Toad on the Thames

Posted on September 5, 2011

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Toad Challenge – Day 1 – 02/09/11

Days like this and you realise there is simply no better country in the world than Britain. Great Britain.

Today was the first day of the Toad Challenge. I have feared over the last couple of days whether I could even start thanks to a niggle in my Achilles, only put under further stress as I spent the eve of the race on my feet for hours browsing the rails in Harrods.

But I started and managed to get through it.  What followed was a five hour run of stunning scenery along the Thames.  Quaint villages with hanging baskets busting with blooming flowers … grand canal boats cruising the river alongside pristine motor boats. Kids splashing in the water, families tucking into al fresco picnics, city workers enjoying the afternoon with a pint or ten in gorgeous riverside pubs … I could go on.  The route was pretty flat but the terrain uneven with grassy rivets and rough fields. The sun shone from start to finish against the piercing blue sky.

Around four pm, I arrived at our digs for the evening.  Moulsford Prep School sits in the village of Moulsford and redefines the quintessential English prep school.  We spent the remaining hours of sunshine sipping tea, tucking into cake and relaxing on the lawn.

It is now a little after nine pm.  We have showered and eaten, relaxed and recharged.  Some lie scattered in the school hall where we will sleep tonight.  Others sit on the balcony sipping beers and laughing under the stars.

And I sit in between, soaking it all in and thinking that day 1 of this event has been really rather marvellous.

Toad Challenge – Day 2 – 03/09/11

Despite a very broken nights sleep blamed entirely on the snoring efforts of one individual who shall remain nameless, I woke excited about another day and eager to get my stiff legs going again. The course followed another stunning route which took six hours or so and in between chatting with fellow runners, I entertained myself with soaking up the scenery and some fine audio accompaniment in the form of Venus William’s newly launched book. A few good hills broke up the relentless pounding on the flat.

I spent a lot of time thinking about those I had met and bonded with in just the 24 hours previous. One of the greatest things about events such as these is the chat amongst other runners … you can put together any number of people, from any country, background or career and if there is a shared passion for running, you forge enriching ties and a mutual respect that remain long after the blisters have heeled.  Post ideas from dinner last night and today alone, my list of potential races for 2012 is fast reaching epic proportions and I fear I may struggle to fit in any work at all.

Toad Challenge – Day 3 – 04/09/11

The final leg, Marlow to Walton on Thames, was 55km or so.  Two days of stiff legs meant starting off a little Pinocchio-like but they soon loosened up. A couple of hours in and the heavens opened which made for a pretty drenched run with soggy fruit cake for treats at aid stations but the novelty of running in rain kept me going! I did my best efforts of taking the wrong route at every possible opportunity … women can’t read maps and all that … but I guess that’s all part of the experience.  By early afternoon, the final funnel was in site and a shiny medal hung round my neck.

Result! Nearly 160 sweet kilometres in a very special corner of the world.

Toad Challenge – the aftermath

The remainder of the day was spent sipping vino and laughing lots with two old schoolfriends and by midnight, I was ready to crash, feeling a little stiffness in my legs, feeling a little tipsy in my head and feeling a lot of happiness all over.

If you find yourself in the UK and in need of a little multi-day adventure then check out www.xnrg.co.uk. I know I’ll be signing up for more and I hope I cross paths with some great people I met doing this event. The team behind the scene were wonderful … supportive, friendly and passionate about what they do … and the entire set-up is so intimate that you bond quickly and feel right at home.

I now lie horizontally the morning after, watching movies, eating naughty food and tapping away, happy as a pig in mud. Like all things in life, the mind has an amazing ability to forget any hard moments, points where you think you’re too tired or sore to continue, and remembers only the tremendous feeling of achievement that only pushing yourself can bring.

PS.  A very special thank you to the wonderful team at adidas for getting me some ‘cool’ weather kit at such short notice … gear as always that can’t be faulted AND looks effortlessly chic!

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