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Pilgrim Challenge

Back in early 2012 I signed up for XNRG Ultra Trail series consisting of 5 multi-stage Ultras starting with the Pilgrims Challenge. After the fab year, amazing experiences & new found friends I was excited to begin my 2013 race calender with the Pilgrims challenge once again.

The difference this year was I had since been proudly asked to be an Envoy for Team XNRG, part of Team 9Bar as one of their athletes & there was no snow on race weekend. On a little disappointing note I was going to be racing with illness & knew the main battle for me this weekend wouldn’t be at the front of the field but would just be with myself & getting to the finish each day.

With the amazing atomosphere, cadermaderie & support experienced in XNRG events anything is possible for all entrants to achieve their individual targets.

Day 1

On arrival at Sandy Business park instantly I was hugging my “friends” gained from last years events last seen at Novembers Druid Challenge. I instantly felt “at home” & the distracted from my pre-race anxieties. “I’ve missed you guys” was my main thought.

The complimentry coffee served by the wonderful Anna, a big hug for Neil & “dad” & the rest of the crew gives you some indication of how much care & friendship these XNRG put into their participants.

I was then met by Team 9Bar crew Liz & Alan & provided with a supply of my fuel of choice for my ultras- 9Bars. Gobbling a couple down & placing a few in storage for the race I got changed & began my race preparation.

Extensive race briefing from Neil, detailed route card in hand & we’re off. The pace at the front was electric right away & knowing my current health I knew I had to be disciplined & run my own race this weekend. Determined to enjoy the whole experience I knew I would be testing my “resilience” & “Royal Marine determination” out here on the trails.

Whether you are fast, slow, front runner, back walker you are never alone out on the trails in XNRG races. With the staggered starts there’s always a time when someone will pass you or you to them. Since doing these events I’ve built up such a strong bond with my fellow competitors with “high 5s” thrown out on route, compliments shared & the both ways encouragement. This weekend being a true test of my character I had a few moments were I saw my friends & I was “In the hurt locker” at the time & our shared words put a tear in my eye from the kindness out there. A humbling & unique thing.

The very well stocked, staffed & evenly spaced check points passed by. The volunteers often friends, family of competitors supporting the XNRG team providing extensive feast & fuel & always big smiles to keep you going. During ultra races I think the important thing is to break up the overall distance. I do this into check point segments & look forward to guessing what treats may be on offer. Chunks of 9Bars & fluid popped down your on your way again.

Mud, grass, roads, the customary fall into the mud. Downhills, uphills, mountain “boxhill”, the Pilgrims challenge has it all.

And there we have day 1 managing a sprint to the line, very much unlike Usain Bolt I might add, greeted & cheered by everyone you all feel like a hero.

Straight after the finish, a few hugs I had to then take myself away for a few moments to compose myself. I may be a Royal Marine but the whole emotions of the day & the joy of getting to line through grit, determination & support I had got there. I may not have been pushing for my normal place on the podium but I felt just as proud of myself.

That’s just it, doesn’t matter who you in Ultra running, fast, slow or mid pack the first battle is with yourself & getting to the finish line. That’s the most important thing. If it were easy everyone would do it. The difference on these events is we are all as one. You may have done 100 ultras or this your 1st but everyone everyone is as important to the team as each other. No one is forgotten about. Nothing more demonstrates this as the final competitors coming in well after dark & getting the loudest cheers, food & care aplenty & the same fellowship as those in the top 3.

That evening after getting my bed space. Refueling with 9Bars, tea, coffee, cake & an extensive evening meal I was set up.

Slipping into my new role as an XNRG envoy was the most natural thing in the world. I was just doing what I love to do & had been doing on all previous events. Helping out with teas & coffees, finding my fellow competitors kit & bed spaces, chatting & answering any questions anyone had & making new friends. What I love about multi day events.

Day 2

Lights out 10pm, back on 5.45am (a sleep in for me lol). The evening & night had flown by…. they do say this happens when your having fun. Porridge, banana & 9Bar consumed & I’m in the latest group (9am) start ready to head back to Farnham.

First 3miles were tough for me (they always are whilst I settle down). After a pretty good next 6 (better than yesterday) I was feeling ok. However, things took a decided turn as I was expecting. The knowledge that I would never be alone out there passing fellow runners & walkers ahead kept me going. Despite my body struggles the 2 way support & encouragement between runners & walkers was just the tonic. You don’t get this with shorter road running. Unique I would say to ultras.

And there it was in the sight the large finish gantry, with hot drinks, cake & 9Bars awaiting. Not least also the amazing supporteers, Team XNRG & Team 9Bar giving you congratulations & a funky medal. That takes pride of place of my living room cabinet serving a reminder of my personal journey this weekend.

Wow some blinding times achieved this weekend, congratulations one and all. Most importantly for everyone who reached that finish line. Day1 or day2 or both days. In my eyes you are a star coz if Ultras were easy everyone would be doing them. With an environment like this & an event thay provides you with all the tools you need with the best support around, all you need is a pair of legs…. come on give it a go.

I’ll be at the Cotswold Ultra challenge in April. See you there.

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