Where to begin?
Best start at the beginning, seems to be the best place really.
So, a few years ago I had this crazy idea of running around the border of Wales, but unfortunately life was getting in the way & there wasn’t an actual “Route” as it were for me to follow, so I put it on the back burner with the hope that I’d get round to it eventually.
However this changed last year when in May the new Wales Coastal path, a 870 mile route was opened, that coupled with the 177mile long Offas Dyke offered me the chance of a run 1057miles in total length. Well, my passion for this run was instantly re-ignited! I’d known about the opening of the new Path for some time beforehand & had mentioned about doing it to my friend & mentor Mimi Anderson & for quite a few months she was the only person who knew of my intention.
Fast forward on to February this year & nearly everything was in place for my assault on what was now going to be a World Record Attempt starting on the first of April.
The motorhome was booked, the crew was ready, the crews changeover timetable was sorted along with all the overnight stops & caravan parks we were going to stop in every night. All that was required would be the organising of the daily aid stations for myself along the route. This was going to be done on the “Fly” as it were, as I wouldn’t know how I would be feeling each day & it being a coastal path the crew couldn’t follow me all the way in a 3.5ton motorhome. All in all, everything was looking good & I although I was feeling nervous about the run I was feeling fairly confident about the logistics.
Then last Thursday happened! Took a phone call when I was out at work from the rental company saying that the motorhome had been double-booked & that I couldn’t have it for the dates I needed it on. Well that brought the riprun train to a shuddering halt! How the hell would I get out of this? Finished up early, one of the perks of being my own boss & shot home to see what I could do. Rang round quite a few other companies but none of them had anything available at such short notice & I couldn’t unload any of my problems on my mentor as she was out in Dublin celebrating her own recent World Record from last year with her crew. Not that she could have done much but Mimi had been great to talk to about everything throughout my whole training period in the run up to the challenge.
Emailed all of my crew & told them what had happened, then I came up with Plan B. Can we use their cars & instead of sleeping in the Motorhome, we would all sleep in Hotels & B&Bs along the route. Brilliant, this would work fine. Started to cancel all of the pre-booked sites & started to book the hotels needed for each day working off my Google Calendar to double check who was where & when. Ok, everything was now sort of back on track but would need tweaking slightly over the next week or so.
Friday was spent at work mulling this over in my head & working myself up about it again, it was quite a relief when I got home & took myself off for a 20mile run. Everything feels better after a run doesn’t it? Got home after a nice steady 20, showered, had some food & hit the planning room again. Several more hotels were booked & an early night was beckoning, I had a massive mileage weekend ahead of me & I needed my sleep. Quick check on Fetch & I caught up with Lili & we arranged to meet the following morning to run together for a while along the River my boats moored on.
Met Lili at 8.30 at Farncombe Boat House & away we went, she was only going for an hour out & an hour back, where I was out for the long haul & a forty mile run. We had a great chat along the river as we ran along very comfortably together with Lili leaving me at the “Rowbarge” pub to return home. I crossed the Bridge & after a brief stop to sort out my Music I cracked on at a fairly reasonable pace. I didn’t want to be out for any longer than I had to as I had another massive run to do the following day. Running down the river & just keeping myself to myself listening to my music I went past Bowers lock, crossed the bridge & turned right staying along the River. A couple of hundred yards up the towpath & I ran past a woman out walking her dog. Didn’t think much of it until a few seconds later I heard a loud fierce growling & looked around just in time to see her Rottweiler about to bite me in my arse! Bloody dog sank his teeth into me & I span around kicking out at him & shouting at the woman to call her dog off! Of course this was the first time he had ever done anything like this but having been bitten before on a run I fair exploded at her & demanded that she lead him & if I ever saw him free of her again then I would phone the Police. Annoys the hell out of me that folk let these large dogs run free, anyway I digress.
This incident quite un-nerved me & set the tone for the rest of my run. Head down now & not enjoying it, my gait being unbalanced & thoughts of bodily harm towards the dog I stumbled on. Made it to the turnaround point just before Thames lock, filled up my water & ate some food before heading back to the boat. My head was really down at this time & I was hating every step of the run & just wanted it to be over. Finally got back to the boat after 3.5hrs in a lot of pain & just collapsed onto the seat telling the wife that I’d just had the worst run of my life & all I wanted to do was to hang up my trainers! She made me a cuppa & I told her about the dog incident & that I had developed a bit of a pain in my shin. Uh-oh, we both looked at each other realising what it probably was but dismissing it as we both knew what was at stake. It’ll be ok I said & I’ll have it looked at on Monday or Tuesday depending on when I could get an appt with my masseuse. I still had sweeping duties to do the following day at the St Peters Way Ultra.
Sunday morning & I was awake at 4am, (somebody remind me again why we do this!?) Sat in bed & had a cup of coffee before finally rousing myself & getting dressed. I threw on an extra layer as the forecast was for *Baltic* all day & drove up to Chipping Ongar. I met with the Challenge Running guys in the car park where the race was due to start. This was Lindleys second race as an RD but following the great success of his first race the Stort 30 we knew that it would be a great race. I met up with my fellow sweeper for the day, the indomitable Jerry Smallwood. I’ve run with Jerry before & have a good bit of banter with him on twitter so I knew that my day ahead certainly wouldn’t be boring.
I had a chat with Mark Cockbain in the car park & he was asking about how the planning for the Riprun was progressing. I poured out all my woes & told him about the bad news I’d got the week before about the double booking on the motorhome. Mark asked me if I was serious, looked me in the eye & then said that he may be able to get hold of a campervan for me! Crikey, after the week I’d just had that was the best news I could of heard.
Great news indeed but I wasn’t going to phone any of the crew just yet, didn’t want to tempt fate & I still had a 45mile race to sweep.
At 7:45 Lindley gathered all the runners for the pre-race briefing & luckily enough he kept it short & sweet informing everyone that Jerry & myself were sweeping & to not let us catch them up.
8am & they were off! We had decided to wait for 10 minutes before following so that the tail runners didn’t feel any pressure about having the sweepers right behind them. The plan worked really well for us as we set off at a nice sedate pace trying to gauge the slowest runners pace. I mentioned to Jerry as soon as we were off that I may struggle a little on the run with my leg being what it was, I also told him about my fears of it being a stress fracture but I told him that I’d stop whinging & concentrate on the job in hand.
Everything was going nicely on the run & we followed Lindleys route description easily as he’d used a really good system of alternating the colour sequence between sentences, never seen this done before & it was actually a bloody great way of never losing your place on the written route. Onwards towards the first major turn of the race & we saw a couple of runners not too far ahead, slowing down to let them get a few minutes ahead again, we then crossed the field & continued on our way towards CP1. We made it to the checkpoint with 45mins to go before the cut-off only to be told that they were missing 2 runners! Hmmm, we hadn’t passed anybody nor had we seen anybody going the wrong way. A quick phone call to Lindley confirmed that nobody had dropped out yet & so Jerry & myself retraced our steps to see where they could have gone wrong. I knew one of the “Missing” runners so dropped him a call on the way back to see if he could give me some reference on where he was. No answer & after running back for a mile, we split up at the only place we could see they may have turned in the wrong direction, after neither of us saw anybody we both met up again & ran back to the CP, still no sign of them there so we reported back to Lindley. He told us to hold there until the cut off time was reached & then carry on, as he would tour round looking for them. It was only a 5 min wait by then so we scoffed some food & chatted to the crew. Quick phone call back to the RD before we headed off & he told us that the missing runners had both just through CP2 & had just been missed on the count up at CP1. All good news then but it also put Jerry & myself an hour behind the last runner, not so good in an emergency so we had a lot of catching up to do.
Cracking on towards CP2 we soon made up all the lost time & were pretty much back on schedule after leaving it. Again just sitting 10-15 minutes behind the last runner we pushed on for pretty much the remainder of the race. The cold was starting to bite & I think we were both suffering a little as we were running a lot slower than we would have been normally but with my leg hurting I was also having to take a few more walking breaks than I liked. Hitting CP4 we both donned our headtorches & carried on, only 10 mins behind so we knew our pacing was spot on.
Not too long after leaving the CP, Jerry was about 20yards ahead of me & turned to wave me to a stop, we had caught the last runner & she was only a couple of hundred yards ahead of us. We stood for a couple of minutes but it was obvious that she wanted us to catch her as she stood waiting & looking back at us. Ok, we moved up to her position & reassured her that she still had plenty of time before the cut-off & she could quite easily walk in from there. It was fairly obvious that she was starting to suffer from the onset of hypothermia so although we made light of it we pushed her on as fast as she could go, suggesting that she ran a little bit here & there. We both engaged her constantly in conversation just keeping her spirits up, watching her co-ordination & listening out for that tell-tale slurring of her words. Luckily she showed no major symptoms & although the wind & cold was really biting now, we kept her moving on towards the finish. About 90 mins after we met her we finally got to the Church, letting the last runner run the last 20yards in to the sound of Lindley & Sue cheering her over the line. Job done, we both nipped into the Church to try & warm up & grab some coffee.
Getting changed by torchlight the runner had a little “Turn” & fell in a heap on the floor, luckily with both Sue & Lindley being first aid trained they quickly sorted her out by giving her a much needed sugar hit & wrapping her up warmly in every bit of spare clothing they could find, even my sheepskin jacket was called into action. After 20 mins she was recovered enough to sit up & get changed & we all bundled into the back of Lindleys motor for the drive back to the start & the long journey home.
An excellent race yet again by Challenge Running & it looks like that race will be a permanent fixture on the Ultra Running Calendar.
Woke up on the Monday morning in a lot of pain & swelling from my leg, things weren’t looking good but I had to get over to Wimbledon to work so I just had to grin & bear it. Made it through the day without too much drama but wasn’t happy about the injury. Had a shower when I got home & got the Mrs to look at it, she flipped out at me & said I had to go to A&E straight away to get it looked at. I told her that I’d go first thing in the morning on my way back over to work.
Up & out to the hospital, got there for 9.30 to avoid the schoolrun. Hobbled into casualty & told them what I thought was wrong(as you do) & settled down to what I thought would be a day out there. Didn’t have to wait too long as it goes, with my name being called out within an hour & I was seen by a Nurse practioner, she examined my leg & sent me off for an X-ray to see what was wrong. This confirmed my fears as she showed me the stress fracture, a nice straight line through my Fibula about an inch above the ankle! To put it bluntly..Bollocks!
She told me I had to take 8 weeks off running but because of where the fracture was she had made an appt for me to see an orthopod a couple of days later so that he could fully assess all of the damage. This isn’t what I wanted to hear & it was with a heavy heart that I limped down to the plaster room to have a cast fitted. 8 weeks no running meant that an entire years planning towards my Wales run was now in tatters!
With my cast on I made my way home & began the horrible task of phoning all of my crew to tell them what had happened. Those of you who know me, know that I’m an avid Twitterer & fill my day with the useless nonsense that makes Twitter great fun. This wasn’t a time for that though as I wanted to talk to all of my crew personally before letting the news go out. They all took the news well but they were as disappointed as myself about the whole thing, they had put a lot of time & effort into the “Riprun” & were all looking forward to being a part of a huge adventure like this.
Went to see the orthopod & thankfully he was a runner, he cut the cast off & examined my leg. Still swollen & sore though, he made arrangements for me to have an MRI & instead of a cast to have an Air-boot fitted. These things are pretty cool, strap it up inflate it & you’re sorted. Take it off for a shower & bobs your uncle! No weight bearing for a couple of weeks & back to see him on the 12th April (My Birthday). Still haven’t heard anything about my scan yet, the sooner I get it the quicker I can organise my recovery routine.
I was pretty despondent last week & took on a very gloomy outlook towards the rest of the year with my races & have had to cancel the GUCR as well as Wales. But thanks to my Mrs & a couple of mates who phoned me & knew I was down, I’ve re-adjusted my outlook for the rest of the year & not cancelling anything else just yet.
The Riprun isn’t cancelled, just postponed for a while. This will be done, no matter what it takes me! I may be down at the moment but I most certainly am not out.