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10 Marathon in 10 Days


from www.connemarathon.com 10 Marathons in 10 Days Begins
Thu, 08/05/2008

I’ve arrived at the start area of the 10 in 10 challenge.
Starting out tomorrow and we’ve just had a sneak preview of the course – It’s not quite as bad as Connemara but it’s bad!

Don’t get me wrong, this is a stunningly beautiful course, 26.2 miles around Lake Windermere in the middle of the Lake District in the UK… but it’s a tough one with a lot of hills. Bad enough getting around a tough course once but I have to do it 10 times over the next week and a half. I know I can do three; think I can do five; six, seven and eight scares the hell out of me but once I get to 9 and then 10 I’ll be so close to the finish I know I will. Strategy all week has been to stick to 5 hours but I’m being talked into going a bit quicker… by a guy who has done 453 marathons with an average finish time just over 3.15. Should I listen to him??????? 😀

Log on here to see how I get on each evening as I’ll post a report on each days events – highs and lows. Right now I’m a bit low – worried – wondering what’s around the first corner… and at the same time excited that I’m setting out to do something extraordinary.


Friday 9th May – I thought it would never arrive
There was great excitement on the lawn of Brathay Hall at 10am this morning as the 11 of us were sent on our merry way with a gun shot start. It was actually a press start and as we turned the corner we walked the the official start and said right lads… off we go. 10.15 was the official start time and I was aprehensive from the start. It was funny really heading out on this fine and very warm Friday morning into the unknown. Usually a marathon start for me is all about focusing on time and this was no different really except it was a slow time I was looking for this time. The object of the day was a 4.45 finish so I was conserving energy all the time.

First hill and the real strategy kicked in – I walked the hill and every one on the course. Christ there was loads! On an on and on and up and up and down and up and up and up and up slight down and up again – get the picture. This was bloody tough and it was only 4 miles in. 258 to go then. 😀

i ran the entire distance with Malcolm and we gleefully tucked into the nutrition that was provided the night before. It was amazing to see 11 very experienced marathoners accepting product from a guy that we never met before. All sorts of potions and treats were handed around. You are supposed to read the instructions on new products but these came in unmarked white tubs so we could have been drinking anything. It tasted like berrys so that was good enough for me.

Mile 14 hit us like a brick wall. Seemed to go onwards and upwards for ever – Snow shoes were the order of the day and we were delighted to accept the ropes that were handed out… Seriously though this was ridiculous. Connemara was like Berlin.

Run walk to the finish and I am amazed I am typing that I was really pleased with a 4.50. If it was a one off marathon I was happy to finish.

Forget day 1. Dust down. And onwards to day 2. Bringing my own ropes.


Saturday 10th
The biggest worry as I woke up to day two was obvious. How were the legs. I was in such a scared state yesterday evening that I forgot to add that immediately after the run we grabbed a cup of tea and headed for the nearest stream and sat in the icy water for 10 minutes looking a bit like Paula Radcliffe (supposed to be good for recovery). This was to save the day as this morning I actually felt like I hadn’t run at all so that was great.

Our little routines are starting to take shape. There are 11 participants staying in a lodge near Brathay Hall. We have our own kitchen dining hut where we mix our potions the night before and lay them out for the stations we want them dropped to. And we also have breakfast there. Start time today was 9.00am and so we gathered at 8.50 along the road like a bunch of tourists taking in the sun – which was hotter than yesterday and that was 25 degrees at it’s height.

Soon we were on our way. My strategy of walking every hill paid off big time on Day 1 so that was the plan again this time. I was joined by a couple more who could see sence in my approach. So we had Malcolm from Canada who ran the distance with me on day 1, Mathew from Wales and Jim who had to persuade the organisers to let him go out again on day two. Despite the fact that he has massive experience having run over 125 marathons, he got into a spot of bother at the finish line on Day 1 and was rushed to hospital by ambulance. The assurance that he keep the pace slow was enough to see him on the start today and it added a bit of spice to the craic between us. Anytime he pushed the pace a bit someone would shout ‘HOSPITAL’ and that stopped him in his tracks.

For some reason I was much more comfortable from the outset today. Maybe knowing what was ahead calmed me down a bit but I found it very easy going pretty much the entire way ’round. We walked the hills and ran the downs and found ourselves at half way in a very modest 2:20 but we were delighted with that. Mile 14 to 20 is very tough but I stretched our little field out a bit to give the legs a bit of confidence and it worked out well.

Mile 20 saw us sitting on a bench looking out across Lake Windermere sipping lovely sugery hot tea with big smiles on our faces and then we headed to the last stretch. According to our time keepter Mathew, we ran the last four miles in 8.20’s and felt very comfortable, holding back if anything. Malcolm slowed a bit at the end but the three muskateers finished out day 2 in 4:46 handy.

After sitting in the stream again today (and there will be pictures) I feel absolutely fine this evening and looking forward to tomorrow’s little run around the lake. Will I say the same tomorrow though?
Day 3

Sunday 11th May
A record breaking day today as was the first treble marathon for me.

Having completed two marathons in two days I always knew I was capable of three in a row. It’s just now that I’ve completed that tally that I realise that 78 miles is a long way. But it’s over now and all I can do is record the detail.

I woke this morning after a bad nights sleep. I am sleeping on a 5′ 6″ camper bed and I’m 6′ 3″. I slept great the first couple of nights but last night the thin pillow and my feet sticking over the edge got to me. This isn’t boot camp but it’s not 4 star either. The set up is working really well I have to say. Meals in the Canteen are very good and the overall atmosphere in the camp is brilliant. As I walked for breakfast I was feeling the running taking its tole and the first thought of what the week probably had in store for me started to sink in. If this is what two felt like… how would I be after 8 or 9? But onwards regardless.

As usual we lined up along the road for the 9am start and were quickly on our way. Our elite athlete in the group Steve, who is going for a World Record of the fastest person to run 10 marahtons in 10 days (he’s 38 mins ahead of target after today) as usual lead us out from the gun. But our little group had plotted to try to add a bit of humour to his stern effort. We’ve decided that each day one of us would get ahead of him pasing the gate and the photographers so that there won’t be too many shots of him in the lead. Malcom did the honours today and Mathew will be in front tomorrow. Then it’s my turn. It was so funny.

And there were so many laughs through the first half today that I wont even go there. Just to say it was all craic all the way. The serious business starts at mile 14, we had just gone through half way in 2:15, a tad ahead of yesterdays time. The hills once again loomed large but I think I have sorted my head out and was looking forward to the challenge. I lead most fo the way through the ups and downs and stretched our group of 4 a bit. And we decided that yesterday’s tea at mile 20 was so nice we’d pay a repeat pit stop visit. This time we had jam donoughts aswell. They were the nicest I’ve tasted. And to top it all I didn’t feel like I’d been running at all.

By the time we got going again I was itching for road and told the lads at mile 22 that I was off to better my time from yesterday. I accelerated and found myself at the finish in 4:38 having run the last 4.2 miles in 31 minutes with absolutely no pain.

I’m a bit nervous now as I head into the real unknown and I know I’ll be wondering all week if I finished this one too fast. It was 27 degrees today at it’s hottest but I think that just added to my speed – I love the heat. Great day out in the Lakes and really looking forward (with the usual dread) to tomorrow.
Day 4

Monday – Unknown Ground
Everyday someone sticks their head into the kitchen with a ‘Day 4’. It’s a bit like Big Brother over here now without the diva’s. Distance runners are generall nice people and we are blessed to have a very interesting and varied bunch of lunies here in Brathay. The craic is still good and the spirts are still very high. Seems we know eachother better every day. It’s nice to have a bowl of cornflakes with someone in the kitchen and sit beside someone else over dinner. Some are funny, very funny, and some are just nice people out doing something different for a week.

And so we find ourselves at Day 4. I got out of bed with a real sence that I had run a bit further than usual. Training for this has been much better than normal but nothing like the 100+ miles record breaker Steve had done. No, I just did as much as I could and the gym work has paid off big time so far.

Strategy was to keep it even and try to get in around 4:40. So as usual the five stayed together except it was Jim’s turn to lead Steve out at the start line. Jim took the job very seriously and took off like Geb. About a mile in the ducked into a forrest hoping Steve would think he had gone ahead but the ‘special one’ wasn’t to be fooled. Phil was though. He asked me at mile 20 had I seen Jim 😀

Anyway the same pace, same fun, same banter, all along the first 13 and we passed halfway in 2:16:30. I decided to stretch the legs a little as I was feeling more comfortable running a my training pace (about 8 min miles). Gordan gave chase after me and caught up at mile 16. I was still walking the ups and the downs were begining to hurt a little. We got into a grove and passed 2nd placed Phil at mile 20 just before our tea break. Tea and tarts were on the menu today and Gordan and myself tucked in.

We took off like the hammers after tea and headed for home. Joined by one of the Brathay staff who wanted to jog a few miles with us. 100meters later she was gasping and we weren’t stopping. Cut a short story shorter, we blasted through the line in 4:20:30.

Chuffed but sorry for the burst of speed that would surely hurt tomorrow.

Day 5

Half way point
I’ve been clocking the days by as if they were miles in a marathon. Day 1 was 2.6 miles done and today would be half way or 13.1 in my marathon head.

Sore this morning as I got up (last as usual) some of the mammies in the group have started to knock on the door to see if the young lad is up yet. Nice to be looked after. Cornflakes and chat with Paul as usual and we were on our way.

Short blog today as the first half was the same as every other day except I lead Steve out about half a mile today. Nice to be up with the elite for a few minutes. Halfway in 2:17:30, a minute slower than yesterday so I was happier as my strategy was to sloooooow down. The mile 14 bug kicked in and I kicked on. Against my better judgement I found myself running up most of the hills with Jim in tow. We made steady progress over the dreaded 4 mile stretch but made comfortable time all the same.

Met George at mile 20 for tea and this time, jaffa cake bars of which I had three! And then we headed for home. The two lads were looking a bit livelier than me perhaps because they chose only to have two of the chocolate treats. The extra one was holding me back. Close to home at mile 25 I noticed they were slowing and my third jaffa was kicking in so I went for it and caught them very quickly. I’m amazed that I was able to knock out such a time but I was flying, hurting, but flying.

Promised Mick that I’d go slower today and I did by 20 seconds… finish time 4:20:50

Sorer but still happy.
Day 6

The tough part
I always knew that day 6 would be the tough one. If I got over this day and tomorrow then I’d be looking forward to the weekend and the finish, but all I had to look forward to on Day 6 was the Tea stop at 20. Once you get into the swing of this challenge you get very dependent on regular routines. Tea stop at mile 20 is very high up the list.

Day 6 had nothing in store other than a finish. Day by day I am getting sorer and the injuries are creeping in. We have Physio on site before and after the race and really without them this challenge would not happen. I have avoided the dreaded Physio team for two days but with my left leg hanging off I gave in and took my punsihment just like everyone else just before we shut the door on our cabin. You can tell from the tone here that my mood has slumped some what. I’m getting restless and worried. 5 down is only half way and when one of the lads said ‘so we have to start all over again starting tomorrow then’ I said ohhhhhhhh crap!

The start line is becoming the true meaning of the phrase groundhog day. 10 times around the lake is ok as we are learning how to run the course. Every passing day makes the 26.2 a little more bearable but the routine sometimes gets to me. The start time was pushed out by half an hour by request from the busier Physios who are having to work harder to get the team on the road each morning, now me included.

I decided after two 4.20’s to ease back today so I went out with Malcolm in steady 11’s. 6 in 67 minutes and eventually I strode off and said my goodbye at mile 9 for a bit of lonely running. The pain kicked in nicely. Christ! I forgot the pain killers. I passed half way in 2.20 (I think s I was too sore to ask anyone) and was really pleased to be on the nicer stretch for home. Caught Mathew at mile 18 and ran with him until Tea time (Mile 20) and some treats. They did the trick as I instantly picked up the pace as usual and headed for home. It was around mile 22 that I noticed that either the pain had gone away or I was so sore that I couldn’t feel anything below my waist. Either way something was blocking something out and I continued the pace, running the last 6.2 in 53 minutes (8.30’s) which was nice and tidy.

Finished the day in 4.29. Really pleased. Burger and chips on the lawn, sat in the stream as usual and then got a rub down from the lovely Amy.

Day 7 tomorrow throws up a whole new challenge and one that I am dreading.
day 7

Day 7 Nemeses
Day 7 – 3.26.47 PB Did I ever think I’d be typing that? …,A phrase that will stay in my memory forever.
Sorry for not blogging this evening. I’ll recount this epic journey tomorrow.
3 beer celebration, tired, going to bed, gluk.
Thanks for the comments, texts and well wishes everyone.

Day 7 Report

The really dreaded day
This first real set back for the team emerged with the news that Susan was forced to pull out yesterday due to injury. An incredible journey has ended on day 6 for this very determined woman and her husband Paul, who was running the 10 with her was so devested. And so was the entire team. But on the bright side we have an extra helper dishing out much needed support along the route. Sue will be back running marathons in no time.

Back to the business end for me and as I had said all along day 6 and 7 were going to be very tough mentally. Physically, I am holding up very well. Suprisingly well. A bit of swelling in my left ankle but nothing to worry about today. As I dreaded this day so much I decided to change a few things. iPod in place, run my own race, don’t hold back and focus. I found the aches and pains eased when I upped the pace over the previous days so this was a test really.

I started out slowly towards the back of our merry little group. The banter at the start was probably at it’s height this morning. Loud laughter seemed a bit out of place after 150 miles but this bunch are tops. After about a mile and a half I noticed I was very close to ‘The Special One’ Steve and a small bunch of dedicated supporters… Jim, George, Phil and Mat was still keeping up with the lead despite pretty big injuries. I felt really good and they seemed a bit slow so I took the lead and headed out along the west side of Lake Windermere. All of a sudden I realised that I was leading a marathon for the first time!!!! 😀

I thought it would be nice if I could lead the group through the first water stop at mile 2 which came and wend in a very slow blur (phrase for dramatic effect, turn up blur according to excitement level required). Quickly passed the second water stop and then the third. Steve’s better half Teresa (or as we call her Saint Teresa) has been a rock all week. She has organised all the water stops, made 158 rounds of tea for everyone, plates and serves heaps of deserts, cleans, cooks, massages egos and loves Steve…. and looks after me as much as she can in her spare time. And here she was on day 7 handing me my bottles as I passed shouting encouragement as if I wasn’t ahead of her beloved Steve. Today she was in my camp – I was leading! I thought if I could just keep it going until mile 8, then 10 then 12 and next thing I found myself turning for home and passing the half way still ahead.

It was in around this point that I started to get a creek in my neck from looking around. Surely steve would blast past me very soon, but I kept going and going and going all without a watch. ‘Saint’ Teresa was there every two miles keeping me in check and shouting times which made absolutely no sence to me whatsoever with my mush of a brain. Eventually I stopped at mile 20. ‘Right, explain very slowly what time it is now and how long I’ve been out here’. 2 hours 33 came the reply. ‘Ok, now start again because I don’t believe you’. Teresa laughed and thought I was just slagging her. I wasn’t.

Off I go again, sometimes running backwards in case he was hiding behind a hedge everytime my head turned. ‘Where the bloody hell is Steve anyway?’ Started to slow, speed up, slow again, speed up again I was all over the place but still strong. Was a PB possible… dare I even ask?

Turn for Brathay Hall with 400 yards to go. And crumbled to a walk along the very steep drive. Up over the top and one final burst for the finish line. Quick check of the clock and saw that I crossed the line in 3:27:47. Crap (not the exact phrase used) I missed my PB by under a minute. Then who else but the Saint herself came to my rescue for the 54th time that day to explain that because we went off a minute earlier my actual finish time was 3:26:47 a PB by 10 seconds after 183 miles running on one of the toughest courses in the UK!!!! I could have kissed her but I knew muscle man Steve was about to turn the corner so I just shook her hand and said ‘thank you very much’ 😀 Just as well as Steve finished 4 minutes later.

Nice to be an apprentice ‘Special One’ for a day.
Day 10

The final day
Here we were. 10 still standing and the 11th standing with us. Much has been written about the comraderie that forms in groups that push themselves to the limit. About how a unique bond forms and where you make life long friends with strangers. I could cry thinking about the good times on this expedition. Life changing in the extreme!

And here we were.

Day 10. The last day. I hated that phrase. I wanted this journey to last longer. I wanted to do 20 with these people. I wanted more.

But there was a job to be done. Hobble to the start for one. Hobble to half way for two. And then the world opened its arms and wrapped me in the warmest feeling of exhiliration I have ever felt in my life.

The main event of the week was the 1,000 participant Windermere Marathon. The leader passed me as they started one hour later. then second place passed. Instead of focusing every nano second on the leader ahead of him he actually put his thumb up and said fair play to you. I smiled. Then third place did the same and it lifted me. then fourth, then fifth. I couldn’t believe it. They were actually acknowledging my effort. And that was the turning point. My pain instantly lifted and I picked up the pace. Ran up the hills, ran down, coasted along, ran with 7 min milers, ran with the leading women, ran some of them to a walk such was the pace. It was amazing. I couldn’t explain it.

Before I knew it I was shooting down the finish line with a tri-colour over my head, screaming – I’m doing it!!!!!!!! and then it was over. 4.19 (sub two hour second half).

I laughed, cried, drank beer, drank champagne, cheered, celebrated, danced, laughed and cried again.

10 marathons in 10 days with some of the best people I have ever met.

Bridget Anne had made the trip to see me finish and It made it all the more exciting. Thanks BA and everyone who supported this effort, for the encouragement, emails and texts, sponsorship and for being there for me through this epic journey. And thanks to my very very special team mates Paul & Susan, Steve and Teresa, Phil, George, Jim, Mathew, Michelle, Selina, Malcolm, and physios Amy and John, Scott and all at Brathay. We will all meet again.

Pictured with two of my kids Alex and Evan at a celebration and Photocall on my return to Galway Airport.