5 marathons in 5 days .. 132 miles of waddling from Ilfracombe to Bulford in 5 days with the most incredible, selfless, inspiring bunch of people.
This chunky munky overweight, underfit, working Mother of 2 of gorgeous children, can finally lay claim to being an endurance athlete of mind,body and soul.
Only 10% of nearly 300 participants over 3 years have completed all 5 stages, (132.5miles) of the "Forces March", I am VERY proud to now be a member of the very small group.
I was also awarded the Sarah Byrant Trophy for most outstanding female, presented by General Pascoe, the President of The Veterans Charity.
I held it together and didn't cry at this point but my goodness did the flood gates open when it sank in what I had achieved over the last 5 days, and indeed over the last two years. It is a very humbling experience to have received this award when everyone has been truly tested and as equally outstanding, if not more! Rita, aged 62, ran every day, and not once did she visit the physio, or grumble.. even when there was no vegetarian option on the first night! Alice with her latticed work K-tape that kept her bound to run another day despite such bruising and pain. Debbie who had her hip displaced from the constant running on cambers. Brenda, from USA, learned the art of Tabbing with Graham Povey, a baptisim of fire! Kaja who every day just got in there to do her run thing on just rice-refueling initially! She had some tough battles to overcome through positive focus and mindset. This account can go on for every individual. Everyone should have their hand on that award.
The first 2 days I had many hours on my own marching through lanes with fast moving vehicles who paid little regard to pedestarians. I did a lot of hedge diving, and trying to not get caught too much in the right hand cambers!
My focus was to pick on a target ahead, pick up speed, over take. The team from RAF Odiham, nicknamed "My Boys" were always ahead. I could only over take when they took a rest stop with their support crew. I would then waddle through as quickly as possible to make it harder for them to catch up. Most of the time, they did. Just. The last 4 days I beat them back. In my mind, that was a huge powerful motivating factor and kept me powered. Yes, they were carrying 20kgs in their bergens and wearing those goddam awful military boots whilst I skipped through with my dinky Nathan Hydration pack with just 2 kilos of water and my duck gold bling asics! On the last 2 days I was able to overtake on the waddle... and they just couldn't up a gear to take over.
I should like to give them a special hip-hip-hooray for selflessly always looking out and caring for me by offering water, electrolytes, snicker bars, pieces of chicken.. anything to make sure I wasn't underfueled or dehydrated. It wasn't just about them, their team, but about everyone finishing safely. This was one big team effort with lots of cogs supporting the Forces march.
This photo is taken at the end when they presented me with a Golden Egg! How on earth did they source that months after Easter?!
Firstly, I must thank Danny for finally plucking up the courage to allow me to wear my ducksuit. I think he though I was a gimmick initially, but hopefully I have proved my weight in gold that not only can some one physically and mentally take on this endurance event as a serious challenge up there with Everest Ascents, round the world solo sailing, Marathon Des Sable (oh, wait, we just done that from Ilfracombe to Bulford!), but you could also have some fun in fancy dress.
I wear the suit as part of my other charity work and challenges. The focus was always on The Veterans Charity this week and I attracted a lot of attention to be able to verbally express my dedication and admiration for this charity. The suit became my albatross almost as I said I would wear it every day. I had not imagined that after unseasonally wintry conditions the previous week, the thermometer would jump up a few thousand centrigrades and be so relentlessly hot! I did promise to not wear it if I felt my health was at risk. But I over came the heat and discomfort and just carried on regardless.
In fact, I was getting a little cheeky with my replies when asked "Aren't you hot in that?"! Erm ,yes..ducking hot!!! So I would humour people and say "It's OK, I have aircon"! Oh the looks on peoples faces! Especially those that believed and asked how was it powered? "Solar energy and kinetic energy from heel strikes with every step", was my answer. If there had been any more techncal questions I would have crumbled!!!
Day 1, mile 5, I had an encounter with a Jack Russell that took exception to a 6ft Duck invading his "space". I had seen him on a leash in his garden, held by his flag-waving owner. I gave the gateway a wide berth, but it's "Little man syndrome" still gave it the courage to lunge at me, and there was enough length on that lead, to make sure he nipped me in the ankle!
I was checked over by our marvelous St John's ambulance crew, a mile away when I realised I really could feel some "pain". There were 2 little slash marks where I think the JRT claws must have scratched down the sock and into the trainer. In just the wrong place to be rubbed raw! The JRT must have had a mouthful of feathers, so I got off quite lightly!
Day 2 I had an encounter with a dairy herd and an alpacca! The Alpacca had spotted me waddling along a road, and it was up on a hill. It must have got whip lash the way it's head came up suddenly from grazing, then strained forward to check me out. A split second later it came galloping down it's field, scooby-doo stopped at the 5ft hedge and spat at me. Quite a feat as it missed me by a foot and I was at least 20 feet away!
The dairy herd were being held back in their field by a piece of string. I was coming down a lane ready to turn left into another lane, where a Farmer was sitting in a tractor, on the corner. A member of the Navy was just in front and said to the farmer "Oh let me through, and there is a Duck behind"!
Not sure what thought processes were going in either of their heads but the farmer turned around, saw me, winked .. and just as I rounded him and the corner, and was adjacent some string and cows, the Farmer dropped the string. I was then in the middle of the Milk Run. 12 cows heavy with milk, bolting across the narrow lane from their field to the milking shed opposite. I stood still, not bothered by this little tease until I questioned why was I getting wet? I was being covered by milk spilling from heavy swaying udders! Oh, and a little something extra brown!
I had 2 miles to go and I was due to meet with the locals at Crowborough Station, although I missed the last steam train leaving. I was a tad smelly with the milk quickly going off on me!
The photo above is me coming in to the station, and I do hope Rob wasn't laughing at the Hum!
I did rinse the suit off when I got back to camp! I had left the suit to dry over night in the barn and hoped I wouldn't wake up to see it up a flag pole or worse! I actually woke up to hear the support crew quacking, and they were chatting to it as if I had lost weight and humouring me! Erm boys..when have I ever been that quiet or not replied? I am actually also quite surprised nothing worse ever happened to the Duck, or the Ducksuit...especially in the middle of the night!
Another incident involved a talking hedge. Long story cut short, I was singing. I didn't dare put my ipod on as I needed to keep an ear out for the traffic from front and back! So I amused myself by singing and making up songs. This Hedge added in some extra lines as I sang the Yodelling song from the Sound of Music! The voice belonged to an invisible some one at the allotment!
I also made a pig jump out of it's skin when I "quacked" and it looked up.
I had my bluff called by Danny on day 4 when I was at the front of the queue to head out from the leisure park. I jovially said did he want to give everyone (the runners all queued up) a head start on me, and let them go first?
Danny said, "Let's give the Duck a count down to get away first, and ahead of you all..."!
After 5, I ran up the village. I was surprised I was ahead for so long. Did he give me a half hour head start? The poor horse trotting down the street towards me really didn't know what to make of the yellow spectacle moving quickly towards him! So he skidded sideways to a stop and reared! Luckily his owner stayed seated, laughed and thanked me for sidling past quietly!
I thought cooling thoughts whilst I became a boil-in-the-bag Duck in such heat.
In my head I constantly thanked Adam, Chris, Lauren and all the Physios for their strapping of my blisters so I could march another day.
I sang songs to keep up my morale - 6 RAF Squaddies marching on the road..and if 1 RAF squaddie should accidentally fall... (yes only 2 made the last day ;0) )
5 days of being looked after by the most excellent support crew, and in particular, Sarah, Ross, Porky, Danny (RAF) and the Navy Driver.
5 days in the company of initially strangers, but now people I would happily call my extended family, I feel quite priveleged to have been a part of this character building, awe inspiring endurance challenge. I had some great chats with Paul, Pete, Graham and Andy, who I did spend a deal of time walking with, at different times. But I don't want to single out any one person who really made this all so much more "do-able". Although Ross gets a special mention for making a poached egg without a ladle, just 2 wooden teaspoons! Plus Dan, who upon hearing about my hallucinations of Chucky The Clown bringing me a box of maltesers whilst camped in Cow Pat Field, went out and bought me a bag. Heroes!
2 years ago I signed up to do something quite fantastic to prove my doubting Thomases wrong. I was hoping to do the North Pole Race. The £25,000 entrance fee crushed that dream. I have no inclination to ever need to chase that dream, or regret I couldn't do it, as I did something far more challenging. I did the Forces March. Will I do it again? Oh yes, because still my husband has not voluntarily said he's proud of me. He acknowledges the endeavour but just the words have not been uttered. Perhaps he will learn to say it to stop me signing up for a third ;0)
I know my kids, Mother, sisters, friends and work colleagues are proud of me. But equally important, I have finally learned to recognise my achievement and be proud of myself.