Written by Dave Stuart - http://76thmile.blogspot.fr

He is my race report from the Thames Path. It was my third sub 24 finish thanks to the wonderful organisation of Centurion and the fantastic volunteers. Most of you reading this will be familiar with Centurion running but for those who don't, they run a series of fully supported 4 100 mile races and 4 50 mile races around the South of England.

Short version

It was sunny, it snowed, it was sunny, it rained, the stars came out, there was a shooting star, I fell in a puddle, it was cold, the sun came up, the finish arrived. So long and thanks for the buckle - the volunteers were awesome too.


Longer version

I'm a mid-pack runner (maybe 60th percentile would be more accurate) but if we did cut-offs for writing skills I wouldn't be getting a buckle (C at GCSE English was as good as it got). Hopefully I can share some of the things that went well and not so well. It is also much better to learn from someone else's mistakes so I am sharing some of mine.

I'm usually quite slow at getting my reports out but I thought I would try to get this one out early to remember the details. It will probably come out a bit like a 8 year old's stream of consciousness story of what they did in the summer holidays so you have been warned.

Registration

It was the usual slick Centurion registration process. I had been organised and did all my labels before leading home. Unfortunately I had written the wrong number on every single one of them so had to correct them all. Not the best start.

Next was drop bags and Sarah Sawyer who I had run most of leg 2 with on the A100 was on drop bag duties so nice to see another familiar face at the start. A quick briefing from Team GB's James Elson and we were on our

If you get one thing from this report, there is a bit in the first mile where the front runners go straight on through a little park and through a swing gate. If you are called Craig or Sam, this is a great route. However for people like me, you can avoid the bottleneck by taking the slightly longer route around the outside. You also get to laugh at the people jumping the spike topped fence to save a few seconds. Not worth a ripped pair of shorts (or worse) at this stage.

First 22

I started running with my running buddy Owen and his mate Chris the Physio. I was a bit slow leaving aid station 1 and they thought I would catch up. They would go onto finish together in an amazing 20:02. I ran a few miles with James who I had spent most of the second half of last year's race with. I also met Kate Jayden and Gabriel for a few miles of discussing the merits of a vegan lifestyle. I'm a long way from being vegan (or even veggie) but I've made an effort to get a lot more calories from plants this year. All in all a fairly social start to the race.

I had cramp in both quads just before the crew checkpoint at 28 miles. I added a High5 electolyte tab to my bottle and it went in a minute or so and luckily didn't return. I know a lot of people have their doubts about the benefits of additional electrolytes as food should have enough but the effect (placebo or otherwise) was enough to convince me. Fortunately I was free of cramp the rest of the day.

A few of the highlights of the first 30 miles were Hampton Court, Windsor Castle and a blizzard, A blizzard might be exaggerating but it was definitely snow flurries through Staines. Typical Centurion weather even in May.  I also bumped into a work colleague who had told me in the office that his mate was also running the Thames Path. In a weird coincidence, his mate was the guy I was talking to at the time. What were the odds? (actually about 1 in 294 given the number of starters)

I went through Dorney a couple of minutes down on last year but feeling pretty good. The Sawyers appeared again and helped me refuel and get on my way.

Hurley so arrived and I had my number taken by Graham Carter. Luckily there weren't any drinks for me to knock over this time.

There was a proper shower of rain and before long I got to Henley. I remembered that it was on the far side of Henley so didn't get into a big huff last time as I made my way past lots of pubs and pub goers.

Henley - half way by distance

Fellow Wednesday night headtorcher Louise Ayling was host at Henley. A couple of teas and some splendid spag bol fueled me for the second half. First 50 had been fast aid stations but this was the first proper break. A change of socks and top here and put the trail shoes on. I looked back as I was leaving and had left waterproof behind. Always check behind you when you leave an aid station!

Reading - half way by time and start of the 27 miles of proper night running. The crux of the race is the next 27 miles - get to 85 mile and the (metaphorical) boot of Dan Park out of the 85 mile point should be enough to get to the finish.

I had fallen into running with a fellow mid packer in Rich who as an added bonus had a gadget which told us how far to the next checkpoint. We whiled away the hours through this bit with me asking every 5 minutes if we were nearly there yet.

Whitchurch to Streatley is the fun roller coaster bit through the woods. I had joked about this being the Thames Path's Hillary step which is the key to making it to the finish (or Mount Everest). It is a comically step bit after 70 miles but was over quickly.

The next section was the land of the never ending field. I remember this from last year but this time it was a starry sky rather than torrential rain. The fields still went on for ever.

We had just a fireworks display on the horizon earlier when there was an extraterrestrial firework display. It looked a bit like white firework going sideways but it was a long way from were we had seen the others. I thought it was my mind playing tricks but other runners have mentioned it since.

 

I had been talking to Rich and about the name of my blog and that the 76th mile is roughly the mile which has the most DNFs. We were part way through the 76th mile when Rich was slipping round the edge of a puddle and he was uncomfortably holding a barbed wire fence to get round it. I went round the other side and promptly fell arse first into muddy puddle. At least it wasn't the Thames but I was covered in cold mud and it was pretty cold. Rich was an absolute gent and help me out of the puddle. He even waited until he was sure I was ok before laughing at me.

I always take a spare pair of shorts and I got changed at Wallingford into a new pair of shorts and an extra base layer. Having done the A100 and last year's TP100 in shorts I thought I didn't need waterproof trousers but this wasn't the smartest decision in hindsight. It was cold in shorts to say the least. I also managed to lose a shoe in the mud at one point so was a muddy mess arriving at this aid station. I am truly very sorry for the mud I left there - I should have cleaned up the mud but I would have struggled to bend down to pick up a tenner after 78 miles. It was also nice to see the heated chair of doom with a volunteer sat in it rather than a fresh DNFer. This is probably the most important aid station in the whole race and I have particular thanks to the guys and girls here.

Last year it was still dark when I finished this section so I knew I was quite a long way behind last year but seeing the sunrise out on the trail was amazing. There was a clear blue sky with a fog over the Thames and frost on the ground. It was absolutely stunning and I wish I had taken photos but it was so cold and I would have seized up if I had stopped to take photos. I will have to keep just my memories. It is a privilege as a 100 mile runner to see the sunrise after having travelled through the night. Whilst this year was a bit slower than last year, it was definitely more enjoyable than the rain and trench foot of 2015 .

Clifton Hampden

The sun was up and thoughts were turning to getting things done. I had a quick chat with Dan Park about his GUCR race plans this year and compared notes on Grandslams. I am sure you will get the big buckle next year.

Abingdon and Lower Radley

The last 15 miles or so were 4 hours of power walking as my hamstrings were unhappy. Last two aid stations were back to grab and go with tea and coke being the order of the day. Rich pulled away from me in the last couple of miles as he could actually run even if they were 12 minute miles.

The end

Finish was 124 out of 207 finishers and 295 starters in 23:36. Just the 9:24 behind Craig Holgate.

It was lovely to see the blue Centurion arch again with the usual multitude of emotions. Louise was again being a great host with a finish line cup of tea. I got a hug from Nici and congratulated James on a great race and Team GB honours and before long it was time for a shower and taxi to the station. Next time I will remember a towel rather than using a base layer...

See you in Winchester for the second installment of the Centurion Grandslam....

Goals and performance

AA Sub 21 for Spartathlon
A Sub 22:40 (current PB)
B+ Sub 23:03
B Finish sub 24
C Finish

I am very happy to have finished with another sub 24 buckle. I had hoped to be a bit quicker but any finish is a good one when the finish line is 100 miles from the start. I enjoyed the night section which couldn't be said for last year. The sunrise and stars were particularly spectacular

It means I have two tickets for the Western States draw and also have 15 UTMB points (or whatever the minimum is) for 2017. And most importantly the Grandslam dream is still alive.

Thanks again to the wonderful volunteers and I particularly thank the wonderful people who give up their Saturday night though to Sunday morning to help people like me to get through 100 miles. And sorry again for the mud at Wallingford...

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 Tim Lambert - http://fromsofatoultra.com

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I almost titled this one; ‘From Sofa To Ultra To Sofa’, because on Sunday morning I really couldn’t work out why I was doing this anymore.

Last night, I had a good chat on the phone with my Mum and I can tell how much she worries about me doing these types of races, even if on the surface she is supportive. I believe her exact words last night were “fucking ridiculous, Timmy…”. She has a point!

And I have been giving this a lot of thought since we spoke. Ultramarathons are silly. They do push you to your limits and the thing she worries about most are the long term health implications. I will go into detail shortly about what happened during the race, but a few things happened during the race which I know are familiar to a lot of ultrarunners, but were new to me. However, I also have to weigh up the benefits of what ultras have done for me.

I race quite little compared with a lot of people I know and genuinely mainly run for fun- it’s not even training. Yes, the races may hurt but I do not believe I am doing long term damage. What was a lot more damaging for sure, was how I used to live before I found ultras.

That said, I want to find a balance that is right for me. I can pretty categorically say that I will never enter a race longer than 100 miles. The GUCR and Spartathlon have never been high on my list and have just been relegated a long way down! For me, I want to get back to a position of finding a challenge without this being based around distance or speed. The challenge is still Western States and this takes me back to why I was lining up at 10am on Saturday morning in Richmond, on the bank of the River Thames.

For the last two years I have qualified for Western States using the North Downs Way 50 in 2013 (when 50 mile qualifiers were still allowed) and the North Downs Way 100 in 2014, when the qualification criteria was toughened. This year I wanted to do a different qualifier to get my tickets up to 4 in the lottery and I opted for the Thames Path 100.

On paper, this is a fairly flat and fast 100 miler, but in reality the drop out rates for the last few years show how difficult this one is, with a finish average of just over 60% for the last 4 years. This is much lower than most Centurion races in the UK.

I woke up early on Saturday morning and had breakfast at the in-laws in London. Logistically, this was a great race as I could stay in West London with them and get the tube to the start at a decent hour in the morning, as opposed to a hotel like usual. And I was looked after both before and after the race like royalty.

Having a little stretch with the monkeys at the start.

Having a little stretch with the monkeys at the start.

I went alone to register and Solange, Monty and Luena joined me afterwards to see me off at the start. One of Solange’s friends, Flo, also joined us and I knew they would all have a great day heading off for hot chocolate and to see the deer in Richmond Park after I headed off. A quick kiss to the kids, James Elson runs through his final briefing (“…if you’re running through Reading wearing fluorescent clothing after dark, you will get shouted at, just so you know…”) and we were off.

The thing about this race is, much of it looks very similar and many parts of the race have merged in my mind. I have decided not to go into detail about the sections between aid stations as, in all honesty, much of it blended into one and I simply don’t remember many parts of the race.

The first 11 miles went totally to plan and I arrived at the first aid station ten minutes ahead of schedule. However, my feet were hurting more than I expected at this stage and this didn’t bode well. Whilst a different pair, these were the same type of shoes- the Hoka Rapa Nui- that I used for 75 miles of the Brazos Bend 100 back in December and they felt amazing there. Here, even though I had trained for most of my long runs in these shoes, they hurt an extreme amount on the lower outsides of my feet. I have no idea why this was the case, but on the flip side whilst it hurt it also gave me something to focus on to take away the monotony of the similarity of the route. I tried changing my stride and found the more I ran on my toes, the better the pain got which made it a little more sustainable. Before I knew it I was at mile 22 and greeted by a smiling Gary Dalton who remarked that I looked “happy”. Maybe I missed my calling as an actor.

Somewhere near Kingston- early days. Photo: c/o Nigel Rothwell

Somewhere near Kingston- early days. Photo: c/o Nigel Rothwell

From here, the no-mans-land grind began and I just focussed on getting to halfway in as decent shape as possible. Without going into great detail, I always take an Imodium before I start an ultra and this has always worked well for me. However, this race was pretty humid during the day compared with what I had expected so I was drinking a lot, as well as eating well at aid stations, and I quickly felt myself getting bloated. Between miles 40 and 51 I was starting to feel a little nauseous, which is not something I have experienced before. I have only been sick in an ultra once and with hindsight this was more something getting stuck in my throat and regurgitation as much as anything and was in my first ultra. So I was a little concerned that I may be sick here.

Actually, I was petrified. I was in pain from my feet anyway and I was worried that if I was sick once, I would be sick all night and losing the precious calories I had taken on board and with an inability to take on more, I would drop. And dropping meant having to return to the NDW100 in August to get my WS qualifier. That wasn’t going to happen. No way.

At mile 51 I had access to my first drop bag and changed clothes getting ready for dusk. I managed to get some pasta down which was kindly brought to me by Peter Lemon and had a quick chat with him and James Adams. Having read my blog before the race, James asked if I was on A, B or C plan at this stage. I said I didn’t see much chance of a negative split so was on B plan for now- a sub 24 hour finish. I had hit halfway in 10 hours, so had 14 to get the second half done. This was still potentially do-able, if my body would play ball.

A few miles before here I had buddied up with a runner called Paul. I presume from the results he is Paul Gunner, but I didn’t grab his surname on the day. Paul was running his first 100 miler and was keen to buddy up for the night leg. I told him that was cool with me but also warned him I can get pretty grumpy and might not say a lot, but we actually worked really well together overnight. We only had one small navigation error and probably only added an extra mile at worst, but overall just ground it out well. I was due to be kindly paced by Paul Ali from 3am but I told him I was way off my 20 hour goal and it was likely to be a death march so a pacer was unnecessary, although a very kind offer.

The thing about this race was, none of it was unfamiliar. I knew what was coming even though I didn’t know the route. I knew the pain, the sleep demons, the yawning, the desperation for caffeine without tempering the heart rate. It was unemotionally familiar. But then, as I left Reading, having spoken to Paul Ali and been booted out the door by Jacqui Byrne, I downed a gel and it happened.

The saliva built up in my mouth and as I spat, I knew what was coming. Heave. Here we go. I was bent double by the side of the trail and Paul stopped to make sure I was OK. I think Ilsuk Han was also with us. My system emptied, I stood back up straight and felt absolutely awesome. I had heard about this and read about this. A system re-set and you are off again. The next hour was probably my best hour of running during the whole race. I just took on water and settled my stomach and felt like I was floating on air. Yet at the same time, with 40 miles to go, I knew this wasn’t sustainable so had to formulate a plan. My misery seemed to make Bryan Webster happy though as he jogged by chuckling to his evil self.

Gels were now out and real food was not appealing. I knew I could probably handle soup so this was what I chose from here on in when available. I also opted to get on Robbie Britton’s sugar train 20 miles sooner than expected and the only thing that appealed were Jelly Babies.

Because I was in no way taking on the calories I needed, I opted to also go for a 50/50 mix of coca-cola and water in my bottles for the remainder of the run. This was pretty sickly, but meant I could handle the calories and I needed to just keep the tank fuelled up enough to finish.

As the sun rose, I could feel Paul was stronger than me. I insisted that he go ahead now it was light, not only so he got the time he deserved, but also so I could run my own race now. Not only was I not in the mood to talk by this point, I was even angry at my own i-pod and hated every song. It was now a case of getting the last 20 miles done at my own pace and if I finished in a C Plan time, so be it. But I knew I had a better chance if I was alone to do my own thing. I knew what I had to do. The night had thrown up some obstacles, but this was now familiar again.

Since being sick at mile 59 I was pretty cautious with how I managed the night and somehow hadn’t been sick since. I just needed to sustain myself now and get to Oxford sensibly (sensible is a relative term in this world I have come to realise).

Sure enough, the old adage of ‘it never always gets worse’ kicked in. Between mile 85 and 91 I stopped feeling like dog mince and started feeling like a dogs dinner. I ran this 10k in just over an hour and started to feel warm again for the first time in ages. I knew I was back on for a sub-24 hour time, even if most of this race had been disastrous. There was no way I was giving that buckle up now, with 9 miles to go and 2 hours and 45 minutes to get home in. I smashed out the next 4 miles in 45 minutes (11 minute mileing after 95 miles and no food and no sleep- amazing) and was greeted at the final aid station by Ian Walker- a good friend. I had two hours to cover the last 4.9 miles, but Ian was not happy with my complacency. He calmly told me to run and walk but keep moving. But I secretly knew I had it in the bag now.

A couple of miles on I saw Justin Bateman walking back towards me. I couldn’t quite work out what was happening- he was going the wrong way. He explained he had damaged his knee and just couldn’t finish. He was 3 miles from the finish line. I told him he could and to walk with me, but he was adamant it was serious and I wasn’t one to argue with him so tragically watched him hobble back towards the aid station to drop out. I reminded myself that no one has it in the bag until they cross the finish line.

10 minutes later Chris Mills popped into view and it was great to see him. I was walking now with a pacer called Matt and I forget the name of his runner and Chris joined us to stroll in. None of us were running now, we were done and knew we could stroll in for sub 24. Whether it was the site of Chris’s calves or whether it was relief that I had done it and could stop doing maths, about a mile from the finish I found myself bent double again and wretching my guts out. I’m not quite sure what the Sunday morning dog walkers thought of that but I think seeing the state of us all coming in made them realise this wasn’t a 5k fun run.

I knew that Solange and Monty were coming up on the first train from Paddington to meet me at the finish and that this arrived at 9am. If they were on time and got a cab straight away, I would be able to finish crossing the line with Monty, but sadly the train was delayed and I needed to get this done. Unemotional, once again, I crossed the line got my photos, got my hugs, got my buckle and wandered inside to try and work out where on earth I was.

The drowned rat finishes. Photo: c/o Jon Fielden

The drowned rat finishes. Photo: c/o Jon Fielden

23 hours and 19 minutes. It could have been so much better. It also could have been so much worse. What a journey I have been on these last three years.

Actually, it is less than 3 years. My first ultra was in August 2012 and since then I have run 3 100 milers in the last 9 months (2 sub-24 and one internationally), the North Downs Way 50 three times, the South Downs Way 50, The Brecon Beacons Ultra, The Dorset CTS Ultra, The Green Man Ultra and numerous marathons including a PB in Venice in August. That is quite a haul and I need to take pride in that. And this is why I do this. I am proud of the man I am becoming and after each race where I break myself down mentally, I grow back stronger.

The thing is, sadly Saturday and Sunday evolved into a box ticking exercise, where I was finishing to simply apply for another race. I didn’t enjoy it or take pride from the challenge and that is a real shame. I am not done with ultras by any means, but I am also not going to run for the sake of running and need to get back to the passion and enjoyment.

Maybe this is just a post race downer, I don’t know, but as daft as it sounds, 100 miles isn’t the challenge it once was. Going longer isn’t going to happen, but finding peace and beauty is. I am not in this for the brutality of it, but the places it allows me to see and feel. I am going to now take a few weeks to take stock and work out what the next challenge will be, but one thing is for sure, I am not done until you see me in Squaw.

A happy Monty, a confused Tim. Looking like I fought Mayweather on Saturday night.

A happy Monty, a confused Tim. Looking like I fought Mayweather on Saturday night.

A few thank you’s- to all of the volunteers that make Centurion races so special. Each and every one of you who stayed up all night and got us idiots in and out safely. To Stuart March- who I always fail to mention, but is a great friend and even better photographer, to Nici and James for making these events sustainable and safe, Clare, Natasha, Jon, Nikki, Simon and Liz at the finish. Stu and Roz and everyone who helped me as I struggled at the end. Chris Mills, fast becoming one of my best mates (unless you drop at Transvulcania next weekend- then you’re dead to me) and finally Solange and Teresa for looking after me on Sunday and Monday with sympathy even though I had only done this to myself!

Written by Sam Robson - http://constantforwardmotion.blogspot.fr/

This weekend saw the inaugural running of the Thames Path 100, the first of four races arranged for this year in the UK byCenturion Running. The race follows the River Thames as it stretches from Richmond in London, all the way over to Oxford. This obviously offers several benefits as far as running 100 miles goes: Firstly, it's flat as hell with a grand total of 2,100 ft of elevation gain (most of which comes from bridges), and secondly, it's easy to follow (just stay as close to the river as possible without getting wet and you'll be fine). However, as we were all about to find out, there is no such thing as an easy100 miler!


With a couple of weeks to go, I was feeling pretty darn good about this race. Despite a few issues, I had had a great run at the Pilgrim's Challenge, and had even gone so far as recceing the route. I had found all of the points where I would likely go wrong during the final 50 miles and had burnt them into my memory, and had another recce planned to check out the first 50 miles later in the week. I was feeling strong! I was feeling prepared! I was feeling like I was going to absolutely smash it!
I was feeling like a complete bloody idiot when, just over a week before the race kicked off, I skidded off my bike and landed heavily on my right hip. Crap.



Yes, with only a week to go, I had injured myself quite badly. As I later discovered, my back wheel had become loose when I came off on the ice in winter, and had kicked out as I attempted to turn a corner in wet conditions (luckily the lorry behind me was kind enough to stop while I peeled myself off the road and limped to the pavement). Right about now, I was wishing I was Wolverine (okay, okay, so I always wish I was Wolverine).

In place of a healing factor, I had the next best thing; a Chelsea. Chelsea is a great friend of ours, and also puts me together again when I fall apart. She has just started her own physio business, so I thought I would do my part to help her by providing her with a physio task - put me back together again in a week. So followed a week of intensive icing, prodding, poking, and ultra sounding. I attempted a little run on the Sunday before the race, and things didn't look good. More icing! More prodding! More poking! More ultra sound! Über sound even! Surprisingly the bruising went down and, whilst it ached a little, I was quietly confident about things. All systems were go!

I spent the evening wining (or was I whining...) and dining with the marvelous Mimi Anderson, discussing race strategy and how much our respective other halves have to put up with from us! After a surprisingly restful night's sleep, we were up and making our way to Richmond Old Town Hall to register. It was great to see so many familiar faces, and it was great fun chatting to people about their training. We lined up at the starting line just before 10am, with a few stragglers (most notablyBatman and Robin, and birthday boy James Adams) joining us late having run the Richmond Park Run 5K beforehand. What a bunch of crazy mofos! Wish I had thought of it...

The horn went, and we were off! Bruce Moore, whom I had run with at the South Downs Way 100 last year, took off into the distance with everybody shouting for him to come back. One day, he might be able to keep the lead, but today it wasn't to be - I next saw him coming into the first aid station the wrong way having gotten lost at Hampton Court! I settled comfortably into the middle of the front pack, and we made our way through through the outskirts of London. We were hit by a light rain in the morning, but after that the sun came out and we were presented with a fantastic day for running!

I was a little worried about route finding as I was unable to recce the first half of the route due to my accident, but I ran with no real issues. I was glad that I managed to get myself into a position on my own so that I wasn't caught up in a "race" situation this early in proceedings. Also, whilst I am generally a very talkative person (some may say "too" talkative...), I actually prefer to race without chatting and just get on with my own thing. As we ran past Hampton Court Palace, we reached a busy road crossing where I was forced to stop and wait for the traffic lights to change. On the other side, I was caught up by Mimi, who had decided to ignore her original race plan completely and try and chase me down!

I broke away from Mimi and another runner and took off ahead again (so much for not racing...). A look at the pace showed that we had just run a sub 3:30:00 marathon - possibly too fast for a 100 miler? Nah! I was slowly catching the runner ahead of me around Staines, and as we went under the bridge I spotted the Centurion Running arrow pointing off away up and over the bridge. The runner ahead of me had missed this and was continuing to run along what had suddenly become the wrong side of the Thames. I shouted to get his attention, and was luckily able to get him back without having to run after him. He thanked me profusely, and we crossed over. As I was running across the bridge, I noticed that the runner behind me had also missed the sign. I shouted and gesticulated wildly, trying to get his attention. Luckily he turned (as did a lot of other people...) and I was able to get him to come back and get back on track. I wonder how many other people missed this turning, as it would mean running backwards a good mile or so to get back to the bridge when the path finally ran out on the North side. Not fun!

My race strategy was pretty basic; run as fast as I could (within reason) for the first half, with enough banked for the second half to get a good time. My "A" goal was a slightly unlikely finish of sub-16 hours, with a backup "B" goal of sub-18 hours, and an if all else fails "C" goal of sub-24 hours. I was carrying the bear minimum of kit, with only a handful of gels and a 500 ml bottle to last me between aid stations. Given how regular they were, I had reasoned that this would be fine. I had gloves, hat, headtorch, and a lightweight jacket, with additional clothing available to me at my dropbags in the last 50 miles in case I ran into problems. I was hoping to spend as little time at aid stations as possible, and eat only what I needed to keep going. A "speedy" 100 miler was my main aim.

Generally things went swimmingly in the first half, although I did run into a slight issue between Windsor and Cookham. I had forgotten to check the distance to the next checkpoint, but luckily a couple sitting on the bank told me there was only 2 miles to go. Unfortunately, they lied - there were more like 7 miles to go, and I hadn't rationed my drink very well. I managed to make 100 ml of GU Brew last, and was very relieved to finally come to the Cookham aid station. A refill, a downed bottle of water, an introduction to Mark Cockbain (who will be torturing me at the Viking Way Ultra next month) and I was off again!

I came into Henley on Thames in about 8 hours, meaning that my "A" goal was probably off the cards as an even-split was pretty unlikely. But I was feeling strong and ready for the second half. I replaced my Garmin, and pulled out my head torch, and was ready to head off again into the darkness. From here, I knew the route, so was pretty confident of navigation, but of course it was night-time now so there was still the possibility of running into issues.

I caught up with a couple of other runners up ahead, and started to overtake them. Coming to a fork in the road, I unfortunately took the wrong path, and had to make my way back towards the river across the field. Luckily, glow sticks along the route along with shouts from one of the other runners made this pretty simple, and I headed off again into the dark. I came storming into Reading, having run a particularly good split, and was feeling great. The lovely aid station workers informed me that I was currently in 8th position, with the 1st place runner a good few hours ahead of me. I was a little worried about the section through Reading, and there were plenty of undesirables hanging out by the river drinking White Lightning and smoking suspiciously fragrant substances. This was a great incentive to keep up the pace, and I ran through without making eye contact. Frankly I suspect they were too stoned to notice and thought I was some kind of UFO coming towards them...

Coming into Whitchurch, I approached a couple of marshals directing me up and over the bridge towards the town hall. Having recced the route, I knew exactly where the village hall was, so made my way straight there. This was the indoor aid station, and it was a little too nice going into the lovely warm hall. I was careful to be as quick as possible, so grabbed a quick refill and a piece of Mars Bar, said hi to Jo Kilkenny who was (wo)manning the station, and headed back out into the cold towards the only part of the route that can be described as "hilly". As I headed up, I saw a handful of lights coming towards me. "Alright lads, where did you come from?". Unfortunately, these three had run right past the checkpoint, and were on their way back to sign in. Doh! Suddenly I was in 5th place.

The path is quite hilly around here, and in particular there is a very steep downhill section that, especially in the dark after running almost 70 miles, required careful negotiation to avoid tripping on any roots. This of course is a bit of a quad killer. This section is very pleasant though, and I kept up a good pace through to the next aid station at Streatley where my last dropbag was. The weather at this stage seemed to be absolutely fine (although the temperature was dropping with the night), so I decided to stick to what I had and left my emergency supplies there. A quick refill, a rubbish attempt at drinking a Cup-A-Soup, and a little chat with Dick Kearn (of GUCR fame), and I was off for the final push.

About a mile from the checkpoint, I decided that I should probably make some attempt to keep the cold out, so stopped briefly to put my hat, gloves and wind-proof jacket on. I ran comfortably for a couple of miles, when all of a sudden my right hip really started to ache. This was the feeling that I had had when I attempted to run immediately after my bike accident. I could feel myself listing to one side, compensating for my bruised right hip by running mainly on my left. This then led to my left hip flexor starting to ache. My pace slowed down to a walk, and pretty soon walking became painful as well. My body cooled down, and my quads tightened immediately, giving me a waddle somewhat akin to a Barbie doll. In the distance I could see 3 headlamps making their way along the trail towards me. I had to think about what to do here.

Coming out into Moulsford, I came alongside of the A329. I weighed up my options, and made the very difficult decision to pull out of the race. My reasons were:

  1. My current predicament was due to a pre-existing injury rather than just overuse for the day (and I was frankly lucky to have gotten this far with no issues). Had I started at 100 %, I would have carried on and pushed through (as I did in the SDW100 last year)
  2. I was halfway between two checkpoints, 4 miles from each, and didn't fancy a 4 mile waddle
  3. I was in a position that would be very easy to find by the sweeper crews
  4. I had gear and provisions to last me to the next checkpoint - but only if I was running. Walking, I would get much colder and would likely not have enough water to get me there
  5. I have the Viking Way in 5 weeks, and decided to be sensible and avoid any permanent damage for the sake of finishing
  6. My aim for this particular race was speed (which was going well until then). When that was off the cards, finishing at the risk of being out of running for a long time didn't seem like a good plan
  7. I'm married to a physio and am afraid of being told off...

So I called the emergency number and arranged for a lift to Oxford, where my wonderful friend Peter met me and took me back to his for a lie down. I woke up on the Sunday morning with a lot of pain in my hip, but feeling surprisingly happy with how things had gone. Jen was worried I would be really upset, but I surprised myself by remaining very positive about things. In particular, I took the following away from the race:

  1. I was in fifth position when I pulled, and was on for a ~17 hour finish, so the race itself was going well
  2. My legs were feeling good even 75 miles into the race - I reckon I would have had the last 25 miles in me (of course a lot can happen in that time, and we'll never know what could have happened)
  3. My equipment choices and nutrition were spot on
  4. Other than my hip, I had no negative issues whatsoever from the race (no blisters, no chafing, no sugar crash, etc.)

So hey. No sub 17 hour 100 mile finish this time, but there's plenty more chances this year! A week on, and my hip is feeling much better, so I'm confident I made the right decision in not making things worse, and with only 4 weeks to go until the 147.8 mile Viking Way I'm confident I will make it to the start line!

The race itself was fantastic. James and his team really did put on a hell of an event, and I think that everybody agreed that the assistance that we runners received was second to none. Huge thanks go out to everybody that volunteered. The race was won by Craig Holgate in an astonishing debut 100 mile time of 15:11:15, and Mimi came through as first lady in a marvelous time of 18:50:30. 68 runners made it in before the 24 hour cut off for a special "100 miles, one day" buckle. Unfortunately, whilst I was asleep, the weather took a serious turn for the worse, and runners were subjected to freezing rain and even snow on the Sunday morning. Centurion Running had to make the very difficult decision to abandon the race after 26 hours, with some runners only a few miles away from the end. James has explained his decision here, and given the fact that runners were suffering from hypothermia, it seems to me that he absolutely made the right decision. Whilst I'm sure it is incredibly disappointing for those that were pulled so close to the end, I'm sure that they understand and support the decision. I guess that there really is no such thing as an easy 100 miler...

Written by Justin Bateman - http://www.justinbatemanrunning.com

It's 5:44am on Monday. I'm lying in bed eating Jaffa Cakes. I'm starving and it's the only food within reach. Everything hurts. Not as much as yesterday - I've just managed to get out of bed unassisted - but my lower body is not happy. Overall, I am pretty pleased with how my first 100-mile race went.

Being the generous guy that I am, I gave my crew (girlfriend Cate and driver, sorry, friend, Ivan) the morning off to prepare for the day and night ahead. At 8am, I was picked up by Ilsuk and his wife in Fulham and driven to the start of the race in Richmond. Even nearly two hours before the start, Richmond town hall was buzzing, the Lycra legions getting ready for battle. After picking up my course map from James Adams (did you know he has a book out?), I passed kit check with Gary Dalton and picked up my race number from Mark Thornberry.

Having already said hello to Tim Lambert, I was on a roll with meeting friends from either real life or social media. So when I saw Sam Robson, I said hello which I think threw him since we've never met. Anyway, awkward introduction out of the way, he left me with the advice to "stay comfortable" as long as possible. Simple and sensible.

I then bumped into (and met for the first time) Sarah Booker and after a short discussion about poo strategy, took her to a local cafe for a coffee. Back at HQ things were getting busier and as I stood around near the river, realised that I'd forgotten my sunglasses. It was cloudy but even so, after a week of kit prep it was a shoddy start.

As the runners gathered for race briefing, Chief Cheerers Stephanie and Rhianon appeared to wish me luck - it was so great to see familiar faces at the start. Then Martin turned up, followed by media sensations Shaun and Susie. The latter has just discovered Periscope and interviewed me to an audience of 38 probably perplexed viewers. Race director James Elson did his race briefing (look after each other, it'll probably rain overnight) and we were off!

Richmond to Walton - 11 miles

Within two minutes of setting off, I needed a wee. I waited until we were near Ham before jumping into the bushes and watering the weeds. It coincided with my first walk break - the plan was to run for 9 minutes and walk for 1 from the start to a) stop my running muscles from tiring too soon and b) keep me slow. It's an ultramarathon not a marathon.

I fell into step with Louise Ayling as I would on and off for the next few hours. It was good to chat with someone I sort of knew but little did I know just how many familiar faces I'd see over the next 100 miles. First there was Cat Simpson at Teddington Lock waving and taking photos. At the same point, my friend Gareth was there and he ran with me until Kingston with his dog. I suddenly worried I'd get reported for having an illegal pacer but it would have been the most useless time to have one (mile 2) in any race ever.

 

Less than half a mile later I saw another friend Adam and his family walking by the river and I was starting to enjoy having supporters out on the course.

 

We soon crossed the river and went past Hampton Court Palace and then we crossed again and I saw Sarah going into a pub. I later found out she wasn't well and couldn't finish due to illness, although my theory that she was stopping at every pub she saw for a pint was a lot more fun.

 

We passed East Molesey Cricket Club where I used to play football (obviously) for Spartak Molesey and brought back some great memories. Soon enough, I arrived at the Walton aid station, refilled my water bottles (or rather, Rich Goulder did), had some pork pie and sandwiches and went on my way.

Walton to Wraysbury - 22 miles

As I approached Chertsey bridge, I saw someone checking a note and watching the runners go by. When I got closer, I realised it was Tim (@JediRider) and he ran with me for a minute just to say hi and well done and that Bryan was a couple of minutes ahead of me. Again, it gave me such a lift to have people out there looking out for me.

I was due to meet my crew at Staines but this got lost in translation and so we rearranged for Wraysbury. By this point I'd caught up with Ilsuk who thought I was ahead of him. I also saw Naomi and Piers and chatted to a few others as we pottered along the riverside and in the dappled spring sunlight we were now being treated to. As we came into the Wraysbury aid station I recognised Kate Jayden and said, "Ah, The Laminatrix!" as she'd told everyone on Facebook about her laminated split time sheets. She seemed to like her new nickname. A spot of lunch, a pair of sunglasses, a quick chat with my chirpy crew (for now at least - it was sunny, they'd just had an ice cream AND been to a Harvester for lunch. I know, the decadence!) and I was off down the path once more.

Wraysbury to Dorney - 30.5 miles

Within minutes of leaving the aid station, I was treated to yet another supporter, this time in the shape of Jenni. She won the ladies race in last year's North Downs Way 100, her debut 100-miler, so it was great to see her and hear her saying how comfortable I looked.

After a while, we crossed a road and I caught up with The Laminatrix and pointed out Windsor Castle which I had a feeling she might have missed running in her own little world. She duly stopped to take a photo so I felt justified in interrupting her. 

Most of the people I spoke to were aiming for a sub-24 time and were first-timers like me and while some were looking in fine fettle, others worried me a bit. Still, I did my best to be encouraging whenever I spoke to anyone and tried not to be too annoying whenever I had a burst of energy and overtook which happened a bit around Eton and Windsor. Soon enough I was back in familiar territory having done a training run here with Crossy last year. Out of nowhere the Dorney aid station appeared.

Dorney to Cookham - 38 miles

The next crewing point was Maidenhead. We had to cross a main road to get there and it took me about five minutes, it was so busy. Finally I caught up with Ilsuk and as I'd seen a tweet from Seanie, I knew to expect him near Boulter's Lock.

After a quick chat, we carried on and I stopped to change my shoes which seem to have got shorter. My toes were up against the end and I knew to address any issues sooner rather than later. There wasn't far to Cookham and after refuelling we were on our way again.

Cookham to Hurley - 44 miles

Within a few hundred yards of leaving the aid station, a group of us found a dead end and realised we'd missed a Thames Path sign and some Centurion red and white course marking tape which led us up over a bridge. This is the only downside of running with and chatting to others - it's easy to get distracted and go wrong.

I don't remember anything else about this section other than I was keeping on top of my food, water and salt intake. Food at all the aid stations, even if it was just a handful, sips of water every 10 minutes or when thirsty, and an S!Cap every hour, on the hour. 

Hurley to Henley - 51 miles

Another apparently forgettable stretch, eventually some of this section became familiar, having done the Henley half marathon a few years ago, when 13.1 miles seemed like a million miles. Despite my constant grazing I was looking forward to a 'proper meal' and shortly before we reached Henley, I finally met Bryan who was also in need of some sustenance. 

My original timing plan for a sub-24 had me reaching Henley at 8pm. I got there at 7:59. *licks finger, touches arm, hissing sound to denote on-fire-ness*

I saw Ivan and Cate and then Cat and Keith and then James and Rich AGAIN (go home, man, you've done more than enough!). Batman topped up my water bottles with the help of Spiderman which confused me because I thought Rich Cranswick in his clown suit was the only one running in fancy dress. Then I realised they were volunteers and this was the theme and I really did need that bowl of pasta bolognese. 

I changed my tops, put on long socks and head torch and set off towards Reading.

Henley to Reading - 58 miles

Almost as soon as I left the aid station, the sole of my right foot felt sore. A blister was coming. But rather than tell anyone and make it more real than it was, I just ignored it. Soon enough, there would be other pain to deal with. Also, I didn't have any way to get rid of it so I carried on.

What I was going to have to deal with however was some chafing so asked for some Vaseline to be on hand at the next aid station. Yep. Ultrarunning is all of the sexy. Just before arriving at Reading, the rain started so I stopped to put my jacket on, and I wouldn't take it off again all night. Reading was where Susie and Shaun were volunteering so I had another interview to give. I even thought up some great chat on my way there:

"It's like Transylvania out there!" (There were tons of bats swooping beside the river to get their insect dinners.)

Susie: So how's it going?

Justin: Piece of cake.

Susie: Really, that easy?!

Justin: What? No, I'd like a piece of cake. Do you have any?

In the end, I didn't say anything of interest at all as I was beginning to feel a bit weary. I had my bottles refilled by Paul Ali, saw Andrew Cooney making hot drinks, and found Tim Lambert sitting down looking a bit peeky. Turns out he'd been having stomach issues and was struggling otherwise I'm fairly sure I wouldn't have caught him up.

Reading to Whitchurch - 67 miles

Despite fatigue setting in, I was still about 30 minutes up on my sub-24 target so felt happy about that. Having recced this part of the course, running in the dark and rain was less of an issue than it might otherwise have been and although the miles didn't exactly fly by, I got to Tilehurst to meet Cate and Ivan in reasonable time and swapped my soaked gloves for ski mittens, an inspired impulse purchase some months previously. Warm inside and waterproof outside were perfect even if they did get a bit too warm now and again.

At this point, I saw Claire and Dan, professional ultra supporters with their pom poms. Great to see them and astonishing really, given the horrible conditions. After navigating the housing estate, we were soon back down by the river and I caught up with Colin Barnes, recognisable by his hand torch and a walk that was faster than most people's run. We came into Whitchurch at about the same time and were soon followed by Ilsuk, Tim and a few others.

Whitchurch to Streatley - 70 miles

As I made my way back onto the main road at Whitchurch, a marshal reminded me to switch my torch on. I said yes, didn't, and then got reminded sternly and immediately. I think it's because there was street lighting but maybe I wasn't functioning quite right by then.

Anyway, the next section was the fun bit with a couple of hills and some winding single track. I fairly raced some of this as I think I'd had a rare caffeinated gel. I tried to stay on real food throughout and this worked well but maybe 3 or 4 gels didn't half give me a boost when eating became harder.

To give you an idea of what I mean by 'racing', I still struggled to keep up with walking champion Colin and he disappeared into the night again when my head torch batteries gave out and I had to change them in the middle of a field. There's nothing quite like having no light source to remind you how far you are from civilisation.

In fact, it wasn't that far at all and I was soon in the warm embrace of the Streatley aid station. I went to the disabled toilet (completely justified in my opinion) and then had some pasta and some incredible cheesy rice balls that I returned for more of after I'd left the building, thus briefly confusing the number checking volunteers.

Streatley to Wallingford - 77.5 miles

I'm not 100% sure but I think I ran this section by myself. I know there was a road section, a well-lit farm building and I saw a vole which made me think of Wind in the Willows. This also felt like the longest 7 miles ever. At least until the next section...

Wallingford to Clifton Hampden - 85 miles

I didn't really need anything material from my crew at Benson, just a mile or so after Wallingford, but the morale boost was crucial. I was having to force myself to run now and someone was definitely elongating the miles because they could get away with it in the dark. At least that's what my addled brain was thinking.

It was so fuzzy that I forgot to get the one thing I really did need and that was Vaseline. Again. Thankfully, I remembered I had a small jar that I was carrying and applied liberally to my chafed cheeks to huge relief. I think that saved me, although all I could think for the next 8 miles was, "Must wash hands before anything else at Clifton Hampden."

This section was a blur at the time due to the persistent drizzle and now as well. All I can recall was that it was way too far between aid stations and I wished that I was fitter so I didn't have to walk as much. 

Finally, a hardy volunteer on a bridge pointed me to salvation and I met Cate (who handed over the Vaseline) and I sorted myself out. This was the first time I showed any sign of not being in good shape, but my quads were shot by now and 15 miles didn't feel close enough to the finish for it to give me a lift. It was only 4 miles to the next crew point though so I agreed to see them at Culham, a couple more miles before the penultimate aid station at Abingdon.

Clifton Hampden to Abingdon - 91 miles

This was another blurry section punctuated by a desperate need for a poo (successful in spite of getting a twig up my bum, sorry bushes near Culham), being cheered on by Dan and Claire again and telling Cate and Ivan I'd see them at the finish.

It was light by now, which was good, but the rain was heavier and subsequently so was the ground which made progress even harder than it already was. Eventually Abingdon hove into view and after a brief pit stop I pushed on. I'd made it to 91 miles in 20 hours and 46 minutes.

Abingdon to Lower Radley - 95 miles

With more than 3 hours to cover 9 miles for my sub-24, I could have walked it in. Others around me had this plan and maybe I should have played safe and done the same. But although I was knackered, I wanted to get it done so still tried a bit of running every now and again. One such effort caused pain at the back of my left knee, not dissimilar to the muscle problem I'd had on the right side earlier this year. From then on, I walked. No sense in making it worse. The rain was still falling as I reached the final aid station and although I wasn't hungry, the team there insisted everyone eat as this is where it can all go wrong. I found a peanut butter white chocolate blondie thing which was heaven and set off for the final leg.

Lower Radley to Lower Radley - 95 miles. Again.

As I walked up the field by the river, my left leg started to stiffen up. It had been mobile before the aid station but apparently stopping wasn't a good thing. My strides became shorter and walking became more of a hobble.

PING.

Uh-oh. What was that? I tentatively moved forwards.

TWANG.

There was no sound but things - muscles? tendons? ligaments? - were moving unnaturally in my left leg. I found a fence post and leaned, stretching my leg. I massaged it gently. Nothing made any difference. I walked again.

DOINGGGG.

I looked at my leg. That didn't help. I figured it was about 4.5 miles to the finish. I regularly run a 4.5 mile loop taking in Putney and Hammersmith bridges along the Thames Path. I tried to imagine walking that in my current state. I shuffled forwards but my leg just wasn't playing anymore. It wasn't even that painful, it simply wasn't functioning like a leg should.

I stood still wondering what to do. I could probably get to the finish eventually but at what cost? How much damage would I do? It was also cold and raining and I was no longer moving quickly enough to stay warm. I decided it was time to get back to warmth and safety and started the slow shuffle back to the aid station.

As I did so, a steady stream of runners was coming the other way with that one-day buckle look in their eyes. There was a lot of sympathy for my plight and Tim even tried to persuade me to get there but it wasn't happening. I reached the haven that was the boat club and told them I had to drop out. I sat down, was wrapped in foil, covered in blankets and given a heater, coffee and some more of those heavenly blondies while I waited for my crew to pick me up. 

Aftermath

It's Tuesday now and my leg is improving but it's still a struggle to walk. The usual post-ultra pains are almost gone - it's just the injury left. So physically I'm not in great shape but mentally I feel good. I know I made the right decision to stop. I also know I can get that 100-mile buckle, be it in one day or a bit more. I think my race management was pretty much spot on, especially judging by some of the stories I heard and even other people I saw.

Exactly two years ago I ran my first marathon so I've come a long way since then. Maybe I should have taken longer before getting into ultras but at 42 years of age, there's no time like the present. I don't regret any running I've done. In fact, running (almost) 100 miles is one of the best things I've ever done. It's really bloody hard but with the right training and a positive attitude it's totally achievable. I entered the race as I wanted to push myself to the limit and I think I did that.

Perhaps I need to improve my overall strength so that this sort of injury doesn't happen again. I'm also keen to learn more about every aspect of running so I can continue to help other people fulfil their running aspirations.

Thanks

Thanks first and foremost go to my incredibly patient and supportive girlfriend and crew member extraordinaire, Cate. Second to Ivan, who drove them both around all day and night allowing me to indulge myself in this brilliant and ridiculous hobby. Third, to everyone who wished me well online and in person. Fourth, to all my fellow runners out there. Whatever happened at the weekend, you're amazing just for having the guts to get out there. Fifth and finally, the Centurion team for putting on a cracking event, looking after us idiots and being fantastic. Special thanks to you guys at Lower Radley. If I could just bottle the community spirit I felt all weekend, I'd be a millionaire. Of course, being community-minded I'd share it with you all.

Although disappointed not to finish, I'm really proud of how I did and I think those close to me are proud too. There are of course a few things I wish I'd got but didn't...

- that famous hug from Nici Griffin

- the TP100 Centurion finisher t-shirt

- and of course, the one-day buckle

Next time, you will be mine. Oh yes.