Millennium Way – There and Back Again – A Strider’s Tale

5th March 2017, Millennium Way Ultra

It is a horrible, cold day in April and it is chucking it down for Shane and Ben’s first foray into ultra running. A last minute trip to the toilet means Shane misses the race briefing and the official start! The first 10 miles is along a cycle path and the camaraderie between the runners is fantastic. The checkpoint comes and goes quickly and after a quick snack we are off again. Checkpoint 2, 21 miles in, and we are greeted by Emma Stevens and Luke Eggleston which proves to be a real boost for us, although that may have just been because Emma bought me a Snickers! 3 miles later we are met by Laura Pickard and a bag of sandwiches. Turns out this is just an eating day with some jogging involved. The next 10 miles, which included checkpoint 3, is across farm fields and was a complete mud bath (it was not all runnable!!). 10k to go and I am struggling. We try running every other mile but without Shane’s relentless encouragement I may never have got there. We crossed the line together in a time of 9 hours 53 minutes, smashing our target of 11 hours. After a little cry and a biscuit or 12, we reflected that an event like this is easier with company and running the whole event together really helped us get through the mood swings. With this in mind I decided to enter the Millennium Way Back 6 weeks later so Shane would not have to face that challenge alone…………

15th April 2017, Millennium Way Back Ultra

Why have just one medal when you can have 2 that lock together?! 6 weeks since the Millennium Way, and the day of the Millennium Way Back dawns. Shane got me through the last one and I was confident we would help each other through this one too. Unfortunately he had to pull out the night before due to injury so I am flying solo this time! Stood on the start line, all alone, I was wishing that could just do a parkrun like Shane, Emma and Luke were going to. The first 10 miles across farm fields went by in a flash and I quickly went through checkpoint 1. In traditional Ben style, I got slightly lost over the next 10 miles which added a couple of miles onto the run but you have to get your money’s worth! I met Shane, Luke and Emma at checkpoint 2 and they all looked pretty tired after their parkrun exploits. I left them with my sympathies and met Laura a couple of miles on. Like a good wife, she decided to run the next 8 miles with me. At this point I was struggling mentally and wanted nothing more than to quit, but her inane yabbering got me to checkpoint 3 for a refuel stop. The last 10 miles to the finish were a blur and was as high for 5 miles as I was low before, even breaking into random song! Arriving into Newport with a quarter of a mile left, adrenaline and emotion took over and I sprinted for the finish line. I finished in 9 hours 40 minutes, taking 13 minutes off the Millennium Way time which I was absolutely chuffed about (considering I spent 20 minutes going the wrong way). It is the support that got me through and knowing that people were waiting at checkpoints really helped. I swear I will never do anything like this again…………..

Ben Pickard