North Downs Way 100
After 5 months and over 1000 miles of training Farnham Runner, John Walker has completed the North Downs Way 100. John was running this Ultra Marathon as a personal challenge and to raise awareness and funds for the Motor Neuron Disease Association. This charity has been helping a local family, Mark and Jo Wiseman after Mark had received the devastating news that he had the life limiting disease.
The Race start was at 6 am Saturday 3rd August at Hickley’s corner, Farnham. Competitors would need to cover 103 miles and over 10,000 feet of elevation gain to arrive at the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford Kent before 12 noon Sunday ……a total of 30 hours. Along the way they would need to also reach time critical checkpoints to continue their quest.
“I was joined by over 300 other runners. Some were not destined to finish but I was determined not to be one of them. So many friends and family had turned up to see their runners off and this part of the course was very familiar as it was part of my daily / weekly training route.
Heading towards Puttenham we passed the first pit stop quickly, then we were off to Guildford and the first climb up towards St Martha’s church in Albury and onto Newlands Corner. Breakfast was at Ranmore Common – a porridge pot provided by my running crew (my wife and family). Then we ran across Denbies wine estate in Dorking before the next climb to the top of Box Hill, and after a quick top up on water and nutrition we set off across the North Downs towards the 50 mile halfway point of Knockholt. There I changed my running top and trainers and was joined by fellow Farnham Runner, Hallam Foster, who paced my run between miles 50 and 60.
I had been running now for nearly 12 hours and tiredness was trying to take hold but I had to knuckle down for the remaining 43 miles. By now it was getting dark so on went the head torches. I was tired, hungry and running across countryside I was unfamiliar with. It was not getting any easier but then it wasn’t meant to be.
During the next 20 odd miles I would run with Steve Rooke, a fellow runner whom I had met at a previous trail marathon earlier in the year. We encouraged each other until the last checkpoint, Dettling village hall in Kent, where crews were allowed to support their runners with food and water. We arrived here at around 4 am Sunday morning, 22 hours after starting, and after a quick cup a soup or two we tackled the last 23 mile slog to the finish. My right knee was now painful, with my right calf refusing to work with me but forward was the only option.
This part of the course had some of the steepest climbs with multiple steps up and down and with only 9 miles to go I could not run any further. I had to revert to what is known as the “death march”, hiking as quickly as I could to the finish, ever chasing the time cut offs at the aid stations.
Three miles were left as I entered the outskirts of Ashford – only a parkrun distance, I thought and I was sure I could make it but the knee pain was now quite intense. Turning the corner I could see the flags of the stadium, and was greeted by my two daughters Alice and Olivia who had decided to run the last 300 meters around the stadium with me. They were both wearing the T-shirts of the MND Association, which would remind me that my discomfort and suffering was temporary and I could muster one last jog of 30 yards across the line.
Although my challenge was over but Mark and Jo’s was not, my effort would help them and others like them with the kind donations to the charity by my friends, family and even strangers who all could see this was a worthy cause. I had been running / hiking for 28 hours 34 minutes 36 seconds and had finished in 148th place, with over 100 runners failing to reach the finish from those who had started.
To date I have raised almost £2500 of my £3000 target.”
Further donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-walker-ndw100