The story of my first world record attempt…

So my first world record attempt didn’t exactly go to plan… but I will be back, and I WILL succeed. By this time next year I will have conquered the record and all the tears and disappointment of this year will make it all the more satisfying.

Here’s the story of how I took on Ireland’s endurance record, attempting to run from Malin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland to Mizen Head, the most southerly. 345 miles in 3.5 days.

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The current record stands at 3 days and 15 hours and 36 minutes. I hoped to beat the record by 3 hours finishing in 3.5 days. It wasn’t to be but I’ve learnt lot and next year will be my time.

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Before I go on I must thank all of the fantastic supporters on route, all of those who beeped their horn, and all those who acted as official witnesses so I could prove the record. The Irish hospitality was unbelievably friendly, and I can’t wait to go back. And then there’s the team who supported me; with nearly 400 years of ‘life’ experience between them they held approximately 0 years of experience supporting a world record attempt… but they were FANTASTIC. Be it Physio, Doctor, Runner, or Navigator everyone pulled off a great support system. We spoke for a long time around how we can improve for next time, but in short, there really isn’t much room to improve. My appreciation and thanks for your support can’t be put into words… ‘thank you’ isn’t enough.

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On top of all the support, cheers, and good wishes, a number of you put your hand in your pocket and donated to the great causes we were raising for. The British Heart Foundation, Prostate Cancer and Cancer Research thank you. Your kind generosity will not be forgotten.

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Here’s the highs and the lows of the week in Ireland.

The Rain

When you organise an event you hope for good weather, but when you organise an event which means travelling the length of a country on foot, you REALLY hope it doesn’t rain. Needless to say. It did, a lot! … but then it stopped. The attempt started at 11:00 am and the few hours leading up to the attempt were grim, dull grey skies and rain like you’ve never seen. 10 minutes before I stepped out of the van to give this attempt my best, a rainbow appeared, the clouds parted and the rain stopped. I ran for hours in sunlight with amazing views. That was until it got dark when the heavens opened again; they stayed open in fact for many hours.

The reason I mention all this is because I had the preconception that running in the rain would something which I really didn’t want, it would be miserable and drab and negative. It was however the exact opposite. During the night around 60 miles in, I was smashing the hills, listening to my music and didn’t even notice the rain. It was only when the support crew came over the radio asking if i’d like another waterproof that i realised it was tipping it down. I may have just been entirely delirious of course. Anyway, i’ve certainly learnt that rain isn’t all the bad, I even said it was the most enjoyable part of the trip. (at 3 in the morning running up a steep hill, with rain pelting my face) This is something I’ll remember when running in the rain next.

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The Support and My First Stop.

The on route support crew worked well, a car never more than 500 yards away with all the supplies of water, and all the food or energy suppliments I may ask for. My stops were planned for the entire route. I would stop every 12 miles for 30 mins, which meant an overall running pace of 10 min miles (or there abouts).

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After the first 12 gentle miles from Malin Head I headed south along the coast initially and then inland directly south towards my destination. I kept a steady pace, which was quicker than the average 10 min miles which I needed. My idea from the beginning was if I felt like I could run quicker, then I would. Within reason. At the first stop the camper fan support, the support crew and the required witness were all there waiting. I jumped into the van, changed my top as planned, and tucked into some proper food. I had a small hot meal of poached chicken, potatoes and veg plus my usual carb drink. This was similar at every stop but with enough variety to not be bored, or sick.

The food was good, really good. Not changing that for next time. Thanks chefs. After 10 mins of food, I had 5 mins of physio and gentle leg massage then rest for 10 mins or so.. and then it was time to get out of the van and continue to the next stop 12 miles away. Once again the support car stayed close by and held a radio where I could ask for specific food or drink, despite their primary role to be my navigation.

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The hills, and more hills, the Pace and the Sleep

So after some very hilly stretches I had my first 3 hours rest stop where I could sleep and rest. This was roughly every 48 miles. In hindsight i plan to stop less next time and just keep moving forward slowly. Either walking or a slow run. Having said that I still passed my first 100 miles well ahead of schedule. I’ll touch on this later.

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So as you can see the elevation varied for some considerable time, gentle but still some ups or downs. Thanks to many months of hill training I loved the hills, they broke up the distance nicely. As did the few new albums on my phone.

Good point to mention is how I carried my phone, anyone running long distances needs one of these. They are called ArchMax and they sell socks in the first instance but they also provide a great running belt which you 100% don’t feel is there. I never run without this. It’s great. No review needed.

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My Pace stayed on form and by about 75 miles I had built a 70 min buffer over the scheduled time, which meant I had the head space to slow down if I needed. Sadly I didn’t get to that point… which I’ll touch on in a mo.

My two 3 hour rest stops went to plan, change clothes, eat, physio, sleep, eat, physio, run. Running though Derry was great because I had ran this section before when we drove the route 2 months prior.

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The Wheels Came Off

It was just over the 110 mile mark when the wheels came off. I started to feel chest pain, this was about 6 in the morning after the rain had cleared. The left side of my chest, (around my heart area) started to feel abnormally tight and I was beginning to be slightly short of breath. I carried on for a while but eventually called for the doctor to take a look. Doc was happy it was unlikely to be my heart with the details I gave.

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I continued, but slowed and lost a little time. This was the start of me thinking something was wrong. I reached the second sleep stop of 3 hours, I rested and woke feeling strange but not that bad. I set off happily although tired. I was certainly more tired than I should have been. Having run multiple long races and indeed big training days and weeks with little sleep I wasn’t entirely on form. At mile 3 of the next 12 mile stage i called for the physio to stretch out my legs and generally have some time to catch up breath. It’s important to point out, over a long ultra race I am never short of breath, it’s just not how you run an endurance race. I continued but after a further 2 miles I called for the advice from the doctor again and the rest of the crew… my legs weren’t turning over as they should, I was abnormally tired and my chest was sore and tight. This was the point where I realised that something was wrong. Sure enough the docs thought it best if I stop. It was my decision, and I chose to listen. The time I had remaining coupled with my body’s ability to breath and push me forward wasn’t enough.

As you can imagine, after thousands of pounds spent on the trip, crazy amounts of organisation, kit and food, plus months of training and early mornings I was at the side of the road facing defeat in the face. I was confused, my body couldn’t take me over 120 miles. I would finish long endurance races and big training weeks, and be fine, more than fine… It was only a few days later that the view of Doctors was that i had in fact got Pneumonia and potentially the coxsackie virus. It was likely too that I had this before starting the attempt and the run had just tipped my body over the edge.

I was sitting on the side of the road crying, like a baby. For the first time in any event I had quit. Not just any event but my first ever world record attempt. An attempt that on paper I should be able to achieve, even if it was a world record. So I went through the motions of getting over the disappointment and realised i can learn from it and be back to fight another day. For the record, I, we, will be back next year. 18th July 2017 I WILL claim victory in Ireland.

The Tiredness Hit me

Only after stopping, and getting to a hotel to reflect on what had happened did I realise that I was REALLY tired. I couldn’t walk down the road without getting out of breath. This confirmed that my left lung wasn’t working how it should… and still days later I am incredibly tired and sore. Sore not on my legs but around the left side of my chest. A further X ray today and a blood test will show more no doubt.

After the Attempt

So my time in Ireland wasn’t over, I was still disappointed but we had to make the best of a bad situation. After all we weren’t due to travel home for another 3 days, so in the mist of extreme exhaustion and sleepiness the crew and I enjoyed Island as well as we could. I even tried my hand at fishing. Thanks guys. A few fish, some lovely meals later we gathered to talk tactics. How could we learn, and improve for the next time. We scheduled the date of the 18th July next year… we’ve increased the support team size to 12 from 7 and I’ve begun to draft out a new training plan. Even without Pneumonia the attempt is still hard, I just didn’t quite reach the hard bit. But next time I will reach the hard part and I want to be even more ready for it.

In 360 days time I take on the challenge again. If I’m honest I’m still not over the disappointment completely but I’m even more determined to get this record. Oh and I’m not starting the attempt if i’m even the slightest bit unwell.

Here’s a few pics from the few days in Ireland when I was mostly sleeping and feeling sorry for myself. That said I can still look back with mixed emotions, overall though, a trip never to be forgotten.

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Once again a huge thanks to those who were involved in the attempt in any way, especially for all the kind people that came out at 3 in the morning to sign witness statements. And a huge thanks to all of you that donated. The British Heart foundation, Cancer Research and Prostate Cancer thank you also. We raised around £2000 in the first 24 hours of the attempt.

The future holds great things, obviously I’ll crack this one next year, but JOGLE is also around the corner plus numerous adventures around the world. I’m resting for a few weeks, but on 27th August I’ll be running the south coast. I’ve got to behave and rest for now though. I’ll be back to 500 mile training months in no time. Continue to follow my progress and adventures on this blog, twitter @runatthefront and instagram @manofsport

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There is also some news regarding my motivational speaking work… watch this space. And for all those injured runners out there, I feel your pain. keep it up and you’ll be slipping those trainers on in no time.