Alex’s experience of 100K

The day started early, full of anticipation and excitement. We were assigned our electronic tags and at 10K intervals had to be scanned and meet our support crew. The South Downs provided beautiful scenery and the first 12 hours of walking went smoothly enough with brief rest stops to refuel with food and drink, lovingly provided to us by our amazing support crew. Each rest stop they cheered us on and provided words of encouragement. The support from family and friends via text messages was amazing.  Watching the messages coming through on the Alexwebsite, knowing that our progress was being tracked made us feel as  if all of our supporters were somehow there with us. It was hot and staying hydrated was our main priority (especially due to the large number of people already in the first aid tent).

After 12 hours of walking we had completed 50K (31m) and were generally feeling optimistic about completing our goal.  The effects of the walk were starting to take hold; muscles were aching and our feet were starting to show signs of blistering. We left our support crew to continue our walk as the sun was setting across the South Downs. Tiredness was creeping  in but the sunset was so beautiful, we comforted ourselves with the thought of a nice cup of tea at the next rest point. Around midnight we sat down to change into night clothing, massage our aching muscles and bandage our blisters. Leaving the warmth of the camp was tough. We had walked 60K (37m) by this point and physically our bodies were telling us it was time to relax, crack open a beer and rest for the night. This was our black box. None of us had ever walked further than this before. We were going into the unknown.

Hiking at night is an eerie but beautiful experience.  The moon was full, removing the need for head torches.  We would occasionally bump into other teams but for the most part it was just the four of us. We settled into an amicable silence and adjusted to the different scenery which night brings. We had four hours of walking ahead of us and the tiredness was setting in. I had anticipated hitting a mental wall at this point and sure enough it came. We could see the next rest stop ahead of us but every hill we climbed seemed to bring more hills between us and a warm meal. At this point, Paul, our amazing team leader, was showing signs of fatigue. Most likely due to all the late nights he had been working so hard on planning the event and setting up the live tracker on the internet.  Suddenly he commented on a pain in his ankle and before long he was limping. We bandaged his ankle as best we could and continued. He was in a lot of pain but soldiered on uncomplaining. Pete began to develop signs of hypoglycaemia (a condition in which blood sugar levels are low) and reaching the next camp was of critical importance. Supporting the team took my mind off the knee pain I was beginning to feel and we reached our 70K (44m) camp at about 4am.

By now, we had all hit our wall. Paul was badly injured and he knew he couldn’t complete the walk. His decision to stop walking may have been the sensible option but was still heart wrenchingly difficult for him. We felt his pain and respected his brave decision. At this point our appetites had waned and we had to force ourselves to eat and drink. Having done it in the past, I knew that I also was carrying an injury; my knee ligaments were torn and I wondered if I was going to make it? Pete was suffering from severe blisters. Leaving camp brought the pain back to our legs and made starting again tough. The beautiful sunrise did little to boost our flagging morale and we all felt the loss of Paul. Thankfully text messages and phone calls were still pouring in and on we went.  It was only 7K (4m) to the next rest stop but tackling the hills were painful. Every step was beginning to hurt. Even Matt, the strongest of the team in terms of experience and endurance, was beginning to feel the pain.  We made it to the next camp and I honestly had tears in my eyes as I hugged our support crew.

We felt so close to finishing and yet still had 24K (15m) to go. We stopped only briefly and set out for another four hours of walking.  Our pace was slow. Such pain was difficult to describe. We began to see more people as everybody’s pace slowed. Many were at the side of the trail, nursing injuries and crying at the frustration of knowing they were so close but shattered by the realisation they were not going to make it. Every foot step sent reverberations of pain through our bodies. We soldiered on.  At this point I have to give full respect to my team. Throughout their pain Matt and Pete showed considerable stamina. Pete, despite terrible foot pain was able to keep up a fast pace. My knee injuries were now slowing down the team. I could no longer walk downhill without considerable effort and every step brought tears to my eyes and waves of nausea. Matt never left my side and inched his way down the hills next to me.  It was the longest four hours of my life. By the time we reached camp at 87K (55m) we had been walking non-stop for 25 hours.  We did our calculations and realised we could make our target of thirty hours. But not with me in the team.

Despite this, Matt and Pete, filled with a renewed sense of purpose, continued. There was no check point now, just the end in sight. With a sad heart I went to officially withdraw from the race. I tried to console myself with completing 87K but I felt I had let the team and the sponsors down. I limped to the official’s tent and explained my injury and that I intended to stand down for the sake of the team. They weren’t ready to let me bow out and it was decided I should avoid the final hill and join the team for the walk of glory into Brighton Race Course. The support crew rallied round and drove me to meet the team. Matt and Pete completed the last stage of the journey in amazing time,showing their incedible tenacity and we limped the last part together up the race course to be met with the most amazing cheering as we crossed the finish line. We joined Paul and the support crew to celebrate our success. We had done it in 28 hours.

Alex medalTo push yourself beyond your boundaries is always an amazing experience but rarely can you do it alone. Paul was an amazing team leader, without whom we would never have had this experience.  Pete, despite considerable foot pain, was an inspiration in his stamina and determination. Matt never wavered once, demonstrating his endurance and strength of character. Jo, Sarah and Andy were our muses. Without their support we could never have completed this challenge. And finally our friends and family who worked so hard to raise sponsorship and provide encouragement when it was needed most. We raised over £3000 for charity. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  We did it together.