I’ve done quite few of my long training walks in my hiking boots but none of them were considered successful. I decided quite a long time ago that the London2Brighton 100k Challenge would be completed in my super cushioned Hokas’ with my Inov8s’ held back for the second half when my feet would likely have swelled.
I woke up on Saturday to an apparently relentless deluge and there followed a huge shoe dilemma. I bundled an assortment of shoe options into the boot of the car and developed a strategy that would hopefully give my feet a fighting chance.
As Accuweather suggested a potential bright spot around lunchtime, I started in the trail shoes, hoping that Lynn would meet me at the 25k mark for a switch to the Hokas.
The rain came and went, just long enough for me to take off my waterproof jacket and then started again. It was a bizarre weather day and walkers would emerge from woods into bright sunshine and visibly steam as the rain evaporated from their hot bodies.
The rain and the 3000 runners & walkers played havoc with the trail. The off-road sections looked like segments of last months Wolf Run, as if the organisers had piped in extra mud to add to the challenge and my planned shoe change became a reluctant boot change.
I started the London2Brighton challenge an hour later than last year. It was my intention to spend an hour or so walking in the dark before reaching the main rest point at 57k. That way I would remove a potential hurdle to continuing – fear of the dark. Despite actively planning this stint in the darkness I made a huge packing faux pas. I put my main torch in the car to retrieve at the midpoint and popped the Petzl head torch in my rucksack. I knew the batteries would be low so put triple A’s on Lynn’s shopping list, again for the midpoint.
When I tripped over the first root in a dark, foreboding, wood and reached for my emergency Petzl, I was less than impressed to discover the most insignificant glow from the lamp. Completely useless and I was at least 4 hours away from batteries.
I had a glow stick but it wasn’t working and I ended up edging my way forward, gripping onto my poles for dear life and seeking out the breadcrumb trail of glow sticks that marked the route.
I wasn’t completely alone, other walkers came and went but I couldn’t hope to keep up with them. It was a pretty lonely place to be.
A generous chap took took pity on me stumbling over a stile in the dark and lit my way until we reached a road section where there were more walkers.
There was only another 10k before the major rest stop at Tully’s Farm but I was pretty despairing of my ability to get there. I was limping and silent sobbing. It was pretty darn pitiful but I felt like I was torturing myself.
With about 7k to go Lynn managed to find me on a quiet road and thrust batteries in to my hand before driving off again.
My world looked ever so slightly brighter with a functioning Petzl on my head but it didn’t stop the weeping. I seemed to be stopping at every available tree stump in order loosen my boots and attempt to rub some life back into my swollen Achilles. It is hard to fathom quite how slow those last kilometres were. I sent Lynn a text saying that was it, I was bailing at the next stop. I didn’t actually think I could make the last 2k and when I finally crossed the line I fell into Lynn’s arms and started crying again.
I don’t feel as though I let myself down on the event. I gave it my all on that trail, leaving myself physically and emotionally broken. I can now say that I am finished with this challenge, London2Brighton has beaten me and unless I can commit to working on my body and my diet I will not consider this again.
I’m an extremist. If my exercise doesn’t have that extra edge I just can’t be bothered with it. For the next year I’d like to work on creating a body that has strength and resilience and that earns it’s place in such a challenge.
This is a great event and I have huge respect for everyone that started, and even more for those that managed to push themselves beyond Tully’s Farm and on towards Brighton.