Eva’s Ultramarathon 2023 was the stuff of epics.
According to Mr Google, the definition of “Epic” is; a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.
At 6am Eva’s Angels converged at James’ house with bags filled with water, cheese sandwiches, and enough tailwind energy gels to feed a heard of elephants.
It took me an hour to drive us to the start point. Which kind of puts the distance in perspective. Once there, like epic figures of old, we changed into our battle gear – rainbow-coloured t-shirts and tight shorts tenaciously fused to skin with generous handfuls of Vaseline.
Run ready, slippery, and shaking with nerves, we took the first steps of our 50 mile (80km) run.
From left to right: Tony Easter, Jamie Taylor, Dean Giles, Kieron Turner, James Maybourn (coach)
At this point I was feeling both relieved and anxious that I was supported by four runners. Relieved that I’d have company for the next 11 hours, and anxious that these guys were all seasoned ultra-runners from the local running community.
This was only my second attempt at this kind of distance. I knew from the first one (65 miles) to treat it with respect.
We set off from Folkstone with the sun sparkling above the clouds and drawing a thin line across the water.
The first few miles were a breeze. Stunning views across some of the most beautiful coastline in South England. The pace was easy and we hiked the big hills to conserve energy .
The White Cliffs of Dover are one of my favourite places to run. Aside from the iconic aspect, the terrain is interesting and challenging. We mixed running, walking and climbing.
Paul Traviss joined us at around mile 20 and, mostly, I took solace in the magnificence of his beard. Thank you, Paul.
With James at the helm keeping us motivated and running a strict 8 min to 2 min run/walk strategy, the miles slowly fell behind us.
We stopped in Sandwich were Emma and the kids met us. A few chips stolen from the boy and a massive lift for me to keep going at the roughly halfway point. Trying desperately, without success, to stretch my legs out!
One of the many things I love about running is the running community. A chap I’d never met had contacted Jamie when he heard what we were planning. He gave up his morning to come and meet us past the halfway point in Broadstairs with bacon sandwiches, coffee, and snacks.
Massive respect to Mark for his help and more than a little grateful for the impromptu fuelling station.
By this point my ankles, knees, hips, and lower back were giving more pain than I expected or wanted. This is where the experience and talent of the others started to make a difference. I kept going at a pace I knew I could maintain, but it became slower as the second half of the run progressed. It was probably obvious from my body language I was struggling, and James made sure at least one of the team were running at the back with me.
Despite the pain, and the growing doubt I had about finishing, everyone was in high spirits and joking. Much of the challenge at this distance is in the mind, and while my body was screaming at me to stop, I knew I couldn’t give a voice to the pain. Positive self talk can be the difference between finishing or collapsing.
I can honestly say the emotional support from the team carried me through this painful section.
Every picture from the run is full of happy faces. A real testament to the dynamic and comradery of the day.
If you really want to get to know someone, run an ultra-marathon with them. By the end, you’ll be best buddies! There’s nothing like the sharing of pain for bonding!!
We were now coming into more familiar territory, in fact, running through Margate was so depressing I promptly blocked it out of my memory and vowed not to visit anytime soon.
On to Westgate we were joined by Daley Baxter who ran the rest of the way with us. It felt good to have the extra support of another runner pushing us along.
We were met by Spike in Reculver and he ran the final leg to the finish with us.
The final leg in through Herne Bay was amazing. With the end in sight and my legs still able to carry me, I felt a buzz like no other as we approached the pier where our families cheered us in.
I guess everyone takes up ultra-running for different reasons, but one thing I know for sure is that it brings people and community together in a positive way. For me, aside from fundraising, I do it because life has got too easy in this part of the world. Everything you could ever want or need is at your fingertips. Our modern lives are built around comfort. Most people will spend an extra 10 mins driving around to find a closer parking space rather than walk for that 10 mins.
We’ve forgotten what it’s like to struggle. Putting myself through this ordeal, and it was an ordeal, subsequently taught me how much my body can really do when pushed, it taught me to appreciate the comforts in life in a balanced way. The suffering incurred by going massively out of my comfort zone gave me a new found appreciation for the good things in life.
At this point we have raised £5000 for Brain Tumour research. Eva’s Angels is working with Abbey’s Army to distribute the funds. In a couple of weeks when I’ve collected all the donations, I will announce the final result.
There’s still time to donate if you want to support: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dean-Giles6
Huge thank you to all the supporters and runners. Without you this would not be possible.
One final mention for James Maybourn. He ran this just two weeks before running the hardest footrace in the world, Marathon Des Sables. A great coach and even better human being.