Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Run.....

So on Eddie's count I was off, and with a little trepidation took those first steps across Marble Arch square, following Jo out of central London. In my enthusiasm, I got a little carried away at the first road crossing and nearly got wiped out by a bendy bus!! A little more caution required me thinks! After the first near miss, I concentrated on settling down into a rhythm, chatting to Jo and generally trying to remain calm. A few times a little voice crept into my head trying to overawe me with the distances still left to travel but I pushed it to the side and concentrated on breaking down the run into its various parts. I am normally extremely grumpy for the first 20miles or so as it seems so pointless - I've run 20miles loads of times, it still hurts and I still have miles and miles to go. I can't really get focused on the task in hand and am usually quite introspective. However, it was great to have Jo with me, she provided a welcome distraction and that, coupled with the busy London streets, helped the first hour pass easily. I enjoyed running along looking at the sights, skirting through the edges of Hyde and Green Parks, heading for Vauxhall Bridge where we planned to meet up with the support vehicle so Jo could head off home. Jo was concerned about making sure she got the route right but I just let it all wash over me trying to absorb the experience, walking or waiting where needed so she could check directions, taking every opportunity to conserve energy both physically and mentally. Just before Vauxhall Bridge we pulled over to the side to await the support vehicle. After a few minutes they swung up to us, saying the traffic was pretty busy (it was 3pm on a Friday afternoon after all) and would Jo be happy to continue for a few more miles with me until we were out of central London. Jo, bless her, happily gave up her time even though she had things to do that evening and we were somewhat taking her out of her way, and we continued on over Vauxhall Bridge, through South London to the Oval.

England were playing India in the Test as we passed Oval Cricket ground and I imagined Adam wishing he was stopping off to watch the game not having to watch his crazy fiance running her way through London! There was a Pepsi promotional stand outside and the girls offered us a few cans. I was a bit concerned about having the sugar and caffeine at this stage so declined but Jo grabbed a can. It was really hot in London that afternoon and I was a little bit jealous so when she offered me a sip, I gave in and enjoyed a good drink from the can! As we moved away from the stand, Jo nearly wiped out this poor old man - I thought he was going to shout at her for cycling on the pavement but he just seemed a bit bemused at these lycra-clad figures jogging along and we apologised and headed off. Jo was keen to accompany me through Peckham and Lewisham as she feared a young blonde woman in lycra might attract a little bit of attention in those areas but the cultural melting pot again provided a welcome distraction though the streets did get a bit busy and, at times, we were reduced to walking pace. I did get a few comments, notably about my bottom (!), some complimentary and one not so much, which I think was a bit cruel given the circumstances!! As we reached the outskirts of Lewisham and were into the suburban boroughs proper it was finally time for Jo to head home. I gave her a huge hug and thanked her so much for being part of my Arch 2 Arc journey both literally and metaphorically! Those first few hours had flown by thanks to her but now I was safely in the hands of my support crew as we headed down the Sidcup Road en route to the first major checkpoint at Swanley around 20miles into the run.

At a few points along the way, the RAF Media team who were accompanying me, stopped for a few minutes to take some footage or photos. Whenever I came across them I always took a moment to stop to record a few of my thoughts. I think they were a bit surprised that I was happy to stop and chat and reassured me that I didn't need to stop everytime if it was disrupting my rhythm. I was quite happy to stop though - it was a nice distraction at the moment whilst I was feeling fairly fresh plus it would be a good momento for me and also nice for all those people supporting me virtually as the media team were providing real-time uploads as we went along. The first 20miles to the first check point passed relatively quickly helped by the fact that Jo had done the first 9 or 10 with me so I only had a few hours alone before we pulled into the Swanley ASDA for my first proper re-fuel stop somewhere around 7pm that evening. The crew had done a brilliant job of getting everything set up for my arrival. They had got a chair ready with somewhere to lean my feet on, I had coats and blankets immediately thrown around my shoulders and was handed a steaming bowl of chicken super-noodles, a treat I discovered at the Double Ironman which is my favourite thing to eat during the run. My drinks bottle was refilled with the H3O Pro isotonic drink I was using to keep hydrated and I did my first official piece to camera with the media guys. After that they discreetly moved away to start some of their editing so I could have a few moments chewing the fat with my team. I could see they were still nervous about getting everything right for me as they flitted round sorting things out but generally they were acting as an extremely well-oiled machine. That was the advantage of both Adam and Mike being part of some of my biggest training sessions - it meant they knew exactly what I needed at each stage but also how to adapt if something wasn't working for me. A bucket of warm water, sponge and baby wipes were placed in front of me and I took the time to wash and dry my feet thoroughly before changing my socks. Refuelled and refreshed I had a little stretch and got ready to head back out into the dusk of evening. I had a feeling that I would enjoy the next bit as I had got the first boring 20-odd miles out the way but it was still early enough in the event that I didn't feel totally fatigued. The next stop point was about another 10miles or so down the road where I was going to meet up with my parents at the hotel where they were staying the night. I was looking forward to seeing them again, as I knew they would be really excited to see me and to see that I was making progress towards the goal they had heard so much about over the last two years. I would continue to follow the A20 down to Wrotham Heath were they would be waiting with the promise of a coffee. Soon after we set off again from Swanley the A20 has to cross under the M25 - which was a great feeling as I knew now I was properly out of London and well on the way to completing the first stage of my epic journey. The road meets the M25 at a big roundabout which can be a bit confusing so Eddie got out of the support vehicle to jog with me under the various underpasses to make sure I got the right exit. Eddie had badly hurt his shoulder and had been trying to avoid using it at all so I was thankful we had Mike along to do most of the driving. However, we were just jogging along one of the underpasses and he turned to tell me to watch my footing and went absolutely head over heels himself. He tried to protect his shoulder by not putting out his arm when he fell so it was quite a heavy landing and I was full of immediate concern. Obviously being Ed, he brushed it off but I could tell it was hurting him quite a bit and hoped it wasn't an omen for the challenge!! After he had got me set again on the right road, he beat a hasty retreat to the van, probably so he could wipe off the brave face he was putting on! Hopefully someone got him a cup of tea soon after that to help him through the pain (Ed is obsessed by tea!!). I had tried to memorise some of the key points of the run so that I would know how we were progressing and soon after passing under the M25 we passed the famous motor-circuit of Brands Hatch at the next point I had memorised in my head, West Kingsdown. Obviously as we were running along the road, I could pick up road signs to places which helped break things down a little. The problem was it was often things like 'West Kingsdown, 8miles' which is ok if you are in a car but if you are running and averaging 4-5miles an hour, takes a pretty long time to reach!! Upon reaching West Kingsdown, Ad informed me that my parents were all checked in to the hotel they were staying in overnight (lucky them!) a few miles further on down the road at Wrotham Heath. So that became the next target and I was looking forward to seeing my parents who I hadn't seen since we set off a good seven hours ago. By now it was dark and I had my luminous vest and lights on. It was still really warm though and I was enjoying just running in a t-shirt through the velvety night. It sounds silly but it felt quite comforting, I guess there is some womb-like psychology here, and I happily plodded on. Soon, I could see the outline of lights ahead and not too much further after that a shady figure grasping at a wine bottle emerged out of a dusky bus shelter. Fearing an unwanted encounter (!), I slowed until I realised it happened to be my Dad!! The shame! ;)


  1. I have really enjoyed reading about your mind boggling event!!! Congratulations on completing this historic event!!!!
    I've recently started running, heard about your story through Facebook, and found your blog through Herbalifesports.com. Your story has inspired me to keep on going.
    It feels wonderful having you represent our brand out there.
    Thank you so much for all you do!!
    Jeff Richards

  2. Wow! You are truly amazing. Congratulations on your victory being the first woman to finish the enduroman.