Phil Did It! 100 miles inside 30 hours - Galilee Foundation

Phil Did It! 100 miles inside 30 hours

100 miles, 29 hours, 13,000ft of climb, zero sleep – and a million great moments. Phil’s first 100-mile ultra done and dusted in aid of the Galilee Foundation There’s still time to donate!

Here is the extraordinary saga of Phil Lancaster’s 100 mile run on the South Downs Way in his own words:

IF I’d ever dreamed of a sporting triumph, I’d always imagined it in front of a delirious crowd at Wembley or Old Trafford. Certainly not a running track on a sunny Sunday morning in a sleepy British seaside town.

Yet as I stumbled across the line at the end of my first 100-mile Ultra marathon,  Eastbourne Sports Park oval could have been the Olympic stadium.

I’d managed to run the entire length of the South Downs Way from Winchester inside the 30-hour cutoff time (29:33:12 to be exact) and it felt glorious. A heady mix of joy, fatigue, pain and sheer, sweet relief.

And I’d managed to raise more than £2,000 for the Galilee Foundation along the way!

Ultra-running is a brutal test of mental and physical toughness. You have to put in many, many hours of training to be able to even think about entering an event like this.

As a sport it attract some of the most single-minded competitors in the world. Yet it also fosters a spirit of camaraderie and hope and co-operation that is second to none.

Mentally, running 100 miles is an incredible challenge. For a 55-year-old recovering alcoholic like me, even to convince yourself that it’s possible is a major achievement.

Yet once you’re at the start line, then you’re in with a chance. 

The first 50-odd miles went smoothly enough, without any major mishaps (I only fell once which is quite good for me!) although the weather was baking hot and there were a lot of casualties along the way. Out of the 405 runners who started, 104  failed to finish the race at all.

Having done virtually all of my training in Scotland, I wilted a bit in the heat and really struggled to stick to my fuelling plan. I ended up feeling sick for 25 miles or so and could only take on liquids.

I hit the halfway aid station at 54 miles, and finally managed a cup of tea and a small bowl of pasta which settled my stomach and gave me a real boost.

As night fell, I met up with my pal Rob Carr and we decided to run through the dark together. The huge strawberry moon hung over the Downs like a lamp as we ran and the temperature scarcely dropped. I ended up running all night in a T-shirt. I also managed to eat again. A cup of hot soup in the barn at Housedean Farm at 75 miles was an absolute godsend.

As dawn broke and we chased the sunrise, we were still going but had a lot of ground to cover. At one stage we had been two and a half hours in front of the cut-off time, but that advantage was diminishing rapidly as we tired.

The agonising thing about ultra running is that you could still be disqualified after 96 miles if you don’t hit the cut-off time – which means you can NEVER stop concentrating, even with the finishing line virtually in sight!

I had a really dark hour with about nine miles to go as I ignored my own advice to ‘run the mile you’re in’. I had done a recce run a few weeks ago and knew there was a huge, long hill coming up and I let my head go down.

Fortunately, Rob who is a wily old campaigner and a top man, pulled me through and we hit the penultimate checkpoint together just in time. 

We ended up needing to cover three miles in the last hour and we made it over the line – hand in hand – with time to spare.

It was a life-affirming, life-changing experience and I hope I managed to do some good along the way. Now I just need to think about the next challenge….

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