“I don’t know if I’m ready for the emotional roller coaster of this field”
“You are, you’ve been amazing, have a clean tissue”
I didn’t know if the tears were from the pain in my feet/hips/legs or my brain trying to work out the enormity of what I had just done. I wiped the tears from my eyes and put on my sunglasses, didn’t work, I still looked like a crying baby.
I put one foot in front of the other, it seemed to need so much bloody concentration, the team runners were still in camp and still cheering on solos as they covered their last miles. I tried to say thank you but I think I just grunted. I could hear the cowbells, nearly home, as I worked myself down the field towards the lake I could see the white gazebo of Shabba Camp with the red shirts waiting for me, I couldn’t wait for those hugs. I felt absolutely broken.
I collected Shabbas as I passed, I was still crying, we rounded the corner and I headed for the finish, very, very slowly.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t looking forward to Equinox and I’m not sure many of us were. Once The Vitruvian was finished, I was ready for a break, I couldn’t wait another three weeks, I wanted out now. I thought about withdrawing, but I wanted to see my friends. I thought about moving my place onto a team, but my pride wouldn’t let me do that. Oh well, I’ll have to just go then. I shouldn’t, I haven’t trained and am doing this on the back of 8 months triathlon training, I’ve been ill for weeks not knowing what it is that is actually wrong and I have no voice, so yeah, prepared.
I had done a couple of 24 hour events already this year, as good as they were, there was something missing and it made it hard to look forward to Equinox. As soon as Rae and I drove into the field it came back, this place is amazing, it has a soul.
I was scared, my awesome Run Slave Saz tried to take my mind off things and we went for a walk to check out the new addition to the course, we caught up with friends and before long Cousin Tom and H had arrived and base camp was ready to go. A few drinks, a win in the Beer Mile for Saz and hugs from Shabba Camp later and it was time for bed.
I took the opportunity to sleep in H’s camper to try and get a decent nights sleep, we opened the blind to a glorious view of the lake. The sun was shining and there was mist skimming the water, H and I smiled at each other like kids at Christmas and opened the other blind and was greeted by the sun beaming on the castle. This. This is why we love this event.
Time flew by and before I knew it I was making my way to the start. I found the Shabbas and tried to relax a bit, next thing I knew we were being herded towards the start line. I made my way towards the back with H, I asked her to run her first team lap with me to work out my markings, we ran and chatted, walking the hills and having a nice time. I also had a pep talk from H, at no point after this race was I allowed to call myself shit, I knew that I wouldn’t, I knew I would get to ultra distance and that would be my furthest distance ever. Who wouldn’t be proud of that?! I had this morning revised my goals, it was always 100km, no less, but knowing that I was ill and not run fit I gave myself some B and C goals too. So, C goal was 50km, B goal was 80km and A goal stayed at 100km.
The first lap seemed to go really quickly, I was so pleased to share it with H. We rounded the camping field and already the teams were cheering other runners on, Saz appeared from behind a tent and pelted it towards me, I did a little running dance and she told me she was 2nd lady in the 10km, huzzah!! High fives from Shabba Camp and lap 1 was done. I nipped into base camp for an emergency wee (there were lots of these!) and to grab some pain killers that I had forgotten and was on my way for lap 2.
H passed the team baton over to Cousin Tom who asked me if he could run with me. Now, I knew that I should do miles on my own but one piece of advice I took from Kneeyul was not to refuse the offer of company, even if I feel ace (well, actually, I did take more advice from Kneeyul after reading his blog from TR24, no way was I getting arse chaffing) so Cousin Tom and I went off for lap 2. We spent some time chatting with Sid as we went back and forth over taking each other, it wasn’t long before Sid got ahead, I’ve always been a bit of a dawdler where as it seemed Sid was more of a marcher up the hills, and also, who made that long hill up to 5km steeper please, that was NOT there last year!! At the end of the lap it was time for food, I marched into base camp with a list of things I needed, Saz was excellent run slave and instructed me to sit down and she ran around getting everything for me, well, this is winning!!
I shoveled a pot noodle down myself and tea and got ready to head out, Kneeyul was desperate to run so he joined me. By this point I had started to get a bit stroppy, I taught Kneeyul a few swears on the way around as he entertained himself mimicking my accent (sigh) until he saw Sid coming down the hill in the other direction. Giggling to himself, he ran over and hid behind a tree (like all 36 year olds do) and as Sid went passed, jumped out and trolled him with some insult, from a distance I’m sure Sid told him to f@&k off, best trolling ever!
At the end of this lap people camping on the field were starting to recognise me which was just lovely, getting personal cheers was making me smile, the cowbells were becoming comforting, I could hear them from 8km so I made sure to thank them as I ran passed, a few hugs from Shabba Camp and back to base to change my socks. I heard a familiar voice and turned around to see Yvonne and Mick with family who had decided on a day out to come running, what an amazing surprise!! I had started to struggle mentally so had decided to walk the next lap out and made Von come with me so we could chat, I wasn’t missing out on ALL of the fun cos of the running!!
100m into lap 4 and I got a tap on the shoulder and a very nice lady introduced herself as Cathy offa twitter, hooray!! She joined Von and I and we had a nice time walking and chatting, it really helped me to get out of my grump. We ran some bits and walked hills, the girls kept me entertained and as the lap went on I was able to run more of it. I felt really good coming into base camp and thought I would go out on my own for the next lap. Saz sat me down and forced a jacket potato down my gob, I was about to go and Kneeyul announced he was joining me, like a kid at Christmas he couldn’t wait to use his new headtorch, cos really, 8.
Well, it was a good job Kneeyul came out on this lap with me cos he ended up being (ahem, self titled) savior of my race. Just after 3km something exploded in my right foot, ow. Literally I thought my foot was hanging off. I found a tree stump to sit on and warned Kneeyul that taking my sock off might be tres disgusting. I peeled it off and we both leaned over to take a good look at the ‘explosion’. Ummmmmm. We looked at each other and then back at my foot. I started to poke it, ‘it DOES hurt, HONEST Kneeyul, just there, LOOK’ (que Kneeyul doing a mini sick). In an attempt to get away from ‘The Foot’ Kneeyul offered to run back to camp to get plasters, so off he trotted the 600m (THERE AND BACK) to pick up compeed. Foot plastered up, I carried on, with the savior of my race along side me. Mind, I also needed the loo, wonder if Kneeyul could also help with that? Part time savior.
I cant remember much of lap 6, apart from Saz came and I know I was really tired in the last 5km. I remember having a conversation with Team Bear and with The Shabbas at the end, all I could think about was finishing this lap, eating and sleeping, it was all really hurting. I got back to base camp and everyone was still up, Cousin Tom was drunk (amaze) I grabbed a chair and hovered over it, no, that’s not working, better to chuck myself into it. I ate and had a hot chocolate, and made the decision to get some sleep. The team however had different ideas, one more lap.
What followed was nothing short of bullying! But, they got me out for another lap, joined by H and Saz I hobbled around very quietly. I complain a lot, but when I go quiet is when I am really not happy. I couldn’t answer questions or contribute to a conversation, this was shit. I could hear Sid approaching us from behind chatting away to someone, as they passed I realised it was Alex and I launched at him for a hug, he was on a double lap but we all walked together for a time before they both ran on. As we entered the field Alex ran passed again and said he would have tea waiting for me at the end, I don’t care hat the team said, I was signing out at the end of this lap and getting some sleep.
Sure enough, Alex was there with Stewart and a cup of tea. Both of them had done solo last year and this year were in a team together, I cried a bit, I knew I only had 1 lap to go for B goal. It was 3:45am, time for sleep.
I managed to get in the tent (launched self in head first) and covered myself up with my coat and straight to sleep. I didn’t set an alarm, turned out I didn’t need to, I woke up half an hour later freezing cold. Oh good, all my warm stuff was in H’s camper, including my super warm sleeping bag. I wonder if part of Run Slave duties are giving up your super warm DryRobe?? I don’t know if I dared! I cried pathetically, then realised I was lying on my hoodie, I put that on and warmed up slightly. I dosed on and off until I could hold out anymore, I needed another emergency wee.
I tried to get out the tent, I had totally seized up, and I was stuck. It took me around 20 minutes to get out of it. Desperate for a wee I got my shoes on and tried to move to the portaloo. Jesus this next lap was going to be hard work. The short walk there and back took me 30 minutes. I got back to camp and decided on breakfast and tea, I kept trying but my brain just wouldn’t work until I just declared loudly ‘can somebody help me please??!’ As if by magic Saz appeared from the tent as did Liz, ace, breakfast. Again, I hovered over a chair before just throwing myself onto it and chatted with Liz and Saz until I decided it was time to go out again. I’d decided, just one more, make it to B goal, stop with the heroics, you’re already broken.
Liz and I walked up to start as she was going out for her last team lap. I saw Johnny and he called over ‘one more lap Loz?’ I smiled and nodded ‘one more’.
Cousin Tom had decided to join us too. They chatted to each other as I hobbled round. I hurt, so much. I was doing toilet over sharing, basically talking jibberish. Any down hill was killing my hips and quads, my feet were moving in my shoes and I could feel the blisters getting worse. There is a steep downhill section which I was finding particularly difficult to get down, getting up the other side was easier and I was getting slower and slower. The guys were counting down the kilometers, every time I had a little cry. I heard the cowbells, it was nearly over. 2kms to go, at this speed, 30mins and I’d be finished.
So, there I was. At base camp with 100m to go, surrounded and bought home by my favourite people. The next 100m were mine, but I didn’t want to walk them alone. Saz told me to put my arms up as I crossed the line, I couldn’t. I crossed the line and saw Johnny smiling, I gave him the biggest hug and burst into tears. I’d done it. Something that seemed impossible was done, I’d gone further than I ever thought possible.
I’m fully aware how lucky I am. Base Camp was full of my bestest friends who between them and without me asking didn’t let me do a lap on my own, sacrificing their own team and lap times to support me, I can’t thank H, Cousin Tom, Kneeyul, Rae, Pilla, Liz and Damo enough, especially for the slight bullying that went on at 1am, which I think Kneeyul enjoyed just a little bit too much.
Also, Shabba Camp, who checked on me every time I passed, to check I was ok and give hugs and encouragement, and who bought me home.
There were too many people that were giving amazing support, Kenilworth Runners including my good friend Mike who checked I was doing what I needed to on EVERY lap, Team Poppyfields headed up by the gorgeous Michy, Alex and Stewart who held me up at 3:30am when I was full of cries, fellow Solo Shabbas Phil and Tigger, my running hero and friend Mike Wells who appeared just after I crossed the line and provided VERY sweaty hugs.
Johnny and Laura. You bloody amazing people. You make the effort to get to know EVERYONE personally. You have made all of us part of the same family. This race has a soul and it’s beautiful. Thank you so much for what you do.
And Saz. My friend, hero, inspiration and run slave. I learnt everything from you.
Someone said to me once that I always think I have something to prove. I’d agree with that, but, not to anyone else. I only wanted to ever prove whatever it was to myself. With all the challenges I have set myself over the last few years this was by far the hardest, and the only race/challenge/event I have ever done where I have walked away from it with my head held high, that I was’t shit, that I did it.