On Saturday 31st July 2010 I awoke at 4 am in Bowness-On-Solway due to run the entire length of Hadrians Wall. Me and Ferelith left the wonderful B&B and headed to meet Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell who would also be taking on the challenge. Not only were we going to run it, we were going to take on the current official record for doing so in one day. The course record stood at 19hrs 55mins, set by Jon Watts in 2004 and we had ambitions of around 17 hours which were ambitious.
We set off in the cold morning at 5am cheered on by our wonderful support team and Jon himself.
We started quickly, our plan was to nail the opening 30 miles then slow down for the hilly middle section. The planned worked as we completed the first 30 miles sub 4 hours. I was happy with the way I was feeling and covering the first 30 miles flew by and felt easy enough.
Up until this point the only thing untoward was a spot of vomiting from Andy but we pushed on making sure to keep the electrolytes and food intake up. Hadrians Wall is flat for the first third, hills for the middle and flat for the last part and I couldnt wait for the hills to start, I hate running on flat ground for any length of time.
At mile 45 nearing the end of the hilliest sections we were met by a reporter from The Hexham Times who took our picture then he sent us on our way again. I was pleased to get going as stopping meant time wasted and possibly cramps.
Throughout the run we had to dart through fields with Cows and they were none to pleased, so much so that in one field a Bull decided to charge me and my natural response was to leap over the fence to my right which happened to be laced with barbed wire. I cut my hand open and it bled badly. I also twisted my shoulder giving me a lot of pain, something I would not notice fully until I stopped running that night.
A few miles later I was struggling and ready to pack it in, Ferelith gave me a talking to in the car and I decided to carry on. There were even tears, I had to man up and I did thanks to Ferelith.
At mile 77 Donnie had no choice but to call it a day, he had been vomiting for some time, a lack of food intake and dehydration meant only one thing, he had to end it.
This was a turning point for me, seeing Donnie suffer so much made me realise just how big a challenge this was, I pushed on with Andrew and tried to block out the negative thoughts, after all, how many people could run 77 miles non stop let alone 84 or 100 as is would end up being!
With 15 miles to go (and 85 miles on the clock due to wrong turns and elevation) we met Andrews Friend, the fresh blood certainly gave us a boost and allowed me to keep quiet and go into my own head for a while, its a very healthy place to be, your own head but it can lead to problems especially when your doing something this difficult.
Again we took a wrong turn and ended up running directly through the Big Market in Newcastle, not the best place to be on a Saturday night!
We eventually found the support crew at the Tyne Bridge, by this point I was totally beat, I slumped down into the chair that was laid out for me exhausted. Ferelith had to force Fruit Pastles into my mouth to keep my energy levels up, although I could barely chew them. 6 miles were left to go, which is nothing normally but at this stage it seemed impossible. We had a team talk and fired one another up and cracked on with it, to say going on was the hardest thing Ive ever had to do wouldnt be much of a lie. Running the 50 marathons hadn’t tested me as much as the previous 17 hours had, mentally anyway.
So we pushed on into the lonely night in our own private hell, all i could feel was what I thought were toenails rolling around inside my shoes and chaffing on various parts of my body. I was never going to give in though, I cope best when Im completely stretched and close to breaking and I have to tell you I am more comfortable in that scenario than in any other. Thats what living is surely? Putting yourself out there?
As we ran along the final 3 miles of cycle path towards Wallsend I was ecstatic but in agony, it seemed like a grey mist was over my field of vision, all I could think was getting a cuddle at the end and a day in bed tomorrow. We sprinted the last 100 yeards to the finish and there were tears and cheering from a few of us. I couldnt believe I had run my first 100 miler and created a new record to boot.
The final figures were 100 miles, 16hrs 59mins, I burnt 12,000 calories and took nearly a quarter of a million strides during the run.
A day I will never forget, thank you to Andrew Murray, Donnie Campbell, Jon Watts and his lovely Wife and Jenni.
A special thank you to Ferelith, I have no doubt that I would have given in had you not been there at those crucial moments with your words.