As the alarm went off at 4:30 am I woke with nervous excitement. This was the day I would attempt my biggest challenge yet, 100km (62 miles) of non-stop running.
The furthest I’d ever run in a single day was 36 miles. Now I was about to do it again, but with another marathon tacked on at the end.
I’d love to say I felt ready. That I’d done loads of training and preparation. I’d be lying.
Most of my runs this year have been short. They have also been infrequent compared to my past training schedules. I was relying on my base fitness level to get me through.
I arrived at the start line with a 3 litre tank on my back, filled with beetroot, pineapple and celery juice (mixed with water and Himalayan salt). Although I missed the official start as I was still queuing for a final toilet stop before heading off!
The first mile was slow to complete. I was stuck behind many walkers and slower runners and having to navigate my way through ‘traffic’. There were also queues at gates along the trail.
It was in this early part of the race that I met a friend of mine, Claire. It was great to catch up with her as we ran together for a short while.
The scenery along the trail was stunning. We ran through woods, corn fields, alongside the river Thames and through open countryside.
Unusually for the UK it was really hot too.
As much as I love time in the sunshine, it made the run much harder. I was secretly wishing for a light rain shower for some respite from the heat, but the sun continued to shine and the only thing getting me wet was my own sweat.
The race organisation was fantastic. Lots of clear signage along the route and well run ‘pit stops’ approximately every 10 kms.
Distance running is a fantastic metaphor for life. There are hills you need to climb. There are times when you are part of a community and times you are alone. There are times you feel amazing. There are times you want to quit. There are times when it feels easy and times everything feels impossible.
The heat and terrain made Race to the Stones a very tough event and after 8 and a half hours I reached the half way point.
This was time to take a short break, eat a meal and check for blisters. Thankfully my feet seemed to be doing ok and all I needed was a fresh pair of socks.
After a little time to let my food digest I was back out on the trail, starting off with a brisk walk, before picking up the pace again.
With hindsight I possibly should’ve spent less time in the pitstop and picked my pace up sooner as it wasn’t long before the sun started to set.
This was when the fun really started.
By now I was in unchartered territory. I was past the 36 mile point and had no idea if my body was strong enough to keep me going.
I was determined to finish and only a major injury would’ve stopped me.
As it started to get dark I swapped my sunglasses for a head torch. Sh*t. Navigating rutted ground with nothing but a head torch was tough and as tiredness kicked in it got tougher.
The chalky trails became a blur of white and the big stones hurt every time my feet landed on them. The grass trails disappeared into darkness. The choice was to look forward and navigate or look down to try and find a level surface to land on.
With 20 km to go I was desperate to run, but simply unable to see well enough. It was a slow, delicate walk on very tender feet.
The only time I was able to get back into a run was when I was under the flood lights approaching the finish line. 19 hours after leaving the start line, I’d covered over 63.5 miles and finally had a medal around my neck.
This race was my hardest challenge to date. My feet are wrecked. It was SO worth it.
I ran this race in aid of Action on Addiction. You can add your support on my JustGiving Page.
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