So I woke up at 5am after a strange night’s sleep due to worry. Worrying about the run? Yes, but to be honest…it was more about the clear possibility of never seeing my kids again. Some of you may be thinking that running well over 500 miles would be the reason that I might have struggled to get some shut eye, but that to me was a simply a task I had to complete each day until I got to Oyne in Aberdeenshire. Would I do it? I don’t know…only one way to find out of course. No, I was worried and scared that I might never see my kids again (and everyone else of course) as this was my decision to take on this challenge but with the obvious risk that I could be knocked down by a vehicle on the many roads, running the many miles that lay ahead. I play a big part of their lives and without me, there would obviously be a huge hole left that a 7 year old and a 4 year old should never have to go through but here I was doing something for me (and others) that was putting my live and the bond that we have at risk…a huge one.
The night before (Sunday 29th July) I made a wee video of Sam and I chatting where I asked him for advice ahead of my run and also one of me drying Eva’s hair after her usual Sunday evening bath. Sam was giddy and told me not to die or poo myself on the run…I think he was waaaaay too excited about the whole thing but little did he know how worried I was about those things too. The video of Eva and I really showed the relationship I have with my kids and I will never take it for granted. In doing the run, I was thinking ahead to the moment when I do see them again and how it would make me again, never take them for granted. Why did I do these videos? Simply put, so they would something to remember one of the last times they saw their Daddy.
So back to day one of my run. I got up at 5am to teach my 6am F45 class in Kingston…yes, I know but I was about to have over a month away from work so I had to squeeze one last class in. I also wanted to have a wee bit of a send off and what a better way to be there with 30+ motivated people just a few hours before I start…I mean where else are you going to find that many people awake at 6am?
I drove home and it was about 8am when I eventually finished packing. Now, it may sound weird but packing for this run probably took longer for me than if I had been going for two weeks in the Caribbean. I was going away for two weeks yes, but I had to carry everything I needed for that time…on my back. I would run in shorts, t-shirt, socks and trainers wearing my polar gps watch, carrying my phone and the gps tracker that linked to #TheRunofGratitude page. I would need the charging equipment for my phone, tracker and watch. I would need the Montane waterproof jacket, Vaseline and nipple tape…nothing worse! I would obviously need water, food and money too. I decided on carrying one change of shorts, t-shirt and socks which I would change into after my ice bath at the places I would stay in but what about warmth? I put an extra layer in my back pack then took it out about 5 times before thinking that I could always borrow. I settled for a pair of flip flops too as I knew my feet would need out of my trainers after 8 hours plus a day. This was something I had never done before as I stayed at my Mum’s house on my 2015 ‘138 mile run in 5 days’ around Aberdeenshire…here I was moving from place to place like The Littlest Hobo…how did Forrest Gump manage for all those days?! 😉 Oh, and finally, to help, I got a severe haircut so my toiletries consisted of just a solitary toothbrush and asking to use deodorant and toothpaste wherever I was staying.
At 8.30am, Kirsty and our kids came to pick me up and take me to my start point…Up and Running in Surbiton for 9am. Now I was nervous about this whole thing only lasting a day or two and me looking like a failure due to an injury or something stopping me from carrying on so for that reason I didn’t contact any local press although with hindsight I wish I had. Something I wished I’d done for the whole route to be honest but when you are not sure if the challenge you are about to do is doable then I’m sure you can see why I kept it reasonably quite. I mean I told family, friends and my social media followers so the pressure to complete it was there but outside of my bubble seemed like a step too far…for now.
On arriving at Up and Running Surbiton, I realised this shit was real. It was really happening and there were people here to watch it start. Client’s, parkrunners, obstacle racers, Joe, the Saucony Rep and children including mine obviously. It was brilliant to have the support but also to be seen by the future…the children. Maybe I’m just getting old but I do think of children and what they’ve got ahead of them…the happiness, the adventures but also the sadness. As much as we’d like to, we can’t take that away from them. I was really hoping that I wasn’t about to add one of the greatest sadness’ to my children’s lives by taking on this epic challenge so I focused on the positive impact that my run would have on them and any other person/child watching. What helped when I set off at approximately 9.30am is that my kids also ran with my for about 400 metres and they loved it probably as much as I did.
So with Dan, the manager from Surbiton’s Up and Running store, a friend and fellow Straggler Mike and Marie, a parkrunner who I’d never met before, we set of towards my first target of East Sheen’s Up and Running store which was just the other side of Richmond Park…what a great setting for my first few miles. As we entered the park I spotted two women chatting away oblivious to us running towards them then realised they were two members of my Richmond group Team DH typically not paying attention…haha. We arranged to stop and have a chat at the East Sheen store and carried on. Reka from that store joined us as we all talked about Fenton, the now famous dog chasing the deer across Richmond Park as we passed the very spot it happened.
Once I’d had a wee, a snack and paused for a few photos, Mike, Dan and now Ricky who was another Up and Running manager but from the East Sheen branch, set off towards Kew Bridge along the Thames. On crossing the bridge, Mike decided to turn back and leave me to continue north with the two managers.
Dan and Ricky were with me until we got to Hanger Lane and then I was on my own. This felt strange but on checking my phone properly for the first time since I started the run, I noticed the ‘Tracking WhatsApp’ group were trying to get in touch with me. Basically, where I had the tracker positioned on my body meant that the satellites were not able to pick up my position. A quick adjustment and it was sorted. The next thing I wanted to do was to try my new Aftershokz Trekz Tintanium headphones out. I had only just received them that morning from Dan and wanted to give them and their bone conduction technology a try out. I had been wearing them (comfier than being around my neck) as you can see from the photos above but hadn’t actually plugged them in yet. So on getting the cord and my new iPhone 8 (conveniently came to the end of my contract and got a new ‘longer battery life’ phone) together, I tried to plug it in…Uh Oh!!! For anyone who has this phone will realise they don’t have the normal headphone attachment anymore…Oh poops. I contacted my ‘Up and Running WhatsApp’ group and pulled a major hissy fit!!! Only joking! I was told I was supposed to have gotten the Bluetooth headphones and that I could swap them when I got to Milton Keynes store which seemed pretty funny. I was going to swap an item from a store by running there…
I carried on checking my phone for the route as it was stored in Google Maps as well as checking my Tracker on the Social Running Group (SRG) page. I was told by Ross Herringshaw (the man who sorted out the tracker) that people get addicted to watching the marker move along…weirdly I was finding myself getting addicted at watching where I was on the map too.
I carried on through Wembley on towards Watford, trying to figure out a routine or a strategy to help with running and walking the 30 – 40 miles a day that I was undertaking and to be honest I couldn’t settle on one. Sometimes I would run for 5 mins then walk and other times I’d run to something in the distance. In my head I just had to complete today and as long as I kept moving forwards then I would eventually get there. My first real milestone was running underneath the M25…it gave me a sense of already achieving something. I could say to people that I’d ran north from Surbiton and went under the M25…Can I stop now? I was now out of London…this seemed weird but also incredible.
I was running low on water but the low amount I had was also getting hot because of the temperature and due to the water bladder being right next to my back so I stopped to fill up my water at a pub called “Load of Hay”. I was thinking about buying bottles of water along the way but that would raise the cost of the trip so I opted for the generosity of bar staff instead which was a great idea that I carried on throughout my journey. As soon as you walk into a pub, there’s usually a member of staff there and they quite quickly they’ll ask how they may be of service, especially in the middle of the day AND when you looked like I did. The barman led me to a sink out the back and asked if I wanted to put some ice in as well…genius. He was so helpful and with a weird feeling of guilt I thought I’d better buy something so I opted for a bag of salted crisps and half a pint of Guinness. Crisps were to replenish any salt that I’d lost in sweating lots and the Guinness was to celebrate the start of ‘The Run of Gratitude’, it’s is technically food AND when I ran 40 miles on my 40th I remember stopping for one with Mark (a friend who ran it all with me), so why not. I also got my first opportunity to tell a few strangers what I was actually doing. It felt good, lifted my spirits, there’s too and then I went on my way.
Almost immediately after putting my backpack on again I found I had a sharp pain in my lower back…really?! One half of Guinness and my body is seizing up, I thought! I adjusted my pack and carried on towards the beautiful village of Kings Langley. I have to mention this village as as I was walking through I saw a bus shelter which had knitted seats. Unusual, I thought but then saw more and more of the village…knitted. This is what I saw #Yarnbombing!
By now I was getting really tired and sore…yes, day one hadn’t finished and already I was struggling…yippee I thought. The last few miles until my end destination seemed to carry on forever. Another corner, another roundabout, another pub but still not the right one.
EVENTUALLY I made it to The Red Lion…and honestly about the third Red Lion I’d seen in the last 15 miles. Greeting me were two good friends from the obstacle racing world, Lesley and James and boy was I happy to see them. I stopped my Polar V800 and rejoiced that I had completed 54.42km or 33.81 miles in 7 hours 38 mins. I hobbled into the pub after only standing still for about 5 mins and was handed a pint of coke as I lay on the comfiest wicker couch outside in the beer garden.
James then drove me back to his place in St Albans where I made us pasta bolognese after having my first ice bath…bloody freezing but worth it to help flush out the toxins. Then I made my necessary phone calls, was overwhelmed by the lovely messages and received a gentle massage from Tony Leary…I was only joking about those Zumba comments…OUCH…too late!
Tony helped as much as he could but was as puzzled as I was about the sore lower back I was experiencing. Anyway, massage done and it was finally time to put day one and me, to bed…Goodnight.