So race day arrived and a mixture of excitement and nerves suddenly set in as I gingerly packed a bag full of ‘essentials’ (mainly emergency snacks, just incase I got hungry!) from a list my best friend had put together ready for the 2am alarm the next morning.
I will be totally honest here, I am the kind of person who gets so excited by a challenge I will near enough accept anything that I truly feel with push me beyond my limits mentally and physically (one which maybe you have to grow as a person there and then to complete it!) so when I was invited to Race to the Stones 100km Ultramarathon I did not hesitate to accept the offer and it was about time I put myself to the test as it has been 18 months since I summited Mount Kilimanjaro and did some burpees at 5,895m! It gave me a completely new focus - I thrive off physical challenges.
The next truth being, lets get these out early; I had 100% underestimated the challenge and the distance but with the support of so many people along the way there was no way on earth I wasn't going to cross the finish line even if it meant me crawling - mind over matter is essentially how I did this alongside the words ‘Just keep moving & keep eating’. Tom, if you read this, you saved our lives! Thank you.
My last truth; the furthest I had trained to was 18km… yes seeing the job I am in, potentially ridiculous but lesson learnt, the race flew round and before I knew it it was time to drive there - should i ever take on another Ultramarathon (there is one on the list!) preparation will be key as this one is a whole new level.
So, 2am soon came round and unless its time to go holiday getting out of bed at that ungodly hour, well, quite frankly just isn't ok but you have to go do what you have got to do right?
Arriving at the finish line, which was a little bit of torture not having any idea when we would arrive back, we parked up jumped out the car with our bags and hopped on the shuttle bus which took us an hour and half down the road to the start line. Arriving feeling somewhat anxious and in need of a coffee we registered and sat taking in the incredible atmosphere and thousands of people ready to embark on a life changing journey over the coming hours.
We set off to tackle 100km along the oldest path in Britain at 8:15am full of excitement, enthusiasm and completely unaware of what was coming but I must say setting off with your best friend, who knows me better than anyone, would support me and most probably drag me if necessary with some very stern words through the tough patches gave me the confidence to know whatever happened next I had the best person with me.
I mean I laugh now looking back because there are so many hilarious elements to this venture I still cant believe we marched (more like hobbled) over the line and it was pure stubbornness and mindset that got us there.
To start, we had torrential rain for 3 or 4 hours in the beginning and we had so many near misses of completely falling over. It got to the point I didn't even notice the rain I was so soaked and before you ask why, I am the ridiculous individual who didn't bring a waterproof. I mean, who does that with such a vast outside challenge but hey, I am still alive. Nicky on the other hand rolled her eyes and wondered why she had agreed to come with me in the first place.
Before I carry on, I must say, every single Pit Stop was incredible from the food, snacks and drinks to the smiling and forever welcoming people who where there - truly encouraging, smiling and even dancing to lift our spirits - for that I will be forever grateful as they are the ones who really helped us on our way.
So we continued to battle the hills, the rutty terrain, more rain, cold, pitch black and a hell of a lot of aches and pains which eventually went numb and it forever got more difficult to move but we truly met some amazing people along the way. There are so many inspiring people there are out there, which is why I love striking up conversations with strangers on an event like this. Humans are incredible beings.
I will say, I have never in my life been so challenged mentally and physically in such a short space of time while experiencing an obscene amount of emotions from laughing, to crying to battling the pain to feeling optimistic to uncertainty especially at 3am in the rain, pitch black in the middle of now where - 75km I wont forget you!
It is true to say the time spent racing through 60km-80km is certainly interesting and i can now fully understand that statement. The toughest hours of my life. The pain, the determination to lack of motivation to inspiration. The mental battle of this race will never be understood unless you embark on it yourself. As for the physical thats a whole new level and depends of course on your training.
My wall was actually hit at 40km because if I am honest my chest decided to through a spanner in the works and for a short time I wasn't sure if I had taken on something too vast but we powered to 50km in which we were met with warm fajitas and carrot cake with coffee and a chance to rest and it well and truly picked up our spirits.
At the time and throughout the race of course I questioned my sanity looking back I thank it for convincing myself to do this. Its my enthusiasm to enjoy what life has to offer that means I am lucky enough to have such fruitful experiences. This race has changed me as a person for the better and forever until I am tested even more and for that I am truly grateful.
For the 24 hours we spent walking it gave me a lot of time to to not only reflect but to learn about my self, and if I can say I have learnt or to two things, I am a hell of a lot stronger than I ever realised, my body is insanely resilient considering when I was 15 I got told I was half way through my life - they obviously underestimated little me, I am determined even when the going gets seriously tough and when your best friend has a tantrum or decides to rescue and carry a baby rabbit 5km. My CF, I am thankful for because it has made me me and I would not be having these unforgettable experiences or life I have made. It also allowed me to fall back in love with my passion for life, challenges and make me see that you can well and truly be your own inspiration while inspiring others to be them and do what they love.
Before I give you a summary of the race, two things; I cant tell you the disappointment I had seeing the sign that says 5km to go instead of 95km completed. Sounds petty, not when you've gone that far. The moment you think you are in grasp of the finish line and you have to walk an extra bloody mile for a photograph (obviously now I am glad I did) but it was a very long mile to those stones and back meaning we walked just over 101km.
So heres to it Race to the Stones, I will never forget those hours but I am thankful. In summary;
- 101km raced, that is 62 miles, just over 2 marathons
- 24 hours racing, 40 hours without sleep
- A lot of blister tape for Nicky
- Rescuing an injured rabbit at 3am
- 1000s cups of coffee
- 4 rain storms
- A lot of emotions
- Serious amount of snacks
- Dozens of litres of water
- 129,790 steps
- 2 exhausted humans
We bloody made it and I am so proud.
Would I do it again? Yes. Why? Because a mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to old dimensions. This one I will never forget.
My mission to fill my life with so many incredible life changing and challenging experiences that not only do I have so many stories to tell but I can inspire and motivate others to do the same by doing what truly sets my soul on fire - follow the things you are passionate about. They are not there by chance. They are your calling.
Bring on the next challenge.
PS not going to apologise for the overload of photos!! and there is still a chance to sponsor us!