that my feet were starting to feel very sore and I wondered if the relatively slow progress was going to not leave me enough recovery for the swim. Luckily the only though process going through my head to finish the run as pain free and quickly as possible. A battered sausage and chips helped cheer me up and generally spirits were high despite the rain and sore feet.
The original plan was to have a break at 60 miles which seemed like an age away but I got a nice surprise from Faversham rugby club around the 50 mile mark. I was pretty much dead on my feet at this point (fair enough as it was 1am; I had been on them for 11 hours) so at Charing we decided to bed down.
The support crew set my camping mat, sleeping bag and survival blanket next to a bench at around 1am for 90 mins kip. Dan slept on the bench to make sure no foxes pissed on me. I’m not sure if whether he learnt that from experience or this was a precaution. After getting up I had a feed straight away, changed my socks and shoes and felt better and continued to walked to the 24hrs Tesco near Ashford. I was still very sore but I remembered that this was the same on the Football Club Run and it completely disappeared when the sun came up. Went to the toilet at the Tesco’s around 4.30am but couldn’t squeeze out much to be honest. This is when Rosie & Elliot revealed that we’d lost my magic physio ball. I was very upset but they made a good save as they’d bought tennis balls as a replacement which worked fine. At that point it looks as though we were on for a 21-2 hr run which was a little longer than I anticipated but it was roughly to plan.
Next 30 miles went surprisingly quickly despite my feet being in a lot of pain. Just before we came close to Folkestone I was still thinking I was around 20 miles away so when Dan informed me that it was close to 10 I had a huge boost. It was also nice to get greeted by Enduroman friend Mike Smith who had a banner with all of the Enduroman names written on the back. #23 was currently unnamed and in my head I just said “that’s mine”. The hill climb at Capel Le Ferne (Folkestone) is a bit of a bitch and infamous on this run but I reminded myself how bad climbing Jacobs ladder was (Penny Fan) – and it was a doddle compared to that. I also got a great view of the sea which helped remind me that the real challenge was yet to come.
After the hill we held a little drinking ritual with my feed knowing that it was just 5 miles downhill to get to the marina. Unfortunately the road had absolutely no pavement and no real hard shoulder so it was very slow progress and quite frustrating. Luckily I knew I was well ahead of time and my fast walk continued to pay dividends. A nice surprise and cheering from family (Jonny, Georgina & boys) throughout the last mile was a great boost and finding out that I got to the end under the 19 hours was also a much needed bonus as it gave me an extra hour more than planned to recover. This included walking almost half the distance and a 90 minute kip. Celebration? Smashing down two large packets of haribo in 2 mins. Onto T1.
What I took away, and anyone doing endurance running should take away, is that you’ll naturally go through periods which hurt and are unpleasant. The trick is to understand that your body has a remarkable way of shutting this out and provided you continue to put one foot in front of the other you’ll make it. Also walking quickly really helps knock off the miles.