I’m not a superstitious person. I’ve never rubbed a rabbits foot (they’re hard to catch), I don’t ‘knock on wood’ and I smash mirrors for fun. I am under no illusions that The Hat has any special weather powers. Let’s face it, it’s England – it rains.
However I love a bit of banter and I love our Paul Ali. So it just seemed natural that him and I would fall into friendly back and forth banter/insults/threats about the hat.
If you’ve read my pitiful blog you may remember that at Endure 24 he even tried to bribe with said hat if I completed another lap but at 65 miles I was broken and I hated him, his hat and all things ultra. I got over that in 26 hours and signed up for another 24 hour race though.
In the lead up to the Winter 100 I wanted to, in my own silly way, give Paul something fun to think about. He’s had an incredibly busy year and quite shockingly his first ever DNF at the T184. I hadn’t spoken to him in person so wasn’t sure if this had ‘messed with his head’ but I just wanted the last big one for 2014 to have a bit of fun attached.
So I joking said “Bet you can’t run a sub 20 at W100” and goaded him that if he didn’t manage it then I was going to get The Hat.
He countered with “If I do then you run a 100 miler in 2015”
Anyone who knows me will attest that I have ZERO desire for 100 miles. Zero. It’s ok though. It was a sure bet.
But this was a sure bet for me. Paul’s best 100 time is 19:36 at this years Thames Path 100. Perfect conditions. Not the predicted deluge that was on for this years Winter 100. He’d never do it. He’s had an event filled year. Tired legs and shit weather were in my favour.
So it was with ease I said “Sure, whatever”.
Then before I knew it there was a bit of a social media flurry on it. I was getting lots of messages of support and offers to pace/crew me.
Excuse me? I’m not losing!! It was a sure bet.
I won’t go into the details of Pauls race (note the aforementioned bored factor) but will tell you that it was a great day from start to finish. Although I do think he dealt some low blows. The first being that when he arrived for registration he informed me his little girl had asked him to not lose the hat! Low blow Ali, low blow. So I of course was very mature and countered by telling him that we had already purchased the petrol and the hat would be burned in the middle of the road outside HQ.
Now for those who don’t know the format of the W100 is 4 out and back legs of 25 miles so I knew I would get to see Paul 4 times (including the anticipated 22 hour finish). Before they even set off on leg 1 I had total strangers asking me how I felt about a 100 miles, had I picked a race yet, what was I thinking etc.
Whatever. It was a sure bet.
I wish I could say that once the race was under way I had put it out of my mind due to being so busy at HQ but it was here that the first major blow to my confidence happened. I started recalling conversations at dinner the night before with the event crew and some friends. James Elson looked at me and said “He’ll do it you know” and then the whole table gleefully started making suggestions for my 100 miler.
Fabulous! It was maybe a sure bet.
I have never been so frustrated in my life when the race leaders Marco Consani and Ed Catmur came flying into the hall at the end of leg 1. First thing Marco said was … “The hat looks good”.
So when Paul comes skipping in I just stared at him. I was not chanting in my head about him tripping up. Honest. I did love though that so many runners at both the sharp end and the back of the pack were joining in the fun (or rather my misery).
I was still quietly confident that the weather and night time would send things in my favour. Bloody wish I’d taken Paul Stout up on the bribery offer though as he was going to be pacing him on leg 3. It was not a good sign when Stouty got there early for his duties because he had noted on the tracker that the bloody hat was rocking along ahead of schedule.
My stomach dropped when Paul came breezing into the hall looking like he was out for a Sunday jog and announced he has just made a 50 mile PB. I tried to persuade Gary (Kit Check Captain) to perform an hour long details mandatory kit check and evaluation. He was too busy confirming the mileage for the West Highland Way to hear me.
That’s ok. It was a kind of sure bet.
By now I am genuinely worried and start praying (thanks for capturing that Gary). The ever supportive HQ crew were doing their best to console me by gleefully researching on the HQ laptop what races I could do!!! Every time I went back to it there was one left up on the screen. I was even now being drawn into conversations of what kind would I like to do, why I can’t do a Centurion one, who would be on the crew ….. thanks so much for the solid support! Although on the bright side I did hear one runner say he had fallen almost taking the hat out with him! That cheered me.
End of leg 3 that stupid hat and its bloody owner came into the hall and my heart softened just a little bit (don’t tell anyone) as he looked a bit pained. As he sat there I couldn’t help but give him a massive hug and tell him that I wanted to be angry but I couldn’t as I was so bloody proud of him. He was absolutely on for getting a PB and ending his year in the right way. On a high. It seems the HQ team were too busy to console me as they were deciding between West Highland Way (with Elson offering to run an extra 4 mile loop with me to make up the distance), Hardmoors 110 and St Oswalds Way for me. How kind of them. What happened to team Nici?
It’s still ok. I could deny the bet right? After all I would never encourage gambling. No?
I will be honest and say it was at this point I resigned myself to the fact I would be taking on a 100 miler in 2015. Now anyone who knows me will agree that I love every one of our runners from the folks at front on fire, to the ones playing with cutoffs and to the ones who end their day early. Each and every one of them is part of my extended family whether they like it or not. Yet now I hated them as they came in the hall in differing stages of pain, joy, tears etc … it scared me. What have I done?
Oh well. It was a bet.
When Paul came in at the end of his 4th leg I was standing waiting for him. What an amazing time. 18:56 !! I hugged him and quietly told him that I could not be prouder of him. I was not going to cry. Nope not me – I’m made of ice water.
I then felt a bit sick.
There is no such thing as ‘A sure bet’. I must be the last person to realize that little gem.
Now I know there are many who are thinking that surely Paul would not hold me to the bet. After all 100 miles is a crazy thing to have to do for the sake of a silly friendly bet. Small problem is that I would have absolutely taken the hat and burned it if I had won. A bet is a bet.
I have now officially taken on a coach. I have entered a race. I have made out my will.
I will continue to hate that hat.