Saturday, 3 February 2018

Himalaya 100 mile stage race

What's that coming over the hill………...Oh it’s another hill
The Himalaya 100

It was the 29th of October and the last fews days had been a foggy haze. Not just because the air
pollution was extremely high in Delhi, but I had also travelled on several planes, trains and
automobiles to reach the startline of the toughest footrace on earth.
The Himalaya 100 mile stage race. 100 gruelling miles over 5 days, on challenging mountainous
terrain through the Himalayas, with views of 4 of the 5 highest peaks.

We arrived at Lake Mirik with a day to spare, which we spent resting, eating and getting to know
our fellow walkers and runners. People from all around the world, different cultures and creeds,
gathered to experience the best of the Himalayas. We all attended the race briefing and the
excitement began to build. It felt like Christmas eve!
By the time we had packed several bags (the only complicated part of the whole race!) it was late
and so with tired eyes we all dragged ourselves to bed and hoped for a few hours sleep.

Lake Mirk

Day 1 Maneybhajang - Sandakphu
On the start line at Maneybhajang we were all greeted with a traditional Nepalese bagpipe blessing
and Mr Pandey, the eccentric yet lovely race director, gave us a motivational speech. At 8am on the
dot, he blew his whistle to signal the start.   
Running this was never going to be easy, but I hadn’t expected to stop within the first 10 minutes.
Out of breath and wheezing, I clasped my chest.

Please note reader - the starting altitude was 6,600ft with a climb up to Sandakphu, finishing
at 11,815ft. Which doesn’t compare to the highest point I could run to locally in Kent a mere 804ft!
Luckily I wasn’t the only participant now walking, I struck up conversation with a fellow runner, Helen.
We ran, walked and practically crawled up those mountain roads together.
The spectacular views on day 1.

Fortunately the aid stations were every 2 miles and we used them to refuel. No fancy gels here, just biscuits, salty potatoes, bananas and water. At one checkpoint I was greeted by local school children wanting high fives and photos, which was a welcome break on a long day.

Greetings from school children, whilst eating salty potatoes.

We plodded onwards and upwards and suddenly it got dark and cold. Singing and trying to keep our

spirits up we eventually crossed the finish line after 10 hours!
I ate as much food as I could stomach and found my bed in the Sherpas huts, no 5 star
accommodation, only basic beds. It was freezing and I think I was in shock, never had I thought it
would be this hard!

Day 2 Sandakphu - Molle - Sandakphu
Day 2 was an early start, but watching the sunrise over Mt Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and
Kanchenjunga mountain range was stunning and totally worth getting up at 4.30am.
Views of Everest over breakfast.

I was feeling fairly good and determined to run more of the 20 miles today, I set out again with Helen and after a few hours of gentle jogging and walking we arrived at Molle. The sun was shining, which highlighted the beautiful scenery surrounding us.

Day 2 out and back to Molle.
 As we headed back to Sandakphu the song “Four seasons in one day” actually became a reality, with sunshine, rain, high winds, sleet and then snow all showing up.
Day 2 completed with Helen.

The finish line was transformed into a winter wonderland and I was relieved to finish in daylight.
Food was available straight away and after a quick change of clothes we all attended the marathon
race briefing for the following day. I’m nervous and cold, my knees hurt and self doubt started to creep
in. After more food we all retired to bed, but it's was only 7pm! Climbing into my expensive sleeping
bag with a Sigg water bottle filled with hot water wrapped in a sock certainly helped keep me warm,
but I slept badly, kept awake by rats scratching around the huts for food.

Day 3 Sandakphu to Rimbik
Everything was hurting, my knees were swollen and I didn’t sleep much at all. I go back and forth in
my mind over whether I should take part in the marathon day and eventually decide to join the
walking group and enjoy a day of sightseeing through the forest.

This is the day I proposed to Caz, watching the most spectacular sunrise together we held hands and
both felt lucky to be in this moment. Caz said YES and after a brief interlude we joined the walking
group in a white knuckle ride down the mountains in a jeep, we reached a small trail path and are
then escorted down the mountains towards Rimbik, with a lunchtime stop off around a lake and a
visit to a monastery. It’s beautiful and although my knees still hurt the soft ground is a welcome break
from the rough mountain roads.
Day 3 Caz agreed to marry me.

I completed 13 miles of walking with a smile on my face and no regrets and a new fiance!
Thankfully we have a lovely room and I managed to get washed using a technique called
“Sexy Jug Dance” The method had to be used as the shower was so rubbish and there was only
a jug to hand. We ate and enjoyed the company of our new German friends, laughing and planning
future adventures together.

Day 4 Rimbik - Palmajua
Today I feel refreshed and ready to run and I’m so happy that I can actually breathe!
Caz joins me and soon we are running through rural villages and greeting all the locals.
Couples that run together, stay together.

Crossing over a river and back up towards Pamajua, It's incredibly beautiful and although the route is undulating tarmac, we make fast work of the 13 miles and still stop to take a lots of photos and enjoy the run.
Finishing hand in hand.

It really is the best day and all the support is amazing.
Back at Rimbik we are treated to a cultural night with traditional Indian music and dancing and some
fun sketches from all nationalities. I’m feeling emotional and can’t believe tomorrow is day 5! It feels
so surreal, it’s been 2 years in the planning and it’s nearly over! I smile and drift off to sleep after
another “Sexy Jug Dance” shower and enough food to sink a small ship.

Day 5 Palmajua - Maneybhajang.
Starting at our finish line from yesterday, it's a mere 17 miles to Maneybhajang and the finish line.
Unfortunately I’m feeling rather unwell and by 2km I’m practically last and very tempted to quit.
Mentally and physically this foot race has proved harder than I thought it would be.
I’ve trained hard, completing 21 marathons and 4 ultras and even attended 6 weeks of training with
reduced Oxygen in a chamber. I have a coach, a sports physio and a sports psychologist that all
helped me to the start line, I couldn’t let them down, I couldn’t let myself down.
Day 5 feeling ill, but determined.

At 5km I recall some of the mental training I was given prior to the race and I start to visualize myself finishing the race. I give myself a proper talking to and decide to sing “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor to help lift my spirits. It does, much to the dismay of the locals.
Somehow I reach 8km and catch up with my running buddies. It was such a relief to have their
company and although I wanted to run I had already been sick twice and knew it wasn’t going to
happen. With the company of friends and gorgeous weather, we walked and talked mile after mile
and soon we realised that the finish line was just around the corner.
We all joined hands and ran towards it smiling, laughing and crying together.

Myself, Helen and Sally finishing the H100.

It was all over and just a few hours later the emotion hit me like a truck, I cried and slept for heavily until the race awards that evening and then I clapped and cheered for all my new running and walking buddies that had achieved their dreams. We all sat down for a our last meal together, sharing contact details, photos and memories.

It had been an emotional journey, yes it was a race but also an experience.
I couldn’t have trained any harder or better and although it wasn’t the race that I had planned,
it was the race that showed me true friendship and courage.
The backdrop of the Himalaya’s was an ideal place for a proposal, something we will both remember
and treasure for the rest of our lives and the friends I made on the mountains got me to the finish line
every single day.
Jurgen, Lizzie, Caz and me.

The memories and photos evoke strong emotions already and I truly believe that the
Himalaya 100 is not only the toughest footrace on earth but also the most beautiful.

For race enquiries or registration for Himalaya 100 2018 email Mr Pandey

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Coyote Marathon
Cyclopark, Gravesend, Kent
Number 13 - unlucky for some.

I woke up on Sunday 18th September feeling remarkable relaxed before marathon number 13, this was a nice change from the usual feeling of dread and nausea that I normally get prior to an event. Thankfully the marathon was being held locally and within 20 mins I was at race HQ collecting my number.
Round and around we go.
One of my main fears about the route around the cyclo park was the amount of laps needed to complete marathon distance, 21 in total! Yes reader, that's correct, 21 mind numbing, energy zapping laps around a tarmac bike path. To count the laps I was issued 21 elastic bands, every time you passed the start line you chucked one in a bin. I divided them up, 10 on one wrist and 11 on the other.
Pre race face!

I settled into my starting position at the back with some fellow SVN runners and tried to psych myself up “ You can do this, you've got this” was my silent,  but worthy mantra.
At 9am we all set off, I tentatively trotted around my first lap, it was quite a nice circuit although a little chilly and I was blasting out fairly quick miles. I felt strong, but remembering previous DNF races I realised I was running too fast, I slowed my pace back to a 10 min mile whilst trying not to think about pace, weather, time, injuries and pb’s.

The laps whizzed by.

Scooby snacks
Time passed as the laps whizzed by and my little group of supporters had arrived and started their job of cheering me on. I hit the halfway mark after a few laps with a runner called Phil, it was good to chat away and forget about the distance for a while and although the miles were clocking up it felt like the elastic bands were never ending.
I spaced out my hydration and food intake to every other lap and found a new favourite snack! Ready salted Hula Hoops, just the right amount of carb and salt and if eaten with a Honey stinger chew it was even better!

Thankfully on the last few laps.

Pb delight
It suddenly dawned on me that I only had 3 laps to go and I wasn’t too far off my London pb, I couldn't believe how strong I felt. I decided to go for it, I stuck my music on and upped my pace. My legs were pumping, like the music and with the final lap in sight I kicked again, within minutes the finish line was insight. As I crossed the line, the sheer delight was clear to see on my face, I had done it. Marathon number 13 was complete, not a pb but the closest I had got to it all year, I was elated.

Feeling great with my awesome medal.

With awesome medal placed around my neck, I collected beer and goodies from the HQ team and then had my photo taken. It was a great feeling to be back on top of my running and I ran over to my support crew for more photo’s, cuddles and congratulations. Little Abby had made me a bespoke medal which she placed around my neck and we hugged and giggled for a few precious moments.

Runners high
I was definitely on a marathon high, even though I’m sure I had lost a few more toe nails on the way round! I felt alive and hungry. Once home,I had my soak in the bath and Caz ordered my favourite marathon reward PIZZA. I polished off, nachos, most of my pizza, half a bottle of coke and several cakes and then I fell into a dream like slumber. I woke at 4am, which is normal after a marathon and I decided to eat the rest of my pizza and watch a movie. After another 4 hours sleep I awoke feeling refreshed, no aches in my legs and my back felt good too.

Runners low
Unfortunately my attempt at marathon number 14 did not go so smoothly. The weather was miserable, the laps were really hilly and the mud was deep! I pulled my groin within the first 2 miles but decided to soldier on, however by 8 miles I’d had enough! It's a really horrible decision to make when you want to quit, but my knee hurt, as did my ankle and groin and I didn’t want to increase my injury tally when I knew I couldn’t make the whole 26.2 miles. I still was awarded with a fab medal and goody bag, but in my eyes I didn’t earn it that day.
So with another DNF under my belt, we drove home, with no marathon high just disappointment and here I am stuck at marathon number 13 #unluckyforsome.

Next marathon 18th Nov
SVN Battle of the Somme - I will not quit!

Seville marathon 19th February 2017
Oranges are not the only fruit
I came, I saw, I made a mess of it!

Getting to Seville had proved a challenge with ongoing injuries since December, first a foot injury put me out for 3 weeks and then I pulled my back, which delayed me further. Along with this two of my dearest running friends had recently become parents and had consequently had to drop out of the marathon. It had been an interesting couple of months to say the least! However I boarded the plane with a positive mindset and hoped for the best.
We arrived safely and I soon headed off to the expo to collect my number with ease. It was a fairly small expo and the numbers for the marathon were maxed out at 14,000 runners, small compared with London's 40,000!
With my number in hand, on Friday all I had do was sit chill, fuel, hydrate and wait until Sunday for the race!
A dark and chilly wait at the start line.

The morning arrived and myself and maybe 50 other marathoners squeezed onto a courtesy bus near our apartment and arrived in the cold darkness of the Olympic stadium at 8am. It was chilly but, no rain as yet and no nerves, which I’m not sure if that's a good sign or not these days?
My pen was the 4:30 pace and I was happy I would achieve this, or better this. I mean it was the flattest and fastest marathon in Europe so I had something to prove!
I said goodbye to my Cazzie and the crowds cheered me over the start line.
It was spring like weather, not hot at all and thankfully no rain appeared, as it had threatened. Within minutes I got into my stride and smiled, I always love the excitement at the start, It feels like my first marathon, buzzing and daunting at the same time. I’d got to the start line and now the rest was up to me and the whole city was ahead for me to explore.

Passing the Bullring.
I passed the Gold Tower and headed up past the Bullring with the river on my left, sporadic supporters along the roadside and at least one band to help me run to the beat.
I passed Caz by a bridge and felt happy that all was going to plan. I needed the loo but, I knew there was toilets everywhere so felt contented to hold on rather than reenact my shewee incident from the Race to the Stones event last summer! However, 10km in and no sign of a Portaloo? So I kept going, stopping at 12km to find two loos They were something akin to the toilets in Train spotting, but I was desperate so I held my breath and managed to squat and wee all at the same time!
Anyway, the route was well supported in some areas and not much in others, it was deadpan flat and by 15km I was feeling tired. I struggled to get to the halfway point and by 25km I was texting Caz for help!
I had been fuelling well, but I had a feeling my electrolytes weren't right, but by now it was probably too late! What to do???
I spent most of my time needing the loo!
At the next water stop I grabbed 2 cups of water and put the rest of my tailwind powder in and then drank another 2 cups whilst walking. I ran to 30km where Caz met me, I wrestled her cheetos crisps off her and drank more electrolytes to see if it might help me perk up a bit.
All the toilets promised on the route map never actually appeared and so I stopped to pee in a bush near the Royal park! Caz told me to keep going and she'd meet me in the park. So I just kept trying to put one foot in front of the other, ticking off each km, we met up again and she started to walk with me and encouraged me to run a little to get to 35km. I was finished, I was dead, but Caz pushed me on through the centre of town which was really well supported, so many people shouting “Vamo, vamo”(let's go) and “Animo” (cheer up), it lifted my spirits and so I tried push on.
Another toilet stop in Burger King occurred, but then I couldn't get my head around the fact that I only had 5km to go, just 1 parkrun back Olympic stadium and the finish line.
Eventually I started to believe I could finish and thankfully Caz ran the last 2 km by my side, which made me feel better! The last 500m was through a tunnel and onto the track, amazingly I found enough energy to give one last kick over the finish line! I was so relieved!! No tears were shed, just sheer relief as I flung my arms up to the sky and thanked my lucky stars that I made it through another 42km!

I collected my medal, although Caz had earned at least half of it, and soon after many photos I was ushered through more tunnels for refreshments, beer, water, fruit, a goody bag, more beer and to be reunited with Caz. I so happy to see her, I gave her my beer and showed off the medal, as we walked back into Seville we cheered in the last of the runners, not so long ago I had looked like them, beaten and tired.
I hobbled back to the apartment, encountered stairs and just flopped on the bed, exhausted and hungry but content with my achievement.

So thankful to have made it over the finish line.

A bad day at the office.
In retrospect, I really made a meal of the Seville marathon, signing up to a fast flat road race was not my brightest idea, but the lure of a holiday and running abroad in February had won me over.
The key to running all my marathons is never to give up, keep pushing and remember how much you want it, it doesn’t get any easier but I have a few coping strategies that keep my legs going and my mind free of mental chatter.
Counting from 1 up to 300, turns the brain off - repeat as necessary.
Singing - cheers me up and possibly others??? Not
Dedicate each mile to a friend or family member
Note on your arm where your supporters will be. All of these help when things start to go a bit  pear shaped, but sometimes just overlooking the basics, ie - not putting enough electrolyte mix in my water can be the difference between a good race and a bad race.
Note to self, practice fueling more with new product and suit training terrain to marathon day course! Nothing new there, but it’s incredible what you forget, even when you completed a few there is always something new to learn!
Marathon number 17 in the bag.

Thanks for reading my blog, next event Ranscombe trail marathon 8th April and then I’m heading to London, for my 20th marathon.

As part of my 50 marathon challenge, next month I will be running my 20th at the London marathon and supporting The Alzheimer's Society. If you wish to support please click the link below.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Marathon #12 Cakeathon
“Let them eat CAKE”
Monday 29th August Betteshanger Country Park, Deal, Kent

This was not your usual August Bank Holiday, there was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was rising already, however this was the day I was going after marathon number 12!
I suffered from my usual sleep deprivation the night before and as I dragged myself out of bed I felt exhausted at the thought of what the next 4-5 hours would bring.
Needless to say I wasn’t looking forward to this one.
Arriving at Betteshanger Country park I became anxious, the last time I had attempted to complete a lap style marathon I had failed, dropping out at 18 miles with 3 laps left to do. I was mentally finished even though physically I felt fine. However I was determined to finish this time, I even had a trick up my sleeve to help me get round the last 3 laps, but all will be revealed later.
Race HQ 

I was greeted by name by a very cheery Rachel, she issued my number and wished me luck.There was a big turnout for this marathon and i wondered if it was the lure of cakey treats laid out at the aid station. As I pinned my number on I tried to convince myself that it was a point to point race and not a lap race , all I needed to do was make it to 6 checkpoints and would have completed another marathon.
Axiously waiting to start marathon no 12.

At 9am we all set off, although a little crowded at first it soon spaced out nicely and to my relief the route was interesting and not just flat cycle path.  It was slightly undulating with a mix of woodland trails and a few inclines. 1 lap was 4.37 miles and you needed to complete 6 laps altogether for marathon distance. The first lap zoomed by and soon I was running into HQ for a quick water intake to cool down . I dashed back out, aware that it was getting hotter and the route didn’t offer much in the way shade. I slowed my pace to 5 miles per hour to help reduce early fatigue and I ensured that my electrolyte and fluid intake was topped up every 5-10 mins. I held on tight to my checkpoint theory and soon lap 2 was nearly smashed. On my way back to HQ I saw Cazzie on a bench waiting for me to pass, we both smiled and then she updated me on the final stages of my race strategy. I was now feeling positive as I knew I couldn’t fail. On the last km I passed my dad, my sister and my friends Sharon and John and their 2 children, Zach and my number 1 fan Abby. At HQ I drenched my hat with water and drank loads, before heading back out I spoke to Rachel.
“Please do not let me ring that bell before I’ve completed 6 laps!” Basically if the bell was rung by you it meant your race was done, at Jeskyns park I rang it at 18 miles.
“Ok, even if you beg?” Rachel replied
“Not even if I’m on my hands and knees” I joked, but I really meant it.
I trotted back out and smiled to myself. It was probably 29 degrees by now and runners had started to drop out at half marathon point, but the beauty of these challenges is that you still get the stunning medal and goody bag whatever distance you complete.
I ran past a collective of friends and family all happily waiting for my plan to come to fruition, I felt relaxed on my solitary run, not once did I worry about time or pace. With lap 3 coming to an end it was time to dig deep and get it done!

I love it when a plan comes together.
I set off again from HQ or checkpoint 3 as I like to call it! The plan was simple, for the last 3 laps I would have company to help we get round and make sure I didn’t quit!
My fabulous sister Tracy was first up, I collected her about 1km around the route and it worked wonders. Just having someone to chat to was awesome, we set off at a different pace as the sun beat down on us and as we laughed and chatted away the lap just flew past us. Before I knew it lap 4 had been completed.
Next up was John, my fellow Viking from my run club in Rochester. He was just what I needed , funny, calm but boy did he not let me slack off, although he did let me walk up at least 1 hill. Again the lap was completed with a smile and at HQ we had a quick drink of water and looked at all the amazing cake that had be made by some of my fellow runners. Traviss had issued prizes for the best cakes and marzipan creations and was smiling form ear to ear, he was in cake heaven.

Lovely cake supplied by Sharon & Family.

I get by with a little help from my friends.
This was it, I tried not to think about this being my last lap, but somehow I had made it to nearly 22 miles and still had a little left in the reserve tank.
I can’t express to you how much my whole body was now hurting! Literally everything was aching, legs, knees, hips, back, but with 4.37 miles left to go I knew I could do it.
Caz was now running with me whilst all my lovely supporters made their way back to HQ.
I moaned to Caz about my aches and pains, but she just smiled and told me to crack on and do what I needed to do! The last few miles were painful, the inclines seemed higher and the flats seemed never ending, it took everything I had in me just to keep my legs moving. Eventually we turned the last corner and I could see the finish line.

Caz supporting on last lap.

My dad was taking photo’s as we approached the finish line and everyone else was cheering me in! It felt awesome to finish with so much support, I picked up the bell and rang it loudly for all to hear. I had completed marathon 12 with some help from my extra special friends and family. It was such a special moment and although I was overwhelmed I managed to hold it together as my medal was adorned around my neck.
Exhausted but elated I said my goodbyes and headed home, it had been a long day and all I wanted was a pizza and my bed.
Ringing the bell, at last.

The morning after the night before
An uncomfortable night with no much sleep had not left me in the best of moods, my back had gone into spasms at 3am and by 6am I felt like I had been hit by a truck!
My legs had completely seized up, my back was in agony and I was really tired. I needed a lot more rest, more food and more fluids.
I was laid up for a whole 2 days before I felt even remotely normal and to my delight when I got around to checking the results table I was astonished that I was in the top ten women for running marathon distance.
The entire week was spent napping on the sofa and eating and thankfully by the weekend I managed a 5km and a few circuit training sessions with my pt clients.
Rest and recovery is the key and sometimes I beat myself up and compare myself to others that are running marathons every week. How do they do it without feeling so rough? Maybe they are just conditioned after years of running marathons and they have their own strategies and training regimes? Or maybe they do struggle like me but they never show it? I might just ask them that question next time.
Anyway after only running my first marathon in 2014 I have now racked up 12 which is something to be proud of and with number 13 looming this weekend it feels good to have a few under my belt and a few more lined up…..approx 38 to go to complete my 50 before 50 challenge.

The impressive medal.

This marathon was part of the 10 marathons I am running to fundraise for Dame Kelly Holmes 5 big charities, Hospice In The Weald, Mind, Myeloma UK, The Pickering cancer drop in centre and The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.
If you want to know more or wish to support or donate please visit

Thank you for reading my blog and watch up for my next one on marathon number 13, hopefully not unlucky for some!

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