Three Peaks? More like Two Unicorns and a Squirrel!

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`Sunday 20th September 2015. My first step into an actual planned race. The Cumbernauld 10k.

Saturday 29th October 2016. My personal goal of running an Ultra accomplished. The Jedburgh Three Peak Ultra Marathon.

35,078,400 seconds.

584,640 minutes.

406 days.

1 year 1 month and 10 days.

Either way I look at it I honestly can’t bloody believe it. It’s not the fact I ran an ultra, it’s more the fact I actually seen something through!

2 years ago this would have never ever EVER have been an idea I would have entertained. How the fuck I came up with this idea in my head is beyond me.

I smoked (more of a part-time smoker these days if I’m honest). Dabbled with excitable enthusiasm with the devil drink. I was unfit with no intention of being fit. Something happened. Hand on heart I’ve come up with umpteen answers but can’t say “Aye that’s it” with any of them. Whatever it was, I owe that little spark a drink.

As I’ve mentioned before in previous paper rants, the one I signed up for in May…………. 29th……………….. 2016……………. drunk………… entertaining family and friends.

Once that payment of £32 went through and I sobbered up, deep down, I shat it. 60k of trail and hills.

“Hell you playing at”

“You aff yir nut”

“Better get the finger out”

Were a few of my Dads supportive comments once I told him.

Or more to the point when I told him he was the taxi that weekend.

So the wife and I decided to make it a weekend for us to get away. A nice and quiet few days. Few drinks. Nice meals. See the local sights. Mince about hand in hand in the beautiful town of Jedburgh. Just with the added 38 mile run I was to tackle on the Saturday.

Now, if anyone (me until I seen it on the BBC Adventure Show) hasn’t heard of Jedburgh, then please take out your Google maps and find the place. Great wee toon! Nice monuments, cracking scenery, which I can vouch for with my own peepers and an excellent guest house called the Allerton House.. …Incredible breakfast.

Yes I am looking for a healthy discount next time.

So, to the actual race, which I ran for The Brain Tumour Charity (still time to donate!!!!) https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Gordon-Henderson6

Eight o’clock start. Cold. Queue for the toilet was a slow experience. Not the fact it was a huge queue, there was only three fellas in front of me, but the fucking smell would have floored a camel. The human nerves can cause men to do ungodly bowel movements that would give a dung beetle the baulk.

Once I survived the toilets it was race brief time. Sorry I’ll rephrase that, it was the greatest, most to the point brief, that has ever been in the existence of race briefs!!! Summed up with the everlasting words of………………… “basically don’t be a dick”.

So, we were herded across the road from the rugby club to the start line.  A start line where there was a squirrel, two unicorns and a dancing devil in a kilt, all doing the YMCA. Welcome to the world of Ultra’s. Couldn’t make this shit up. It was bloody amazing. The look of WTF on my face was replicated by the folk around me. To be fair it was needed, as for that precious few minutes, I forgot I was about to run 38 miles and scale three fucking peaks. I tip my cap to the race organisers. Well played ladies.

The hooter sounded and everyone bar the folk that knew what they were doing, shuffled forward like a gaggle of geese. Pretty sure I farted and instantly apologised to the poor sod behind me. Though if he had went for a piss prior to the start, then his senses would have packed up shop for winter.

Off we set. A mix of the sleek extreme athletes to ladies dressed as the “Where’s Wally” character. I didn’t know what was ahead of me, but I knew somewhere up yonder hills I would find out if i was a fake at this running malarkey. I found myself trying to copy the strides of who looked like an Ultra runner. I must have looked like a right prick, changing stride lengths, speed, foot impact on the ground, whilst trying to copy whoever was in front of me. I did find a kind of suitable speed when I got chaffing with a guy from Edinburgh. Turned out this was his first Ultra also, in fact this was his first ever race. Brave bloke. He soon scuttled off once he got his own speed right and left me to my own devices of trying to stop my gels poking out from my chest pouch and jagging into my arm pit.

It was fitting that my first Ultra would in fact be the Jedburgh multi peaked race as I had several highs and lows during the course..

First high……..actually starting the race……. first low …….. slipping on my arse. As we ran through the trees and amazing walkways Jedburgh has to offer, we darted down a narrow path towards a field. The path could only be described as a mud bob sleigh track. Thick, wet sludge. I tried to correct my step and my right ankle buckled. As that happened my body weight transferred in the opposite direction as the afore-mentioned ankle. Down I went. Right ankle and left wrist. “BLOODY HELL, that’s me fucked”  was the initial thought as I flapped like a fish in shit. I sprung back up like a jack in a box. Don’t know if it was adrenaline or embarrassment but I laughed with a few runners to hide my pain. Fucking sore. Still sore 4 days later as I type this. But alas, I soldiered on. Soon, the pain simmered down to a low dull pulse with each stride. I can handle this I thought, only 30 miles to go.

As I entered check point One Maxton, (10 miles in) 18 minutes below my target time (1hr 42) I suddenly got the feeling that I could do this! I could run an ultra! I was 28 miles off the finish line but what’s 28 miles when you’ve just picked up a Nutella and peanut butter sandwich. I was on a high (possibly sugar induced).

With each section of the race I met some amazing people. Young and old alike. I’ve run a few races since starting this, but they were 10K’s and half Marathon’s. Surrounded by silent discos or earphone twattery, as I was informed, but in such long distance running, people seem to want to chat. Suited me to a tea. I needed to keep my mind off the miles ahead and my eyes off the watch. From seasoned runners to relay runners who were really supportive of the full distance runners, without those people I would have been fucked. Relay teams dressed up in costumes urging you on whilst you plod through the middle of nowhere is strangely inspiring. To you beautiful people in costume, I salute each and every one of you.

Now onto check point two Ryhmer’s Stone. (3hr 14) Didn’t set a target for this as I didn’t have a scooby if I would have made it. (17 miles in). Or more known to me now, the check point before the peaks. As I ran down the road parallel to these pesky hills, I was confronted by two of the most excitable Marshals in the land. I thought that is bloody amazing. These people are so supportive…………… they started to usher each runner to a sharp left turn up a stoned path. Wait a minute….these excitable wee green perils were loving the fact that they were directing everyone up towards the “Three Peaks”. The sick wee bastards. I calmly asked if I had to? Half joking, half being deadly serious………… Laughter with a “Aye ye dae” wasn’t the supportive response I craved.

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The first peak was reminiscent of the sludge I slipped on my arse! Cautious steps from the foot to the top. Amazing views. Was informed by a guy that this wasn’t the highest peak, but was the steepest! Turns out the fella was in the same digs. Geordie. Nice guy. Another quick chat and I took off to the top. Turns out the practise runs up the Campsies paid dividends. Minced up those hills like a distant relative of Weir’s Way host, Tom. It was the coming down the fuckers that stopped me in my tracks. The ankle was rearing itself to bite me in the arse. On the flat or uphill, I was soldiering on, downhill I was in the shit. To ease my mind I struck up a few conversations. One in particular made me get all negative thoughts out my head and fucking get on with the task at hand. I had overtaken this guy on each of the peaks, only for him to pass me on the way down. It was on the last hill that I clocked he had something I wanted, this guy had the red ‘M’ dot tattoo on the back of his right leg. He was an IronMan. Not just one, but multiple, full distance IronMan. I was overtaking a serious athlete with ease on the hill, only for a gammy ankle to bring me back down to earth. In my head I could have beaten an actual IronMan in my first Ultra, if I hadn’t slipped and pissed off my ligaments. It was after hearing about his previous races, that I thought ‘I need to get one of those races ticked off my list’. A really humble fella. A nameless hero for me in this race…….I’ll get the bastard beat in the next race we meet. Haha!!

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Check Point Three. Bowen. 22 miles in. Possibly the greatest lead up to a check point on Planet Earth. I had seen on Facebook, photos of a swing park with pink arrows leading up to a childs swing bridge with the comments ‘If you don’t do this section of the course, you will be pelted with jobbies’. I honestly thought this was a bit of banter amongst the previous runners. Was. It. Fuck. It was serious. I watched the runner before me try like Bambi to crawl up the face of the monkey bars before the rope bridge, then slip down the slide with a skin to metal screeching sound of unpleasant childhood memories.

‘I thought this was an online joke’!

‘Sorry son, it’s real. Now hurry up. Count yourself one of the lucky ones, the battery in my phone is dead!’

It was embarrassing but again a much-needed escape from the task at hand. Again, well-played to the organisers.

It was as I left this check point that the ankle was in full ‘Fuck you’ mode. My running became an Ultra Shuffle as one guy told me as he passed. I wasn’t going to let a sore ankle rob me of my first Ultra…..the wife would kill me!

Check Point Four. 28 miles in. Maxton. The return leg. (6hrs 25mins) I phoned the good lady to inform her that I was on my way home. ‘I know’ was the reply I got. The race was being updated online and my wee wummin was keeping a watchful eye on me or more realistically keeping an eye on me as to make sure I finished! Haha!

Those last ten miles were the most painful an emotional steps I had ever taken. Every time I seen a race marshal, I smiled and cracked a joke to hide the utter agony that screamed through my ankle and leg. Ain’t no-one, noooo-one, was pulling me less than 10 mile out. As I walked back through the paths that lead me to the peaks, it began to dawn on me that I had this in the bag. I, again, met some amazing people who stopped and asked if I was OK, as I wasn’t running. I also wasn’t missing out on a fucking shiny, new medal.

Onto the finish line. It wasn’t the Chariots of Fire scene that I had dreamt of. It was more the Ace Ventura scene, where he gets shot in the leg with a dart, but any Hollywood blockbuster finish, was a win in my eyes.

I was asked by a small child, as I made my way through Jedburgh main Street, towards the finish line as to why I wasn’t running. ‘I was supposed to run!’ I couldn’t find an answer for the wee boy, but in my head I had answered him in a way that no child should be spoken too!

As I made the grass verge, I strangely apologised to the lady standing with her dog, that I had taken so long. I stopped to kiss my AMAZING wife, who stood all alone at the bottom of the hill before the finish line. I started to drag my arse up the hill. Then, true to form, the madness we had at the start and the middle, we now had at the end. The squirrel, a unicorn and a small child, in the Jedburgh race hoodie, approached me and informed me that I had to dance my way over the finish line. I then produced what would give John Travolta nightmares. Some stupid finger to elbow twirly vague attempt of a Saturday Night fever manoeuvre. Overall time was 9 hours 19 minutes. Not the best, but I am here to complete, not compete. Haha.

It started weird.

It became bizarre half way through.

It ended in a shameful dance move.

To sum up the Jedburgh Three Peak Ultra Marathon………..AMAZING!!

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I plan to have another go next year. Need to see if these nutty organisers can top this years event. Genuinely enjoyed every minute of this cherry popping, ultra experience.

Up next….the HokaOne Highland Fling Ultra. 53 miles of the breathtakingly beautiful West Highland Way.

Cannot. Fucking. Wait.

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