Despite resting for four weeks prior to the previous day’s run, my legs felt relatively good when I awoke on the Saturday. My knees were a little stiff, but my muscles felt good. This was somewhat of a relief.
For the first time in my life, I forced down a bowl of porridge. I’m pretty sure I also forced down the last bowl of porridge in my life, too. How do people eat that? It tasted and felt like I’d imagine frogspawn would be if you blasted it in the microwave for two minutes. I was just hoping the energy it provided me would be worth it.
We drove back to Pleasley and I was well on schedule to restart the run at 9:30am. I had around 26 miles to go and I wanted to get on with it. 200 metres in and I could feel a slight sense of stiffness in my legs and my knees felt a little rusty. A quick stretch and I thought I’d be OK. At 400m I needed to stop. I had pain like I never thought. A second stop at about 600m had me wondering whether or not I should carry on. My legs were in so much pain that I was fighting back tears. Alice called to see how I was getting on and she told me to be sensible – there was a feint hint of “I think you should stop”" in her voice. Despite this, I called Mum and Dad and asked them to stop at the earliest point so that I could take on some freezing spray and some painkillers. At this point, I genuinely didn’t think I could make it to Hillsborough.
Being stubborn, I carried on. I was hoping that a good rush of blood to my pained areas would relieve things slightly and, thankfully, that’s what seemed to happen. Similar to the day before, my right knee eased up considerably. My left knee was sore, but I adopted the mind over matter technique. The skies were as blue as I have ever remembered in recent times and the air was still. The conditions were perfect, so much so that I chose to soundtrack my route with the Beach Boys Greatest Hits. Things, at last, seemed to be going well.
Through Bolsover and under the M1, Sheffield was getting ever closer. Support was raining on me via Twitter as Wednesday and the Football League sent me their support.
More and more undulating country roads passed by and I found myself on the outskirts of Sheffield. I knew that my chosen route involved some hills, but nothing had prepared me for what I was about to face. Long slow uphill followed by long slow downhill. Repeat this a few times and then enjoy a bit of flat. On one of the flats, I told Mum and Dad that I’d meet them in a mile’s time. Exactly one mile later, their car was parked on another long hill. Despite really, really needing a rest, I thought I could see the top and waved them on. Much to my horror the top of the hill was still another .75 miles away and this destroyed me both physically and mentally. Thankfully, I didn’t have long left.
When hitting the ring road for the city centre, Alice and Martin joined the support crew. Despite being a little ahead of schedule, we took the decision for the cars (and crew) to head to the stadium to park up and find the ‘finish line’. The boost that seeing Alice and (a bit) Martin gave me didn’t last too long as I soon lost my way and ended up running about a mile off course. With 40+ miles in your legs – one mile is a very big deal. Despite managing to ignore the pain, my knee was starting to become very problematic (I’m really sorry for boring you about my knee).
15 minutes later, I found myself back on track. Each step became more painful and now my left leg started to buckle under each step. Thankfully, I was on the home straight. Fans (football fans, not my fans) were starting to line the streets and I pushed very hard to keep going.
Taking the route down the middle of the (closed) road for the last stretch Hillsborough came into view. I turned through the gates and that was it! I was there! My Mum, Dad, Martin, Anna (a photographer from work) and Alice were all there waiting for me. I’ve normally tried to play it cool, but not this time. I punched the air and then proceeded to fall to the floor. Having everyone at the end was something that I’d wanted at each of all five of the runs. Alice being there made things that extra bit special as it was the first match she could make.
It was the finish to these runs that I had wanted all along. I had an enormous amount of pain in my legs, which really brought home the effort that my body had given. This was pain from running that I’d never felt before, but it didn’t matter. At the start of the season, I set out to run to 5 football stadiums from the City Ground and, over 200 miles later, I had finally done it. Every single step of the way – my two feet had taken me there. What’s more is that I had raised an incredible amount of money to help change people’s lives for the better.
Despite the reason for running there being for a Forest match, the game itself didn’t seem to matter too much. However Forest did win and that made the day that bit more rewarding.