Trail runner recounts record run around the Pembrokeshire Coast

Rich Simpson with about 5km left to go in his 186-mile challenge

Rich Simpson with about 5km left to go in his 186-mile challenge

West Wales man says determination and planning were key in his three-day, 186-mile challenge

Rich Simpson recently became reportedly the first person to navigate the whole of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path's 186 miles in less than 72 hours.

Completing Man-Up UK's "Marathon des Cote" in 64 hours 32 minutes, the West Wales man met three daily cut-offs and was the only one of the three entrants still going at the end.

Simpson has some experience in long mountaineering expeditions, but insists he is not a fast runner. However, he says his mental approach and preparation helped him to get through the three arduous days.

He had been confident in his ability to complete it in three days but assumed others would be faster than him. Living in Haverford West, he had good local knowledge. A couple of years earlier he succeeded in a 66.6-mile one-day ultra on the Pembrokeshire Coast. He added: "I knew what I was capable of and that I have the mental capacity to literally run myself to the ground. I trained hard, but not has hard as to ever injure myself, that was important I felt."

As an example of his preparation, he recce-ed the route and realised he would have to negotiate two small footbridges that would become impassable at high tide, so he needed to hit the narrow time window to avoid a lengthy detour.

Once going, he made sure to set off at his own pace. He added: "I reckon about 40 miles in that I considered this to be my new ‘normal' - running on the coast, wading through long undergrowth, steep and treacherous climbs and descents is what I have to deal with for the foreseeable and that there was nothing that I could do about it; not imprisoned but just that’s the way it is for the next few days."

Sixty-six miles in, off three and a half hours' sleep, he began day two.  He soon realised he was the only one left in the challenge. "I now wanted to complete the distance, not just for myself but for the event organisers who set up the challenge," said Simpson.

"Stage-two accommodation was a tent in a field with no showers - not a problem because this was '[the new] normal', as is about another three and a half hours' sleep."

With 58 miles left on day three, he explained: "A long road section with hedges either side put me into such a dream-like state that I fell asleep and woke up with a tree in my face! It happens, just glad it wasn’t on a cliff!"

Being tracked on the internet via his GPS transmitter was "an added motivation not to let them down.  En-route people would be waiting outside their houses and cheer me on, which was really humbling."

He added: "The end was getting close but still the cliffs were never-ending. The steps of Lydstep nearly broke me. The constant ascent and descent was exhausting, whether or not you had 170 miles or seven miles under your legs. The steps in front of me were a massive mental barrier.  I remember stopping with disbelief...."

"I developed back pain some 30 miles earlier and now it must have broken down my posture. I had severe pain in both knees - my left I could bend properly and my right could only bend if full weight was taken off it. Anybody watching me would have be bemused with my peculiar downhill technique. I was cross with myself for getting into this state. I forced myself to get into a proper normal posture and get across the finish line with some decency...

"It was a fantastic journey - running with the dolphins up north, the seals, beautiful beaches and imposing industry in the west and finally the stunning coastal towns and villages of the south Pembrokeshire coast."

Check out more on the challenge at Man Up UK's blog.