Written by Neil Turnbull - https://thefarsideofbeyond.wordpress.com
So Chapter 2 was born after my failed attempt in Chapter 1. I won’t go into the details on this post as I have already covered the subject……. and in some detail too. However if you do actually fancy reading an account of Chapter 1, then you will find a long winded and rather rambling post on the page that is oddly entitled “Chapter 1”.
Back on track then – Chapter 2 was a 24 hour solo run on a 5 mile circuit of the tracks and trails of Shear Water in Wiltshire. Commencing at midday on Sat 19 Sept 2015, and if all went to plan, not finishing until midday on Sun 20 Sept 2015.
The short version (for those that can’t face another drawn out and never ending post from me) is that it did all go to plan: 24 hours. 14 laps. 70 miles. 6,762 feet elevation.
For those that prefer more meat on their bone: read on…………………………………
I arrived at Shear Water car park, bright eyed and bushy tailed at 1030 am. I had arranged to meet Jane, who is the wife of my friend Martin O’Neill (more about Martin later). Jane had very kindly offered the use of their enormous, mahoosive motor home as a base, as well as agreeing to remain at the location for the entire duration of the event. Prior to actually seeing the motor home I had already began to think of and refer to it as “the mothership”. Seeing it on the day did nothing to dissuade me from continuing to so. I was a beast!!
Jane and I quickly got to work erecting the Help for Heroes banners and organising all the other items that the charity had provided. Underneath the awning we placed out chairs and laid out all my food and drink on a table. Now, attached to the front of this table was one of the H4H banners, and before I had even finished organising my food, two elderly gents pulled up into the car park. As they got out of their car they observed the banners and wandered over, asking as they did so, how much the food was to buy. No no no no. My food. Not for sale. Sorry. I explained this to them in a more polite manner and informed them of my purpose for being there. They kindly put some money in the collection bucket……and left minus any food. I gather from those that took a stint of piloting the mothership that this was a regular occurrence throughout the event. However when it was explained as to what I was attempting and why, all the intended purchaser left still hungry and having put money in the collection bucket :) The Shear Water Lake Tea Room also had a collection bucket in their cafe and donated all their staff tips for both days as well.
Midday arrived before I knew it. This would be time for me to go then. My spouse to be Donna had arrived along with my step son Josh and youngest daughter Summer. My eldest daughter Stacey was also there with my grandson Ronnie too. In fact she liked it so much she is going back next weekend!! I departed with the sound of friends and family clapping and cheering and the tones of Aces and Twos by The Devil Makes Three ringing in my ears.
As I made my way on the inaugural lap I felt fantastic. The sun was shining, I was outside in nature, I had vested a (fairly) large amount of time and energy to get to this point…….and now it was here. It was happening! Was I under trained for a 24 hour run? “Hell yes!!!” is the honest answer. I had dropped many runs in my preparation, mainly due to the “Big L” – Life – popping up and scuppering my best laid plans. Those that have read some of my previous post will know that I can’t use that as a stick to beat myself with. It happens. C’est la vie. I also knew that over training was a much more perilous demon to deal with. “Under train and you can still finish. Over train and you probably won’t even make the start line” – someone far more an accomplished runner than I once said. And I took confidence from the training I had done – I concentrated on hills and time on my feet, avoided junk miles, and the sessions I did do were quality ones. So as I quickly arrived at my first climb of the day I felt invincible, the sun was out, the sky was blue, what else would anyone rather be doing on a day like this? Probably not a 24 hour run. But what do they know eh!!
I also knew this particular route inside/out. I had run the circuit countless times and knew where every twist and turnevery sharp bend was. Every rock and every boulder. Every tree root waiting to trip me up. Every overhanging branch lurking to pounce. Every point on the trail that was boggy and every section that was dry and compact……………..or so I thought. In the main I was right……….but one particular small section still managed to take me by surprise.
As I reached the top of the first climb and turned left making my way down a steady ascent I came across an area of the forest that had recently been the victim of a burglary. Some one had brazenly stolen some of the trees. Perhaps I should of taken this as an omen for what lay ahead. Lay being the operative word in that sentence.
About a mile further on from the site of the home invasion the trail disappeared. In the words of Tommy Cooper – “Just like that”. But not in a puff of smoke – as if by a magician pulling an epic prank on me. And there was no way I could be hallucinating yet. Not now. Surely not after only 30 mins of running. This was going to be one very long, trippy night if I was!! But the trail was gone. Instead I was faced with a mass of greenery where once there had been a nice little trail.
So, as I didn’t happen to have a chainsaw stuffed in my waist belt today (next time perhaps), I detoured around the green wall and was met with this on the other side:
So having stolen trees from a mile back, the thieves thought that they would have another go here. Probably got disturbed by the zombies that frequent theses woods and made off empty handed this time!
The rest of the first lap went pretty much as expected and I made my way around, up, down or through these:
My plan was to have a quick pit stop of no more than 5 mins after each lap with a longer 15/20 min stop on every second lap (10 miles). And this is what I managed to do. I am not going to write an account of every single lap cos that would not only be boring for me to write……. but even more boring to read. Well done for those that have read this far by the way!
At about 6.30pm I was joined by a running buddy Steve Carroll from Frome Running Club who ran a lap with me. I have been to a few Ultra events that Steve has been at too, and I recently travelled to and from Long Run in the Meadow early this month with him. I know (cos he told me) – he would of liked to have stayed to do a few laps in the dark but had Purbeck Marathon the following morning. Next year Steve :) At 10pm I met up with Martin O’Neill (told ya I would get back to him again). Martin is a mad as a box of frogs Irish man, who also happens to be keen runner and fit as a fiddlers arm. The night shift was gonna be a blast. Two grumpy old men, in the woods, in the middle of the night – what could go wrong!! He ran every lap with me, through the dark, cold, small hours of the middle of the night, and continuing with me until I finished at 12 pm on Sun afternoon. Martin had joined me for a lap of the route prior to this day coming so he was familiar with it. However on our first lap together we came across a hill that has a particularly steep incline. At the bottom of the hill Martin said “I don’t remember this hill. At the top of the hill he swore at the hill and said “I can see why I blocked that out from my memory now”.On all the remaining laps and after every successful ascent of this particular hill – Martin swore at it.
A condensed version of the night would be fair to say, we tripped, we stumbled, we climbed over trees, my left knee hurt, I fell – more than once, we slipped, we slid, we talked utter tripe,we played the alphabet game – twice, my left knee still hurt, we laughed, we joked, we swore, my knee still hurt, we talked more tripe, I ate Martin’s jelly babies, my left knee still hurt, I ate soup, I drank coffee, both of us had head torch issues at on point or the other (thankfully not both at the same time), and we took it really steady through the hours of no light. In fact it was mostly walking (and eating) at this point. It wasn’t until the sun came up that I got an energy transfusion and even considered a little bit of running again.
So a whistle stop summary to the finish then: I was joined on my final lap by Denise Ellis and Tina Vivian from Avon Valley Runners. I had warned Denise beforehand that I probably wouldn’t be moving very fast by this stage (not that I moved fast prior to that) and to think “comatose tortoise”. In that respect I wasn’t lying – it was a slowmy way through the small village that leads to the car park where the mothership was orbiting I was given a rendition of……..I’m sorry I didn’t actually recognise the tune,…….of something by two girls playing a violin and a cello. Surreal!! I was also met Martin White of Frome Running Club who had been running around the woods for about 7.5 miles looking for me. He found me 200m from the finish!! Likewise Carrie Wooley and Angel Preece had been stumbling through the woods (and following their own footprints in the mud) trying to find me. Go girls!!!
I finished the 24 hours. It was my walk on the moon, my sail away and see if the world is flat. I had never ran for 24 hours before and I wanted to see how I fared. I now know . It was fun :) :)
HUGE HUGE thank you to all the following. They all gave up their time to support me in one way or the other, and to be there for me. Time is the most precious thing that can be given. I am genuinely indebted to them all
Martin & Jane O’Neill, Donna Mounty, Stacey Turnbull, Steve Carroll, Martin White,Lorraine Rice, Vicky Howick, Carrie Wooley, Angel Preece, Denise Ellis, Tina Vivian, Josh Venn, Megan Mounty, and all the staff from The Shear Water Lake Tea Room