How to condense such an overwhelming, magical, whirlwind of an experience into a few paragraphs? Peddars Way, 48 miles of beautiful fields, tracks and trails, was my furthest distance of ultramarathon yet. Starting in Knettishall and ending by the sea, I knew it was going to be a journey to remember.
I had been lucky enough to have my wonderful coach (and best friend!) Kelsey guide me through my training plan in preparation for Peddars, so I'll start there. I think prior to signing up for coaching there's always a bit of optimistic fear in the air - what if I don't like it? What if it doesn't suit my lifestyle? What if I can't do it? Got to love that devil on your shoulder whispering comments of self doubt - but the amazing Camino coaches soon welcomed me into their world of complete flexibility, fun and appreciation for the simplest of moments. The plan was inclusive of more km's than I've ever done before and many more challenges (does anyone go and sprint up a hill 12 times unless they’re told to?) but at the same time, it felt so flexible and easy going. The numbers were there for me to tick off, but the mindset was kind, nurturing, fun - not always what you'd expect when preparing for an ultramarathon, but honestly, the only way to prepare for one and enjoy it. That's not to say there weren't some tough training runs, of course there was. The gritty 3 hours with a tempo in the middle, running up and down hills in torrential rain slipping and sliding all over the place, back to back days where my legs felt like I had weights tied to them, but realistically, the ones where the real magic takes place – growth.
As well as the focus on different tempos, bigger mileage, faster pace, Kelsey and the Camino coaches helped me to see the importance of resting and caring for myself in between these runs - something I’ve never been great at. Running is addictive, and every runner knows it. Sometimes I didn’t allow myself the recovery time that was needed, because I always wanted to be out giving it 100%. Unfortunately, this means I never really had 100% to give. Having pullback weeks is something I’d never done tactfully before, and they created what felt like a superpower within me.. I felt fresh, rested and more ready than ever to go again. Everything started to feel so simple, and this new dynamic filled me with a sparkle of excitement every time I stepped out of my front door, which carried me all the way to Peddars.
As my 04:30 alarm chimed, my first feeling of the day was an overwhelming sense of excitement as I opened my eyes. I slept well, felt calm, and fairly relaxed. There were three of us running together, Kelsey, Molly and myself – supposed to be four, but Meg had been injured just weeks before meaning sadly she couldn’t run - but she still very selflessly came for the weekend and was the best support we could have wished for. We’d all arrived at the AirBnB late the night before – Kelsey, Ben, Meg, Harry, Molly, Alex, little Harry, Elliot and I. Everyone was buzzing, the positive energy was formed the second we all arrived.
We had to leave at 05:40 to get to the coach that took us to the start. The relaxed approach was taken slightly too far when we left at ten to six and nearly missed it, but after scrambling onto the coach apologising for being late, we were on the way. We drove for an hour and 25 minutes to get to the start, watching the sun come up along the way, just chatting as if it was any other day. The way I was feeling was completely different to any race I’d completed prior to this, I just felt a calm sense of excitement, rather than feeling anxious and nervous. I kept realising how calm I felt, and I could only put it down to the shift in mindset through my training approach. I knew this was how it was supposed to feel.
Ready to go, race numbers pinned on, bottles filled, kit packed, and we see our amazing crew pull up to wave us off at the start, the first out of many moments of happiness and smiles they brought us throughout the day. Stood at the start with lots of other runners that looked intimidatingly like seasoned professionals, chatting about how many times they’d done the race in years before, one line kept repeating in my head from coach Paula - “getting to the start line is one of the biggest parts of running an Ultra”. Realising I was there, about to run my furthest distance yet, made me feel an overwhelming sense of being alive.
I’d never ran any part of Peddars Way before, I hadn’t even been to this part of Norfolk so had no idea what to expect. There’s something beautiful about not knowing what’s around the corner, aside from the fact it means you don’t know when the next hill is. After a detailed race briefing mentioning we’ll be running through 6 inches of water 2 miles into the race, we get going. Now when I say this was one of the most, if not THE, most beautiful mornings I’ve ever witnessed, I mean it. The sky was pink, purple and blue, not a cloud in sight. It was minus 3 degrees; every branch and leaf were frosted over glistening white and silver in the sun, and everything felt so surreal. I’m a strong believer in things falling into place when you need them to, and this morning was just as though it was setting us up for the perfect day.
I think we might have been a little quiet for the first hour, then after that we got into the swing of things and found our rhythm. We’d all eased in, had our first snack and were chatting about everything - life, work, friends, family, how we’ve been doing recently. I sometimes forget how lucky I am to have my best friends to run with, the conversations we have make the miles fly by, and we often end up delving so deeply into conversation that we forget normal life is going on around us and time seems to fly by but also stand still in those moments. So grateful for that.
The first milestone for me was a half marathon, perfectly timed with seeing the crew. They had everything ready for us, snacks, water, hydration, sunglasses. We stopped briefly to stock up on food and water, a quick debrief of how it’s going so far, and carried on into the sunshine.
As we reached the marathon mark, things had warmed up a little bit (it was probably about 5 degrees at this stage, which felt HOT compared to earlier), we were flowing nicely. We were eating well, consistently, and just had our first caffeine dose. I almost couldn’t believe how well everything was going, and how strong I was feeling mentally – it felt too good to be true. We’d seen the crew a couple of times by now, each time they made us feel like it was the first time they’d seen us. The uplifting feeling of seeing their smiles was hard to explain – almost a sense of euphoria.
We were still chatting away at around 50km – achey legs were creeping up on us but that was expected, and we didn’t mention it. We would check in with each other often as the hours ticked by – a quick “how is everyone doing?” of which the answer was sometimes was great, sometimes struggling, the answers often flitted between the different ends of the spectrum. On reflection, I think is a great way to sum up a long-distance run, the way you’re feeling is all part of a bigger spectrum. The highs and lows are inevitable, but essentially that’s all they are, and how you’re feeling in that moment will pass – the main thing is to keep moving forward and wait for the next high to come along.
At around 56km, a half marathon to go, we’d gone a little quiet - I was focusing on remaining strong rather than any conversation at this point. My legs were moving, but my mind was solely concentrating on remaining positive. It’s at these points in the past the self doubt has crept into the equation, trying to convince me that I can’t finish and that I should stop. Peddars Way was the first time I have ever managed to fight against these thoughts, and I still can’t quite believe it. We pushed on very quietly for around 10km, up and down the muddy frozen tracks, before realising we only had 10km left to go. 10KM. That’s one hour left – meaning we were nearly finished.
It was a bit of a blur from here until the end, but one thing that remained was the energy between us. We weren’t talking as much, but we didn’t need to. It’s almost like at this point we’d been simultaneously running for so long, we knew exactly what one another were thinking and we knew we were going to have a strong finish, we just needed to keep pushing. Seeing the crew only 5km from the finish was unbelievable, a little taste of what’s to come in around 30 minutes. We waved deliriously and carried on, and suddenly the end was well and truly in sight. I remember thinking, of course I want this to end – my legs are begging me to stop – but I’ll be sad for this to be over. As we pulled a page off the book on the beach – a Peddars ritual - we picked up the pace and ran down the road to see the crew waiting, cheering, exploding with excitement for us. It really was something special. The skies colours of this morning were back – the pinks, oranges, purples. My mind was tired, delirious, overwhelmed, but the sense of clarity I felt in this moment, everything made sense. The whole day from start to finish, was a dream come true.
Camino asked me a couple of months ago, what is my ‘why’. Days like Peddars are of course my why, but it’s more so all of the beautiful moments in between - the serenity of an early morning before life kickstarts for the day, the feeling of your heart pounding hard in your chest reminding you how capable you are, the moments of reflection that you just don't get in the usual rush of everyday life - once we start noticing these things, life becomes a lot more vibrant. My why comes down to feeling alive - everything is heightened when I run, senses, thoughts, vision, it’s like turning the volume up and my mind becomes 3D. It’s the one thing that feeds my need for extremity but balances and calms me at the same time. It rationalises me whilst allowing me to believe I can do anything. I have learnt a lot about myself training for this race, but one of the most important things I’ve learnt is that you can overcome any negative thought your mind may present you with, even in the most difficult of moments - you are the decider of your internal dialogue.
Whilst it’s easy to get caught up in the high of one days events like Peddars - and that day absolutely deserved the two week high that’s followed – it’s important to strip it back and focus on your why. Not anybody else’s, not what you’ve researched online, not what you’ve seen on Instagram, but yours. We are lucky to be able to run, not to mention run long distance. We are lucky that our friends and family will selflessly give up their weekends, drive for 3 hours in Friday night traffic to follow us around for 8 hours on a Saturday. I am especially lucky that my best friends, the women who empower and inspire me the most are the people I get to share these experiences with. The more you remind yourself of your why every time you're out bouncing on your beautifully strong two legs, the more places you’ll reach that you may not have been capable of before x