– the Commonwealth Ultradistance Athlete
On Wednesday 16th
September I arrived in Keswick with Ben Scott and 2 fellrunners.
We were all representing the Isle of Man at the Commonwealth
Ultradistance and Mountain Running Championships. I had
qualified for the 24 hour race, with Ben also competing in it,
and 6 IOM fellrunners were competing in the uphill and the
uphill/downhill races. It was the inaugural championships to
showcase how the four events of 24 hour race, 100km race, uphill
race and uphill/downhill race, and get them into the
Commonwealth Games as recognised sporting events.
After finding our
accommodation, which was an outdoor centre near Keswick shared
with the Scotland team, in the middle of nowhere, Ben and I
registered for our event and found Fitz Park where we would be
running on Thursday 17th September 2009 for 24 hours.
A lovely park to run round for over 170 kilometres!
After a lovely
meal it was bedtime to rest for the next 36 hours of pain and
discomfort. On Thursday morning we awoke to bright sunshine and
a cooked breakfast. Ben and I had brought lots of food etc with
us to eat. We waited for the minibus with the Welsh team.
Unfortunately it did not arrive until 9.20am, as it got lost, so
we just made it to the opening ceremony. I had the enormous
privilege of bearing the Manx flag, with pride. Just to be there
was phenomenal – I never thought I would represent the island in
any running race, let alone the Commonwealth races. After the
brief ceremony and photos, the Welsh team took our gear to Fitz
Park, ready for the start. Every team had a table(s) for food
and water etc, in a marquee, and there was a timing chip in
addition to manual lap counters, many of whom counted for 24
precisely the 24 hour race started. I was running against 22
ladies from as far away as New Zealand, Canada and Australia. I
knew the race would be tougher than Hull as everyone in this
race was elite. I did not want to finish last though! I was
happy to get started, knowing that on Friday afternoon I would
sleep and then watch the mountain running.
The first five
hours were a struggle. Everything hurt and I was lapping nobody.
Infact all but 2 competitors were lapping me. I got very
disillusioned and thought I would be last. After 5 hours I was
sick. I had no idea why I was – very embarrassing to be sick in
front of children in a playground – but then I picked up and
began to fly. Ben was already flying and looking very good. The
Welsh team had one runner, who finished 3rd overall,
and a couple of supporters including a coach. Our IOM
fellrunners helped support us until midnight but then they had
to go to bed so Ben and I were by ourselves. As it went dark by
8pm the Scottish and Welsh supporters helped Ben and I. I had a
mini fan club with other teams as well.
The night was cold
and I put on many layers. There was jacket potatoes and soup,
which I ate, from a canteen, as well as tea etc. The floodlights
lit the corners of the path but in between them it was pitch
black. I fell badly at about 3am in the dark, but fortunately
the clothing I was wearing protected me. I was very sick at
about 4am. I was living on jelly, soup and hot sweet tea. Ben
was also sick and recovered very well afterwards.
The dawn was
marvellous and it was so good to be in the light again. Our
support crew arrived at 10am, 2 hours to go. The welsh coach
prevented me from having a sitting break and was determined I
would run a PB. At 10.30am I reached 104.5 miles (168km) and it
was a PB. I eventually ran 109.5 miles and finished 16th
out of 22 ladies. I had not come last. The final few minutes I
sprinted, like Ben did to finish with 134 miles and placed 9th
out of 21 runners. It was like a carnival of running as people
cheered and clapped us all, amazed at what we had done. I had
several people shake my hand and call me a 'hero'. People loved
the way I smiled throughout and looked as if I enjoyed it. I did
enjoy it and a week later would run another one. Sharon Gaytor
from England won the ladies race with 140 miles and Martin Fryer
got a new Commonwealth Record of 156 miles. Amazing!
The recovery has
been painful and tiring. Ben and I enjoyed watching our
outstanding fellrunners in their races, knowing our race was
over. The camaraderie between the countries was really good and
I made several friends. It was a phenomenal experience and to
represent the IOM was such an honour. I look back now on my
running career and realise I have developed from a 5k funrunner
to a Commonwealth Ultradistance Athlete in 5 ½ years.