Gareth’s Reflections: 127-mile “Liverpool 2 Leeds” ultramarathon challenge
A whopping £3,500, (and counting) in donations to the RNLI, that’s what. And a very happy Gareth Kilshaw.
Now recovering at home after a rather large ‘birthday bash’, Gareth is quietly pleased with himself. He’s not only smashed his fundraising target but claimed his own personal victory: a sub-24 hour 100-miler.
So, what’s it like to run 128.5 miles in one big effort?
Gareth isn’t a man to wax lyrical. He says it was “good”.
“It was especially good to come home at the very end,” he laughs. “It would’ve been a long journey to get back from Leeds. It was nice just to be finishing at home!”
He did find it strange to be heading out the door as if on his usual training run. However, the alternative course turned out to have a few positives. For a start, he had the luxury of rolling out of bed and eating breakfast at his own table before setting off.
“The morning wasn’t as rushed because I had nowhere to go. And Carole was happy because she could crew the start in her pyjamas and wave me off!”
Knowing the course so well also helped him along, but he was careful not to get ‘over-cocky’.
“I do think I’m learning every time I go out how to deal with things. Things won’t always go right, but now I know how to fix them.”
After feeling like he’d had a great ‘training camp’, his physical condition proved to be right on the mark.
“I felt really prepared. The training with Nicola, the work with my PT and nutritionist all came together to help me through. I’ve recovered well and I’m not aching in every muscle, so it really does seem to have paid off. “
Psychologically, of course, there were a few tough moments.
The first came at about 65 miles when he was alone in the dark, his calves and feet were aching, and he was still a long way from the next check point.
“It was night time and not a particularly nice part of the canal, and the pain was getting unbearable,” he says. “I had to stop and just sit down for a bit, try to work out what to do.
Fortunately, there was a quick fix.
“I looked down and saw that my laces were too tight. Just loosening them off immediately changed everything, totally lifted my mood.”
He struggled again the morning after making it to the 100-mile mark in sub-24 hours. The euphoria of achieving the milestone was quickly followed by a crash.
“The excitement had gone, and tiredness set in. It coincided with the time I’d normally have to do my work shift, so I think it was my body saying, ‘go to bed!’”.
This time, he had his running buddy (and unofficial coach) Nicola on hand to push him through. They ended up running strongly for the rest of the day and reaching the finish line on a high. Gareth had run further than he had ever run before: a testament to the hours of training and focused preparation he’d done beforehand, and also his way of saying thank-you to everyone who had helped him.
Post-race, the messages of love and support continue to overwhelm him. From the dockers to his fellow ultra-runners, everyone who has heard his story has offered their encouragement and congratulations.
He even had a touching moment on the trail itself, when he met a fellow runner on his own personal crusade.
“He’d just lost his dad the day before and was out to clear his head,” he says. “I passed him again a little while later, and his wife was there too, cheering me on.”
Some of Gareth’s biggest supporters have been his fellow dock workers. They’ve been following his build-up to the event, saw him give a TV news interview, and even tracked his progress over the weekend on their phones (although most are still shaking their heads at his lunacy.)
He’s especially grateful to his crew, including his wife Carole and running buddy Nicola.
“It was Nicola’s first time training someone and putting the plan together,” he says. “The fact that she knows me really well probably helped, but her knowledge of the sport really shone through.”
He credits his personal trainer Rob for building up his running strength over the past two years, and his nutritionist Lauren for sorting out his race meals. “Everything was planned out; I knew what to eat and when and it worked really well for me.”
Having followed his recovery plan to the letter, Gareth has only minimal aches and pains to tend to – and an impressive sum to hand over to the RNLI – he still has one hurdle to overcome. The post-race blues.
“It’s been wonderful, the build-up and everyone getting involved. It’s like that with many races, you build up and you do it and you feel great, but once you’ve gone up that high, you can come down very low.”
The best way for anyone to manage that come-down, he says, is to set another goal.
“It doesn’t have to be a massive goal – maybe just try to beat a 5k time or something. But you’ve got to speak to people, be aware of what you’re feeling. I’m very lucky with all the support I have around.”
In any case, he has no regrets about spending his 48th birthday jogging along a canal. In fact, he reckons it was a bit similar to his 21st birthday… when he drank every spirit in the bar and was asleep by 8.30 pm.
Well, there are a few differences.
“This time, I got on the couch and my daughter phoned me, and I really wanted to speak to her but I started falling asleep twice while talking to her on the phone – my body was completely packing in,” he laughs. “I’d only had about half a mouthful of cider, so the amount of alcohol had definitely changed!
He did eventually manage to get a couple of hours’ sleep before getting up again for a slice of birthday cake and a good pizza.
“With youth, you can obviously drink a bit more!”
Gareth – It has been a huge pleasure to document a part of this journey. You are an inspiration.
If you have also been inspired, and if you are able, please donate to Gareth’s chosen cause, the RNLI. The link is at the bottom of the page.
Here are some words of congratulations from a very proud team:
I didn’t have a doubt that Gareth would complete this challenge but to have completed it in such style……. well what can I say? I can really see the difference that the contributions by Rob, Lauren, Cameron and Nicola have made to Gareth’s recovery, I’ve never seen him handle a distance like this so well or be in such a great place afterwards – so thank you for looking after him all of you.
To Gareth – thank you for still being able to surprise me after all this time
I am so pleased for you, Gareth.
It was the perfect storm, a good one, where everything came together at the right time and the results are better than we imagined. The help from Lauren, Rob and Cameron made big differences and I can’t wait to see how you progress from here!
Carole’s crewing was on point as always – knowing whether you needed a kind word or a kick up the bum!
It was an honour and a pleasure to be involved with your training.
To join you for the last 28 miles and see you persevere through the pain and smash your goals and cross the finish line with a smile. What a super hero.
Gareth – What an amazing effort to complete this mammoth challenge, you have shown so much dedication and grit over these last few weeks to get ready for this. To grind out all them hours of running and to smash a MASSIVE PB on the way!
I am so proud of you and so happy I could be involved in this process.
The only one question I have for you is…. when’s the next one?? Lol
Gareth – What you have achieved is nothing short of amazing. An incredible display of physical and mental resilience, and done for such a great cause.
We are proud to have been able to support you.
Congratulations. I hope the birthday celebrations last for a few more days yet.
Gareth – What an outstanding effort! Especially to get a personal best of 23:29, for the first 100 miles! Sub-24!
You ticked all the boxes for physical readiness and I was confident your mental toughness would definitely pull you through those final few miles, as the fatigue and pain kicked in!
Immensely proud of you for taking on such a monumental challenge, whilst raising funds and creating awareness for the RNLI!
Long day’s journey into night By Frank Wainwright Ultrarunning is my freedom. The time it takes between start line to finish arch is my
Written By Frank Wainwright September 2020: I was in good shape as a limited number of events came out of hiding. I was in