Bryn took part in the gruelling Man vs Lakes Rat Race to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.
Cancer research is dear to my heart because of the devastating effect it has had, and continues to have, on me and my family. I lost my father to lung cancer and more recently my aunt to ovarian cancer. I lost both my grandparents (on my mum’s side) to cancer as well, within 18 months of each other. With all of this in mind, I decided to raise funds for Cancer Research UK by putting my body to the test.
In July of this year, I set out to complete the classic Man vs Lakes adventure run a ferocious challenge that takes you through a 45km course with over 4400ft of elevation. This is only fitting considering the challenges people suffering from cancer face every day. In this race report, I recount my first-hand experience completing this punishing challenge. To find out more about this challenge and to donate to my Cancer Research UK fundraiser visit my JustGiving page.
We set off from Morecambe at 11:30 in searing 25°C heat. Fortunately, the run across the bay was cooler and I felt ready to conquer the day. When we hit the first fuel stop at around 11km I was still feeling good and sticking to the plan of walking hills. After the flat bay crossing, we started to climb the hills of the lake district. The vertical km was smooth, so far so good. I began passing people on the descent, taking advantage of my still-strong legs. I was vigorous but thirsty as I approached the next fuel stop. It was here that I made a crucial mistake. Overestimating my thirst, I drank too much water. My stomach punished me for my enthusiasm with an agonising stitch.
Things would only get worse as I came to the next big climb. As you climb through trees there is very little movement of fresh air. This stagnant air combined with the ceaseless heat of the early afternoon is a recipe for dehydration. By the time we had reached the top of the climb at around 25km, I was in trouble. Exhausted, I took refuge on a cool rock. I texted my wife, sharing the fear that I would not make it to the end of the race. The 30km cut-off was looming. I got up and started moving, putting one foot in front of the other. Slow progress was better than no progress. “Keep moving”, I told myself.
As I approached the 27km mark, I had to cross a small tarn. This was despite assurances we would not need to swim. They lied. There was no way I could touch the bottom, so swim it was! I emerged from the tarn feeling rejuvenated and much cooler. I stopped at the trackside and emptied my shoes of the gunk they had collected. Spirits heightened, I picked up a little pace on the descent. Soon, I was passing through dense undergrowth. It was so thick I couldn’t even see where I was planting my feet ahead of me. I started walking again. With no cooling breeze, I felt my body temperature rise. We descended to Windemere. Feeling terrible, I bypassed the first water obstacle. I soon reached the 30km point and faced the second water obstacle. This one looked like fun. It had monkey bars and ended with a jump from an elevated platform into the crisp water below. I stopped and did this one as I needed to cool off.
A few minutes down the trail I came across a female runner who had run out of fluids. There remained another 5km between her and the next checkpoint. I gave her some water from my bottle and encouraged her to keep fighting until the end.
I trudged on to the final cut-off point at the 35km mark. The climb to the next fuel stop felt endless. My stomach would no longer take in any fuel. When I arrived at the fuel station, I didn’t attempt to eat anything. I filled up my water bottle, put my head down and entered “just-keep-moving” mode. I had made it past the final cut-off with time to spare. Only the finish line remained. At this point, all fuelling and hydration considerations went out of the window. I could trudge up the final few hills with no issues from my legs. I can’t say the same for my back. The strain of carrying all the kit was starting to take its toll on my back. This made the final descents uncomfortable and I had to limp on downhills.
I made it to the side of Coniston where I bypassed the Kayaks. The path around the lake was hard-packed limestone, almost the consistency of sand. I tried to straighten my body and pick up the pace but ended up hobbling in a kind of run-shuffle. I was able to keep this up to the final section before the finish line. This final segment passed through trees, on a bed of uneven and soft ground. I emerged from the trees, climbed the makeshift style they had built and run-shuffled to the last obstacle. I grabbed the rope and dragged myself up the ramp onto the platform. I half-jumped, half-lowered myself off the platform to the ground. It wasn’t graceful, but it got the job done. I was now headed for the finish line. Using all the remaining strength in my battered body, I jogged to the finish line and threw my arms up for the picture.
I was finally done! I grabbed my medal, had my picture taken and grabbed a victory soup. I limped to my wife, and we headed off home, where it would take me two days to fully rehydrate. I was unwell all day the following Sunday, but I had done it. I had raised over £380 for Cancer Research UK in the process, for that it was all worth it.
To find out more about the work Cancer Research UK is doing, visit their website here: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/