1 Weekend, 1 Leg, 50 Miles of Running
Surprisingly, I never feel ready for a race. Whether I’ve broken my collarbone or my stump is sore, I never feel ready for the upcoming run. Despite not feeling 100%, most of the time, as soon as the adrenaline kicks in, I never seem to notice the niggles and my body tends to hold up.
I suppose niggles are just a part of a runner’s life. Here’s how I pushed through those niggles to achieve 30 miles at Europe’s Toughest Mudder and two standard Tough Mudders in one weekend:
For those that aren’t aware, Europe’s Toughest Mudder is an 8-hour endurance race starting at midnight and ending at 8:30am. With 5 mile loops filled with 18 obstacles per loop, the top 3 male and female contenders can win up to €4,000. The winners of previous races have clocked up to 50 miles at this event and it was my intention for Berlin’s Europe’s Toughest Mudder was simply to enjoy the course and to not worry about milage.
Earlier in the season, I had set myself a target of 25 miles overnight as well as 2 standard Tough Mudders that weekend, totalling 3 events and approximately 45 miles covered in a weekend. As I had achieved this target in June in Michigan, it was my intention to just enjoy every moment and try and run as much as possible for the two other Tough Mudders that weekend.
In Michigan, I had broken the previous amputee record of 25 miles hit and I had always told myself that 30 miles overnight was just unachievable. In the community, 30 miles for a male is often the target as this allows an individual to gain contender status at World’s Toughest Mudder (a 24-Hour endurance race). Another avenue to gain contender status is through completing 50 Tough Mudder events, which I already had, so I was happy to just stick with the 25 miles completed.
I arrived in Berlin on the Thursday with my team and we made our way to the Hotel in Berlin central. After a great carb-loaded meal, we prepared for a ‘Tourist Friday’ – a walking tour in the centre of Berlin followed by picking up the hire car and travelling 2 hours south to our accommodation.
After settling, we popped out to the local supermarket to grab our food for the following weekend. As my 3rd Regional Toughest Mudder and after some great discussions with a nutritionist, I had some great ideas of foods to try. In Michigan, toaster waffles worked really well for me, as they were a fantastic source of carbs while being tasty and interesting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a hold of these so I decided to try Pain au chocolat instead – big mistake!
Saturday morning came and the team and I had booked in for a Tougher Mudder (the first, and competitive, wave of the day where individuals can win up to £500 for the standard 10+ mile course). We were going to stick together and we managed to complete the course in an average (for us) 2.5 hours. By completing the Tougher Mudder, it enabled us not only clean (ish), first mud but also the time to get a great scope of the course, ready for the overnight event.
After crossing the finish line, we hopped back into the car to go back to our accommodation for some more food, a shower, a nap and to prepare our kit for the event. After a 2-hour nap, a jacket potato with cheese and veggie spaghetti Bolognese, I felt relatively ready (as ready as I normally feel anyway).
As I registered for the event, I was given my bib and a pitting area, where I was able to place my food and clothes. Fortunately, one of our team members was extremely generous and offered to pit for our group so it was fantastic to have someone there to support you through a tiring and emotionally draining event. She was great at kicking me out of the pit area and onto the course as well as shovelling food into my mouth as I faffed around with my leg.
As the clock ticked, midnight was approaching and we made our way into the start pen. Surrounded by Mudders with their head torches and strobes on, I had a flood of emotions as we read the Tough Mudder pledge. Despite it being in German, the message of personal challenge yet camaraderie shone through. I had a moment where I simply stood there, speechless and filled with amazement for where I was. I was in Germany, about to start an 8-hour endurance race, surrounded by friends and a community, a family, that I never thought would be possible.
Zehn, neun, acht, sieben, sechs, funf, vier, drei, zwei, eins…..we were off!
The very first section of the course was very uneven, which then went on to a concrete section, over and down some steps and then eventually into the forest. I stayed with the group for the majority of the first lap, which I managed in 55 minutes. Not a fast lap however I was conscious to pace myself, as this was only a start to the long, hard and cold event.
Just over an hour into the event, the course director started opening up the obstacles. The first obstacle on the list was a 6 ft wall, which I jumped over without any problems. The course was lovely and flat and I was feeling great. Thoughts of pushing myself to the absolute limit swirled round my head….I was calculating my lap time and how many miles I could get in. Perhaps 30 miles is achievable? No…. surely not me, 30 miles?!
Nevertheless, I was running on a high with the most recent ‘hit’ of ‘Baby Shark’ going round and round my head. Strangely, it kept me going and it felt like time was going a lot quicker than it actually was. Within our group, we had the whole gang of Mummy and Daddy Shark, with me, the youngest in the group, being baby shark (or Stumpy Shark).
About 8 miles in, my stump was struggling and I pulled over to take it off and adjust it – it worked! I was back in the race. I came into the pit area after 2 laps (10 miles) after about 2 hours and decided to adjust my leg and grab some extra nutrition. No matter how many times I had completed the 5 mile loop, I would intentionally forget the course in order to have the excitement of the obstacles upon the approach. I was never bored and the motivation from the other Mudders kept me going through my times of trouble.
Lap 3 was relatively uneventful but in lap 4, my head torch suddenly ran out of charge just 500m into the lap. I had about 3 hours to go and I didn’t want to risk not being able to hit 30 miles by having to run an additional km for a head torch. With every obstacle being lit, I decided to sprint the lap and get back to the pit area as quickly as possible – I somehow managed to make this my fastest lap in just 45 minutes. How? I have no idea but perhaps I should run out of batteries more often!
With 2.5 hours left, I knew that I would not be able to fit in another 2 laps so I decided to go out with a friend of mine for her 5th and my 6th lap – meaning we would both get contender status for World’s Toughest Mudder. (Females only need 25 miles, instead of 30).
Interestingly on my 6th lap, I actually broke my marathon PB time, as I had a reason to run. The obstacles, despite actually adding time, kept the run interesting! I didn’t need the crowd behind me or an MP3 blasting tunes, all I needed was darkness and obstacles.
I managed the last lap in about 2 hours, as my friend and I were both extremely tired with no huge rush to get back in time. I crossed the line after 8 hours and 5 minutes, covering 30 miles in total, meaning I had beaten my previous record of 25 miles in 8 hours and 25 minutes. No words can truly describe my emotions during this period but it was safe to say that I was ecstatic. Seeing my friends achieve their goals, including a friend of mine who managed to clock 40 miles, was just incredible.
We were all on a high and tired but we knew we had one more struggle – the next 10 miles for another standard Tough Mudder. We popped back to our accommodation for an hour-or-so to grab some extra nutrition and have a shower/sleep. Stupidly, I fell asleep and completely forgot to eat – something that I know I have definitely learnt from.
After heading back to the village, we began walking our final 10 miles. Running at this stage, was just unrealistic as we were all just too tired. My body was starving, it was longing for some nutrition and I was tired beyond belief. I kept my head down and decided to crack on with the course. The floor started to blend into a blur and I knew I just needed to finish. I didn’t feel light-headed at all but was certainly simply exhausted beyond belief. Those last 10 miles were the hardest 10 miles of my life. Thoughts of quitting circled around my head but I was adamant to keep going.
Runners were sprinting past us as our group looked completely beaten. As we approached the final obstacle, we knew we were so close to finishing! There was a group just slightly in front of us and it was clear that they were adamant to finish last but we weren’t having any of that. We wanted to be both the first and the last ones on the course that weekend and we certainly achieved that. We held back and crossed the finish line approximately 29 hours after we had started on the Saturday. Between the 4 of us, we had covered over 195 miles and we were certainly ready for sleep.
I’m surprised how many mistakes I made in this race but how I was able to overcome them to reach a new PB and amputee record. No matter how unprepared I feel and how many mistakes I make, I know that I can achieve great things. With only 51 days to go until World’s Toughest Mudder, I better start working on my nutrition, getting in my miles and a positive mental attitude for the race to come.