• Barry Gerhold

The Battle

Updated: Jul 15, 2019

Over the weekend of 6th-7th July 2019 I took part in the 1066 100 mile run - This event was set up by Beyond Marathon & Cockbain Events.

Following the footsteps of history, we would retrace the steps of King Harold’s men in the most famous march to battle in English history; the Battle of Hastings.

Back in 1066 Harold completed this in 3 days.  We only had 32 hours, Harold lost that battle.  I shall do everything to be victorious.

The course also measured 104 miles (Although GPS data would indicate more).

At the start line a group of us had a photo together.  Most of us had met through SVN or Phoenix events.  It was all very laid back at this point.  Chatting laughing, hugging and all that malarkey.  Over the next day or so everyone would each experience their own epic journey to Battle.

Group photo prior to the race

Chapter 1: London

35 miles between Barnes London and Dartford

We started at 9am and slowly made our way onto the Thames path, Eastbound towards Dartford.  The first portion of this event was what I anticipated to be the easy part, 35 miles of mostly flat and simple terrain.  This section would be that which would affect the rest of my day and make this tougher than I could have ever expected. 

Although the temperature had dropped a touch from the previous weekend, it was still hot and we were faced with high humidity and this made things tough.  In the early stages I was eating well, the plan being to eat 200 calories every 30mins.  Walking a short way whilst I ate.

We had the choice of running whichever side of the river we chose.  On the official route there were numerous bridge crossings; Chelsea Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge. 

This was to avoid the crowds around The London Eye and Houses of Parliament. 

I had previously decided to follow the official route, but not to cross at Westminster Bridge and instead head through the crowds.  This would take the inside curve of the river and also avoid a few diversions along the north side of the river. 

Although I hate crowds, I thought this would provide me with an advantage.

This seemed to work perfectly.  

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

I crossed back over at London Bridge and continued making my way to the Isle of Dogs where the first checkpoint was located. 

A quick top of up of drinks and I was underway again, passing under the Thames through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. 

On the opposite side I was greeted by Claire’s wonderful friends Tone and Vicky.  It was so lovely to see them both.  They provided some encouragement and I continued my journey. 

Soon after I was caught by Jon Drake.  I was so sure he was ahead of me, turns out he was.  Just took a slight detour.  We decided to stick together, but I was feeling done in already.  Nausea now starting to hit and walking sections were becoming extended.  My first crew point was at mile 24.5 where my mum and Ken were on hand to provide some water and food and some much needed encouragement.  I fought the urge to throw up (my mum don’t want to be seeing that) and we continued.

Cooling Jon down

It wasn’t long before James Bennett had caught us up.  He appeared to be as lively as ever and it was nice to have a little team together.  There were times when there wasn’t much talking.  We were all feeling the struggles, but the company was certainly appreciated. 

Passing an off licence I had a sudden urge for an ice cream.  A calippo was the choice that was made and I handed over the cash to the guy behind the till.  I didn’t want the loose change jingling around in my pockets so told the shop keeper to give it to the kid behind me in the queue.  It was only 70p but that was enough to put a smile on his chubby little face.  The kid now had a bit of a conundrum.  He had spent a short while working out exactly what sweets he could buy with the change that he had.  Now I’ve gone and messed that all up.

Heading through Dartford was Shit! Little twats everywhere and we ran past a dirt bike track with engines revving continuously.  Fair enough this site was created for that, but their revving was excessive and seemed intentional as we passed them. Also riding up on the footpaths that runners were on. The section did my brain in, but it was great to get this first third of the route out of the way.

Chapter 2: Onwards to Maidstone, The ups and downs really do begin.

The temperature was now starting to drop a touch, but the humidity remained, noticeable in the woodland sections which seem to retain the heat.

We were also now faced with hills and trails.  I had seen photographs over recent weeks of the race organisers working hard, spending a lot of time getting out on course with a strimmer cutting back the worst of the overgrown trails.  This gave me the perception that these trails would be in good runnable condition.  Oh, how very wrong was I? 

Yes, along sections such as North Downs way which has a high footfall.  Those were pleasant, but other paths which are rarely used, well. You could barely tell a path was there at all, apart from a fingerpost and a gpx file telling you otherwise.  To make things worse these trails had shoulder high brambles and stinging nettles. 

As this section progressed I felt my appetite building slowly which was a comfort.  Hopefully now I could get some necessary calories on board and start moving more efficiently again.  I arrived at my 2nd crew point at mile 42 to be greeted once more by my mum and Ken.  I sorted out my supplies and they ensured that Jon and James’s drinks were topped up too.  I stuffed some food in my mouth and set off again.  Within 2 minutes my body had decided to eject everything I had just eaten and deposited this in a bush.  So zero calories in my belly and a load of sick up my nose.  No point sobbing about it, so onward I went.

Heading through Cobham I made a suggestion to Jon and James that we sit down at the beer garden in the Ship Inn, they were both fully on board.  We got a quick  drink down our necks and headed off refreshed.  Now heading up to the Mausoleum that we know well from the SVN events.  

As we got close to the halfway point (Checkpoint 3) at Rochester Castle I gradually started feeling awful.  No surprise really after throwing up.  I managed to retrieve a head torch, attach a battery pack to my watch and force some grapes down.  Then I sat down in a chair for a few minutes taking some deep breaths.  I’m only halfway through this event and I feel like this now.  What’s to come?

I came to the conclusion that although I had not eaten enough, I still believed my core temperature was too high, so I crouched down and gradually poured half a litre of refreshing water over my head.  This seemed to work wonders.  I refilled that bottle and headed straight out and onward to Maidstone.

The next few miles were relatively uneventful.  Jon’ s mate turned up to crew and I managed to get  two Calippo’s down and a minor navigational error meant we walked around an industrial estate rather than through some woods, but that was the only real navigational error of the day.  I would soon make it to mile 61 where my mum and Ken would be and this time Claire surprised me with her presence.  She was not supposed to be helping out till later as she needed rest herself after running a tough 50k earlier in the day and driving a couple hundred miles too.  It was so lovely to see her.  Whilst here I told James and Jon to go without me as I knew I’d be some time.  My body was hurting and knew that it wouldn’t be the end of the world having a quick break.

I now headed along the river Medway through the centre of Maidstone.  The nightlife could be heard all around.  The sound of music and drunks, I didn’t want to be anywhere near it.  I had a sudden urge for a McDonalds though, so popped into one and sat down for about 5 minutes.  I only manged about 8 chips which were a struggle to swallow, so washed this down with a delicious coke. 

Not a lot but more than I’d managed for hours.  Back underway I went.

Within two miles I was greeted by the most amazing sight in the world.  The Paul Commons aid station.  He was part of a high class team consisting of Karen Grieves, Rachel Smith, Lorraine and a couple of others.  The food options they had available was impressive.  My eyes quickly directed to the fruit and I was provided a zip lock bag full of pineapple, watermelon and grapes.  I nibbled on this for the next hour or so and it worked wonders.

As much as I would have loved to hang around, I had places to be so headed off once more.

Somehow, shortly after this I managed to catch back up to Jon and James.  We stuck together up until the next Checkpoint at mile 69.  Everyone was now starting to slow and feel the fatigue.  When trying to climb over one stile my right quad and right hamstring decided to cramp up at the same time.  Not very convenient as this left me stranded there for a few seconds whilst some other poor chap was waiting to pass.

Fortunately this was the last time cramping would cause an issue during the event  and we made it into Checkpoint 4 (mile 69)

Chapter 3: Alone in the rain.

There wasn’t much for me to do at this checkpoint.  Someone filled up my water bottles and Claire topped up my fruit bag and filled my flask with a sugary tea and I was ready to move on.  Jon looked quite comfy in a chair and James had just been served a tasty looking pasty.  They could see my eagerness to get going so told me to go ahead without them. 

Once out on the road I still had the ability to run, which was a nice surprise.  I didn’t know how long this would last, so thought I’d make the most of it.  The rain had also recently started to come down.  This was actually quite pleasant so did not see this as much of a negative.  I was still walking the hills though.  The problem at that time of night, which was close to midnight is that it’s not always obvious if you’re running uphill or not.  The legs tell you they are as they’re bloody knackered, but your eyes tell you otherwise as you can only see 20metres or so up the road.  So I just went with it and ran anyway. 

Every now and again I would see a head torch up ahead.  I used this to my advantage.  I could turn mine off and use theirs as a rough guide of where the road goes.  My eyes seem to adjust quite well to the dark and was able to navigate on the road sections well.  Except when I spent too long looking down at the tracker on my phone and found myself nearly falling into a hedgerow, but apart from that great!

I quickly passed a chap within a mile of this checkpoint; he seemed to be in a world of pain and was grinding it out.  It would be a few miles before I’d come up to see another runner. 

The guy that I would eventually catch was an awesome runner.  Whenever we came across road sections he would run the ups and the downs and he looked so very comfortable.  I was able to gain an advantage on the walking sections. 

Walking through those overgrown trails, farmers fields consisting of knee length soaking wet grass and the uphill trail sections.  So even though he may go up the road way ahead of me at times, sometimes out of sight, we seemed evenly matched. 

That’s up until I caught him back up going through a field.  The track was very narrow and he was reluctant to give up the rare bit of dry ground that he was running along.  The only way to pass him would be to traipse through long wet grass.  I asked him if I could pass by and he waved me by expecting me to go through that.  As I had little options, I did so.  I then pushed on out of sight.

Apart from a bit of back and forth with this guy and some very brief stops at aid stations.  I don’t recall much over the next ten or so miles.  It was dark, it was wet, I didn’t see another runner and I plodded along through overgrown trails scratching up my ankles.  I briefly popped into Checkpoint 5 at Sissinghurst (mile 84), not any longer than 3 minutes here and I headed into probably the worst section of the course.

This course was tough enough as it was.  I knew I was meeting Claire at mile 91 and it seemed the terrain was trying to hold me back.  Brambles would latch onto my ankles; stinging nettles were irritating my skin.  The soaking wet overgrown farmer’s fields were now uphill.  My socks soaked and feet squelching and numerous blisters on each foot.  Why do I do this?

Every time I thought about meeting Claire I turned into bit of an emotional wreck.  It was not a pretty sight.  I was certainly very drained and close to my physical boundaries.  Slowly but surely these miles ticked by and before long she was in sight.  This was just what I needed.  Claire looked quite concerned.  She’d never seen me look this way.  I attempted some food, then heaved some more.  Had many hugs and then made my way onwards with a bottle of strawberry milk in hand. 

As my drinks had just been topped up I only popped my head into Checkpoint 6 and they directed me to follow a diversion to avoid an overgrown trail? Shit, I can’t imagine what that one looked like.

So onwards to Bodium Castle.  This was only 3.5 short painful miles away.  This would be the last time I would see Claire until the finish line.  As I approached her I seemed to now be in high spirits.  I was even skipping towards her.  Honestly I was! I’m not sure what was in that strawberry milk. 

A final kiss and a hug and I was now on the final 10 miles of this journey.

I continued with the same game plan.  Walking them uphill’s.  Running whatever else I could.  It wasn’t much, but it was a touch faster than walking.  My walking pace does seem to be my advantage.  I was still maintaining 15 min/mile walking at this end of the race.  I have my mum to thank for this.  All those years as a kid, trying to keep up with her walking us up to the school gates or around Chelmsford City Centre.  I was training for Ultras back then and I didn’t even know it.

I was aware that Stephen Cousins was about half hour behind me and I wasn’t sure if he was closing me down.  Stephen is a very good runner with an amazing running CV and I was determined to stay in front of a legendary runner such as him.  So this kept me motivated until the end

So into Battle I headed.  Walking some of those final sections so that I could be sure to run across the finish line.  As I turned into The High Street, I picked up my pace. 

My mum, Claire and Ken cheering me on.  I now felt no pain and I crossed the line touch the main gate of the Battle Abbey.  What an awesome feeling.

I finished in 8th place, in a time of 25hrs 51mins covering a distance of 104 miles (although gps would have this down as closer to 107 miles) This was my first point to point 100 miler and I am very happy with that result

I would not have been able to make it through this event without the support of my crew.  

Mum and Ken were on hand many times to ensure I was hydrated and fed and that I had taken the necessary kit with me.  They also looked after the runners around me.  Thank you both

Claire you were amazing.  Turning up at mile 61 was wonderful and continuing to look after me throughout the night.  You were exhausted yourself.  You had run a tough 50km earlier in the day in Sussex and had to travel back to London before helping me out.  One of the many reasons why I love you.

The Paul Commons aid station.  This was perfect.  Thank you Paul, Karen, Rachel, Lorraine and everyone else that was there to help out.

Jon & James, thank you your company throughout.  It helped make those miles pass quickly and I enjoyed your company.  Yes there were some very tough moments, but it you guys helped make this a positive memory

And of course the race directors Richard and Mark and their team at the aid stations.  They made sure that everyone was looked after and ensured an epic race.

Now time to let those legs recover:

See my upcoming events here:  https://www.ultraboy.co.uk/upcoming

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