— Sophie Radcliffe (@challengesophie) April 27, 2014
Part of what I aim to achieve with my blog is to provide readers with the confidence, skills and ideas to go out and try to achieve whatever it is that excites and scares the living daylight out of you in equal measures. To me, running London to Brighton was just that.
It’s been a week since myself, my husband Charley and friend Alex Ledger left home at 4:30am in South West London and ran until we arrived at the beach in Brighton. It was my first ultra, first running adventure and chance to prove to myself that I can run.
“Fast, best, good, natural or elite” are NEVER words I use when talking about my running. It doesn’t matter because I can run.
I might not be the best runner in the world, but I prefer to focus on what is in my control, what I can do.
Fitness, speed, style, and experience aren’t everything. Mindset is hugely powerful and helps you achieve whatever you want.
— Sophie Radcliffe (@challengesophie) April 26, 2014
Our route out of London let us bear witness to a gorgeous sunrise as we crossed over the Thames and picked up the Wandle River trail for 15 miles until Croydon.
The Lowest Point
We had just passed through Croydon, about 16 miles into the run and it had been raining for hours. My knees and hips were starting to feel it. For me this was the lowest point of the run. Luckily things improved after a few hours of rain and wind!
Sense Of Achievement
I feel a huge sense of pride come over me when I remind myself of the achievement last Saturday. For the rest of my life, in moments of doubt I can whisper to myself “you ran 62 miles”. It’s not the achievement of running that distance as a stand alone achievement that I’m most proud of, it’s the fact that we just went and did it.
We had very little prior preparation or training but what I lacked by way of training miles in my legs, I made up for in will power. I will always remember the strength and determination it took to complete the run and hopefully any feelings of doubt will be replaced with a feeling of confidence and resilience. This is why I challenge myself and why I love what I do.
My friends and family are getting used to me being off on the next challenge and doing something that previously seemed a little impossible. This means it takes more to impress them these days! However, running London to Brighton seemed to capture the imagination and respect of my friends and family and they’ve been proudly telling everyone this week about it.
Of course it is subjective but I don't think I've done very much running. I set myself this challenge as an opportunity to break down these barriers and face my doubts. Prior to running London to Brighton here are the long runs I’ve done:
- 13 miles in ½ Ironman August 2013
- 26 miles in Ironman Wales September 2013
- 2 X 16 mile runs over Easter 2014
- 62 miles London to Brighton April 2014
Over the last 2 months I have been focusing more on running as I knew I had this challenge ahead. I usually aimed for 2 runs per week around 5-8 miles and maintained general fitness through other sports. The long runs at Easter were to get my mind and body used to running at an all-day pace and experience what it would be like to run for hour after hour.
How Did We Do It?
Firstly, having the right challenge is super important. We did this because we were excited by the idea of it and by the unknown of pushing ourselves that far. I loved the accessibility of London to Brighton, I could begin it from my house and after completing it I could sleep in my own bed that night. Bubbling away at the back of my mind for a year, it's great when you finally do these things. I originally thought it would be far more sensible to do the run over a weekend and split the mileage over two days. When Charley decided to come on board and join me on the run, we thought let’s just do it in one push. (Unfortunately our Suunto watch ran out just before getting to Brighton!)
Secondly, having the right team in place to help you really helps.
It was incredible to share the experience with Charley and know that we were there to support each other every step of the way! A smile or hug from him made a huge difference to my morale. The more I do these challenges, the more I meet people of a similar mindset who want to get involved. It’s taken me years to build but it’s great to have a network of people I can contact when I come up with my next challenge. I met Alex a few weeks ago whilst adventuring in Spain and when I mentioned the run to him, he was immediately IN. He did however hold back on mentioning how strong a runner he is!
Thirdly, having the right kit is imperative. We were extremely lucky to have Brooks Running on board as sponsors, a perfect match as their ethos is #runhappy which is certainly something I like to do! My Ghost 6 shoes were incredible, very light and comfortable.
On the London to Brighton run as with all endurance events, mindset was everything. I had various tools in my box to help me get through the run. I had some yummy treats in my bag to look forward to at snack breaks, I listened to music and deployed a bunch of mental motivational tools.
I never doubted that I would make it to Brighton, the challenge was how hard could I push it, how fast could I run.
Sure, I could have walked the distance or walked parts of it, but that wasn’t what we set out to do. No matter what speed I could run at, the challenge was to run and that’s where my focus was.
It was a few miles after we crossed the M25, feeling on a high as we were truly out of London, when we recalculated the route and realised we would have to run 62 miles not the 50 miles we had originally had in our minds. Running that distance was almost inconceivable for me, so I simply didn’t think about it.
I focused on one mile at a time and filled my mind with thoughts that motivated me. For me, an important aspect of doing these challenges is to enjoy them. What’s the point if I’ve not had the time to notice the beauty of my surroundings, if I couldn’t stop to smell the flowers, breathe in the clean air or stop to let the sunshine give me strength to continue when I needed it the most.
Our route was 3/4 off road, we ran through woods filled with bluebells and sunshine filtering through the trees. We would get dirty running through mud and then clean again in long, wet grass.
We saw incredible views of British countryside stretching for miles before us.
Ran through woods with bluebells stretching as far as the eye could see. A stunning lilac carpet.
We passed by lakes, reservoirs and rivers. I could easily have taken a dip and enjoyed a picnic by the lake!
We ran alongside an old steam train, very cool! Families waved at us and the train sounded the whistle!
We passed by many golden fields filled with oil seed rape crops. Between the blue skies, yellow fields and lush green grass I felt spoiled for choice of where to look.
On the edge of my comfort zone, I reminded myself how lucky I was to be doing this.
It is true, there is a day when I won’t be able to do any of these things and today is not that day.
This felt like living.
The last 2 miles were very tough. We had been thinking of Brighton for hours, we could almost smell the fish and chips. We could see the South Downs looming on the horizon for 10 miles before getting to the top of them. At the top, we could see Brighton and the sea. For the first time, we discussed arriving and let ourselves believe we were nearly there. It was within touching distance, but still so far. About 9 miles in fact. At least another 2.5 hours of running!
Close to Tears
There were no tears during the run, but there was a moment when I was close. The boys were ahead of me, we were on the home stretch and I was in so much pain it was a big mental challenge to find the motivation to keep on running. I looked on Google Maps and saw we were 1.8 miles from Brighton Pier. I had something jumping around in my shoe so I took my shoe off which turned out to be a big mistake. For the first time, I saw the state of my feet. Shrivelled and leathery from the muddy fields we had been running through. Bruised, battered and swollen. I struggled to get my shoe back on.
I had words with myself, drank the last liquid from my bag and carried on.
At 8:30pm we arrived at the familiar cobblestone beach of Brighton. The smells of candy floss, doughnuts and flashing lights on the pier were a very welcome sight. We had made it.
— Sophie Radcliffe (@challengesophie) April 26, 2014
As I chase my fears and doubts, I realise they no longer exist, that I can do more.
The greater the challenge, the more you become and the greater the confidence you develop in yourself to raise the bar higher.
How to do something big and scary:
- Decide what you are afraid of/think you can't do/don't like doing and go for it
- Build confidence through smaller challenges
- Focus on smaller chunks/one mile at a time rather than the end goal
- Get a good team of support
- Have a bank of motivational quotes/images/ideas to draw on
- Systematically replace any negative thoughts with positive, encouraging ones
- Fuel your body, man cannot run on motivation alone!
- Know that if you aim high and don't get there, that is not failure but an opportunity to approach it differently next time
Check out Charley's awesome blog here for lots of great 'How To'and his own version of the adventure!
If you want to do London to Brighton as a walk or run, there's still time to sign up for Action Challenge: http://www.london2brightonchallenge.com on 24th May.
Go crazy kids!
P.S Don't forget to celebrate when you finish!
Massive thanks to everyone who followed our adventure on social media your comments, tweets and support means the world to me!! Big thanks to Matt Bucky who helped us with the awesome route, read about his running adventures here http://www.runningbucky.com
Massive thanks to Charley and Alex for joining me on this quest and making it possible! Brooks Running for kit and support. My Mother-in-Law Nicola for meeting us in Brighton and plying us with food and drinks when we could barely walk.