Race to the King: ‘The hardest thing I’ve ever done’

By David Ainsworth

David crosses the Race to the King finish with Becky

The Race to the King ultra-marathon from Arundel to Winchester was every bit as gruelling as I thought it would be. Luckily, the weather was incredibly kind to us, given the heatwave that had just occurred a few days prior to the event. Both me and my teammate Barnaby were feeling very strong after 10 miles and, to our surprise, we were actually enjoying the event. The seven pit stops along the way broke up the 53.5 miles nicely, and seeing the large ‘1 Mile to next Pit Stop’ sign was always met with huge sighs of relief.

Unfortunately, our partnership ended after the 15th mile; right before Buster Hill (an infamously steep ascent where the army train), Barney went over on his already sore ankle (from a recent rugby injury) and we had to stop for medical attention at the second pit stop. If I thought up until that point that I had landed myself in HBO’s Band of Brothers, my suspicions were only confirmed at that medical tent.

Several people had already injured themselves, with one woman wrapped in a foil blanket,
shaking, bleeding heavily from the arm and just generally freaking out. Fearing that Barney was going to have to pull out, and feeling unnerved by the state of my surroundings, we agreed I had to push on alone. I stupidly left all my provisions in our bag with Barney in an act of solidarity, and headed on to the halfway point. To my surprise, the fellow runners and walkers were incredibly pleasant to chat with, and thus I ended up making
several friends, many of whom would soon abandon me at base-camp as I was doing the event non-stop.

In spite of the fact that some of the hills could loosely be described as mountains, I was making short work of them. I replenished well at each stop, and had managed to contact Barney to find out that he had somehow made it past base-camp (24 miles) and was soldering on despite his ankle. I could not quite believe it, and promised to slow down and wait for him at the next stop.

Barney eventually managed to make it to 30 miles, just seven behind me, before he strained his knee and had to pull out for good. I was sad and tired, but I knew at least one of us had to finish. Problems for me only began to hit home after the 42nd mile, and whilst I was making good time (45 miles in just over 12 hours), it was around this point that I
strained my anterior tibialis. For those last 5-8 miles I was limping and it was getting dark, and with no head-torch (left in the bag with Barney), I knew I had to finish soon.

At the last pit stop (49 miles), I rested with coffee for 5-10 minutes and panic started to settle in. The importance of making friends, however, was soon confirmed when Becky, a nice lady I had met at base-camp, appeared out of nowhere. I was ordered to stick with her from a crew member as she had a torch, and given my present state, I was in no position to disagree.

Becky effectively carried me to the finish line with her partner Phil (who had thrown up three times on course due to bad salmon), and because she is a regular marathon
runner, she was more than capable of finishing the course comfortably with my crippled body in tow. My Band of Brothers analogy felt complete.

The Race to the King is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. Becky could not believe that I had only trained for two months, nor could she believe that I had abandoned my bag whilst everyone else was carrying hundreds of pounds worth of necessities. Were it not for her, I may not have made it, but equally, given that I was crying from pain, it would have been quite inhuman to leave me at the last pit stop.

In the end, the whole course took me 17 hours, and given that my goal was 20, and the fact I was injured for the last 10 miles, I feel a huge sense of relief and accomplishment. Overall though, I made it. And we raised over £650 for a charity very close to my heart.

I am currently resting up at home, praying that my leg is just strained and not torn, while Barney is out of action for a month with strained knee ligaments. I am very proud of
both of us. I have many people to thank, especially Pete, as I imagined him behind me the whole way shouting my name, but I would like to thank the Striders, because I would never have been able to complete something like this were it not for the regular community running. So, thank you. Hope to see you all again soon!

David took part in the Race to the King to raise funds for his best friend’s charity, Charlotte’s BAG (Battle Against Glioblastoma) in memory of his sister, Charlotte Eades, who
lost her battle with brain cancer last year. To find out more and to donate, visit David’s Justgiving page.

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