Written by Phil Bradburn - https://untrainingultrarunner.com

It has taken me a long time to write this blog post. About a week! It is hard to know the reason for that, but in some ways I think I have been enjoying the internal glow and satisfaction of having finished it, but at the same time not really knowing what to say or how to say it. My blog is 95% so that I record what I learn about each race and what works and what doesn’t. It’s helpful if I go back to do races. I suppose there is a spin off “benefit” to others if they find anything that I right even slightly helpful.

I have already spammed my social media accounts with pictures of the race, and various tidbits of analysis (like how I managed to run round the track at the end of the 100 miles in just 2 minutes 8 seconds (8:34/mi pace!) or that somehow it was the first race that didn’t prominently involve involuntary body functions.

Anyway, I think I am now ready. As it stands, I am recovering well. Again as with the aftermath of Thames Path 100 (back in April 2017) I am taking 2 weeks off running so make sure that I am absolutely as fixed as I can be ahead of another training block and before the next 100 mile race (Coming up at the start of August).

I was delighted with my performance on Thames Path 100 (22hr 26 minutes) and I didn’t know how things would work for me on the South Downs. The SDW is of course pretty hilly, and despite the fact that I have done hill training and they are no longer quite so fearsome, I knew that I would be hiking up them and running as much of everything else as I could manage.

I think what plagued my thinking slightly was my experience on the SDW100 back in 2015 (that was my first 100 and it was an awful experience back then – even though I finished in cut-off – so much so that I vowed NEVER to do one again…..). As I write this blog – I’ve now done 4 in total. So this is either because I don’t learn or I actually love it.

I was lucky enough to be able to share a hotel room with my mate Dan Park once again. It is becoming a bit of a norm now – that I put out an SOS about lack of accommodation and then Dan rescues me each time. I think he is quite simply a top dude and every time I spend time with him I learn so much more about running these silly long races. Hat off to you mate.

So on Friday afternoon I found myself in Winchester Premier inn. I got there early to chill and relax. I grabbed a coffee and observed an increasing stream of people who didn’t fit the usual profile of prem-inn patrons line up and check in at the desk. I soon got chatting to a few folks and was pleased that both of them finished their debut 100s.

I soon met up with Dan, and after a coffee with a few mates, and bumping into the amazing Stephen and Jo Turner we waited for Steve Navesey to pick us up to take us to register and do kit check the night before the race. Steve and Bev are amazing. They selflessly and seemingly run other runners back and forth between hotels and the start line. They’re brilliant. Great friends. Thanks so much – you’re awesome – and the cake and coffee is on me when I see you next!

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Kit-check the night before the race is great. It’s more relaxing, and it’s a great opportunity to meet up and catch up with friends before the race the next day. We lined up first of all to go through kit check. I had double checked all my kit against the mandatory list, and was ready to show whatever I needed to demonstrate that I had in my possession. This time it was baselayer, waterproof jacket and headtorch and emergency light. Check! Onwards with the poker chip in hand (to denote I had passed kit check) to line up to get my number.

I waited in line, grabbed my number, changed my mobile number that I had previously registered and scrawled my details on the back of my race number. Everything sorted, I had a quick look around the centurion store (managing to resist the temptation to buy more kit) and then headed back to the hotel with Steve and Dan and the others.

Back at the hotel we had an evening meal with a couple of other new friends and discussed the race ahead. For the record I had burger and chips. Delicious it was too! Then off to bed and eventually to sleep after setting every alarm known to man for about 4:30am and incremental minutes either side of that. At least there were two of us – me and Dan – who could set our alarms. I had everything charging up for the next day (Top Tip: Bring an extension 4 gang socket – so many electronics to charge from phones to GPS watches to torches these days!)

4:3o am! It soon came around. We faffed for a while. Got our stuff sorted. Dressed and then headed down for our rendezvous with Steve and the others. Short drive (but a long walk if you didn’t have a lift) to the start line.

I met up with some of my mates – including Paul Commons – after dropping my finish line bag in the van. Refilled my water at the taps inside of the pavilion and excitedly and nervously chatted with my friends.

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Soon enough it was time to get lined up on the start line and listen to the briefing. I find this goes really quickly and I never take very much in.

The horn blew and we were off! I started my music and got my head down. Determined to enjoy every second of the race and that this wouldn’t be such a painfest as the first time I did the race back in 2015.

The fact is however that 100 miles is a bloody long way and lots and lots can go wrong. The weather forecast had been changing all week from a wet start and 17 degrees to completely dry and mid 20 degrees. It was already worrying me. On the South Downs there is so little (i.e. none!) shade as it follows the “ridge”.

First off was the trot around the field and then the inevitable bottleneck before we entered the south downs way proper. It was exactly as I remembered it from two years previous. This time, my watch batteries were fully charged :-p I took it easy and my plan was to jog the inclines, power hike the ups, and run as much of everything else as possible. I bumped (almost literally) into Stephen Turner about 5 miles in and he even opened a gate for me J As expected that was the only time I saw him. He’s such an amazing runner.

Soon enough I was at checkpoint 1. Around 12 miles in. The race felt quite quick and it seemed to take much less time than the previous time I did the race. The route was easy to follow, and I was having a blast. At the checkpoint I grabbed a handful of food (wraps and some fruit) because I had not had breakfast with the early start, and walked out of the aid station up a slight incline. I am amazed at how many people take so much time at aid stations. Soon after we rounded a corner and the views opened up onto the south Downs. I remarked to another runner – “This is why we are here”. Such a stunning view.

The next checkpoint was only 10 miles away. I kept it going, but I was feeling the heat already and finding it quite hard going. Perhaps it was the Thames Path 100 still in my legs, but I really wasn’t feeling as fresh as back at the end of April. Anyway, I found myself dropping back a little on the pace and walking some of the lighter inclines that I expected to be running. Anyway, I wasn’t too bothered. 100 miles is a long way and there was plenty of time to put in some good running.

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I absolutely loved the downhill section into Queen Elizabeth Country Park. It is a really wide expansive grassed hill and I had a blast. I really opened up my pace and absolutely flew down there. Arms out to the side and absolutely having a blast with a wide grin on my face. The suffering that I was already going through was temporarily relieved. I soon got into the checkpoint where I saw Michael White helping at the food station, and then I spotted Karen Grieves in the background and then I heard “Hey Phil – you ignoring me?” And it was Mark and Sally Cameron – who I have never met in person – but are friends on facebook and often chat about stuff. He also has a few books out – which I have enjoyed reading.

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All that was on my mind was a drink of cold coke. I felt dehydrated and I just wanted more of it. I chugged it out of my water bottle rather than the small cup I had. It was the fastest way of getting it in.

19059545_10155438279858383_2954876093230022123_nI lingered a minute or two at the aid station, grabbed more fruit and then cracked on towards the next aid station. I soon noticed another runner ahead who had a familiar gait and shouted “Hey, look who it is!” It was Lee Kelly. He was powering up the hill while telling me he wasn’t feeling great. I checked he wasn’t in any really bad way and then pressed on. Knowing that it was likely I would see him later and that he would probably pass me.

I knew my pace was off by about 20 minutes already but I just needed to keep moving and to not overcook it in the heat. There was a brief respite through the wooded area and soon enough I was at the next checkpoint at around 30 miles. It always feels nice to be at this point in the race. There is a lot still to run and it is sufficiently early that you know that you still can run! I adjusted my shoes (they were not quite tight enough) and then headed out again in the blistering heat. It really didn’t feel long before I got to the checkpoint at Cocking (36 miles). My stomach hurt. I needed the loo and as I entered the checkpoint there was already someone giving a weak justification to why he didn’t want to carry on. I found that a boost weirdly…. Because while the conditions were tough, they are no reason to quit. I hate it when people quit for no reason.

I replenished my water at the checkpoint and after a toilet stop and the opportunity to wet my hat and my two buffs (one around my neck and one around my wrist) I headed off. I was barely outside of the checkpoint and I spotted a sign advertising fresh ice-cream! Hoping it wasn’t a mirage, I went inside and selected strawberry ice cream and a cold coke. I fumbled around for my money and in the meantime a lovely lady bought it for me. What a lovely gesture – you can’t know just how much I appreciated that ice cream as I walked up the hill. Yummy!

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I soon bumped into Georgina Townsend. We ran a section of Thames Path 100 together a few weeks previously, and we got to walking up the hill together and then broke into a little jog. It was nice to share some miles. We pressed on when we could and took walking breaks up steeper hills. It was such a lovely section of the race. I rarely enjoy running with other people in an ultra, but Georgina is a rare exception. We shared battle stories and I asked her about her recent race that she won (Liverpool to Manchester double – 100) amazing.

We breezed through some checkpoints but I had been cramping up badly in my calves briefly every time I started to run again. I took S-caps and kept an eye on things. Anyway, I had this really weird ankle cramp at around 40 odd miles and literally almost tore Georgina’s shoulder off while I was dealing with the spasm! I also took the opportunity to order from my crew “a non gassy fruity drink like rubicon mango but not like that”.

Soon we bumped into some Serpentine runners – my London club – who get EVERYWHERE! We pressed on with them, and on the couple of miles before the 50 mile checkpoint I dilly dallied up a hill and let them all press on into the distance. They were nowhere to be seen at the 50 mile checkpoint. I recognised a chap who I was volunteering. I volunteered there last year with him, and he did a great job of listening to me moaning for 3 minutes while I sat down before I got moving again. I found it difficult to eat anything but fruit. And at one point everything tasted so odd to me. Nothing tasted like it should have done. I felt this from around half way point on the taste – so my tastebuds must have gone mental.

I knew that it wasn’t long before I could meet up with my crew and pacer (Samantha Mills) at the point near Washington. It was a lovely surprise to see Sam earlier than expected and we ran into the aid station together. I took the opportunity to get my legs up for a few minutes. Have some pasta and generally sort myself out. I was off the pace that I planned and I felt I was having a shit race. I really wanted for this not to be a sufferfest, but the fact is that it pretty much felt awful from mile 5 onwards. I needed to snap out of it. Soon I would be with my crew and getting that lovely drink that I ordered…….

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When I turned up I was consumed by disappointment in finding that I didn’t have a drink waiting for me but instead some fruit. I hope I contained it enough but the brain doesn’t do well at regulating emotions and social niceties during Ultras. So hopefully it came across that I was very grateful for the fruit (the mango fingers were yummy!!!!!) and that I loved my crew dearly for being there but that I really really wanted a fruity drink. I think they sensed this and they tell me that I held it together reasonably well J I had a cuddle with my wife Susie and moved on with my sticks and my pacer.

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I pushed on. Had general moans. Had a few sweaty hugs with Sam when I was feeling shit and just soldiered on. I ran where I could. I walked where it was an incline to protect my legs for later. The next sections I don’t remember much until I got to Botolphs aid station and the most delightful welcome. My friends Sarah Sawyer and her husband Tom (both of them bloody amazing out of this world ultrarunners) were at the aid station. Sarah noticed me from about 50 meters away and ran out to greet me before guiding me into the aid station. It was lovely to see her and Tom. I introduced her to my pacer Sam, and we had a sweaty hug (sorry for that Sarah!). The best coffee from Tom and soon we were on our way. Sarah did a great job of keeping things positive at the aid station. We have a joke about matching parkrun and 100 mile times. I said that things weren’t going to plan but that I was pressing on and would see what I could do.

So, we were at 62 miles. Next up was Beeding Hill. I marched up there with a renewed sense of purpose click clacking with my sticks. This whole section now to pretty close to the end is really familiar to me because I have done a lot of recce runs over the run up to the race. So I knew what was coming up and where I could reign things in and where I could put down the pace. I was determined to get close to Clayton Windmills (no longer an aid station) before it got dark. Soon we came up to Truleigh Hill YHA. I knew there was a café inside so asked Sam to pop in and get me a calippo. I put my legs up on the bench and lay on the ground. I got my calippo, opened it and then dropped it in the soil. Yuck! Sam cleaned it off for me by pouring a coffee over it – which led to it super freezing (Mbenbo effect!). A few runners pressed on past me, checking I was ok, but I was happy to see them continue on ahead of me.

Soon I was on my feet again and enjoying my calippo. After a little while I broke into a trot again and then soon enough we were at Devil’s Dyke and the next crew point. I was overwhelmed with love when I found that my crew (Rob Small and my wife Susie) had brought me 4 cans of apple and raspberry J20 AND a bottle of mountain dew. Yum yum! I tried to burp such was the speed that I gulped down a can and then pressed on again. At some point Sam picked up a buff from a gate and realised it had been “soiled” yuck!

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Did a bit of running and then made it to Saddlescombe Farm checkpoint. 66.6 miles in. The sun was starting to go but last time it was dark when I was at this checkpoint so I knew that I was doing much better than my debut 100 miler (result!!!!) I still wasn’t eating much and Sam had noticed this. (The sign of a great pacer!) She insisted that I think what warm food I wanted to eat at the next crew point (72 miles in – at Ditchling Beacon). My order changed from quarterpounder meal with coke, to chicken nuggets with a white coffee. I started dreaming of it.

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I made it past Clayton Windmills and it was starting to go dark so I got my headtorch on in preparation. I was starting to feel sleepy and at a couple of points I called Sam to stop. I had some caffeine shots and then cracked on. Soon we were at Ditchling Beacon. I changed out of my wringing wet tshirt into my long sleeved merino top and had a lie down on the ground. A friend of Steve Navesey offered me a seat in his car for a brief shut eye while I waited for my crew to turn up. It was here that I saw Alzbeta Benn who was here to pace Lee Kelly for the next section. There were also some people who were covered in glitter and were surprised to find lots of runners and cars (which were not involved in dogging!)

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Soon Rob and Susie turned up with my McDonalds meal. How lovely it was. Salty fries and lovely chicken mcnuggets. I had the coffee. Had a minute or two sleep in the back of the car and then headed back out. I managed to put on some good pace for this next section. I overtook a few other runners and felt that having an longer break at Ditchling was time well spent. I felt great for the first time in the race. It was a bit cooler and it was dark.

I kept things moving and this was all lovely and familiar territory. The whole thing just went like a breeze though it was getting harder to keep the pace on for any stretch of time. I passed through Housedean aid station a few miles further on. Soon enough we were at Southease aid station. It was 84 miles in. I managed to bump into Georgina again at this point. I knew that it was touch and go for sub 24 hours but I vowed to press on and see what I could do. We headed up the hill  which felt easier than in training and then managed to put on some bits of running here and there. We saw some lovely flowers.

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Eventually Sam said that she had a surprise for me at Firle Beacon around 86-7 miles in) Susie was there and she was doing to pace me from there rather than Bo Peep. Sam said some lovely words to me and made me cry a little bit and then passed me over to Susie.

We pressed on and my recollection that it was downhill from that point for a while was dashed when I found we seemed to keep heading up inclines! I was in no mood for this! J Anyway, soon enough it was a downhill section and I was running again. We went past Bo Peep crew point and Susie grabbed something for me from the car. (the bottle of mountain dew). We carried on moving. This section was still familiar to me and I was enjoying the benefit of recce runs and the knowledge of what was coming up – and the fact that I knew we were going the right way.

Soon we came down into Alfriston and into the aid station. I didn’t stick around and went in just to give my number. I pressed on. I was on a mission. I wanted this finished. Pushing on we eventually made it to Jevington – again I didn’t go in I just gave my number….. and breezed past. I didn’t even refill with food or water. I just wanted the finish line. From this point there is only a handful of miles. Mostly very hilly ones. I swear the hills are steeper than ever at the end. I was struggling but I was pushing what I could. After what seemed like forever, we finally reached the “trig point” and the descent into Eastbourne.

The descent is tough on tired legs and I wanted to avoid twisting my ankles so I took it steady. Soon we were on the tarmac, and having watched the video on the centurion webpage about the last section I knew every twist and turn. I ran the whole way. Must be around two miles.

I didn’t slow. I didn’t stop. I didn’t walk. My quads were in constant pain from the hill bashing and I was determined to run all the way to the finish line on this section. Pavement. Cross the road. Pavement. Hospital. Runner. Cycle Path. Runner. Runner ahead started running. Then the sports track. Cheers. I ran. Susie peeled off. I went progressively faster around the track. Flew under the gantry. Stopped Garmin. DONE!

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2 minute 8 second lap of the 400 metre track at the finish 

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My time……… 1 day, 1 hour, 1 minute, 1 second. Holy moly. How the hell did I do that! Ok, I missed out on sub-24 hours… but under the conditions I was pleased with this. It was over 4 hours faster than the first time I ran SDW100 back in 2015.

I suffered from the start. Too hot for me. I hate heat! Having remnants of a cold, and partial hearing in one ear wasn’t going to make for an ideal race. I knew I was off the pace from the start. I really had to grit this race out the whole way. I can’t tell you just how much of an effort it was to keep moving. I never wanted to quit but it was just the biggest effort to push on at times.

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Once I got inside I had a lie down and had a little snooze!

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So, half way through Grand Slam with the toughest 100 next up – North Downs 100 (104) in August.

In no particular order thanks to:

The volunteers who made the race possible – filling cups of coffee, filling up water bottles, dealing with all the diva demands (not me this time – I was happy to find that the apple was already cut into slices 

Susan Bradburn – my wife – who paced me from Firle Beacon onwards. The last 12 miles or so I think. She did a great job of encouraging me along at the best pace I could manage at the time. She had the biggest moaning section to deal with. Those hills towards the end are vicious on already tired legs. She opened all the gates without fail and was absolutely marvellous.

Samantha Mills – who was epic with her pacing. She was awesome. She was happy to sing, dance and talk at me which was exactly what I needed. She was fun and I can’t tell you how much I laughed on the inside when you picked up that shit filled buff hanging on the gate (mwuahahahhahaha!). You also almost made me cry with what you said near Firle Beacon. Thank you sooooo much Samantha. I look forward to returning the favour sometime.

Rob Small – for being an amazing dude for driving and ferrying my wife and samantha around between crew points, checkpoints and responding to my emergency diva demands for some nonfizzy fruity drink (second time this year I have crazed that kind of thing) – oh and a bottle of mountain dew rocket fuel. And McDonalds chicken nugget meal with coffee at Ditchling Beacon  My crew and pacers were marvellous. Nothing too much trouble. I know I have forgotten so much already but real highlights were HOT McDonalds at Ditchling Beacon, Cold drinks at Devil’s Dyke, Hugs at various other points. Awesome the lot of you.

Mark Cameron and his wife at Queen Elizabeth country park – sorry I didn’t clock you at first, my excuse was that I was already in a world of pain and suffering with the heat and remnants of a cold. Was really nice to see you both. Sorry if I was a bit zombified!

Dan Park for giving me a last minute spare bed in his hotel room. That’s the second time this year you’ve responded to my lack of bed  Thanks so much and it’s been a pleasure to chat before the races rather than spend all my time on my own inwardly panicking about the race and not getting up in time.

Sarah Sawyer and Tom Sawyer with your band of merry volunteers at Botolphs. The greeting from Sarah was so lovely and her excited chatter made sure that everyone remained positive and energised. Best manual timer and greeter ever! Thanks so much!

Alzbeta Benn for the sweaty hug (my sweat not yours!) at Ditchling Beacon.

Karen Grieves at various points along the way. You rock!

Bev Navesey and Steve Navesey who ferried us back and forth from the hotel to the start line – both on friday night to register and also in the morning. You guys are epic. Thanks so much. Was great to see you along the course too. Next time I see you – the coffee and cake is on me!

One of the nameless crew (now identified as Mike Churchyard ) who on noticing I was having a 2 minute kip on the floor at Ditchling Beacon offered me a seat in his car instead. Perfect! Thanks so much for that.

Liam Gibson – who popped up in so many places and provided some much needed cheer as I struggled on through the race.

Stuart March for photographs (of course) and many high – fives along the course.

Nici Griffin and James Elson and the rest of the centurion team for putting the race on. You guys rock!

Mimi Anderson for coaching advice as usual.

And so many messages of support from my friends.

Learning Points:

  • My feet are fine. No blisters. Nothing. All perfect. Same as on TP100. My decision to buy up all the remaining supply of Pearl Izumi N3 in size 10.5 is clearly the right decision!
  • I was originally going for sub 24 hours. But pushed and pushed all the way even when it became very much on the line. I know that people give up in the head when targets like this go. I don’t let it happen. I pushed. When 24 hours passed, I changed my target to 25 hours and despite running the last 2 miles solidly I only missed by 1 minute 1 second 
  • Knowing the route was great. No navigation errors and I knew when it was easier to push the pace, and when to not stress it. I had recce’d most of the section between Botolph’s at 61 miles to Alfriston at 92 miles.
  • I hiked the ups, and ran the flats and downhills. I jogged the slight inclines. Seemed to work reasonably well.
  • Those bloody hills towards the end are nasty!

Written by Phil Bradburn - https://untrainingultrarunner.com

It is fair to say that I wasn’t sure what would happen at Thames Path 100. Apologies in advance for a lengthy post!

I had a spreadsheet. Three pacing scenarios (1. Everything is out of this world (22hrs). 2. Great (24hrs). 3. Horror Show (28hrs). But I had no idea which one would play out.

This is the first 100 miler I have done any specific training for rather than my “turn up and grind it out” approach that I took to both SDW100 (2015) and Autumn100 (2016) both of which I finished within the final hour allowed by the races.

I was lucky to stare a hotel room with Dan Park – which meant that instead of worrying about the next day, it was a total blast having chit chat about the race and various other stuff. It also meant that I didn’t have to worry as much about getting up in time (what’s the chance that we would both miss our multitude of alarms?).

Caught up at the start with some friends – many of who are Centurion 100 regulars – Sarah SawyerAndy BainDan ParkJoanna Turner and some new to the events Paul Commons and Louise Tidbury – plus others.

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With Paul Commons (L) at the start of TP100

After the race briefing we were off. I knew from volunteering last year that the distance has “bonus miles” so knew to treat distances as approximate between aid stations.

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The first 22 miles were great. I started off comfortable pace and found myself knocking out 9:30 – 10:30 minute / miles. Keeping things relaxed and chilled and knowing that many people would make the mistake of going out hard and fast either by design or accident. Met with Kate Scott at aid station 2 (Wraysbury) and went in and out and didn’t mess around too much. Thanks Kate and kids for the amazing cupcake! And sorry about the sweaty hugs!

Another highlight was not far from Dorney rowing lake when I bumped into Zoe Norman who gave me a much needed hug and some percy pigs wrapped inside a napkin. Thanks so much for the lovely message inside, which I read later on during the race. So lovely and thoughtful.

By mile 30 – I was having major stomach issues. This is something that besets me everytime I run alongside water – canals, rivers, (but never so far along the coast!). Luckily there were toilets which I was able to use at aid station 3. I spent around 15 minutes here. But I felt much better afterwards.

During mile 30-40 I suffered badly with things digging in my back from my racepack. I stopped a million times to adjust things, but nothing helped. I was really annoyed because I had tested this out during a couple of training runs and thought I had a way of avoiding these problems. I spotted Karen GrievesPaul Pickford and Lee Kelly on a section along the river through a town (which one – who knows!)

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During some of the miles in the mid 40’s I had what felt like an awful race ending experience. Everytime I tried to run, my calves cramped and spasmed. ARGH! so painful and I imagined every time ending in a heap on the ground. I ended up walking 3 miles at some frankly hideous minute / mile pace. I pleaded with any runner who ran past me to spare me an S-cap – salt tablet. Thankfully a lovely lady gave me two. I was so thankful – but sadly didn’t note her name or number. After a mile or so, I was running again. No idea whether those things work, or whether all in the head, but I will take either!

I put in some decent miles up to Henley aid station (51 – ish – I was already on 53 on my watch). I was so pleased to pick up my pacer Paul Pickford. Paul make sure I didn’t piss around. I changed my top for a long sleeve merino one, drank my specially requested bottle of “fruity, non-gassy, drink”, and put my headtorch on (with the knowledge that I would need it before Reading aid station).

Off I went. It was great to have Paul along with me. By half way in a race I always want to chat with a friend of my choosing. I am the ultimate in antisocial runner (sorry to anyone I ignored in the first half because I was listening to music).

Reading aid station passed by – and then from that point I knew the section from A100. Running when I could. Taking walking breaks when I wanted to. I found having a little stretch out of the quads and calves helped everytime I got started on a run.

Feels of doom on the way to Whitchurch went much faster than during A100. I boomed along. Came across a yarn bridge !! Into the aid station around 67-69 miles. Didn’t mess around. Coffee. Then I had my first diva request that my apple was cut into pieces ha ha !

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I walked out of the aid station. Walked the steep incline, and then managed to crank out some decent pace – including on the uphill sections. We bumped into Stephen Turner and had a bit of a chat. This was a beautiful section of tarmac followed by trail. We managed to overtake a few runners here. I knew the route from A100 – which helped because I knew where to put down the pace and where to take it easy. Soon enough we were in Streatley. No messing around. In and out of the aid station – seeing Fiona McNelis and Lee Scott at the aid station. Lovely salty potatoes too!

From Streatley to Wallingford (73 – 80 odd) – I knew it was simply a case of knocking out a short ultra to the end with just over 30 miles to go. I knew the next section fairly well, walked some, ran some. Before we knew it we were at the Wallingford aid station. We had also picked up another runner who was tagging along. Happy to stick with us and pick up the pace when we did.

The next section was the worst (up to 85-87 miles) Through the dead of night to Clifton Hampden. OMG those fields go on forever! And my feet were protesting the undulations and lumpiness of those fields. I was starting to have sense of humour failure. We finally reached the aid station. Saw Lee Kelly doing the manual timings. Tried the loo again. Nothing much going on which was hugely frustrating!! ARGH!

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Then this next section I knew fairly well because I paced Paul Pickford here last year to the end. I knew where the easy bits were…. the hard bits and roughly the aid station locations. Ground out some decent pace on sections (Paul noted I was doing 9:30 / minute miles (albeit only for quarter of a mile) at a few points). By this point, I was being caught by some other runners but then played cat and mouse.

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with my pacer – Paul Pickford (L)

Abingdon aid station (93ish miles) was a flash….. grabbed some grapes and I was out of the aid station before Paul could even fill his water. I was on a mission.

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I ran where I could. Walked some sections. Finally made it to the final aid station before the finish. I knew from last year that the distance was around 4.5-5 miles from the aid station at Lower Radley (95-98 miles). I gave my number without even stopping. I flew through the aid station.

This next section I was keen to put the pace on a bit. I shared with Paul Pickford that Dan Parkhad confidently predicted I would finish in 22hr 35minutes and that I had laughed at him. Paul said “Dan might be spot on!”. So, off I went. Running where I could. Walking the rest. I did trip over a couple of occasions and walking afterwards for fear of ballsing up the race.

Finally, we were on a good section of towpath along the (by now narrow River Thames). I ran for a mile or so and then decided to take a walk break. Had a bit of a jog along when the fancy took me.

Soon, we were at a couple of places I really recognised from last year where previously supporters had been offering congratulations. Soon we saw Kat Miller who shouted “Come on…. get a wriggle on, your missus is at the finish line”.

So, a jog I did….. then when I saw the blue inflatable finish line I put on some pace….. I squeezed through the gap in the railings and I somehow found some power. I laid it all out knowing there was about 100 metres maximum….

then rounded the corner towards the finish line gantry…..

then “OMG Phil – someone is sprinting you down!!!!”

FUCK – I progressively throw everything I had at this…. I am not competitive but I was buggered if I wanted the embarrassment of being pipped at the finish line. LOL.

Thankfully I came across the line first. And then dumped myself in a heap on the ground!

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22 hours 26 minutes. In fact – 9 minutes faster than he confidently predicted!  

 

Here is the Strava Link

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Thanks to my lovely and amazing wife Susan Bradburn for being at the end waiting for me with a bottle of Erdinger Alcohol Free for both me and Paul Pickford.

 

Samantha Mills for being a total bloody star for bringing Susie down to the finish and for driving us back home. Lee Kelly for helping place my pacer Paul Pickford.

Centurion Running for organising such a great event – and the volunteers who make it so special!

Mimi Anderson for fab coaching advice. You’ve helped me transform my running.

and how could I miss Paul Pickford for being the best #gatewanker ever! who beasted the shit out of me for 50 odd miles. I hope to return the favour at GUCR. You were epic mate. The best pacer ever!

So, that’s my first sub 24 100 mile finish. Over the bloody moon! I actually felt a bit tearful at the end that I had not only done it – but the time had 22 in front of it! And 66th out of 297 starters.

Great start to Centurion Grandslam – now just SDW100, NDW100 and Autumn100 to make a good fist of 

Sorry if I have missed anyone – I haven’t slept since Friday night!

What I learned:

  1. Not pissing around at aid stations works for me
  2. I wore Pearl Izumi N3 roads for the race – which was totally the right choice
  3. Paul Pickford is an awesome pacer
  4. Another race when I have stomach issues running along a water course.
  5. Training actually works 
  6. My friends are amazing (I knew that already!)
  7. My socks worked – Steigen ones with body glide also on my feet. No blisters. Wow. First time that has happened on a 100 miler
  8. My fenix 5X battery only lasted 15 hours before I had to charge it. (YIKES!)
  9. Getting some running done at night for as long as I fancied at a time was great.
  10. Running comfortable pace was perfect. That’s how I started and finished.
  11. Got to make better efforts to stop things sticking in my back in my race pack.
  12. Somehow I still had go in my legs at the end! How else could I sprint finish?!
  13. My Petzl NAO+ lasted on the lowest reactive setting pretty much all night (8:30pm – 5ish am). On one battery!
  14. Remember to work out how you will get home from the race finish before the last few days before the race!

Written by Rachel Fawcett - https://fawcettfitnessrunning.blog

Chilton Wonderland 50

The school holidays dawned, I had recently completed SDW100 and was therefore completely indestructible, I put myself onto the waiting list for the CW50 to give me a summer holiday goal to train towards, I got all place; all was good with the world.

….then I went training with the local athletics club, a really good half mile interval session with some great runners. I was indestructible remember, so when my hamstring tendonopathy started to play up, it didn’t matter because I could take on the world: I didn’t stop, I had to finish the session. As a result of those intervals I couldn’t walk properly, run properly do anything properly.  I am clearly an idiot. I tried to give the place in CW50 back so that someone else could run this incredible route, but it was too late. At this point I had a proper girly strop at Supportive Husband who made appropriate noises to try to make me feel better before I looked properly at Nici’s response to my request to give the place back…it was too late, but she was sure it would all be ok and that she would see me at the start line. Right, strop back in its box and determined head back on, rehab, here I come.

Before I knew it I found myself in Goring Village hall happily absorbing the greetings, running banter and general positive vibe which Ultras seem to bring. I was facing 50 miles of Wonderland; muddy paths, woodland trails full tree roots, some stunning views and a few obligatory hills. The weather was looking good allowing me a bit of stretching in the Autumn sunshine knowing that rain was due in by the afternoon. Standing next to the Thames (the hilly bit apparently), I decided that I don’t much like rain so had best get as much of the course done before it came in, the starter horn went off and I committed to keeping up with what can only be described as a cheeky pace.

I felt surprisingly relaxed, I hadn’t done any of the planned training, I hadn’t done my usual build up to a race but I had done something I don’t usually do, I had rested. I was puffing like a steam train, probably because I hadn’t stretched my lungs for a while, but my legs felt strong. I soon became aware of Charley behind me, the pace was pretty tough and I was willing her to just get it over and done with and overtake. Half way to CP1 a bunch of us found ourselves simultaneously shouting to the pack in front that they were going the wrong way leading to us all confessing that it was quite a tasty pace but we were all chasing the rain.

IMG_1112.JPGCP1 arrived surprisingly fast, hamstring felt like it was about to explode but somehow I knew it would ease. Centurion events stand out with their well stocked stations and unbelievably encouraging crews, I imagined all Ultras would be like this but my small experience has shown me that they aren’t which is what makes the Centurion CP’s so special. Before I knew it, my water container had been stocked, I had shoved some food in and was off.

It’s at this stage where I would love to give a blow by blow account of where I went and what point I arrived at which CP. The truth is that it all has all blurred into one, I’ve seen photos with me in them and have no recollection of where they were taken. The pictures I have in my head are of tree roots, a windmill at the top of a stinker of a hill, some views which we all said ‘wow’ at the same time, the back of Jim and James’s trainers, some steps which none of used words to describe (just lots of ‘ouch’ ‘ooh’ and ‘aghh’) and an extra hill.

Yes, an extra hill, thrown in totally for free….and we weren’t the only ones. The brilliant things about Centurion events is that the routes are really well marked, so a lack of markers should be an indicator that all is not well. It took us to the top of a nettle infested hill to figure it out, but it was a mark of just how we were carrying each other along when we shrugged it off and cracked on trying to find the right route.

But this day wasn’t about where we went and how I felt at each point, it was about two things for me; the magic of trail running and people. The route was fantastic, how on earth did they find these glorious twisting paths linking the Thames Path, the Chilton Way and the Ridgeway. I love nothing more than running through woods and on muddy paths where I can lose myself in my thoughts and feel a bit more connected to nature. This route had that in bucket loads. The nettles were in autumn mode and couldn’t really be bothered to sting properly, the hills were so scenic that they were worth all the climbs, even the mud felt manageable.

And then it was about the people. Charley, Jim and James. I couldn’t tell what we chatted about but we chatted for about 45 miles. We laughed at downward steps and me confidently turning right having been told ‘it’s left here’. We all took a tumble at some point and we checked on the tumblee. We got over the extra hill and congratulated ourselves on our extra milage. We waved heartily at the lovely supporters who weren’t there to support us but cheered us anyway. This is the Centurion Army, not just the people who refuse to let you stand on your own at the start and insist on chatting to you, but also the people on the trail who look out for you. These are the strongest memories for me.

Coming into Goring we realised that it was actually a race and so Charley and I upped the pace only to hear a shout from behind ‘you need to turn left’, luckily I got it right this time and we embarked on the dog leg around the back to the village hall. We had clearly gone off too fast but Charley can shift rapidly and still find the energy to chat positive words. The sprint in was brilliant, not what I expected to be doing in a 50 miler but to come in with under a second between us was incredible.

I always learn something from races. This time I learnt just how far I can push myself when I am surrounded by hard runners who don’t take prisoners. There were lots of opportunities to lose the route on this race and I knew that, if I dropped back, I was liable to get very lost and disheartened so motivation was high to stick with this incredible group of people who just kept driving hard. I stupidly asked near the end if the upward slope we were on counted as a hill (and therefore could we walk) and was told in no uncertain terms that we were too close to the end for much to be counted as a hill and that we just needed to run hard from there on in. Yup, they were a tough crowd.

In summary, it’s the best race I’ve ever been lucky enough to be part of. It was such an enjoyable day due to the route, the organisation and obviously the people; running, supporting and volunteering. Anyone looking for an Ultra, this is definitely one for the list.

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Written by Richard Stillion - https://richyla.wordpress.com

Chiltern Wonderland 50

Centurion Running 16/09/2017

1st Male:       Jon Ellis        6:36:58

1st Female:   Rachel Fawcett       8:41:42

http://www.centurionrunning.com/races/chiltern-wonderland-50-2017

Wonder: to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel (often followed by at)

Land: something the government wants to put loads and loads of houses on; or put HS2 on

I only finished the Ridgeway three weeks ago and here I am at the start-line of the Chiltern Wonderland 50 mile race.  I’m not the only one either – Victoria Louise Thompson is doing the same.

I was told that in my last blog that it was too cheerful and positive, so I will try to have a bit of a moan in this one.  Only a small moan though.

The race is a 50 mile loop returning to its finish where it started with a course that takes in some outstanding countryside.  Weather was forecast to be pretty good in all and temperatures 14-15c, which certainly for me is ideal.  So, good course and good weather is a double bubble.  Sadly, what was bursting the bubble was my IT band.  It was flaring up at the end of the Ridgeway and so I didn’t run for two weeks.  Last weekend I went for a run and it flared up again, so this race looked like it was going to be a damage limitation exercise.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to finish.  Anyone wondering what the IT band is – it stands for Irritating Band simply because it is very, very irritating when it doesn’t work properly.  In a nutshell, if it’s not good, then you can’t go downhill very easily.  Uphill is fine.  On the flat is so-so.  So, there’s my whinge.  Woe is me, I have a hurty leg.  I’ve scoured the internet for a good anatomical analysis of it and this is the best explanation:

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Hurty Leg Explanation

Right, to Goring Village Hall.  With a new back room extension.  Kit check, number collection, say hello to James (RD) and wait for the briefing.  Have the briefing, then wander down to the start which is on the Thames Path (the fourth leg of the A100).  Hooter thing goes off promptly, but I’m wedged at the back (deliberately) and don’t move for a minute or two.  I realise that I haven’t switched my Garmin on and it croaks around looking for a signal.  I get to the actual start where James is stood and I say I can’t start until I have a signal.  He gives me a withering look, so I walk off rather sheepishly in the direction of the others.  A dog walker is stood watching us pass and he asks me if I should perhaps start running.  I explain I have quite a way to go and I’m in no hurry.  So about 4 miles along the Thames, winding up into Hartslock Wood then along to Whitchurch, only we turned left up the hill rather than right into Whitchurch – Louise Ayling was doing a grand, authoritative job of seeing us across the road and making sure we were going the right way.

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Random Cornfield for Nici Griffin – I know how much she likes them..

Eventually we came to a very pleasant vista looking out across the Thames towards Reading.  This was a steep descent and something which set the precedent of the day of me shouting and a-cussing as I couldn’t get downhill, whilst watching plenty of people whip past me.  I could have tripped over my lip I was sulking so much.  I eventually resorted to going downhill backwards which relieved the pain, but it was so slow and let’s face it – I looked proper stupid doing it.

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Stupid Downhills

I got to the first check point and there was chip timing here – not noticed Centurion doing that before, but I haven’t run with them since last November.  Delighted to see Nikki Mills there and had a quick chat about war wounds with her.  Despite only a couple of minutes chatting, I was surprised how cold I’d got.  I always carry a merino wool t-shirt in a dry bag on these runs and sometimes question if it’s worth it – but clearly it is, if I get into trouble I’m going to be cold very quickly.

The second leg was pretty much the same moving okay-ish, going uphill fine and spitting my dummy out going downhill.  I was seriously thinking of dropping at Bix, wondering what was the point of slogging 50 miles in pain?  However, on arrival at the checkpoint I saw the bus driver and thought no, keep going – let’s get to at least halfway.  The route and conditions were just too good to call it a day.

I noticed quite a few ravens calling and one in particular sounded very excited at one point.  I watched it for a bit and sure enough – there were sheep and lambs in a field and I think one was on its way out.  The raven was flying around and at one point even jumped on the lamb – presumably to test whether it still had any strength left.  I love corvids – intelligent, but they’re pretty evil.

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Looking back from Cobstone Hill

I became a bit fixated with Christmas Common at this stage.  I love Christmas.  It’s great.  Anyway, above Watlington, this was the highest point of the race and around the halfway mark.  We came to a steep climb and I thought, ooh, this is it.  It wasn’t.  It was Cobstone Hill.  A steep climb with a working windmill at the top.  I was hoping to get a good photo of said windmill when I got to the top, but it was shut off and there was a sign outside it which said: “No admittance, don’t go in, you’re not allowed”.  Or words to that effect.

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Windmill.  But you’re not allowed near it

I got chatting to a chap about children near here and we were comparing notes on how our kids are running rings round us already.  It helped pass the time and took my mind off the ITB.  We got to the checkpoint and Louise Ayling was here.  Again.  I couldn’t be bothered to drop and in fairness, I doubt she’d have let me.  I asked how far it was to the next check point and when the cut off was and she said I had three hours and 7 miles so why was I still stood there talking!?

So, halfway done and mooching around country lanes until I saw the sign of Christmas Common.  There was a guy here (Ian Robertson?) directing us with the traffic and he had a centurion helmet on a pole.  Nice touch!  I was told by someone that there was a nice downhill section coming up.  Joy.  More pain!  It was stunning though.  The rain predicted for 2pm hadn’t emerged and the sun was shining over another bit of Wonderland.

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Descent from Christmas Common

I’d been leapfrogging Victoria quite a bit (not literally – just passing each other) and there was one point where we were in a sort of narrow gulley – I think we were all concentrating so much on not tripping over anything that we’d have missed the turning which, thankfully, James noticed and called us back.  Much appreciated.

I was slogging it out and really wanting to get to Swyncombe and some familiar territory.  Just before Swyncombe we joined the Ridgeway and I knew where I was going for a bit now.  Except I didn’t.  I hadn’t checked the route at all and thought I was just doing the Ridgeway bit to Grim’s Ditch.  But after high-fiving one of the little fellas at Swyncombe Aid Station, I made my way out and found we weren’t going on the Ridgeway but going through St. Botolph’s graveyard.  I like St. Botolph’s church, it’s quite unusual in that it doesn’t have a steeple.  It also has a pizza oven at one end.  A long climb ensued and the predicted rain from earlier came down.  I found it quite refreshing to be honest.

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St.Botolph’s.  No steeple, but with pizza oven.

Up until this point of the race it had largely been damage limitation and I was constantly calculating when I could just start walking at 3mph, but after Swyncombe, two things happened.  1) My ITB seemed to loosen enough for me to put a hobble on and 2) The downhill gradients seemed to be a much gentler descent and, in fact, runnable.  So, finally I could actually start doing a bit of running in places.  I was wondering when Grim’s Ditch might turn up, but the course was going all round the houses.  I finally came to the Ridgeway and saw it was the down and up field – I first thought it was the Sarah Morwood “flying” field, but thankfully I didn’t have to do that bit.  So, down and up, into the wood and over towards the golf course.  There seemed to be loads of race supporters here waiting for their own runners, but they all gave me encouragement.  A quick bimble across the golf course, past Nuffield Church, onto the view of the White Horse Vale, then, to Grim’s Ditch.

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White Horse Vale with changeable skies.

Anyone who reads my blogs – and I have a strong fan base (not) – will know that I love running down Grim’s Ditch.  I was worried that I may not be able to run it today, but thankfully it was, indeed, runnable.  I didn’t even trip on root (did you see what I did there?).

The aid station was at the bottom of the Ditch and lo and behold – Louise Ayling!!  She said something which I didn’t catch so I turned back to hear and she said – why are you coming back, you need to go that way!  Marvellous, no frills, get out and finish.  I did need my bottles filling though and Ken Fancett was helping out.  I thought I might pick his brains for a few top tips and asked him how he managed to keep from being injured.

“I don’t know!”

Fair enough.  The guy’s a machine though.  Legend.

I think through force of habit I thought I was going to go along Grim’s Bank, but I had to turn left along a road instead.  According to the literature, this was going to be one of the fastest sections of the course.  Marvellous, a bit of flat running.  Needless to say, I turned off the road to go directly upwards.  This happened a few times, but there was indeed some extremely runnable sections.  The light was fading so the head torch came out – just in time as the track I was now on was full of rabbit holes.  It was getting to the point where there were four miles to go, then three miles left, and I was thinking that surely I must be able to see Goring by now, but nope, not a sign.  The light faded fast and it was full-on dark when I entered a wood.  Usually at this point of a race the Central Governor kicks in and says, no need to run, you’ve finished anyway.  Today, however, it was the opposite.  I’d spent a lot of the race bumbling about and the CG decided that we should run and get the thing finished.  So that’s what happened.  We have to get things in perspective when I say I flew to the finish, but it’s how I felt.  Just running through the woods and then by some fences which I was praying were the back gardens of Goring houses.

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Couldn’t take any photos in the dark, so here’s a photo looking towards Stonor Park.

I think I came out by the train station and was about to head straight downhill when a chap on a seat shouted out that I needed to turn down a street and turn right.  Very nice of him.   There seemed to be lots of people about clapping and congratulating which was really nice and then I rounded a bend, past the pub and towards the Village Hall where a marshal directed me inside to the finish table.

Chris was there asking why I hadn’t fancied a sub-7 hour run!  I had a medal – I say medal, the thing is huge, put over my neck, followed by the race finish photo.  I was trying to look like Monty Burns doing an “Excellent” pose, but it just looks like me smiling.  Read into that what you will.

Corinne was there with a cup of tea and a bite to eat and there was Eileen Naughton bringing me my bag.  Again.  She was doing the same three weeks ago on the Ridgeway Race.  Same hall, same bag!

So, a nice sit down and a bit of reflection.  Nici came over and gave me a hug.  Also, James came over and gave me a hug as well.  I managed to have more of a chat with Nikki now that I wasn’t in the race and getting cold.  It’s nice to sit and reflect on the race and have a chat post-race, but at the same time, I’m also somewhat exhausted and wanting to go home.

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I saw Ilsuk when I left the hall, he had a complete change of clothing on so I assumed he’d finished a while back, and, checking his time, he had.  A great run from him.  The drive home was misty which I guess meant temperatures were getting low.  I did the usual post-race routine of getting cleaned up, crashing into bed and spending a sleepless night with adrenaline surges and leg pain keeping me awake.  My whimpering thankfully didn’t keep the wife awake.

I’ve mentioned the people I knew the names of, so thank you to them, but thank yous also go to absolutely everyone involved with the running of the race from start to finish.  James and Nici, aid stationers and Mr March.  For some reason, I never remember to mention Nick Sheffield, so must amend that herein.  Everyone who I’ve failed to mention – thank you.  Finally – the course marking.  Top drawer – I think it was James, MrMillsSir, Nick Greene, Russ Bestley, Drew Sheffield and Paul Murray.  I only got stuck a couple of times, but given where the markers were, this was understandable, but it was only a question of a bit of back tracking probably less than a hundred metres or so, so for 50 miles of course marking, it was spot on.  And the course was stunning.  If I hadn’t mentioned it before.

Race dedications go to my children.  My inspirations.  Especially what Euan said the night before – he’ll know what I mean.

And a special mention for Victoria – we shared the pain on this one.  We both decided that running the Ridgeway, then running a 50 miler three weeks later must never be repeated.  Well, not until next time.

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Written by Samuel Bolton - https://samuelsultrarunning.wordpress.com

I suppose this is more of a breakdown of my thoughts on the race and a way of helping me remember some of the more eventful bits rather than a full race report. I hope you find it useful.

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I try to run races that have some significance to me in terms of where I’ve lived, the beauty of the course or their uniqueness. The ST24 definitely fitted the last category.

Race ethos

The idea of the ST24, from what I understand, is that you physically deplete yourself so much you stop thinking about the everyday occurrences in your life and start to think about what really matters to you. The use of a running track is no accident. In meditation you’re taught to focus on signal objects such as a pin head or your own breath, this race used a 400 metre track.

I also like the fact that there is no plastic goodie bag of crap and advertising at the end.

Planning

Run 3 laps and walk 1. That way it would hopefully stop me from going off too fast but also having something to concentrate on to break up the monotony. Concentrating on the 3/1 tactic became my pin.

5 hours for the 1st 25 miles, 5 ½ hours for the 2nd, 6 hours for the 3rd and 7 ½ for last. 100 miles in 24 hours.

I’d attempted to run 100 miles once before at the White Rose Ultra but dropped out at 83 miles as it passed my house. Afterwards, I had a terrible feeling of failure and beat myself up for a bit about not being strong enough mentally to have finished. “It’s all learning though”, I told myself and “sometimes you need to fail to succeed”. I’ve learnt a massive amount about racing 100 miles from the WRU 100 and crewing for Nick Thompson on some of the Centurion races……grit in your shoe, you have ups & downs, food makes you tired and you come through it, sort hot spots straight away, eat and drink constantly, you feel better when the sun comes up, start slow and get slower…..

Crew

What crew? Lucky me and my friend James applied and were accepted together. Every other runner seemed to have a gazebo, tent, sleeping bag, table, flag of their country etc. We stuffed a carrier bag of food and clothes under the cover of an industrial grass roller to keep it from getting wet. We crewed for ourselves and later, thankfully James crewed for me. Russ Beasley was also a big help and a lady who gave me some sudacrem which almost certainly saved my race at that point.

The race

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The ST24 ultra in some ways reminded me of going to an all-night dance club abroad.  You randomly end up talking to someone from Belarus for hours, sweat so much that when you go to the toilet you slide off the seat, you drink your body weight in water and dance (run) all night. People finally spill out into the day light, a distant memory of the person that entered the club smelling great and with their best gear on. You go back to someone’s house party to carry on but by this time everyone is more tired and less coherent. Some people pop pills, some have cups of tea, others pass out in the corner, only to get a second wind later. For anyone who has run this race or something similar, you’ll know what I mean.

The plan

I made sure I ate and drank something every 4th lap. My friend Nick told me that ultra running is really just an eating and drinking competition and in some ways he’s right. At points in the race you know you really need to eat or you’ll start to go downhill and you’re body and mind will start to rebel.

I ate and drank whilst I was walking. I’d learnt that you can lose a lot of time at aid stations. Over the whole 24 hours I only sat down once to change my socks and twice to go to the toilet.

Now this seems crazy, but this is truthfully what I ate and drank. Every mile (4×400 meters =1600 metres/1 mile) I was very methodical and had a cup of either water, coconut water, coke, electrolytes, energy drink, ginger ale, tea and/or crisps, a banana, apple, pretzels, twiglets, peanuts, soup and baked beans. I’d say that’s easily 100+ portions of food and/or drink.

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I didn’t eat the sandwiches. This was the races only fail. Who puts butter on a jam sandwich and even worse, who puts butter on a peanut butter sandwich! I think even Sri Chomney would have vetoed that.

The people

The lap counting system is kind of flawed but kind of brilliant. Instead of having a tag on your leg that records a lap every time you go past, they have a volunteer allocated to about 4 people who you shout to or they shout at you every time you pass the start/finish line. These volunteers are brilliant. Imagine trying to keep your concentration to count 4 different runners as they go past you every minute or so for hours on end.

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I have to say the counters were one of my highlights. They were so positive all the way through. My third counter did a 7+ hours stint from about 9pm until way past 4am, giving big whoops and yells every time I passed. When she rotated, I nearly cried. I don’t know what it was like for them, but for me it felt like you shared a real concentrated experience. I’m so sorry I can’t remember everyone’s name but I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have got past 100 miles if it wasn’t for their joy and selfless encouragement.

That’s one of the great things about a track ultra, you share the whole experience with every runner and every crew member. On a regular ultra, if you’re like me, you might see the leaders at the start and picking up the trophy at the end. On a track ultra you see the whole race unfold in front of you, from the runners that go off way too fast and blow up, to the ones that take it steady and slowly move up through the field.

Transcendence?

I think every runner must have a different experience. My most depleted run was crewing on the Thames Path 100. My runner had pushed on and finished and I was left to stumble back as elderly ladies passed me with a walking stick. The last 3 miles took me 2 hours that day, but they were the 2 miles I remember the most fondly. That feeling of total exhaustion but total satisfaction, of a long time goal completed.  Helping a friend finish a 100 miler.

This time it was different. This was more a sense of lessons learnt. At the WRU100 I gave up at 83 miles because I didn’t know any different. I was tired, very tired and I hadn’t yet felt the massive disappointment of not finishing a 100 mile race.  I had that knowledge of disappointment pushing me on and also knowing that you need to break 24 hours in 1hr sections. Just treat it an hour at a time and forget the total time, otherwise the thought of it will eat you up and you’ll quit.

Hallucinating? Lots of people say they do on ultras.  At times in the night I thought I saw my wife but quickly realised it was just a person with a similar shape and form. Was this hallucinating? I don’t know?

I do know for the last two hours I purposely didn’t listen to music, switched off strava and tried to just focus on my running. All I could think about was finishing over 100 miles, my wife, kids and how great everyone had been. Is this transcendence or is this still my selfishness?

I passed 100 miles with about ½ an hour to spare and spent the last ½ hour of the race watching everyone potter or even sprint round the track trying to reach their individual goals.

My 10k race splits 

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I did finish the race with real sense of calm and satisfaction. I’d banished the demons of not getting past 100 miles at the WRU before. I was absolutely knackered, I was so happy to have finished the bloody thing and I was chuffed to have shared and witnessed such an experience with so many committed and genuinely lovely people.

Thanks

A huge thank you goes to Shankara and all the volunteers, especially the 4 that counted me through, I’m so sorry I can’t remember your names but you were an absolute highlight. I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll come back and volunteer myself.

James Young, Roz Glover, Artur Venis, Russ Beasley and all the other runners and crew for helping me through the run with your positive words and actions.

Nick Thompson and Andy Lang, you seduced me into ultra running and I owe you a lot.

Nige , Andy W, Jeff and the whole Meltham AC family….you rock.

Caz, George, William and family. I love you.

Kit

Shoes: I wore Nike Pegasus 28 trail which in hindsight were a little too hard for the track and my feet were quite swollen by the end of it. I should have worn my Hoka One One Clifton 2, but I was worried they would be too bouncy and coupled with a bouncy track, may end up blowing up my knees.

Socks: I wore Teko Super Cushion Marathon Socks which were great. I did get some blisters but I think that was down to swapping to an old pair of cushioned walking socks from Trespass after about 11 hours as I couldn’t find my 2nd pair of Teko’s.

Chaffing: I’d go Sudacrem over Vaseline every time and put plasters on your nipples, especially if it’s raining.

Clothes: Change into a warmer top before it gets dark and put on a warmer hat. I saw a lot of people go downhill over night. You need full waterproof jacket and trousers too. Plus a change of everying.  Trust me, you can’t bring too many items of clothing.

Food: Keep eating and drinking constantly. Have a food plan and stick to it.

Music: Keeping the Rave Alive – DJ Kutski

Running: Have a broken down race plan, ideally broken into manageable segments but don’t make it too complicated and don’t stress if it goes off course. You have lots of time, especially at the end of the race. If it really comes to it and you’re really struggling, have a sleep for a couple of hours, set 2 alarms and ask someone to wake you up. Believe me, loads of people did it this year. Some finished top 5.

People: Try to talk to people. They will become your allies and potential race saviours. If not, you might be theirs.

You: Enjoy it and try to take it all in.

Track biodiversity

“Parakeets, they’ve got Parakeets! I’m glad I saw them now rather than the end when I thought I was hallucinating.”

The track is surrounded by trees and so blocks the wind. I spent most of the early laps identifying them. I can confirm there is a mix of oak, ash, sycamore, hawthorn, holly and other native broad-leaved species.

Over a 24 hour period, I also witnessed a group of mushrooms growing from basic mycelium to full fruiting bodies!

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