A real diary-like inside view of what competing in a pro-endurance event such as this Rat Race one can really be like!
It is 7am on Saturday 18th June, I am at Carlisle Castle and about to take on the UK's most iconic ultra run, a 69 mile long cross country ultra run 24 hour event. The event follows the route via the historic, spectacular, scenic and hilly Hadrian's Wall and finishes across the millennium bridge into HMS Calliope in Newcastle.
Mandatory kit (including a hydropack (5-8kg)) is on as it needs to be carried at all times. The route awaits which is marked, there are pit stops, check-points, chip timing and GPS tracking for safety. I hadn't trained enough for this event but I really longed to have a go at this event and my aim is to finish and ideally to finish without sustaining an injury.
The average finishing time is about 19-20 hours which means there would be an average 4-5 hours of jogging, trotting or walking in the dark too. A mass start of about 750 people caused congestion for the first 3 miles but gradually I found my rhythm and kept jogging where possible. Some areas are too steep/uneven /narrow so I had to walk. My body was ok for the first 3-4 hours at a decent pace which I sort of knew as I had been training up to that time but beyond that would be questionable whether my body would hold up. That said, my body kept responding well and I continued to jog apart from steep bits, stopping for nutrition and a fresh pair of socks at Cawfields stop at mile 27 and at Hexham at mile 44.
After resting and refuelling at Hexham, 10 hours into the event I knew that if I was even to walk the rest (25 miles) I would finish in time. My legs felt heavy and hip flexors felt tight when leaving Hexham so I decided to walk the majority as I didn't want to risk any injury and meanwhile use the time to prepare a bit for the world’s biggest 4-day walk/marches event which is held in The Netherlands next month.
I walked for at least 2 hours with a guy half my age who needed help as he had reached the point of exhaustion so I decided to stay with him to get him safely to the next checkpoint. Darkness came, head and back-light on, headphones on….. cruise time. I was in my element, knowing I had no physical problem and being in sync with nature. Besides the usual sheep, horses, and cows I saw rabbits, pheasants, foxes, hedgehogs, eagles, cats and so on. I passed a few people struggling but ok so I forged on.
Last stop at Newburn, 7 miles to go and during a bit of refuelling a lady fainted due to dehydration and exhaustion. Medics advised that lady to stop and rest which usually means event over as that body normally shuts down. Imagine that fate after 18 hours!
Time to cruise again which I managed well. It was lovely to walk the last miles on the promenade along the river Tyne into Newcastle. The millennium bridge is in sight, the finish is just across it into HMS Calliope, job done! Finish time 20:23:35 (385th) and 12191 kcal's used. I didn't cramp up and had just one tiny blister. Great experience, another great Rat Race Event completed.