Sunday, 17 April 2011

4 marathons in 24 - Report

It was with great pleasure that I accepted the job of Support Runner for my good ultrarunning buddy David Hegarty who has run a lot of the longer challenges I have over the past few years. David is an avid supporter of the Shooting Stars Chase charity and each year has run a bigger challenge which I have run in:-
  • London to Brighton(2009)
  • Ridgeway(2010)
  • 4 x Marathons in 24 hours (2011)
As I had run the challenges he had It was an honour to be asked to be his "Mule" for the night. It was planned at one stage that there would be different runners on the first 3 legs but David with most great plans of Mice and Men the second stage runner pulled out due to injury so I stepped in to run 2 stages totalling 52.4 miles!

At Greenwich

I arrived at about 9.00pm to await the arrival of David who was currently on the course and was pleased to see that Rob, the other support team member, had already arrived with fresh clothing for David. Rob, another hero of ours had broken his leg in 3 places at Christmas and wasn't expected to walk until April ended up running 27.2 miles that evening!

At 9.50pm, in the distance, we saw David trudging up the road looking strong and able. After about 15 minutes turn around where David checked his feet, filled up his bladder with fluids and changed his shirt we were off into the night.

David, Rob and I had some catching up to do so there was some banter as we started to hit out at the miles using the VLM mile posts as our guide and I was amazed how we churned out 10 minute miles consistently (and exactly) for 7 miles. David had reached his first 50km so it was time to walk and give his running muscles a rest.

Do not be deceived by stories that London is a pleasant place to be at all hours, the VLM route takes you through some of the tougher parts of town and you have to be on your toes and respect the locals if you are to tread on their turf. There were drunks on the pavement, tough looking characters in the shadows and prostitutes with their pimps plying their trade.

The mileage started to be eaten away, David looking strong as we took on the north part of the course watching our pace and then I heard the beep of my phone, it was Rob who sugegsted that he call the comfort break forward as he was tired and had to support other friends early in the morning...we welcomed this so at about 2.00am we had a pit stop with a change of clothes for David and Rob, clucking around us ensuring we drank fluids, ate loads and wiped ourselves down. With that we bid our farewells thankful for Rob's brilliant assistance. Plodding on we soon found ourselves below the Houses of Parliament and entering Bird Cage Walk to join the Mall to see the course Finish line, alas, even though I asked nicely we were not allowed to run through the finish but were happy to run down the side to claim the first 26.2 miles and the chance for David and I to eat, drink and complete our run admin.

The Mall to Greenwich

This is where things go slightly blurred as both of us battled the sleep monster and dug in hard to eat away the miles, we both agreed later that the worst point for us was passing Tower Bridge AGAIN, for David it was his fifth time and for me the third, it was hard enough for me, it must have been hell for David.

We battled our way through the east of the course and by this time, the sun was beginning to rise in the East and the course became busy with staff and organisers putting up balloon curtains and sponsors banners. This extra stimulation raised our moods as we were able to call and have banter with the workmen. At last Tower Bridge was in our sights and the mear fact of crossing it must have worked wonders on David as his pace became more steady and the discussion of a sweet cup of hot tea was raised...the hunt was on.

The run continued, the mental strength that David was showing was incredible, our conversation had returned as our bodies awoke with the rising sun. By now the roads were being closed and support stewards were taking up position and we took strength from chatting the staff on the road blocks and staff at the drink stations. Fluids were running short so I went into uber-scrounge mode blagging drinks from the staff and also a space blanket for David to wear at the end before his final run to the Mall.

A welcome sight

At Greenwich I saw a member of support staff with a cup of tea and shouting out where he got it we were guided to an oasis called the Cutty Sark Cafe & Restaurant who for some reason gave me 3 cups of tea so we gave one away. We took great joy of strolling along Romney Road sipping sweet, hot tea. This appeared to put in new life to our bodies as we moved onwards and forwards the mood getting better when David had a call from his wife and I from a club mate finding out where we were. A few minutes later 3 friends, Martin, Helen and Michael cycled along the road, they were the Sector Management team and it was just great to see people we knew and have a chat.

We then battled on along towards the Start, and as we turned the corner we saw the hot air balloons and crowds of people ready to run, it was a carnival.

David and I ran the last section to pass Red Start and then we moved on to the RV Point to allow David to clean up, get a new shirt on and to air his mile weary feet.

With that, it was over as quickly as it started, I shook David's hand, my job done and wishing him fairwell left him to complete his adventure. A brilliant run, with fantastic company and one I was really proud to be part of.

1 comment:

  1. What a really fantastic event. I love these sort of things where people just go out and do things which push back the boundaries of human potential.

    Most people would probably say that you are mad but in my world that what makes this world a great place. It takes a lot of guts, confidence and determination to these sort of things.

    Excellent post on the blog.

    Well done to everyone.

    Total respect from me.