It has take a little while for me to write this blog as to be honest, for once I have no idea what to say!
I honestly cannot believe that I have done it. It all still seems rather surreal and almost dream like. Did that really happen? I have the medals and trophy. I have the bruises and the remaining pain in my legs. I also have some cracking tan lines and some delightful areas of chafing!! Most of all, I have some incredible memories. Despite this, I still cannot believe that I actually completed this bonkers challenge.
The Windermere Marathon route is the most beautiful marathon route I have run, but it is also one of the toughest road marathons in the UK. The combination of those hills and the heat are brutal. It is in the Lake District - I was expecting rain - there was none during the day!
There has been lots of tears of joy, tears of frustration, tears of pain but there has also been lots of laughter, fun and many, many hugs! As the cliche goes - it has been an emotional rollercoaster!
I have made some incredible friends. An amazing group of inspirational runners, the fantastic sports rehab team and the wonderful support crew. I couldn't have got through this challenge without these remarkable people.
There were days when I hobbled in over that finish line, wondering how on earth I would be physically and mentally be able to get up and join the start line the next day. Eleanor would listen to my grumbles, fix me up and get me back up on to my feet day in, day out. She would do all of this with a smile on her face and would give me the confidence that I could do it.
All of the runners had their own reasons for taking on this challenge and seeing them all face their own difficulties, conquer their own personal obstacles and injuries made me more determined to complete the event.
The support crew (headed up by Aly and including Mac, Paul, Trudy, Jim, Chris, Sandra and Michelle) were amazing - they were there to hand out bottles, mop up tears, provide words of encouragement, make sure all the runners were safe, give hugs and they provided this support from morning until night.
Huge thanks go to all those who supported us on our journey - from those who provided messages of support, words of encouragement and to those who generously donated to our Justgiving page - this included friends, family and even strangers who simply followed our ups and downs over the 10 days. Also thanks must go to the previous 10 in 10ers who provided invaluable advice and support over the year!
When I struggled with my injuries and pain and felt like giving up, it was the little things that made me dig deep and carry on - from the kids at Hawkshead Primary School who came out to high five the runners each day, to the people who said that I was an inspiration and that I had encouraged them to take their first steps running - this is what got me through and also knowing that by finishing this crazy challenge, I would in some way be changing the lives of vulnerable youngsters and giving them an opportunity for a new start and a new life. The pain I endured over the 10 days is nothing compared with what some of these kids have gone through in their short lives and the money raised for the Brathay Trust can help change their situation.
Final thanks must go to my family - to my husband and daughters who have put up with me over this last year, during my training, my injuries and fundraising - for living through my ups and downs and giving me a kick up the butt when I needed it. To my dad who was crazy enough to agree to take on the challenge too (and who absolutely smashed it) and is running his next marathon this weekend - yes you read that right. He is an absolute legend. To Sandra who joined the support crew and who helped each and every runner throughout the 10 days. To Fin who made a surprise day visit to Brathay and for my fabulous recovery gift (lots of Reeses - mmm). To Leon, Matt, Elsie and Mary for their kind donation to Brathay and for coming along on the final weekend. Your support was invaluable.
We have managed to smash our £6k fundraising target which is amazing (I just have to add the remainder of the virtual challenge money raised).
There is still time to donate to the Brathay Trust at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/joni-southall3
Entries to next year's 10 in 10 challenge are now open. For those who are thinking about taking the plunge and entering the challenge, just do it. It is an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity (or more than that if you are a bit of a sadist)! If you are in any doubt about your fitness whether it be mental or physical, don't worry - I am a middle aged, rather curvy woman - I am not the quickest or the best runner by far - but if I can get through it, anyone can! It will completely change your life and you will make some incredible new friends for life.