My initial flirtation with running the wall begun about 2011 while reading a running magazine and stumbling upon a page sized advert for the inaugural event. I’m going to enter that I announced to the long suffering wife and my brother and his partner Sarah (we were travelling around the Rockies in Canada at the time). There was a reasonable amount of skepticism from all of them, justifiably so as I was only a year post MS diagnosis and had been told by my consultant gentle exercise will be good for you but nothing too serious.
Looking back I was probably a little in denial my confidence was very low I had begun jogging again but every time I got to a road crossing I would have to grab the lamppost to avoid losing my balance, my vision still hadn’t got back to perfect, when exercising things still went a little blurry my feet begun to lose sensation and if it was a bad day I may have the added bonus of shitting myself (loss of bladder/bowel control is quite common in MS sufferers) but all that said I had read born to run so was now a fully fledged wannabe ultra runner. Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back on the bike or feet more like it. This lead me to an amazing discovery Overcoming MS by Prof Jelinek a book that literally changed my life. So I was now a plant based whole food wannabe ultra runner.
Fast forward 6 years and a lot of hard work/training and support from my family and I am toeing the line as promised in that jeep Cherokee somewhere in the stunning Rocky mountains what seems like a lifetime ago.
The week leading up to the race it became apparent the weather was going to be a bit on the warm side. So while sorting supplies I took this into consideration and packed a good supply of salt tablets (enough for 2 every hour to be sure).
I arrived at Carlisle castle at 6am good time for the 7am mass start. I bumped into JJ who was supporting a work colleague and promised him the pint I owe him at the finish if he was there on time failing that I’d drink it for him. Before I knew it we were off at what felt like a snails pace I kept telling myself “discipline is all that matters”.
The first 8 miles were uneventful until I had to jump a hedge for a pit-stop and wish I hadn’t shared my baby wipes out at the portaloos at the start. I then spent the next 10 mile re-overtaking everybody that passed during my pit-stop. I made it to Lanercost priory CP1 15 miles in 2hrs 40 I was happy I hadn’t over done it just warming up. JJ informed me at least 3 ladies were in front of me of course being “chicked” doesn’t bother me thankfully as one of the three went on to finish 2nd overall.
I managed to team up with a good group of three runners now as we approached the first sighting of the wall. Although I knew I should be eating by now the heat was making my appetite none existent and I decided some small nibbles was better than nothing as long as i stayed hydrated. This section was the best off road bits of the whole course. I arrived at cawfield quarry CP 2 27 miles in 2hrs 9 mins. Mark Snowball was there ready with change of top and hat and acid reflux medication (I had opted to skip my MS meds for the day thinking I would suffer less side effects but that didn’t seem to make any difference). I didn’t hang about just changed and went.
For the next 12 miles there was no shade quite a lot of hills and no water refills which made this one of the lowest parts of the day for me, but I wasn’t going to get too despondent. When I arrived at a water station the girl manning it explained that this was cup only not for refilling our bottles, needless to say she was politely told I would be refilling my bottles and she should radio event director to get more supplies (which apparently did happen). Mark parked up at Hexham and jogged back along the course to meet me, this was a pleasant section of the route but the midday sun was becoming relentless. On arriving at Hexham CP3 45 miles 3hrs 13mins I was greeted by family Heather and Emelie who didn’t seem too interested in a sweaty looking dad, my sister and her family along with home made banners which I confess I didn’t notice and my mother. I managed some veg soup and an ice lollie along with a shaded area breather.
I left Hexham with Josh who had been a companion for the last 10 mile or so, but he was struggling to get running again I gave him 3 miles to try and get moving but eventually felt I had to push on with my own race. I closed on another group and paired up with Ben and Pete to get us going, we eventually got to the caravan site in Ovingham where amazing local residents had set up tables with iced water buckets lush poured over the head and plates of fruit (I indulged in a piece of pineapple which went down a treat). This section from here to Newburn was slow, Mark had now parked up at next CP and again jogged back up course to meet me as we passed the George Stephenson birthplace I suggested a jog walk strategy as we seemed to be shuffling so slow we had to think of something so we went with 2mins on 2mins off this worked well and got our mile splits back towards 11mins (how fast) Arriving at CP4 62miles 4hrs 2mins.
Pete wasn’t ready to come with myself and Ben we didn’t stop I changed my top again and off we went, we decided the last 7 mile would go best if we kept up the jog walk strategy. This section seemed to go by quite quick keeping our splits really consistent by this stage trying to run continuously was just not going to happen my breathing was soaring as soon as each 2 mins on started but the 2 mins were at least manageable. As we approached the quayside we agreed to cross the line together but also to run the last half mile (in case any of our supporters could see us coming). It was a great feeling to be completing such an amazing journey in my home town, and was really nice to see Chris and Anna, Jon, Scott, Abbie, my sister and of course Heather. As well as my wing man Mark Snowball Love you dude your a legend I’ll repay it someday I’m sure.
So a top 20 finish and thoughts now turn to a certain 42 peaks in the lake district, maybe 2019 in order to allow real preparation and some classic lakes races in the year leading up to it.
1 cup of veg soup
Handful of pretzels
A bite of jam sarnie
Rocket ice lollie
Mini pack of skittles
14 salt tablets
14 litres of water/couple of cups of coke/1 litre isotonic drink.