In the three weeks since we raced in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, I'velost six toenails and loads of weight. It’s not just the race that’stough – it’s the after-effects too. This week I returned to Chamonix toreflect on the race. Almost 2,300 people started, and 1,382 finished. Iran for 41 hours with no sleep over a 166km course with 9,400m ofascent. I crossed the line in 721st place, but I was just glad tofinish. Walking through the town centre past the start and finishpoint, I closed my eyes and remembered what it felt like to start: thecrowds, the excitement, cramming all those calorific foods in my mouth.I recalled the signature music for the race, Conquest Of Paradise byVangelis, and flashed back to the finish – without a doubt, one of thefinest moments of my life. I take my hat off to Nick – he put in anincredible performance for almost 100km until he had to submit to avery painful injury. I’m sure he would've carried on and run his legsdown to stumps if he could. Well done to him – and big thanks to hisbrother Steve and MF’s Nick Hutchings for supporting us. I needed it.To say the race was awesome is an understatement. Of course a mountainultra-race isn’t supposed to be easy, but it was a shock to discoverjust how difficult it was. One of the hardest things I can ever imaginedoing. I spent the final few kilometres swearing out loud, cursing therace… and I've decided to run it again next year. Glutton forpunishment? Maybe, but it's a life-changing experience and you learn alot about yourself. You will never regret having entered.
The UTMB is a crazy experience. You go through so much, mentally andphysically. I had a great race… until my iliotibial bands decided notto play ball about 90km in. I’m still gutted I didn’t finish because Ifelt I was in better form here than for any of my other races. It’squite hard to take.
There were a lot of highs: watching the sunrise over Mont Blanc, havingrun for 13 hours… eating the Michelin-star food at all the checkpoints…the crowds in their thousands cheering you on… and being caught byDarren after a night alone on the mountains, when came up from behind,bear-hugged me and yelled, ‘All right, fucker!’ – just what you want whenyou’re hobbling down a mountain at four in the morning. But I had anumber of lows too, apart from my IT bands turning into rock. Fallingasleep while walking up a mountain, the minus 5 windchill at night with3m visibility, the squat toilets when I really needed to sit down… andwithout doubt the worst – watching people finish and not being amongthem. But the lows make the race just as much as the highs do. This isone of the toughest races in the world and I felt completely humbled bythe vastness of it all. It took me 16 hours to get to the halfwaypoint, which shows just what a beast it was. All credit goes to Darrenfor seeing this one through. Watching him come in was pretty special.It’s hard to explain all the feelings you went through and theincredible things you saw to someone who hasn’t done it – essentially,you have to do it to believe it.
I met Team Men’s Fitness in Namibia during the Ultra Desert Marathonand we soon hit it off. One evening we were sitting around after dinnerand a cricket landed on Darren’s shoulder. What did he do? He ate it,obviously. We had a great laugh out there, and once we were back in theUK it wasn’t long before we met up and started training together. Thereis mutual understanding and respect between us which creates a strongbond. I come from a rowing background but I took up duathlons during mypostgraduate studies and in my first year I made it to the EuropeanDuathlon Championships, winning silver in my age group for GB. But Isoon began looking for a new challenge and someone mentioned theNamibia Ultra Desert Marathon. I trained hard for it, but it turnedinto a bit of a nightmare – I went off too hard, became severelydehydrated and did not eat enough. I ended up pissing blood (resultingin severe cystitis and the potential for long-term kidney damage), andit was at this stage I was pulled from the race. In some ways theJungle Marathon is similar to Namibia in that we are competing againstthe environment as much as anything else. I’ve spent time in the junglebefore in south-east Asia so I’m hoping this will prepare me a little.As with most of these races you hear the usual horror stories of peoplenearly dying, encountering wild animals and coming home in wheelchairs.I am hoping that our preparation and organisation will prevent thissort of thing. That said, I have literally signed my life away on thedisclaimer and am aware that almost anything could happen! To prepare, I’ll be running with a fairly heavy pack, and I’ll alsoprepare a strict hydration and nutrition strategy to avoid the problemsthat occurred in Namibia. I’m excited, but I’m sure there will be someapprehension as race day approaches. Thanks to Men’s Fitness forgetting me on board and I hope to do the team proud out in the Amazonfor the final race.
Thanks to Berghaus (opens in new tab) for supporting Team Men's Fitness.
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