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Ant Burrell on running the Thames Footpath - all 184 miles of it!

Ant Burrell 184 miles

I recently caught up with Ant Burell (handicap 12.2) who ran the full length of the Thames footpath  - all 184 miles of it ! 

His Just Giving page is here in aid of the Downs Syndrome Association. 

Ant started running in 2013, after being diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic.The 2012 London Marathon ignited and inspired him to do something about it. Here he talks about how his running progressed and how his Thames Footpath Challenge was borne:

I just entered races to help me improve my running and times -not the worst and certainly not the best - running the marathon in 3:53, the half marthon in 1:39, the 10k in 45 minutes and parkruns in around 21 minutes. 

 In 2016, I ran for the Downs Syndrome Association (my niece Jessica was born with Downs Syndrome). I completed the London Marathon and Manchester Marathon within two weeks of each other. Then later in the year, the Snowdonia Marathon, raising over £5000 for charity. 

Since then I had been running shorter distances of  5 to 10 miles with quite a lot of trails but less long training runs. 

While at Glastonbury in 2017 watching The Foofighters on the Saturday night, I saw a post from Jessica's mum that, after a year of trying, Jessica was now able to point with one digit, something so easy for us all, but for something that was a real accomplishment for Jessica. It really touched me and again inspired me to think about how my running could help the cause. 

I then hatched the plan to run the 184 miles of the Thames Footpath for charity within a week. It was probably a bit late for the best preparation but inspiration is a powerful feeling! Luckily I had retained a lot of my fitness from 2016 and deep down felt I could do it. Training consisted of shorter runs during the week and then 12,15 and 18 mile runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with about a one and a half week taper.

 Ant went on to talk about the hardest parts:

The hardest parts were always the last few miles of every day. I ran between 25-29 miles on the first six days, so after 20 it's always quite tough. At times it was quite lonely, especially the earlier stages out in the country when I could go several miles without seeing anybody! Half way through day three, I developed a nasty blister, which proved painful and around the same time I started to get tendon pain which gradually got worse. On day five, I was close to having to throw in the towel near Bourne End as I could not put any weight on my left foot. Somehow with Ibrufen and one step at a time I got myself running again but every mile from then on was a simple case of just grinding it out.

 On the last two days, vicious blisters on my toes were excruciating.  I had loosened and changed my lacing pattern on my shoes to help tendons, but this led to more movement in my shoe.

Carrying the 9kg on my back also got a tad annoying and waking up in damp terrain wasn't much fun either. I was basically damp from day three onwards! 

 On the most enjoyable parts Ant said:

The most enjoyable aspects included the public support, which was fantastic!  Reading people's comments and seeing the fundraising total going up at the end of each day really kept me going. It also enabled me to picture their faces during the tough times! The path is amazingly beautiful and the locks along it also helped to break up the distance giving me something to aim for. Seeing the River grow was also amazing from the source and no water to the huge expanse that the Thames becomes. The sense that I conquered this on my own with no support crew, that I alone found a way to get through all the problems that arose was extremely satisfying.

Now that his journey has been completed, Ant has had time to look back. These are his refelctions:

I do feel very proud of what I have achieved and I recognised this at the end where there is a wonderful tunnel that you pass through at the Thames Barrier.  On the wall of the tunnel, a sketch map of  the river with all of the key locations are etched along it. Looking at each of the towns and villages that I ran through, I realised the enormity of the 184 mile adventure. There were times when it was very tough but I feel that it has taught me that your brain deals with pain and will help to shut it out and that it's simply a case of never giving up, to find a way of battling through.

 

His Just Giving page is here in aid of the Downs Syndrome Association. 

Ant also did his own blog which you can read here.