I remember arriving at the hotel in London the night before the big race feeling sick with nerves. I stupidly left the bladder from my camelbak behind so had to go into the centre to look for a replacement! I didn’t get much sleep that night, I was so worried. I double and triple-checked I had everything I needed. No longer was it a case of just putting on my trainers and heading out. Now I needed a full kit which included my hydration vest, headtorch and lots of spare batteries, plenty of water and gels, my iPod, waterproof jacket, gloves, buff and compression socks. I had tissues, sweets, map, my phone, and GPS watch as well as a photo of my dad in my bum bag! I also packed several changes of clothes and a few spare pair of trainers and socks to change into along the route but Tony luckily had these in the car so I didn’t need to carry the extra weight.
I got to the start bright and early with my husband Tony who was to be my support throughout the race. Seeing all the other participants made me feel even worse, they all looked like ultra-runners! In my head I was still a size 20 couch potato, despite my clothes telling me otherwise! We all did the aerobic warmup then off I went with the first group of runners. Many people choose to do this event over two days, some walking and some running but I intended to do this non-stop with no sleep. At the start I got chatting to a man whom I learned was called Mark Lord. It was also his first run and he was running in memory of his sister whom had died earlier that year. We got on very well and actually set off together, both keeping the same pace. I lost Mark about 15 miles in after he stopped for a toilet break – I had expected him to catch me up but soon I found I was back to running solo again. I ran past rivers, through the housing estates and soon I headed into the countryside with majestic views. Tony would be at each checkpoint, usually around every 8 miles or so. I felt so happy running in and seeing him there cheering me on with the camera. At checkpoint three I bumped into Mark again and we stayed together for the entire race from that point. We had also both joined up with a man called Ali that I had previously talked to online as I knew he was also doing this race. Ali joined us at this point and all three of us ran off together, all in great spirits.
On and on I went, feeling quite good and no aches yet. At the 50k half way point we all stopped for a little rest and much needed food. Ali and Mark both had a leg massage while I choose a neck rub as my legs were surprisingly pain free at that stage. Looking back, we all stayed far too long at the checkpoints, we later added up that we spent a total of almost 5 hours at the checkpoints throughout the race! It sounds so ridiculous reflecting back but we were having fun and knew there was a very large cut off point so we did not need to hurry. At around 70k in I started to feel sick. I stupidly hadn’t eaten much real food, I had been taking in many gels but no real food. I remember stopping at the 80k checkpoint, now late at night, feeling very vomity and ill. However, no way was I stopping so on I went. We hit a very steep hill at 88km and all of a sudden, I knew I was going to vomit. I collapsed on the ground and vomited everywhere! I was so embarrassed -absolutely mortified! Mark and Ali were both my heroes, helping me up and reassuring me I was going to be ok. Once I had vomited, I felt much better so I carried on, a mixture now of running and walking. That hill at 88km seemed to last forever! I love running throughout the night. There’s something very special about being in the middle of a forest in the pitch dark with only a headtorch.We sang songs, cracked silly jokes and just helped each other along.
At the final checkpoint Tony was there and he walked with me for the final 5km, almost keeping me upright at the end as I had virtually nothing left. I had never felt so exhausted in my entire life. Crossing the finish line was the proudest moment of my life. I cried and cried, I was so happy and emotional. Including the 5 hours we spent at the checkpoints, it took almost 20 hours to finish!! 20 long hours on our feet but so what?! I had just completed a 100km race!
That first 100km was a huge learning curve for me. I learned not to rely on gels and so forth. An ultra-runner needs food , the body needs fuel. Even if I didn’t feel hungry, I should have eaten. I learned that I was much stronger than I ever thought. There were so many points throughout the race when I felt like quitting but my inner strength kept nagging me to carry on – and carry on I did.
As soon as I got home, I knew I had to do another ultra. I had the running bug!