Endurance races are for lunatics, there isn’t anyone sane who actually enjoys them. They are miserable experiences that don’t even get the amount of Kudos they deserve to make them worth while.
Most people (rightly so) think that anyone who does ultra marathon style events is a bit weird and so don’t want to talk to them, so when they find out someone they know is doing one they generally ignore the issue in the hope it goes away. Arguably the worst part of doing one of these hideous things is that when you say to a normal person that you are about to walk/run/swim/paddle/ crawl through jungles, deserts, mountains or shark infested seas it’s so far removed from their dreary dog walk in the rain that they simply nod and try and change the subject before you ask for sponsorship. It is a case of “Endurance Ignorance” that makes doing these events so unrewarding and unappreciated.
There is one event in particular where “endurance ignorance” plays a starring role – Trailwalker. This is a charity event like so many, but its description doesn’t in anyway reflect the actual event.
“100 kilometres over the South Downs with 3 of your mates over a weekend”
That doesn’t sound hard, that sounds like a very long pub crawl. That sounds as if you could do it every weekend, and possibly gain some weight in the process through eating too many pies. They have tried to make it sound tougher by asking The Gurhka’s to run the whole event, but it hasn’t really helped. Most of us don’t really know how long a Kilometre is anyway, so the idea of 100 of them is frankly incomprehensible.
I have had the pleasure of completing Trailwalker in 2017, (read more) I can vouch for the fact that it is the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Bar None. Fact.
But in 2017 we didn’t really complete the event in good order, my little brother Fanny the Tranny hit a wall at the 90km point and we lost him to weakness and a medics warm car, sadly for Fanny the Enduro Bug bit hard that day, and he was left with unfinished business with Trailwalker where I had a nice shiny medal.
When Fanny decided to re-enter this summer with a band of 3 accountants from his child’s school, I knew this was something I couldn’t miss. I volunteered my services to fly back to the UK (I know…hero) and provide the support vehicle driver role that is so crucial to the success of anyones attempt. (extra hero points)
Fanny had planned meticulously, every checkpoint considered, rehearsed and trained for. Every eventuality be it weather, or blisters, or exhaustion had been carefully considered and a solution provided for. It was nothing short of a military operation in its planning, so much so there was little for me to do other than unpack, cook and drive.
Fanny as many of you may know has a terrible eating disorder, which means he has to survive on a diet of boiled grass and air, he is quite literally impossible to feed. In particular when you need an intake of calories to rival Polar explorers. Fortunately his long suffering wife (GP) had prepared a collection of meals from the miniscule selection of ingredients he is ‘allowed’ and all I had to do was heat the dubious looking pots in sync with the other lads calorie rich meaty stews and sausage sandwiches.
Fanny’s team of number crunchers had each had varying levels of preparation and training under their belt, but what they lacked in prep they seemed to have in grit and determination. Despite enjoying far too much wine the night before the start, they were in high spirits at the start and set off into the darkness with a mix of eagerness and naivety.
They skipped along, checkpoint after checkpoint looking stronger and stronger as a team as the Km’s ticked by. I was hugely impressed. Charlie’s knee started to give way at 40km, Hugo’s ankle proved irksome from the 50km mark, but never did they stop, did they suggest giving up or look like a team on the brink of collapse.
Fanny led his team through the final 30km misery of a bitterly cold night to complete Trailwalker in 22hrs. A remarkable feat of determination and camaraderie that was a pleasure to watch and be part of. But most of all it reminded me not to suffer from endurance ignorance next time someone does something amazing, to be enthused and interested and offer sponsorship and support rather than the more common raised eyebrow and change of subject.