Hope you had a lovely bank holiday weekend? I spent it finally doing what I’ve been training for for six months – taking on the 100km South Coast Challenge, a charity event to raise money for Headway, the brain injury charity. As many of you know, my sister Deborah died from a brain haemorrhage six years ago when she was 39, so this challenge was in memory of her.
I’d trained hard, and I knew this was going to be tough, but OH MY GOODNESS. It was a hundred times harder than I could ever have imagined. The route took us across the South Downs, starting at Eastbourne and finishing at Arundel, so I knew there would be hills – I just hadn’t realised quite how many hills, or how steep they would be! It was also a very hot day, which didn’t help. I was with friends – myself and my pal Natalie in our team, plus one of our QVC directors Gilly and two of her friends in another team – but as the day wore on poor Gilly had to withdraw due to an injury, as did her pal Sarah when the heat got to her. Natalie and I were a couple of hours ahead of the other team by this stage, and when Nat stopped at the 54km point (something she had always planned to do) I was then on my own for the night phase of the challenge.
That was when it got really tough. I was already exhausted from a day of climbing hills in the heat (we lost count at around 25!) but now I had to battle through the same sort of terrain in the dark, with just a head torch for light on the wide expanse of unlit Downs. Of course, I wasn’t on my own, and met some really lovely people during the night. But as well as the physical pain – by now, everything hurt – it was also tough psychologically. For hours and hours, all we could see in the pitch darkness was the little patch of rough ground right in front of us, in the light from our torch, so different from during the day when at least we had stunning scenery to distract us.
I was alright up to around the 40 mile mark (I still think in miles, not km!) but after that I began to struggle and the last 20 miles or so were pretty horrendous. There were times when I had no idea how I was going to drag myself to that finish line. At this stage people were dropping out constantly, and twice I saw people who had collapsed on the road and were being treated by paramedics. I think that if this had just been a personal challenge, I wouldn’t have been able to continue. But because so many people had sponsored me, and because I had SO MUCH support in the form of tweets and messages throughout the event, quitting simply wasn’t an option. With just seven miles to go I started to feel really sick and weak – I hadn’t eaten nearly enough during the day or night – but I forced some fruit gums and water down me and made the final push. That finish line was one of the most welcome sights of my life. I made it in 24 hours, 25 minutes and 9 seconds, and of the 276 women who made the 100km finish line, I came in 82nd, and 24th in my age group, which made me very happy too. But what made me even happier was that I absolutely smashed my fundraising target, with donations more than doubling what I had hoped for, and I am completely and utterly thrilled by that. I can’t thank everyone enough. I have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity, and I know that Headway is equally delighted.
This may sound a little dramatic, but doing this challenge has changed me. I’ve always believed that you can do anything you want to if you really put your mind to it. But now, I’ll never put limits on myself again. I’ve realised that you can push yourself right to the very limits of your endurance, and then go way beyond that, if you really have the motivation.
Below is a video I made to give you a little taster of the event, and to say thank you.