Mud, pain and Take That

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I’LL never look at Gary Barlow in the same way again.

Where once I scowled at his put-on X-Factor arguments, I will now rise to my feet and clap my hands like a member of an American evangelist’s congregation.

The reason for my love of the Barlow? He saved my fledging – and possibly one-off – ultra marathon career.

Having completed 32 of 38 miles of Sunday’s Three Peaks Ultra, I hit the hardest of brick walls.

The mud on the way to Maxton and alongside the River Tweed, the horrendous ascent of the Eildon Hills and the tarmaced roads in between it all had left me in tatters as I tried to negotiate the old Roman route of Dere Street.

It certainly felt like I was carrying the metal armour of a centurion as I stumbled towards Jedburgh, switching between walking and a very slow jog.

I needed some inspiration, so reached for my portable media player – also known as an iPod – and pressed play.

And there it was. Never Forget, the 1995 farewell track by the Manchester boy band. How it got on my iPod I have no idea, and the chances of me listening to it again are as likely as Lance Armstrong admitting he is a drugs cheat.

But the cheesy pop tune worked a treat. I fought off the pain and made it back to the finish line in seven hours, 44 minutes and 53 seconds to claim 34th place. With my target being eight hours, I was delighted with my effort.

As I hobbled the last few miles, I vowed I would never do an ultra marathon again. But in the days since, and despite the whole body pain I have endured in the aftermath, I can see myself taking on another of these ultimate endurance tests.

The support of spectators clapping and cheering you around the course was genuinely heartwarming.

My fellow endurance runners were good fun as well, whether discussing if we were lost or if the mud we were caked in would make us look younger.

And I have also raised hundreds of pounds for the Rowan Boland Memorial Trust, which will hopefully help a young Borderer climb the ladder in their chosen sport.

So watch this space for my next ultra marathon challenge. I’ll certainly Never Forget my first.