It was dark and headlights flared into my kitchen window.... “that’ll be Helen then” she had arrived and just knowing she was there eased my nerves somewhat. We began to pack the car for an epic adventure driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai to run around a 6.7 kilometre loop... on the hour.... every hour until there was only one person left! Everyone else in the race would DNF..... Did. Not. Finish.
On the drive there was an eerie fog that rolled in and I’m so glad I had company and wasn’t driving! Which meant I could relax and help to navigate. We eventually arrived at Al Qudra track in Dubai and began to unload the car with the biggest ice box full of food you could imagine! A comfy chair, sun umbrella to shade is from from the Sun and a bag full of clothes for all sorts of weather and not to forget the first-aid kit containing painkillers, blister plasters, deep heat and sunscreen and all of the other lotions and potions you might need for a potentially 1-4day adventure.
On arriving there were a lot of familiar faces including some of the strongest male Ultrarunners in the UAE and some new faces were sprinkled in the crowds too. We were all looking around eyeing each other up.... wondering who would be the last “one” standing.
We gathered for the debriefing with the race Director and were told that there would be a whistle blown to give us three minutes notice to get to the start line and subsequent whistles for two minutes and one minute. A cow bell rang to mark the start of the loop and off we went on our first loop everyone was in good spirits And all very relaxed just chatting knowing we had plenty of time to get round 6.7 km on fresh legs. The day went by very quickly and the group of people starting the loop when the cow bell rang seemed to get smaller and smaller and my friend Helen who had been keeping me company from the start of the journey had decided to call it a day.... after 71km (Awesome effort)
By the time the sun set there was only four of us left going into the night section and my friends and crew had all left. The night loop was an out and back on a road so would test us mentally as well as physically. There on the start of the night loop was Me... the only female, the self declared “little running warrior” from Russia, Rob one of the tough guys from innerfight and Ole a guy who I had run in Jordan with if a few months back and knew he was mentally very tough.
I actually loved the night loops. I just counted to 10 over and over again which placed me in a meditative state... when I’m in this trance I feel I could run forever. I managed to keep a pretty consistent pace throughout the night and although the legs felt great I did start to suffer with nausea... which is pretty common in these long endurance events. One of my closest friends came to crew me for a few hours through the night which made me eat and drink more and made sure I kept as warm as possible which really helped having a familiar face at the end of each loop especially since the cold fog had descended and everything looked eerie and dark.
The nausea meant I probably couldn’t take on as much fuel as I required but because the running was at a low intensity I felt I could just keep going. I did think we would be in it for the long haul knowing the crazy Russian guy had once done 71 hours in a similar event but about 19 hours in he hobbled across the finish line declaring he was “done”. I think a combination of the heat of the day and the cold fog that had descended on us had gotten the better of him. Just me, Rob and Ole left. I could see that Rob was slowing and limping but knew he was mentally tough as I had previously raced with him in Jordan but then his Achilles niggle slowed him to a walk which ended up him not making it in from Loop 21..... that’s the thing about this type of race.... it’s easy until it’s not. I felt quite sad about Rob pulling out as we had formed a friendship and I really felt for him remembering when the same thing happened to me 80miles into a 100mile race in the UK but I managed to hobble to the end... I guess that’s another hard thing about this type race.... you have to go 6.7km an hour no matter what!
Just me and Ole. As the night loops continued and I began to feel more nauseous and eat less but I was looking forward to my husband arriving. The Sun came up and we hit the 100 mile mark. My legs felt great but my energy levels were dropping because of the lack of nutrition. As it started to heat up I was very conscious that I would have to take on more fluid because dehydration was definitely on the cards if I didn’t. I came in and my husband was there... yeah! He force-fed me some delicious mushroom risotto which seemed to perk me up a bit but as soon as I started running again I vomited. I’ve been running for 27 hours at this point and I couldn’t believe how good My legs felt and how well my feet at coped and that I had no pain or chaffing or blisters. The only thing that was slowing me down was the need to vomit with every sip or every bite and it had slowed me down so much I felt I wasn’t going to make the loop on time.
I hit the jeep track which was around 800 m from the finish line with five minutes to spare. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it but then I saw a familiar face on the side of the road (Dave!). This spurred me on and I was able to sprint to the finish line just making the bell. I couldn’t believe I could sprint 500m after running for almost 28 hours! I now knew this was me done. I was feeling incredibly unwell, dehydrated and lacking energy I collapsed into my husbands arms crying, knowing I had been defeated. Frustrated to think if I could just eat I could go so much further but nothing not even one sip of water was staying in my stomach.
That was it.
That was the end.
Ole had deservedly won.
He was the last one standing.
I sat and waited to share his victory with him! It was bitter sweet! I was so happy for him and sad for myself!
I have a new found confidence in my mind and legs and can’t wait to see what they help me to achieve next! (just need to sort my stomach out!)