What is the hardest thing you have ever done?

What is the hardest thing you have ever done?

It was midnight on April 23rd 2014 in Funchal, Madeira, an archiplaeago situated in the North Atlantic Ocean almost 1100km from Portugal. I’d been living in Lisbon for the last few months ahead of this event and had taken a plane over to start my descent into Dante’s Inferno.

My time in Lisbon had consisted of a rushed, but still gruelling regimen of eating multiple times per day, going on long long trips on the roads, hiring the services of a PT; and making friends with Jacob’s Ladder. This was a gruelling set of stairs you’d climb; almost crawl as it revolved, never-endingly as sweat would drip and pour from your brow. This would be after rowing for 21km, then running for 60 minutes and then atop Jacob’s Ladder.

Blood, sweat and tears on the roads and in the gym became my comfort. My home.

I’d arrived on the island some days before; about to embark upon the biggest adventure of my life to date. Although I’d been there for several days; I’d not really been able to relax or think much that was UNRELATED to the journey I was about to undertake.

I was ill-prepared, didn’t have ALL of the right equipment and knew of no-one who had done anything similar or was about to take this trip with me. Given the stiff entry criteria for the event I was applying to; I’d actually lied on the entry form to make sure I would be assured a place.

There were several options to choose from. From 16km, 42.2km, 65km, 85km and 115km trail races. Previous to this the furthest I had run had been in the Brecon Beacons - training grounds of the world-famous SAS. There I’d run 10 hours, traversing 65km and had been near delirious by the race’s end.

The terrain on Madeira is more deadly, more steep, and subject to massively varying micro-climates as well as ground that you tread underfoot. Furthermore. You start the run at midnight.

I elected, in my naivety and recklessness to take the 115km option. I came for nothing but the hardest. So. A 115km ultramarathon run through the notoriously dangerous and gruelling formerly active volcanoes of Madeira. I’d had to lie saying I’d run more than 85km in the last year (I’d not run an ultramarathon in the last year nor had I ever run anything close to this distance). Even the other starters were impressed and surprised by my boldness.

We would be ascending up horrendous vertical climbs going up 5100ft with horrendous gradient, nonstop running and more. It had a <50% finish rate. People died doing it. There would be less than 300 people and the run would be far from ‘pretty’:

The trail:

So midnight came upon that day and my heart beat slowly as we prepared to head off:

My kit for the event.

Not all of us would make it the distance. Some would fall, one would die, many would not make the times.

But it’s of little surprise when you’re running for 29.5 hours; with your feet bloodied, legs made of stone and death, destruction, wind, sleet and torrential rain pour down upon you in the absolute darkness. You being to question your own sanity.

I almost died that day. I was in crutches for a week after. It is to date one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.

If you want to hear more of this story (it’s far from finished) and others follow me hereon Quora and I can tell you of the other experiences I’ve gone through that got me here:

(This is half of them) :slight_smile:

And how much pain I have suffered along the way.

And for my advice upon life see here.

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