So today was the day. Forecast looked good, no rain forecasted, unseasonably warmer temperatures, lots of hard work, long runs and a few blisters – done. Myself and 21 others were ready for the 31 Mile Ultra marathon. However let’s not forget the 5 doing the marathon and our sole entry in the half marathon.
At 8.20 we assembled, pictures taken, hardly any mention of times, just one goal – completion. For many it was their first (and possibly last) Ultra. We all had different strategies, many were tooled up with gels and Camelbaks, some had earphones, long sleeves versus short sleeves, tights or shorts. For me, It was a vest and shorts. It was supposed to be warm and I didn’t want the extra weight of a ruc-sac or the risk of over-heating.
We Crusaders all stayed at the back, the siren went and after the obligatory cheers of good luck in true Crusader style, we were off.
The first 2-3 miles were great, Mike Gilmour passed me at 3 looking like the running version of Rambo donning a headband, gel belt, Camelbak and carrying 2 Powerade bottles, and my initial thought was ‘hes gone off too fast’.
At 4 miles I saw some friendly welcome Crusader faces and again at 5 miles when as we turned off the Eastern Road and onto Farlington Marshes. Here I had my quickest mile and felt good putting in a 7.01 minute time. We then crossed tarmac, cobbles, grass, mud, and trail before hitting the Billy line towards Hayling. As I said at the start, no rain they said. How wrong we were. A strong side/head wind coupled with fine rain (you know the type of rain that gets you wet) greeted the runners.
I headed past the marathon half way point knowing I had another 2 ½ miles until half way and I still felt strong. However the next 1 ½ miles were full of strength sapping shingle and grass which had more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese.
Halfway reached!!!! I high fived Mike who was about a minute in front, next I saw Aaron who we somehow managed to miss giving each other a high 5 despite there being about a foot between us.
After that I managed to keep my spirits up by looking at and finding my fellow Crusader colleagues as I passed them shouting good morning at each of them, including Louise, Dave Fuller, Paul C, Rod, Katherine and the Fleets. In fact I said hello to so many people en-route that I was asked if there was anyone left in Fareham today as they all seemed to be running or spectating.
I almost slipped over at one point on the grass and felt a slight twinge with about 11 miles to go. 8 miles left and I started to head along Farlington marshes once more. However, if I thought the rain was bad beforehand, this was worse. Not only were we running into a headwind, the rain came and came, hard and heavy, almost hail. It was also here that more cheers came my way – but unfortunately Cathy was also there who had picked a injury just before halfway
This rain and wind took it’s toll on me and speaking with others it took it’s toll on them too. 26 miles, 27 miles the end was near but I wanted to walk, I so desperately wanted to walk, but knew that I couldn’t and I didn’t want to. I saw a few Crusaders at 27 miles and politely told them that 31 miles is a very long way. I had never run further than this in one go so this was unchartered territory.
28.5 miles done I could smell the end. I dropped down from the path and onto the last piece of shingle. Disaster!! As I dropped down I got cramp, bad cramp that I couldn’t shift. After a call to Tony Hoyle, he helped out I got going again albeit slower and more carefully.
The final mile. I was dead, mind, body soul had gone even the encouragement from Paula with a kilometre to go couldn’t inspire me – I looked at her, pained. I shook my head and I was almost gone. However I suddenly thought this is the final bit, let’s finish this in true George style.
So I did. The customary grimaced face, grunt noise and sprint came out as per usual and I was done. 4 hours 4 minutes and 58 seconds of pleasure and pain. I picked up my medal, beer and hugged a couple of people at the end who had helped. I had done it.
However being a Crusader, my day was not yet finished, after a quick change it was back out on the course to cheer home the rest of the club. Aaron, Howard, Paul S all came across. Then Geri, Peter and James all finished all running in with their children which must have been special for them.
Sarah, Sara, and the marathons runners of Mel, Jess, Trev and Rebecca then finished, the latter 4 joining hands over the finishing line and Ed and Rob also came in together. Completing the finishers (and in no particular order) were Lucy, Kate and Nikki and finally Tracey and Michelle who had completed their marathons.
It was then time for a group carvery, lots of hugs, hand shakes and congratulations from each other and we were done.
I look back now and realised I have done it. I am an ultra marathon runner.