• Barry Gerhold

“Stop being a big girl’s blouse and man up!”

Fowlmead 50 miler.

An event by http://www.saxon-shore.com/

Perhaps I should not have run at all today...? I had been suffering with a chest infection for the week prior to the event and symptoms had not completely disappeared. I was still coughing quite a lot and my resting heart rate was a little higher than it should be. However, I had paid for the event, also for a hotel and my mum and Ken were coming all the way down from Braintree to support me. There was no way that I wasn’t going to at least attempt it.

When I was not ill, I had set some goals:

Goal A) To finish the full 50 miles

Goal B) Sub 8hr 30

Goal C) Sub 8hr

The course was a 2.03 mile lap of a cyclopark. With the track being quite wide it was extra important to take the correct racing line so as not to add too many extra metres... 50 miles is more than enough. 25 laps of this course were now standing in my way.

Even though I was ill, I still went out at a pace to achieve the sub 8hr; running a 9minute/mile. I was coughing away a fair bit on those first few laps and running alongside a friendly guy named David, who I have met a few times on previous events. Our paces seem to match and our targets were quite similar, so we stuck together. He recognised that my cough did not sound healthy, which it didn’t and before long, it became apparent that I was unable to run at this pace. I wasn’t monitoring my heart rate on my watch’s display, but just by feel, it seemed higher than it should.

It was around the 17 mile mark that I decided I needed to walk for a bit, so I did so for about 500m. I could see my mum, Natalie and Ken approaching ahead as they had decided to have a walk around the track, upon seeing them I started to run again. Natalie was quite concerned as she knew that if I had to walk so early on then something must be wrong. Pretending I was ok, which I do not think I was successful at, I continued on, reducing the pace to 9:30 m/m. This seemed to help me feel more positive, my calves started to feel better and it didn’t seem as much as a strain on the body. Passing Natalie, mum and Ken on the next two laps, I was feeling a lot better. I threw a couple walking sections in on the tougher parts so that I didn’t deplete myself of too much energy.

On lap 14, somewhere around the 27 mile mark, I started to hit ‘the wall,’ with nothing at all left to give. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball on the side of the track. Three people were walking slightly ahead of me and I didn’t want them to turn around and see this emotional wreck... it was not a good look and so I tried to snap out of it and get some run (shuffle) sections in as well as the walking. Then I saw a couple of familiar faces up ahead. It seemed that my mum and Natalie had decided to take another walk around the track. They seem to know exactly when I need them.

I do not recall what was said here, but I walked the remainder of that lap with them, headed into base camp, re-supplied and ventured out once more for lap 15. I started off walking whist I ate and drank and then tried to do a little running. I managed to run for about half a mile on that lap, but that is all I had left. I got into the aid station, saw my mum and Nat and broke down once more. I was hurting, I was weak and felt that I had let everyone down. Also, knowing that I may have to walk the remainder meant a possible 5 hours of that ahead of me... I didn’t know if I could be arsed with that. Traviss told me to walk a lap with mum and Nat and then decide what I was going to do. I told him, “I’m not quitting!” I walked that lap and it was lovely not having to think about pace, I was able to have a good chat in great company and enjoy some very nice views. Feeling so much more positive at the end of that lap, I somehow found it within me to start running again.

I managed to average 11min/mile over the next 3 laps, which would be easy on a normal day, but this wasn’t any normal day. Achieving those times after everything I had gone through felt great. The legs started to get fatigued around the 40 mile mark, but I didn’t care by this point. Although I would be reduced to many more sections of walking, I knew that I was going to make it and that is exactly what I did. I pushed the final lap so hard, trying to run as much as possible and running many more sections than the previous 20 miles. Upon seeing the finish line, I gritted my teeth and ignored the fatigue. I felt like I was flying and even managed to get a pace of sub 8 min/mile in that last half mile.

Crossing that line felt amazing! The many challenges that were thrown before me, made this feel like one of my biggest achievements to date and it has given me the confidence to know that no matter how hard things get, they can be overcome. This was a real battle of those internal demons. I didn’t expect to come out victorious, but my pure stubbornness came through.

Thank you once again to my Natalie, Mum and Ken, whose support was amazing... I am not sure if I would have made it without you. Of course, thank you to Rachel and Traviss for a fantastic event and to Traviss for your ‘encouraging’ words: “Stop being a big girl’s blouse and man up!”

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