July 23, 2018
In today’s guest blog we hear from the powerhouse that is Dorinda who I first met at St Pancras station as we were both about to make our way to the EuroDisney half, she was an absolute darling and it was a joy to see her around the park with her running crew…never one to shy away from fancy dress she was in her element.
I am not entirely sure what possessed me to sign up for Race To The Stones, a 50km endurance event. After completing five half marathons over the past two years and then the London marathon this year, I guess an ultra-marathon seemed like the next natural challenge to take on. Therefore with some persuasion from my running buddies I suddenly found myself on the start line at 6am on Sunday 15th July feeling mixed emotions of both anxiety and excitement about the trial ahead. We had already decided that this would be a hike rather than a run as the temperature was expected to reach up to 30 degrees that day so it seemed the most sensible option.
Before I knew it we were off, however after the first 10 minutes the rest of the team had started to power ahead, I struggled to keep the pace due to a long-standing ankle injury but more likely as I am not exactly built for speed. So although I was going as fast as I could I just couldn’t keep up, and it was at this moment I realised that I would be taking on this challenge completely on my own. The idea of completing 50k without moral support suddenly overwhelmed me and I became very emotional. I started to question myself ‘what am I doing?’ and ‘how am I going to complete this on my own?’, however there was only one way I was going to find out and that was to keep on moving forward.
The first 8.6km was a blur of realisation setting in but swiftly I reached the first pit stop and it was a welcome relief to top up my water bottle, grab a snack and have a toilet break. The next stretch saw the sun reaching higher in the sky and starting to take effect and then came my nemesis – a huge hill in front of me. As I started to power up it I suddenly became shaky, feeling lightheaded and sick however I made myself eat some sweets. At the top of the hill I saw a photographer, and rapidly I started to sprint towards him. Maybe it was the sudden rush of sugar but it was more likely that I wanted a good photo! Another 8km and I was at pit stop two.
The stretch between pit stop two and three was 12.6km and by now blisters were forming and as the sun really started to burn brighter I found my legs felt like they didn’t belong to me anymore. Then I experienced the strangest feeling of being drunk without the pleasure of drinking. This was the last I remember before finding myself sat in a medical tent at pit stop three while a doctor was feeding me a cheese sandwich. I apparently managed to wobble to the tent myself mumbling something about feet being on fire and feeling hungry. The lovely medical team fed and watered me, bandaged my blistered feet and cooled me down with water spray so after a while I felt ‘sober’ again. Feeling ready to go my thoughts of ‘I can’t do this’ were replaced to ‘I will do this’.
The next stretch of 8.8km was tough but feeling the occasional breeze or shade from a tree felt like heaven even for a split moment. Every time I passed others we exchanged mutual support of ‘we have got this’ but more often than not it was followed with talk of how hot the day was and how mad we must be for doing it. More hills followed with the relief of knowing what goes up must come down which was quickly realised to be some steep drops which were sharp on my knees – I thought going downhill was meant to be the easy part!
The terrain changed frequently from gravel, road, grass, and ruts so I felt I was constantly staring at the ground worried I would misplace my step and add further injury to my longstanding weak ankle. Nevertheless I was walking the Ridgeway, one of the oldest and most beautiful paths in England so I reminded myself to stop every now and then to look up and take a deep breath and appreciate the stunning English countryside around me.
Finally I arrived at the final pit stop and as I sat in the shade to rest the tears suddenly started and didn’t seem to stop. I am still not sure what I was crying for, it could have been the pain, feeling tired or the fact I still had 12.9km to go. Call it motivation or more likely bloody stubbornness but I told myself to ‘suck it up buttercup’ as I wasn’t about to quit now.
After forcing myself to eat a crisp sandwich and a gallon of full fat coke (all the best athletes fuel on this right?) I was off. By now it was later afternoon and I had hoped the intensity of the sun would be weaning but no such luck. After what felt like hours I reached the beautiful and magical stones of Avebury and everything started to seem worthwhile. Finally, the end was in sight and I could see the finish village. However it was at this point I became increasingly suspicious someone was constantly moving the finish line as it ended up feeling like the longest mile of my life.
At this point almost everyone I saw was just like me limping towards the finish and I suddenly felt I belonged to this special club of ultra-marathoners, in fact by now I thought if someone wasn’t hobbling surly they hadn’t tried hard enough.
The rocky theme tune was playing as I crossed the finish line and I received what felt like a hero’s welcome as the elusive medal was placed around my neck. Yet again the tears came but this time I knew exactly why, it was the relief to be finished but more importantly from the pride I felt that I am stronger than I thought possible.
My body may be far from perfect but it is a working body that with the right training and positive mind-set is capable of incredible things. I know my muscles will recover and the blisters will heal but the pride I feel from completing this endurance challenge will stay with me forever.
What an incredible write up. I love watching you and your pals take on new challenges and I feel privileged to have you in the Clubhouse. If this guest blog has encouraged you to consider signing up to an ultra, but you are worried about the distance or having to train or run the damn thing alone, why not consider joining our online running club?
Next year we will be taking a number of teams to the Spitfire Scramble 24 hour race, and heading to Race to the King on masse for the first time too.
We have runners of all abilities in The Clubhouse, and you are sure to find someone to inspire you to get out and run, no matter the distance.
Please tell Dorinda what an inspiration she is, and take note…whatever you put your mind to you can achieve