As some of you may be aware I recently completed London to Brighton 100km challenge. About 2200 people were participating in this challenge. 500 of them were running/jogging it. Some were doing it over 2 days, but I – like many others – was doing it in one go. 100km walk/hike from London to Brighton.
It began on May 27, at 7 am, in Richmond Deer Park. I’d stayed over at my friend’s place close to Richmond since I live at the opposite end of the city. Slept badly the night before, and realized after talking to my teammates that I wasn’t the only one. Perhaps it’s the pre-challenge nerves. Even though I wasn’t really nervous. But the good night’s rest was not to be had. Still, I arrived bright and early at 6ish.
It was exciting. When you are surrounded by an event atmosphere, flags and banners, other participants, and the sheer energy of such a challenge, you get excited. Adrenaline starts pumping in. I was in high spirits. I was ready.
Why I Picked Action Challenge
I am a research person. So as soon I decided, in 2016, that I was going to do a 100km walk next year, I started researching it. Action Challenge was by far the best company. I wanted it organised, safe, and as convenient as possible. I paid good money to do this, and it was worth every penny.
The Naysayers: it is madness! Don’t do it.
As close as the week before the challenge, the naysayers were still going on about how I shouldn’t do this. The naysayers included everyone from strangers and casual acquaintances to close family. People said things like:
- It’s crazy. Don’t do it.
- You will injure yourself.
- You haven’t trained your body from a young age. You can’t do this at your age. (I’m 34 BTW. Not exactly in my dotage)
- You don’t need to be thin. You aren’t a super model. (This from presumption that I was doing this to lose weight)
There were several variations of this. They went on for months. I was always mindful of safety. I had no desire to do something stupid, or cause permanent damage. However, I also knew – having done proper research – that every year, thousands of people of all ages, including people much much older than me – do this and equivalent challenge. So if they can do it, why can’t I? I told the naysayers who were close to me (i.e. family) that don’t worry if it’s too much, I can just quit. Of course, I had no intention of quitting.
My intention, when I signed up in 2016 had been to train months in advance. That plan went awry when I got a shin split from running and had to rest. So I didn’t actually start training properly until March 2017. Two months of training. That’s not a lot. But then I tried to put in as much walking as possible. Weekends, I devoted to hikes as much as possible with the rest of the life still going on. As April drew, my aim was to do longer and longer hikes.
However, the longest I managed was 21 miles. Not even half of the challenge length. But I was reasonably fit, having done regular exercise up until December 2016 when I got the shin splint. And walking daily, even if it wasn’t long distance, had also made sure that I wasn’t unfit.
So on a beautiful, sunny morning, we started off. My teammates and I – the Ninja Walkers – were in good spirits. At 7 am it already felt warm, and we were hoping it wouldn’t be too hot. While we were still in Richmond, it rained and cooled the air. The first half of the challenge was beautiful and enjoyable. Daylight made it possible to enjoy our surroundings.
We arrived at the 50km mark, at exactly 7 pm. Precisely 12 hours after we started.
Then began the harder part of the journey. As the night fell, there were no beautiful surrounding to distract us. The weather got cooler. My feet were tired. But I focused on getting from one rest point to another. That was it. Just another stop to get to. I had never realised until that night how long a kilometre can feel.
At 67km one of my teammates had to drop out due to horrible blisters. She’d done amazingly well, continuing despite multiple blisters on both feet. But it just got too much. So the three of us carried on.
The night walk was paced by a marshal to ensure safety. We had to walk through the woods, with only head torch providing light, and glow-sticks placed at regular intervals. For a city girl, it was a bit scary. The first part of the night walk, ending at 67km, finished faster than I’d expected because of the relatively fast pace of the marshal.
The second part was harder. I was feeling fatigued. At one point, I even took a wrong turn and had gone only about 10 feet when I was saved by someone spotting me, and my teammate (who was equally fatigued) then hearing that person, called my name. That would have been a disaster, resulting in either in me having to call for rescue after getting lost in the woods, or walking extra and eventually finding my way back.
At 80km, another teammate had to drop out due to feeling really ill.
So for the last 20km, it was just the two of us. My remaining teammate had developed a blister on the bottom of his foot, and I had intense pain in my left foot, which I later realised was from a bruised bone. We hobbled along. Not necessarily together, but not far apart. One of the things we realised is that when you are that tired, you just have to walk at your pace. Trying to keep the same pace as another person, whether faster or slower, is much harder and more tiring.
So both of us plodded along, usually only a few minutes apart.
I was in the lead getting to the end. As I passed kilometre signs, I wanted to stop the pain, to get there, but I was also always happy to be there. I had never imagined, until I started my fitness journey, that I would be able to do anything like this. It was exhilarating even while it was painful.
Then I saw Brighton racecourse from the distance. Flags lined up to welcome the finishers. I moved, at times speeding up. Then eventually, I was there. Crossing the finish line. Lovely supporters cheered me on as I crossed the finish line. Someone draped a medal around my neck, another person handed me a glass of champagne, and someone else gave me a t-shirt.
I’d done it. I had completed 100km London to Brighton. And the foremost thought on my mind was: next year, I am going to do another 100km.
I spent the next week hobbling, because of the bruised bone on my left foot. But the feeling of achievement, of knowing I’d pushed my physical and mental limits is there to stay. And that makes me wonder, what else can I do that I never thought possible?
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY
How would you like to challenge yourself? Is there something that you’ve wished you can do, but don’t believe you can? Grab your journal, and figure out what’s stopping you. Perhaps it’s not as impossible as you think.