Everything was packed and ready to go by Friday morning as we had a 4 hour car journey to Plymouth straight from work. Lorraine picked me up from work and thankfully the trip was trouble free even though it was mid to late Friday afternoon as we drove down the M6 and M5. We decided to pitch the tent at the event that evening to save more time on race day, this would turn out to be a wise decision from Lorraine as the weather on Saturday morning was wet to say the least.
Nearly forgot to add this, for those of you who are not educated in the world of 24 hour ultras the race rules for solo runners are quite simple. You have 24 hours to run as many laps, each lap is 5 miles, as you can or you want too. Alongside the solo runners there are teams of 2 through to 8 also taking part, they have slightly different rules but I will save them for another day. The route is off road and I had no idea just how difficult it would be.
After a crap nights sleep in a really uncomfortable hotel bed and pre race nerves constantly charging around in my head we made our way to Newnham Park (only a 20 minute drive). By this time I am mentally ready to run and I am pacing up and down. Lorraine told me to disappear and wonder around to chat with other runners to keep my head busy. Sometime before the race kicks off, Danny Slay(organiser) called everyone forward for a briefing and a group photo of all the competitors. this was fantastic as we were all asked to wear our Hope24 race tech shirts.
The running tops I brought with me were from races that either I had really enjoyed or achieved a PB, hoped that psychologically this would help. Trainers were Salomon Hornets(Up and Running), socks were X Socks Sky energisers(Myracekit.com), Skins compression shorts with my Run and Ride long sleeve top. Nearly forgot Gurney Goo, if want to prevent chafing or blisters then this is the kit to use, thank you Colin and Elisabet from myRaceKit.com for recommending I use it.. Last but not least was of course, my Buffs(www.buffwear.co.uk), a piece of kit you will very rarely see me without(slightly obsessed). Bladder bag was thrown on and I was ready to go, ready to see if I had it in me to achieve one my dreams.
1200 hrs – race starts
In less than 2 mins we hit the first hill…..bloody hell! It was a beast of a start and the first thought was that I would have to climb this 20 times in order to reach my target. Worst was to come in the shape of another hill at mile 3 and then a severe drop on the other side to let you know this was not going to be easy. The course had everything a trail route should, severe climbs and drops, adverse camber, mega puddles, mud, sheep, lambs(too cute) peacocks(noisy buggers!), slippery bridges, bluebell woods(awww!)…..and of course we had RAIN. So lap 1 is completed in 46 mins and I receive my first reprimand from Lorraine for running too fast. The original plan was 50-55 mins, Lorraine was right, I was running too fast and I had to slow down, I had to stick to the game plan. Laps 2,3 and 4 were at a more sensible pace and everything was good, laps 5 and 6 whizzed by and then I hit lap 7(35 miles)…..bugger! Quads were hurting like crazy and I wanted to throw up, this was not in the race plan. Decision was made to remove all the compression kit to see if that might ease the quads and I would run 2 laps without food or fluids to hopefully resolve the nausea……Happy days on both accounts. So I was back out for lap 10 feeling on top of the world again and approx 55 mins later I had hit 50 miles. 50 miles and I am feeling great, for most of lap 11 I am asking myself, ‘how can you feel great after 50 miles?’ ‘how can you not be aching after 50 miles?……50 miles!!! As you can tell I am in a happy place at this stage, I love everyone and everything in the world, even the hills are looking good at this stage.
Instead of counting upwards I am now counting the laps down. 8 to go, 7 to go, 6 to go and so on……I hit 5 to go and Lorraine calmly tells me I only have a marathon left to run(nearly), this made me feel pretty good as marathons are now used as speed training for ultras(had to steal that one Sarah…cheeky). Just 25 miles left to run, just 5 laps, just 5 hours…….not feeling so good now. With 4 laps left to run I have a big head crash, I hit the wall, bonk. loads of expressions but they all mean the same……I hate my life and I hate running. If Lorraine was not with me I don’t know if I could have dragged my sorry ass back out again. Somehow she managed to get me back on my feet and shuffling toward the start line again. It was time to embrace the pain, pain is my friend, it lets me know how hard I have worked(cheers Deb C). The shuffle slowly developed into a trot which in turn developed into running. I was back, I was running and smiling again, I was in the place I know so well, I was in my untouchable and safe place…..thank you Lorraine!
Lap 17(85 miles) done and dusted, Lorraine wouldn’t let me rest on lap 18 and encouraged me to keep running and she said would run with me on my penultimate lap. The thought of Lorraine running with me was a huge lift, so off I went. During this lap the emotions were a big problem for me as I foolishly allowed myself, all be it for a short time, to say I have now got this in the bag. No you fool, no you haven’t, you could trip and break something around the next corner and it could be all over. I then remembered Tai Chi(spelling?), I started some breathing exercises to calm myself down and to regain control of my emotions. I only did Tai Chi once several years ago but somehow I remembered it at a really crucial time.
Just 2 laps left and it’s only 8 o’clock, time is on my side with 4 hours to play with before the clock strikes 12. True to her word Lorraine joins me for my 19th lap…..the penny drops, I have suddenly realise I have ran 90 miles, my previous PB was 83 miles…….smiling again, as every footstep is now a PB. We set off together but unfortunately after about 2 miles Lorraine is unable to stick with my pace, this I think is due to the fact I am on top of the world, just having Lorraine with me has lifted my spirits. My pace is increasing, all my aches and pains have gone, my head is calm and full of peace and tranquillity. Before I knew I had completed the lap, no time to stop and rest, I had 1 lap left…….1 lap? Was I dreaming? Did I really only have 1 lap left to run?
Lap 20, just 5 more miles, just one more lap, just one more hour……….I only remember 3 things about this lap. These were having a chat with Kate, fellow solo runner, giving hugs and hand shakes to some of the amazing race marshalls and kissing the muddy ground at the top of the last big hill. As I write this I am crying again, I could see the finish line, it was nearly over, my dream was in sight, it was right in front of me, I could almost taste it. I have deleted and started again so many times about what to write for this part of the race and hit a blank, because the roar that I let out when I crossed the line cannot be put into words. The emotions that were screaming through my head are too many to write down, all I can say is for those of you who saw Mo Farah’s face when he won his first gold in the Olympics last year, his face as he crossed the line in first place was how I was feeling. I had trained so bloody hard, I had sacrificed so much of me for this moment, 30, 40, 50 mile training runs at stupid times of the day, in all types of weather. The hundreds and hundreds of miles in training for this one magical moment.
I RAN 100 MILES! Me, Duane Roberts, the idiot who runs more than he walks, I RAN 100 MILES! I have talked the talked for so long I am sure people were sick of my voice talking about how I was planning to run 100 miles. But now I have actually done it!……I walked the walk…….I ran 100 miles……I AM AN ULTRA RUNNER!
As always there are people to thank, and rightfully so, because without the support from loved ones, friends etc. I am sure I would not be the runner I am today;
David Hollyoaks (Fatt Lad) and Sarah (Team Buff UK), two incredible people who have inspired me in so many different ways to continue the hard work, they taught me so much about the world of ultra running. Thank you guys.
Team Liverbirds(+ 2 blokes); Where do I start? Everyone of you has supported me, believed in me and encouraged me in my quest to reach my dream. Some of you have shown so much personal strength to get through some very tough times in your own lives, yet you still continued to support me during these times. I will continue to draw the strength I need from this. You are my second family, love you loads guys….thank you so much!
There are loads and loads of other friends and members of the running family that have given their words of encouragement and support to me…..thank you, thank you, thank you
That leaves one person, the most important person in all of this;
Lorraine, as I have said before, Lorraine is my guardian angel. Lorraine is everything to me, she is my rock, my sensible head, my motivator, my support crew, my driver, my chef, my inspiration, my mate, my wife……..Thank you is not enough but sometimes it is all we can say…….. Thank you, I love you Lorraine x
Run Strong, Run free