My mum passed away just days before my first ultra.
I fought with myself over whether I should still run it. There will be plenty of races in the future. You should be with your dad and brother, helping each other get through this.
But then, I remembered the last time I spoke to mum. I knew I had to go for it.
Throughout the run, I kept thinking back to her last words to me: “Good luck you nutter, I love you.”
I keeping a commentary going, narrating what I saw, what I felt to mum.
“Almost at the checkpoint. We’ll have some water and those pretzels. And they can refill our water bottles.”
“Another gate. Well, at least we get to walk through it.”
“Not another stile! I swear those things are getting higher the further we go.”
At every beautiful vista (and there were so many of those!) I thought that would be a great scene for mum to paint.
Every flower a still life for her to capture.
She would have loved it out there.
Pre-race. Georgie started an hour ahead of me as had apparently put in an estimated finishing time of under 6 hours, putting me in with the ‘elite’ starting block.
There were a lot of fields with a single track going through the middle of them. Corn and pea fields were the most common if I remember correctly.
I was feeling great at mile 13 – and looking forward to getting out of the heat into one of the many wooded bits in the distance.
At this point, I didn’t realise that I’d gone out much too fast…
Cheryl (the runner in front of me in the picture) and I formed a good team up until when she missed a turn and went off course. I called as loud as I could – which couldn’t have been more than a hoarse croak – but couldn’t get her attention. I didn’t have the legs to catch up with her and let her plod on.
In the end she finished only a few minutes after I did.
Mile 27 or so.
The slowest and most painful part of the race for me. When I walked, my ears depressured and I could hear my own laboured breath. I yawned almost continuously. I was barely able to keep a 14 minute per mile shuffle going. I was walking anything with a slight incline and even slight downhills like this one only allowed me to get up to around 11 minute per mile pace.
But my word was it beautiful out there!
The last five miles or so were very, very painful.
I could clearly see mum shaking her head: “You nutter.”
But also: “Keep going. Keep breathing. You got this.”
The last few miles included a ridiculous steep downhill section complete with steps. A fallen tree that I had to crawl under because my legs couldn’t handle a squat. The stiles were about 10 metres high. I also stubbed my toes at least five times each on rocks that I couldn’t clear with my shuffle.
With my legs and feet burning, I forced my way through the fields until suddenly, after a sharp right hand turn, I found myself on asphalt looking at a man telling me that there were only 500 yards between me and the finishing line.
Those 500 yards were made up of 50 foot climb.
It felt like 5,000 feet.
It was all I could do to lengthen my shuffle stride.
I crossed the line at 10 minutes per mile pace with just over 6 hours on my watch.
Mum would have loved this course and I’m glad that I ran it.
In an odd way, putting myself through physical pain seemed like the best way to spend some quality time with mum, to celebrate her appetite for life, for adventure, for nature.
I intend to do just that in the future – I think she’d like that and that it would make her proud.
I love you mum.