Round the Island Ultra


A few months ago I decided to sign up to the “Round the Island Ultra Marathon – 2012″ –a run around the Isle of Wight, 69 miles in 2 days – a multiday ultra marathon. I had been motivated by a number of talks & films that had taken place at The Showcase Cinema in Sheffield; Sheffield Running Club Member ‘Will Beachamp’ who ran & won the Frostbite 50 in January which sounded just amazing and also by my friend Dan who ran solo 4 marathons in 4 days all amidst my inability to do speed work and being a bit drained by running 10kms over and over again – boooorrring!. I have slow twitching muscle fibres you know.

I was tossing up between the Round the Island Ultra as it is known and The Wall Ultramarthon (Carlisle to Newcastle). However the Round the Island was cheaper, more trail better organised from the XNRG guys and sounded more fun. I found myself signed up one Sunday evening So that was the beginning of my journey to run around a diamond-shaped island for 69 miles over two days. (Garmin maps also available on request).

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go – T.S. Eliot

The event was organised by XNRG. The first day being 38 miles, the second being 31 miles. I had never run further than 32 miles before, never mind 38 then another 31 the following day. Insane at its worst, incredibly refreshing at its best? So..

I decided to go for a little run. – Forrest Gump

The Evening Before

Friday afternoon I made my way to the school where 125 people would cram into a sports hall. I was one of the first there so got a nice corner spot with a plug socket, although the organisers provided lots of plug extensions later, fine detail, fine detail Brilliant. All food apart from the first night was provided along with accommodation; school hall the first night and camping the second night. I registered, was given a route map and route card and my number, my number which I had to remember to check-in at the checkpoints. I was number 88.

Runners like to train 100 miles per week because it’s a round number but I think 88 is a lot rounder. – Don Kardon

People began to arrive, I met fellow twitter follower Susie and her friend Emma. My sleeping bag neighbours arrived; 3 lovely guys from Crystal Palace Tri club. I was invited out for some Pasta with them so down to the “town” we went. Normally this wouldn’t be so much a challenge, but the “Round the Island Ultra” was deliberately on the same weekend as the “Isle of Wight Yacht Race”. The boats sailing around the Island anticlockwise whilst the runners run around clockwise. Crazy.

So Cowes was buzzing and moo’ing with sailors and a few runners. The first table we could get was 9.30pm in a Thai restaurant, so I suggested we walk out of town a little, and our luck meant we were able to get a table and they did us a special dish of pasta and chicken. Result! The guys were big pro’s at these events; having done 30 marathons between them – and remind your readers Helen how many marathons you have done? Err..shrinks into a little corner – the big number Zero. God I feel inferior, what am I doing here? (click for larger images).

Back at the school, the hall had transformed into a swimming pool of sleeping bags laid on top of gym mats and a mass of running gear. There was hardly a space to be seen on the floor. Night one resulted in 4 hours sleep due to the token snorer and then lights on at 5am in the morning. Why so early you ask? People were split into three groups:


8am – walkers
9am – those that had estimated a 30 miler in greater than 5 hours
10am – those that had estimated a 30 miler in less than 5 hours

I had put 5 hours down after my 32 miler at Dukeries in 5 hrs 07 minutes. Mistake number one as I ended up in the “Elite” group starting at 10am. Me; Elite? – haa haa! I was bricking myself even more once the 9am group left that morning as I was surrounded by super pro-Ultra marathon runners. No; I have never raced a marathon before; sorry yeah I have done 1 32 miler before and err well that’s it Yeah I am a bit inexperienced. It’s gonna be all wight on the night. What is an ultra-marathon anyway? It is anything longer than 26.2 miles, an insanely long run and running longer than everyone else in the world thinks possible. But this was possible and I was going to get round even if it took me all week.

The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start. – John Bingham

Day 1: The Race

Day 1 of the event covered over 38 miles with 415m of climbing. Finally, we were called. First a little 1 mile “jog” down to the chain ferry to take us to East Cowes. This was enough to leave me breathless, I had no hope in keeping up with these guys, they all seemed really friendly but so pro, having done lots of these events before. The start was very different. Not your normal start line with the gun going off, oh no, this was the door of the chain ferry lowering on East Cowes, the event began, and off we went. Just 69 miles to go.

There were about 15 of us, I was the last female off the ferry, and my strategy was to try and keep the rest of them in sight for the first few miles until my confidence grew a bit. The super mega amazing guys went off at under 8 minute mile pace, I kept somewhere in the middle of the small pack; clocking in 8.39 minute mile and then a 7.55 minute mile – steady on steady on. I ran the first 5 miles in less than 45 minutes, this was not a good start, not for an ultra anyway. Only in an ultra would you want to go slower.

Soon we were on country lanes and meandering around little village housing estates Everyone was given a route map and proper map. I had mine in a little 25p zip up bag tied to my rucksack – lesson learned from my previous event where the sun melted the instructions. This was working well as it could either dangle down or I could roll it up and put it in my little pocket on the rucksack. Result!

Woot, through Wooten Bridge we went some four miles in and into trail. I was wearing my road shoes for the first day which supported me well. I was feeling good. In my head I had this quote:

If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry you will get over it. – Thibeault

So I needed to relish this time. Just 34 more miles to go, thats 34 not ¾. There were just two of us running together by this stage, me and another girl; Michelle. We dropped down to Ryde seafront around 8 miles, knowing the first Checkpoint was not too far away at Seaview, with; a sea view. A big cheer all round as we approached the food and drink.

The checkpoints are there for safety, to check into; for a pit stop with ample amounts of flapjacks seedy stuff, marshmallows, jelly babies, mini sausages and sausage rolls and other goodies as well as water top ups and juice. This wasn’t a race it was a challenge so taking time out at the check points is all good even if it is valuable time ‘lost’ that is if you are aiming for a time. I didn’t stop my Garmin at any point, just letting it run and run and run, just like me.

In an ultra you should eat like a horse, drink like a fish, and run like a turtle. – Unknown

We passed the first walkers and said hi to them as we meandered around Bembridge. A couple of runners from our group had slowed down myself I still felt strong. I passed my fellow sleeping bag neighbour from the Tri club who was trotting around, I shouted “hello number 87” (one number less than me) and got a “Go Helen” response. I felt good, really good. Remember, if you start to feel good during an ultra don’t worry you will get over it.

It’s about you. It’s personal. You’re not racing against anyone else. You only get one first time, so just enjoy the experience. – Kristie Cranford, Runner’s World Challenger of the Week

From then on the route was mostly trail, mostly mud and mostly hills. The first rather big hill – Culver Down loomed up in sight. My route card shouted out to ‘aim for the monument’ so up it was, first passing through a caravan site which I had stayed at as a kid. This created a real warm glow inside me. Me as a little kid on the same ground with my bucket and spade, me many years later running through it. I thought I would be 18 stone couch potato by now instead of running around the island and still leading the “elite” women (to be fair there were only three of us and some much faster women in the group below)

Some of the tourists were cheering us on, go number 88, off you go, good luck; as we ran, jogged then walked up the hill. No wonder I was feeling rather tired; 18 miles and a 250 metre of climb. Yet surely what goes up must surely go down?

It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is best from the top.
– Arnold Bennett,

And it did. Sandown stretched down in front of us. It wasn’t called Sandown for anything. An amazing clear blue sky and deep blue crisp sea stretched for miles. But most of all the plethora of boats racing around the island the other way around filled the blueness of the sea. I got all emotional as I ran down the hill, my arms stretched out. I felt like I was flying, this was amazing. The sun was beating down I was in trail top, shorts, cap and sunnies, rolling down the cliff path with the blue seas of the English channel full of sails. That sight will never leave me as I breezed past a few of the slower runners down to checkpoint 2 and a really big cheer from all the volunteers. Remember, if you start to feel good during an ultra don’t worry you will get over it. (click for larger images).

Once again everyone was so encouraging at the checkpoint, asking how we were, filling up our water, ensuring we were all healthy. Brilliant support all round. I thanked the marshals, packed my body full of sweet stuff, malt loaf, and some mini sausages, whilst the lovely guys on the checkpoint filled up my bladder, and myself and Michelle were off again. We walked a little bit to allow the food to digest then started jogging. This bit was flat, flat as a pancake, about as interesting as the bottom of a pancake pan and as colourful as a pancake, but nowhere near as tasty as a cake. Welcome to the Isle of Wights’ concrete jungle

We passed the rather cheesy Sandown pier and onwards through beach huts that all had silly names like Mick Hutnall

Holding back the years,
thinking of the fear I’ve had for so long.
When somebody hears, listen to the fear that’s gone.
Strangled by the wishes of pater,
Hoping for the arm of mater,
Get to me sooner or later,
Nothing ever could, yeah.
I’ll keep holding on,
I’ll keep holding on,
I’ll keep holding on,
I’ll keep holding on.

I had to keep holding on as I was having a bit of a low at this point. 20 miles in and my head was in the wrong place. Looking out to sea I saw all the boats sailing around, if they can sail around I can run around. I glanced back to the coastal cliffs that I had run down and a huge wave of emotion engulfed me. It suddenly hit me what I was doing. The coastal path was all marked with blue and Wight signs and a white seagull so although there was the possibility to get lost, it was relatively all quite straight forward.

The 165 steps at Shanklin followed by a massively steep hill to grunt up challenged me even further. No you are not nearly there. No chance.

Don’t worry – you’re supposed to walk the uphill’s – Shelley Black

Back onto trails and through delightful forest tracks., it was rather muddy but it didn’t matter as I had Check point 3 in my mind at the next coastal town of Ventnor.

Some runners had already pulled out at Check point 3 due to injury and other slower runners and walkers were mingling. I stopped for a few minutes to refuel. I tried some marmite bread but it didn’t do it for me so stuck with the sweet seedy stuff and malt loaf and off I went again. I remember Ventnor as a kid, so thought I knew the route up onto the cliff path. The route card clearly said not to take the path down to St Catherine’s lighthouse so I knew I had to get onto the main road somehow. Michelle was still with me which really helped as we discussed the route together. Unfortunately, I went a bit wrong as we hit the road a good mile or so from the road we were supposed to take. However I had been warned about this section so had blown up a Google map of the section, dug it out asked for directions and eventually made it to the correct path. This took us a good mile or so out of track and wasted around 20 minutes or so. All in the name of Ultra running.

Back on track we hooked up with a couple of other guys who then went straight on. I was convinced it was left – keep the sea on your left, the land on your right – you know the another deviation until we got back on track (I was right for once!!!) and we were running on high ground through bumpy fields of corn. Sweet. It was hard going on the feet, and I felt myself slowing right down but knowing that Check point 4 was not far away.

Good things come slow – especially in distance running.
– Bill Dellinger

Another steep hill, the biggest elevation gain at 29 miles – 320m of climb upwards, and then out popped Checkpoint 4, yes I had gone about a mile too far; as I had a sneak at the distance on my watch. I was supposed to be at 31.5 miles instead of 32.5 miles.

Refuelling and being told that I only had around 6 miles to go was a great relief. Military road and the coastal path bleakly stretched way ahead in the distance with the odd runner or two dashing about on top of the windswept cliffs. This was cliff running thank god that Cliff Richard was at Wimbledon and not here, I did not need him burst into song “we’re all going on a summer holiday..” dee dee dee. This was going to be hard.

Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip. – Dean KarnazesT.S. Eliot

My cap kept falling off due to the strong winds which were now against me and getting stronger all the time as my body got weaker. I had to watch every footstep so I would not tumble down the cliff edge. I am not that stupid to jump off the cliff and stop for directions but felt like I was running in my own little zone by now oblivious to anyone else around me. The bleak coast, and me; the harsh brutal winds slowing me down. My body was now in unknown territory, I had not run this far before, and had certainly not repeated it a day after.

Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further .past what your mind wants to let you That’s what ultra running is all about; introducing you to a self you’ve never known – Rex Pace

The first sightings of a building I thought “is that the finish” but alas no it was just another campsite, yet in the distance a blot on the landscape awaited; a white building almost toppling over the cliff edge. That was home for the night. As I got nearer and nearer my brain was telling me to keep going. I suddenly spotted Susie and her friend Emma in the distance a most welcome cheer as I shouted to them and they gave me a massive cheer back. This spurred me on even more as I felt my pace speed up and my energy levels increase. I was scoffing jelly beans by the handful by this time just to keep up my mental energy levels.

How do you get through these things? Like anything you break it down into bite size chunks, You negotiate in your head, you get that win-win situation. You persuade, you use all your transferable skills in the workplace and apply them to running. You do not ever give up. You run it in sections, check point sections, 10 mile sections, towns & villages sections, whatever sections you like. Only a half marathon to go, only a 10km to go, only a 5km to go, only a little park run to go. That’s all. Just saying..

The best way to become a mentally tough runner is to believe that you’re a mentally tough runner. – Ryan Hall

My body was telling me I was near the finish. Round a campsite slowed down by a few little kids and through a field with people shouting ” Nearly there” – they weren’t lying this time, as I spotted the XNRG flags some 400m or so in the next field and a big yellow arrow, as I put in an ultra sprint to the “finish”. I had done it I had run just under 39 miles in around 7 hours and 20 minutes inclusive of getting lost, the extra mile which I went, and the check points. I had no idea how I had done until later that evening. I didn’t really care, I was given cake and a cup of tea and flopped onto the sunny ground. I was all emotional.

Results on day 1

Time – day 1: 07.19.24
Overall Position – day 1: 21st
Gender Position – day 1: 4th
Total Distance – day 1: 38.89 miles
Elevation Gain – day 1: 2396ft

Day 1: The Evening

Day 1 done. I did all the right things to recover, energy bar, chocolate milk, cake, tea, cake more tea, water, ibuprofen to help any muscle soreness, shower (cold then hot) little stretch and also tried some cherry juice that was reduced to 59p at a health food shop. It was supposed to be full in antitoxins or some kind of silly marketing ploy or something but hell it tasted good so who cares? I watched @starterfour10 and Emma come in with huge grins on their faces, along with a few others, and then set up my tent with help from the XNRG crew. Home for the night. My road shoes now have more milage than my 12 year old car

The winds were getting stronger and stronger but I was confident my little mountain tent would stand the test of time. Unfortunately, I was to find out later it wasn’t sound proof.

Why dost thou run so many miles about? – Shakespeare (Richard III)

I booked in for a 15-minute massage in the “swimming pool” area, yes we had a swimming pool even though the base was very 1920s. I showered and felt a little better, wandered into the area where they were serving dinner – a mix of salad, sausages in bread cakes, burgers, pasta and potatoes. Suddenly I felt really nauseous. I ate about 3 mouthfuls of pasta a bit of sausage then had to resort to my tent to lie down. The gusts of winds were rattling behind me as I laid there ready to throw up, I wasn’t hungry yet I had just run 39 miles. I had to get some food back into me. After 15 minutes of rest I got myself up and made my way back for “seconds” – some fresh pasta and lots of salt on the potatoes would do the job so I did manage to get that down just in time for my massage. The massage was bliss, my quads were “very tight” apparently, but got loosened a lot all for £10, the best £10 anyone could spend – believe me and that’s not just because I am a massage therapist you know. (click for larger images).

Ultra runner Russell Secker gave us a talk about running across Europe, and two things stuck in my mind. Ultra running is about making friends and sharing the experience. You get to talk to people on Ultra’s unlike shorter distances, and secondly, blog. Russell encouraged us all to blog about what we do. One reason why you are reading this right now. That is if you have got that far.

I have gone through a mix of emotions on my first day and was about to go through even more the following day on just 2.75 hours sleep. I resorted to bed around 10pm, after eating half a mars bar, I never eat chocolate bars but needed it for unknown reason. Last time I ate a mars bar was at my very first half marathon race in Newcastle in 2009 – the Great North run. I suddenly realised how far I had come since that day in Newcastle – how that Mars Bar made me reflect so much. From 13.1 miles to this; Life is crazy.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts –
Winston Churchill

I looked up and tried to reflect on the day’s journey but couldn’t my head was spinning, the wind was gusting around, my tent was stable but not sound proof enough to block Mr. howling wind I could not get to sleep, it wasn’t just the wind, it was my head, I was buzzing on adrenaline, buzzing on god knows what and still feeling a bit sick. 11pm, counting sheep, 12 midnight, counting Cowes, oh no its 31 miles back to Cowes. 1pm still awake, let’s try counting pigs instead. Ok, lights – aka torch, camera aka mobile phone, action! I can’t run another 31 miles on no sleep So I am no admitting this; yes I went to the toilet block armed with my mattress sheet and sleeping bag and camped in the ladies toilets, yes I slept for 2 hours in the toilets. At least I got 2 hours sleep.

Day 2

At 5am I found myself helping Justin (who was to become the winner of the event) to try and put his pop up tent away. We both found it was too windy to bend it in the right direction, so I gave up and put my own away within just a few minutes even though it was no pop-up tent. By 6am I had packed away, showered and was wondering around thinking how the hell I was going to get through another 31 miles. My legs were feeling stiff, one toe was hurting a little, and I had a little blister. I plastered up the blister and went into breakfast, yet feeling nauseous again I didn’t want anything, even tea didn’t do it for me. I forced down 2 slices of brown bread and margarine and a cup of tea then sat outside all wrapped up in my gilet and warm trousers.

7am and the walkers were off and 8am the first runners were off. Today the times were split into those who had completed day 1 in 7 hrs 40 minutes or longer and those that hadn’t. I was one of the ones who hadn’t so I was once again in the ‘elite’ 9am start. I waved goodbye and found myself almost alone in the field, how many others were in this group really?

In the end there were about 20 of us who had been marked into the last slot. Day 2 of the event covered 31 miles with 310m of climbing.

Apparently I had been the forth female for day 1 the other women had been in the earlier group the day before. They looked so strong supporting ultra-marathon t shirts. Experience counts and I had little experience, I didn’t feel confident at all. 9am after the ‘photo shoot’ we were off again as the countdown back to Cowes began, three, moo, one, across the cliff edge.

It was windy, as we ran along the dramatic chalk ridges of the white cliffed coastline with the brutal winds pushing at us all. I was a little cold though I had my shower proof jacket tied to my waist just in case, (Justin was in front by now by a long way, and I don’t think Case was his surname). By mile two my brain was not in a good place, I felt tired, mentally and physically, I tripped up, I was only 2.5 miles in and fell flat on my face. I picked myself up shed back those internal tears and got an energy gel down me. I know it was only 9.30am on a Sunday morning, not the normal thing you would have for breakfast but I had to get some carbs and sugar down me. I was feeling dizzy yet I had to get through this.

90% of ultra running is 100% mental. – Unknown

I was following the tactics of a couple of girls in front of me; walking up the bits they were walking, they were pro’s – mountain marathon people, they had the strength, they looked the part. Soon they were lost in sight, as myself and Michelle approached Freshwater and put one foot in front of the other to get up the next hill – Tennyson Down, the only way was up not down. We got to the top, only to find that there was another long upward slope to ‘The Needles’. I was flagging and the wind was gusting against our favour although we were chatting at this time, making the time go by. Why was I doing this? If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry you will get over it. Remember In 24 hours I am going to think that I had fun. Round the Island, here I was at The Needles, – no thread., no cotton in sight.

Checkpoint 1 kept me going, nestled just below the cottages at The Needles. Big cheers went up as the marshals waved us over, asking if us girls were ok, yes thank you and some jelly babies for good luck. Then we were off again down to the colourful sands of Alum bay, a gorgeous sight as the sun shone down onto the bay, most welcoming after being here 2 days before in gusting winds and rain. (click for larger images).

Back on the trails we scampered down the rabbit warrens up paths with time for a route card consultation which was a bit confusing given it said go “left” yet left was the wrong way, but we found the path eventually after deliberating a little and found our way down to the sea front.

The route took us mile or so on the sea front with the waves brushing up against my body and then up to join the road before heading back down again onto the coastal path. There was a lot of meandering up and down up and down from the coast to the road coast to the road, passing runners and walkers, cheering each other on as we passed.

An ultra-runner thinks less in terms of beating others, than in simply running the best he has within himself. – Unknown

The running was getting slower and slower and taking on the gels was getting more and more frequent. At 15 miles we approached Yarmouth, – the Red Funnel Ferries all in action taking people to and from the mainland. I was feeling ok then suddenly running across the harbour I felt something swelling and bubbling up in my foot, a blister. All I could think about was whether I would have to pull out or not. My trail shoes had failed me; but blister you would not get the better of me.

Checkpoint 2 was only a mile away from Yarmouth, , the longest mile of my running life, just a mile, but a painfully blister infested mile. Topping up with water, jelly babies, seedy cake sausages and water I was determined to fight on. The next section was road, I was running in the grass verges and felt a little better. Blister die, blister die.

In ultra running, the pain is inevitable, but the suffering is optional – Al Bogenhuber

Back on trails felt so good and I began to forget the pain of my blister instead my toe was throbbing. The trail shoes had caused 2 toe nails to drop off in previous running antics and were now rubbing even further onto my shoes. Dam you my wide stupid feet.

In and out of forestry areas, then onto the beach, a pebbly beach for a few 100 metres, and back into muddy forestry areas gave plenty of variety. At times we were unsure if it was the coastal path and correct route yet the XNRG team had been fantastic and put a few arrows out en route so it was easier to navigate through the more complicated parts of the route than I first thought. Those arrows were a godsend – I love arrows.

We crossed marsh land, wooden slatted bridges and narrow footpaths then through fields of hay; hey hey. Hey keep on going before descending on muddy fields and through more farmhouses. My mind was going through so much sometimes enjoying it laughing, smiling, filled with euphoria, other times going through pain, mental and physical yet I would not give up.

If you can’t run then walk. And if you can’t walk then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, even give up. – Karno

Myself and Michelle were running comfortably together aware of each other’s presence keeping each other going and helping each other with directions. This was good it was working well. I was a good 20 or so miles in by now – just another 10 miles not far to go. My quads were burning by now and my body was weary, but I kept on running. I had just run 60 miles over 1 and a half days, I can go further I can. I passed through a little village called Shalfleet, Shall I feet? Shall I run faster feet? Shall my feet get to Shalfeet? My legs said no my head said yes as I kept on going, one slow leg infront of the other.

The next road led to the next village and check point 3 at Porchfield. It felt like forever, no fields, and no porch just country lanes. Only the runners and walkers who I was gently passing kept me going. Supporting each other as I passed . Everyone had a shared goal; – to finish this Round the Island Ultra. In Ultra’s time was irrelevant, we were pushing our bodies to our own limits and challenging ourselves into the unknown. I had feetigue – – tired feet,and I was gurting ( Guts + hurting = Gurting). I would gurt to the finish.

Even when you have gone as far as you can, and everything hurts, and you are staring at the specter of self-doubt, you can find a bit more strength deep inside you, if you look closely enough. – Hal Higdon

Checkpoint 3 was nestled at a pub some 25 miles in. I filled up the water bottle with energy drink which was disgustingly sweet but kept me refuelled, grabbed some jelly babies for good luck and then left them onwards and round wards. Only 5 miles from the finish and it became an obstacle course, over stiles and under wire infested fields but still on the coastal path. Try 10 or so stiles after 65 miles of running – it hurts. Then there was the field of mud – I didn’t loose my shoes but some people apparently did and had to scoop them out. Then there were the cows, yet Cowes was still some four or five miles away. A little blip at another caravan park deliberating which direction was the coastal path, more mud and water and another stile. I was convinced that I had stopped at this caravan site when I was 5 years old. More childhood memories.

As I dropped down the lane a number of runners and walkers came into view, a welcome sight as I got a new spur of energy and plodded past some of them. Only 4 miles to go.

It’s astounding, time is fleeting Madness takes its toll But listen closely, not for very much longer I’ve got to keep control – The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I approached Susie and Emma who were running along nicely with a fantastic cheer and my comment “Just three miles to go,, Just three miles to go – come on!”. The paths were single file, narrow and full of brambles and nettles so it was hard enough to jog through them never mind run through them.

Descending to the last stile of the event I was welcomed with a big cheer from a local and a few others pointing me up inland through suburban streeets and up a hill. Someone in front was walking up the hill so I walked up the hill. At the top an XNRG arrow pointed downwards so I marched into a run. With Michelle still at my side we were spurring each other on. I got an extra douse of energy on the last stretch, running across the sea front pushing myself, out of breath a little but ready to finish this, just one more hill, a hill and some steps. This was the home stretch, we had been told about a big luminous yellow arrow pointing upwards – the last push, and now that was finally in sight.

Nobody is going to finish this damn thing for me, but me
– Unknown

I walked up the steps onto the home straight although it wasn’t very straight as it was slight incline on the road up to the school . I increased my speed, I was going to sprint to that finish just because, and I did. I reached the school gates and from somewhere I got a mass of energy and ran and ran and ran with all the power I had supporting the biggest grin ever to cross the finish line with fantastic support, as finshes and spectators cheered and clapped. . A medal was thrown round my neck and a bottle of water in my hand. In all my glory I forgot to stop my watch until about 10 minutes later so oblivious of time or space. I was given a cup of tea and a piece cake whilst wolfing down sausage rolls and mini cold sausages, which I normally don’t even like. (click for larger images).

I had just run 71 miles in around 13 hours 20 minutes to find out later I was fourth female, and 13th overall out of a field of 116 starters. How did that happen I will never know.

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you had everything to do, and you’ve done it. – Margaret Thatcher

The farther I go the less I know
One foot goes in front of the other
It all boils around to not hanging around
To keep moving in front of the gravity
The answer is there the answer is there
but there is not a fixed position
It keeps moving along so I keep coming along
and that’s why I’m a long distance runner
and if I stop to catch my breath
I might catch a piece of death
I can’t keep your pace if I want to finish this race
My fight’s not with it
It’s with the gravity
Long distance runner

Fugazi – Long Distance Runner Lyrics

Results on day 2

Time – day 2: 6.01.20
Overall Position – day 2: 16th
Gender Position – day 2: 4th
Total Distance – day 2: 31.74 miles.
Elevation Gain – day 2: 2842ft


What a weekend I conquered the biggest mileage ever and met some fantastic and inspiring people. The variety of scenery, and stupendous views, are simply unique it is a deceptively challenging route with hills all in the wrong places, yet a fantastic and well organised event. I really can not fault the whole weekend.

Would I change anything?

Only my shoes and blisters, I had no real strategy apart from at the beginning to keep going and to Finish uninjured. I came away uninjured, although my feet were a real mess, only to be made worse later by dropping my 20kg rucksack on my big toe where the nail was already coming off, so now I have only 3 toe nails left in toe. The legs are ok, the feet were throbbing.

Why did I do this?

I was doing this for myself to push myself to prove to myself that I am worthy of living on this planet that I need to be grateful for my body for what I can do, that my mind is strong enough to take on the challenge. Running gives me confidence, maybe confidence that I can not get from elsewhere, it gives me time to think, time to challenge myself, to reflect and to enjoy life and see places that I would never normally see. How many people have seen the whole coastal area of the Isle of Wight?

Do I want more?

Yes I want more. However, I still need to conquer my other fear that of the Marathon. My mind is corrupt, I have run nearly 3 marathons in 2 days yet I am scared of failing at just one marathon.

Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being — a call that asks who they are .. – David Blaikie


Overall Position: 13 out of 116 starters.
Gender Position: 4th Female
Total Distance:: 70.63 miles.

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