Monday morning and I’m back at my desk after an incredible week running across Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Amazingly, I feel good: my muscles don’t ache at all, but my ankles and achilles tendons are very tight and I have numerous chafe-sores in places that don’t take well to being blistered! Now I’m back home it is beginning to sink in, but things keep coming back to me slowly as I look at photos and read my notes. Each day I wrote down a report of each run and noted the stats from my Garmin, so I will gather these together here and you can read about our adventure as it unfolded last week.
August 1st – Day 1: Run 1
Edward and I stayed with Ellie and Jon last night – I had been in Nottingham all day after arriving early to do some press stuff. I was interviewed by John Holmes from BBC Radio Nottinghamshire, who will be ringing me each day just before 12 to see how it’s all going. To help us along, Ellie made a lovely big pasta dinner and we ate a ton of Indian sweets, which should possibly be a banned substance in athletics, not because they make you go faster but because they weigh you down so much you are almost going backwards.
(farewell group, taken by Ellie)
After a breakfast of magic cereal mix, we loaded up the bike and headed over to the train station where there was a little crowd of people waiting to wave us off! I hadn’t realised that the photographer from the Nottingham Evening Post would be there, so had to spend some time being snapped, which delayed our start by half an hour (sorry to the people who had to wait around while I jumped off steps and looked pensively into the distance).
The first part of the run was beautiful: the sun was shining and we avoided the busy main road by running along the path towards the water sports centre; I felt a sense of relief and also disbelief that we were actually off on the start of our epic journey. We hit a locked gate quite early on and had to unload the bike and lift it over. Here, we met some refuse collectors who asked us what we were doing, and as our journey progressed they passed us about five times, giving a friendly beep as they went! I started to feel a bit tired, so we stopped in Bingham briefly to buy some lunch and Vaseline Lip Balm, which has been rubbed on my bum to hopefully ease the chafing that has started already.
Just as we passed HMP Whatton, we got caught in our first downpour, but kept going as we were so close to our first stopping point. After 12 and a half miles, we sat down in the village of Whatton and ate a lunch of pork pie, salted nuts and a tuna salad sandwich. I haven’t really had enough water, so feel a bit thirsty. As I write, we are taking shelter from the rain at a bus stop. There is no bench, so I am on the ground and Edward is concerned about my lips, which have turned blue.
Here are the stats for the first leg of my BIG run. Throughout the run, I will leave the GPS switched on, so things like average pace/best pace will be a bit out due to lifting bikes over gates and stopping to take photos. It’s not a race anyway.
Time: 2 hours 36 minutes 40 seconds
Distance: 12.62 miles
Average Pace: 12.25
Best Pace: 6.24
Day 1: Run 2
This afternoon was an exercise/lesson in how not to do things for the rest of the week. So, we were in our bus shelter, me lying on the ground with my feet up against the wall, and decided to take the opportunity to continue as soon as there was a break in the rain. Off I went, and soon discovered that I hadn’t left long enough for my food to digest and ended up with an agonising stitch. Concerned about how cold I looked, Edward went into a pub and got us a pot of tea – this really did the trick but sloshed around a lot when we got going again. I have decided not to have tuna and cucumber again because it kept revisiting me, makng me want to vomit.
This section of the run was only 8 miles, but I really struggled because of the cramp in my stomach and even had to walk for a bit. Edward discovered at this point that he shouldn’t tell me how much further we have to go; it doesn’t help, neither does saying ‘You should get some little wheels on your feet because the wind really carries you along!’. We eventually got to our destination for the night, but there was nobody around to check us in. I did find someone after a while and we pitched our tent in the wind, quite a challenge! As Edward got the stove going for a cup of tea, I had a lovely hot shower. I could see my blue lips in the mirror and decided to stay put until they became pink again.
Throughout the last few miles of this afternoon’s run, all I could think about was a pint of coke with ice (I never drink coke), so that’s what I’m going to have when we go into the pub in a bit to meet Stephen, Tom and Charlie for dinner.
Time: 1 hour 46 minutes 28 seconds
Distance: 7.97 miles
Average Pace: 13.22
Best Pace: 5.41
(I ended up having three pints of coke with ice)
August 2nd – Day 2: Run 1
We had a lovely evening keeping warm in the Rutland Arms and being distracted by Stephen, Tom and Charlie, and the big pie I had made me feel much better so I slept like a log. We got up early (7am) to have our porridge and tea and to pack up our home while breakfast settled, attempting to stop the tent from blowing away before we had got it in the bag. The first part of this morning’s run was along the canal, so very scenic and quiet – it doesn’t seem as if the canal is used very much, other than by the ducks.
As we hit Grantham, things got a lot busier and we had to negotiate the traffic for a while, before deciding to take a detour through the grounds of Belton House, which was beautiful. We ran up the long driveway, getting closer to the house and I must have been distracted by the sheep because I took a tumble, turning my ankle hard. Edward was filming me at the time, so it’s all caught on camera! I rubbed and turned my foot and quickly got up to carry on running, hoping that it wouldn’t swell up.
We reached our planned lunchtime stop of Honnington in good time and are currently taking shelter in the porch of St Wilfrids, surrounded by crumbling gravestones and beautiful hens, clucking around. Today’s lunch is a cheese and pickle sandwich, pork pie, nuts and bananas. Edward is just setting up the stove to make some tea; he’s a superstar. I’ve just been on the phone to BBC Nottingham, live on air, and the Grantham paper should be turning up in a bit to do an interview and take some photos: my lunch breaks have become media slots.
Time: 2 hours 44 minutes 18 seconds
Distance: 12.72 miles
Average Pace: 12.55
Best Pace: 7.45
Day 2: Run 2
I am in the Nag’s Head in Heckington, having a pint of coke and ice. Oh, I really need it – it’s been a long hard day. After the interview and cup of tea in Honnington, we set off after a proper break. Heading towards Sleaford, we went along some lovely roads: it was quiet enough for me to run in the middle and for Edward to film – he is becoming adept at riding one-handed whilst capturing all the action! We have been amazed by the number of helicopters and jets that have been flying over us, but I guess it’s not such a surprise when you consider how flat Lincolnshire is. One fighter jet was so low and loud that it made me scream!
This has been our longest day, the furthest I have ever run (30 miles) and it was made harder by the torrential rain that made us shelter under a tree. This was so demoralising that even Edward had a little moan…and he never moans. I took the opportunity to speak to Runner’s World Magazine while I tried to keep warm and waited for the rain to ease – I am going to be in next month’s issue, which is quite exciting. We realised that the rain wasn’t going to stop and, as we had a date to keep, we just went for it. We sheltered briefly again and reached Sleaford train station like drowned rats, all bedraggled and forlorn.
We headed up to the local sports centre with Chris and I met Paul from the Sleaford Striders, who was going to accompany us for the last few miles of the day. At the sports centre, the kids from the summer sports club had made banners to encourage me, we had our photo taken by the local paper and were interviewed by BBC Radio Lincolnshire. The kids were great and it made me feel really special. The whole press thing is a bit strange: I’m constantly posing for a camera or talking to people on the radio, a whirlwind of support and encouragement.
So, off we went on the last leg of our long day. Paul helped us negotiate the A17, which was pretty hairy. We were at the edge of this busy road, focussing hard on the white line, and were sucked into the traffic every so often by huge lorries which sprayed us with rain…it was strangely exhilarating! It definitely helped to have some additional company on these last few miles, someone to chat to and to keep me going, but I was glad to reach Heckington and the prospect of a hot shower.
We were met by Chris, who was giving Paul a lift back, and he had very kindly charged my phone up, because I had left my charger at home. It had been arranged for us to camp at the playing field of the local sports club, and we were met there to take receipt of the keys. As we looked around, we realised we would have to pitch our tent quite far away from the club, to avoid being harrassed by kids, but the field was so wet, this seemed a bleak prospect. We had a shower and got changed and decided to come out for food first; it might be that we end up on the changing room floor.
Time: 3 hours 14 minutes 39 seconds
Distance: 16.75 miles
Average Pace: 11.37
Best Pace: 6.06
August 3rd – Day 3: Runs 1 and 2
Wow! Only one more day to go, I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone! Unfortunately, we had a crap night’s sleep. When we got back from the pub (where we had the most delicious steak pie EVER), there were kids hanging about and cars parked up, so we just felt too vulnerable to stay outside and ended up getting our sleeping bags out on the floor – oh, how we wished we had taken up Chris’s kind offer of a bed for the night, and another offer at the Nag’s Head! It’s strange how you feel safe in a tent, with just a piece of flimsy fabric between you and the world, but both of us felt nervous sleeping in the sports club! It was very windy and rainy so there were lots of strange noises and a urinal that ‘flushed’ itself every so often – and acted as a reminder of where we were kipping, mmmm. What with all that and the cold concrete floor, we were pretty grumpy and stiff when we got up.
Today I didn’t manage to write up my morning run because my lunch break was chock-a-block with media attention. First of all I had my daily chat with BBC Radio, then we went over to the Princess Royal Sports Centre just outside Boston, where the Lincolnshire Echo spoke to me on the phone, a reporter from the Boston newspaper interviewed me and I did a radio chat with the Blackfriars Arts Centre. I met some more children, who did a question and answer session and we went out onto the fantastic running track for some photos. One little boy asked for my autograph – very sweet!
It had been an eventful morning. The weather was chilly and very overcast when we set off, but at least the rain stayed away. We had an arduous stretch along the A17 again, but were uplifted by some beeps and waves from drivers, who must have heard about the project. We quickly veered off to run alongside the north drain (a kind of river that acts as a drain for the fens) and were parallel to the railway track, with a perfect view of the trains. This section was real cross country running, with uneven paths and lots of cow-pats to leap over. We had to lift the bike, complete with panniers, over a few locked gates and met a group of very pretty cows, who were crowded around the area we needed to pass through. Edward was flummoxed by this (city boy) but I knew that, if I asked nicely, they would move over, which they did.
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes 10 seconds
Distance: 9.62 miles
Average Pace: 14.03
Best Pace: 8.37
Day 3: Run 2
I found this afternoon quite hard: everything aches after yesterday’s 30 miles, and with the lack of sleep and the serious blisters on my bum and chest, it was real grit-your-teeth time. After going through Boston and picking up some food for our dinner, we headed towards our camp for the night. This involved going along the longest, straightest roads I have ever seen. These are amazing and you can see for miles into the distance, but it’s gruelling when you just want to get there. I could see the farmhouse ahead, but it just didn’t seem to get any closer. I walked for a little bit because I was feeling so sad, but picked it up again when I felt it was within my reach.
Right now, I am sitting in the tent on Ivy House Farm, after a dinner of pasta and salad – Edward is a dab hand with the stove now. We are surrounded by lovely little creatures: ducks and ducklings, geese, rabbits, goats and the cheekiest kitten ever that just won’t leave Edward alone.
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes 10 seconds
Distance: 10 miles
Average Pace: 13.32
Best Pace: 7.27
August 4th – Day 4: Run 1 -The Last Day!
I am sitting in the Bateman’s Brewery in Wainfleet right now…imagine that: I have been offered the hospitality of a brewery and I can’t take them up on the offer! I will be having a ploughman’s lunch and some water, but Edward is at the bar now, making his selection – he’s earned it!
It was hard getting going this morning. I fell straight to sleep last night, but was woken by some people in a caravan shouting at each other. I slept intermittently, everything aching as I turned over, and was woken by a cock crowing in my ear! It was difficult to get up, Edward took ages to wake and things were a bit slower than usual. Everything felt so stiff at first: my achilles is really tight and the blisters are agony, a bit worrying really. After about an hour, I settled into it as we went along lovely quiet roads, not many cars – or people – around. We decided to go straight to Wainfleet this morning, so that the longest part of the day is done early…and to enjoy the hospitality! We did stop briefly in Friskney to have an orange and to chat to the BBC, then a few more quiet roads and here we are. We will rest a while longer (Edward is snoozing after his beer!) and set off on the very last stage of our journey, just a matter of miles before we reach Skegness!!
Time: 2 hours 45 minutes 49 seconds
Distance: 12.49 miles
Average Pace: 13.16
Best Pace: 9.00
Day 4: Run 2 – the end is in sight!
After a few photos with Jaclyn Bateman, we set off towards Skegness for the last time. We decided to avoid the busy main road and go along the winding country roads but, for the first time all week, Edward took us on an unnecessary detour that added a bit to the journey. He didn’t let on, but I felt it. In a way, I didn’t mind: I was beginning to feel elated as we approached our final stop. Then came our next detour.
We saw a path on the map that we knew might be small and overgrown, but we hadn’t counted on it being a private road. The sign said it was an active airfield and we couldn’t go through, but there was NO WAY I was turning back. After looking at each other and the red sign for a moment, I pulled the chain to the side and said ‘Let’s go for it’. The ‘airfield’ was literally an edge to a corn field and we certainly didn’t see any action…it felt so good to have been bold because it got us to exactly where we wanted to be.
Along this ‘forbidden path’ we glimpsed the big wheel of Skegness and I think I probably smiled from this point on. As we neared Skeggy we passed some quite grand houses and a golf course and it all started to feel sea-sidey. Jackie phoned at this point and I chatted as I ran; it was nice to have some extra encouragement. Closer and closer, through an estate which felt odd after winding our path through country roads, and then suddenly we were there! Edward said: ‘This is the last road; the station is at the end!’ BIG grin on my face! We approached the station and I turned in through the Butlins crowds. The time was a few minutes before 5 – we were early!!
This all felt a bit strange really: I had done it, 91 miles! Edward took my photo with the jolly fisherman and Ellie appeared to greet us. Stiff and tired and happy, we worked out that our last campsite was way out of town and a bit of a trek…so we booked into a B&B! Luxury!! After getting changed and dropping off our stuff, we headed in search of fish and chips, with a celebratory beer en route. How delicious and satisfying those chips tasted, a reward for those many miles spent heading towards the coast.
Time: 1 hour 55 minutes 26 seconds
Distance: 8.62 miles
Average Pace: 13.24
Best Pace: 7.30
Amongst this report, you will see some of the photos taken on the journey. I took hundreds of photos – one every five minutes of the run – over the four days, and these will form part of my work for the exhibition ‘no place, like home’ in September. See the Beacon Art Project website to find out all the details.
I would like to thank everyone for all their support, encouragement and interest over the four days: everybody we met was simply fantastic. Special thanks to people who put us up, the farewell folks in Nottingham, all the encouraging texts and the amazing support along the way. A huge support throughout the week was Chris Watson from the Community Rail Partnership, he was so enthusiastic about the whole project and generated lots of interest in the villages we passed through…and even charged my phone up for me – thanks Chris!
BIG extra special thanks go to Edward, of course. What an amazing fella!