Seven Ultras in Seven Days Report, by Owain Thomas
You may have spotted an article in the West Briton recently, featuring Owain Thomas, who ran 248.2 miles from New Forest to Land’s End in August, an average of 35 miles per day. Here we bring you an extended version, featuring Owain’s account of the final three days of his epic journey, covering the Cornwall stages. You can read the full account on Owain’s blog here. Owain’s run was in aid of oesophageal cancer charity Ochre, following his friend’s diagnosis of this uncommon cancer last year. Over to you Owain…
#YOLO7dayUltra – New Forest (Southampton) to Land’s End
Last year whilst at work, I received the news from one of my best friends that he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and that they were going to operate on him. Not long afterward he had the op, however he then informed us of the worse news anyone can hear. It was terminal and continuing with the op wouldn’t help. It hit home, he was at the time only 32 with a young wife and a 1 year old. Not too much difference to myself. Now he continues his fight and has passed the 12 months he was given and even has a little baby girl addition to the family. So if he is still pushing his limits it only meant that I should too.
Knowing I couldn’t help him personally by curing him or operating on him as I wasn’t that talented, I decided to use the only skill I had and that was to run. By running I could raise awareness and some money so that maybe I could make a difference to others in the future. I chose a small charity as they always get over looked by the bigger ones such as Cancer Research. The charity was Ochre which is a small oesophaegeal cancer charity.
So I sat down and thought what could I do? I thought about doing the JoGLE race, but didn’t have time with work and also didn’t want the chance of failure due to cut-off times etc. So I looked at however far I could go in a day allowing me enough time for some recovery, eating etc. I always wanted to finish something at Land’s End and being raised most of my life in Cornwall this was fitting for me. I worked out roughly seven days of running and looked at a map. Phil, who this is all about, moved from Cornwall where he grew up to the New Forest near Southampton to set up his family home as he left the army. So that was it I was basically running from Phil’s new home to his old home. Over a year ago the event was created: I was going to run from the New Forest to Land’s End via Phil’s childhood home on the last day.
Day 5 – Devonport to Lanhydrock House (near Bodmin)
I got to the ferry terminal in time to catch the 06:45 ferry across to Torpoint to start Day 5 and soon enough I was across the other side. As I made my way through Torpoint I was met by a lady runner called Carole, who found out about the event through her news feed. Having never met her before this was amazing, she wanted to keep me company until the first CP. It was great, totally unexpected but great. We chatted along until she finally had to leave me. I made 3 more miles up until once more I was joined by another runner called Jane. She is one of the Mud Crew event directors. Mud Crew put on events such as The Dark, Scrooge, ultras such as R.A.T Plague and Arc of Attrition 100. Amazing events organised by ultra runners who know what runners want. Jane was wonderful she was going to keep me company til the end!
We made away along the route dodging a lot of the A38 around the back roads. With some steep short climbs this would be another tough day and with the weather getting better as we ran along it wouldn’t be long before it was hot. As we made our way I was soon joined by Ross, my next door neighbour who is a rugby player not a runner. He came out to keep me company for a few miles and managed to knock out 6 miles. It was great and I felt so humbled by this!
Ross soon left us and myself and Jane made our way, eventually having to run a small part of the A38 heading down in to Glyn Valley or as I call it death valley. Luckily it wasn’t for long and we again went off into the back roads, through more places I have never run before. Very scenic areas and having Jane as company made even more pleasurable. The hills still kept coming but I was in my stride and made our way closer and closer to the finish.
With Lanyhdrock House in close proximity I picked up the pace, and powered my way over the finish line once more. Another 33.3 miles smashed out and this time in 10 hours and 58 minutes. Jane was an angel on my shoulder at all times and I was so pleased we finished ahead of time. Great not only by my support crew but a friend Tammy from the Subaru owners club I belong to. It was so nice to see her at the end. We arrived at our hotel and for the first time, I managed to smash in a proper adult’s size meal. It was very good!
Day 6 – Lanhydrock House to Blackwater
A late start today at 9am; why? Well I decided I need to complete another event. Event 27 Lanhydrock parkrun. Jane once again met me as it was her local parkrun that she also run directs. Along with some fellow muskies who came down to support, this parkrun wasn’t going to be easy. Deemed as the 2nd toughest in the UK due to its elevation profile I was just going to continue in the same fashion I had for the last 5 days. I soon made my way round the course to the finish line where I was greeted with cheers and claps from a lot of the other parkrunners. I didn’t have time to hang around though I was back on event 26 and and making my way out of the house grounds and on towards Blackwater (near Truro).
I was accompanied by Jon Anderson who is also a fellow Muskie and SRC runner like myself. His lovely wife let him keep me company until the half way point at Indian Queens. Now during the time the temperature rose to around 26 degrees and the route had very little shelter, being very open. I was catching the sun nicely and definitely feeling the heat. My thoughts then turned to all those I knew who completed the Marathon des Sables event. Thinking if they can endure hotter for 6 days I can endure this for today. At one point a random runner out on his training run, spotted us. He asked the crew what we were doing and then caught us up to wish us luck before going back on his way. Humbling!
Making good time, again I was ahead of schedule. Jon left me at Indian Queens where I was met by another good friend of mine Craig. We started running together when we both looked at losing weight and I got a place in the London Marathon 2010. Since then he’s go on to smashing out ultras and marathons with ease. He also support crewed Hope24 for me back in May.
Off we went, leaving the CP at Indian Queens but not long after I was surprised by Tony and Natalie Wallbank who were down on holiday. Natalie jumped out of their motor home with one of their dogs and joined me for about 4/5 miles, whilst Tony drove on and took some lovely photos. You often find these two taking pics at various sporting events around the globe like the World Triathlon series. Randomly whilst also truly amazing, a guy called Pete (didn’t get his surname) heard about me at the parkrun and caught up with me at Indian Queens and donated some money. I’m not sure if he went out of his own way or was on his way home either way it was great.
I was in a good place and we carried on smashing out the miles in the heat. I said my byes to Natalie and Tony, and continued on my way with Craig. Soon I was on the A30 getting closer and closer and when I finally got to the last check point I was met by Craig’s wife Zoe (who is currently in training for her first ultra). Zoe had already been on a run this morning and as both had to go away for the last day they decided to support me today. It was great two of my good friends keeping me company, pushing me on to the finish! No sooner said than done, we got on the downhill to Blackwater and crossed the line! I was greeted by Phil’s mum, my mum and dad and a few friends such a nice feeling.
31.3 miles in 9.52.03 and a parkrun nailed!
However feeling very broken I asked a friend for a favour, she allowed me to disturb her BBQ with runners from Carn Runners to give me an emergency massage. Alison from West Cornwall Massage Therapy worked her magic at short notice and it helped me start the final day! She saved me!
Day 7 – Blackwater to Land’s End via St Day (Phil’s childhood home)
So here it is the final day, a day which at one point I didn’t think I’d get to event though I didn’t have a choice it did feel it could’ve been over early.
One final time getting up at 5am to prep myself for a 7am start, getting the vehicles ready and today I knew I was being joined by some other friends of Phil’s who pledged their support be it for a short run or the whole day. At the start I was joined by Adam my best mate who doesn’t run, Luke Collins another friend who is a second row 19 stone rugby player, Donna who is a casual runner but likes to keep fit, her friend Sharon, Wedge who is Phil’s best friends since they were children and a friend of mine. He used to be a runner and a good one. Also joining us for a bit was Kathryn from Carn Runners who wanted to show support for a few miles as well as David who found out about the even through a post on his page.
All their fresh faces surrounded me at the start line where I was definitely showing signs of being broken over the last 6 days. After a few photos we started just after 7am and made our way to St Day to Phil’s childhood house to quickly see his mum.
The road to St Day from Scorrier is a bit hairy so we jumped on the trail which was a lot safer than the road way especially with such a large group. We arrived at Phil’s mum house for a couple of photos and again made our way on to the first CP in Redruth. Kathryn left us and we made our way then on to Camborne to CP2, everyone still in high spirits, with Wedge providing the entertainment of bad jokes and bashing into every lamp post and sign along the way (nope he never got bored of it and did it till the end, we did however got bored of it hehe!)
The miles were ticking off nicely and Adam was still going. I was only expecting him to do a few miles as he never runs, but there he was still going. We made it to CP2 and 10 miles nailed. Next up was Hayle and we went via the old A30 slightly tougher route but not so busy with traffic. With the support vehicles warning other road users of us on the roads, we made our way through Connor Downs where I was then joined by local ultra runner who works in At Your Pace running shop in Helston, Loyd Purvis. I met Loyd during Arc of Attrition this year and became friends since. He came out to support me and get some time on feet prior to running UTMB in a couple of weeks.
Not sure what he was expecting by the runners that were with me but he was soon being entertained by Wedge. We made our way through Hayle, to CP3 next to Philps Pasties. I didn’t have one though sadly. I went through my usual routine now, and the crew are all over it having it ready. It all seems to be working very well now. Adam however was starting to feel it now with his IT band starting to give him pain.Convincing him to go on, because it was for our friend Phil he did and we left Hayle making our way to St Erth. Where I met Pete Drummond who was on holiday. Pete is another ultra runner and MDS finisher in 2014 I met through Hope24. He along with friend Danny Slay organise the event, and I know if Danny wasn’t in New Zealand on a well earned holiday he’d also be running with us.
Finally we made it to CP4 which was 21 miles in and I finally said good bye to Adam. He was broken and in quite a lot of pain with his knee. The man who never runs, smashed out 21 miles for Phil supporting me. I was in awe! The others who started with me were still going and big Luke was still going however he was starting to feel it as well as Donna and her friend Sharon who are doing well and into a distance they have never ever been before.
Through into Penzance we finally came across signs for Land’s End and I knew it won’t be long. I ignored the Cornish miles signs as being raised in Cornwall I know how much they lie. We powered up the hills and the soon the ladies were feeling it too. We got to the next check point and it went from me being looked after to Luke, Donna and Sharon being treated for blisters, and sore joints. Making sure they took in snacks as well once they were sorted we made our way where two more of Donna’s friends from the gym joined with 7 miles to go.
It suddenly was me encouraging those not used to the distance but it was great, seeing them push their limits made me continue to push mine. With support from Loyd and Pete the miles to the last CP flew by and we soon was in and out and on our way to the finish. As we got closer I was joined by other friends Stuart, Ben, Jackie and Luke Elliott (he had to finish with me). Then as we came through Sennen I was joined by 3 more runners who I never met before but have been following me via social media before eventually by my big Sis Rowann who has only just started running and my eldest nephew Jago.
We came toward the finishing straight and there was Land’s End! I picked up the pace a little more and with 200 yrds to go I was joined by my son and wife until the finish line! I did it – I crossed the finish line!
248.2 miles from New Forest to Land’s End and after 87 hours and 14 minutes (including all CP stops and injury treatment and day 3’s 2 hours rest) I did it! 7 ultra marathons in 7 days via a route no one has done before and understandably so!
A feat I would not have completed if it wasn’t for my support crew and all the support runners that came out from start to finish. People asked how I felt when I finished, I felt relieved I had no more tarmac. It wasn’t until 3 days later I woke finally realising what I had achieved and felt legendary.
What a lot of people don’t realise is how much work the support crew did. Setting up the CP’s ready for me, treating me, feeding me, getting fluids in me, answering my beck-and-call. Then on top dealing with the social media sides of things, trying to keep people updated of timings, drumming up support, fundraising and then keeping my 4 year old occupied and happy. My boy still thinks it was a holiday and was good as gold. He had his moments but then if it was you in the same situation as my boy you’d have your moments too 🙂
My thanks goes out to once more:
- X-Bionic and Sunwise for the kit they provided me and the continued support.
- All the support runners (so many to list)
- Thornycoombe farm, Brendan Hooper, my parents for helping me out with accommodation and reducing costs.
- All the support via social media.
- Amanda from Muscle Mechanic (Sports Massage therapy)
- Alison Campbell from West Cornwall Massage Therapy
- Elisabet & Colin Barnes from MyRaceKit
- L &E Designs – Thank you medals for any runner that supported me.
- Les my medic
- My Wife and Son who made all the rest possible!
- Sorry if I forgot anyone, or missing pictures there was a lot.
BIG THANK YOU TO THE CREATOR OF CALLIPO ICE POPS YOU WERE MY SAVIOUR!
During this time I reached and smashed my target for the whole year Just Giving Page reaching to date so far £2,255. I still have 10 events left to go so please don’t stop following my journey.
Remember “You only reach your limits when you’ve tried something you can’t do”
Thank you! A lot of lessons learnt but a lot achieved!