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It was 7pm on Saturday. I had said goodbye to my friends and headed off into the darkness. I had been up for 37 hours and travelled 125 miles. I was hungry, sore and exhausted. My ankles had soft tissue damage, making it nearly impossible to get any movement out of them, my knees had swollen up and were screaming out for me to stop, and I had cuts and bruise marks all around my waist and along my shoulders from the straps of my backpack. I was in a bad state. But I knew I had to do this. I knew I had to finish. Even though I was doing it for a great cause (BBC Children in Need), it now became a lot more personal. I wanted to prove to myself that I can do this. That it is humanly possible to run 184 miles nonstop, without sleep and alone. I wanted to prove to other people, that no matter what your level of fitness (or in my case, lack of fitness), that you can achieve something great with sheer determination and will power.
From Eton, I was travelling towards Richmond, my next check point. This was 31 miles away, but I had allowed myself 11 hours to get there, which is plenty of time and gives me a chance to walk at an easy pace. There was no physical energy left in me to run anymore. No matter how badly I would have liked to, it just wasn’t going to happen.
The first 10 miles were actually pretty nice and easy. I had been fed and bandaged up pretty good, so my joints weren’t under too much pressure. But after the first 10 miles I started to get bored. I was in the middle of the beautiful countryside (well, I say beautiful, I couldn’t see a thing as it was pitch black!) and all alone. I needed friends around me. I needed comfort. I needed… musicals! After the huge success of my one man version of Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar, I succumbed to my audience’s wishes and once again took to the stage. This evening’s choice was Rent followed by a selection of various songs from various artists. My ‘Seasons of Love’ received a standing ovation as did my ‘Take Me or Leave Me’. But then I started on some Adele numbers. This proved to be my downfall.
After an amazing (and heart wrenching) performance, I arrived in Richmond. It was 6am and freezing cold. After being awake for 48 hours, the sleep deprivation started to have an effect on me. I remember walking through the streets of Richmond and cutting through Old Deer Park, which roughly saved me a mile on my journey (considering I had added roughly 10 miles onto my journey a few days ago, I thought I deserved a break at last). I decided to make another video journal entry talking about my experience so far and what was happening to me. Now whilst making this video, I started to feel myself getting over emotional. I’m not sure why, but as soon as I stopped recording, I just started crying.
I thought that my friends and family didn’t care about me and what I was doing (which was completely wrong as they completely care about me and were all amazed with what I was doing) and I then started to think about my previous relationships and couldn’t understand why the guys I’ve dated in the past hated me so much. It was all completely over emotional nonsense that had no justification what so ever. I was acting like one of the drunken 18 year olds from my home town who would get so hammered, sit on the concrete floor, screaming at the top of their lungs. As soon as I got that image into my head, I stopped my whimpering and carried on the journey. I was on the home stretch. I was 20 miles away from the finish line and I had 12 hours to complete it in. This may seem like an easy thing to do, but I was walking at a snail’s pace now. I had to cover just over a mile and a half every hour. I had to try and pace myself so I didn’t get to the finish line too early or ridiculously late. But the last part was going to be the best part of my journey. Going through the city I know and love so well and also seeing my friends along the route.
As daylight started to break over London, I could feel myself getting happier with the prospect of seeing my friends. But one thing was troubling me. What is the difference between a meerkat and a mongoose? Yep. I had finally cracked. I had just passed under Hammersmith Bridge and started to have a full blown conversation with myself, trying to figure out the difference between a mongoose and meerkat. This went on for about 30 minutes or so, until I walked past someone who just kept staring at me. It was at that point that I became self-conscious and realised what I was doing. I knew I was going to be tired during this challenge, but not to the extent that I would start losing it and talking to myself. I managed to pull myself out of it and had a little giggle to myself and then, one of the best sights I had seen on my entire journey thus far. ROWERS! I got to Putney early Sunday morning and there were rowers galore stretching and gearing up to get on to the Thames. It was beautiful. I did see some check me out, but I think it was more of a look of “what the hell has happened to him?” rather than a “would you like to see my stroke?” But hey, I was delusional at this point, so what did I care? Attention is attention, and I was about to get some from a strange man.
I was just coming up to Wandsworth Bridge, when this small rat like dog (I hate small dogs) came running up to me and got in my way. Then this elderly gentleman apologised and started to ask questions about what I was doing, so I answered and we started to have a conversation. But this quickly became a bit uncomfortable.
Man: “184miles? Well you must be pretty fit then.”
Me: “Fairly fit I guess.”
Man: “No guessing about it. You are.”
Me: Cringing. “Thanks.”
Man: “So how about I buy you breakfast?”
Me: “That’s very kind, but I have to get to the Power Station in an hour.”
Man: “It’ll take you 10 minutes to get there. Let me treat you.”
Me: “No thanks. I have to go.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a free meal. But what I must have looked like and for him to take interest in me, well, one of us was definitely a bit cray cray!
I was making good time. I had passed Battersea Power Station and was coming up to Vauxhall. Oh Vauxhall. How you entertain me. I walked past Area and saw some rather loved up folks and a few topless ones too. Oh yes, it was also 10am on Sunday! Those crazy buggers! I was tempted to run over to the guys in the club whilst they were still off their faces and get them to sponsor me or donate, but I didn’t have time for that unfortunately. I was a mile away from my next (and final) check point.
I was walking down Albert Embankment and people were coming up to me and dropping coins in to my collection tin and congratulating me on what I was doing. It was brilliant. The reaction of people along this stretch of the river was just fantastic. It really gave me that extra boost, which was sorely needed at this point. Then, from under Westminster Bridge, there it was. EDF London Eye. My check point. I was so happy. I could see my friends and support team who were there ready to help me prepare for the homestretch.
I was escorted into County Hall and lead to a café where I needed a hot drink and some protein bars. I couldn’t stomach anything bigger at this stage. I just needed sustenance to give me energy to move. I had my bandages changed and joints seen to as I was now just numb and had pretty much lost most feeling in my legs. I tried to talk to my friends, but I was struggling. I was shattered, both mentally and physically. I kept a smile on my face and told them that I had to finish it. At this stage, I dumped my heavy back pack in exchange for a much lighter rucksack with a few snacks inside for the last part of the journey. I was ready to go. I had 6 hours to complete 12 miles. I started to tell myself ‘It could be done! I can actually do this!’ Then, with a hug from my friends, I set off on the last part of my 184 mile run from the source of the Thames to the Thames Barrier.
Usually, when I walk along the river, I stop and admire this great city of ours. The stunning skyline, the gorgeous architecture and the rich history the river and its surroundings offer. But for the first time in over 10 years, I didn’t care. I just wanted to keep going, because I knew that if I stopped, there was a very good chance I wouldn’t be able to start again. I went past so many London landmarks, the Globe Theatre, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern, Unilever House, Tower of London to name but a few, but I just zoned out and then, when I looked up, I realised I was lost.
My mind had switched off and made up words on signposts and I had led myself off the Thames Path and onto a main road called Jamaica Road. “What the hell?” I thought. I got my iPhone out, but couldn’t work it. I had no idea how to bring up my map, so I needed to find someone and ask direction to get back to the river. I must have been a mess. I mean, how do you lose a river in London?! After a few awkward looks from people, I got back on the path. It was 4pm and I had 2 hours left to get to the finish line which was roughly 4 miles away. I was moving as fast as I could. I knew I needed to pick up the pace to get there on time.
I got to the Cutty Sark and needed to rest. It was getting too much for me. I was so close, but it just seemed impossible. At that point, a young lady came over to me with her 2 children, one of which was in a wheelchair with a disability. Her 2 children were the cutest I have ever seen. Both of them were chatty, excitable and very inquisitive. I adored them. She asked if she could put some money in to the tin and congratulated me on the run. She then asked if I was hungry or wanted a cup of tea, which really moved me. I could see that she would have received some help from a charity organisation somewhere along the line to help with her children and that she wanted to donate to help other children and parents. I thanked her and told her that I couldn’t as I had to run off to the finish line and with that, I set off.
I mustered up every bit of energy left in me and moved. I got to the O2 and I could see the Thames Barrier in the distance. It was about 5:20 and was getting dark, but I kept moving. I was about to head past The Anchor and Hope pub, when I saw my friends outside waiting for me. They started to escort me to the finish line. I was only a few hundred meters away. We slowly approached the Thames Barrier, my friends ran off in front of me to greet me at the finish line.
For a few moments more, I was on my own. In the space of 60 hours, I had ran, jogged, walked and even skipped 184 miles from the source of the Thames to the Thames Barrier. I had been through several counties and met some amazing people. I ran through torrential rain and gail force winds. I had encountered cows, bulls, quicksand, electricity pylons and flooded fields. The experience had been something unique. At times I was over it and could no longer be bothered, other times I loved it and would want to do it again. I started to remember the reason why I had decided to do it and how the money I had raised would help so many disadvantaged children.
In the distance, I could see the finishing line tape and a crowd of people. There was cheering and applauding and once again, I could feel myself welling up. After 59 hours and 50 minutes, I had done it! I crossed the finish line! I fell to the floor in a heap. I couldn’t believe what I had just achieved. I couldn’t believe it was all finally over.