Brathay 10-in-10 Day 10
Verdict: Finishing the world's most gruelling running race; fantastic. Being the first person home; amazing. All thirteen of us completing the event safely; priceless.
So, after 9 emotional days and 236 of the hardest miles of our lives, we all made it to the relative carnival that is Day 10 and the full Windermere Marathon. We had all made it safely to the final day, and were looking forward to completing our epic challenge. Having nearly 700 other runners around us would be very different from the relative solitude of the previous runs, but a welcome one nonetheless. With us starting an hour ahead of the main race, this also provided me with one final challenge; the running equivalent of 'Catch The Pigeon', with the young, fresh elite runners chasing down the lame, knackered pigeon (yours truly).
Given the times those guys can run, I needed to forget the 9 marathons and numerous niggles sapping my legs and run much quicker than previous days. As such, I dusted off the lightweight Dayglo orange racing slippers for the day. From the gun, I went off harder than usual in order to put some decent mileage between me and the ravenous elite hounds. I got to idyllic Hawshead in quick time and pushed hard up the horrific 1:5 hill at Devil's Gallup. I felt strong at halfway as I crossed Newby Bridge at the foot of the lake, fought hard over the tough rolling hills of Fell Foot and then was dragged along by the amazing support through Bowness. Having conquered Ice Cream Van Mountain for the last time, I really put my foot down and ran sub-7 minute miles all the way home. Saw a few familiar faces coming up the drive and down the final straight at Brathay and crossed the line with a mixed feeling of exhaustion, exhilaration and relief. The pigeon was home safe and sound, and with a few minutes to spare. The first elite hound did not look pleased when I shook his hand. Tough luck sport.
The next few hours were something of a blur. There were numerous media interviews, spraying of champagne, very little sensible hydration and a lot of hugging. Steadily the other 10-in-10 runners came across the line, broken bodies sporting broad grins one and all. When 73 year old John Dawson crossed the line - smashing world records and showing us all what true guts and determination look like - it meant that our ragtag group of 13 had become the first ever to complete the challenge without a single casualty. We finished together what we had started together and this made the achievement even more special.
We each gave everything we had to give, often more than we even thought we had. We felt and saw things you wouldn't wish on any other person. In return, we have been rewarded with feelings that few can imagine, or are ever likely to taste, and which despite thinking about almost constantly since I find impossible to describe. It is without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done and is an experience I know will stay with me for a very long time.
State of body: In bits. Left ITB shot. Left knee knackered. Right hamstring wrecked. Calves very tight. Feet ruined. Completely spent of energy. Does it matter now? Not in the slightest.
State of mind: Huge sense of achievement, but also of relief. The weight has been lifted and I'm sure in time I will look upon this achievement with a huge amount of satisfaction and pride. Right now though, I feel slightly numb and hollow. The thing that has pervaded almost every waking thought for so long has now disappeared and I feel a little lost as to what to do next. I may even have to make do with the real world...
Urine colour: Magners Cider (unsurprisingly since I put about 8 pints of the stuff into my body following the race; Day 10 rehydration strategy very different from that of the previous 9)
Roadkill count: No new animals that I saw, but I suspect the road did take a few human victims on the day from the main marathon. Also, if you look carefully out on the road around Windermere, you may also find significant amounts of my blood, sweat and tears etched into the tarmac, along with a small part of my brain that I lost near Newby Bridge on Day 2.
The Brathay 10 in 10, now in its fifth year, is an endurance running fundraising event to support vulnerable young people.
You can watch the event unfold and see daily race results here: