Alternative Title: The Flaming Calves of DOOM!
After the Crotch Whacking Cones, Miles 9 through 12 were a blur. It was so dark as we trudged along Queensferry Road, plastic ponchos whooshing like a lullaby. I drifted in and out of conversations, trying to ignore the ache in the ball of my left foot. At Mile 10 the people doing the Half Moon turned left and headed back towards the city centre. They only had another 3.1 miles to go, lucky bastards.
Now we headed away from the big roads and down towards the sea…
Mile 12 – Did I tell you we had support vehicles? Just like the Tour de France! It consisted of Dave (Claire's fella) and Bruce (Lorraine's fella) on bicycles. They'd decided to go for a few pints then pedal around the course throughout the night. They popped up at random intervals like a ray of sunshine to shout words of encouragement and/or offer snacks.
At Mile 12 they were joined by our colleague Tara. She'd Moonwalked last year with Claire, so she knew from experience we'd need a small chocolate ration at that precise moment. Just when my calves had started to twinge and my morale nosedived, she appeared like a confectionery goddess. With one bite of a wee ASDA chocolate caramelly can't-remember-the-name I was REBORN!
3.30AM, Mile 13 – HALFWAY!
I remember thinking, now would a good time to become a Glass Half Full Person. Only thirteen miles to go, it's all downhill from here! As opposed to, Bloody hellfire thirteen stinking evil miles to go and I want to dieeeeeee.
We were down by the water now. To our left, the Firth of Forth. To our right, a discreet wall of leafy trees and many Moonwalkers darting behind them. Already the sun was starting to rise.
Mile 14 – Pee pressure: when you're dacks down in the bushes with your team and desperate not to be the last one squatting. C'MON LIL BLADDER!
By now my left foot hurt every time I put weight on it. Which is quite bloody often when one is walking. My calves also had the same "tennis balls trapped under the skin" sensation that I'd experienced on the first 16 mile training walk. I stopped for a proper stretch.
4.21AM, Mile 15 – The quietness of the seafront was replaced by the shiteness of an industrial estate. But there was a water station with giant buckets of chopped up bananas and oranges! I'd never been so glad to see a slightly shriveled piece of fruit in my life. This is where I took the Orange In Gob photo .
Brain boosted by the power of Vitamin C, I calculated that we'd been walking for 4.5 hours, an average of 18 minutes per mile. So if we kept that up, we only had 3-ish hours to go!
4.29AM – The sky grew pink over Leith.
Mile 16 – Calf pain levels upgraded to Flaming Tennis Balls With Metal Spikes. Described my symptoms to my team and they said, "That sounds like cramp". Nooo! Too many miles to go for cramp. So more stretching. A bite of Snickers bar.
Mile 17 – Ocean Terminal shopping centre. My legs refused to straighten properly so I walked in a semi-squat, cossack-esque position.
During that mile we reached the five hour mark. My longest training walk had been five hours, so it was all virgin territory now. That's when I overheard Sarah say something along the lines of, "I've just accepted that every step is going to be painful from now until the end, and there's nothing I can do but keep on walking".
I thought that was a very classy attitude and felt determined to adopt the same. Although I quite fancied throwing myself to the pavement and wailing like a big baby.
5.17AM, Mile 18 – Our amazing support crew were waiting for us with a silver platter full of goodies. Now that's service! Once again, oranges had never tasted so good.
I felt completely rubbish at this point. The last three miles had taken almost an hour. My calves were totally seized up, same with the left foot. No amount of stretching helped. The general consensus was cramp and I needed salt. I also switched back to an energy drink (I'd been sipping one for the first few miles but had changed to water). The saltiest food I had was a wee bag of Hula Hoops but I was just so sick of food – I know, can you believe it – that it was difficult to get any down.
Miles 19 – We played Eye Spy. I tried to remember my Classy Attitude vow but when someone said, "I spy something something start with… S", I immediately whined, "Shauna's Flaming Calves of DOOM!"
I fell into step with Sarah. Our other teammates were still chatty and bright but she said, "I don't think I should waste energy talking" and that suited me perfectly. We plodded along the Portobello promenade in silence.
You can communicate a lot with eyebrows. Like when you're stuck behind someone who's wearing alarmingly transparent tights and a thong, and their buttocks are wrestling like socks in a washing machine. Mutual eyebrows raised in alarm is a signal to do some rapid overtaking.
Mile 20, 21, 22 – This is when things got really really really dodgy. How can I put it delicately? I was crook in the guts. Experiencing intestinal turmoil. That overwhelming about-to-explode feeling is bad enough in the comfort of your own home, but when you're out on the town, having been awake for almost 24 hours and walking for six of them… it's no exaggeration to say it was hell on earth.
Three miles was plenty of time to analyse my predicament. Was it something I ate? Was it last Tuesday's IKEA hot dog? Was it the Official Moonwalk Flapjack? Most likely it was the energy drink. I'd never drunk one before and the sickly sweetness was overpowering. In hindsight it was a very stupid time to introduced my stomach to something so foreign.
The more my stomach rumbled like Vesuvius the more my mental state declined. It was quite fascinating to witness the brain rotate through such a negative array of emotions. Fierce jealousy of my faster team members, half a block ahead. Annoyance at my stupid flaming calves. Bitterness at myself for being the unathletic owner of said stupid flaming calves. Resentment at Edinburgh City Council for having pavements instead of moving walkways.
But soon that was replaced by sheer bloody panic. What if I couldn't find a loo? How much longer could I hold out? Should I just hammer on a random door and beg them to let me in? Oh Lordy I really cannot hold out much longer. Don't cry don't cry don't cry BE CLASSY!
Behind me a girl was talking about food. "I just want to get a big fuck-off chicken leg," she moaned, "and gnaw on it like a caveman."
Mile 23 – Miracle on London Road! A block of flats covered in scaffolding. A dusty port-a-loo, sitting sweetly beside the footpath.
"That looks like a loo," said Sarah.
"Could it really be?"
It was. And it was unlocked!
Oh people! The joy. The relief. I still cannot find the words to express it.
Now back to the silent, slo-mo action. I was still doing my painful cossack walk but mile 23 was bliss.
Mile 24 – Called Gareth. Jenny answered; they were in the car on their way to the finish line. "Could you ask him to park as close to The Meadows as humanly possible? Just look for the big pink tent. Drive on the grass if you have to."
Mile 25, 7.32AM – Down in the Cowgate. A weary snap of the Mile 25 marker.
The last 1.2 miles took eighteen minutes but it felt like an eternity, all numb and fuzzy like sleepwalking. The Castle came into view again as we shuffled through the Grassmarket.
Along Lauriston Place there were people walking in the opposite direction with medals round their necks and silver blankets round their shoulders. They were finished and I wanted to stab them.
Mile 26 – The mile marker was at the top of The Meadows. 0.2 miles to go.
Mile 26.2, 7.50AM – Crossed the Finish Line with the lovely Sarah. WE ARE DONE BABY DONE! Eight hours neat. We had walked for an entire working day!
I'd thought I'd get all emotional like my 5k race but I was too knackered to feel anything but relief that it finally, finally over. My legs pinged and twinged like harp strings. Managed to collect the goody bags and find the rest of the team before flopping on the grass.
8.02AM – I was looking through our group photos the other day and found these two, taken a few seconds apart.
This is where I attempted to stand up for the Triumphant Medal Pose but my legs failed halfway up.
Take #2 with port-a-loos in the background providing a poignant reminder of the ordeal. Too tired to open eyes properly. The effort to arrange mouth in an upturned manner was a marathon in itself.
Gareth had parked at Haymarket train station, one mile away. I tried to walk there, I really did. But after moving twenty metres in twenty minutes we gave up and jumped into a taxi. Or Gareth and Jenny jumped, I collapsed into. Half an hour later were home, another half an hour later I maneuvered myself out of the car and into the flat. You think I exaggerate, but my legs had just decided ENOUGH! We are not going to work anymore! They completely seized up; stretching was impossible. I'd never known such pain and fatigue and it was bloody hilarious. I had to wheel myself around the flat in an office chair!
Then my whole body started shaking and shivering so I wheeled myself into a hot bath. Then I slept for four hours. Then I felt quite triumphant. Then I ate the tastiest bacon sandwich of my life.