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I haven’t posted for a very long time however having witnessed my wife Annie Foulds heroic effort at the Durban to Pietermaritzburg Ultra Marathon, the most famous, many say hardest road race in the world I felt that it was genuinely worth sharing.

Annie has just ran “The Comrades” From the moment Annie was told that this was THE toughest endurance race in the world, she in typical energetic style told me that she would enter and so she did!!! No stopping Annie. I looked at the details on the internet and tried to take in the magnitude of this task, 87km in the heat of Africa, at altitude and UPHILL !! surly a masochists dream, but as you know she is nothing if not determined and so the preparation began.

I don’t wish to exaggerate this but I think I can say without fear of any contradiction that all who share Annie’s life, me the very lucky and immensely proud husband,( incredibly 24 years together) many would say even tougher than the “Comrades” our children Jack, whose pancreatic cancer and lifesaving treatment at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital is the driving reason behind Annie’s amazing fundraising for GOSH and Harry our youngest, other family members and the enormous number of friends that Annie attracts are blessed to know such a force of nature. Boundless energy and enthusiasm a magical zest for life, endless positivity and kindness and as this feat demonstrated a steely determination to accomplish what she sets her mind on regardless of obstacles whist remaining warm, charming and just lovely!

Miles and miles and miles of daily and long weekend runs began, the only way to accomplish this herculean task and Annie just got on with it. Some Saturdays a marathon followed by a marathon on Sunday for good measure. I accompanied on a cycle on as many runs as I could and I can state there was never a complaint or a “why am I doing this” Annie went for it knowing if she wasn’t on the top of her game she wouldn’t be able to complete the challenge she is not one to let herself or anyone else down so Hundreds of miles over six months in all-weather, thousands of leg presses at a weight I might baulk at and Annie finally declaring that she was ready and tapering down just 10 days before race day. We were able to spend a few days in Cape Town with a little much overdue pampering of Annie, steams, massages and light exercise had her glowing, thank you the great staff at the One and Only, it was so lovely to see her happy, relaxed and confident and up for the challenge.

There was a fantastic buzz in Durban at the expo which we thoroughly enjoyed, it was great meeting with some of the legends of the race, mixing with newcomers and athletes full of excitement and trepidation of what was to come. Race day started at 3am with breakfast, the hotel was full of comrade runners and I was staggered at how much some of them ate but I can only imagine how many calories one burns in the 10 hours or so the race takes to complete. Annie, Harry and I walked to the start where 17,031 awaited the 5.30am starting gun. Annie was calm and collected and joined her starting band which was funnily enough towards the back due to her qualification time which was based on her last London marathon time which was about an hour and 40 minutes slower than her normal time, why? because she selflessly waited to finish the race with me!! Typical unselfish Annie. The race began.

Harry and I caught a bus to the finish area which took us an hour and a half to DRIVE!! The bus took the route of the race and I was totally staggered by the number of hills, the length and height of them seemed formidable, and I really began to worry, this seemed almost impossible to me, what had Annie, a 48 year old wife and Mother, training around a full time physical job and in her menopause, what had she committed to? The wait at the finish was long and the temperature rose steadily, I was informed this was one of the hottest comrades for years, and I paced up and down for hours, repeatedly looking at my watch and wondering how Annie was coping and then Harry asked me what was wrong? I said I was worried about the length and height of the hills and the heat and Harry simply said to me, don’t worry Dad, its MUM she knows what she is doing and she is strong !! and of course he was right, at 10 hours and 40 minutes Annie came powering around the last bend and into the finish. We were all elated and tears flowed, she smashed it and looked as though she had just completed a fun run, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. It is so tough that it is interesting to note that The Comrades Marathon Medical Facility is lauded as the world’s largest temporary medical facility outside of a conflict zone.

I have nothing but total respect and admiration for Annie, for this staggering achievement and for the way Annie conducts all aspects of her life and the positivity and joy she has brought to so many of her customers and friends so I am asking all that read this please contribute to Annie’s Just Giving page: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ANNIEFOULDS201 this special effort really deserves a special response for sick children so please help as Annie says Health is Wealth.

Thank you,

Stephen Foulds

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