Upper Beeding dad Neil Sampson is frustrated but not defeated after failing to complete the South Wales 100 for the second year running.
It was a tough weekend, starting in Cardiff on Friday evening, and he pushed his mind and body to the limit before withdrawing at mile 86 on Sunday.
Neil, who works in management for a Brighton-based digital marketing company, was raising money for Demelza Hospice, a charity that supports families in East Sussex, Kent and south east London.
He said: “Although I haven’t seen the race results yet, I expect more people will have failed to finish than crossed the finish line. It’s just the nature of ultra running, especially for self navigation events that cover such long distance and difficult terrain.
“The mountain forecast on Friday was for light drizzle and mist. What actually transpired was torrential rain with gale force winds at times and thick fog. This made navigation tricky but worse than that, it left everyone drenched to the core with no way of drying or changing into new clothes. This caused all sorts of problems over the 35 hours that followed.
“By Saturday morning, many runners had dropped out but for those that hadn’t, we were treated to some amazing Welsh scenery, including the Brecon Beacons. Due to thick fog that continued into late afternoon, most of the views were hidden as we all struggled up the steep climbs to each of the peaks.”
The moisture caused Neil’s feet to blister then they developed a burning sensation on Saturday afternoon. Although he was mentally able to block out the pain and continue, he was now travelling much more slowly.
By the evening, his feet were so sore, he could no longer run.
Neil said: “Theoretically I had enough time in the bank to finish the race within 40 hours by walking the remainder of the distance and so I continued, pushing my way through peat bogs and fields of shoulder high bracken as the tiredness started to play its psychological toll.”
As darkness fell on Saturday night, he had been on his own for some hours, which is normal for a race like this. He felt the unusual sensation of starting to fall asleep while running but managed to stay awake.
“By 2am, I was two hours ahead of schedule but the pain in my feet suddenly went from unbearable to excruciating and I struggled to even walk,” Neil said.
“The next four hours until 6am were torture, stepping as carefully as possible over broken stone tracks and muddy trails to travel the two miles I needed to reach the road at the bottom of the mountain.
“The organisers at Run Walk Crawl were amazing and kept in touch to guide me down the mountain remotely. They attached a GPS device to each runner so that they know everyone’s exact location at all times. A fellow runner who was also dropping out at the mile 86 checkpoint stayed with me all the way down and let me borrow his walking poles and one of the organisers was waiting at the roadside with his van ready to take us back to the finish line at Cardiff.
“This was an incredible challenge and although I’m frustrated for failing to finish a second year in a row, I’m satisfied that I couldn’t have put anything else into it, having pushed my body to breaking point.
“Friends and relatives have asked if maybe I should run an easier 100 mile race. Having completed other 100 mile races in the past that weren’t so demanding, the challenge would not be satisfying enough because I already know I’m capable of finishing. With this race I still don’t know, and that’s what makes this sport so enticing. “
Neil has had some amazing words of support from friends, colleagues and followers on social media. Visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/neils100milerun to make a donation.