It’s a distant, painful memory now but I completed the #London2Cambridge 100km Ultra Challenge over the weekend of Saturday 29th – Sunday 30th August. I’m fully recovered now so it’s time I wrote it up on the blog, though I did post elsewhere on social media at the time.
I finished 431 out of 433 finishers from 560 participants doing the full 100km in a time of 31hrs, 53mins, 22secs.
I was raising money for The Kaos Organisation, a Haringey-based Youth Arts Charity promoting deaf awareness and inclusion. They do this by combining drama and singing with sign language, which they deliver in regular workshops and school visits, to children of all ages.
They also run The Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf & Hearing Children: a 200-strong choir for children aged 4 to 18, that has performed at some prestigious events including the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, and more recently on the Paul O’Grady Show. They’ve also recorded one of their songs – ‘One Earth, One Sky’ – at Abbey Road Studios.
By the time my fundraising page closed, i’d raised £860 (plus £140 in Gift Aid) which is incredible. The Kaos Organisation receives no formal funding so I know they appreciated every penny. There’s talk of a possible photoshoot for marketing purposes but really i’m just happy to have done them proud.
It was an unforgettable challenge. At no point did I consider quitting because I knew people were counting on me, but I could not have done it without everyone’s support.
I have to say I was very impressed with the support from Action Challenge who organised the event. The course itself was very well marked with hazards clearly identified and First Aid and refreshments at every rest stop and Massage at the major ones.
This was my first time doing an event like this so I was a mixture of nerves/excitement going in. I entered the challenge alone but I met lots of inspiring people on my travels. Some first-timers like me, and some veterans, but everyone made time for everyone else and the camaraderie and generosity of everyone was genuine.
Kudos to Rebecca who was completing the challenge in silence to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Our paths crossed a few times and I know it must’ve been especially difficult not being able to talk to anyone. I also met a brave man, Nick, at the start who’d hurt his back the day before but was soldiering on. We saw each other a few times before I made the halfway point, but I’m pleased to report he finished 433rd – unbelievable!
The trail started off in East Hackney Marshes, London, following the River Lee winding it’s way through the canal. It was interesting seeing all the different narrowboats and encouraging to have all their owners cheering us on. A couple of little girls had a stall set up with juice while another couple gave me a big cheer with their home made signs just before 25km.
As the trail moved away from the river we crossed farmland and dense forested areas. It was beautiful being out in the country and the air was so fresh. I loved seeing the occasional herd of cattle or free range hens and the little ‘honesty boxes’ by the side of the road.
By nightfall i’d reached the halfway point where we had a cooked meal: BBQ chicken and dauphinoise potatoes with olives, feta cheese and sundried tomatoes. Up until this point i’d been buoyed along by the new sights and excitement of it all, but this was where the aches and blisters started to set in and it was tough to get moving again.
As we headed out into the night with head torches and glow sticks it was particularly treacherous due to the mud, gullies, potholes and tree roots. We were organised in groups at this point though which kept our spirits up as we helped each other along and took turns leading the column.
At the 56.5km rest stop I swapped war stories with a couple of lads who borrowed my deep heat cream and a woman who gave me wipes for my glasses. One of my feet was in bad shape by this point – the blister having torn off – and against my better judgement with all the first aiders around I slapped another Compeed on it and set off again, pounding the pain into the ground until it was a dull ache.
By morning we were back on country roads again and the firm surface was initially welcome. I met a couple just after 74km who were also finding it hard going and we shared some breakfast biscuits. I’d brought a whole backpack of supplies, however Action Challenge provided mountains of biscuits, fruit, nuts and drinks at every rest stop.
By the time I reached Whittlesford i’d overtaken the couple and never saw them again. I barely saw anyone else and was hobbling along by this point so was grateful to be joined by Virginia for half a kilometre while she walked her dog and told me all about her daughter in Seattle doing 300 mile cycle challenges.
The blisters on my feet were uncomfortable but tolerable, however I was now getting shooting pains up my legs from the ball of each foot. Walking on the hard surface had become excruciating and I was grateful for any patch of grass.
When I reached Addenbrooke’s Hospital on the outskirts of Cambridge I was literally falling asleep standing up. I phoned my mum who cheerfully talked at me for 1hr and 39 minutes as I knocked off another few painful kilometres. I missed a marker at this point which meant I had to double back a little, but the allotment I passed soon after with all the healthy-looking vegetables and the two ladies wishing me well made up for it.
I reached Cambridge town centre with its cobbled streets and grand cathedral. All the tourists were going about their business unaware that i’d just walked up from London so I crept closer to the finish unnoticed.
When I entered the finish area at Wilberforce Road I was overwhelmed by the handful of volunteers enthusiastically cheering me on for what seemed like forever while I hobbled across the field and over the finish line. I was given a glass of champagne and finishers t-shirt and medal while having my picture taken. My face is simply one of exhaustion.
I made my way to the First Aid tent where the staff very kindly cleaned and dressed my feet while I drank a welcome cup of tea. At this point my wife and mother-in-law arrived to pick me up and I snoozed deliriously in the car back to London. It was back to work on the Tuesday after the bank holiday and I spent the next week or so hobbling around in flip-flops much to my colleagues’ amusement(!)
Having now got the bug I know this isn’t the last one i’ll do – i’m already thinking about a challenge next year 🙂
Have you ever attempted a physical challenge? Did you do it for charity and, if so, which one?