Friday 25 November 2016

Escape from Meriden 2016 - Could I escape?

Sometimes there comes along an event that sounds so simple you aren't sure how well it will go. Well "Escape from Meriden" was one of those type of events.

When I entered I had not long come off the injury bench and needed an event before the end of the year, after I had finished all my professional courses for work as I couldn't afford to get injured during them. It just so happens this one popped up on my news feed on Facebook. I had a brief look saw it wasn't expensive and sounded fun!

So the weeks went by and I was busy with my courses slowly realising the event was getting closer. Soon enough I had finished my courses and the week later the event was on.

For the first time ever when it came to a big event I was so unprepared. The route wasn't planned (which was very important for this event) and kit wasn't even sorted (not until the fee hours before leaving the house).

I think all my courses I had done had zapped any enthusiasm or motivation for anything. My wife went on to the Good Run Guide and planned my route out at her work, printed off snap shots for me to use if needs be. Already she is back in to Support Crew Mode Level - Veteran and we hadn't even left yet!

Eventually we had left and got on the road picking my son up from school along the way. We had to travel into two vehicles as I had to shoot off for another course starting the following Monday in Portsmouth so we didn't have much choice. The wife was dropping the boy off to the Grandparents which just so happened the route headed towards, and then she would drive down to the start leave her car there and drive the support van around.

My head wasn't quite in the game as that Thursday just gone my Aunty was pronounced brain dead after a major Epileptic Fit where my cousin had to carry out CPR for 25 mins after he found her. Friday they switched off the life support machine. So I was now running for 3 people, Phil my best mate who died in March, My Nan who passed away in August and now my Aunty. Let's just say I have had a better years and my head has been in better places.

I am a lucky man though because I can run and with this event I can run anywhere and any distance I wanted!

So the quick concept of this event for those who don't know. Basically you enter, turn up to the registration between 10pm and 11.55pm then the race starts just after Midnight. Once started you run, in direction as far as you can within 24 hours. The aim is get as far as you can as the crow flies (straight line) so it doesn't matter if you ran 90 miles on your watch if the crow flies only 45 that is your official mileage. There targets to aim for 30 crow miles - certificate (pathetic distance certificate as it's called for not planning route better etc) 50 Crow miles - Silver Crow, 60 crow miles - Gold Crow and the big one 90 crow miles for the Black Crow!

So as you probably realised a good well planned route where you lose little mileage is needed.

I arrived in Meriden known as the Centre of England around 7.30pm the traffic on the M5 was horrendous due to all the road works. I sorted my feet out and partially got ready. I grabbed some food from the local chippy and decided to try and get some sleep where I could before registration opened. I set my alarm for 10.30. The wife was on her way back and due around the same time.

Getting changed in the Van
I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. I could hear the traffic around me for quite a while and thought well if nothing else I get to chill out prior to the run.

Knock Knock on the van side door "Owain" said my wife, I opened my eyes and thought awww my support crew has arrived, time to get sorted. "What time is it darling?" I asked. "11.30pm I got caught in traffic because they closed part of the M6 on the way here"

"F@&@, why didn't my alarm go off??" Looks at phone "ahhh I selected 10.30am!! Bollocks!!!"

Runner Mode Level - Idiot achieved! Made panic set in. I only have 20 mins to get to the registration and it's 10 min walk away from where I was parked at the start.

Shoes quickly on, left the wife at the support van and off I ran to the registration which was in the village church hall. I arrived mid safety briefing and tried not to look panicked at all.

Runner Mode Level - Act Cool achieved.

The safety brief finished I collected my number and tracker (vital bit of kit as that's how they know the distance we finish at)

Despite not looking ready at all compared to the everyone else, I pegged it back to the van, where my wife had my stuff ready for me. Anything else I will grab at the first CP she'll set up. Support Crew mode Level - Done this before.

The start sort of ready
I had a few friends entered and supporting in this event and I managed to see a couple just before we started. All asking where I had been. Doh!

Not quite the start I was after. Soon enough the words "Go" was said by the RD Richard and we were off! 100 entrants either as soloists (80 of them) or in pairs scattered in various directions. Now this is where as a viewer of the live tracker came into its own. Obviously I was running so didn't see but seeing screen shots it looked brilliant!

20 Mins after we started the tracker looked like this
 I headed off in the direction my wife pointed me in and soon joined by a lady runner called Fiona. Our paths unknowingly crossed before at this years Hope24. We chatted for a few miles where she said her goal was to run for the 24 hours then continue on to Aberystwyth (135 miles) by Sunday night. Bloody bonkers, but then it's the crazy things like that, that I love in this community as people who don't run don't understand why we do it. Soon our paths changed and that was it then I was now alone. I say alone I still knew others were racing with me but weren't with me. It was a strange feeling!

My first destination was Birmingham. Yep during the early hours of the morning I was risking running through Brum. My support crew (yep no longer wife now as I was in full runner mode) was tired but worried about my safety running alone through Brum stayed awake every so often stopping where she could checking I was ok and keeping me on track.

I was making my way through Brum passing fresh puddles of blood on the floor, which obviously made me feel great when I got stopped by two drunk blokes. In my head I thought "uh oh I'm not going to blend in dressed like I am" They asked what I was doing, so I engaged in conversation. Told them what I was doing, next thing I was accepting sips of their whisky and doing some random handshakes like I was in the Stone Masons. Yes it was wasting some of my time but to be honest at this point it didn't really matter as long as I didn't get a certificate I was going to be happy. I left them and made my way through the Bull Ring dodging all the night goers. The directions I had from my support crew was head to the Odeon Cinema then the museum. Well I was on my way to the Museum and with little signage I ended up running past it.

After not having a clue where I was I got on the phone to the support crew. Trying to describe where I was, wasn't working so now I had resorted to facetiming my support crew at the "You are here" tourist sign.

Yes I was here
Then out of the darkness came a young woman in tears in her best trapping gear. "Please help me, I need to get to the Hyatt" she said
" I am sorry I am not from round here of you can guess, I am lost myself" I replied. This produced more tears bear in mind I am still facetiming the support crew at this point "I'll call you back darling" and I hang up.

"Please you have to help me" she cried.

I get out google maps search where she was after. Jesus is was miles away. Not knowing the best way to go I just said "Just head down that way keep going until you get there and stay safe" and I sent her on her way. I did laugh to myself though hoping she'd be alright.

So back to myself in that time my support crew was all over getting myself out of the mess I was in and guided me out of Brum to the CP set up waiting. According to my wife "Never in my life would I have thought I'd be on the side of the road with a camping stove on boiling the kettle to make a cup of tea for you at about 3 in the morning waiting for you to run here" I have to admit neither did I!

It was feeling very cold but it was remaining dry. My support crew was was tired but now at Support Crew Mode level - Trojan.

I was feeling ok, apart from cold I was going well and despite losing time in Brum, I was making good time. I had made it out of Birmingham in piece and safe. I was then told there was a runner only 1 mile behind following my route called Sammy. Little did I know at the time it was Sammy Daye from Atlas Running famed with events like Last Man Standing at this time.

2hrs in I'm number 193
I thought to myself "Yes I am not going to be alone, they're bound to catch up" Sadly our paths didn't cross as Sammy took a slightly northern route where I continued to cross Westerly. I continued on my way, following the route given however I then reached a point when I ran out of path along a road, so took a public footpath which seemed to follow the road. Not a great idea as it took me on the canal path and eventually off the route I was heading when I get a phone call from the support crew. "where the bloody hell are you going?"

"I don't know do I? Lol" so have getting a stern telling off for going off piste I was soon put back on track.

After 25 miles I was sat in the van trying to warm up, I added more layers on as the temperature just didn't seem to want to rise. I was looking forward to the sunrise because I knew once it was up it was going to be better running. Soon enough around 7.30am the sun rose and when asked what I needed at the next CP I responded a Maccy D's Breakfast Wrap and hot chocolate. I kept passing Macdonald's along the way and thinking I could do with some of that shit. What a great choice it was! I needed something warm to eat and drink. It tasted so good! I was now running through Staffordshire countryside enjoying the scenery.

Breakfast on the run!
Running on the frozen roads and paths wasn't easy I had to be careful. I had already slipped on black ice and smashed my knee.

8hrs 20 mins in!
The miles were ticking off, I was making good time and around 12 hours in I stopped for a 45 minute lunch break. The support crew had warmed up one of my acquired ration packs from work. It went down well. It was from this point the temperature had started to drop again as the sun went behind the clouds.

Good ole Rat Pack food!
My support crew during this time had informed me my friend Luke Elliott (a fantastic runner) still hadn't reach the 30 crow mile line yet. I had been passed it for a while so thought "Holy Crap this has never happened before me in front of Luke" Despite he had covered slightly more miles at the time. It was showing what a great route decision my support crew had made for me.

I soon hit Shropshire and heading towards my first chosen goal Shrewsbury where my boy was staying. I ran through the beautiful Ironbridge again where I was started to chat to locals asking what I was doing but time was ticking on and I had to crack on.

The skies had turned dark and head torch was back on. Shrewsbury was in sight 5 miles to go. I plodded on and I arrived at the CP. I was by now in pain, my back was in bits from an injury that hadn't healed properly from a course I did a couple weeks prior and my feet were aching. It was here I was told I had half a marathon to go to reach the Gold Crow 60 Mile as the crow flies target. I had already covered 59 miles. I had the time even if I crawled it I could still achieve it. My brother in law who lives in Shrewsbury came out to pace me to the last half marathon. My support crew pointed me over the roundabout telling to aim for the green lights I could see at the time and head down the by pass.

Not the quickest but happy with progress!
So off we went and I head down where I saw green lights. I didn't realise as I chatted away to my brother in law that it didn't look like a by pass. My phone rang, I thought "that'll be the wife telling me I have gone wrong again"

"Did you purposely mean to take the wrong road?" She asked

"No why would I want to do that?"

Oh bollocks! So I added about another mile on to my journey and the fact I now had to go through Shrewsbury town centre late at night with traffic. Not the greatest ideas I have ever had.

I got to the point met by the support van with 11 miles to go. Little did I know those 11 miles would turn into what was the longest 11 miles of my life.

Runner mode level - Dribbling heap

Each mile seem to last longer and longer the more pain and uncomfortable I felt. My conversation went downhill and I start to lose the will to live. It was this point with around 6 miles to go I had to dig deep, I looked up to sky and asked my best mate Phil for some strength. It was his turn to be there for me. It seemed to work I with the help from my bro in law dragged my sorry arse across the 60 as the crow flies mile line. As soon as the support crew refreshed the tracker and it showed I had done it. I sent the text and switched the tracker off. 22 hours 41 mins 73 miles later I did it.

Just outside Oswestry I completed what turned out to be a brilliant but simple event. I had such an experience. I finished 26th soloist and 34th overall out of all the entrants. Runner Mode level - Gladiator

The finish tracker pic after 24 hours, that's how we ended up!
A result I wasn't expecting. I have to thank my sponsors X-Bionic UK, Sunwise and Tailwind Nutrition UK for their continuing support and faith in me.

I was overwhelmed but the support online, I think they probably had the best online tracking experience to date, my bro in law for coming out and getting me through the last section and of course the biggest thanks was for my support crew my wife - Support Crew Mode Level - Legendary whom without I'd not have achieved any of it.

Back at the start to retrieve the Wife's car.
I dedicate this run to my best mate Phil, my Nan and also my Aunty who never left my thoughts throughout.

So that completes my last big event of the year. It's now time to start helping my wife run her first ever marathon at London (she doesn't currently run hardly) whilst also start looking at the big 2017 year.

Until next time


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