Hi there, my name is James Byfield and I am the Marketing, Fundraising and Communication Assistant at Lepra. At the start of 2019 I ran 95 miles in a week to coincide with Lepra’s 95th anniversary. Since then I have gone on to run one half marathon and 3 full marathons. Below are my experiences of each race:

Warming up – Colchester half marathon

On Sunday 24th March I took on the Colchester half marathon with my brother. Having only returned from Portugal less than 10 hours the night before I was ready to stretch my legs. Running multiple half marathons during my 95-mile challenge in January had prepared me for this event.

Due to spending time in Portugal I became acclimatised to a slightly warmer environment, I returned to the UK to be greeted by the cold. My solution was to wrap up extra warm for the race, a decision I would go on to regret once the clouds cleared and the sun’s intensity increased.

In previous years my training had been poor and this meant that I would struggle on the inclines and end up towards the back of the race. This time however I was overtaking people and charging up hills while others fell to behind.

My goal was to finish in under 2 hours and 30 minutes… I finished the marathon in 2 hours, 29 minutes and 59 seconds, narrowly achieving my target.

Paris – powered by patisseries

I do not find the distance of marathons difficult, instead I find the inclines the most challenging aspect. Researching the route used for the Paris marathon ahead of time I discovered that the course was thankfully flat. The first half of the marathon was full of vistas ranging from the Arc de Triomph to Notre Dame. The latter half featured more woodland areas and small rolling hills.

Additional obstacles I faced included the public crossing roads as runners tried to dodge them at the last second. The aid stations also provided a range of foods such as spiced bread. The bread initially tasted sweet, but 2 miles later the spice would then kick in and my mouth would become dehydrated. Not ideal but it did ensure that I had energy to continue, along with ensuring I drink at each of the aids stations to stay hydrated.

I finished the marathon in a time of 6 hours 46 seconds.

My recovery plan after the Paris marathon included gorging myself at several patisseries, replacing the calories I had burnt during the marathon.

Ottawa Lumberjack Challenge

The most difficult of all my marathons was the Ottawa Lumberjack Challenge. This challenge involved running a 2km, 5km and 10km race on a Saturday, followed by a full marathon 11hours later the following day.

My initial 2m and 5km runs went well, the weather was fine, however I ran a bit too fast during these races and suffered minor fatigue prior to the 10km race.

As I crossed the starting line for the 10km race the rain began to drop. The weather report had mentioned slight rain; however, the reality was heavy rain for a few hours. The finish line was a glad sight, but I knew that the real challenge would be the race which was in 10 hours from when I crossed the finish line. I had to rush back to my hotel, get changed, have dinner and go to sleep ready for the 7am race start. On the way to collecting my dinner my hip erupted in pain and I struggled to hobble along the pavement, a worrying sign of things to come. I practiced some hip stretches in the hope that I would recover enough for the next day.

Waking up at 5am I struggled to eat some bananas and croissants, but my hip felt better, I could even lift my foot a few inches from the ground. Not the best condition to start a marathon with, but I believed I could still go the distance.

I arrived at the starting line and I knew I was running slower than I normally would, only being about to run 8.5km in the first hour rather than 10km. Around 2 hours into the marathon the clouds parted and the sun started to heat up the race, providing myself and many others with sunburn.

As the race went on, my pace continued to slow down to about 7km per hour. 6 hours into the race and only 2km left, my hips decided they had had enough. I could barely lift my legs and it took me 40 minutes to waddle to the finish line. Running 59.2km over the course of two days has been my hardest challenge so far, but the medals were worth it, especially the Lumberjack hatchet’s unique design. I finished the Lumberjack challenge with a combined time of 8 hours across all of races.

Stockholm

6 days after the Lumberjack challenge I would go on to run the Stockholm marathon. Spending the 6 days resting and recovering I was ready. The first mile started by the Swedish Olympic stadium and went through the road known as Valhalla, the atmosphere was charged, however I was unsure if I would meet the 6-hour deadline.

Thankfully Ottawa had vastly improved my running abilities. I managed to keep up with the 4 hours 45 minute pacers for the first half of the race. Around the 25th km I had a stitch and my pace began to slow down. The weather had also taken a turn for the worse, heavily raining on everyone as we climbed up through the city centre.

With the fear of not meeting the 6 hour cut off point I pressed on, being fuelled by a combination of bananas, sports drinks and Abba’s best hits, I would go on to finish the race in 5 hours 37 minutes, a 23 minute PB.

Upcoming races

I have decided to run the Brussels eco-trail marathon in September with friends. This race will provide me with a different type of challenge as I have mainly focused on road running.

A month later I will run my final marathon of 2019, the Cologne marathon.

In 2020 I will be focusing on preparing for an Ironman triathlon consisting of a 3.86km swim, 180.25km bike ride and a full marathon. To do this I will be running the 2020 Kyoto marathon, cycling through Belgium and the Netherlands and the swimming portion has yet to be decided.

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