Wednesday 13 April 2022

Silva Northern Traverse, 2 April 2022

Northern Traverse, 2-6 April 2022

Long distance race, which follows Wainright's Coast to Coast route, taking in 3 National Parks, from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay. 

Distance: 190 miles 

START (St Bees) to Rosthwaite – 47km

Rosthwaite to Patterdale – 24km

Patterdale to Shap   25km

Shap to Kirkby Stephen – 32km

Kirkby Stephen to Richmond – 55km

Richmond to Lion Inn – 69km

Lion Inn to FINISH (Robin Hood’s Bay) – 47km

Best things that I heard

If you’re tired, you’ll sleep

[marshall at Kirkby Stephen support point]


If you are ready now, I have a one man tent available for you

[marshall at Kirkby Stephen support point]


Of course I will

[a fellow runner and complete stranger at Kirkby Stephen support point, who was happy to volunteer to pop my blister when I sought advice for my blisters]


Is it like the Ironman?

Would you like some food?

Can I get you a plaster for your blister?

Yes of course you can leave your empty coffee cup here, just throw it over the gate when you pass.

[Nice lady at a cottage in the woods, just past All Saints Church, Ingleby Cross]


My biggest worries

I would struggle reading the map, when unsure of the route, having to put my new glasses on each time I needed to check the route (my eye sight has recently slightly deteriorated).  I would go wildly off route. I bought a magnifier for map reading and kept it with the map just in case. I didn’t need to use either my glasses nor the magnifier - nor the map.  


I would struggle with the GPS (I haven’t had the opportunity to practise either nav using map and compass, or using GPS technology, where I live, outside the UK).  In the event, I just about managed, following the dot on the route; I saved the route to my phone using the Outdooractive app recommended by the race organiser .


I wouldn’t get enough sleep and I would hallucinate and/or have temper tantrums and get disqualified.  I did manage to get some sleep, I had just enough sleep, maybe more than I needed.


What I did to prepare

I read all the blogs I could find eg Anne Green, Andy Cole, Karen Nash, info on the internet from Jen Scotney and John Kynaston.  Reading the blogs and interviews and watching the Youtube vids helped me visualise the route and I picked up some great tips. I made notes about route errors made by others, hoping to avoid them.  I made notes of where shops (food and drink opportunities) were.  I love a Coopportunity and I surprised myself when I walked past the Coop in Shap, I just wanted to get to the Support Point and rest my feet.  

I packed a spare pair of socks in my race pack (as recommended by Jen Scotney) and that saved my race when my 1000 Mile socks failed me by greeting me with a gaping hole in the heel, after just a few hours into the race, at Ennerdale Bridge. I changed my socks approximately half way between Support Points, and my feet appreciated this.   


I set my alarm clock for 5 am most days in the month leading up to the race, so that I was used to being woken up earlier than normal.  I got used to jumping out of bed and faffing with kit, checking my race pack was ready and going out with the full kit, even if just for 20 minutes.

I read and reread the mandatory kit lists for running pack and drop bag and checked the rules for the finish bag countless times, I made countless lists and ticked everything hundreds of times for weeks leading up to the event including the morning of the day before, the night before and morning of the race.  


What I did wrong

The forecast was for snow, ice, blizzards, hail, sub zero temperatures, a couple of days before the start.  I borrowed some microspikes from a friend, at the last minute and made an emergency visit to Millets to buy thermal leggings, although I worried I didn't have goggles. On the morning of the event, the conditions were much milder than forecast but I was so hooked onto the arctic conditions which had been forecast that I didn’t revise what I planned to wear and from the start at St Bees, until Ennerdale Bridge, I sweated under the weight of my thermal tights which I had put on under my capris, and my thick merino top which I should have saved for another day.  It may be that the merino top helped from Rosthwaite to Patterdale, as it was cooler in the night, but I could have worn a lighter layer until then.


My race pack was too heavy – it was really heavy on day 2 in particular.  I really need to work out what to carry and what to leave in my drop bag.  I tried to be ruthless and make my mantra "every gram counts" but I did carry too much, just in case. 


I carried the borrowed microspikes (approx. 600g) not only from the start to Patterdale, but also from Patterdale to Kirkby Stephen when I should have put them in my drop bag at Patterdale.


I carried a battery pack (600g) throughout the race so that I could recharge my iPhone, which I was relying on for nav.  For back up I had a Garmin 64s but that just had a breadcrumb to follow with no  map, which I found slightly difficult to follow. I should have made sure I had one method of navigating and been able to rely on it, without having to carry such a heavy battery pack.  


I had a Petzl Nao Plus head torch and I carried 2 spare batteries for this together with a Led Lenser hand torch as another back up.   I could carry just one spare battery rather than two.


I carried more food than I used, between support points and I could reduce weight by more careful planning.  When I arrived at each checkpoint I had quite a lot of nuts and chocolate remaining in my food bag in my race pack. 

I wore a 300g Rab VR Summit jacket and I also carried a OMM 300g plus additional layer (Primaloft) for emergencies, which I didn’t wear until the last day.  If I had checked the forecast before I left each support point, maybe I could have left some additional layers in my drop bag, but I worry about going over on my ankle and getting cold if I stop moving. 

My sleeping bag in my drop bag was not warm enough, I knew that I was taking a risk, with what I chose to take, but I wrongly thought if was tired I would sleep – I was cold at night and this did stop me from sleeping well.  Next time I will take a much better sleeping bag, which I do have, it was easier to leave it at home and rely on gear I had elsewhere. 

What I did right

I have only used walking poles on two races (the Lakeland 100 in 2017 and the TDS in 2018) and on some long distance trails I have done and I found the poles invaluable on those trips; they are great if you are carrying a heavyish rucksack and also save quite a few potential falls.

I used my Mountain King walking poles throughout this event and only stabbed myself once with them, which is quite an improvement on previous encounters. On tarmac I find the click clacking too much  and I tend to carry them along the road stretches.  I did see some competitors dragging them along, like ox and plough.  


I prepared an itinerary/schedule which I went through a few times, looking at the route, in the months leading up to the event.  On the event, I didn’t look at it once, I just had a small piece of card with the cut off times for each support point written in coloured Sharpies, in my map case which was all I needed to know, on the day.  In preparing the schedule I was visualising my progress along the route. I checked the race route against my A-Z book of the Coast to Coast and noted the differences; this helped me visualise the route, so that on the day, I had a vague idea of what to expect as I moved from west to east.


The route.  I loved every inch of the route, although the roads between Danby Wiske and Ingleby Cross were endured rather than enjoyed. I have done the Wainwright C2C route before (with some minor variations) in 2017 with 2 friends and we had fun.  I hoped to improve on the time we took then (5.5 days). 

The entire event itself was an amazing experience, it was a holiday from work and a break from the real world and I felt immensely privileged to have this opportunity.

The free coffees offered at the Dales Bike Centre in Fremington, near Reeth and Lordstones cafe worked wonders, it was a perk to be offered a free coffee when I was stocking up on tasty food and drink and I was pleased to make it to these cafes, just before they closed for the day.  

People: I met some ace people, some new and some old friends from previous races and I hope to meet them again.  Yakking and yoyoing with these people who were on the same journey was wonderful. 


                                            Photo credit Melissa Friesen

The food: hot and cold food was provided at the support points. I had two servings (even a third serving of the butter bean curry and chips at Richmond) and I thought the food was tasty, nutritious and healthy.  Full fat Coke at Richmond was a treat.  


All involved in the event - the other runners, the marshalls, volunteers and event staff – without exception were wonderful and made my journey supremely fabulous.  I met some lovely people and it would be amazing if real life offered so many positive connections, outside of the race bubble.


The marshalls were all very kind and supportive and could not do enough for the runners, that I saw.  I am sorry that I pulled a face when I was told there were no tents because they had blown away, or there was no power and 'try the pub', because the marshalls then immediately went on offer alternatives as they were responding to the situation beyond their control.  I did think the Enterprise hire van was going to blow over, as I tried to snatch some sleep outside the Lion Inn, I was prepared for that, although it did not in fact happen.


There were two nights when I chose the safety of watertight and safe accommodation (a tent at Kirkby Stephen and the hire van at the Lion Inn) over continuing, mainly due to the biblical weather conditions which I couldn’t face right then, at the end of a long day.  In better weather, I think I might have kept going.  I was grateful for the shelter.


I would like to thank everyone who offered me food, help, support and assistance at the support points because without fail all the support people were incredible.

I was so pleased to see my friends at the end, Nick and Liga, who came to see me finish and present me with my medal, as I didn’t think anyone would be there for me at the end and it was a real treat to be greeted by friends I haven’t seen for almost 3 years. And Nick had finished in 66 hours, 7 mins, 30 seconds (21st) which was incredible!


1st male           Kim Collison 44h 24m 30s

1st female        Lisa Watson    52h, 52m, 57s

93rd                  Sarah Smith    99h 47m 31s


104 finished

Saturday 27 November 2021

Gun 31, 21 November 2021


I started to relax when I arrived at Fermain, hearing the sound of the waves falling on the pebbled beach; silence fell as someone behind me dropped back and then, no longer hearing him behind me, I was on my own.  There were lights ahead and none behind.  The lid on my bottle had burst as I left Belvedere Field, soaking me.  I had set off cold and wet with no water but all this was forgotten when I heard the waves at Fermain.  I looked forward to the night ahead. Passing Bec du Nez, Marble Bay, then the forbidden Divette and beyond, past where I knew the medieval breakwater was, although I have never seen it.  Up the steps to Jerbourg where robed figures nodded encouragement and past the magnificent Pea Stacks, four sea stacks perfectly aligned in the dark. I couldn’t see them but I knew they were there.


Past my favourite and the finest of bays, Petit Port, then on to Moulin Huet, Bon Port and Saints Bay. 

                                           Petit Port 

I was excited to be alone in the dark and hoped my light would last the distance.  Down the rarely trodden steps to Saints Bay, up the slippery wooden steps, past the Loophole Tower, then along the road to the harbour.  Up and round Icart Point and past Le Jaonnet Bay and towards Petit Bot where I moved uphill, taking care to take the right path. 

The cottage at Le Gouffre was dimly lit, there was no sign of life.  Following the rugged cliff top coastal path, past La Corbiere and Le Prevost tower, Les Tieilles and the Mont Herault Watch House, the German Observation Tower, L’Angle.  

Under the Pleinmont Observation tower, round and down the path through the rocks and past the Fairy Ring, to the orange glow in the dark at Fort Pezeries.  None of this could I make out, in the murky and dark night sky; the moon was almost full and quite bright but locked behind the clouds, its light was dim.  But I knew all of this was there and instead of seeing these things and the blue sea and the white horses crashing onto the south coast, instead I listened to the waves, the oystercatchers, gulls and pheasants, which I startled on my way along.


Knowing how easy I fall, I tried to focus and make sure not to trip.  A couple of well saved falls led to minor bruises and scratches, one on my nose where my headtorch broke my fall but all was good and nothing would stop me picking my way slowly to the end of the cliffs where I was treated to food and drink and given a new top for my bottle.  The kindness of strangers in the dark of the night on the cliffs of the south coast of Guernsey.


None of this could I see, as I retraced my steps, past the Fairy Ring, then headed right to the gap in the rocks of the headland and made my way back up the path to the cliffs.  The clouds shifted a little, the moon appeared and for a few hours the moon shone on my journey and lit the sky.  The rain came, went and came again, heavily and I sheltered under some trees on the path down to Le Gouffre while I put some layers on. 


Daylight slowly came my way as I made my way back heading east, towards the rising sun; light blue slivers of bruising in the sky slowly bled into blue patches which became larger as the dark night sky cleared to become daylight and all of a sudden, I was heading back to the start on what felt like a brand new day.


The orange leaves strewn across the paths glowed brightly in the sun, the sea was turquoise again and the white horses were bright and white.  The rain had stopped and I was out on the cliffs on Sunday morning, a spectacular start to my day.  I ran past the Bathing Pools, through the Postern Gates and up the steps, into Belvedere Field to the cheers of the race organiser and the marshalls who kindly waited for me to finish, and treated me to my breakfast, a perfect bacon sarnie.  

A fabulous night on the cliffs, with the incredible nocturnal support of marshalls without who this type of night time escape could not happen. So many thanks. 

Photos from a previous excursion in daylight. 


1 4h 36m 44s    Tiaan Erwee        Course record

2 5h 43m 27s    Graham Merfield 

3 6h 30m 57s    William Dawber

4 6h 47m 19s    Tom Bradshaw

5 7h 2m 49s       Rex Bisson

6 7h 18m 54s     Mark Hoskins

7 7h 22m 05s     David Cox

8 8h 14m 37s     Sarah Smith       Course record 

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Auld Lang Syne fell race, 31 December 2018

It was a mild, sunny and slightly breezy day and the Tellytubbies jumped out of bed and decided to go for a little run on the last day in the year, to Top Withins.

They set off from the quarry near the West End Cricket Club, Penistone Hill near Haworth and were surprised to find themselves surrounded by other happy runners, including Ginger Spice, a man with a turkey on his head, a continental couple in lederhosen carrying a cow bell, garlic and a French stick, some pigs, Emily Pankhurst, Mary Poppins, some nuns and Poseidon.

Laa Laa, although she was reluctant to agree, eventually decided that Tinky Winky was right and left the scooter at home, which was a good job as it would have been hard work carrying that across the bogs and moors.

They ran at a steady pace so as not to get their new outfits too muddy, and enjoyed splashing through the beck at the valley bottom, twice!

Spying Kathy at the top of the hill on their way back to Penistone Hill, they sang Wuthering Heights to her as they advanced at their tubby pace up the hill, she seemed to enjoy being serenaded!

Running back, they sang songs, skipped and held hands, Laa Laa thought they had all had so much fun and to end the most perfect day, Po, Dipsy and Tinky Winky even let her finish first!

The Tellytubbies are grateful to Daleside Brewery for sponsoring the Auld Lang Syne fell race, to the Wharfedale Harriers for organising and supporting so well, and to the Woodentops, Dave and Eileen Woodhead for all the fantastic events they have organised and supported for so many years.

Start photos courtesy of the Woodentops

Sunday 23 September 2018

TDS (Sur les traces des ducs de Savoie) 27 and 28 August 2018

121km, 7,300 metres ascent

All my races throughout 2018 would be training for this event, which was part of the Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc world summit of trail racing. The route travelled 74 miles along the Grande Randonnee paths crossing through the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside from Courmayeur in Italy to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France. Wild and remote terrain. The main challenge for me was not the distance but the 7,300 metres of ascent. I find it extremely hard to climb. I fully intended to train hard, make the cut offs and enjoy this adventure.

After a damp squib of a year of fail and slow times mainly due to a mini catalogue of mini injuries, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to start this race. Since my entry had been accepted, apart from a few home spun events [running from Ilkley to Meanwood, followed a few weeks later by running from Skipton to Meanwood], my training had been virtually non existent.

My catalogue of injuries was matched by a catalogue of failures, on the short 24 mile course of the Lakes Mountains 42 I got lost in a blizzard, and ended up at the wrong lake, struggling to find my way back to the route, some walkers kindly showed me where I was on the map. I had a very slow time at the Liversedge half marathon, followed a few months later by almost my slowest ever road marathon. I failed to make the start of the Northern Traverse, which I had been looking forward to for 6 months, I wasn’t fit to start the Three Peaks race nor the Jura fell race and I withdrew from the Lakeland 100 at the end of July after just 42 miles.

Why would I toe the line of the TDS? Should this race join the list of races I didn’t start, or those that I started and failed to finish? I definitely wasn’t overtrained and I had tapered. I decided that if I managed half of this race I would be happy. There was transport back to the start from some of the checkpoints. My previous visit to this area had blown my mind and it was impossible to withdraw from such an opportunity. I joined the British Mountaineering Council and took out their search and rescue cover (insurance is a mandatory requirement of the event). I finally caved and bought a Salomon race vest after refusing to for years, I went up and down Sutton Bank in the North York Moors, then Blencathra in the Lake District. I was ready.

The day before the race, we were notified by text of a change to the route and a later start (I think due to a the forecast of a storm in the afternoon and evening of day 1). Instead of catching the 4.30 am bus from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc to Courmayeur, I was now setting a later alarm to catch the 6.30 am bus for an 8 am start.

It was great to see my friend Matt as I made my way to the start, the streets of Courmayeur clacking with poles attached to lycra clad runners wearing a selection of gear to die for. We took some pics, I went to a portaloo, Matt hopped over the barrier and I moved it to one side to squeeze through and we set off on our adventure from Italy to France. We chatted as we trotted along the streets thronged with well wishers and when we started to climb, Matt disappeared and I followed in his wake.

There was a very long climb. I was labouring. As a woman in her early 50s, I wondered if that was the correct word to use, I decided it was, I really was labouring. If glaciers went uphill I could call my pace glacial.

Checkpoint 1, Col Checrouit Maison Veille. 6.76 km

I arrived at 9.31 am, position 1786

I was right at the back but there was no cut off here [time by which you must leave the checkpoint to continue the race without being withdrawn].

Arete du Mont-Favre, 11.36 km

I arrived at 10.52 am, position 1779

Check point 2, Lac Combal, 15.29 km

I arrived at 11.43 am, position 1789, the cut off was 11.45 am

Almost the last to arrive. A kind marshall handed me my back-up head torch and spare batteries which he had picked up and I identified as mine. Thank you! I grabbed a few snacks and headed off quickly, conscious I remained at the back of the field and was literally bouncing off the cut offs. This was a long way to come to be timed out so soon.

From here I pushed a bit harder, though still labouring, I thought the sweepers were right behind me but wasn’t sure, I powered as hard as I could and carried on. I ascended and heard a shout of my name and was so pleased to see Ross and Steve making their way down, “ey up” I said, no time to talk, chasing cut offs and close to the bone but seeing them made me smile and gave me a boost. Still ascending, the weather turned and the wind was cold, I put my waterproof on and heard Eirik shouting me, “ey up” I said and smiled as I reached the top.

Col Chavannes, 19.99 km

I arrived at 1.10 pm, position 1775

From here, there was a long downhill stretch, through the Vallon des Chavannes, it rained for a while, then there was a grassy section to Lac Verney where the route circled the lake. I heard a lot of cow bells and thought there were lots of supporters; in fact there was a massive herd of cows at the side of a lake. As I ran round the lake I searched for the check point. I knew I had only a short time, 10 minutes or so, to make the cut off. I had to leave the checkpoint by 4.15 pm, but I couldn’t see it. I scrambled up a steep hill and pushed as hard as I could and dashed into the checkpoint at 4.15 pm.

Check point 3, Col du petit Saint Bernard, 36.36 km

I arrived at 4.15 pm, position 1773

I had to leave urgently, or be timed out. I grabbed a piece of cake, a piece of bread and a piece of cheese and ran out. I pushed all this food into my mouth and wondered if I had made the time out, I followed the sign that said ‘sortie’ then I saw I was heading toward some coaches and thought maybe this was the path to the bus of shame. I felt like crying. I was shovelling this food in my face whilst running to the bus of shame. I had been timed out. I was forlorn.

Then I saw a man standing to the side of the route, he was just stood there, and he called out “hello Sarah”. Who is he, I thought, I know him. Oh I can’t believe, it’s Andy! How amazing! I gave him a hug and asked him if other runners had been through here, “yes, many” he said. Andy Spink of Yorkshire had been cycling in the area, seen that I was running from Courmayeur to Chamonix earlier in the morning, and had surprised me by travelling to greet me and offer me support!

“I am worried I have been timed out and this is the way to the bus of shame”, I said to him. He looked confused. He followed me along the route, for a little while, we chatted as the path headed towards the coaches and then the path turned to the right and I rejoiced I was not heading for the bus of shame! Andy said he would see me at the next checkpoint at Bourg St Maurice, and I trotted down the hill along the track used by the Romans many centuries ago, for a couple of hours.

Seez, 48.09 km

I arrived at 6.12 pm, position 1378

I checked in at this small check point, and made my way then through the town to the main check point.

Check point 4, Bourg Saint-Maurice, 51.28km

I arrived at 6.39 pm, position 1727

Andy greeted me with the Yorkshire flag and Eirik met me as my official support, he sorted out my bottles, I ate some snacks, Andy tied the Yorkshire flag to my running sack. Eirik ushered me along the way, politely suggesting I might wish to use the toilet, promising not to tell Richard Adcock who has previously admonished me for using official facilities when natural opportunities are more available. I left at 6.51 pm. The cut off was 7 pm. I had read about the climb from Bourg Saint Maurice, and knew it was going to be tough.

However, I was at this point in the race two hours later than the usual time, due to the late race start. Also the route had been changed, so we didn’t have the sweltering 4 hour climb I had read about. The route change meant that we missed out Fort de la Platte, Col de la Forclaz and the Passeur de Parlognan which was supposed to be one of the most stunning places to be. Instead, the path detoured, the route was longer but less ascent. We were climbing through woods which were dark, before nightfall. I heard thunder and it started to rain heavily, so I put on a warm top and my waterproof.

Cret Bettex, 61.89 km

I arrived at 9.55 pm, position 1282

My memories of this section are limited, it was dark, I was tired, I think it was mainly road.

Check point 5, Courmet de Roselend, 70.44 km

I arrived at 11.35 pm, position 1475. The cut off was 2 am.

The marquee was busy, with tables and benches full of left over food and runners sorting kit; runners sleeping on the floor. I found a small space and did some faffing, I found some food went back to my place and tried to sort out my feet. I put blister plasters on wet feet and they slid off so I tried to keep them in place with the sock which worked for a while. I left the checkpoint after a bowl of warm pasta, I had spent almost an hour in there. I headed off into the dark wearing what I wore when I arrived. I had a full set of warm dry clothes in my drop bag, also new trainers but I decided to continue with what I was wearing and not to have a sleep.

From here the route went up to Col de la Sauce, La Sausse and then to La Gittaz. My recollections of this section are limited; there was alot of ascending, the path was very muddy, we were sliding up and sliding down, I was glad of my walking poles and don’t think I could have managed without them.

La Gittaz, 78.45 km

I arrived at 3.08 am, position 1310. The cut off was 4.45 am.

My recollections remain limited other than ascending in the mud in the dark, the rain and mist made visibility by headtorch difficult. What I can remember of the upward trudge in the dark. I was thinking of reasons why I needed to keep going. I didn’t want to stop and to be transported back to civilisation, unless absolutely necessary. I was tired, but still enjoying the adventure. I thought of my year of failure. I was now well within the cut offs and no longer fearing being timed out. I thought that I might just be able to do this. I worried that I was pushing my body beyond what it was trained for but as each hour passed I felt it could be done.

Entre Deux Nants, 82.08 km

I arrived at 4.40 am, position 1294

This was a fairly surreal section, as daylight broke, slowly moving through farmland then up to the Col du Fenetre where I slipped on wet rock, was saved from a further slide by a runner from Switzerland, and bent one of my walking poles.

Check point 6, Col du Joly, 89.57 km

I arrived at 7.03 am, position 1286

I checked in and out as quick as I could, keen to make progress. The cut off was 8.30 am. There was a happy couple playing music and enjoying themselves, the atmosphere was good.
Check point 7, Les Contamines-Montjoie, 99.9 km
I arrived at 9.13 am, position 1239, the cut off was 11 am

By this time, I was unable to run, no matter how slowly, I was reduced to walking, tapping my bent walking pole. I wanted to take my shoes off and empty them of stones which were stinging my feet. A kind marshall tried to take me to a bench where I could do this but it involved a detour of about 5 metres. I dropped my bag on the floor happy to sort my feet there and then but he urged me to make the time to go to the bench which I did out of respect to him. He shook my hand and said that he hoped I made it to the finish. I think he thought my chances were slim. After I emptied my shoes of stones, I washed my hands and had some bread and a cup of tea with sugar and headed off as quickly as I could.

I crossed the main road and headed up through a residential area. I saw an incline heading up a track through some woods. Something happened which had never happened before My feet stopped moving. My legs did too. They all just stopped still and I was stood there feeling like a right div. Now what?! Ok. Deep breaths.

“Come on. Please move.”




Oh. Ok. We really have to move, this is silly. We can’t just stay here all day. Forever?


“You do realise that if we don’t move we will be timed out.”


“Please. I am begging you”.


I realised that I needed to be extremely creative here.

“You do know that the brain is a traitor, don’t you. It is telling you to stop, but you don’t have to obey it. Come on, please!”

I promised my body I wouldn’t do this again, I would train properly in the future. Eventually after a long conversation, along these lines, the feet and the legs started to move, but very slowly.

“This isn’t fast enough. We will be timed out.”

A bit faster. “Thank you Thank you Thank you!”

Though we were now moving, I was scared, I didn’t know how long it would last for. We all moved, slowly and all the people who had gone past had disappeared off ahead.
While I was pleased to be moving I had no idea how long these legs and feet would follow my instructions.

A runner (clearly now a walker) appeared beside me. I looked at him and said, emphatically,
“we have got to finish”, mainly for the benefit of my feet and legs, to make sure they got the message. He looked forlorn and ready to cry. He said “there is a really difficult climb coming up” and I thought “oh dear, now we have to climb along a rock face, I don’t stand a chance with my legs.”

We continued [we being me my legs and feet] and I urged them to “act normal in front of the other runners”.

Down a track we went, I searched ahead for a rockface and couldn’t see one, the runner of doom told me he needed to stop before the difficult climb and sat down on a bench.  Eventually we crossed a river and I filled my cap with water, as it was so hot. I saw a big climb ahead, but it didn’t look as scary as I had expected. It was 500 metres, and there was a path! I thought I would sleep after walking through the herd of cows but I continued to inch my way up the path. I thought that 200 to 300 people went past me as I slowly moved up that hill and I was the last runner out there.

I thought by the time I made it to the top I would be timed out and I was devastated at the prospect of defeat having come this far.

Col de Tricot, 107.03 km

I arrived at 12.43 pm, position 1256

I surprised myself by making it to the top. From here it was it was a long descent, and I stopped to take photos of the Bionnassay glacier before crossing the scary bridge across the river which only took 2 at a time.

Bellevue, 111.00 km

I arrived at 2.01 pm, position 1262, the cut off was 3 pm.

I was still convinced I was the last person in the race and felt ashamed, I had overtaken so many people leading up to midnight the day before, marching along the metalled road with my walking poles like a giant mechanical spider and now I was last and reduced to a shuffle. My mood was low. The morning was bright.

Check point 8, Les Houches, 115.61 km

I arrived at 3.07 pm, position 1255, the cut off was 4 pm.

The funny thing is that from here I lost it, I had no idea where I was, I didn’t realise we were heading to Chamonix, someone at Les Houches said “finis!” and I said “is this the end?”

“No, it is 8 km to go”

Me: “why?”

No answer!

The path along the river was quiet and I relaxed and enjoyed the quiet but I could not work out where the end was and how we got there. I was unable to run, my feet were sore, and I thought I was the last person in the race, I was feeling quite disappointed with myself. I walked and despite my sorrow I was enjoying the peaceful walk. I could not understand where I was and when it would finish.

I found myself walking through a street, people were saying well done, and then all of a sudden, Eirik shouted my name and sprayed Prosecco in my face! I was cross as it stung my eyes but I was grateful as I realised he was celebrating my finish! I took my cap off so I could feel the Prosecco he was emptying onto my head and I ran into the finish to cheers!

123.41 km, Chamonix, arrived 16.42 pm, position 1255

This adventure took me 32 hours 41 minutes 31seconds

Reflections, what an amazing event, and I felt so proud to have completed this. The support of my friends on the journey was special and I was so grateful to all who came to see me at the start on the event and at the end.

Marcin Swierc             1st male finisher 13.24.00 
Audrey Tanguy           1st female finisher 16:05:22
Matt Allen                   896th, 29:36:20
Sarah Smith                1254th 32:41:31 159th female

1799 started
1329 finishers
470 did not finish