I arrived at Marsh Farm, our day 1 starting point, with plenty of time to spare which allowed me to visit the loo once again and collect our numbers along with a Saltmarsh beanie and a badge (nice touch being able to collect these at the start). The walkers headed off at 8 and I then had an hour to faff about deciding what to wear and getting myself ready, it felt windy so I dressed accordingly. Our first section was 6.1 miles with a checkpoint at North Fambridge, we spent this part just getting into our stride and enjoying the atmosphere although we were perhaps going at a quicker pace than we should have been. We just had a brief stop here to grab a drink, half a cereal bar and a hug and a kiss from our loved ones before heading towards Burnham.
This stretch was 7.9 miles long and although it was breezy along the sea wall we got into a good rhythm and was enjoying the views and company. It was lovely to have had Graham and Lindsey from running club join us for part of this section and when we reached the highest point of the Saltmarsh route we had to stop for a selfie!
The welcome at Burnham was amazing, we were clapped in by spectators and other runners / walkers and I could spot my family who had come here to see me. It was just great to have support here and we stopped to fuel and hydrate for about 20mins before moving on to the next stage which I have to admit I’d been dreading.
It was the longest one at 13.3 miles from Burnham on Crouch to Othona community Bradwell and is known as being hostile and remote. Although it was fairly windy the weather was kind to us at this point, if we’d had rain and wind it would have been dreadful. We adopted the run walk strategy through this stage, I’d started to get a little pain in my knee so I was definitely ready to incorporate some walking. This stretch was llloooonnnnggg. For me, it was the start of the mind games and when the toughness of this event really sunk in. There was a water station half way through this leg which really helped as we could split it up into two, what didn’t help was the millions of flies that were slapping in to us along a concrete section of the sea wall. Up ahead we could spot our group of buddies from running club, they gave us a Mexican wave as we passed and a selfie was taken – a real boost to our moral at a point when I really felt we needed it. It was a huge relief to arrive at the Othona community where we refuelled and Tina kindly applied some tape to my knee for me.
With that nasty stretch complete I felt ready for the next stage at only 3.25miles long I knew it wouldn’t be long until we reached our support crew and in fairness it felt like this went quite quickly. We continued with the run walk strategy which was working well for us and before I knew it we’d hit Bradwell Waterside where Paul and Bill had come out to support us and my friend Hayley was working the checkpoint. Seeing those friendly faces makes a huge difference, a hug and a high five and we were ready to crack on.
With only 2 stages left I truly felt for the first time I can actually do this!! We stride on to St Lawrence (well it felt like a stride) and about a mile in a sprinkling of rain begins. That’s ok, a little bit of rain is just fine – I have my “waterproof” jacket on. It gets heavier, not a problem we are still doing our run walk and we are so close now. The heavens open, it’s relentless, the wind is blowing the rain into our faces and our instructions are now unreadable. We have to come off the sea wall here so we really need to be able to read where to go, luckily we can just about see a few runners ahead so we hope that means we are heading the right way. By the time we hit St Lawrence I’ve had enough, I’m wet (not so waterproof jacket, thanks Nike) and I’m cold and I’ve quite literally had enough of the pissing weather and that god damn sea wall. As we run into the checkpoint it was amazing to see our friends Ian and Pat from club, along with Zoe who gave me a much needed hug and pull yourself together squeeze. Our trusty support team Dan, Phill and Alia were once again here for us with anything we needed which quite frankly at this point was just a prep talk of crack on and get the job done! Which is exactly what we did, keeping our heads down and moving forward the 3.25 miles to St Lawrence and I know in the grand scheme of things this isn’t far but believe me when I say at this time of day it was one hell of a stretch especially whilst battling with the weather. There we have it, day 1 complete our friends are there at the finish line. Zoe not only provided us with a soggy hug but we also get given a treat each, mine a grab bag of ready salted crisps (they didn’t make it home 😬).
I’ve done it, I’ve completed an ultra!! I can’t tell you that it felt fantastic and I was over the moon because to be quite honest it just hadn’t sunk in. I really couldn’t wait to get out of my wet clothes so I got changed at Steeple and we headed home. Heated seat on. The soak in the bath felt so good, the oven chips, fish fingers and beans touched the spot and climbing into bed that night was the best feeling in the world. Until I woke at 1:30am and tried to move. Ooooh dear I felt that.
Highlights of day 1
- The first 14 miles 😀
- Graeme and Lindsey’s company on stage 2 🏃🏃🏻♀️
- The support as we entered the Burnham checkpoint 👏🏼
- The girls from run club waving us through on the long leg 🤳
- Zoe’s hug at St Lawrence 🤗
- Having our support crew Dan, Phill, Alia, Boris & Hector at each checkpoint 🐶
Lessons learnt from day 1
- My “waterproof” jacket is more showerproof than waterproof 🙄
- Eat little and often even when you don’t feel like it 🥖
- Don’t let someone else fill up your camelbak, not only is it a nightmare to tighten but it also sloshes 🤦🏻♀️
- I can complete an ultra 😃