Nick contributed this report on his amazing IOW Challenge run…
The IOW ultra challenge is a 106km route around the Island. It starts and finishes in Chale, running clockwise and mostly following the coastal path. This was my second year and I was aiming to improve on last year’s time.
The first segment from Chale to Freshwater is stunningly beautiful and I was feeling strong. Then it was up Tennyson down, where I was met by park runners sprinting down the hill. It was great to get so many high fives and words of encouragement from my fellow road runners. Up and down Headon Warren and along to Yarmouth, and then into a quagmire of mud on the path to cranmore. Through Shalfleet and Porchfield and the first marathon completed. By now my legs were starting to feel it. It was also very hot and sunny and I was glad to reach the shade of Parkhurst forest. The halfway point of 52km was at the county show ground, where I was met by my support crew. Time to refuel, and change my shoes. By now i was an hour up on last year. The next leg is perhaps the hardest mentally as its along the road with the sun beating down all the way to Oakfield. I was glad to have Kev’s company to push me along with an ice cream stop along the way. Again my support crew was there at the end of this energy sapping leg to clap me in. I was now 2 hours ahead and unlike last year I managed not to fall off my chair! 65km completed and just a marathon to go!
It was then down to Appley, through Seaview, St Helens and Bembridge. The day was cooling down and I was enjoying the peaceful surroundings without the traffic of the previous leg. So many random people clapping and cheering you along wondering what the hell you are doing, as I did myself on multiple occasions. By now it was very much walk run. There was a sharp climb up the steep hill to Culver down for the last major rest stop where I had a very tasty vegetarian sausage burger with sweet chilli sauce.
Coming down Culver down was a very painful experience, with each downward step causing a searing pain through my quads. But once I was down at sea level, I was able to run again (very slowly) on the flat path from Yaverland to Shanklin. The sadistic organisers then decided to take a bizarre route through ridiculously steep and punishing up and down muddy tracks, across farmland until we reached Ventnor.
I had wanted to finish before midnight but realised with just over 10k to go that an 11pm finish and sub 16hrs was possible if I could summon up some energy from somewhere. So with headtorch on, I set off on the homestretch, soon joining a treacherous narrow single track path on the cliff edge with rocks and branches waiting to trip you with every step. I passed a broken runner along the way who was waiting for help, his race over so close to the end. But I successfully navigated my way through to the safety of the St Lawrence road to Niton. My support crew met me here and drove alongside me. I badly wanted to get in the car with them but pushed myself along for my fastest couple of km in the whole race. Probably just showing off. But it paid off as a sub 16 hour finish was now definitely on although still very tight.
I left the road and climbed up the steep path to the top of Blackgang. It was eerily quiet with the still of night and strangely beautiful and then after a short while, I could see from the top of the hill the bright lights of the race HQ and finish line below, just a couple of km away. My support crew cheered me on as I went through Blackgang carpark. I just needed to stay on my feet as I climbed down the hill and into Chale. I entered the finishing straight with literally seconds remaining to break 16hrs. A sort of sprint, across the line, barcode scanned and then I collapsed.
I had done it. Dipped under 16 hours by 3 seconds! And taken a massive 4 and a half hours off my time from last year. Utterly exhausted but thrilled and rather emotional.
I am happy that I will never need to do that again. My short career as an ultra runner is definitely over. But anyone thinking of doing it should sign up. It’s a brilliantly organised event with all levels of ability taking part and the feeling of achievement will stay with you forever.
I am so grateful to my friends and family for giving up their time to support me. It just would not have been possible without them. Words are not enough. Thank you so much to Kev and Gill, Jane and Rich and Steve, Zoe and Trish. And massive thanks to Hannah for being there all the way through this journey.
Finish time 15:59:57