It took me about five hours to run and power walk the first 25 miles of the Long Distance Walkers Association 100-miler from the Olympic Park to Windsor over the queen’s jubilee weekend, just over seven hours to jog and walk the next 25 and just over 20 hours to zombie walk and very occasionally jog the final 50.
I’d harboured what turned out to be a ludicrously ambitious target of finishing in 24 hours: a tad over 4mph couldn’t be that impossible, after all, could it? This was despite the fact that on my two previous 100-milers I’d needed something like 39 hours to complete the first (the LDWA Wessex 100 in 2009) and I’d pulled out at 82 miles on the next (in Scotland in 2010).
In my optimistic planning, I’d managed to disregard a lifetime’s experience of other factors that might get in the way of keeping up a steady pace over a full 24 hours. These included, in no particular order:
1. It gets dark at night, even in June, so you tend to go a bit slower than during the daytime.
2. It rains in England, even in June, especially over bank holidays, and you tend to go a bit slower when it rains.
3. There are hills in England, even in the south, and you tend to go a bit slower up hills.
4. The principal geological features of this part of southern England include chalk, flint and clay. In combination with rain, these produce a slippery grey slime that plays havoc with your balance and pace, especially in the dark.
5. Darkness, rain and slippery grey slime play even more havoc when you’ve got a dodgy ankle, especially when you’ve already turned it again on the cobbles at Canary Wharf.
6. Detailed route descriptions printed on paper have a tendency to disintegrate when wet. Rain is wet.
7. Following a detailed route description while on the move in the above conditions is more difficult than sitting down in the comfort of your own living room (with your glasses on).
None of this really matters when you cross the finishing line at an event such as this, glad that it’s finally over and full of elation at having finished at all. It’s hard to believe how quickly your recollection of the pain recedes and how soon you start to think about doing the same thing over again. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a flat 100-miler somewhere that you could complete in 24 hours.
Not the Lakeland 100, of course, which is now a mere 52 days away – and whose 40-hour cut off is looking tougher than ever.