A NEWBURY police officer battled through blisters and aching limbs, as well as the odd wrong turn, to complete a gruelling 100km footrace to raise funds for disadvantaged local youngsters.
Sergeant Holly Nicholls raised more than £4,000 for the Newbury Volunteer Police Cadets by completing the Race to the Stones Ultra Marathon in July.
And thanks to her fundraising, Sergeant Nicholls was able take the cadets, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, on an adventure holiday to the Lake District earlier this month.
The 31-year-old described the run, which takes competitors along the ancient Ridgeway path, from the Chilterns in Oxfordshire across the Thames to the North Wessex Downs, as “tough, but worth it”.
“It went really well,” she said.
“The training really paid off. The hardest part was the last 10 miles.
“I got to checkpoint nine and thought it was just 10km left, but actually there was 12km still to do.
“So I’d got my maths wrong. That was toughest bit.”
The former firearms officer also described missing a marker which indicated a turn in the route and was only made aware that she had veered from the course by a passer-by.
“I’d actually added more on to the route by missing the turn,” she explained.
However, the experienced runner said she was spurred on by friends and family, as well as some of the cadets, offering support along the course which helped her finish the run.
“At checkpoint nine I called my husband and told him I was struggling.
“He told me it was just one more mile and gave me a bit of a pep-talk and that helped me get my head back in the game.
“I just thought about all the money that people had sponsored me and that spurred me on.”
Sgt Nicholls completed the race in 14 hours and 29 minutes, placing 348th out of 938 runners, and 67th out of 391 female runners.
Looking back at the exhausting event she said: “The feeling when you finish is just insane.
“It was actually quite emotional.
“Seeing the cadets on The Ridgeway, and being able to take them away is really something.”
The Race to the Stones, named for the monolithic standing sarsens at Avebury in Wiltshire, is billed as the UK’s “number one” ultra marathon attracting hundreds of runners each year.
This year the fastest time was recorded by Benjamin Poiraton, who completed the 100km race (66 miles) in just seven hours and 52 minutes.