• Sussanah Chan

Pilgrims' Ultra - Mud & Miles

I realised just how far away I had to run the previous week. I had dropped my car off eight miles shy of the end point.. Intending to run a section of the race route to reccie it. I was driving for an hour before I got there. I was running the Pilgrims Ultra - 66 miles in two days taking in the many delights of the North Downs Way, including St.Marthas, Box Hill, and Reigate Hill. I live in Farnham and from here it was roughly running to Gatwick airport, and back again. This was perfect training for the Marathon des Sables (MdS). In fact many MdS competitors use this as a training run! The weather was freezing.... But you can't have it all. Day 1. I loaded up my rucksack to a similar weight I would have for the mid-section of the MdS, around 16 lbs. I was running with my training buddies Emma and Katie on day one - and felt quietly confident as we had been training along most of the route. The miles did not really worry me, but I struggle up the hills with the weight on my back... And there were hills! St.Marthas - always a pleasure ..and we got that out of the way quite early. Box Hill, which was around the halfway point at mile 17 was thigh-busting - but at least you got a nice view at the top. By the time I got to Reigate Hill, I had absolutely had enough of my heavy rucksack. My ankle was hurting and the sticky mud was beginning to get very, very unfunny.. Emma and Katie dragged me the last few miles over the finish line!

Day 2. Totally refreshed from sleeping on a school hall floor, with a load of other, hardier runners - I set off at 8am sharp on the same route in reverse. This day I was by myself. After half a mile it became apparent my ankle was going to hurt a bit. I took painkillers, ditched some rucksack weight to avoid worsening the injury (running with 9lb) I tried very hard just to focus on stopping as little as possible to get it done. For 15 miles I ran completely alone which was pretty tough going. I had miss placed my gloves- it was cold and I had not really eaten enough. All ultra running fails.. But coming back to Guildford I met up with a few other runners who carried me along for a few miles. By the time I was 6 miles for Farnham I could feel the end was in sight, and with lots of twitter encouragement (really helped!) I dug deep and managed to pull out some faster miles! I crossed the line, utterly knackered - but surprisingly 8th woman! Extreme Energy host the event, and it was super well organised. I definitely had a home advantage knowing the route - I'm thinking of ditching the weight and running for a better place next year!