Where do I start? I have struggled with frustration, negativity and the feeling of failure since the Two’r. I feel I massively let myself and my fellow runners down. I am still trying to come to terms with this. I did not finish the Twor because of anything else apart from the weakness in own my mind which effectively screwed me over. My body was not broken but my mind was. I have scraped the bottom of the barrel before during challenges and goals I have set myself, but this was a whole new level of despair. Welcome to the world of an ultra wannabe runner. Here is how the story unfolded. Enjoy…..
Thursday night was upon us, the night before the big 164 mile Fun Run. Yes fun run, there was no medal to be claimed at the end of this run, no goody bag, just a whole world of pain to be unleashed upon us. Pete, Mark and Dean arrived at my house in the early evening. We sat down to a mass of food and a couple of beers. Yes a couple of beers, after all this was not a race. We spent time talking through various possibilities, along with the plan and logistics of the fun run. The plan was to get to the half way point at Studland in 24 hours in a steady time and then turn around and head back to Charmouth, the Oner race back to back. Sounds easy and on paper it was.
Thursday night I checked the weather and running up to this weekend the weather had been scorcio, but fortunately temperatures had dropped and the forecast was set to be in the late teens, overcast with not a drop of rain or sun in sight. I should have known better to of trusted the forecast, after all it is very rarely correct. I had a reasonably early night and felt really calm and relaxed about what lay ahead. I woke the next morning, sorted some final pieces of kit, packed food and other essentials and around six more bags of non-essentials which I clearly didn’t need. Im one for always over packing and this time it would only hinder me.
We headed off early arriving at Stonebarrow Carpark Charmouth at 7:30 for an 08:00 start. We were on time, the weather was as forecast, overcast and not too hot but warm enough for wearing only a T-shirt. We met with Jon, Justin, Phil and Stuart. Took some photos and headed off along the South West Coast Path. The first check point was only around 6-7 miles away at Westbay or Broadchurch as it is commonly referred to. My pack was light with just a windsheeter and my poles in it. I was going to use the poles as and when the gradients were steep, and when it eased off I would put them away. The first stretch from Charmouth to Westbay has a fair amount of ascent and descent so the poles were out from the first hill I hit. We went over the Golden Cap, the Jurassic Coast highest point. Spirits amongst the four of us was great and we all looked forward to what the next couple of days would bring.
We covered this section reasonably steady in a good time of around 1:15. Once at CP1 Westbay Dave Miller – support crew (Oner finisher 2017) had come to say hi, we would see him many more times over the course of the run. A quick bacon roll, banana and slice of pepperoni pizza and we were off towards Abbotsbury. It would be key to keep on top of nutrition. We headed over the famous Westbay cliffs and towards Burton Bradstock. Interestingly only a few days after the run, a section of the cliffs at Westbay corroded and slipped away. Clearly the piece of pizza may have just tipped the weight balance pounding on the cliff top. The running section towards Abbotsbury is undulating but nothing stupidly steep. It is during this section you run on the fine pebble beach. This is absolutely leg sapping and is by far my most unpleasant part of the run. I did however find a whole spider crab shell which if I had finished I may have made into a medal.
Arriving at CP2 at Abbotsbury at around 14 miles, the sun had come out. The clouds disappeared and I began to bake inside. The heat from the sun was something I had not taken into account believing the forecast to actually be correct. It really threw me and took a little more out of me than I wanted. I refreshed at the aid station with homemade Peanut Butter Balls made with Meridian Peanut Butter of course. Pork pie, pizza and another bacon roll. Yes I am completely motivated by food and when doing these types of event you can pretty much eat what you want right? I try to eat as normal food as possible, I avoid gels completely. I washed this all down with a nice cup of tea. We headed off inland and towards the Swan Sanctuary. I saw a BMW heading towards the back of us at speed. Inside I thought what the hell is the rush, it came to a sudden stop by us and contained Chris Ette from Legend Events who Mark knows quite well. He had been following the tracker and had come to offer some support which was really nice of him. He would pop up a few more times as we progressed along the coast. The inland section of the SWCP is one of my favourite bits, it makes a nice change after the relentless beach. As we reached the water again we were now onto the Fleet, the inland section of the path which follows the water around all the way to Ferrybridge. This is quite an easy section to run in the dry and flat with some undulation.
We had moved CP3 to Bens (Oner finisher 2017) house just after Moonfleet Manor. He was waiting there to lead us in to his house. It had been really kind of him to open his house and garden for us to refresh. By now the sun was absolutely baking with not a cloud in sight. We soaked hats and buffs to help cool down, refreshed with tea, a pot of yogurt (1000 cals in 500 grams) and some sweets. As we left I had clearly overeaten and spent the next few miles to Ferrybridge feeling a little sick but ok. GREEDY I hear Martyn O say in my head! Arriving at Ferrybridge we were now a marathon down, only five to go.
CP4 Ferrybridge was a slow stop. We started off again running across the long tarmac road to Portland. This strip of tarmac seems to go on for ever. At the end we started to head upwards and onto the track. I got my poles out again for this section as it gets quite steep. I could have done without them but was thinking about the long game. At the top of Portland Bill, Chris bumped into us again whilst walking his dog. We headed through the quarry, took a couple of nice pictures. I was totally enjoying the run and taking in everything around me. It didn’t matter how long we stopped for to me, I was taking it all in. The west side of Portland is often open to the elements and the wind had picked up blowing in from the west. We made really good time to Portland Bill. So much so the support crew weren’t even there as they were busy resting eating icecream nearby. I used the toilet and had some food. I ate a pasty and some crisps and was ready to go. We were all feeling great. Along the east side of Portland we were slightly sheltered by the wind. This section seemed easier than I remember. We again bumped into Ben, Chris, and also met Rab, Emma and Jon who had come out to offer a pop up aid station with salty nuts and coke. I am sure they couldn’t resist offering me some salty nuts. Haha.
We made our way round past the Olympic rings and then back down onto the tarmac. As we ran back across to Ferrybridge we were ushered into the Crossfit gym to a round of applause. The gym was in full swing and the people in there were great. Thanks Ben for the introduction. I thought to myself Im not doing a Crossfit class as well as running. Back at Ferrybridge. 41 miles done. More food, more tea and we waved goodbye to Phil who was heading home. He had enjoyed his time with us from the start and had been a great bonus to the support team. We also said goodbye to Ben who was off on his own travels to Monte Blanc. Thanks chaps.
Mark, Ben and Jim Phil and Jim
We started to run towards Weymouth and the promenade, we made pretty good progress along the flat tarmac. We were still feeling up beat and running, as we hit the promenade we continued to run as the our unofficial rules were that you must run the whole of the prom both ways, and no stopping. Well that didn’t work as we stopped at the clock tower to grab a photo, then at a toilet for Mark and then we were met by Rab, Emma and Jon who had again popped up with more Pizza. This tasted great and was a real bonus. We left them, continued on the Prom and started to head up back onto the trail. Dave arrived with chips for everyone. We decided to take a quick break and really appreciated the support. We didn’t feel like we could just grab them and go. Due to this not being a race, there was no time cuts to make and no real pressure on us so it was right that we gave some payback to the support crew and gave them some of our time. We were doing ok for time and were still well on schedule for making it to Studland in a steady 24 hours. I took the opportunity to lay down, ring Wendy and update her on how it was all going.
After this impromptu stop we made our way back onto the trail. Is was so good to be off the tarmac and back on soft ground. The views on this section of the course are absolutely stunning and on the Oner, if you are an average runner this part of the course is in the dark. We arrived at CP7 at the Smugglers Arms pub and David Streeter had come out to say hi. This was really appreciated. David had done the Oner on two occasions and both times been timed out at CPs. He is one determined man and is heading back there next year to have another go and I’m sure he will nail it this time. He was going to pop up in the morning and run with us too. Thanks David.
We left the Smugglers Arms and I was feeling great. Mentally I was super happy and slightly over excited. This normally happens just before a massive crash where I seem to burn myself out. I was kept upbeat by the beautiful coast line and the prospect of seeing Durdle Door at sunset. It had begun to cloud over by the time we arrived there so no spectacular sunset to look at but Durdle Door did not disappoint. The Path was quite busy at this point and we made our way up and over to the car park at Lulworth Cove.
When I arrived at CP8 Lulworth Cove I was treated with a massive surprise. Wendy unbeknown to me had come over to give us some support. By now it was dark and the wind had picked up even more. We decided to get some hot food on board. Yes more hot food. I had arranged for some beans and sausages which were awesome. Very warming and just what I needed. It was amazing seeing Wendy and it lifted me, I said goodbye to her and would hopefully see her again maybe on Saturday or at the finish on Sunday.
Dave, Pete, Justin, Jim, Jon, Mark, Jon, Emma and Rab
We left Lulworth Cove and headed up on a slight detour onto the ranges. We were escorted through the ranges by Jon and Dave who ran with us for this section. I remember getting lost through the ranges when I completed the Oner in 2015 due to missing the right turn. We had been sucked into following someone doing the half Oner at speed and going the wrong way. The ranges seemed to pass by really quickly. I don’t know whether this because I was far better at running than in 2015 or that it was great having some different company to run with and it passed the time really quickly. Before I knew it we had arrived at Kimmeridge Bay and to my surprise Wendy was there too. We were about 60 miles into the Two’r by now and we only had another 104 miles to go. It sounded so easy to say and just rolled off the tongue. This would be my undoing and my downfall in the hours to come.
All day I had been thinking about this long 164 mile run. I broke my own rule here and made the mistake of looking at the big picture instead of breaking the run down into smaller bite size chunks. I look back now and think the reason for this is that I had never been so physically run fit and felt super confident about being able to complete the distance. I took my foot off the ball and thought 164 miles, what a piece of piss. Oh how wrong was I going to be.
We left Kimmeridge CP9 and headed to St Aldens Head and CP10. This is a challenging part of the course with some serious undulation and which would include the steps at St Aldens Head. As we ran along not only had the wind picked up to what felt like gale force (it probably wasn’t at all but that’s how it felt to me) the rain had now started. Not a heavy shower of big rain droplets, just a consistant rain which soaks me to the skin. By this time my chaffing around my never region was excruciating and I could think of nothing else. At one stage somewhere near Scratchy Bottom (see what I did there) I stopped and announced to Pete I needed to take my shorts off. Jon and Mark had already gone on. So in the middle of the coast path in the pitch black, rain and wind I took my shorts off and sat on a mound of moss with my bare bottom and balls laying on the cold wet ground to sooth them. I took much relief from this. Pete just stood with his back to me listening to my relief as the pain being eased. I ditched my compression shorts and just put on my shorts. I felt much better but was aware that I was in some trouble down there.
Arriving at CP10, I hadn’t really even noticed the fact that we had climbed those dreaded stairs, They didn’t seem to be as bad in the night from when I had previously run them. As we approached CP10 I could see a dark van parked up with no one around. We got to the van and found Justin, he announced that his van had almost been blown off the cliff with the wind and the rain had been so heavy he hadn’t got anything ready for us. Not a cup of tea in sight. It didn’t really matter too much as by now we were being battered by the wind and rain and spirits were at an all-time low. At this CP we did nothing other than lay on the grass behind his van trying to shelter out of the wind and rain. We laid there for about 30 minutes wasting time and I was feeling sorry for myself. Eventually we decided we should get going.
Onwards to the next CP at Swanage. I saw ahead the Lighthouse beam shining out and knew that was near to Durston head and the turn towards Swanage which is not far from there. The beam from the lighthouse was so deceiving. It looked so close but never seemed to get any closer. Around every twist and turn I thought this would be the turn when we would get to the lighthouse and every time I was disappointed. I hate that Feckin lighthouse. Eventually we got to it, by know the sun was coming up, but due to the weather it was just grey and gloomy. We whizzed around Durston Head, down through the park, onto the road, round some houses, through another park and arrived at the headland at Swanage. Justin was asleep in his van. He was a real star throughout and would go on ahead of us, catch a power nap prior to our arrival, get us food and drink and be as helpful as he could.
Over night we were hammered with wind and rain and I was beat. I let some cracks open up in the armour which would then turn into massive crevasses as the time went on. At this point I let my negativity be known and brought beaten vibes into the camp. Mark had said to me that if he had known this course would have been so hard then he would not have agreed to of come and done this with me. Mark is an awesome endurance athlete so this must be hard if he thinks it is. We talked about just finishing the Oner or trying to get 100 miles done but to be honest at this stage I was done. I didn’t know whether I would be able to even get half way. I posted a couple of videos (one of me crying) which got some really positive responses and was really appreciated. After some food we ploughed on climbing up over to Old Harrys Rocks. I received a text from my mate Jeff with some inspirational supportive words which really touched me. I started to cry and tried to get my head back in the game, stop thinking about all this negativity and take some positivity from the world. It lifted me temporarily and I headed down to the beach at Studland. This was a walk walk run walk walk section for me and I hung at the back to have some time to myself. I cried to myself again. I was tired, my balls were on fire, my left heal was painful from compensating for the injury to my right ankle I had coming into the run. Now because my left heal hurt I was compensating with my right foot running more on my front foot than I normally do. Along the beach there was no let up in the pain in my feet and my balls and I could not get to the half way point quick enough. All I wanted to do was sit down, go to the toilet, re lubricate myself, get changed, eat, drink and get this run finished. I was not in a good place. My spirits were temporarily lifted as we pasted the Nudist sign on the beach and Jon ran along with his shorts around his knees with his tackle and bottom out. I’m sure he did this for Martyn Odell who normally likes to undress during a run.
Rab came out and met me and walk/ran the last 400 meters or so with me. He had been a great support throughout. Arriving at the CP12 (half way and 82 miles in) all the team were there. Jon and Mark had arrived in 23:57 or something similar. I rolled in at 24:04 hours behind Pete, so we had pretty much done what we set out to do so far. We had arrived at the half way point at 24 hours. We had paced the running quite well to achieve this but in hindsight we had wasted a lot of time at CPs. All we had to do now was to regroup turn around and go all the way back.
For anyone that has started the Oner , finished it or even thought about it will know what a difficult race it is. They will know how utterly spent they were when they finished, there body’s and minds destroyed. Well this was a complete headfeck. We know had to turn around and go back the way we had come, back over all those hills. This was going to take a lot of will power to carry on. So I set about changing, although I regret not taking off my battered soaking wet trainers and replacing them for clean fresh ones. Everything else I changed. I ate some food and by now you would have picked up on the fact that I like eating. I had a chocolate milkshake, two bowls of homemade bacon and lentil soup, a couple of cups of tea and some water. I probably ate something else but can’t remember what that was. I remember speaking to Mark and he had got changed back into some normal clothes and announced he was done and was not going any further. We were now down to just the three of us. Jon and Pete still looked fresh and were running strong. I had nothing wrong with my muscles in my legs, in fact my legs still fresh. I put this down to refreshing them at each CP with BetterYou Magnesium oil which helps to replenish Magnesium levels. I will be writing a blog soon all about magnesium so watch this space.
So as I was tucking into my second bowl of soup when Mark asked me if we were going to be at this CP for much longer. I was in no rush to leave and wanted to get myself straight before I left so I said no. He reluctantly but with a smile on his face said “ok, I’ll get my kit back on, I’m coming with you”. What an absolute legend. So refreshed and changed (but I did not change my trainers) we built up to leaving and heading back. By now the rain was chucking it down and we left wearing coats. As we headed along the beach our progress was slow. We had a face time call from Martyn Odell (who had to pull out of the run due to injury) which was really entertaining.
As we headed past and over Old Harrys Rocks for the second time I had a really good chat with Mark about our families, endurance and what it was all about. There was certainly lots of doubt about how far we would get and the finish seemed well out of reach. We would go from CP to CP and see how much further we could go. As we headed down to Swanage bay we came across Mike Marchant and his dog. He had come over to find us after following the tracker but had missed us at Studland. I met Mike at the Oner in 2015 when he smashed it. He walked with us for a bit and it was a great lift and very much needed. As we hit the road we started running again. That chat with Mark and seeing Mike had definitely lifted me and I started to feel ok about stuff. We ran to CP13 which the team had moved to the end of the Prom. This was a great place for an aid station. It was fairly busy and people walking past must have thought what on earth are those dirty smelly men doing. Dave had got us some hot pizza which was awesome. I had a pot of porridge and then Emma knocked a boiling cup of tea all over me. I screamed like a baby and dried myself down, fortunately avoiding third degree burns. At this time the sun had now shown itself although it would not be out for long.
We left the aid station and headed up towards Durston head. Dave Miller and David Streeter had joined us to run to the next CP. This section had felt so long and hard during the night. Surprisingly we were all running pretty well. As we headed to CP 14 at St Aldens Head the wind had picked up and was now much stronger than the previous day, the sea fog was starting to come in and it did feel colder. At St Aldens Head I felt crap, I had some fresh coffee and some salted crisps. My right foot felt in pieces particularly the ball of my foot. I had a deep blister in there somewhere and any pressure applied caused excogitating pain. It was so deep I was unable to pop it so just tapped over it with some padded plaster hoping that it would be enough to let me continue. I could barely walk on it let alone run. I should have changed my wet trainers because all I did was create sandpaper in my trainers which just destroyed my feet. The cracks opened wider in the armour and all I could feel was my sore balls, my heal, my right ankle, the ball of my right foot, they all caused me severe pain. The frustrating thing was that my knees, calves, hips and quads felt great. I had loads left in them and physically I should have finished this run.
Negativity spread around my head and into my body as each step was taken towards CP15 at Kimmeridge. The wind had really whipped up, it was so strong you could hardly hear anything, the rain started and I felt completely drained. I lagged behind the others battling with myself and then made the decision I was done. I spoke with Mark who said he would stop if I did and that he only carried on because I had. He reminded me he was all set to finish at Studland. I spoke to him about the others who still looked strong. It transpired that everyone was feeling crap, although it didn’t appear that way. We came to the joint consensus that we would stop at Kimmeridge. What I hadn’t told the others up until this point was throughout the day I had been having chest pains. I have had these pains before and once even ended up in hospital. Nothing was found and the result was I had been stressed out. I knew what these pains were and they were stress related. I had put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to finish this run, we had made a bit of a fuss about it on social media and right from the start at Charmouth I had this 164 mile run to complete in my head. I was pretty stressed. I knew the chest pains would not kill me but we were doing an extreme event in extreme weather conditions putting our bodies under immense strain and I didn’t want to push it that little bit too much. I knew the pains would go, but I did have in my mind that its not worth killing myself as I have nothing to prove to anyone.
So we rolled into CP15 at Kimmeridge just 32 hours after we started. We had run 104 miles (4 Marathons) over 16000ft of ascent in all manner of weather conditions. We had been soaked, been blown to pieces and cooked under the baking sun. I was injured, albeit in the grand scheme of things only minor injuries. But mentally I had been beaten. This doesn’t happen very often and normally at rock bottom I can come back, regain control and beat those demons. But today wasn’t one of those days. I felt utterly rubbish like I had let everyone down, that it was my fault for letting negativity in and spreading that like some infectious disease. I would not let this happen again. We sorted ourselves out and headed to Lulworth Cove to have a couple of beers with the crew which was great. The support crew of Justin, Karl, Dean, Rab, Jon, Emma, Dave, Ben, Phil, and Wendy had just been superb and we would have failed a long time earlier if it had not been for them. The guys who came to see us gave a really nice warm glow and did make a real difference. Thanks for all the online support and messages we received. It really was an epic adventure.
So after a couple of pints we headed home. Showered rubbed on the BetterYou recovery Oil and sat down for a couple more beers, food and a debrief with Mark and Wendy. It took less than 30 minutes to agree we would go back, set a date and in our minds we were already there. So I said I had nothing else to prove to anyone, I don’t but I do have something to prove to myself. Im going back to do it all again on Saturday 19th August from 0800 with Mark and Pete. At the moment Jon doesn’t know whether he might be on holiday or not. We will have tracker again which I will circulate nearer the time. Please follow our journey of the Two’r take 2.
This run will be known from this day forward as the Twor Recci, after all its important to recci a race! Right!!!!
What will I do differently to help us succeed? The answer to this is lots but I will save this for the Two’r Take2.