Mandy Norris – My next ultra – Isle of Wight 106km in 2016.

After London 2 Brighton I rested up and soon got back out training. I looked to see what other ultras Action Challenge did and saw they offered an 106km ultra around the whole of the Isle of Wight. It’s a place I’ve never been and I loved the sound of running by the sea so I signed up and began my training again.

I was now in my 2nd year at university and the work was piling up and I had not one but two grandchildren, so its fair to say I was kept very busy. I’ve always been an early riser so I did the majority of my training runs around 4am each morning, running up to 10 miles during weekdays and anything over 20 miles on a Sunday. My longest training run for a 100k has always been 50k. I believe if you can run 50k you are capable of running a 100k. People say that running an ultra is more ‘mental’ than ‘physical’ and I actually agree with this. Yes, you need to be physically fit but your mind must be stronger. It’s a lonely place out there in the middle of the night when you’re all alone and your body is shouting at you to quit and just go to bed. On an ultra, you need to listen to your head, you’ve trained for this, you can do it.

Getting the ferry over to the Isle of Wight was so exciting. Like last time, I was a bag of nerves but also really excited. The hotel was lovely and I packed all my belongings the night before, this time ensuring nothing was left behind. Next morning, we got to the start bright and early. The sun was shining but the wind was very cold. I gave Tony a big kiss and told him I’d see him at the 2nd checkpoint. Tony went off to do the local parkrun, telling them that he and his wife

were running 111k that day! At 8am I was off, keeping myself towards the end of the first wave as I like to hang back and let everyone else find their own pace. I’m always in my own little world and don’t let faster runners intimidate me. I know I’m slow and I know it really does not matter.

The scenery was outstanding, white cliffs with the sea lashing over the rocks. I ran past holiday parks; holiday-makers; fishermen; and ran up and down some very steep hills. I was not prepared for just how hilly it was! Tony met me at each check point. I was feeling fine, I was in good spirits and was making good time.  I stopped mid-way at 50k round about 4pm, had a good meal and changed my trainers. The next part required me having to go onto the chain ferry to get across a little bit of sea which I thought was very exciting! On and on I went, absolutely loving the adventure.

I made a mistake with the route just as it was getting dark. I somehow missed a check point and ran on.  This was to be the checkpoint where Tony was to give me my running torch and jacket for the night time section. I phoned Tony and luckily after half an hour or so he found me. By missing the checkpoint, I had gained quite a bit of time and I was now the 9th female so I was feeling pretty chuffed. However, it soon became freezing cold. The wind coming in from the sea was absolutely freezing and I started to feel sick and vomity. I was so cold. At 82km, I was beyond cold. At the checkpoint I started being sick and thought I would never stop. The medic made me lie down and found out my temperature had dangerously dropped and I was in a pretty bad way. The medic told me I was not fit enough to carry on and pulled me from the race. I was so upset, crying and begging her to let me carry on but I knew deep down I was not well enough. Tony drove me back to the hotel where I slept solid for 4 hours then woke, feeling much better but still devastated.

I phoned the race director and begged to be allowed back in the race. I was so happy when they agreed, but obviously the hours I had slept were added to my final time (but I didn’t care about that). Tony drove me back to the 82km point where I had stopped and off I went! I was so much slower now, I still wasn’t 100% so I took it fairly easy but to be honest I had little choice as there were some killer hills ahead! So many steps! My poor legs were aching. This final 24km seemed to take forever. I brought myself an ice-cream from the ice-cream van along the seafront which tasted like nectar -just what I needed! Tony met me at the final check point and ran / walked the final 5 km with me. Seeing the finish line was the happiest moment of my life -I was incredibly emotional. Despite being ill I had just finished an 106km race. I’ve still no idea to this day what my time was but that didn’t matter! I was just grateful I had been allowed to finish.

Phoning my mother and telling her that I had finished was so emotional. My mam keeps telling me I’m “too old” for these things and I know she worries sick about me. She thinks that at my stage of life I should be taking it easier! Wait till I tell her that my goal is to run 100 miles!


Next week read about Mandy’s return to Morocco.