For seven memorable days I ran, jogged, walked, climbed, crawled and finally limped and hobbled this magnificent trail. 300 kilometres over just 7 days may not be the fastest but I gave it my all. Incredibly I have climbed the equivalent of the ascent of Everest (35,000 feet) during this time. I have seen and felt all the different faces of this path, from the rugged, wild, remote high cliffs of the north, mixing with birds of prey, to the beautiful beaches and harbours further south, to the heavy industrial areas around Milford Haven and the tumultuous tourist resorts of Tenby and Saundersfoot near the end. I have experienced the cruel, relentless wind and rain in the north which made me doubt my sanity in undertaking this mission and I was very close to abandoning the project in the first few days when it felt like the whole world was trying to bring me down. What kept me going was knowing that I couldn’t let Team Mikayla down, nor my wife who never doubted my ability to get the job done and sacrificed her holiday to help me do it. Most of all, I wasn’t about to let myself down and told myself to relish the struggle because anything that comes easy is not worth the trouble.
Most of the people I met along the way reacted to my mission with a mixture of incredulity and admiration. Sometimes I reflected upon what it must be like to be one of those ordinary tourists, out for a gentle stroll or licking on their ice creams, looking hot and bothered trying to keep their offspring happy, going through the motions of a family holiday, trapped in a cliche. However, I never for a moment wanted to be one of them. I’m so happy to be different, to want to keep pushing my limits, always knowing that there is more. Believe in yourself, your body is a miraculous machine that just keeps adapting and repairing through movement, growing ever stronger. Now I’m ready for an even bigger challenge, then a bigger one still. I don’t envy those with rich, lazy lifestyles, for ultimately life is nothing without challenge.
So what now? First it was the challenge of a 100 kilometre ultra marathon, then it was an ironman distance triathlon, then this, undoubtedly the toughest challenge yet. The sheer relentlessness of this was what really made it hard. The fact that there was never enough time to stop for long, all the way, never enough sleep to recover, always up at dawn and moving forward until dusk. The unrelenting nature of the terrain, just continually rising and falling, often very steeply. Yet, now it was over, I missed it all, the constant driving towards a goal, having a purpose. I never feel as happy and fulfilled as when I am undertaking these big physical and mental challenges and will do more and more of them for as long as I can, going further and further. One thing is for sure, physical training is quite important and you definitely need to prepare yourself for the physical demands on your body – it doesn’t happen overnight but requires years of adaptation to get the legs strong enough. But the most important part by far is getting the mind in the right place and in tune with what’s happening to you physically. Once you achieve this I believe that you can literally go on for ever if you wish – distances become irrelevant and you realise that ‘tiredness’ is largely a state of mind that you can easily dominate. The body will do as it’s told.
So what lessons did I learn? Firstly, to prepare thoroughly with meticulous attention to detail – accommodation, nutrition, routes, kit etc. for this can make a massive difference. Secondly, take great care of your feet and your footwear, especially with regard to blister prevention. Most importantly, believe in yourself because everything is possible if you set your mind to it.