Saturday, 23 April 2016


I'm sitting here getting quietly sozzled and I should probably leave this for another day - but on another day...well it won't have the immediacy.

I was too busy all week and didn't have time to give much thought to this, which was probably just as well. So, kit decisions were made at 5.30 this morning. At 6.15 I was setting off up the road, enjoying the fact you can hear the birds singing in the morning in Leith before the residents get up again and start drinking, singing, shouting and fighting. The train wasn't until 7.07 but I was ready already and had no desire for a last minute race up the road. I had far enough to go. Peter spent a bit longer fannying around making sure everything was just right and then caught me up.

Pretty soon we were in Dunbar and Nick picked us up and gave us a lift to registration at Foxlake.
It was sunny and very cold and the lake at Foxlake couldn't have looked less inviting. I felt grateful that I hadn't signed up for any foolish triathlon or malarkey like that.
We still had a bus-ride to the start so I kept my mind amused and didn't let it dwell on what was to come. I wouldn't say I was scared but I would say my preparation for this was skeletal - probably just about the bare minimum I could get away with. The chances of having a really long, bad day out would have seemed quite high if I'd done any calculating of odds, so I didn't do any. Toby Durant helped me in this by keeping me entertained on the bus, telling me about a high speed police chase of car thieves through gentile Gullane, resulting in a stolen BMW on its roof in a field, some intercepted car thieves and some triumphant police. Phew! High drama.

Pretty soon we were in Port Seton and hiding on the bus because outside it was bright but baltic.

Conditions couldn't have been much better. The wind was behind us and there was no sign of the rain that had been forecast earlier in the week. Off we all set....
It was fine, but it was so early in the race...and it was so far to go. I was still really afraid to think about anything.

It's almost easier later on in the race when the pain sets in than earlier on when you know it's coming.

A lot of a longer race like this you can spend running on your own and then you get entangled in little groups of people who are running the same pace as you. I became entangled with a couple, who I'm sure are lovely, from about mile 8 - 10. But they were doing my head in. They just kept talking about how it was! Thinking about it, I can't even remember what they were going on about, but it was roughly that we were in a long race and that parts of them were aching and that there was a long way to go and the pavement was hard and the wind was cold and that running in a long race on the pavement was hard. Especially in a cold wind. Oh for God's Sake.

I didn't want to drop back and I didn't want to expend the effort to race ahead. At the 10 mile aid station they forged ahead however. I took my time. When I set off again I was back in my own space.
I think maybe I passed a guy who was running quietly on his own. Either that or he caught up to me from behind. I had one of these moments, which happens probably more than it should, when I fell off my own foot. I don't know how it happens but it does. I suddenly stumbled because...nothing. He asked if I was okay and I said yes, just clumsy and we fell to talking. He asked me about my Hokas.

I was wary at first because sometimes when people are asking this what they're asking is "Why are you wearing those funny clown shoes?". That doesn't sit well with my Radcliffe self-image. But it seemed like this guy was just interested. I gave him the story - Peter's plantar fasciitis, the minimal footwear movement, the Hoka backlash, Peter's return from his ashes, how they worked for me. He told me he was fairly new to running. He was mostly a cyclist, and was off to do a race from Turin to Nice later in the year - but last year he'd gone to do this race - Brussels to Istanbul? - with a friend - but his friend crashed out in Rimini and this guy went over the top of him - and it was a race they were racing in pairs - so they tried to keep going, but really it was game over...At the time it was quite nice to stop - but his morale was hurt...

I was there. And because I had been listening to a tale of heroism and painful defeat I was entirely distracted from the cold wind and the pain in my legs and the distance we still had to travel.

Somewhere near Dirleton, Neil Jones and Harry appeared  and kept me company all the way to the life-boats at c. 16 miles at the far side of North Berwick. It was here I re-discovered the delights of Coca-Cola.

I know, I know, I'm not normally a huge fan of Coke. But today I was.
I remembered my friend Douglas Sinclair telling me back in 4th year at school that he'd been drinking a glass of Coke when his older sister's boyfriend, who was somewhat hostile, turned to him and said "Coke adds life....where there is none." And burst out laughing.
Which is the joy of long-running on your own on the sand. The randomest things bubble up from somewhere deep down inside and you think "Oh yes, I remember that."
Sometimes you say it out loud by accident.

Anyway...come on, we've still got 15 miles to go! And it's 8pm and you've not even had a shower yet!

Damn. Okay. This is how the next bit went

  • sand in my shoes
  • needed a pee
  • getting passed by relay runners
  • had a pee and emptied my shoes
  • not a metaphor like Sian Lloyd in 'I'm a celebrity', just take it literally
  • my toe bandage goes awry and I have to take my shoes off again
  • 26.2 miles, ya beauty!
  • pfoof, are we there yet?
  • are we
  • I can hear Debbie Harry singing, we must be nearly there
  • I am there
  • Peter gets wood
  • I mean he won a wooden trophy
  • The lovely Hays give us a lift to the station
  • Waverley
  • Burgers, beans and eggs
  • One bottle of Dark Island
  • and two glasses of wine....
God, that was a lot easier.

I am proud that I have survived my first ultra since....2011?
And I am grateful that there is no reason for me to ever run so far again unless I want to.