Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

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Fighting the eyelids (Tresco Part 1)

Posted by Oli on Tuesday 15th April, 2008

I can’t even begin to describe the emotional impact of the last week, especially the last few days.

After an enforced media blackout over the weekend, I was hoping to be blogging from Tuesday about my adventures down South, where I’d gone to take my Direct Access motorcycle training course, which was full of adventures, bumps and bruises (although luckily nothing worse than that).  Life got in the way, however, with the effort of keeping a bike on its wheels becoming too much for my recovering body and leaving me mostly too shattered to even think afterwards, let alone form coherent sentences.

But of course last week wasn’t really about the motorbike course, it was all about the run up to the Tresco Marathon and the event itself.

I’d love to go back and give you a day-by-day,  blow-by-blow account and maybe at some point I will, but right now, having got back from our travels at 4.30 this afternoon after an epic 27 hour journey (with a stop in London), it’s WAY more important that you guys know where your sponsorship money went.

That, people, was towards helping me push myself through the hell that was the last mile of the Tresco marathon, which I not only achieved, but in record time, too.

The marathon on Tresco is simply one of the most amazing experiences it’s possible to legally have in the world, without a doubt.  Author (and personal favourite of my Uncle) Bill Bryson was invited along one year and now he refuses to miss it even when, as with this year, the birth of a new grandchild is imminent, such is the level of warmth, friendliness, inspiration and all-round beauty, both human and natural.

It’s fair to say that the troup of 10 Marines from M Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines made quite a stir.  Standing out on the course (which runners have to complete a draining 7.5 laps of to achieve the full 26.2 mile distance), you could feel the excitement in the air every time they came into view, moving at pace, all in time, wearing 30lb back-packs and full kit.  Everyone there to cheer people on spent the day looking out first of all for their loved one, but then for the next time the Marines were coming round.

My brother, when he first put himself and the gang forward for the challenge, told the organisers they’d do it in 7 hours.  Chatting on the ferry on the way over to the island, he confided that he was hoping they’d get in under that.  Speaking to their Sergeant, he was determined they were going to break 6 hours.

As they rounded their last lap and past their well-manned rolling pitstop point for the last time, I started my walk back up the course and up the hill to meet them at the 25 mile marker on their next way round, glancing at my watch the check the time.  As I stood on top of the hill watching the turn for them to emerge, my stomach flipped and I realised just what it was I was undertaking.

The course organisers came flying round the corner on one of the islands ubiquitous golf karts, stopping in front of me to check who I was before announcing that I was runner number 140 and leaping out to pin my number on me – news to me as I didn’t realise I was to be a registered entrant in the event.  As he pinned me front and back, I stole a glance at my watch and realised something horrible: they were on course – at their pace – to break the 5.5 hour mark. 5hours 30minutes with 30lbs and jungle boots.  These guys were on another level (“machines” as the marathon’s instigator called them after trying to keep pace) the only thing standing in the way of them achieving a truly remarkable time was me.


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