Au revoir mon amis,
What a sorrowful summer it’s been for British sport. The lions failed to roar in Brazil, Murray melted in the Wimbledon sunshine, and our rugby and cricket teams crumbled. Cavendish & Froome forgot their stabilisers. On a brighter note though it’s now only 1420 days until the next World Cup. I can barely contain my excitement.
More imminently it’s less than 2 months until my caped crusading running persona returns and I depart from The Nags Head in Peckham with 300 miles to cover as I run to Lands End. Running nearly a double marathon every day for a week across some pretty hilly terrain is going to be a real challenge - it’s quite possibly the furthest anyone’s ever run in a Batman costume. I’ll have to let Norris McWhirter know.
So my latest training run saw me take on the Saffron Trail Ultra – racing across 70 miles of Essex’s finest countryside on an overnight jaunt. I decided to leave Batman at home for this one. I at least wanted to make it out of Southend in one piece. 6 p.m. on a Saturday night seems a somewhat peculiar time to be starting an ultra-marathon. It’s about the time I’m normally tucking into something stronger than an energy drink, splashing aftershave rather than deep heat, and wearing something a touch more flattering than lycra. But at least the route took me past some of Essex’s finest nightspots - I just needed to hope that they wouldn’t enforce a no-trainers policy.
Southend – home to the World’s longest pier and Countdown’s Rachel Riley (no one wants to look at a picture of a pier)…
70 miles was the furthest I’d run for a couple of years so I was relishing putting my body to the test. I was confident that my stamina would see me through to the finish. And more hopeful than optimistic that my navigation ‘skills’ would get me to the end. Otherwise it was going to be a very long night. There were fewer than 30 competitors in total so there wasn’t even much chance that I could follow anyone else. Especially in the dark.
I set myself a target of a 07:00 finish and breakfast in Saffron Walden.
70 miles of night-time running armed with just a few laminated maps - what could possibly go wrong…?
From the off it was pretty slow going. There are more hills in Essex than you’d realise (& starting at sea level there had to be more ups than downs). I was carrying a heavy backpack of extra clothes and kit, food and water which all added to the challenge. And then there was the weather. A somewhat sultry 26 degrees at the start soon gave way to torrential rain with a spectacular lightening storm. Impressive to watch, less pleasant to run through. It was energy sapping stuff and I was starting to wilt. Not for the first time in my life I was on wobbly legs at midnight on a Saturday.
With a tired body and mind my navigational lapses were getting progressively worse. The laminated maps seemed somewhat inadequate for the task. I learned many years ago that you should never trust anything that’s laminated. Or indeed most other things that were popular in the 70s. Reading the map was like attempting to piece together an intricate jigsaw puzzle whilst blindfolded. I was making mistakes, compounded by bigger mistakes. Navigating across farmers’ fields in the dark was becoming hopeless. For the first half the race I’d hung onto the coat tails of the peloton, a couple of which had the route plugged into their GPS devices. Once they’d dropped me and I was left to fend for myself I knew I was in trouble.
But then what’s an extra mile or two when you’re running 70!?
I have been known to wander around aimlessly at 3 in the morning after a heavy night, but this wasn’t funny. I had covered 40 miles in a painfully slow 8.5 hours. And a few of those were off course so I knew I still had well over 30 left to go. I was in 6th position & injury free but my will power was broken. And I was lost. For the first and last time I decided enough was enough and I just quit the race. I could rationalise this in lots of ways, and try to justify my decision in a plausible manner. But ultimately - on that one night - I was just mentally weak and gave in.
I’m still annoyed and frustrated with myself a week later. I’ve learned some lessons though and will never let myself be so easily beaten again. Let’s hope the England football team have similarly learned.
The haunting look of failure – what a plonker…!
So only 7 weeks till I run 300 miles dressed as Batman. And Batman never let anyone down. Although technically I’m running as Del Boy dressed as Batman… & Del Boy was somewhat less reliable!
If anyone would like to join for a few miles (on foot, bike, or by car) it would be great to have some company. The route and itinerary is below.
Equally I would appreciate any donations to support the fantastic work that Help for Heroes does for our wounded servicemen and women - please just click the bear - cushty!
And please spread the word to anyone else who may be interested - many thanks!
♪ To the tune of Only Fools & Horses theme ♪
Stick a 9Bar in me pocket
I’ll fetch my Asics from the van
Cause if you want the best runs
And you don’t mind tensions
Then brother I’m your man
Where it all comes from
Is a mystery
I’m running for the Heroes
Don’t you see
But here’s the one that’s driving me berserk
Why do I look a fool and such a jerk
La la lala - la la la la la (repeat to fade)
Only Fools & Heroes – Paris – Peckham - New York
April 6th – Paris Marathon – COMPLETED
Sept 7th – 13th – Peckham to Lands End (280 miles)
Nov 2nd - New York Marathon
Dressed as Batman!
OR TEXT KELL99 (£10, £5, £3, £2 OR £1) to 70070 – Your text is free!
Phone: 07901 000729 or 01462 670202
Day 1 – Sunday 7th September
Peckham to Fleet (41 miles)
Peckham – Clapham – Wandsworth – Kingston – Weybridge – Addlestone – Chobham – Camberley Heath – Frimley – Cove – Fleet
Day 2 – Monday 8th September
Fleet to Salisbury (48 miles)
Fleet – Hartley Wintney – Hook – Basingstoke – Oakley – Overton – Laverstock – Whitchurch – Hurstbourne Priors – Andover Down – Andover – Middle Wallop – Salisbury
Day 3 – Tuesday 9th September
Salisbury to Yeovil (45 miles)
Salisbury – Wilton – Barford St Martin – Compton Chamberlayne – Fovant – Donhead St Andrew – Shaftesbury – East Stour – Henstridge – Milbourne Port – Oborne – Sherbourne – Yeovil
Day 4 - Wednesday 10th September
Yeovil to Exeter (45 miles)
Yeovil – East Chinnock – Crewkerne – Roundham – Cricket St Thomas – Lydmarsh – Chard – Stockland – Honiton – Fenny Bridges – Fairmile – Rockbeare – Broadclyst – Clyst Honiton – Exeter
Day 5 – Thursday 11th September
Exeter to Launceston (41 miles)
Exeter – Whitestone – Tedburn St Mary – Cheriton Bishop – Crockernwell – Whiddon Down – South Zeal – Okehampton – Lewdown – Portgate – Tinhay – Lifton – Lifton Down – Launceston
Day 6 – Friday 12th September
Launceston to Truro (48 miles)
Launceston – Daw’s House – South Petherwin – Bodmin – Whitemoor – Nanpean – St Stephen – Tresillian – Truro
Day 7 - Saturday 13th September
Truro to Lands End (34 miles)
Truro – Comford – Lanner – Praze – Leedstown – Townshend – Relubbus – St Hilary – Goldsithney – Marazion – Penzance – Buryas Bridge – Drift – Sennen – Lands End