Friday, September 30, 2011

M2M Ultra Succeeded!


The Inaugural M2M Ultra

At 0900hrs on Wednesday 14th September, 14 intrepid ultrarunners set off on an Irish Road Journey of a lifetime, covering 345 miles, from the most Northerly point of Ireland, Malin Head, to the most Southerly point of Ireland, Mizen head, in just 11 days, averaging 32 miles a day. The event was called M2M and can be found on the Ultrarace website, organised by Rory Coleman and Jen Salter. This was to be my 11th Rory Ultra Event.

They came from all over the world to take part.... Michelle Fookwe from South Africa, Rick Bachor from Canada, Russell and Claire Secker from Oklahoma, USA, who celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary during the event, and myself, Bethany, from the IOM. Some runners were experienced ultrarunners, others fairly new to this sport. It would be the ultimate test of endurance, stamina and inner strength, as we took part in the toughest footrace in Ireland and second toughest, to JOGLE, in Britain and Ireland. We were given OS 1:50,000 maps to navigate our way south, taking in Londonderry, Enniskillen, Longford Town, Banagher, Nenagh, Kanturk and Macroom.

Our accommodation was a 'Galaxy Cruiser Tour Bus', sleeping 16 people in bunks upstairs with a small kitchen, toilet and dining room downstairs. Paul, the driver and owner, has driven bands, including Status Quo, round the world in this bus. Overnight the bus parked at some G.A.A Clubs, giving us water and electricity for the bus, showers, toilets, dining facilities and one night a washing machine and dryer. However some nights the Bus was parked in petrol stations or supermarket car parks where there were no facilities, just a bucket for a wash! However, in cramped conditions we soon got to know each other and all had to live with the aroma of damp, sweaty running gear as we attempted to dry our sodden clothes!

Our cook, Anne, was fantastic. She catered for 20 people with little equipment, often cooking in garages or 'al fresco', providing us with hot, tasty meals in the evening and scrambled eggs, toast and porridge for breakfast. She has been on the Bus a few times now and gets up, sometimes at 3am, to cater for runners setting off early. She really looked after us. Rory was driving a car, with a trailer, providing us with food and water at checkpoints; the first at 10 miles and the second at 20 miles each day.

The first day, 37 miles, I found tough. Having been unwell for a while, it was a year since I had run that distance. In training on the Island since June, I had run 4 marathons in August. However my energy levels and mood swings were extreme. On the second morning, Rory the Race Director, told me I was eating too much sugar. I was restricted to sandwiches and wraps, crisps and water. I did supplement the water with bought carton fruit drinks, (containing some sugar, I know!), and this diet worked much better and I began to get stronger and stronger each day. The second day was 34 miles, then 31 miles. The mileage dropped to 28 miles by day 7 and then it increased to 35 miles each day until the last day, the 24th September, which was only 20 miles! As the days passed the running got easier. The distances seemed less and being on the road for 7-11 hours each day was like an office job. I became a running machine. My body was focussed entirely on the running each day and looking after myself; eating plenty, sleeping lots and footcare.

By Day 6, five runners had dropped out. The camber of the road was the biggest problem, causing runners to have very sore shins which became too painful to run on. It was important to change sides of the road often to reduce the stress caused by the camber. It was also noted that runners in stability shoes, such as my Brooks, faired better than shoes like Asics.

Liz, the oldest runner aged 60 years, and Quentin, really struggled at the end. Liz had very sore, swollen legs and Quentin's feet were a mess! I used Compeed blister plasters, like a second skin, to prevent blisters and it worked, despite being laughed at by the others as my feet looked so odd! By day 7 my feet had swelled and Ernie, my husband, rescued me by bringing size 11 trainers when he joined us on the bus on the Thursday. My foot size is 7 normally and size 9 trainers are normally fine. I started at 7am each morning, after Liz and Quentin. Michelle and Claire were much faster, finishing 1st and 2nd ladies respectively. The race looked certain to be won by Ged Moore. He ran sub 9 minute miles the whole way and had no problems. Chris was second with Russell and Rick close behind.

The weather was, frankly, awful! Ireland is very green! The penultimate day was over mountains, involving 3400 feet of climbing! The views were stunning but my knees ended swollen, red and sore. I bought knee supports and tubigrip from a Chemist and these helped. My feet were sore at the end with all the pounding on them. Soaking them in a bucket of cold water helped. We ran on busy R and A Roads, with a lot of traffic, and we ran on deserted country lanes, with grass down the centre, in the middle of nowhere. The Irish people were lovely and very interested in what we were doing, as advertised by the T-Shirts we wore over our running gear. Most were amazed by what we were doing and I was offered several cups of tea en route. Rick and Liz could not read the maps and got lost several times. The Irish Road signs were confusing, as were the directions given by the locals!

On Saturday 24th September at 11.17am I crossed the Finish Line at Mizen Head. 9 of us reached the finish and we were welcomed with sunshine, stunning views and a winners Tankard with champagne in it. There were smiles, photos and a lot of tears. It was such an amazing experience that none of us wanted it to end! I ran with 13 inspirational runners and saw beautiful Ireland by foot. The 2 hour celebration had to end and I got into the hire car with Ernie and left to drive to a Waterford Hotel for the night. It was very difficult to adjust to the scenery coming towards me at driving speed! Very strange! However a proper bed, a bath, clean clothes and lots and lots of food beckoned.

Back home it has been difficult getting back to reality and normality. It is hard to comprehend the enormity of the challenge I have just undertaken. I did not think I stood a chance of finishing and after 100 hours of running I did it! It has been the hardest thing I have done – harder than the Double Parish Walk! I am so proud to say now: the furthest I have walked is 170 miles non-stop, the furthest I have run is 110 miles non-stop, and now I can say I have completed my first multi-day ultra of 345 miles over 100 hours in 11 days!
Wow! Next challenge: my 40th birthday in November.

I am over the moon that I succeeded! I would now like to train hard and attempt JOGLE again in April 2012. My knees are alot better now and I hope to be back running on Monday!

Best wishes,

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