Unless you’ve been avoiding social media in the last week, it won’t have escaped your notice that i’ve been doing another challenge. I successfully completed the London2Brighton 100km Ultra Challenge last weekend, 28th - 29th May 2016, raising money in aid of Kith & Kids; a charity that supports and empowers people with a learning disability or autism.
My start time on the website is being corrected, but I finished in 30hrs 49mins 03secs, which was just over an hour’s improvement on last year’s London2Cambridge challenge. I came roughly 1144th out of 1236 people who finished the 100km (1642 took part which includes runners).
It was tough - seriously, very tough - but I definitely fared better physically this time. I have twelve blisters and a small skin tear, which is fine compared to the large chunk of skin I lost last time that had me hobbling around for weeks afterwards.
This time - after two days of room service - I was back on my feet quickly, albeit in slippers. Going in, I was apprehensive as I hadn’t really got back in the swing of proper training. I did train, but nowhere near as methodically as last year. I knew that this challenge would involve a lot of hills and I feared i’d wear myself out going up the inclines or, worse yet, develop an injury that wouldn’t let me finish. There’s the suggestion that I may have another hernia developing, but it wasn’t classed a risk for this challenge.
As it turned out, the declines were the killer. After a steady rise up and onto the North Downs, there is a dangerously steep track coming down again. I’d already treated the ’hot spots’ on my feet as early as 12.5km to prevent blisters, so my feet were in good shape. However my knees and ankles took a hammering and would continue to hurt for the rest of the challenge. The weather was also beautiful but hot on both days so not ideal for continuous walking.
The pain in my legs was the biggest ailment this year. I had blisters on both feet but with the Compeed plasters they were easy to ignore if I watched my footing. My knees, thighs and calf muscles hurt the most. It was an effort clambering over the numerous styles. When I reached one of the main rest stops at 56km I was very tired, in a lot of pain, and more than a bit weepy. One of the frustrating things with the rest stops is they could be within a kilometre of the marker the guide said they were at. To reach a marker expecting a rest stop only to find it wasn’t there was disheartening to say the least.
I got in a good rhythm for the night sections. You normally leave in groups in the darkness, but myself and another chap were allowed to go together. We started at a brisk pace and went our separate ways when we caught the first group up. I charged ahead, always being in sight of people, but leap frogging my way from group to group.
Compared to last year which was a never ending slog through mud and fields, I felt good (the Deep Heat cream all over my legs helped) and the night passed very quickly. After half way, word soon started to spread round that lots of people had dropped out. Everyone was also talking about ‘the hill’ that we had to face at the end of the challenge. This was the South Downs and, looking at it, it was very steep. As it turned out though, I was able to run up the zig-zagging gravel path to the top quite quickly, it was the slog towards Brighton afterwards that was awful.
For the last 10km or so, the route comes off the South Downs then steadily rises again towards the Race Course at Brighton. It was probably no worse than the incline onto the North Downs, but trudging up a long road, sore and tired, and with no end in sight was utterly demoralising. I wasn’t going to quit but it did feel like I would never get there. Luckily I was joined by another couple at this point who kept my spirits up. The three of us encouraged and distracted each other to the finish.
The camaraderie is one of the best things about these challenges, aside from the immense support of the organisers. Entering as an individual, you go in not knowing anyone, but you soon find yourself chatting to lots of people along the way. Personally I quite like the ‘me’ time but I did enjoy getting to know other people and their reasons for doing the challenge too.
We stayed a few days in Brighton while I recovered. We didn’t leave our room for the first two days and after that we pottered around Brighton a little and had a couple of nice meals out. The weather had taken a turn for the worse by the time we got outside but we made the most of it.
In terms of challenges, I have it all to do again in August when I attempt the South Coast 100km Ultra Challenge. My fundraising page for Brighton will remain open for the rest of June in the meantime.
Some of the pictures from this challenge are below, while the rest are in my Instagram feed - enjoy :-)
What was the last physical challenge you attempted? Do you regularly workout or play sports?