4:15am and out of bed - far too early!! Breakfast and then a taxi took Lua, Zara and I to the station for the train to Richmond. Lua and Zara very kindly came and saw us start - massively appreciated given the time of day! Not sure if 5 ¾ hours sleep is best prep for such an event but seems that it's pretty standard to get a lack of sleep! We found Lee and Maciej at the starting area getting breakfast. I opted for extra tea. Bizarrely my nerves had settled having been pretty horrendous on the journey down the day before. The start was the most calm race start I'd seen - all very casual and almost surreal. None of the usual jogging across the park warming up or excessive stretching. Given we'd 100km ahead of us, plenty of time to warm up! It was dry and a good temperature for running and we set off for the Thames river path at 6:30am - waved off by Zara and Lua and heading for who really knew what!
My training had seen me cover a 35 mile route as part of David Harrison's 207 challenge when I joined him on his 4th day of 207 miles over 5 days along the Trans Pennine Way in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. I had covered 30 miles solo one very wet afternoon and done a 23 and 21 mile route approx on consecutive days either side of night shifts one weekend. This, coupled with advise from experienced Ultra runners, Richard Buckle, Mike Blamires and Stephen Baker and the company of Kris Hopkins and Stephen on training runs meant I had done as much as I thought I could to prepare myself!
Before heading to London I borrowed a GPS that had a much longer battery than mine - thanks to Richard Buckle (I was hoping 12-14 hours would be OK) and headed to Razor's barbers for a haircut - where Tim cut CF into my hair. Along with my customised T-shirt compliments of We print T-shirts. I was ready to head south.
London2Brighton Challenge - 100km Ultra Marathon
In the build up to the Chester Marathon - aka 40-40-40, one of those I'd approached, Lee Scott, suggested the London to Brighton Ultra Marathon. It clashed with the Luxembourg Marathon in 2015 so I easily had a get out clause but when Lee not only agreed to run Chester, but it was on his actual birthday and he recruited another member to the team (Maciej Biernacki), I was gonna struggle to argue my way out of the challenge for 2016.
I confirmed entry in October 2015, committing to support Cystic Fibrosis Trust in the process as the event requires all entrants to fund raise to gain a place. I have considered an Ultra Marathon for a few years as it's the logical next step up from a marathon, but the idea of running over twice the marathon distance as one event was something else - I could have done a 30/35 mile ultra rather than two the equivalent of two marathons and a ten mile race all in one go! However, if you're gonna take the plunge then you may as well go for it big time! As Lee had an idea and was quite persistent, the time to do an ultra had finally arrived!
Lee, Maciej and I ran together for the first 12km and to the first check point. This was straight forward as we followed the Thames for 8km - realising it was a humid morning. We then headed through Kingston upon Thames - which was pretty quiet still given the early hour - and reached the first check point in 1hr 13 mins - retaining a steady 9:30min/mile pace or there abouts. A very brief stop for the toilet and on we headed. The route remained on mostly tarmac paths and roads until we headed through Nonsuch Park and along some gravel tracks. The three of us separated at this point as Lee moved ahead slightly and Maciej dropped behind. We also had a few off road footpaths between Cheam and Banstead, between reaching the 25km point and end of stage one. I was welcomed in by Sandra and Cieran, with the "A-Team" just parking the car after taking a self guided tour of the area first. Lee was just heading out as I arrived. I had a cereal bar and drink and brief chat and then headed off as Maciej arrived. A quarter of the route done and felt OK.
With Lee & Maciej before the Chester Marathon
I followed the road and had the two support teams toot as they passed. The A-Team pulled in at a junction where I turned off onto a farm track to send me on my way towards the 70km point. As I headed up the hill, I was chasing an older lady with her walking sticks - had I really been going that slow to take this long to catch her?!! (She was just out for a walk!) The route headed to the edge of Haywards Heath and Lindfield, where The White family where out supporting the runners with drinks and sweets. Still having an urge for milk, I cheekily asked if they had any and was greeted with a cup of fresh milk which was incredibly refreshing. It helped - I felt a bit more energised as I headed on my way. The weather was not cooling down either. The forecast of rain mid afternoon had not come to fruition, remaining warm and sunny. This stage became quite a challenge under foot as we made our way through woods, where it was hard to run if you did have the energy due to the poor surface, trees to duck under and over, muddy surfaces, small bridges to cross as well as styles to climb over. In addition, my muscles started to cramp. Managing it by walking, I found myself stuck climbing over a style as the cramp was making bend my leg difficult to find myself halfway over a style unable to get my second leg over!! I grimaced through the pain and headed on - I couldn't wait there all day!! We crossed a field of horses and another field which was very rutted. I didn't help the cramp feelings when I tripped a few times on tree roots and sent shots of pain up my legs ! At the end of the course, the winner had come through in a record 9hrs 22 minutes!
Lee hadn't long gone through before me and Maciej came in not too long after I left. I stopped for a few minutes to get another cereal bar eaten and had a bit of drink and tasked the team with finding a milkshake and opel fruits! (I often drink Milk or milkshakes at the end of marathons or long training runs). The day was warming up but I was feeling OK. I'd run the bulk of the route so far and was just shy of the first marathon point. I headed off, over another style, knowing half way wasn't too far.
The 26.2 mile point (according to my GPS) was in the middle of a field! It seem a bit surreal. The route took us through more fields on footpaths before joining some lanes. Much happier on tarmac again I picked up some pace to the 50km point - where I stopped to take a picture and then proceeded to update my social media accounts. By the time I'd finished and started running again I'd done another kilometre!
I finally arrived into Wivelsfield, where the local pub gave everyone a loud cheer as we passed - the only massive cheer we had all day away from a check point. Round the corner and into the 80km checkpoint. Less than half a marathon to go! I took advantage of a massage at this point to try and ease my cramp and Cieran had sourced a strawberry milkshake! I also passed the 12 hour point at this stage but still hoped to finish in daylight. The support team topped up my drinks and I had some fruit to keep my energy up. In my head I knew I'd finish even if I walked the rest of the way. I also had decided I had to finish as I had no intention of ever coming back to do this again!
The next section was the shortest between checkpoints at just 5 miles (8km) and relatively flat. Only relatively! I overtook a lady on her mobility scooter, with the two support teams passing me at a similar time with plenty of hooting in the process. I was mixing up the running and walking - the cramps had eased a bit but I certainly was felling the distance. My GPS battery also died on me during this section - 53 miles in (around 13 hours life). At 88km I passed through the final check point. Ahead of me was the biggest climb of the day over the Beacon onto the South Downs. Ali had agreed to walk up the Beacon with me. I had more fruit and drinks and added a layer under my t-shirt as the sun was beginning to go down and the temperature would cool.
Coming through the 41km checkpoint
Above and below - heading off from Tulley’s Farm into the unknown.
Above - Lee, Maciej and Lucas before the start
Left - Lucas in the starting zone - will the smile last?
We remained on lanes for most the route to the midway checkpoint at Tulley's Farm - advertised as 56km, three of us spent a kilometre speculating where the stop was - eventually finding it at 57km! I was welcomed by my uncle, Derek, and cousin Carolyn, whom had travelled up to see me and would be hosting me for the night after I finished. The other 5 were having lunch and had miscalculated my arrival as the tracker I was using on my phone had stopped. I assumed I'd inadvertently stopped it when I was updating my halfway point! I forced myself to have a plate of pasta and salad - which was a struggle as I had no real appetite. A banana and cereal bar were easier to digest and I even had a cup of tea - not something I expected to want during a run. (and to be honest was rubbish in polystyrene, which in turn isn't good for the environment). Cieran had obtained a milkshake from the farm cafe too and Sandra some sweets for me to add to my running belt. Anne and Ali topped up my drinks and after I assume about half hours stop I headed off - into what was the unknown as I'd reached 35 miles near enough and was about to enter a mileage phase I'd never done before in one day.
Sent off with a loud cheer, I went through a barn (literally) as I headed off the farm grounds and bound towards the village of Ardingly. Whilst I ran the first part after lunch, I found my stomach getting uncomfortable as I headed past Worth Abbey. This was hard to help as I had my drinks belt attached around my waist and if I loosened it my belt moved about too much. It was eased by walking and I walked a fair chunk of this section - particularly one of the longest hills we had so far as we came into Ardingly. I picked up a bit more as we dropped down from the village and into the next check point at 68km. This was a long stop though. I had a fair amount to drink and went to the first aid tent to enquire about my stomach (and also the fact I had red in my urine despite eating no beetroot). The latter was down to muscle burn and wasn't a major concern at this stage (and I have noticed it before on long runs). The former just seemed to be my lunch not settling. Thankfully, after a period sat down awaiting it to settle, a toilet trip was needed and resolved the discomfort! I was back ready to go with just 20 miles left!
Above - The calm canal first thing
Below: View over Fort Augutus lock’s looking north east
With David Harrison during his 207 Challenge
Mastering another style as Lucas heads off towards the marathon point