London 2 Brighton 100km 24/25.5.14
After a lovely evening reunion with half of my challenge buddies, and a good nights rest, it was into the cab, and off to the start line. I was hoping for a good time, maybe even my best 100km time, but knew that would be hard. I would also be walking with friend who was doing the first 56km. His first challenge and the furthest he would have walked in one hit. I had a nervy sick feeling in my stomach as the flags and bustle of people at the event start came into view.
After registering and meeting everyone else my nerves soon turned to excitement. It’s a long way and you can never really know what is ahead. I had done this challenge 2 years ago and now about to start my 4th 100km knew that you can never know how the day will unfold no matter what your training.
100km would make a small book to recap everything so here’s some key points. Starting off as a large group we set off at our allotted time from The Old Richmond Deer Park, along the lovely Thames Path for a towards Kingston before heading away from the Thames into South London Suburbia. Walking with my friend we set a good pace as we weaved through the urban Surrey hills. The highlight of this section being Nonsuch Park, once established as a deer hunting park by King Henry VIII. Reaching Oaks park we completed a fairly easy but surprisingly hilly first 25km.
The next stage at last became more rural with rolling downland and pretty meadows interspersed with the something we would soon be getting very used to. Mud.
As the sun started setting the excitement of the night stages grew, but so did the amount of mud. My friend had changed his start time to an hour later to be the same as us, and he didn’t have a head torch as this wasn’t on the 56km kit list. Not expecting this amount of mud I soon slipped over, stupidly not using my trekking poles. Realising how tough this must be for my friend I leant him one of my poles, and as much as I could, kept turning around to give him some light.
Reaching the 56km and “halfway” point I was very happy to see my friend achieve his medal. Asking him how he felt, he replied, “fine up to 50km, but the next 6 were hell. Looking around the marquee it resembled a field tent. Quite a lot of people looked pretty done in, and I’d seen the blue lights of at least 2 ambulances. After eating and then a quick change of socks which turned into a blister patch up too, I set off into the night with 2 friends and it was only a few minutes till we hit yet more mud.
The event organisers later said that this year had seen the toughest conditions ever. Off course due to the mud, which was made worse by a few torrential down pours over the event. The mud was relentless and energy sapping on the leg muscles. The many many stiles, slopes, fallen trees, bridges and more became coated in it and gave no break from is squelchy grasp. Each obstacle caused participants to bunch up causing delays. As we made our way through the night the dawn chorus helped the spirits to rise and we were making good progress
But hitting the 80km checkpoint tiredness finally kicked in, I felt absolutely shattered, could barely think straight and my muscles stiffened leaving me feeling that I wouldn’t be able to carry on. This was a bigger wall than I had ever felt. I had eaten at the halfway point but perhaps not as much as I should as I ended up eating 7 bacon and sausage rolls at this point. I ended up resting for 2 and a half hours and after having many messages and calls of encouragement I had still decided to pull out but heading past the water I thought I had better fill my bladder for the transfer to keep hydrated. But the support must have hit a nerve inside as I headed back out rather than stopping. I had wanted to run more on this 100k but the mud stopped all that. I knew there wouldn’t be any more mud on this section and so ran the next 7km in 55 minutes. A pretty quick run for me!
Another friend who was marshalling at the end stage, an experienced runner who has complete the Marathon des Sables no less, came to meet and help pace me in. I got my trekking poles out again and kept up a power walk overtaking quite a few people. L2B finishes at Brighton race course and as I saw the 99k market it was just by the 4 furlong marker and I ran in the last 800 metres to quick a packed crowd of cheering which was something I had never really felt in quite this way.
It was an amazing challenge made even more challenging by the mud. It was a shame I couldn’t run as much as I wanted but felt good running the bits I did, and feel encourage to train harder to run more in The Isle of Wight 106km in August and am getting tempted by the Gower 50 Ultra in October.