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From 10k to 100k – James Seager Race Review

So in October 2017 I was flicking through Facebook as you do on an ordinary winters evening, sitting on the sofa watching trash TV and came across a post from Suffolk Trial Festival advertising there first ever 24 hour trail run. Organised by two people I know locally, I remember my eyes opening wide thinking wow this sounds amazing, this sounds like something I’d like to be apart of. I straight away mentioned it to my partner Hayley who looked at me across the sofa as if I had either gone completely insane, having a mid life crisis or just had one to many glasses of red wine. She was probably right on all three counts, even though I’ve been blessed with a natural ability to run, in reality I had never done more than a 10k and only done a couple of those in recent years, and for Christ’s sake I’m now 41.

My mind was set though and I’m a stubborn bugger when I set my mind on something (must be the typical male in me). Let’s face it I remember thinking I have eight months to train for this I’ll be fine. I set about planning over the coming days and weeks what my target would be and came up with a mad, but what I thought would really push my limits of running 100k within the 24 hours.

Time flys doesn’t it, you get wrapped up in your day to day doings, each day thinking I will run tomorrow I have plenty of time. Then Christmas hits and I remember family members buying me gifts related to running and thinking to myself shit I’m in deep now I have to actually do this. On top of that I had pledged to do this mad crazy run in aid of a charity close to my heart (East Anglian Children’s Hospice).

So I bought myself some new gear and started my training as best I could, working it around work and family life. The reality was I was achieving no where near to what I should have to take on my first ultra, five to ten miles here and there where I could fit it in. When I was out there though I worked myself hard and really enjoyed every minute, it was like a release from everything. I soon started losing some weight and found running natural again. Then in April personal disaster to my training hit and I went down to what was later diagnosed as seasonal asthma. It wiped out my whole April with constant violent coughing fits from just a single movement, running was never going to happen for me during that. Grit determination and a lot of medicines got me back up and running in May but reality was 10k was still a battle, never mind the 100k I had set myself.

I remember telling friends and colleagues over the months about what I was planning and receiving blank looks of he really has lost the plot. June the 15th came along far to quickly. I had booked the Friday off work as well as the weekend and due to knowing both Kelly and Katie I had offered to help them setting up the village. In all honestly helped take my mind off what I was about to endure. I had decided to stay Friday evening at the event in my caravan, and Hayley and my twin boys Bobbie and Jack would come down around 10am on the Saturday morning.

That evening after they left I went to go for a walk around. Kelly, Katie and some others were sitting just chilling and I joined them for a drink. Reality then kind of started kicking in as I was listening to these amazing friendly people talking about Ultra running and what past events they had done. Fuck I remember thinking I am out of my depth here I politely said goodnight around 10.30pm and headed to the caravan with a very sickly feeling in my stomach.

That was probably the quickest nights sleep I have ever had as soon as my head hit the pillow it seemed my alarm set for 8.30 was going off and waking to hearing the hustle and bustle of people arriving and setting up tents next to me. By 9.30am I was swarmed by a group of tents being set up by the Red Lodge Runners, little did I know at the time how fundamental this would be to helping me with my end result.

11.30am and I am sorting my final kit out making sure everything is where I need it, head torch, muscle tape, pain killers etc. Then my phone started ringing it was the photographer from the Bury Free Press wanting to get some pictures of me pre race as they had heard about me raising money for EACH. I met up with him and he decided a nice back drop would be some of the farm machinery, just perch yourself on the end there he said, of what looked like the solid side of a tractor, it wasn’t solid it was hinged and my arse firmly planted its self on the hard concrete underneath.

Photos done I then found my family and people I knew whom had just finished the 10k. They looked exhausted and I remember their faces to this day when Hayley told them I was doing the 24 hour, your doing what?? Your F’ing mad was the reply’s I got in return. I turned and saw the utter fear in Hayley’s face but something deep inside was telling me I can do this I can make myself and my family proud.

11.45 and we were called for briefing. The longest 15 mins of my life. Looking around me seeing so many people calm and composed trying myself to look to same, but deep down shitting myself rushing to the solitary toilet by the start line for one last pee. At last we were called to the start line and this was it we were off.

I had several game plans mapped in my head but ultimately it was going to be take each step, each mile and 5 mile lap at a time. The first one was fast, I was doing my best to keep up but also trying to concentrate on the rough and very hard terrain. I can’t really remember coming in after the first lap apart from the feeling of being absolutely fucked but I kept going and adapted my pace and running style to cope with my ability and the terrain. Soon I didn’t care how fast or slow others were going I knew I had to put that out of my head. The difficulty for me at first was there was a mixture of 12 hour and 24 hour runners and some were in teams so there was a lot of varied paced runners out there, I just had to ignore that I concentrate on getting myself round.

After the second 5 mile lap everyone started to settle, I felt great my breathing was right and I had settled right into it. I had also started to plan out where to walk then run judged by the terrain. Friendly faces and great encouragement of Mark and George at water station 1 got me through that awful narrow stretch leading me up to it. By 3pm I had managed 16 miles by far the furthest I had ever run before, but my calf muscles were starting to hurt so I decided next stop to get my compression socks on. A great move to be honest and I felt an instant difference. I had however started to slow and it took me a further 3 hours to complete 26 miles. That was a massive milestone my first ever marathon completed. A major pick me up was having my partner and twin boys man water station two late that afternoon, it was fantastic seeing them after coming through that forest.

At 30 miles in I was starting to flag a little and decided I needed some fuel, some cold pasta with tuna was on the menu and seemed to work well for me as it got me through to 40 miles. By 10.30 however I then hit ‘the wall’ that was an emotional rollercoaster of what to do, if I try and keep going I clearly am not going to make it, if I rest I run the risk of seizing up or even worse just not bloody waking up. I remember being by my van when one of the female red lodge runners walked passed me, I think she could clearly see I was close to being a beaten man. She asked how many laps I was on and what I wanted to achieve and very quickly worked that if I got my head down now got some rest at got out again by 3am I could still achieve my goal. Advise that I was later very grateful for, and in fact the whole bunch of that team were especially so supportive through my whole 24 hours. I got into bed next to Hayley still in my full running gear probably stinking of all sorts and set my alarm for 2am. I remember waking to my alarm in literally a pool of sweat, I still had my compression top on and it was drenched. I was feeling stiff and very tired but I just couldn’t let this get the better of me I had a goal and I was damned if anything was going to stop me. Quick change of top and some strapping of my beginning to become painful toes by Hayley and I was back out at around 2.20am thinking that I’d just get a lap in purely walking to loosen up.

I actually managed quite a bit of running, not the easiest task being tired and physically pushed to the limits in the dark of night over hard rough terrain with a head touch. But I pushed on and by around 4.30am I had achieved 50 miles running into the most amazing sunrise ever. By 7am I had achieved a massive two marathons in one day a feeling that words simply can’t explain. But my body was starting to show signs of shut down, my hips where starting to bruise and my thighs were cramping, eased by salted peanuts and salted crisps. I remember getting back to the caravan at around 9.30am having done 12 laps, just over 60 miles needing one more lap to hit my 100k target. I felt ok though joking with the red lodge runners that I’ve got time to get another couple of laps in, which at my lap times was achievable. However three quarters of the way round my thirteenth lap the sheer pain started to kick in. My hips where feeling the size of an elephant’s arse and not in tune with the rest of my body and my knees felt like they were 10 paces behind me. It was then I decided to make the call and I phoned Hayley to tell her I was coming in, I had done what I wanted to achieve, 100k was a dream to me and I’d nearly done it, there was nothing else for me to prove to myself.

At 10.30am that morning I finished and crossed the line to the most amazing, humbling reception I had ever experienced there was applause, smiles, hugs, emotion and lots of tears and two special boys two greet me on Father’s day. Suffolk Trail Festival will forever remain the most amazing experience I have ever taken part in. The biggest thing I have taken away with me from that day apart from how this sport is so addictive is how amazing, kind, friendly and supportive everyone involved and taking part is. I ended up finishing at 66 miles (106k) and have so far raised just over £1200 for EACH. Thank you to everyone that made this event so special.