My next long run was the Not for Nothing 50, a 50 mile event exploring parts of Norfolk. The week leading up to the event was a nightmare. I went for my usual 10 mile morning run on the Sunday, in crisp white snow. About 6.5 miles into the run I felt a sharp pain in my Achilles tendon which stopped me on the spot. I managed to walk and hobble my way back home but the pain did not go. I guessed it was either an inflammation or rupture, an inflammation being ok, a rupture being at least 3 months off running to heal. I rested and iced it all week noticing a reduction in pain each day and decided to just run the 50 and hope for the best.
I drove down to Norfolk on the Friday night and stayed at a campsite so I wouldn’t have a 3.5 hour drive starting at 5am in the morning. It was hammering down with rain and the wind was rocking the car. I woke at 6am and could not sleep again, so I packed my bag and got ready. The start of the event was at a hall in Hanworth. All the walkers had left an hour earlier and only a dozen of runners were waiting to start. At 9am the first couple of runners started to leave and although I had planned to leave last, I wanted to start my journey with no more delay.
The first section was from Hanworth to Cromer (7.2 miles). It was not raining at this point but there was dampness in the air that threatened rain. I started running with another runner in front of me for the first mile or two but let him go as I wanted to keep a slower pace. I ran along sleepy roads and farm fields before arriving at the National Trust’s Felbrigg Hall. Off in the distance I could hear a strange noise up ahead, which got louder until I finally could see hundreds of sheep all bleating like crazy. Another runner had appeared from a track ahead of me and I found it amusing the way the sheep all charged for him as he ran by. When I arrived, they all turned and started for me, keeping their distance by only a couple of feet as I took the long way around, they only chased me to a cattle grid before calling it a day and turned to wait for the next runner. The rest of the way to Cromer was uneventful and I finally arrived at the first check point where I had some orange juice and a biscuit.
The next section was from Cromer to Southrepps (5.9 miles) following the Paston Way as close as possible. When I left the check point I passed all the runners coming the other way, which means we were all going a similar pace of 10 min/miles. It was raining on and off now and I made my way out the maze of street in Cromer and followed along the cliff edge towards Overstrand. The last section I was completely on my own but now I was passing lots of walkers. Everything was going smoothly so far. The pain in my Achilles was only a dull throb and the weather was holding up. It was at around 11.3 miles I had a bit of a problem. I went the wrong way. I took a track without looking at the map and when I finally looked at it, it was obvious I was off course and I found where I was instantly. I could have turned around but thought I would be too demoralizing, so I opted for a slightly longer route which would get me back on track. When I finally arrived at the next check point, there were some walkers and a hand full of runners leaving. I quickly grabbed a couple of jam sandwiches, a penguin bar and a digestive biscuit before heading off again.
Next section was from Southrepps to a car park in Bacton Wood (7.6 miles). I continued to pass more walkers and made my way along tracks and across muddy fields. The weather was changing between rain and sun, which meant that it was either too wet or too hot. I was being careful not to make any more navigational errors and was taking my time. The walkers were thinning out at this stage with only a couple of very fast walkers. Just before I reached the check point I passed the leading walkers, who I all met at the end finding that they finished with incredible times between 13 and 14 hours. That was not far off my time and I was running (well I was doing the motions anyway). I arrived at the check point which was a tent serving soup and more biscuits. Two runners were just leaving and as I refilled my water and chatted to the check point volunteers, a hand full of people checked in and out, including the lead walker. I got my ass in gear and left.
I left Bacton Wood check point and headed for my next destination, the Church Rooms at Coltishall (11.3 miles). I noticed that I was lacking in a bit of energy at this point and feeling rougher than I would have liked but I maintained a good plod. I caught up with the two runners who were the ones leaving the previous check point and another runner caught up from behind (he would have been ahead but have made a few wrong turns resulting in a extra 4 or so miles at this point). We stuck in this group for the most of the way thought this section although I was trailing behind and periodically caught up when they slowed to eat. I was starting the hit the wall and I knew it. It was a long section but I knew there would be hot food at the next check point and I would have completed 32 miles in total. I made sure that I kept drinking and eating as much as possible and made the decision to start popping Pro Plus tablets. This section was starting to drag and I knew it was because I was feeling rough. I could finally see Coltishall in the distance but I was feeling dehydrated and dizzy. I finally lost sight of the other runners as I slowed and just kept pushing. When I finally arrived at the check point the rain had stopped and the sun was out, but I felt rough. I quickly sat down at a table and was served some soup which I wolfed down with lots of salt. The two runners I have been with previously were leaving but I decided to rest a while before heading out again, so I used the time to reorganize the food and gear in my bag. I refilled with water and had a last minute rice pudding before making my way out. There were lots of runners coming into the check point now and some leaving so after about 30 minutes of rest I set off.
The next section was from Coltishall to Great Wood car park (11.3 miles) and I ran along Bure Valley Path, passing through Aylsham. I could see it was a long straight path and needed some motivation, so I put on my mp3 and just kept running. I had picked up from my low and found that I could maintain a run the whole way. A couple of runners went past me, and I knew my speed was not all it could be but I was out for an adventure and not to race, so I plodded on. At Aylsham there was a surprise check point providing more food and water which was great of the organizers as it helps to break up the long section with a focal point. I was still feeling good but felt dehydrated, so I made an effort to keep taking small regular sips of water. The only problem was that at this stage I found that I could not keep the water in, and had to make regular stops. Past Aylsham and black clouds were looming and the rain started. I finally left the Bure Valley Path and still felt good, figuring that I could still make for around 10 hours if I keep pushing. In the next 3 miles everything turned to shit. I felt so dehydrated and was starting to get really dizzy. I just could not stop going for a pee. The light faded just before I reached to check point and I was feeling rough although with only 7 miles to go felt like I could make it. Within 2 minutes of stopping at the check point I thought I was going to pass out. I was really dizzy and started feeling extremely rough. I cannot explain exactly how I felt but it was worse than any sickness bug, any fever, anything I have felt before. I was too worried to attempt the next section in the dark because I thought I would pass out. I was sitting for a while before I have to make a very quick trip into the woods for a toilet stop which didn’t help issues. My mouth was so dry I figured it must be dehydration. I was all but ready to call it quits. There had been a few runner go through the check point but it was when three people walked it in that I asked if I could tag along with them. I honestly thought I was going to pass out somewhere on the route. They said they were going slow so I tagged along. I have no idea how long I was at the check point but it was a long time.
Great Wood to Hanworth (6.9 miles). The four of us in our little group basically walked the whole of the last section with a little bit of trotting now and then. It seemed to take forever. I kept talking to the others to try and take my mind off my pending doom. I did not feel any worse while running but was happy to walk. We slowly made our way in the dark, with stronger rain showers now and very wet and muddy fields. There is nothing much more to say about this section other than I was counting down the miles till the end and I still could not stop peeing. I was trying to work out why I felt so ill and how it hit me so hard. Did I not drink enough? Did I drink too much? Did I need to eat more? We finally arrived back at the hall in Hanworth. 50 miles in 11 hours 44 minutes. My legs were fresh as anything but I felt like death. After going for a pee twice more, I had a fry-up of bacon, sausages, egg, beans and toast. I started to feel a bit better after half an hour and peed some more. I decided to stick around until 10pm before heading back for a shower at the camp site. It was great talking with some of the lead walkers and I am amazed at the quick times they did it in. I finally ran back to the car in the rain with fresh legs.
The end of this run is very similar to my last run along Hadrian’s Wall Path. After lots of though on the subject I have decided to formulate my running strategy to identify what is going wrong. My number 1 though at the moment is that I have been taking lots of Pro Plus (only on the last two big runs) and think the diuretic effect of the caffeine could be causing my to dehydrate or causing other problems. I will lay off them for now and see how I go next time. Glad that my Achilles problem has faded away, I am set now for my next run. I am very thankful to those who I completed the last section with. Without them I probably would have pull out and would have suffered major regret. I own them this 50.