Well, that race did not go to plan. On Saturday morning, I set off to run 278 miles (just under 300K) along Wainright’s Coast-to-Coast route.
We set off at 8:30am Saturday morning and the running was going well. At about 5pm in the afternoon, I was coming down the second mountain and slipped on a particularly slippy slab of rock (the rock in the Lake Distract tends to be very slippy when wet, and I should have been more careful). When I slipped, my feet shot up, and I landed in the region of my left kidney on the bottom edge of the rock. Ouch, it all went white, then the pain, and then the realization I was now lying in a small stream. A runner who was just behind me helped me get my rucksack off, and I did a quick check. It hurt but did not seem too serious. I took some painkillers and carried on running down the mountain. I had completed about 55km of the race, and I had about 240 to go.
As I ran (very slowly) down the rest of the mountain, I became more aware of the pain and started to wonder: A) had I cracked a rib? B) had I hurt my left kidney? From this point, progress was slow. On flat sections, there was a numb pain in my back, but if I had to twist or if my left foot had to go lower than my right foot, there was a very sharp pain. This meant for all the rest of the downhill sections, I kept putting my right foot down steps, edges etc, and then bring my left foot to it – not a great option ???? The next checkpoint was at Patterdale in 17km, and I had a chat with the doctor, who examined me. I saw three doctors during the race, and they were all great, and very professional, but also aware that runners want to keep running if they can.
She confirmed by ribs were OK and was pretty sure the pain was a bruise and muscular, not kidney-related (partly on the basis that I was not peeing any blood). So, after a good meal and a rest, I set off for the next checkpoint, taking painkillers every four hours. It was dark now, and the mist had come down, so the next mountain was quite a challenge in terms of navigation – (in addition to my weird way of coming down rocky sections).
I carried on as best I could, and I managed to ‘run’ about another 60km with my back hurting. For the last 18km the terrain changed, the mountains of the Lake District were behind me, and I was in rolling farmland. This meant lots of walls with styles, and these were particularly painful. My other problem was I had now taken as many painkillers as allowed in any one 24-hour period – so the pain was getting worse.
For several hours I had been aware that I should drop out. I still had about 180km (just over 100 miles to go). At the speed I was moving, it would take me about three and a half days, and I could easily turn pain into an injury. At the next chance, I did drop out and had my final session with the doctors, who once again were great. They also gave me some codeine which really helped with the pain. The final kindness from the race volunteers was that they gave me a lift to Kirby Stephen station, and I took the train back to Nottingham.
I you are looking for a great race run by great people with fantastic volunteers, then I recommend the Northern Traverse or the Lakes Traverse. I will be back next year to do the whole race.
And the learnings for me? 1) Be more careful on Lakeland’s descents on wet rock. 2) I should have dropped out a bit earlier. 3) If you do enough events, you are going to DNF (did not finish) sometimes. In many of the races I do 30% of people DNF (it is higher in some) and some of the time, that will be me.
What next? I will go for a short, slow run on the flat later today – to keep my run streak going – over 4 years now. I will keep an eye on my urine to make sure there isn’t any blood. I will catch up on chores until my back feels OK to run.