We have news from Megan! Our intrepid runner from Bertrams gives us a personal account of her latest adventures…
So, I made it back safe and sound and very nearly in one piece from Sri Lanka!
I’m not really sure where to start with the details of the race, so let me start with the place…
Sri Lanka is beautiful, the range of scenery, the incredibly friendly people and the wonderful animals along the way are just a few things that will stay in my mind forever when I think fondly back to exploring this amazing country. I would recommend anyone go there!
Day One: In at the deep end
The race, for me, was not quite so beautiful for the most part. Everyone has one race where everything that can go wrong goes wrong – this race was mine. On day one, we were blessed by Buddhist Monks before setting off to the start line. It was a very special start to what was to become a very tough week!
We set off later on the first morning than on any other, and we crossed the start line at nearly 8am. I know this doesn’t seem late, but we soon learned that the heat of the day started to make running uncomfortable from around 8:30-9am, so we were thrown straight in at the deep end on this one!
Stages 1-3: Adjusting to the heat
Stages 1-3 ranged from 22.5 miles to 26 miles, with checkpoints around 6 miles apart (as they were all week) to refill with water. I felt pretty strong for the first couple of days of the race, although it was clear at the end of stage one that my body was still adjusting to the heat. I was doing a combination of running and walking, largely running the first portion of the day and finishing the day with a march to the finish line.
I was lucky enough to have great company when walking, which made the time (and the miles) pass more quickly. We saw fruit bats (sleeping), monkeys, giant iguanas and many beautiful birds along the way and ran/walked alongside fields and temples, through villages and by rivers covered with lily pads.
During these stages, we camped in the grounds of a temple, stayed on the floor of houses of families in local villages and slept in the rooms of an Elephant Research Centre, where I could actually hear elephants in the distance as I fell asleep.
Resting our feet at a camp in a local village
Stage 3: Things start to go very wrong
Stage 3 was extended slightly due to elephants moving in the area we were supposed to camp in, although ending up in the Elephant Research Centre certainly made it less of a hardship!
This is the stage where things started to go very wrong, very quickly for me. I was very ill during the night leading into Stage 3, so woke having had very little sleep and with no calories from the previous day to work from. I struggled to take on water throughout the day, which was rough.
When I hit checkpoint 3, my spirits were lifted by the sight of a few other runners that I had caught up with and a small hut selling some drinks. A bottle of coke and a walk and a joke with my tent mate, who I also know from a previous race, was enough to make me feel a lot brighter, and with no more sickness incidents I was ready to run by the time we hit the shaded hill up to a temple and back down to camp.
I crossed the finish line feeling a lot stronger than when I started the day, though I was still struggling to eat. As the sickness passed, I became more aware of some pain in my foot, as early into this stage I landed heavily on a rock that was sticking out of the ground. I saw it, but I didn’t register it in time and the impact was on the ball of my foot.
Having done similar before with no issues, I assumed the pain I felt when I did it was bruising, and the sickness throughout the day distracted from it. That evening however, it started to hurt.
Stage 4: The long stage
A water crossing
Then came stage 4, the long stage. I was feeling more nervous than usual about tackling this stage. I was very aware of the lack of calories in my system from the sickness the day before, and I was very aware of the pain in my foot. But, putting the pain down to bruising and putting extra food in my pack for the day I went to the start line.
Being a slower runner, I had the luxury of starting this stage earlier than the front-runners. The staggered start of the long stage is standard in these races. My plan for the day was simple; hit the first 2 checkpoints by 9:30am to give myself a fighting chance of running to checkpoint 3 before the heat picked up and then march on.
I had a strong start to this stage, passing through the first checkpoint in an hour and the next just over an hour. I hit the 3rd checkpoint just as the first male and female caught up with us. I passed through the last 2 checkpoints and had intended to run the final 8km of the day.
My right shoe had been getting increasingly uncomfortable throughout the day, though I hadn’t realised why, and the combination of this and the discomfort of the heat meant I couldn’t run. When I was just over a mile away from camp, I made the decision to take my shoes off and ran the very last part of the long stage in my socks. I was not very happy or comfortable when I crossed the finish line.
On stopping, I realised that it was actually pretty painful to put weight on my right foot, which by now had swollen and a lot of bruising had come out. I was given ice packs to put on my feet by the medical team while I ate, but the pain got worse as the evening went on and it was getting harder to walk.
Just one of the wildlife!
Stage 5: The people, a brilliant medical team and a kind volunteer
Stage 5 was a mere 15 miles, a distance we had all been looking forward to after the longer miles. Unfortunately, my foot had got worse overnight and I struggled to put any weight on it. When things like this happen, and you are this tired, in this much pain and you don’t know what to do, you realise one of the main reasons these races are so enjoyable – the people.
In my mind, if you finish the long stage, you don’t give up no matter what. Luckily for me, there was a brilliant medical team, who strapped up my foot and helped find a solution when my foot was too big to fit in my trainer.
There was a very kind volunteer, who lent me her sandal in place of my trainer so that I had something to protect the bottom of my foot and wonderful racers, who offered me poles to use as support/crutches. So, after all the very humbling support, I hobbled off to start my day.
Some fantastic company, a water crossing, an ice cream, rain, roads and a small incident of getting lost later, I finally reached camp with 2 other runners, who were either suffering from blisters or injury. I couldn’t have been happier to see tents and a group of runners sitting under a shelter to avoid the rain.
After a small dip in the ‘Jacuzzi’ (a roadside river with a water tunnel which created a kind of whirlpool) and some food, I sat chatting with the wonderful runners who had been so supportive that morning before heading to the tent to get some sleep before the last little push.
Stage 6: The last little push
Stage 6, the final stage was 9.4 miles, including around 1800 steps to climb to the top of the Sigiriya Rock. I hobbled along at the back of the group accompanied by my awesome tent mate, who walked every slow step of that last day with me.
It was a slow and painful day, and the steps proved particularly difficult, but the company made it so much more bearable and we shared a lot of laughs through the last miles of the race.
34 hours 55 minutes and 52 seconds after crossing the start line I finally made it across the finish.
Back in the UK
Pre-race blessing and some of the people from the race – just one of Megan’s abiding memories of Sri Lanka
Since I’ve been back in the UK, I’ve learned that I badly damaged the joints of the second metatarsal in my right foot and have a hairline crack across it too. I’ve not been allowed to run yet or walk much, and while I’m no longer hobbling, it still hurts to walk.
As a result, I had to cancel the 44 mile race in Exmoor, which was very disappointing. I am still hopeful that I will recover in time to complete the London Marathon a week on Sunday, but I can’t be sure at the moment – fingers crossed!!
Wow Megan, what grit and determination you have! Here’s to a full and swift recovery for you and your foot. May your next adventure be a much smoother path :)
After that little lot, Megan thoroughly deserves another link to her JustGiving Page.