By the time Jimmy aka Zoltan, picked us up at 7.30am and having endured another crappy night’s sleep, the thought of walking a mile, let alone 37 miles was a tad daunting. Obviously not setting off wasn’t an option and we even managed a bit of a jogette over the line and past the photographers (two totally unlinked items). The first bit was mainly down a cinder path, then along a road and then up.
A lot of up.
If you look very closely at the picture to the right you should be able to see iddy-biddy people in day-glo lycra. They are not some modern day pixies, they are normal sized people very high up. normal sized people, not far away, just a lot of up away
Thanks to the equally iddy-biddy kissing gate which provided the only entrance to the field of up, there was a bit of queue to get in, which just meant we had time to admire the line of brightly coloured, lyrca-clad people clambering up the up. Eventually it was our turn, and it wasn’t actually that bad. It did take a while though, taking us over half an hour to put that first mile away. This was bad, because although we had until 1300 to make the first cut-off at 13 miles, we then only had until 1900 to make the 30 mile point. So it was crucial that our pace was no slower than 3mph. Ideally we needed to go faster so that we didn’t put pressure on ourselves later in the day and could spend a little time at the various check points shovelling down chocolate covered raisins, deal with blisters and gasbag a bit with our lovely fellow racers.
Running part of each mile, like we had the day before, wasn’t going to happen, we were just a little too tired and knew we were in for a long old day. We did manage to claw back the time lost time and hit the first cut off with about an hour in hand and in fairly good spirits, although apprehensive about the next 17 miles. Sean’s body had decided to serve notice, Fiona had a suspected groin strain and I was doing OK. Unfortunately it was all figuratively but not literally all down hill from there.
In hindsight we probably should have memorised where the various check points were, as having a shorter distance to focus on is very useful;when you think you’ve got a massive slice of miles to go, it can take forever for those miles to tick by. Personally I was concentrating on hitting the 18 and 1/2 mile mark, the halfway point for the day, the route from the 13 mile point to the halfway took us along some busy main roads, not the most inspiring of scenery fortunately I was now being distracted every now again by a weird nerve pain flaring in my left thigh.
As we hit the half way mark, we were delighted to find another check point with two happy marshalls dispensing water and sweeties. They also imparted the welcome information that there was another check-point in six miles, and then it was only another four miles to the pit-stop and the final cut off, then just a simple matter of seven miles and job’s a good un. They also said that from about 12 miles out it was pretty flat.
Having the smaller chunks of distance to concentrate on helped but the rest of the day was tough. The weather took a turn for the worse with heavy, prolonged showers plaguing us for most of the afternoon and the occasional ouch in my leg had turned into full on agony. Fortunately Sean never undergoes this kind of event without suitable pharmaceutical back up and I got to enjoy the magical moment when you feel the drugs kick in.
We ploughed on and eventually hit the check point at 26 miles, welcomed by a round of cheers and applause from the marshalls. Another quick blister check and more mouthfuls of chocolate raisins, to which I was getting addicted, and off we went again. The final pit stop seemed to take forever to reach. The garmin was telling us we were at 30 miles and there was no still no sign of the tents. Then a sign! It told us it was just 1/4 mile away and we stil couldn’t see it. Even after we’d walked a 1/4 of mile we couldn’t see it.
Even though there was still almost an hour to the official cut off time, I was starting to think they’d packed up and gone home, but no eventually there it was. With another bunch of marshalls, who first checked in our timing chips and then gave out much welcomed and needed hugs. There were a few competitors already in the tent but unfortunately most of them had just taken the tough decision to pull out. One of them was Martin, who was running in memory of his mum who died in April. He’d blown his knee out earlier in the race and had done amazingly well to get as far as he did. You can find out more about his race and fundraising at the Nanny Silver site.
As we left, we were warned that more jokers had been moving the course but to stick to the cycle path and we’d be fine. And we were, again it just took forever. We eventually dropped down on to the banks of the Tyne and kept striding out, still not seeing the end point of the Millenium bridge. Then finally we did see it and it was still f’cking miles away. Ok not miles but at least a mile and it didn’t seem to get any closer.
As we inched towards it, there was some discussion about whether I could run for the last push over the line. The general agreement was we’d run and if I screamed, we’d stop. Fortunately I didn’t scream and we managed the last few hundred yards to the finish. Apologies to Sonny who was limping across the bridge at that point with a heavily bandaged ankle who we left in our wake, as slow as that was.
Never has a black inflated arch looked so good.
Medals, t-shirts and goody bags collected, finished photo posed for, more marshall hugs received, we were directed indoors to collapse. Which we duly did before eventually heading to our hotel. When we planned this event, we had great schemes to go out on the lash in Newcastle. In truth we managed half a glass of wine before retiring to our rooms and passing out.
The Wall is an amazing event, one of the hardest we’ve done and certainly the only one we have all agreed that we will never, ever, do again, ever. Over a week later Sean has just been able to put his false leg on, Fiona has just finished the course of antibiotics prescribed for her infected toenails, and as for me, I’m still waiting for the all clear from the physio to resume exercise after a torn quad muscle was diagnosed. I would I’d post pictures of the various manky and infected body parts of Sean and FIona but I don’t want to lose the couple of people that do read this blog.
We’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who sponsored us, which you can still do if you feel that way inclined by popping over to our Justgiving page, the thought of the cash raised really did keep us going during the low points, and to the various fellow competitors who we shared part of the journey with, you were all brilliant and inspiring. Also thanks to the marshalls and organisers for such a brilliant event, it was truly an amazing event….
…never, ever, again, Ever!
Update: This is exactly how the last mile felt, exactly!