Day 34: Sunday 23rd October "Once again it was the foot clinic with Dr Andrews at 7am. Two new blisters developed yesterday caused by wearing shoes that are too big now that there is less bandaging required for the protection of the toes. Unfortunately we cannot use the original shoes as they are too tight, so we have reverted to the Innovate despite the lack of arch support. Doc gave me more arch support today and when he has finished with me there is a lot more white tape visible than foot. In fact he started a new roll today and said he had used 10 metres of zinc oxide tape to date on the toes alone.
Today was a really hard day. Running with so much company yesterday was great, but it really took it out of me. Today was very hilly through and beyond Exeter and it was seriously hard work.
Heather ran with me from the start, but she had a problematic hip and stopped after 5 miles. Peter joined me at that point and ran with me for the next 12 miles. Then I asked him to leave me but rejoin me for the last 4 miles. I needed to be on my own to concentrate on the hills because sometimes all you can do is simply grind them out by thinking about your breathing and your posture. Nicky also worked some hills towards the end specifically to help with the breathing a posture. She has to be careful because when she was with us last time she did too much and she has a suspect knee.
Peter's run was more than we expected him to do and we hope he is fit and well in the morning.
As ever, the help and support of the team, including Dick McIntosh and others back at base, makes the whole thing possible. Regular water and food intake is essential and at the end of each day we know exactly where we are with calorific and liquid consumed.
My weight is consistent every morning at 78kgs, as is my blood pressure and temperature. Because I am using Nordic walking poles, it is really helping my balance, helps me power up the hills and I carry them when i am running because they are so light and and they help with my posture ... too bad they can't mend the feet too!
Today's weather was good - cloudy to start but brightened up and becase quite warm - about 20C at times. The forecast for tomorrow is grim with potential flooding in this area and high winds expected.
Pleased to be able to say today that it is the last Sunday on which I will be doing a marathon. This time next week I expect to be driving to Portsmouth to get the boat home. A few tough days ahead across the moors before that.
Best wishes, Stuart"
Day 35: Monday 24th October "Well I don’t know about you, but I thought with 6 days to go it would all be plain sailing. Wrong!
Today was one of unremitting toughness with the weatherforcaster getting it absolutely right when he said there would be high winds and heavy rain in the area with the possibility of flooding. We had it all.
We had the usual sort of start with Nicky working on my feet and then Doc applying tape to the toes and strapping to the instep of one foot and the heel of the other. While all this was going on I had a bowl of porridge with honey and fruit and wrote up my diary of the previous day’s events.
We drove to the start at Crockenwell and Peter and I set off with waterproof trousers and tops but by mile 10 we were soaking. By mile 12 we were starting to get quite cold and by mile 14 we decided that we had to stop for a complete change of clothes and to warm up. Because the roads on today’s route were so narrow, Doc did not follow us on to the routed this morning. He went off to reorganise our accommodation as we had a very disappointing experience at the restaurant adjoining the Premier Inn Exeter last night. It was a shame since it had been reasonably good the evening before.
When we called Doc for backup, we were unable to get a mobile signal so headed for the nearest pub according to the map, which was about 2 miles away and had a great welcome at the Kestor Inn in Manaton. We rang Doc from there – fortunately he had a signal – and then had hot drinks and a cream tea generously provided by the Inn, so we put the cost in the donations pot.
We had already had a route problem as we were diverted off the agreed route by Sally and Nicky so they could pick up something for our lunch in Chagford. They misread one turning on the way out (signposted to somewhere not on their map) and we found ourselves running back into Chagford from a different direction. Sally and Nicky told us to turn around and run back they way we had come (up a big hill) whilst they unsuccessfully asked for directions from locals who appeared not to know where they were. In the process, their map was soaked and almost disintegrated and had be dried out on the dashboard.
When we left the Kestor Inn, Peter retired to being a passenger, but he lent me his waterproof trousers which were drier than mine, and I headed off back into the miserable wet with the Volvo close behind. As we re-started at Manaton which was not on our original route, we lost the protection of the valleys and were out on the exposed moor, which was appalling – windy and misty with driving horizontal rain.
We met up with Doc again on the moor. At one point the Nicky told me to run in front of the car, which was very difficult. I did not realise at the time that this was because even in my high visibility gear I could only be seen from about 20 feet away.
I just had to knuckle down and get on with it. I had a great sense of satisfaction at the end, but it was a very tough day.
We got back to our new accommodation at the Sportsmans Inn in Ivybridge, where the place looks like a Chinese Laundry with clothes drying all over the place, including the radiators in the corridors.
Tonight’s meal was great and we are pleased not to have to pack up tomorrow morning as we are here for 2 nights. We have just heard driving rain outside and hope it will all pass over by the morning.
Best wishes, Stuart"
Day 36: Tuesday 25th October "The weather looked promising this morning. A beautiful autumn morning, very clear and fresh rather than cold, although we did know that showers were forecast.
Despite the lovely weather, I felt a bit leaden this morning. I was unsure as to whether that was a residue of yesterday’s efforts or from having eaten a delicious but late breakfast at the Sportmans Inn in Ivybridge.
The first five miles was uphill again so I walked. I used my Nordic walking poles. I was quickly warm and cast off the extra clothes I wear at the start. Running was difficult because of the gradients of the hills – very steep up and down. Up to this point we have been fortunate in that we have had a steep gradient going up and a gentle descent making running an easy option, but not so today.
After about 6 miles Nicky joined me on the bike, Peter being hors de combat and hoping to join in the exercise tomorrow. Despite pumping up the tyres of the bike, the front wheel must have a slow puncture because shortly after we had to leave doc because of narrow lanes, it became clear that it could not be ridden and Nicky had to push the bike for a couple of miles tackling the hills on the way and it took her an hour before she was reunited with the campervan.
I think I have said before that we look at the route each evening and plan the following day’s run. Despite this it is often the case that we have to alter things depending on the real conditions as we meet them when we are running. This proved to be the case today. An innocent little road that appeared to be quite minor proved to be very busy and dangerous for running on and we had to change our plans. This impacts on what we do because it means that we are left with little option but to use the tiniest of roads that make access for the campervan virtually impossible. The back up car and team are always about but linking up with the camper is reduced to perhaps two or three times during the day.
Shortly after the midway point of the run it started to rain and the wet weather gear was quickly reintroduced! It was the normal wet weather gear – not the serious fleece lined clothing I had to wear yesterday. For the next 5 or 6 miles the weather closed in and I got pretty wet, but it eased over the home straight and I just kept going as quickly as I could to stop myself getting cold as I knew I was on the verge of this happening.
But the real killer today was the steep hills. Over the last 5 or 6 miles when I am already quite tired, the hills down into and up out of Ledstone and Loddiswell were difficult. Nicky rejoined us between the 2 villages and accompanied me up the hill out of Loddiswell as she could see I had lost the rhythm of my breathing and my stride pattern.
Anyway, I got over the finishing line in something around 6 hours 40 minutes which we thought was fairly creditable bearing in mind today’s conditions and terrain.
We are spending a second night in the Sportmans Inn in Ivybridge where Sally and I have been upgraded to the master suite which has a bath .. last night I had to forego my cold bath. Tonight I was so cold the doctor advised against it and I had a fabulous long, deep hot bath.
The folk at the hotel are hugely hospitable. The food is great in quality and quantity, with a very generous host who in his earlier years has done Lands End to John O’Groats by bike.
Thank you to everyone who has sent us messages to which I am sorry we do not have sufficient time to reply. I will be in touch in the weeks to come. Apologies to those friends who were inconvenienced by our changes of route and hotels. From tomorrow, we are sticking to the scheduled hotels though for the reasons indicated, the route may change daily.
Best wishes, Stuart"