Last year saw the inaugural Lundy Island trail race take place and as soon as tickets were available I quickly signed up to ensure my place on the limited space boat to the island.

I had signed up almost a full year prior to the race so had plenty of time to get excited about visiting an island I had heard about but had never visited. Due to it’s location it’s not a place that’s particularly easy to get to without a bit of planning an effort. The race would be a a perfect way of visiting the island and seeing the entirety of it.

The Race Was Looking Doubtful

Unfortunately, in April 2018 I experienced a Crohn’s flareup and for the next few months my running dwindled, the flareup wasn’t responding to treatments and it was looking doubtful that I would be able to run the race. Despite this I always remained hopeful that maybe closer to the date I would be ok to run it. When you’ve been planning something for such a long time it’s difficult to let go and accept that you’re going to cancel. Mentally it’s probably better for you to cancel it sooner rather than later so that you don’t have to continually beat yourself up about the prospect of not being able to do it but it’s so hard to let go. Eventually I had to concede defeat and I pulled the plug on the race.

Let’s Try This Again

Two weeks after the race, entries opened up for the 2019 edition and I was keen to enter again and managed to bag myself a spot again. This was still during the Crohn’s flareup and five weeks before I made the decision to have surgery. I presumed that the flareup would have long gone by the time the race came around. The flareup had indeed gone but had been replaced by other problems.

After surgery in January I had presumed that around 3 months afterwards I would be getting back to normal and starting to run again and I was but ongoing issues with the Ken Butt, such as numerous infections, meant that the running had its ups and downs.

Is it Going to be Another DNS?

Late June and early July was good for running and I was able to knock out quite a few runs including a 13-miler and a 48 minute 10k but then on the Monday before the race the Ken Butt got infected again and it knocked me for six. My entire body was aching and exhausted and there was no chance of running. The Ken Butt wounds were leaking a LOT of exudate and occasionally blood and was constantly sore. I started a course of Clarithromycin on Wednesday and was hoping that it would work in time. By Friday I had felt better in myself but the Ken Butt was still sore and oozing. Up until the end of Friday I was undecided on what to do but decided to make the journey to Devon to give it a shot.

Race Day

The weather for the day was forecast to be good with sun throughout the day and around 21C. With the island being exposed it was probably going to be a warm one, particularly as the race wasn’t starting until 12:30pm.

Our transport for the day would be the MS Oldenburg, a German ship built in 1958. The crossing was calm with no wind and a number of dolphins were spotted in the distance. At the island there’s a long climb from the pier to the village which gives you a flavour for what the race will be like. Along the way you pass the William Hudson Heaven’s grand villa built in the 1830s. The village itself features the Marisco Tavern a general stores, other buildings and a green where the start and finish was located.

The route consisted of a clockwise loop of the east side of the island followed by a clockwise loop of the west side and a final anti-clockwise loop to make up the miles. The terrain was a mixture of wide granite tracks, tricky narrow paths (don’t look down!) and some killer steps. There were three aid stations along the way with water, coke, squash, custard creams, Haribo, peanuts and fruit.

The Race

For the race I had two bottles filled with SOS and a few gels and made sure I had applied the sunscreen and had a hat. The beginning of the race up until the 3.5 mile aid station was straightforward following a wide granite path. The route then takes a left turn to follow a narrow path that hugs the side of the side of the coast. There were lots of ups and downs with the odd stile thrown in. In many parts it was difficult to pass other runners and at around 4.5 miles I was stuck behind a group of runners who were more cautious on the downhill sections which meant that for the next mile I was shuffling along behind them. I’m not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

By the time I reached the second aid station at 6 miles things weren’t looking great. My legs and feet were aching and I wasn’t sure if I was taking on enough fluids. I filled up with coke and water at the aid station and carried on. The west side of the island is a lot more open than the east side with wide grassy paths and occasional dips to descend into and climb back out of. This loop was aiming to the lighthouse in the north and even though I knew it was 3 miles away, each time I crested the tops of one of the dips I hoped I would catch sight of it to help spur me on.

Is it Going to be a DNF?

On the northwards journey towards the lighthouse, my legs and feet were sore and I could sense that I was feeling more dehydrated. I was struggling to run and even walking wasn’t pleasant. Eventually I reached the tip of the island and the long descent down the steps to the lighthouse. At the bottom was a checkpoint, some flat Coke and a few seals to observe off the coast. Ascending the steps wasn’t too bad and at the top was a full aid station so I took on board fluids, watermelon and peanuts.

Leaving the aid station the marshal reeled off the classic line of ‘just a parkrun’ to go! Just a parkrun? I knew the remainder of that distance would be walked. I had plenty of time to make it to the finish and I wasn’t concerned at all about the finishing time. We had all been given our t-shirts during registration so I needed to make it to the end to ensure I could justify wearing it!

It was a long, long trudge back to near the finishing line and when you almost reach it you are directed off to do the final 1-mile loop around another lighthouse. I regularly walk the mile distance from my house to the train station every weekday and it takes no time at all but when your legs and feet and hating every step you take, that mile is never-ending. But, like with all races, no matter how you are feeling, you always have a tiny bit in reserve to run across the finish line, even if it was uphill! Due to every runner having to stay until everyone has finished, those that had finished cheered every last runner across the line.

So What’s the Verdict?

The race is stunning, it truly is. You run along a good variety of terrain, you encounter the locals (Lundy Ponies, Highland cows and sheep), you get to see all 4 of the lighthouses and there’s a pub at the end. If I hadn’t have been ill in the lead up to the race and had ongoing issues with the Ken Butt I would have had a better chance of running around it all. I also think that perhaps a 13 mile tough trail race was too soon, especially after find a 6 mile trail race tough just two weeks before. But after missing it once, I was determined to do it and whilst my race wasn’t the best, the race was.

How Did I Cope with the Bag?

For the race I was using my Beyond Definition Essentials case to take a spare bag on the run and then in my backpack at the start/finish was my Beyond Definition Venture with more supplies. I had changed the bag as routine around 7am before catching the ferry over to Lundy Island at 9am. The New Bum is generally well behaved on runs but I didn’t know how it would act. As it happens, I managed to catch the ferry, run, catch the ferry back and drive home before changing the bag. That’s definitely a benefit to having a colostomy bag.

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Diagnosed with IBD in 2002, I have experienced the usual ups and downs of having a chronic disease and tried numerous medications but the time finally came in 2018 to elect to have surgery to improve my life.

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