The North Downs Way

Andy Carlin 100miles

Andy Carlin NDW

Life in a day

By Andy Carlin

‘Life in a day’ is the phrase that got stuck in my head to make me first consider entering a 100 mile race.  We all know how it goes, once the thought is there it won’t go away and sooner or later needs to be acted upon.  The act became a 103 mile, 10000ft of ascent, point to point trail race between Farnham and Ashford along the North Downs Way.

‘Life in a day’.  The ups, the downs, the challenges, the problem solving, this is what I was looking for and this is what I found.  From having to duct tape the top of my water bottles on at the first checkpoint, to learning that pineapple is delivered from the gods (closely followed by minestrone soup) it was a journey of discovery and camaraderie.

The race started from the mouth of the North Downs Way at 6am, the start line marked with a couple of flags, an abandoned trolley and a double mattress.  The early morning light glinting through the trees as the starting crowd began to stretch out across the countryside aiming for some distant horizon.

You can spend a lot of time on your own throughout these events which makes support, wherever it is found along the course, even more enjoyable than at many other events.  To have an Austrian man shouting ‘IT’S A ROCK STAR!’ at you while on his own in the middle of a field 52 miles into a race is enough to keep anyone moving.

A defining part of the day is running through the transition between day and night.  The sun takes hours to set but darkness comes down in an instant.  With head torches on, the hills become bigger, the forests become thicker and skittering sounds boom in the undergrowth.  This was a part of the day that I had thought a lot about beforehand, not wanting my energy to drop with the failing light.  So the journey became only ever to the next checkpoint, pattern emerging of eating and moving, never counting the seconds.  Just forever following the shimmering scraps of tape through corn fields, forests and along the ridge lines of the trail.  So it was that 20 hours and 28 minutes after starting, I crossed the finish line in 19th place, picking up a ‘finisher in a day’ belt buckle and immediately falling asleep!

Finally, these adventures could not be done without the support of others.  Everyone cheering on the day, supporting during training, and assisting in the build-up; the camaraderie of these events encompasses a huge number of people beyond those that place themselves between the start and finish lines.  This journey was no different. Thanks to everyone who helped to make this possible and allowed us to raise over £900 for charity as well as getting me a new belt buckle.