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The Wall Ultra – Neil Praine reports back from his 69 mile epic

Ladies and gentleman I am here to talk to you about the beast they call the Ultra Marathon.  After running a few marathons I decided I should give the ultra a whirl, after all, how tricky can it be? *insert nervous laugh*
So in December last year a friend and I signed up to run The Wall Ultra 69 miles from Carlisle to Newcastle. ‘Easy’ I foolishly thought to myself, ‘what could possibly go wrong!’  Word soon spread around the Sandhurst Joggers camp fire that some lunatic had signed up to run The Wall Ultra and he didn’t have a clue!  Kind SJs found me after the Bramshill cross country I was suffering after a mere 6 miles!, I was quickly sent to speak to the most wise and experienced long distance pro Max Woods. Max gave me some great tips and training began 6 months ago. Later on I read in awe as Graham ‘Meeksy’ Meeks smashed the London to Brighton Challenge….. and two weeks later it was my turn.
So how was it?…. it was a tough race! The first 50 miles were a real pleasure; enjoying the scenery, chatting to other runners and plodding along nice and quickly on pace for a strong finish literally just behind the elites. Foolishly I thought I had this in the bag with 18 miles to go and 51 in the bank I was on top of the world… then it all went wrong!
left right lef
At mile 51 the wheels fell of, my ankle began to hurt as the torture of 10 hours on my feet, the distance and the 30 degree heat started to take its toll. I went from being positive, full of energy and loving running to an emotional wreck. This lasted for about eleven miles and I seriously considered throwing in the towel, several times, as my inner running chimp started to grind my positive thoughts away.
As the sun started to set I took some time out and lay on the grass under a bush. I was a broken man and wondered why I was bothering putting myself through this. Fellow runners (complete strangers) noticed I was a mess and stopped and sat with me, we chatted and I even cried!  These kind strangers helped me back onto my feet and reminded me how far I had come. Pain is temporary, DNF is permanent were parts of the conversation and as I rose back to my feet such is the amazing kindness of the running community they offered to keep me company to the next check point.
At the final check point I had a cup of tea and a chocolate bar and my spirits lifted. With seven miles to go I bid farewell to my new found friends and they ran off into the distance as I limped (ankle now seriously hurting) to the finish it…. it took nearly two hours to cover those last seven miles as exhaustion and ankle woes had well and truly taken hold.
Despite the pain and emotional rollercoaster, on balance I DID really enjoy it and the satisfaction of nailing 69 miles in one day is great! As for my ankle it’s still pretty sore and I haven’t been able to run on it since, so the hopes of any performance at the next Yateley 10k have gone out the window…. but all that said…. it was worth it!

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