Video logs can be found at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1c5nRLy3BW_x5fR2qhoXGOdAa0s-UHlF…
Where did it all begin? Was it 2013 when I did my first marathon? 2016 when I did my first 50km? 2020 when I joined Rokman? 2022 when I did a podcast with Dean Wright ( https://youtu.be/wyUqwc-8q0w )
It wasn't supposed to be me!
Dean shared the idea with me that he wanted to run from Bristol to Reading along the canal after doing the Gloucester Canal FKT in January 2022. He was also getting ready to do a world record farmers walk. Unfortunately, he got injured, so I said I would have ago. Having done 100km during lockdown, I knew it was going to be hard, but my dad had done several so how hard could it be? I put together a training plan and in November 2022 started doing the hard miles to prepare. To motivate myself further I decided to run for a charity close to my heart MIND.
I have suffered badly from depression and anxiety and the ultra runs and Rokman challenges I do have played a large part in keeping my mental well being balance in sync.
So here I was the morning of the 29th April 2023 at the Cascade steps in Bristol feeling great, the morning was dry relatively warm and I was excited to get going. The first 10 mile leg was run with Terry Rosoman, founder of Rokman, he was supposed to pace me so I didn't set off to fast, "like a stud on prom night" as my back up crew chief Dean said! The route was on my watch so what could go wrong?
The first few miles was through the town itself and the route display was blocked by new walls, gates closed, etc so slight detours had to be taken, having done a couple of FKT's before I was aware this happens so it was no biggy.
Continued on and got to the path next to the river, yes, it would be straight forward from here. Next gate all good, then the path disappeared, I mean completely! It had been eroded to become a clay bank for which road shows were no good and I continued on blindly slip sliding on to nettles ad brambles. After about 600 metres I decide to turn back, much to the agreement of Terry. There was a split second where I thought shall I just back it in as a stupid idea, but the flitting thought disappeared and we found a detour thanks to Google and got back on the river path for real. It is amazing how routes are just eaten up by nature. The rest of the first two hours went really well. Arrived at the first check point feeling positive.
Terry bid me farewell and good luck, and next leg was through to Bathampton with Dave. The weather was supposed to be cloudy but warm, but not in Bath it was baking hot for April. Still it didn't detract from the beautiful countryside. Once again we came to another part of the footpath that had been altered. We were supposed to cross over the river and run the other side, but unless I was expected to jump 10 metres vertically it was a no go. We tried in vane to look for an alternative to reach, but decided to keep to the left of the river and hope for the best. As it turned out we should have just done that from the beginning. It was soft under foot and I was still fresh so I enjoyed the company and it was nice catching up with Dave. Had a slight blister forming when we reached the check point, the Compeed wasn't sticking so Dave, out of nowhere whips out his insulation tape to solve the problem. Still need to find out why on earth he and insulation tape in his running pack, but I am not complaining.
So the next leg was the first of was what to become 22 hours of running slowly with only the checkpoints with Dean to come.
Another ten mile leg, as the sun was so strong, and my wife (who was tracking me) had rung Dean to ask was I going too fast I decide to walk when the sun came out and jog when the clouds won over. Went through the first marathon and 50km in good time. Everything was going brilliantly, and got even better when I got to Staverton and was greeted with table, chair, steak and bacon with mug of coffee to boot. It's the simple things in life you can't beat.
A nice 30-40 minute break and I was away again, took me a couple of hundred metres to get ride of the stiffness but I was good, ran the first three miles then got settled into a run one mile/walk one mile pace which was great. Then all of a sudden I had to stop. In front of me was the only incline of the whole run, but my what a sight of Caen Hill locks - and what an impressive site they are (look them up online as my picture does it no justice what so ever). 16 locks in a row and on a lovely day it was wonderful to walk passed them whilst thinking about the man power and ingenuity that went into creating them in the early 1800s - incredible. I met Dean at the top changed over packs, clean socks and continued on my journey.
The next part was beautiful the sun slowly setting, the people on the barges saying hello and the pub beer gardens filled with people enjoying the bank holiday weather, food and beer. It was a really nice feeling enjoying all this. So as I ran into the darkness I was feeling confident. Still doing then 1 mile run and 1 mile walk. The sky was clear and the moon was very bright so could carry on the running with no problems what so ever. Arrived at Honeystreet and got my gear for the night, Dean was going to drive ahead for the next leg which was the longest at just over 13 miles and get his head down for a couple of hours, which was fair enough.
Set off and was a bout 30-45 minutes in when my chest torch went. It had a lose connection! Couldn't use my phone torch as I needed that so Dean knew where I was. Right! Decisions, decisions - the moon was bright enough I could carry on. The problem was that I was no longer on the left side of the canal anymore. It meant that the shadow of the trees was on my path which made viewing the track hard. As I was running I had visions of bushes in front of me, they weren't actually there, but the trick of the moonlight gave that impression. Whilst I was running I tripped over a what I presume was a tree route, and that was it. I wasn't running anymore. Although I hadn't fallen it shocked me into the realisation that it could have caused me to hurt my self or more hilariously fall in the canal (now that would have been interesting ;o) ), not wanting to do anything to disturb Dean's lumber I settled for walking, it wasn't an issue and gave me a bit of time to recover. The night sky was spectacular with there being no ambient light and there were so many constellations on view, it really was awe inspiring, however, I had a job to do. I was starting to feel tired simply due to my body clock. As I approached the last couple of miles the tow path was blocked for repairs, fortunately, I found a quick fix and had to do a slight detour along the country lane to get to Dean and my next check point. Throughout all of this I was still aiming for 24 hours but was slipping further and further, so I took a massive decision. When I got to the van I rested for an hour, just lay down and let my body recover for at least a while. I have to admit having a robe and duvet around you is very comforting and it really did make you want to curl up and maybe come back later and finish the run off in two goes. Although I didn't sleep the rest was gratefully received along with the coffee. I now was in a position where 24 hours was impossible, mentally the rested well with me as the only focus was finish the thing. No time pressure which in hindsight was probably the most sensible decision ever!
As I left the checkpoint I knew that the next leg to Kintbury was going to be tough just through tiredness, however, my phone was charged so I could use the torch. I wasn't running just walking from now on. The leg was event free just a short 7 miles, however, I did step in a load of puddles in the darkness which meant my feet got wet. This was to haunt me later. Regardless, seeing the sun come up and the mist rising was utterly splendid. I started to think and see if I could remember the last ever time I had stayed up all night and seen the sun set and rise ( I am still trying to remember when it was), but is something I will be doing again as you can't beat the feeling. The new vigour filled me. As I came into the checkpoint I told Dean I was changing my socks and shoes as the shoes were soaked. What I failed to do was dry my feet - rookie error!!!
What proceeded to happen over the last 26 miles, which I only found out at the end was massive blood blisters formed on my heels making the last 13 miles excrutiating, to say the least. As I went through the next two checkpoints my feet were getting worse, I was getting tired and the demons in my mind were having an absolute field day. There is a picture of me at Newbury and it is a look of a beaten man. How I actually got up and carried on will forever be an example of resilience and perseverance I will never forget, 20 miles to go, but better than that I would have a walking partner in 7 miles which would help to my goal.
It is amazing to discover how much pain your mind can actually get used to. For the next 7 miles I used my meditative breathing (At my wife's request I took up yoga in January) and slowly the sharp pain began to 'ease' into in a dull ache which was bearable. I manged to get through to Woolhampton and met Giles. Giles was one of Dean's mates he'd met through doing his own ultras.
I cannot express my thanks and gratitude to Giles for getting up ridiculously early to come and join me, having to wait as I was way behind schedule and then spending two and half hours filling me with his own adventures and how brilliant I was for doing what I was doing. The thought while typing this brings tears to my eyes, he was completely selfless. As we approached the end of the leg I needed to bathroom, and was passing a cafe which wasn't yet open. On hearing my story the owner kindly let me use the bathroom. I was a few minutes in and Giles came and knocked on asking was I okay. I replied yes, came out, thanked the owner and continued on our way. Giles then regaled me with a story that the reason he had come in was on doing an ultra he gone out with some fellow runners for a meal and one of the had disappeared to the bathroom, some time later they were concerned as he hadn't returned. Giles went to check and he was stuck, he simply couldn't get up! I was pleased not to be in that position. Next checkpoint I refueled and got my head straight. Just 5 miles.
A slow 5 miles, but I didn't care, I knew I was going to make it. Dean went off to park the van at the end and then came to meet me. We walked the last two miles together. On reaching the end of the root I forgot to take a picture as I hadn't reached 100 miles. Fortunately there was a pub which would make me reach that 100 miles hence the photo at the end.
Whilst I will never do another 100 miles, the experience and typing it up here has filled me with joy. I am on crutches two days after to help with stability, but the feeling of achievement of such a long journey, the ups and downs and that I have proved myself a worthy competitor to push myself so far is awesome. I have also raised over £1500 for a worthy cause.