Arry Beresford-Webb describes how she ran an incredible 1047 hilly Welsh miles (40 Welsh marathons on the trot!) as a tribute to her parents – equipped simply with a big heart and stubborn mind.
‘I was brought up in the middle of rural Powys, so being isolated in the countryside doesn’t intimidate me, I’m used to getting lost. But the terrain was hilly and tough. Offas Dyke in particular was a shock to the system, I ended up with thighs like Lomu.’
Age on the run: 31
Official run name: Dragon Run 1027
Miles covered: 1047
Ascent: Over 60,000m(!)
Days on the run: 40
Paths followed: Wales Coast Path and Offas Dyke Path (first known person to run the perimiter of Wales)
Fave trail shoes: Adidas Kanadias and Inov-8 Roclites
Injuries: Twisted knee
Secrets: Determination, her friend Eva visiting in various outfits, and cake.
It’s fair to say that Arry Beresford-Webb, 35, is a bit of a doer. ‘Spinning on my head is on my bucket list, so I took break dancing classes’, she laughs. A doer, indeed, with an infectious chuckle and great sense of spirit. On a Thursday evening we chatted, I’d had a stressful day at work, but after 90 minutes on the phone to Arry, I was excited about life again, and left fantasising about the Welsh border.
A long, hilly tribute
When Arry’s parents tragically passed away within 18 months of each other, she decided to ‘raise an obscene amount of money’ for Velindre Cancer Care by running the entire perimeter of Wales in 40 days, having never run a marathon before.
‘All my friends thought I was nuts’, Arry says. ‘I’d never run off-road before, the furthest I’d ever run was a half marathon.’ Arry’s 40 day journey divided neatly into one Welsh marathon (26.2 miles) every day. Although some days she ran more, and some days she ran less, determined Arry gained ground every single day, even spending a few days walking with a twisted knee. ‘It was hideous’, she says.
Getting tips from ultra-runners
‘Back in 2012, no one really ran ultra marathons, it just wasn’t a ‘thing’ back then,’ says Arry. ‘I was scrabbling around for information to find out whether it was even possible or not,’ she recalls. ‘I’d met this guy in America running Route 66, his name was Phil Rosenstein. He sent me loads of info’ and told me: “It’s all in your mind – it’s 80% psychological, the rest of it is one foot in front of the other”. I also dropped Dean Karnazes a line,’ Arry says casually. ‘Three days later I got a really lovely, long reply, and again – the psychological aspect was the main message: “Sort your head out, and the rest will come. Get the training miles in when you can, and run with your heart.” ‘The advice was exactly what I needed – they believed in me’.
Ups and downs
After months of rising at 3am to get the marathon miles in her legs, Arry set off on 24th March 2012 to run 1047 miles in 40 days, overcoming tough mental and physical barriers along the way. ‘My head was in a funny place,’ Arry recalls. ‘I ran to get away from the grief of losing my parents, but it turned out to be a grieving process in itself. The bad times were horrific. On Day 15, something in my head told me that I just couldn’t do it. Pain was creeping in everywhere and I was feeling emotional. I just felt no good; I was convinced that I was physically broken.’
‘I ran to get away from the grief of losing my parents, but it turned out to be a grieving process in itself.’
Thanks to her supportive friends, Arry made it to the ‘spag bol ice bath’, complete with rubber ducks, after completing the marathon that day. ‘I realised later that I was in emotional pain’, she says. ‘The next few days I just wanted to be alone.’ Despite this, Arry’s friends continued their support. ‘They came by to perk me up with cookies, and my friend Eva, who is six foot, appeared in an Elf outfit!’
Penguin hallucinations and hills
‘As I neared Anglesea, the half way point, something clicked and I knew I had broken the back of it. Anglesea was brilliant, the people there were outstanding and quite tolerant of me. I was hallucinating by this point. One day I tweeted that I’d seen penguins in the wild, and I honestly believed it.’
‘The hills were unforgiving,’ Arry says. Incredibly, on her journey, Arry climbed over 60,000 feet (Yes, thousand!). ‘I ended up with thighs like blinking Lomu’, she laughs. ‘The hills were ridiculous! Particularly Offas Dyke; the Welsh border. It hurt every single day, but I got used to it. I’d almost worry if it didn’t hurt’, she says.
‘I run for the love of running, and for the tea and cake.’
Arry describes herself as a soul runner. ‘I run for the love of doing it – and for the tea and cake you get in ultras. But weirdly, I hear again and again that I don’t look like a proper runner. What’s a proper runner – I own a garmin! That’s exactly the attitude that stops people getting up and doing stuff – it winds me up.’
Back to work
‘After I finished the challenge it felt horrible being back at work. I’d just stare out of the office window and wish that all I had to do was get up and run. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I’d do it slower and enjoy the coast paths. I’m planning an exciting challenge for 2017 – but I’m keeping my cards close to my chest…’
Arry’s top tips for ultra-running
-Learn to eat on the run,
-Remember every step gets you closer to your goal,
-Don’t listen to doubters,
-Just do it, don’t overthink it,
-Identify the reason you want to do it, it may be the difference between finishing it and not finishing it.