So... I did it! I have completed three marathons in three days. Not only three marathons, but technically three ultramarathons, as all of them were over the regulation 26.2 miles.
I've written in my blog a lot of times about my training, preparation and the challenges I've faced. I didn't know what to expect from it, and found out that I'm much stronger than I ever thought I could be. Now, a couple of warnings here... 1) I think this will be pretty long and 2) it'll be full of cliches.
I'll go into the details of the run in a while, but will get the results etc out of the way first of all. I completed all three marathons in under 15 hours - 14hours 59minuntes and 39seconds. 14:59:39!!!
Run 1: 26.2miles, 4:58:22 (20th place)
Run 2: 28miles, 4:45:54 (14th place)
Run 3: 27.5miles, 5:15:40 (11th place)
Unbelievably, I came in 12th place overall. Out of 270ish starters, I came 12th!!! Only 180ish finished the whole thing. If you want to see the entire lot of results (and see I'm not lying!), you can: http://is.gd/bd2LM
And so, the event itself... Well I couldn't have imagined what it would be like, how hard it would be and what sort of issues I would face. Although I scored a mini victory in that I didn't tread in a single dog shit, I couldn't avoid many other problems. I started marathon 1 in good spirits, but weather faded and I soon found myself in solitude. I always seem to get into a place like that - in front of me are the best runners, the guys who are built for running and train like dogs. Behind me are everyone else - I seem to be somewhere in between. I realised at six miles that I was in for a hell of a slog, but stayed in good spirits, not expecting anything but a finish. I've run a marathon before, I've trained quite a lot so I plodded along. The hills were incredible and can be seen on the link at the bottom of the page, along with the videos I took. Some of them make interesting viewing, if not only for the spectacular views and bits of dribble coming from my mouth!
Because the weather was terrible, the terrain was really bad, too. I'm not exaggerating when I say we were ankle deep in mud and water. My feet soon blistered and the tracks were strewn with brambles and sharp plants - I cut my arm and ripped the inside of my tights. An inch higher, and I'd have ripped a lot more - which is the answer to why some runners wear shorts over the top of their tights - not because they've got stuff to hide, but they can predict sharp baby maker damaging brambles approaching! I finished the marathon in a much better than expected 20th place and felt quite well, in general. I thought I hit the wall at mile 20 - turns out that was a false alarm. I hobbled a little after the run, but ate a lot, relaxed and looked forward to day two.
So Day 2 came around and I woke up still feeling quite physically fresh, but feeling mentally distressed. I struggled to motivate myself and started to question myself. Had I started too fast and would I be able to continue at the pace I did? Although I entered this race with no expectations, coming 20th on day one made me have targets - I couldn't lose face and go down the pecking order and so I doubted myself massively and worried about continuing. But I started. And with rotten guts. I worked out whilst trying to occupy my mind that I was burning about 5,000-6,000 calories a day. It meant consuming a lot of sugar and a lot of anything else I could lay my hand on.
I managed to get motivated after a couple of hours and can vividly remember the point at which my body started to work for me. Because I was struggling in my head, my legs and my heart and my lungs relaxed and I continued at a reasonable pace. I ran for long periods and that's where I started doing my sums, thinking of random things and wiling away the time. If you're reading this now, sit down and look at your watch. Watch the second hand go around for a minute and don't move. It's a long time - so imagine doing that 286 times, but hitting your leg every second - it's a long time to be party to that much pain and solitude. Believe me, you wouldn't want to be left alone for that amount of time with my mind to occupy you!
So I reached a happy place physically and my mind was occupied with two thing - I don't know why, but one was a repeated call of 'Terra Firma, Terra Firma' (A song by a band whose name escapes me) and the word monosyllabic. And then disaster strikes - I met up with a group of other runners and we got lost. I ran an extra mile around a quarry and lost about 15 minutes in total. I was gutted and got really demoralised. It was horrible to think that I had wasted that much time and it's then that I started to struggle. Properly struggle, that is - like I hadn't witnessed before when physically exercising. I soon zoned out from the other people I was with and concentrated on why I was doing this run. We were told from the outset that spirit in the event would always be good and runners could always support each other. So I was very surprised when I was running ahead of about 4 people, who I then caught out of the corner of my eye taking a short cut. People were straying from the course and cutting out chunks (this one was about a mile). I was initially annoyed about this, but had plenty of time to mull the situation over. I realised that this was ultimately a challenge and neither myself nor these guys would win the event. So cliché time, but who were they really cheating? Surely it was themselves, because they will go home and tell everyone they did it, they ran three (ultra)marathons in three days and they didn’t. Shame on them. It also gave me a brilliant target, because I was determined to beat these numpties on day two. And I did – well three of them anyway.
I got back to the caravan park after day two feeling lifted albeit with a left knee that was giving me some serious issues. I rested up, tried to relieve the swelling in my knee and ate a shed load more.
We lost an hour’s sleep that night, but to be honest, I didn’t notice it. I was so exhausted that I slept right through and woke up early with an icky tummy (again). I was massively buoyed though, because my sister called to say she, her fiancé and my niece and nephew were driving all the way down from Melton Mowbray to watch the race.
Now, the weather was variable to say the least on the final day. It started raining hard, followed by high winds on the journey to the start.
I got to the start, and met my sister and co, and then looked around to see my Mum had also come with them. Almost enough to tip a fatigued man over the edge, but I held it together. The start was delayed because someone needed an emergency poo, and who were we to hold the poor guy up? It could have been a disaster for him! He got a massive cheer from everyone as he ran towards the crowd of starters for the delayed bang of the gun. Do you remember Linford Christie saying he always started a race on the ‘B’ of the bang?! Well I started the race a little after the ‘G’ of the bang. As did most of the other racers, who hobbled, limped, shuffled and struggled to get their muscles working. It was like trying to start a car in the dead of winter!
We got going and my paparazzi family snapped away as we left.
As I started running on the final day, I was reasonably close to the front and running with a few guys. We had different tactics. One guy ran the whole thing – slowly, but ran everything – including the hills. Another was a quicker jogger who plodded along. And I was the guy who got to the top of the hills slowly and then on the way down the other side I lengthened my stride, leant forward and hoped to God that I wouldn’t hurt too much if I fell over. I was like a speeding cannonball going down those hills. The other two would then catch me on the other side and the cycle continued.
We climbed a lot more than before on the third day, and that’s saying something. At one point, we actually climbed into some low clouds. Visibility became low and the pressure was on to find our way around correctly. The scenery, when I could see it was special, though. It was amazing!
Coming to the first checkpoint my knee was playing up and I really had to concentrate to ignore the pain. I couldn’t ‘float away’ into a trance like I had before. It seems that every downhill was taking its toll and was sending a thundering pain through my legs with every step.
At checkpoint 1 I asked around for painkillers and was given some (not really ideal) ibuprofen by the nice guy next to me. I then saw my sister and ran over to them all. They had taken the trouble to make me a brilliant sign and cheered me on when I left them. I welled up but still manned up and not a tear passed my eye. Mainly because I was getting dehydrated. Stupidly, in the excitement of seeing them, I forgot to get my Camelbak (other hydration systems are available) filled up. Big mistake and schoolboy error. The next six miles were spent sans water. And I felt it. I was desperate for some of the wet stuff and had to ask some passers by if they had any. They were very sweet and let me have some. Thank God they were there!
By now my mind was firmly on the pain in my knee. I got to the top of a hill and was really upset by what I saw (see video below). There were hundreds of steps – down the hill and then up the other side. Every step was taking with an ‘F’ word and my knee almost buckled. To make it worse, I was going hazy in the head and had an awful headache. I was getting *really* dehydrated now.
But… I looked forward to half way, which was only a mile away. And my family were there. I rang my sister and asked her to pick up some paracetamol on the way to the checkpoint. As I reached the brow of the final hill in that stage, all I could see was my sister waving madly at me. I filled myself with far too much paracetamol, ate a couple of sweets from the truck and went to give my nephew a quick cuddle. He turned his head and looked sad. He then said “he smells” and walked away. Ouch! That pain was akin to the one in my knee. The boy had a point, though. I was wearing the same tights from day 1, as well as the same over vest. I could almost taste myself.
Anyway, this time I filled my water, ate a sandwich and ran on…
Into the worst personal turmoil I’ve been through in a long time. I hit the wall at about mile 15. I knew the end of the race was coming, and the pain in my knees was going because of the drugs. But I had to challenge myself to get to small goals ahead of me. I had to actually talk out loud to gee myself up and I remember seeing a massive hill ahead of me. I fought with myself to take it on and then went a bit crazy. I took over a couple of guys at the bottom and took the hardest but shortest route. I sprinted it. I had more explosive power in my muscles than stored long term energy, and it spurred me on. I head one of the guys behind me say “f... me, look at him go”. What he didn’t know was that when I got to the top, I was sapped but satisfied. I plodded on to checkpoint 3.
I didn’t spend much time at CP3. Enough time to see my mum get a bit upset because she said I didn’t look well. I didn’t feel it, but there was no way I wasn’t going to complete it. Also pleasing was that they had big Haribo snakes at that checkpoint. That spurred me on...
For the best part of ten minutes. 6 miles to go and I was really really struggling. I walked for about 5 minutes – the longest period of time I had walked continuously. I was on a really tight cliff path and started to get upset. I had filled my water at CP3, but made the fatal error of putting in too much concentrated electrolyte in with it. Essentially, I had created a sack of sea water. It was way too salty and was dehydrating me further. It was a disaster and added to my already blurred vision and lack of coordination. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was unsteady on my feet and found it hard to concentrate. I was starting to twist my ankles regularly and fell over a couple of times. I was struggling in my consciousness and didn’t realise until it was too late that I had wee’d myself a little. That’s not easy to admit, but hell, this has always been frank. I was losing my faculties. I also cried. Only a little at first, but then a lot. Let me explain. I have always adored my family and have ALWAYS been spurred on by them. They have encouraged me and supported what I have done. My brother sent me a text and said two really important things. One was that my dad would be incredibly proud and to remember I am doing this for him. That set me off. Because I wouldn't have taken this on without good reason, and a charity like Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide is just that. I don't just want to raise money, but awareness of the issued surrounding suicide, too. The other, and the one that really made me cry, was he finished the test with “you’re my idol, bro. I’m really proud of you”. I was his idol! I couldn’t not finish. My brother won't admit it, but he's a caring sole and would give anything for any of us. And so with tears in my eyes, I started to run. And I’ll tell you what, I didn’t stop until I reached the finish. That is the God’s honest truth. I ran for about 4 straight miles. Over all terrain and caught a lot of people.
And so to the finish. With 400 meters to go I was in my element. All of my pain had gone and I was running quickly. Well it felt quick, anyway. I sprinted over the finish line to lots of cheers and that was it. I had done it.
I collapsed and on hands and knees revelled in my victory. When I steadied myself, I found a quie(er) area and retched. I was sick, my head was raging and I was massively dehydrated. So where better to be than in my Mum’s arms? I got a massive cuddle and congratulations and I tried to hold myself together. Photos, trophy and off the family went back to Melton and off to the holiday park I went.
I didn’t realise quite how bad a state I was in until I got back in the caravan and passed out for about 15 minutes. I was conscious (kind of) but just laid there for that quarter of an hour in a real haze. I couldn’t see well and breathed in a laboured way. Eventually though, I got in the shower and basked. I could be clean again! I did a wee (I know, it was in the shower but I didn’t care) and it was bright red. I had sufficiently damaged my kidneys and was pissing a lot of the red stuff. It was thick and clotted. Note to self – keep an eye on that.
So that’s that. That was the end of the adventure. I had to drive home that night, which was interesting, and got into bed and slept badly.
Apart from the story of the weekend, there is a lot that has gone on during the runs. I haven’t spoken of the huge support my friends offered as ‘I Facebook’d’ pictures and comments on my way round. They helped massively.
And the input of my fiance Amy, was huge. She constantly encouraged me, supported me and put up with me. Not just through the weekend, but throughout all my training. I pretty much neglected her throughout my training. To her, a massive thank you. I truely couldn’t have done it without her. She understands that I need to put myself through these things. And it is a need and I know she will never stop me doing it.
I’m sorry this hasn’t been as comical as past blogs. The weekend wasn’t that humorous. It was bloody hard. Laughs were had, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t remember many of them, because I was usually in too much pain.
It’s been a long winded insight into my adventure. And the adventure isn’t over. I still have a good few marathons to do this year, and although I’ve got to the peak of the challenges, as discussed, the downhill parts aren’t always the easiest.
If you haven’t sponsored me and would like to, please feel free:
I also videoed parts of the run. For a real insight into the run, and for a good couple of laughs, see here:
This post has been read 1087 times.