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The final hurdle

 

On Saturday 25 October at half five, I climbed out of bed and headed into a cold shower, while trying not to wake up my girlfriend. After this mildly uncomfortable wake up call, I will start my final pre-race routine.

First check the gels, make sure I have salt tablets, pack two pairs of running socks, two pairs of shorts, two running shirts and gloves – because it’s bound to be a bit frosty this weekend. Then the medical kit check: Plasters, bandages, whistle, foil blanket, pain killers. Once this is all packed and ready, I take on the ultimate challenge of dragging Lisa out of bed to drive me to the Suffolk coast. The sun will only be out in 45 minutes, the weather is disgustingly cold, and I’m trying to shove a few hundred calories down me before the race start.

Saturday’s routine is not unusual to me, I’ve done it many times. However, this Saturday I run a 33 mile trail run that will take my total event distance for 2014 past my 1,000 mile goal!

The year has not been without its difficulties: Ankle issues, Bursitis on the knee, Rotator cuff issues, colds and flu’s (running and training six days a week over the year takes its toll on the immune system). Apart from all this, the year has been in one word… epic!

Come Saturday afternoon I would have:

  • Cycled from Paris to Rayleigh, Essex
  • Competed in four hilly and epic sportives
  • Run a single 10k on the Olympic mountain bike course
  • Finished two half marathons
  • Finished three marathons (one dressed as Mr Incredible)
  • Sweated through three Ultra Marathons
  • Swam 2.2 miles from Chalkwell to Southend
  • Completed a Half Ironman
  • Buried some demons and finally finished Ironman Wales

I’ve picked out some experiences over the year worth sharing.

Comrades 2014

People who have experienced the ultimate human race know how special it is! At half five in the morning, 15,000 people huddle together to sing the national anthem and set off on a 56 mile journey. Each time you take on this race your experience will differ; there will be low points, pain and tears. But there will be great conversations, laughs and unforgettable memories. This year I smashed my best time by over an hour. I felt good for the most part, and best of all I spent the better part of the first half of the race with my best friend.

Richard Whitty during the Comrades event, South Africa © Richard WhittyRichard Whitty during the Comrades event, South Africa © Richard Whitty

Comrades like the names suggests is all about trust and friendship on course. It promotes a atmosphere like no other race. I’ll be back in 2016!

Paris to Rayleigh

Five normal guys from Rayleigh Essex set off from under the Eiffel Tower. The sun shining and bellies full of any carb available. Trusting only in Marcus’s Garmin and David’s organising our adventure began. However like most escapades I take on, what I visualised was completely different to how it played out. Bee stings, missed lunches, fatigue, omelettes & coca cola were a few of the memories. The pale face of Mike Gittings on the Southdowns followed by his immense resilience another highlight. We covered hundreds of miles before we eventually got back home. It’s funny how you can explain the story to others, but only the 5 of us know how awesome it really was.

Richard Whitty and his cycling teamRichard Whitty and his cycling team

Testament to this was the text the day after, ‘Boys, how weird is it waking up and not have to sit on a bike seat for 10hours’.

Ironman Wales

Tenby was a place of horrid memories for me. A year earlier I was dragged from the water after getting really sick which ended my Ironman Dream. This year was different!

My Dad had come down to watch from Greece, adding a small amount of additional pressure. Waking up at the crack of dawn was challenge not only for me but the spectators who chose to join me. Pre-5am start… ouch!

Transition setup in the morning went smooth, and the athletes march to the sea for the swim felt wicked. The tide was out, which I thought meant a shorter swim. Speaking to the guy on my right I was quickly brought to reality.

Me: ‘Tides out, what a result, shorter swim’
Realist to my right: ‘No mate, tides out means that when we swim the tide will be coming in. So lots of waves and current. Worst possible start!’
Me: ‘Thanks mate.’

Lap one went well, I was cruising, no panic, no sickness; Lap two went horrifically definitely not cruising, massive panic, a lot of sickness. But I wasn’t the only one in that boat, so I manned up and got it done. After that the hilly bike and run didn’t seem that bad. My knee ached forcing me into a run-walk strategy. The best experience though is the Tenby crowd, each lap cuts through the town and walking is not an option. I was running with a guy also called Richard whose Dad owned one of the biggest local pubs. He got his fair share of cheers, bit unfair I thought, so eventually I just started to pretend they were for me.

Hitting the carpet in Ironman is probably the single greatest sporting finish I have ever had. If you fancy a go at it, then do it, don’t be put off by the price tag, cause it’s definitely worth it for that moment alone.

So hopefully come Saturday I’ll be sipping champagne on the Suffolk coast. Celebrating a charity driven challenge that made this year awesome.

Richard dressed as Mr Incredible, Amsterdam Marathon © Richard WhittyRichard dressed as Mr Incredible, Amsterdam Marathon © Richard Whitty

What’s next?

After this year, I’ve been inspired to carry on taking part in insane challenges and fundraising for WWF. I’m currently coming up with a plan and as soon as I know more, I’ll let you know!

If you are inspired by my story and would like to donate please take a look at my fundraising page.

Whether you have never taken part in a challenge before, or you are itching to get signed up for your next event, Team Panda have an event to suit you.

Why not join us at The Brighton Marathon? Or if running isn’t your thing you could sign up to Prudential RideLondon 100? If you have any questions just email the events team (teampanda@wwf.org.uk) and they’ll be happy to help.

Why not leave a message of congratulations to Richard. Leave us a comment.

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