This is a tough post for me to write because it is about the Ultra Trail South West and it is about life and death quite literally.
The Ultra Trail South West took place at the weekend and had been the focus of my training all year. Training had gone extremely well until 21st May when I picked up an injury that has meant that I cannot run for between 2 and 4 months. My running dreams shattered.
Endurancelife, the race organisers asked me if I would be prepared to look after a checkpoint at the 74 mile mark and would I cook some hot food? I have previously done a couple of cookery demonstrations at their events so they knew I probably wouldn’t poison anyone. I wasn’t doing anything that weekend, I had planned to be on the costal path, albeit not static in one place, and I had lots of friends running the event including one from South Africa, so yes I would be on a checkpoint
I arrived at Porthtowan at 7.30 am and as I wasn’t due to collect the key to the village hall until 8.00 am went for a little wander and took a few photos on my phone.
The first runner can through the checkpoint at 9.45 am which was 15 minutes before we were scheduled to open, but we were ready. After that people arrived at various intervals, sometimes in groups, so we were busy, and sometimes singly with big gaps in between so things got a bit tedious. I’m pleased to say that my sweet potato and paneer curry was well received. I made it fairly mild for this occasion; you can find the recipe on the getultrarunning website.
A steady stream of friends and acquaintances came through the checkpoint, some in good spirits and some struggling. It was great to see my friend from South Africa who I had met several times while I had been running in that country. He’s known as AO because his name is very hard to pronounce. He was enjoying his race and we chatted while he took some food on board and sorted out his kit . Some runners dropped out at my checkpoint and others that looked very weary carried on. Of those some made it to the end and some were forced to retire a little later. The weather by then was absolutely awful; strong winds, heavy rain and very cold for the time of year. I'm pleased to say that AO made it to the finish.
Two good running friends from Cornwall were forced to withdraw after having gone just over 80 miles and felt quite down about it afterwards. This is what I said to them in a Facebook post.
“anyone can finish a marathon, with an event like the Ultra Trail South West the Gods decide who finishes. When bad weather comes in it depends where you are, both physically and mentally, as to how it affects you. On a nice sheltered part of the course it’s okay, in exposed parts it’s bad. If you are mentally stong at the time it's relatively easy to battle through it, but it can bring you down. If you are at a low point it can be just what is needed to dig deep and tough it out, but it can also finish you off. I was extremely impressed when you left my checkpoint. I watched you going up the hill out of Porthtowan and know you have what it takes. This sort of running is living life on the edge and sometimes you don't make it to the end."
I could have added this is living, not just existing.
The Ultra Trail South West was a great event and I think I would have finished it in my planned time of 32 hours had I not been injured, but I will not know until next year. I enjoyed being part of it and did not miss running; I think the bad weather helped.
I managed to catch up on a little missed sleep on Sunday at lunch time and had an early night so I didn’t feel too bad on Monday morning. That was until a concerned friend contacted me from South Africa to say she had heard that something dreadful had happened to AO, could I find out some details? I did. AO had been involved in a car accident on Monday morning on his way to the airport and died. Words cannot describe how I felt, but then I came across this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
A Psalm of Life
Tell me not in mournful numbers,Life is but an empty dream!For the soul is dead that slumbers,And things are not what they seem.Life is real! Life is earnest!And the grave is not its goal;Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,Was not spoken of the soul.Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,Is our destined end or way;But to act, that each tomorrowFind us farther than today.Art is long, and Time is fleeting,And our hearts, though stout and brave,Still, like muffled drums, are beatingFuneral marches to the grave.In the world's broad field of battle,In the bivouac of Life,Be not like dumb, driven cattle!Be a hero in the strife!Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!Let the dead Past bury its dead!Act, - act in the living Present!Heart within, and God o'erhead!Lives of great men all remind usWe can make our lives sublime,And, departing, leave behind usFootprints on the sand of time;Footprints, that perhaps another,Sailing o'er life's solenm main,A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,Seeing, shall take heart again.Let us then be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.
AO left behind ‘Footprints on the sand of time.’
Sorry to hear about your loss Edward - a great post
Thanks for sharing, so moving x
live each day as if it is your last. Sounds like that is just what AO did.
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