Well, it’s been afew days now since I completed my first Ultra Marathon, the GB Liverpool to Manchester 50 mile. I am still feeling the effects, with a tight left groin, hamstring and quads, and some minor blistering on my right foot. It hurts; it was agony, but it was absolutely worth it.
You see folks, I am now an ultra. Not of a hooligans kind for those reading who are into football; but an ultra runner. Part of an ‘elite’ club of people who have ran over a marathon distance. The sport is steadily growing, but not to the extent where it’s the norm. So forgive me if I span this one out a little over a couple of blogs; there is a lot to get through!
Firstly, let me set the scene; Monday morning, 3am, I wake to the sound of Ethan shouting, “Daddy, daddy!” I jump up, run to his room and he is sound asleep. Never moved!
I was obviously dreaming but as I was due to wake up at 3.30am, I didn’t want to risk it and doze back off. So, I stayed up, put the kettle on and began my meticulous ritual of getting dressed for the event. I was ready; physically I would say 80% were I wanted to be. Mentally, 100%. I was ready for the challenge; hell, I was craving it.
I set off at 4am, thinking that there would be a queue for registration and some time left then to warm up the body. Maybe even grab a final hot drink as the weather was blowing a gale and the rain was bouncing. I could have been more wrong.
Arriving at the meeting point at The Pumphouse on the Liverpool Docks, I was the third person to arrive and was registered within a minute. That took me to 4.51am. I stood under the gazebo, getting my bearings, and suddenly realised that otherthan two portaloos, there were no inside facilities. I had an hour and ten minutes until the start. The rain and wind were getting stronger. I was already dressed thankfully but was not in any way warm or in a position to become warm.
So, what did I do? Well, what any other self-respecting but cold person would do at that time in the morning. I went to the portaloo for some warmth for ten minutes!
It was desperate yes, but I had to find a way to stay warm and put my final preparations together (Vaseline mainly) and that was the only option. After a ten minute breather (of sorts!) I headed back out to the registration tent and mingled with some fellow runners. There wasn’t much chat, more polite welcoming until a little later when some more seasoned, and frankly more experienced, runners arrived. I soaked it all up; listened intently, or eavesdropped to be precise, to the more experienced greeting others as though they were long-lost family. I was intrigued by their stories of previous events and those upcoming. Especially those that were using this as a training run. A training run! I was quickly in awe.
I remained focused on staying warm, politely allowing people in and out of the gazebo while I tried to stretch what I could. It wasn’t great though. In contemplated going for a short warm up but the weather was a growing concern. Infact, it was beginning to become a problem-in-waiting.
The time ticked slowly on towards the start time of 6am; I had a breakfast bar and when given the go-ahead, moved towards the start line for the race instructions and was told that the race was dedicated to a runner, Stephen Carragher, who had unfortunately passed in the weeks leading upto the event. His family were there to start the runners off. It was a touching moment, especially when the applause rang out.
It was here; the start of the race that began back in November when I hit the confirm button to register my place. The cold winter morning runs; the ones that were anything but enjoyable; the ones were I fought against my mind telling me not to bother. This was it. I recorded a short video for my social media sites and joined the rest of the crew.
We were given the go; and off we went. Into the dark path along the River Mersey, into Liverpool and beyond, with nothing but eachother for company. Strangers in the night, exchanging glances. And still, the rain and gales beat down on us from above. This was the start, and right away, we knew it would be nothing if not a battle against the elements. And of our bodies. And mostly, of our minds.