Finish Time — 06:07:10
Average Pace — 14:01 per mile
Steps Taken — 58,747
Mantra of the Day — “Keep your eye on the goal”
The beautiful spring morning on Day 10 was somewhat overshadowed by my apprehension about the day. Physically I woke up in slightly better condition than on previous days, but only marginally. Steve and Guido from Body Rehab worked their magic, but despite this I was not confident about my ability to “boss” my way around yet another marathon distance.
Despite all the talk about this being the “lap of honour”, “easiest marathon of the ten”, “light at the end of the tunnel”, I could not stop thinking that the course and its challenges still demanded serious respect. And despite the resilience of my body in recovering from a potentially damaging injury, I was conscious (and apprehensive) that the slightest mis-step could undo all the progress of the last few days and reduce me to a hobbling walk.
Still, as I said earlier in the week, there is no courage without fear. So I did my best to harness my negative emotions and turn them into energy that would drive me round the course.
Ideally I would have liked to take the main 10-in-10 start today, making the most of the official send-off for Day 10. But this would have meant that I absolutely had to finish inside a 6-hour window in order to get back in time for the medal ceremony, which I did not want to miss at any price. So I made the tough decision to go for the early (and lonely) start along with Toks and Stuart.
As it turns out this decision was wise, because although I still ran to finish inside 6 hours, I did not have to deal with the pressure and stress of missing a once-in-a-lifetime moment if I needed a bit of extra time!
The spectacular weather lifted my spirits and I made good enough time to Newby Bridge. From here on, there were lots of course stewards setting up for the main marathon, supporters at various points, and local residents clapping from their front gardens. Every little encouragement was an extra boost and I maintained a steady pace all through the tough rolling hills from miles 14 to 18.
In case this all sounds easy, I can assure you that this was one of my hardest days out on the course. For the first time since Day 3 I felt that I was really running again, with some quarter or half-mile intervals where I was striding out and re-discovering my normal running style. But at every moment I was afraid to over-stride, or misplace my foot, and aggravate my ankle again. So I tried to keep it under control and focus on the 6-hour finish.
Bowness at mile 20 was a huge boost with large crowds cheering me through. Then Ice Cream Mountain sapped my legs and my energy, and for the next couple of miles I had to back right off the pace for fear of blowing a gasket.
At mile 23 the lead runner of the main marathon came through, clock on the race car showing 2:24. At this point my own time was 5:24. I had to make a massive mental and emotional effort not to grind to a halt, out of sheer disgust at how slow I have been moving this last week…
Although absolutely everybody has been tremendously supportive through my injury and my recovery, there is always a little voice in the back of one’s own head that says “you’re an idiot, what are you trying to prove, look at these guys who are orders of magnitude stronger and fitter than you can ever hope to become.” This voice is quietly destructive, and very hard indeed to silence.
But with just 3 miles to go of this extraordinary 262-mile journey, I was not going to let myself be intimidated by some guy with a mere three-hour lead. So I gritted my teeth, put my inner chimp back in his cage, sucked down an energy gel, recalculated my finish time at about 6:10, and went for it!
The last mile or so through Ambleside and Clappersgate was phenomenal, with every single person I passed offering congratulations and encouragement. The pain and fatigue faded away, and I actually felt as if I was running properly again for the first time in a week!
Pushing up the Brathay driveway for the tenth and final time, I started to feel a sense of accomplishment that I had actually completed this amazing journey — while at the same time knowing that it will take me weeks and months to really understand what it is that I have done.
All of this went out of my head as I rounded the corner on to the crowded lawn. Spectators cheering and applauding; my name on the loudspeakers; Alex waiting for me at the finish line with my medal; surprise visit from Mrs Evans (Class 4); previous 10-in-10ers welcoming me to the club… So much emotion! This is without question the most intense finish of any race that I have ever run.
The rest of the day was a blur of activity. Highlights were the medal ceremony with fell-running legend Joss Naylor, and the 10-in-10 banquet in the evening. I will remember this day for many, many years to come!
I will post again in a day or two, because I have so much more to tell about this extraordinary journey that I have now completed.
In the meantime, I would like to thank you very warmly for following my progress, for your countless messages of support, and for your generous donations to Brathay Trust.
If you have made a pledge contingent upon me finishing the event, now is the moment to visit my fund-raising page.
Oh, and… those who had money on me pulling out early may want to consider doubling their stake and donating it to Brathay 🙂