Shades Of Glory

One of three ladies who attempted to be the first to complete the Brathay 10 in 10 Challenge last month - this is RW forumite Shades' incredible story

Posted: 9 June 2008
by David Mitchell

Shades crossing the finishline on the last day

For many people, running one marathon is a lifetime’s achievement. However, one Runner’s World forumite has set the bar considerably higher. The challenge for Selina Da Silva (aka Shades) was to complete the agonising Brathay 10 in 10 Challenge – 10 marathons in 10 consecutive days – as she attempted to become the first woman to have achieved this monumental feat.

Many of you will already know Shades as an active, much-admired and long-standing RW forumite. You may even be following her marathon training programme. A veteran of 181 marathons – 40 of which have been ultras – she is certainly no stranger to endurance events and the physical and mental commitment that goes with them.

Why would she put herself through this? "I thought it was a shame that no woman had completed the challenge," says Shades. "I wanted to show that women can do it as well as men."

The 10 in 10 team

On May 8 she arrived with 10 other competitors at Brathay Hall near Ambleside, Cumbria, home of the Brathay Hall Trust and the Brathay 10 in 10 Challenge.

Together, the three female and eight male competitors lived in the Lodge on the Brathay Estate for the duration of the challenge. In such close proximity, you would be forgiven for expecting tempers to fray occasionally.

"It was fantastic how well we bonded and supported each other. We were a real team. Sometimes during the challenge we were so tired we couldn’t be bothered to eat, but that fact that we all ate together meant we knew when someone was missing a meal."

In fact, their relationship is such that they are already planning a reunion at the Connemara Marathon next year.

Preparing for the Challenge

Despite the unique nature of the Brathay 10 in 10 Challenge, Shades’ training sessions didn’t change from her normal routine – 100 miles a week up until Christmas before then settling down to 70-80 miles a week.

"Once I entered the challenge, Steve Edwards – who ran it last year (and went on to break the World Record for the fastest 10 in 10 time this year) – was a great help to me. I asked him endless questions. The most important piece of advice he gave me was to get to the start of the challenge injury-free."

Unfortunately it looked like Shades wouldn’t be following Steve’s advice. "I sprained my ankle two months before the start date during the Duchy Marathon in Cornwall. I was terrified I had ruined my chance of competing. I felt dreadful about all the people I would be letting down and all the sponsorship money that had been pledged for the Brathay Hall Trust.

"It was only two weeks before the challenge that I knew I was alright to run. I completed the Lochaber Marathon without feeling a single twinge in my ankle – what a relief!"

Safety in numbers: the 10 in 10 Challenge ladies

Race Time

The weather during the challenge turned out to be less than ideal – blazing hot sunshine most days – and Shades was even surprised by the course itself. Considerably more challenging than she had been expecting she soon realised that to successfully make it through the challenge she was going to have to slow down her pace.

The race started an hour ahead of schedule on Day Two to try and avoid the worst of the heat, and as early as Day Three sleep deprivation and depleted energy levels were already beginning to show.

"The third marathon was very hard but I didn’t tell the physio John how bad I was feeling in case he pulled me off the course," she says. "I hadn’t expected to have such problems sleeping. The pain in my legs got so bad it woke me up every night. That must have had an impact on my racing."

Aside from this the biggest surprise for Shades was picking up an ankle injury from her socks. By Day Six she had also picked up a calf injury and fellow competitor Sue Adams had to pull out with a suspected stress fracture. The strains of the challenge were now really taking their toll.

With her energy waning, Shades completed her seventh marathon in 6:52. And the following day, the race had to be delayed by 30 minutes to give the physios enough time to treat the whole team. At least the sky was overcast and temperatures were cooler. It was at this point that Shades confronted the reality of her situation.

"I realised there was no chance of me achieving the female World Record on Day Eight. Michelle Atkins was too far ahead for me to catch up."

Despite this personal setback, spirits remained high among the team as they gathered for a drink at Brathay Hall that evening. No more so than for Shades who was unaware of what was in store the following day.

Breaking Point

Day Nine turned out to be critical: Shades came within a whisker of dropping out of the challenge. "I’d been picking up injuries throughout the event and my calf muscles on both legs were so sore. I owe a great deal to two people who kept me going: fellow RW forumite, Marathon Maiden – who ran with me for a couple of miles – and our physio John, who told me to concentrate on finishing that day’s race and then take stock of how I was feeling.

Physio John gets to grips on Shades

"Without their support I’m pretty sure I would have called it a day. Thankfully though, I finished the race with a clearer head and knew I would be able to tackle Day 10."

Mentally and physically this was the lowest ebb for Shades. But the end was so close: nine races down and just one to go: the Brathay Windermere Marathon.

"Overnight I got my head together and was determined to finish. I decided to set off an hour earlier than the rest of the team. The first five miles were hell but the support from other runners and the crowds was fantastic. I knew that nothing would stop me from finishing.

As I crossed the finishline in 6:25 the rest of the team were there waiting for me with plenty of hugs, kisses, tears and champagne. We went straight to the beer tent and had a few drinks, instead of going for our physio. We’d finally done it!"

Forumite Power

Throughout the challenge the support Shades received from other forumites was phenomenal. "It was so inspiring and really kept me going when things were getting tough. Knowing that people who I had never met had sponsored me meant I couldn’t let them down. I was taken back by the support I received.

"You start to feel isolated when you are competing so the messages of support were an important part of my motivation. It was difficult keeping everyone updated with my progress as I didn’t have regular access to the Internet to update my dedicated thread. But since I’ve been back home it has been heart-warming to read the messages of support and encouragement on the RW forums."

How does she feel having now completed the challenge? "I’m really proud of my achievement and happy for Michelle to be the first (and fastest) woman challenger after all we went through together. So far I’ve raised almost £2,200 for the Brathay Hall Trust.

"I’m still injured though. I went for a recovery run this morning which felt like my feet and legs were being fed into a paper shredder! After the challenge the physio said my calf would take six or seven weeks to heal and my shin two to three weeks. I asked him whether I could just run through them, at which he shook his head and said that he couldn’t wait to deal with 'normal' people again."

Physio John certainly wasn’t banking on her racing for a while but Shades had other ideas. "I took part in the Cork Marathon last week (June 2) and my next big race will be the East Hull Harriers 24-Hour Track Race in July."

Does she have any advice for aspiring 10 in 10 Challengers? "Make sure it is something you really want to complete. Don’t do it if you don’t really feel the hunger to achieve it or you won’t. And realise that it is going to hurt – big style."

After becoming only the second woman to complete the challenge and run 263 miles in 10 days, does she feel the need to challenge her time and do it all over again next year? "No, Never!"

Thanks to the Brathay Hall Trust for the usage of the photos. It's not too late to sponsor Shades - visit her justgiving page to donate.

The Brathay 10 in 10 Challenge Team 2008

Steve Edwards (45) Currently the World Record holder for the 10 in 10 Challenge, Steve has run over 450 marathons, averaging an impressive time of 3:18.

Michelle Atkins (42) Female World Record Holder for the 10 in 10 Challenge, Michelle has run 22 marathons and has competed in the UK, Europe and the US. She completed the Brathay Windermere Marathon last year.

Selina Da Silva (aka Shades) (51) After running her first marathon in 1995, Shades is on course to run her 200th later this year. She had previously run three marathons in three days.

Matthew Evans (35) Matthew has completed 15 marathons since 2002, as well as a three marathons in three days challenge and 2005 Ironman Zurich.

George Russell (40) A member of Lowfell running club, George has completed marathons in London and New York and completed the Brathay Windermere Marathon last year.

Paul Adams (58) A veteran of over 210 marathons – including 25 ultras – Paul and his wife Susan both completed the Brathay Windermere Marathon last year.

Susan Adams (56) Susan completed her 150th marathon during the challenge, and has run a number of ultras including the 46-mile Swiss Mountain event.

Ray O’Connor (38) Race director of the Connemara Marathon in Galway, Ray has completed 47 marathons and has challenged himself to complete 100 by 2012.

Phillip Roberts (32) The youngest challenger, Phillip ran his first marathon in 1999 and is a member of Blengale Runners Athletic Club. He has also run a number of ultra events.

Jim Mundy (58) A member of Sutton Runners, Jim’s tally of 119 marathons includes the 2007 Brathay 10 in 10 Challenge, and the Beachy Head, Snowdonia and Dublin Marathons.

Malcolm Anderson (47) A New Zealander now living in Canada, Malcolm has run 20 marathons, 19 of which took place in the last 18 months. He has also written books on marathon running.

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Discuss this article

I've set this thread up so I can report in daily on our journey into the unknown, 10 marathons in 10 days.

Last year the challenge was completed by 7 runners, this year there are 11 starters, 8 men and 3 women, the challenge has not yet been completed by a woman.

Am I ready for this?  NO

Off to pack now, leaving to drive from Devon to Cheshire today then onto Brathay in the morning.   Probably won't be back on-line today.

<<waves goodbye>>

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 12:09


Good luck - looking forward to the daily updates.

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 12:11


Will be thinking of you. Hope you have got your suncream.

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 12:14

Am I ready for this?  NO

I doubt you could ever be really ready for something like this.  But that doesn't mean you won't do it.  You've got the right attitude, and as long as your body just about holds up, you will be fine.


Posted: 07/05/2008 at 12:26

Wow, good luck Shades!
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 12:30

Have fun.  Best wishes.
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 12:33

Shades-I'll be there running along with you all, for your last of the 10.Im sure the couple of hundred other runners will help you along.

See you there and all the very best. 

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 12:57

Still packing....haven't you lot got any work to do? 

Hi Hammie - the packing is worse than for a 24 hour race!

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 13:21

OMG. Shades - that's amazing.  The very very very very best of luck. When's the first one and where are they?
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 13:24

Good luck with it all Shades. I'll be thinking of you and reading your posts on this thread.
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 13:25

Just wanted to say good luck!!  Ran windermere last year, but alas not this, so shall be at the sidelines cheering you on!!

Looking forward to the posts! 

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 13:32

Good luck Shades
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 13:35

Good Luck Shades, looking forward to hearing all about it assuming you're not too tired to type!
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 13:42

fantastic Shades.  Bringing good luck from the Shadies thread!
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 13:54

Good luck Shades!
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 14:04

Wow! Very best of luck to you, Shades. Don't forget to eat!
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 14:06

AH - details here

I'm packed..whew.  Have lots of food too

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 14:20

Best of Luck , hope it isn't too painful

See you on the 18th. I am only doing the two and that is daunting enough for me .

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 14:27

Shades! I'm in Cheshire.....

How rude not to call!  It's not as if you've anything better to do, is it?

I'd take that ice cream off the parcel shelf if I were you though - we're melting here today!

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 14:51

The very best of luck Shades

An awesome challenge, enjoy yourself!!

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 14:56

Good luck Shades!!!

I was knackered last year doing the Double. I'm sure you'll have a memorable week and cope well as you always do!!

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 15:03

..should have put 'week and 3 days' of course!!! x
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 15:04

Good luck Shades, look forward to hearing reports of your progress.  A great challenge, and I admire you for having the courage to take it on.
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 15:07

Good luck Shades, will be thinking about you and using you for inspiration on Sunday at Tipton!
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 15:17

Go for it Shades, if our vibes and good wishes could help you along you know you would breeze through them all!!

Look forward to hearing how you get on. Enjoy the food!!


Posted: 07/05/2008 at 17:15


Cant wait to read the updates and will see you at marathon number ten


Posted: 07/05/2008 at 17:46

Good luck Shades.  You can do it! 
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 17:55

Good luck Selina - may the weather be kind and your legs strong!!

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 18:15

You'll do it and you'll do it first!!!!!!!

See you on the 18th for your last one xxxxx

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 18:22

Go Shades, loads of luck! Will also be there in cheering capacity. Envy you meeting the great Joss Naylor - he's something else - rather like you...
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 18:40

Will be following your progress - very best of luck, and hope it gets a bit cooler for you!
Posted: 07/05/2008 at 19:42


When the going really gets tough for you next week, try and think of all of your friends around the country who will be willing you on to what will be a historic achievement.

I will be sending positive thoughts in your direction, you can bet on it!

Posted: 07/05/2008 at 20:52


I'm sure you will do it!

Posted: 08/05/2008 at 09:22


               What a fantastic challenge, what a fantastic opportunity. I'm quite happy that I'm not doing the same and jealous at the same time. Enjoy yourself. Take a moment each day to be in that particular moment and not to think ahead or behind where you are at that time. This is not a dress rehearsal

 Go for it !


Posted: 08/05/2008 at 09:42

Personally - I think you're all mad - but in a good way! 

Very best wishes to all 11 of you - I'm marshalling the last one so will be there to encourage you with only ten miles to go.  Looking forward to the updates.

Is it too much to suggest that you try and enjoy it?

Posted: 08/05/2008 at 09:45

good luck shades
Posted: 08/05/2008 at 12:12

Over the years we have corresponded Ive often wondered about your sanity, now I know.

Go for it Im with you all the way (in mind) and looking forward to your stories of the high's and 'highs'

Posted: 08/05/2008 at 13:28

Good luck Shades.

I won't get up to see you mainly due to having a husband who has turned into a spy (how else can he explain the number of overseas trips he's done recently?).

Have a great time, it's a beautiful part of the world to be doing this barking mad thing in, so lets hope the views take your mind off the pain! Not that you will experience any pain, at all. Ever.

Posted: 08/05/2008 at 13:39

Good luck shades......... one marathon in ten days would kill me.......
Posted: 08/05/2008 at 13:42

God luck Shaded (((()))))
Posted: 08/05/2008 at 13:55

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