Colchester, a completely.....

........different animal! Since completing Catterick the chatter has been, well Colchester can't be as tough as that! There are no hills, like those ones that tried so hard to break so many, back in September! However, only the foolish would dare believe that come Sunday 21st October, that Colly course wouldn't test those that were brave enough to give it a go. Short sharp hills were replaced with long and shallow uphill woodland  paths that were boot deep sticky mud, and the water traps made by vehicles were replaced with full on water courses, almost chest deep, well on my short arse anyway!

Stand by.........
The first three miles were comforatble as I looked down at the Garmin, I was well on target at 31 mins, then my brothers Airborne spirit took hold, and the bravado took over, faced with the decision to go over the river as so many had, I decided to go the wet route, and instantly regretted the decision. I knew as soon as I eventually felt the bottom of that water trap, it was going to cost me. Not able to find a sure footing I slipped backwards into the river, collecting at least another 20lbs in wet stuff, and as I clambered out, completely sodden and facing a treacherous looking well trodden slippery grassy slope, I knew then the 1hr50 had gone and that the extra weight was going to take its toll. I remember a fellow tabber asking as we plodded up the hill together "was it worth it", and I just looked at him, and candidly admitted that it wasn't, however I know if I hadn't, maybe the achievement might not have felt so great, I know Lloydy would have been willing me to take it on, so I had to, and although as I said it cost me that 1hr50, I would still choose to go that route again and again. The next two miles were laborious, hard on the legs, energy sapping, until I began to dry out a bit and the excess water began to recede. James caught me up and then became my target! Miles 5 to 7 were then spent chasing James down to catch him up, before eventually doing so, and me asking him to "not keep running off, every time I catch up with him" to not see him again until the finish. I guess at that point I found my legs again, and I knew the initial target that I'd set myself of breaking the 2 hours was achievable. Through the horrible sticky mud I found the strength from somewhere to give it a real go, and by the time we were through that and back out of Friday Woods the legs were doing ok. As I hit the back end of Merville I was at 1hr45 with a mile and a half to go, and as I made my way on to Abbey Field the legs began to protest a bit, but as I made my way to the brow of the hill and the crowd and the finish line became visible the heart took over and the legs responded.

Breaking the 2 hour barrier would be, as far as I was concerned a huge achievement and every bit of grit went into that last quarter mile, but again as I sensed the wonderful group of supporters that were there for us, that give me that energy boost that I needed and I ate up those last 200 metres or so as if I didn't have the bergen on my back.

Giving it one last push....
Once again being greeted by Caroline as I finished was amazing, and to see so many wonderful members of my family there at the end was truly special, especially as it was wet for those few hours waiting for us to come in. Special mention must go to those boys who once again took on the Paras'10 and succeeded, Coley in 1hr41, Tux in 1hr49, James in 2hr02 and Abbo in 2hr05. Me I hit 1hr58:40, and as far as I'm concerned that was a job well done - well until Aldershot anyway. Paul Cooper and Steve Elliott both took on the event this time, Paul a 'substitute' for his brother Andy, coming in @ 8 secs outside the 1hr50, and Stevie despite being in rag for the last three miles and having to rely on just one leg to see him home, came in, in 2hr39. 

Once again, everyone did themselves and Lloydy proud, and I couldn't be more proud to have been able to stand there with them and be there at the finish line to celebrate with them, although slightly muted the celebrations were in comparison to Catterick. The only downside was the boys that weren't there, however they were already sunning themselves, waiting for Caz and I to join them in Paphos, so it seemed wholly appropriate that when we arrived and I met them by the poolside, I did so sporting my 'Maroon Machine' finishers T-Shirt!

That moment signified the end of my endeavours for the year and the beginning of the next chapter of my life.......and as Caz and I stood and took our vows in front of all of those that are dear to us, I know Lloydy was there, because the sun was shining, the day was swollen with laughter and the skies were blue!

Stevie and I

James and I

Once again a huge hats off to the organisation of these events and the work Stephen Cooper and Dewi Winkle do, it really is an honour to have become part of this great event, not just personally, but as a group, being able to pay tribute in this way, to men like my little brother who give so much, is (as daft as it sounds) a huge comfort. And to the great people we've met along the way this year on this journey, Tim Donati-Ford, Barry Watkins, John Falconer (the face of Catterick 2012) and Kate Bent to name but a few, thank you all for your support as much as your friendship and I look forward to seeing you in the events to come.......standing by!


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