Last Sunday, I took part in the third event of my 10 x 10k charity challenge – in Whitchurch, Shropshire – and those of you who know me in ‘real life’, will probably be aware by now that things didn’t exactly go according to plan.
If you haven’t read any of the previous entries from this challenge (for the races at Oulton Park and, more recently, Poynton), let me summarise my targets:
- To run ten 10k events in 2018 – raising money for Kidscan;
- To complete them all in under fifty minutes;
- To finish in the top-third of entrants for each race;
- To not cry or shit myself.
Whilst those targets still remain intact following the Whitchurch 10k last weekend (although #4 was borderline for a while), I have decided – for health reasons – to relax my expectations for the remaining seven events.
Let me explain why.
Firstly, with each new race so far, the courses have become increasingly tougher, to the point that Whitchurch was ridiculously uphill in parts, fast downhill in others, and with very little ‘flat’ terrain in between. Now, whilst I accept the courses becoming tougher is entirely coincidental, and has nothing to do with my fitness deteriorating (contrary to what I am about to tell you, I am getting fitter), I am dreading the remaining races being even worse. At this rate, I’ll be running up Kilimanjaro for the final event.
Secondly, despite the fact the course took its toll on me, to the point my breathing was laboured as I re-entered the grounds of Sir John Talbot School (where the start and finish line was situated), I still decided I had just enough energy left for a sprint finish – and this, in hindsight, was a terrible idea.
I’m not sure whether it was because I started my sprint too soon, but with about fifty metres to go I began to struggle. I couldn’t breathe, I was completely drained, and it took every ounce of my concentration to force myself toward the finish line.
Sadly, I didn’t quite make it.
With no more than ten metres left, my legs suddenly buckled, and I hit the floor (which was fortunately grass). I then vaguely remember the announcer shouting my name out, urging me to get up and reach the finish line, but when I tried to move, I couldn’t even kneel, let alone stand and run.
The next thing I knew, a fellow runner knelt beside me, put my arm around his neck and lifted me to my feet – he was not going to let me give up (even though, having essentially dragged me half way home, he told me I was going to have to do some of the work, as I was getting ‘fucking heavy’). I have since discovered that this man was Mike Glover, and he sacrificed his own time and position to make sure I finished the race. If I ever track Mike down, I owe him a pint or two.
Anyway, I have a vague recollection of collapsing over the finish line, and the next ten minutes or so is a blur. I’ve been told a kind lady watched the boys, so that my wife could run over with a paramedic; and the fact I was almost unconscious, entirely grey, and unable to communicate, gave everyone cause for concern.
The next thing I remember, is lying on a stretcher in the medical tent, hooked up to machines and being given oxygen. To cut a long story short, I spent the next two hours undergoing tests, before being informed that:
- A runner’s heart rate should ideally drop back below 100bpm within minutes of finishing a race, whereas mine was still above 120bpm two hours later;
- My ECG results were ‘erratic’;
- My temperature had gone through the roof.
Most worrying of all, I was told that the valves in my heart weren’t working properly, so whilst the heart should normally operate like this…
… mine was so overworked, and racing so fast, that the second set of valves were opening before the first had closed. This meant that, rather than work as a pump, my heart was operating more like a tube, letting blood simply flow through it without becoming oxidised – and blood without oxygen, is about as useful as tits on fish.
For obvious reasons, the paramedics were not going to let me drive myself (and, more importantly, my family) back home, and they insisted that I go in an ambulance to hospital.
I won’t bore you with a lot of what happened next, save to say some friends of ours – Chris and Vanessa – were kind enough to drive from Sandbach to Whitchurch to collect my family and get them home, while I went off to Telford A&E.
I remained there for the next eight hours, undergoing further ECGs and blood tests, before the most elusive doctor in medical history finally turned up to recommend that I stay in overnight. This, as you can imagine, was disappointing news (read: I was livid), because I was still sweaty and muddy from the run, had no change of clothes, very little money, and my phone battery was nearly dead. As a result, getting home the next day was going to be difficult, and since I had been informed earlier that I was probably being discharged, I had already organised transport home (via a good friend of mine, Emerson, who had very kindly gone well out of his way to collect me).
Whilst I would not ordinarily go against medical advice, I genuinely felt ok by that point (albeit starving, as I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours), and I wanted more than anything to go home, so I decided to discharge myself. It would be fair to say the doctor didn’t take this well, but I’m not sure whether this was because she was genuinely concerned for my health, or because she didn’t like being questioned.
Either way, she reluctantly agreed to provide discharge forms, if I promised to go to my GP on Monday – which I hastily accepted; although, by that point, I would have agreed to paint her house, if it meant getting the fuck out of there.
I did go to my GP the following day, and was immediately (and annoyingly) referred to our local hospital in Crewe for more tests. There, I had yet another ECG scan, the remainder of what little blood I had left was drained for testing, and numerous other checks were undertaken, before I was reassured that all the worrying signs had thankfully subsided.
Unfortunately, they had been replaced by high CK levels (whatever they are), and the fact I was now dehydrated, so my kidneys apparently weren’t working properly. I tried to point out that they had only given me one small drink in six hours, so it was no wonder I was dehydrated, but the consultant was having none of it – I was staying in overnight.
Within an hour or so, I was moved to a bay of six beds, with five other men who were all well into their eighties, and seemingly not long for this world. I genuinely feared I might be the only one of us to make it through the night, and so I took it upon myself to make sure we were all alive come sunrise. More on that, next week.
For now, I’ll leave you with the ratings for the Whitchurch 10k, and promise you that – after what I’ve been through – I will not be pushing myself to run the remaining races in under fifty minutes. I’d still like to run them all, rather than walk, but I will not be risking my health again. It’s simply not worth it.
Time: 47:50 (a new PB – by some margin, whoops!)
Position: 135th (out of 691)
Cost: £15.50 (very reasonable)
Course: The worst yet. Very little flat running, extremely steep hills, plus a start/finish on wet grass. It was incredibly well marshaled, with fantastic support from the locals, but you could marshal the Himalayas, and it still wouldn’t mean I’d want to run up and down them 5/10
Weather: Dry, sunny and just warm enough – virtually perfect 9/10
Organisation: A digital race pack was sent out with a week to go, although (as with Poynton) the organisers left it until then to confirm earphones were banned. There was also an issue with some missing race numbers on the day, but by all accounts that wasn’t the organisers’ fault 7/10
Official Photos: They haven’t been uploaded yet, which is disappointing, so I can’t possibly comment on the quality. That said, I’m in no rush to see myself being carried over the finish line, and at least they are apparently free (you reading this, Poynton 10k?) 5/10
Here are some photos my wife took before the race instead….
Medal: Very smart, and again made of metal 7/10
Goody-bag: The best yet – not only did we get an actual goody bag (with snacks, sweets, and a voucher for half a pint in a local Whitchurch pub), but we were also given a smart ‘technical’ running shirt. In fact, our boys were apparently so well-behaved, while I was receiving treatment in the medical tent, the organisers decided to give them a shirt each as well:
Take note, other events, this is how you do a goody-bag 9/10
Post-race refreshment: Now, I’m struggling here, as I was semi-conscious and missed out on the post-race delicacies, but I heard whispers of jelly babies at one point, and there was definitely fruit and water on offer. Seemingly standard fayre for most events, and the snacks in the goody bag were already more than enough 7/10
Course – 5/10
Weather – 9/10
Organisation – 7/10
Photos – 5/10
Medal – 7/10
Goody-bag – 9/10
Refreshments – 7/10
Giving Whitchurch a score of 49/70 (or 70%), placing it firmly in the lead, ahead of Oulton Park and then Poynton.
Next is the Tatton Park 10k at the start of May, and, as ever, if you’d like to sponsor me (because, in all honesty, this running nearly killed me last Sunday), here’s my Just Giving page:
Next week, I’ll be telling you all about my hospital adventures with five very old men. Trust me, you don’t want to miss that one.
Thanks for reading x