It is now Wednesday 3rd August, I finished my 24hr treadmill run on Friday 29th July at 6pm.
I have mixed emotions about the event, as usual with ultra runs I found it to be….
Very hard, not that hard, mentally taxing, amazing, frustrating and inspiring – all at the same time.
Unless you have run ultras before it is hard to explain what goes through your head during a run of this distance.
I arrived at the Corinthinan Club on Wednesday morning for a photo call with Miss Scotland, we had a laugh with the treadmill and some jelly (Wobbly Williams being the charity) but at the back of my mind I knew what was about to happen, I knew the range of emotions I was about to go through and I felt ready.
My DNF at the West Highland Way race had really rocked my confidence, it had never happened to me before, I was given a major boost when I completed the Trip to Remember at the start of July, an adventure which saw me and the team cycle 50 miles, row 90 miles of the Irish Sea and walk 20 miles to the top of Snowdon, all within 35hrs. It was however the running which had taken a knock due to this DNF and I was determined to finish this 24hr event and prove to myself that I wasnt a quitter.
What followed for the next 24hrs was something that will stay with me for a long time.
Back in March I had completed a race called the d33, a short ultra in Aberdeen, I had placed 11th (i think) but had run out too fast, I ran the first 17 mles in under 2hrs, it took me 2hrs 30mins to finish the last 16 miles. You will see why this is a key piece of information shortly. After the d33 I decided that I didnt want to do the 24hr treadmill event, purely because I didnt see the benefit in it, the feeling of pain in my legs quickly passed and I gave myself a talking to and got on with planning the event.
Months passed and I was now standing in the rather swanky Corinthian Bar at 5pm with my Friend Lynne on Thursday 28th July. The run was due to start at 6pm on the nose.
The treadmill was in place, it had kindly been donated by Edinburgh Marathon organiser, Neil Kilgour. I took five minutes to myself in the bathroom, the longest I had ever run for time wise was 17hrs, it was more or less one year to the day that I had run this far (100 miles) and I didnt know if I could manage it again a year on, I had to believe anyway. A lot of these events come down to stubborness and thats the one thing I have in abundance.
The horn rang out and I began running, the treadmill was set at km’s p/h so I set it to 10km p/h and began running.
Various people were there to see me start, it was nice to have their support, a few familiar faces and a few new ones. Don Lennox who plans to run across America was there and so was Ian Goudie who had supported me in France during last years 50 marathons adventure.
The opening hour wasnt easy, I felt like I was struggling, there was no explanation for it, this was easy pace, really easy pace for me normally. I got to two hours and I had to stop for a bathroom break, I rushed to the toilet and wished I had taken my immodium. I was concerned to be experiencing bowel problems so early in the run, I had only done a half marathon!
In my head at hour three I felt like I was getting nowhere, I punched the treadmill hard with my fist in anger. I had slowed my pace to 8km p/h, then 7, then 6 but still I was struggling to keep up. I reached 26k in just over three hours and I felt exhausted. I couldnt understand, I usually run at this speed with ease.
It was only once I got to 45km’s that I took a break for a couple of minutes. Bryn came over to me and said that he thought the treadmill was set to mph and not km per hour, after working it out we realised our mistake, I couldnt believe it!
I had run the first 20 miles in two hours and the marathon in just over 3! What the hell! Its stupid to go out too fast in any race but a 24hr one……….suicide!
This discovery had an instant impact on my mood, I had been on the floor thinking that I was making no progress and now I felt energised and full of life to find out that I had run the fastest times of my life. I covered the opening 60 miles in 7hrs, I was flying.
Its always a merry go round of emotions running ultras and I had gone from the pits of hell to the highest heights and it felt good. The buzz of discovering I had run a load of miles instead of km’s lasted for hours, I fed off it like a starving animal. I covered just shy of 80 miles in the first 12hrs. I was on track for the world record (160.24 miles).
At hour 12 I took five minutes to have a cheese sandwich and some crisps, all I had eaten so far was gels, cake and energy drinks, I needed something savoury.
I chatted with Ferelith and Lynne about my mental state and about how the adrenaline was now fading and was being replaced by doubt and pain, I was slipping into a hole which would last for about three hours. There is nothing that anyone can really say when you get like this during an ultra, you have to get yourself out of it and the only way to do that is to keep on running and just man up (thanks Donnie Campbell for these words of wisdom)
Or as one of my favourite quotes says “You have a choice, you can throw in the towel or you can use it to wipe the sweat from your face”
How true! Cammon, lets do this.
I walked for thirty minutes, I didnt mind as I was still walking at 4.5mph and feeling ok physically. By this time it was morning again and the sun had risen on Glasgow, it felt good to have made it through the night, Bryn bought the morning papers and read out the articles to me and my Friend Rhona had come from Edinburgh to support me during the day. Lynne who had been there all night had gone to the hotel for some sleep and Ferelith had gone to work to return with my Dad in the evening.
I didnt feel tired, I ordered a double espresso from the bar and downed it, I hadnt eaten too much but as usual I didnt feel like eating. I had managed to stave off the runners runs by swallowing some tablets, it had worked but left me feeling bloated. I was on gel god knows what by this point and I was sick of the taste, in fact sick of all sweetness.
I had watched a few episosed of 24 durin the night and some Curb Your Enthusiasm, to really inspire me I turned on Running the Sahara. Ferelith would later say that she had never seen me so happy, me running while watching other people run, I thought that was funny cause it was true.
Once it got to Noon I felt tired, I had walked for a couple of hours now and even that hurt, my shoes were worn down at the back from the treadmill rubbing them so I changed from my UK Gear, pt-1000 to a pair of Nike Lunar Elite, the change felt good, they were very light and dry, the salty sweat stains looked awful on the pt-1000′s, they had run well over 1,300 miles this year, time for another pair I think.
The only problem with changing my shoes was for the first time I felt the blisters, i hadnt felt any hot spots as I was running but when I stopped to change to my Nikes they becamse painful, strange to say but a welcome distraction to the pain that had been building in my right knee for several hours.
Adele Walker had arranged for Pamela Andrews to come down from Glasgow Run4It, Pamela is a massage therapist and physio and I was greatful for her opinion on my knee. Pamela got me on the floor of the bar and began massaging my, you can imagine how tender my legs were for having run 105 miles, it needed to be looked at. 10 minutes later and a bit of tiger balm rubbed on, I was back on the treadmill and heading for home. I had two hours to go.
The room had been more or less empty on Friday, Rhona had been there and a few other people had popped their heads in to say hello, it was actually nice to get my head down and not have to speak to anyone, I tend to go inside my own head when it gets hard and this suits me fine.
With an hour to go I was flying, I had put the treadmill back up to 7mph and had decided in my own mind that I would run the last hour no matter what, slowly the room began to fill, Sky Sports arrived as did a number of other photographers and jouralists. I ignored them all, stared straight ahead and got on with business.
With 10 minutes to go the room was packed and the atmosphere was amazing, usually when you finish a race there are one of two people there to clap you in, it doesnt really matter and I dont do this for the applause but it felt good.
I again upped the speed of the treadmill to 10mph, exactly where i had started 24hrs before, coasting along at 10mph with over 128 miles in my legs, as the crowd counted down to the final two minutes I was presented with a pint of Guinness on ice, I had been dreaming of this pint for the entire run, it was a nice touch by the venue.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1………….0!!!
I punched the air, celebrating that I had managed it and also celebrating that it was finally over.
Q – Are you disappointed not to get the world record?
A – A world record is just a label, I dont need that to tell me I’ve done something pretty special here today.
I downed the pint of Gunness in one and stepped of the treadmill, the final distance was 129.2 miles or 207.9km, just shy of 5 marathons.
I left the room for a few minutes on my own and went to the bathroom, I collapsed on the floor and threw up the guinnes I had just drank, i lay shaking on the floor of the toilet unable to move for ten minutes, I didnt care though, I had managed what I set out to do, I didnt know if I could but I did it.
I gathered myself, walked back into the room where all my Friends were and had another guinness, I chose to sip this one though
129.2 miles in 24hrs means that I am in the top 10 of all time for this event and I ever beat Dean Karnazes distance on his first attempt, not bad for an ex smoker who used to run around the park with a fag in his hand.
If you want to do something I suggest you do it, whatever it is, just try.
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered you will never grow” Thats damn right!
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