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Well, we made it. After 102,000 steps. 8,500 calories burned. 7,476 feet of climbing. 53 miles. In 15 hours and 51 minutes, just before midnight on Saturday 8 June, we finished the Race to the Tower for Cure Leukaemia. What a day.
It was grey, cold and raining as we limbered up somewhere just outside Stroud, having done all our training, and with the knowledge that we'd done similar events before - 100k Race to the Stones, 40m Coventry Way. How hard could this be? The profile and race description gave plenty of clues : it resembled an Alpine stage of the Tour de France; up and down all day, the front half loaded with 4100ft of ascent and the second half a mere 3300ft but with 3 big climbs before the final climb to Broadway Tower itself.
We set off in great spirits and the rain quickly dispersed. We were making good progress against our race pace of 16 hours, making up time in the early miles, despite the climbs, and bowling along at pretty much 4mph. Martin took a call from the local radio Warwickshire and made the point that he sounded a bit out of breath because we were climbing a big hill at that stage!
A really horrible climb came just after the second checkpoint 14 miles in : a very nasty 1 in 3 narrow mud track, on which it was almost impossible to get any purchase and forward momentum. Further tests came and went and then a very steep long climb towards half way at 26miles. We reached half way in 7 hours 10, well up on our planned time, and used the hospitality tent and time wisely : more compeed, further changing of socks, and boots, in Martin's case. 45 minutes zoomed by to refuel with hot food and to get ready for the second half. Tracy, Martin's partner, was brilliant as our back-up crew, encouraging us and meeting us at different spots in the second half of the race.
All the good luck messages coming through on our phones were fantastic motivation to help keep us going. Throughout the day you just plan to the next check-point : so many miles, work out the likely time, and then keep walking. The mile markers ticked on : 36, 37, 38. At check point 6 we received a boost from a fellow participant - a young South African walker/runner - "I've been clocking you two all day - how on earth do you walk this fast? You walk quicker than I can run/walk!" Two more climbs to go - the next one went ok. Then at 43 miles a truly vertiginous climb for pretty much a mile. Legs heavy, heart pumping, legs heavier, keep going. Do not give up. The crest finally came into view, thank goodness. Take on an energy bar, more water. Then a long descent into the final check point helped us recharge the batteries. 5 miles to go. It was dark by now. About 10.15. Head torches on, we pressed ahead, metronomically ticking off the remaining miles at 16 minute intervals, yomping through Broadway. And then we hit the final climb. Willpower and the thought of finishing before midnight drove us on and upward, ever upward in the dark, passing the bobbing lights of other walkers, all of us keen to finish. We have never been so glad to see the eerie green glow of Broadway Tower and the last 30 feet of flat ground through the finish line. What a day.
The hardest physical challenge either of us have ever done. We did it. We did it to help do our bit : to help the dedicated team at Cure Leukaemia find that cure. To make a difference. Thank you so much to everyone for supporting us - leading up to the day and also in helping get us through it. Every donation, however large or small will make a difference.
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