In December we brought you the story about XTERRA runner Susie Stephen’s quest to run across the length of England and thru to Rapa Nui to retrace an English Expedition of 100 years ago. We’re happy to report back that Stephen accomplished the first part of her mission, and Christian Friis caught up with her to see how the journey transpired (Read her 13 Lessons Learned here)
CF: Tell us a little bit about your run…
SS: The run itself was tough in ways that I could never have predicted. Overall it was an amazing experience, difficult to put into words but I can definitely say it was full of emotional and physical highs and lows! I felt fairly well prepared going into the run, but of course in the days leading up to any event a few questions popped into my mind – but those were the moments when I had to remain mentally focused. I had read a number of books about ultrarunning, poured over many websites, listened to podcasts late at night and discussed the subject with various people from around the world who had undertaken similar challenges, but in the end there is nothing quite like first hand experience – and yes, I now understand one recurring theme that I read about: the highs and lows of ultra running. It’s a roller coaster and you just have to hold on tight and stay onboard!
CF: What was the greatest challenge?
SS: By far the greatest challenge was trying to accommodate for, and alleviate the soreness in my knees due that started on about day 4. When we decided to change the planned route and go more ‘off-road’, the softer ground definitely helped but the wet conditions and mud in some areas created a whole new set of challenges – like staying up right!
CF: How was the weather?
SS: The weather was actually very cooperative! But the mild winter in the UK presented a few extra challenges – such as flooding in Oxfordshire and extra muddy footpaths! It’s hard to say whether I would have preferred snow or ice, since those conditions are equally challenging to run in! I’m not complaining at all – the weather was great for February in England!!
CF: Were you close to giving up at any point?
SS: I wouldn’t have given up, but walked or hobbled my way if I’d had to! But I was scared when my knees first flared up that I might not physically be able to keep going! The thought of not completing the run and disappointing so many people drove me to keep going and finish what I had started!
CF: What was your longest run?
SS: There were two long days of 32miles each.
CF: What kind of people / runners did you meet on your way?
SS: I was very lucky to be accompanied by members of Darlington Harriers and Athletics Club and also the cross-country team from Hummersknott Academy (my old school) on the first day. On day three I was able to connect with my cousin Andrew who is a member of Otley Athletic Club and in training for the Edinburgh marathon. It worked out perfectly for him since we turned the day into his Sunday long run basically! In Northamptonshire I was supported by people on horseback, cyclists and a solo runner, someone just trying to get back into running. Further south in Oxfordshire I was accompanied by a group of local runners who had a varied background, one in particular was training for the London marathon. On the very last day a lady who had just finished her daily run heard I was coming down the road and so ran back to meet me! It was great to have company for the very last section, which included a short steep hill! So it was a mixture all in all, and quite often when I stopped to cross roads I would chat to people walking or cyclists – who often just said: ‘Good Luck’!!
CF: Tell us how it is going with your fundraising
SS: The fundraising for Easter Island/ Rapa Nui has started well but we still have a long way to go towards the total amount needed for the BioMax and we need as much help as possible!! The BioMax is a special sewage digesting unit that is greatly needed on the island where there is currently no real sewage treatment aside from cesspools and septic tanks that are nearly full! The BioMax will help because it produces grey water, reducing the need for fresh water from the wells & aquifer for outdoor uses when that water really is needed for drinking! The next part of the challenge is the bike ride across South America, and the fundraising continues as we go! Please see our JustGiving page for further details. Thank you!