Last year whilst at work, I received the news from one of my best friends that he was diagnosed with Oesophaegal cancer and that they were going to operate on him. Not long afterward he had the op, however he then informed us of the worse news anyone can hear. It was terminal and continueing with the op wouldn't help. It hit home, he was at the time only 32 with a young wife and a 1 year old. Not too much difference to my self. Now he continues his fight and has passed the 12 months he was given and even has a little baby girl addition to the family. So if he is still pushing his limits it only meant that I should too.
Knowing I couldn't help him personally by curing him or find operating on him as I wasn't that talented, I decided to use the only skill I had and that was run. By running, I could raise awareness and some money so that maybe I could make a difference to others in the future. I chose a small charity as they always get over looked by the bigger ones such as Cancer Research. The charity was Ochre http://www.ochrecharity.org.uk/ which is a small Oesophaegal cancer charity.
So I sat down and thought what could I do? I thought about doing the JOGLE race, but I didn't have time with work and I also didn't want the chance of failure due to cut of times etc. So I looked at however far I could go in a day allowing me enough time for some recovery, eating etc. I always wanted to finish something at Land's End and being raised most of my life in Cornwall this was fitting for me. I worked out roughly 7 days of running and looked at a map. Phil, who this is all about moved from Cornwall where he grew up to the New Forest nr Southampton to set up his family home as he left the Army. So that was it I was basically running from Phil's new home to his old home. 14/15 months ago the event was created I was going to run from the New Forest to Land's End via Phil's childhood home on the last day.
Event 26 of 37 - #YOLO7dayUltra - New Forest (Southampton) to Land's End
We arrive at our hotel the night before the start of the event which was about 30 mins from my starting point. I couldn't get any closer due to the busy period of summer and every where cheap enough was booked out. I was accompanied by my support crew which was made up of my wife and 4 year old son and Les who will be the medic. My sports masseuse will be joining me later during the week. Also joining me is a good friend Luke Elliott, who recently won the Ham to Lyme 100k event. He has given up his time to support run the first and second day with me.
|Pre Event beers with Luke
Day 1 - New Forest (nr Fritham) to Dorchester
We left the hotel early doors and made our way to the start line in the New Forest. We soon arrived, and I got my self sorted to go. 7am Luke and myself checked the first part of where we were heading to and off we went. Both of being off road runners, tarmac didn't exactly excite us, however the first part of the tarmac took us through the beautiful scenic parts of the New Forest. If only the rest of the route was going to be like this. Unfortunately it wasn't to be, and we soon hit Ringwood area heading towards the A31. Having driven the A31 many times before I was in no doubt how busy the route will be for traffic. As we made in to the town we hit our first CP. Now I decided that I wanted each CP to be approximately every 5 miles. I could then treat them like laps of a 24 hour endurance race and tick them off. We quickly took on some snacks like pork pies and crisps check the next part of the route and said good bye to the support crew.
|The very start with the support crew
|Goodbye Hampshire hello Dorset
At one point as we made it down the single lane A31 there was stand still traffic in the opposite direction. Luke being a much faster runner would run a head for a bit and stretch his legs out. Knowing I still had 6 more days to go I wouldn't be stretching my legs out that fast. Walking the hills and running as much of the rest as much as possible was my plan and it seemed to be going well enough.
Luke at one point spoke to one of the drivers who asked him what was going on casuing the traffic jam. As I caught up with said driver he soon started cheering me and beeping his horn which lead to a couple other cars starting beeping for me. Luke told them what I was up to and it was the kind of moral boost I needed.
It was a warm day on the roads I was definitely feeling the heat. We were making good time though and hitting the CP's and I was ticking each one off. It was during the first day that I had a great idea of having a Callipo ice lollipop. God, it was so refreshing it was like a cold cuddle that was definitely needed. Luke still by side, kept me going as we took the mick out of other and when I started to flag he helped pick smaller goals to run/walk to. Lamp posts, signs, trees whatever we could.
Eventually surviving the first day we made it to Dorchester where we would be staying the first night. We eventually made our way through Dorchester town to the car park where my first finish line was. 11 hrs 4 mins and 40.3 miles I crossed the the finish line of Day 1 of 7. (All times each day include the rest stops at CP's and injury treament times) I was pretty pleased with the time although not quick, it was within the 12 hrs I set and I still had 6 more days to go. Never done multi staged event like this before I didn't want to risk pushing my self that would break myself too much. I was sore, but nothing unusal at the end of an ultra.
|Day 1 Ultra 1 done!
Day 2 - Dorchester to Honiton
Well I got about 6 hours of sleep, I say sleep my eyes were closed but I was only lightly sleeping and for a heavy sleeper that's not great but it was better than nothing. Starting at 7am again we're all up early packing everything up and getting ready for what will be the toughest route out of all 7. Why is tough 1000 metres of climb in total but the climbs aren't stupidly steep they are very long. Again, I knew the route and I know the A35 very well driving it a lot because of work.
|Day 2 Ultra 2 start
We made our way out of Dorchester and on to the A35 heading towards Honiton. As we got about 2-3 miles down the road, I hear a friendly voice I recognise shout out of one of the support vehicle windows as they over took. That voice belonged to Duane Roberts of Team Buff UK. He had traveled down from the South East after visiting his daughter and the birth of his first grandchild to Bridport the night before slept in his van. Got up early ran to 16 miles to Dorchester to meet me. He stopped in the McDonalds for a coffee and missed us go passed. So my support crew found him and brought him to us. He then joined me and Luke for my run. This man is on form at the moment, acquiring quite a few podium places. Recently securing 2nd place at Thunder Run 24 smashing in 125 miles only just over a week before.
That was it now, there was 3 of us on our way heading to Honiton. The weather was close in temp but over cast, with a tiny bit rain to start with. This soon changed as we made our way to Bridport, and it became very warm and sunny once more. With Duane and Luke pushing me, I was starting to feel it. We were hitting the check points, but I was struggling to take anything but fluids in. Everything felt very dry even when mixing it with water I struggled.
As we approached Bridport, I thought Duane would be stopping but no he was going all the way to Honiton, morale levels up now but pain levels increasing. My feet were getting painful as they were swelling. I had bought shoes a size bigger in anticipation of this but they were growing a size and half bigger in width. With the pain behind my knees I was struggling not including the heat.
|Goodbye Dorset hello Devon with Luke and Duane
The day seemed to get longer and longer as we made our way to Honiton, knowing the route didn't help as I knew when the hills were coming and they just never ended. Duane and Luke were pushing me as best they could and with the final hill climb completed it left with a down hill finish in Honiton. I crossed the line a very broken man mentally and physically. 11 hours and 53 mins to cover 36 miles. Short route than day 1 but 3 times tougher!
A mutual friend of Phil's called Brendan Hooper lent us a student house he owns in Exeter which isn't far from Honiton and Torquay (Day 3's finish) so we were setting up HQ there for the next two nights. The wife took Duane back to his van in Bridport, and Luke and Les took me back to the house. They set up an ice bath (which the ice was kindly provided by Brendan for me as well as other stuff) and boiled me up a ration pack meal I had. I managed to eat 1 and a bit of spag bol ration packs before getting my head down. Luke was taken to the train station as he had work to do for his Masters to get on with and I went to bed. Day 3 was going to be difficult as I knew I was going to be alone for most of the day and because of how I was feeling I was starting even earlier.
Day 3 - Honiton to Torquay
Welcome to hell! That's probably my best way to describe this day. So much so I've pretty much blanked the majority of the day from my memory. This section is going to be short because of that very reason, I don't want to relive it as much as possible.
Knowing I was going to be slow due to being by myself and in severe pain and with the weather turning to shit I took the decision to start at 5am not 7am.
|Day 3 Ultra 3 start
We only had one vehicle today as were returning to the same house and being by myself the medic jumped in the wife's car. This allowed him to jump out and walk with me for a bit. I got to 5k and my pace was so shocking I had to call a pit stop. 45 minute miles was happening! Physically and mentally I was broken. I sat on the boot of the car and went over everything in my head. I received a phone call from Duane who tried to pick me up. It was no good, I had to do something and quitting completely was the likely option.
I had a think and decided to get a couple hours sleep and see how I felt when I woke up. I woke up, smashed in some food and decided to crack on. I felt better for it. Weather was still poor, but I was making better head way than I was. The wife had been drumming up support via social media and seeing it all helped me mentally. I found out 3 runners were going to join me out side Torquay for the last 10K of the run. I had to get there.
Eventually I made it and they met up with me. A lady I met during Imrey's Trail Half marathon who I helped finish it, Mark Stockman and Steve Hookins who I met through the Hope24 event. Suddenly it was like a new lease of life! They got me to the finish line in Torquay and helped me end what was the lowest part of my life. The best way to describe how I felt during the 37 tough miles and 14 hours of hell was suicidal.
|Day 3 Ultra 3 finish 2ith Mark, Steve and Chrissy
We took the tape off my feet to try and let the feet breath a bit and to see damage caused it wasn't a pretty sight. With tape running out quickly, the crew rang MyRaceKit and spoke to friends Elisabet and Colin who swiftly dispatched more in time for our arrival in Plymouth. Those two have been a god send to me and I can't thank them enough.
|Blisters on blisters
Starting at 7am again we were up early back into Torquay ready to go. Unexpectedly I was joined at the start by Brendan Hooper. The guy who lent me his house for two nights, had just finished a night shift and was now joining me for the start of the run. Amazing! He pledged to run for the first 4 hours so he still had time to get some sleep and get ready to go back for another night shift.
|Day 4 Ultra 4 start
My feet felt so much better and I was making good picking small goals to run/walk through. I seemed to be getting stronger as the day went on as well making my way through South Hams district. Food was going down, I was doing well on crisps, Muller rice etc. Soon Brendan left me and I was on my own once more, but this time I felt better. I was in a positive place both mentally and physically.
I got CP3 where Amanda had her table out ready for me, she gave me another going over. Whilst there two elderly ladies asked what was going on. Soon they were off to their cars getting some money to donate. Both of them lost their fathers to Oesophaegal cancer. Another morale boost from this because strangers were donating!
I went on my way feeling good, sore, achy but good. Heading towards South Brent I could see the moors of Dartmoor in the distance. I was getting closer to where I live but more importantly the finish. I made my way towards Ivybridge, coming down a 20% incline wasn't good for my legs, but as at 1.5 miles outside of Ivybridge where the next CP was, I was joined by friend from my local running club the Plymouth Musketeers. He was going to run with me to the finish, the day was heating up and it was the morale boost once more I needed.
|Gary kept me coming from Ivybridge
With the next CP done and dusted I was no in Plympton where I was joined by another two Muskies, Stuart and Adrian and then making my way past my house I was joined by Amie who is a parkrunner at the parkrun I run direct at and a member of the Sweatshop Running community I go to. I now had 4 runners with me and still about 10 miles to go. As we approached Marsh Mills CP I was joined by more Muskies and Sweatshop Community runners (SRC) including Luke who took a couple hours of uni work. It was mad, I was now surrounded by runners and I felt like I was the PM out on a run. We made our way along the embankment towards the city centre where I was then joined by Pete Waumsley a Tamar Trotter and owner of Frank Elfords Sports shop. A good friend who has given me lots of support over the last year in my journey towards this event.
I made my way through Plymouth and I could feel the end was coming! I eventually came to the down hill to the ferry terminal finish line, I finished strongly and crossed the line with everyone behind me. It was so great to have my local running friends join me!
|Day 4 Ultra 4 done!
Day 5 - Devonport to Lanydrock House (nr Bodmin)
Today started with a final sort out by Amanda before she had to shoot off back home to Hampshire. I can't thank her enough really for the work she did! It was truly appreciated and definitely needed! Thank you Amanda! After a night in my own bed, it was very difficult to get out of bed and I did not want to leave my house, however I knew I had to.
|Day 5 Ultra 5 start
|Carole joined me for a few miles
|The lovely Jane
|Next door neighbour Ross did some miles too!
With Lanyhdrock House in close proximity I picked up the pace, and powered my way over the finish line once more. Another 33.3 miles smashed out and this time in 10 hours and 58 minutes. Jane was an angel on my shoulder at all times and I was so pleased we finished ahead of time. Great not only by my support crew but a friend Tammy from the Subaru owners club I belong to. It was so nice to see her at the end.
|Day 5 Ultra 5finish with Jane.
Day 6 - Lanhydrock House to Blackwater
A late start today at 9am why? Well I decided I need to complete another event. Event 27 Lanhydrock parkrun. Jane once again met me as it was her local parkrun that she also run directs. Along with some fellow muskies who came down to support, this parkrun wasn't going to be easy deemed as the 2nd toughest in the UK due to it's elevation profile I was just going to continue in the same fashion I had for the last 5 days.
|Event 27 of 37 start!
I was accompanied by Jon Anderson who is also a fellow Muskie and SRC runner like myself. His lovely wife let him keep me company all the way til the half way point at Indian Queens. Now during the time the temperature rose, it was in around 26 degrees and the route had very little shelter, being very open. I was catching the sun nicely and I was definitely feeling the heat. my thoughts then turned to all those I knew who completed the Marathon de Sables event. Thinking if they can endure hotter for 6 days I can endure this for today. At one point a random runner out on his training run, spotted us. He asked the crew what we were doing and then caught us up to wish us luck before going back on his way. Humbling!
|Jon kept me company from the park run for a few hours
Off we left the CP at Indian Queens and away we went but not along after I was surprised by Tony and Natalie Wallbank who were down on holiday. Natalie jumped out of their motor home with one of their dogs and joined me for about 4/5 miles, whilst Tony drove on and took some lovely photo's. You often find these two taking pics at various sporting events around the globe like the World Triathlon series. Randomly whilst also truly amazing, a guy called Pete (didn't get his surname) heard about me at the parkrun and caught up with me at Indian Queens and donated some money. I'm not sure if he went out of his own way or was on his way home either way it was great.
I was in a good place and we carried on smashing out the miles in the heat. I said my byes to Natalie and Tony, and continued on my way with Craig. Soon I was on the A30 getting closer and closer and when I finally got to the last check point I was met by Craig's wife Zoe (who is currently in training for her first ultra). Zoe had already been on a run this morning and as both had too go away for the last day they decided to support me today.
|Tony and Natalie Wallbank top friends!
|Day 6 Ultra 6 finish with Craig and Zoe
However feeling very broken I asked a friend for a favour, she allowed me to disturb her BBQ with runners from Carn Runners to give me an emergency massage. Alison from West Cornwall Massage Therapy worked her magic at short notice and it helped me start the final day! She saved me!
|My 1 size bigger Hoka Flops shame my feet grow 1.5 sizes bigger!
So here it is the final day, a day which at one point I didn't think I'd get to event though I didn't have a choice it did feel it could've been over early.
One final time getting up at 5am to prep myself for a 7am start, getting the vehicles ready and today I knew I was being joined by some other friends of Phil's who pledged their support be it for a short run or the whole day. At the start I was joined by Adam my best mate who doesn't run, Luke Collins another friend who is a second row 19 stone rugby player, Donna who is a casual runner but likes to keep fit, her friend Sharon, Wedge who is Phil's best friends since they were children and a friend of mine. He used to be a runner and a good one. Also joining us for a bit was Kathryn from Carn Runners who wanted to show support for a few miles as well as David who found out about the even through a post on his page.
|Day 7 ultra 7 start
We arrived at Phil's mum house for a couple of photo's and again made our way on to the first CP in Redruth. Kathryn left us and we made our way then on to Camborne to CP2, everyone still in high spirits, with Wedge providing the entertainment of bad jokes and bashing into every lamp post and sign along the way (nope he never got bored of it and did it till the end, we did however got bored of it hehe!)
|Phil's mum Gill
|Kathryn departed after a few miles
|Local legend Loyd from At Your Pace trail team
|Hope24 legend Pete
|Best mate Adam!
It suddenly was me encouraging those not used to the distance but it was great, seeing them push their limits made me continue to push mine. With support from Loyd and Pete the miles to the last CP flew by and we soon was in and out and on our way to the finish. As we got closer I was joined by other friends Stuart, Ben, Jackie and Luke Elliott (he had to finish with me). Then as we came through Sennen I was joined by 3 more runners who I never met before but have been following me via social media before eventually by my big Sis Rowann who has only just started running and my eldest nephew Jago.
We came toward the finishing straight and there is was Land's End! I picked up the pace a little more and with 200 yrds to go I was joined by my son and wife until the finish line! I did it I crossed the finish line!
|Finally Day 7 ultra 7 done!
248.2 miles from New Forest to Land's End and after 87 hours and 14 minutes (including all CP stops and injury treatment and day 3's 2 hours rest) I did it! 7 ultra marathons in 7 days via a route no one has done before and understandably so!
A feat I would not have completed if it wasn't for my support crew and all the support runners that came out from start to finish.
|Day 7 support runners!
What a lot of people don't realise is how much work, the support crew did. Setting up the CP's ready for me, treating me, feeding me, getting fluids in me, answering my beckon calls. Then on top dealing with the social media sides of things, trying to keep people updated of timings, drumming up support, fundraising and then keeping my 4 year old occupied and happy. My boy considering still thinks it was a holiday and was good as gold. He had his moments but then if it was you in the same situation as my boy you'd have your moments too lol
|One of the blisters at the end
X-Bionic and Sunwise for the kit they provided me and the continued support.
All the support runners (so many to list)
Thornycoombe farm, Brendan Hooper, My parents for helping me out with accommodation and reducing costs.
All the support via social media.
Amanda from Muscle Mechanic (Sports Massage therapy)
Alison Campbell from West Cornwall Massage Therapy
Elisabet & Colin Barnes from MyRaceKit
L &E Designs - Thank you medals for any runner that supported me.
Les my Medic
My Wife and Son who made all the rest possible!
Sorry if I forgot anyone, or missing pictures there was a lot.
BIG THANK YOU TO THE CREATOR OF CALLIPO ICE POPS YOU WERE MY SAVIOUR!
During this time I reached and smashed my target for the whole year Just Giving Page reaching to date so far £2,255. I still have 10 events left to go so please don't stop following my journey.
Remember "You only reach your limits when you've tried something you can't do"
Thank you! A lot of lessons learnt but a lot achieved!