I only stayed at Whitchurch for a couple of minutes to check in, then it was onto the ‘hilly’ wooded section heading to Goring. I had to take the steps one at a time with my knee still playing up, luckily there was a rail there to help me get down. Sick and limping along how was I going to be able to cover off the remaining 30 miles?
Well getting cheesy beans in Streatley (71 miles) certainly helped! Whoever came up with that idea is a genius! It was the first time in a very long time that I began to feel human again. It was starting to get pretty chilly by that point so I switched into my long sleeved top and got back on the road.
I have no recollection of Wallingford, I must have only been there for a few minutes to top up the bottles and keep the momentum going. I do remember coming face to face with a head of about 20 cows that suddenly appeared out of the darkness. They didn’t seam bothered at all as I crept past, such friendly animals. Sitting in Clifton Hampden I kept drifting off to sleep, it was 5am, the birds had started their morning song and all I could think about was sleep and just wanting to curl up into a little ball and take myself away from all the pain I was feeling.
By this stage I’d resigned myself to walking the final 15 miles. I had nothing left to give. My knee was hurting at every change of elevation or turn, I could feel myself drifting off to sleep while walking, my feet were soaked from all the morning dew, my appetite was zero and was simply surviving on grapes and water.
Coming into Abingdon at 91 miles I must have looked a complete mess. Having dodged about 20 geese with their young just before, I’d just had enough. I’d have given anything for this to be done.
However ultra running is a quirky game, as the sun came up, it bought life and energy into a new day plus that energy seemed to filter through to my legs as well, how I have no idea, but I wasn’t going to think about it just then.. I managed to get the legs turning over and Oxford was slowly coming into sight.
It was so nice to meet a friend I met earlier in the year in Thailand, Sean, waiting to guide me through the last few kms. He just about kept up! haha.
When you get to about 500m to go you get a glimpse of the blue centurion inflatable finish line on your left. It catches you by surprise, the reality suddenly hits that this crazy race is actually going to be finished. All the pain and suffering will all be worth it. You then get about a minute to compose yourself, take some deep breaths, as you run behind the hedge before tuning into the cricket ground. Running over that manicured outfield felt absolutely amazing. More tears building up with every step, then silence…
It was done, I could stop, I could let out every element of doubt that had crept in over the previous 23 hours. I took on the Thames Path and somehow and I really don’t know how, managed to come out the winner.
22:42:18 was the time. 56th place and a PB by 16 minutes.