Where & When:
The Chilterns & North Wessex Downs (UK), July 2017
Why I ran this course:
You know that mate, that same one who’s influenced me for the Nohtaram & Tel Aviv, yep, it was him again. Whilst I was considering attempting an ultra at some point, he suggested we try this non-stop 100km event. Once the idea was in my mind I was sold. He soon bailed on the idea and went to a James concert instead…
It was bloody long. Starting in the Chilterns and leading through the North Wessex Downs to Avebury passing noticeable landmarks along the way including Uffington Castle, the White Horse, Barbury Castle and the Avebury Stone Circle itself. It’s hard not to enjoy yourself with such amazing views to absorb…
Threshold Sports did a brilliant job. So much information leading up to the event, smooth organisation on the day and an abundance of well stocked and supported check points along the route.
You don’t get the same level of support on a spread-out ultra trail as you would on a city marathon and this is one of the many unknowns I had which would be answered on that day. That being sad, all the volunteers at the checkpoints were a huge help and massive support. So much energy and enthusiasm in ensuring you were rested, fed, watered, injuries seen too and stocked on food ready to continue. Each checkpoint having its own unique vibe and approach to positivity. The event would not be the same with out them. The smiles, acknowledgements and support of the walkers and hikers out on the trail were also appreciated.
I loosely stuck to the training plan that Threshold Sports provided and slowly began getting used to running consecutive days, running when tired and exhausting the muscles. Admittedly I struggled with adapting to longer, slower runs but was able to start running with others to break up the tedium of long and lonely runs.
Being too tight to book accommodation before and after the event, I set out from home at 2am on the morning of the race, getting the London-Oxford tube at 4am. On the bus I met two other fellow runners (Will doing the 50km and Alison doing the 100km over 2 days). Come our wave, we set off together falling into a rhythm for several miles before myself and Will carried on in a larger group. Reaching the first check point (and each one there after) we were like kids in a candy shop. there was food everywhere. Everything you could ever crave. It was hard not to enjoy watching the process of litres and litres of flat coke being made by kids pouring bottles into builders buckets.
As we kept on running, getting to know one another (and the other runners around us) I soon found out Will was training for the MDS in 2018 and this would not only be his first ultra but the first time he’d even done a marathon. We stuck with each other, providing company to the half way point before we separated and I carried on for the last half (after stocking up on Pasta and the base camp!).
I’d read so much about Ultras, what to expect etc. and decided to bring with me a change of t-shirt and socks to freshen up at some point. I stopped at the 7th Checkpoint for an extended rest with the promise of the change of clothes. My word did that work! After struggling to get out of my socks and T shirt, the feel of clean, dry and fresh smelling clothes was a welcome relief (there was some rain earlier in the day). I felt empowered to carry on.
Not far from the final check point my Garmin started flashing the warning of Low Battery, so I stopped the tracker there and then, only to find out I still had 11% battery remaining. Doh. Something to test out before the next long run (yep, long runs are now considered more than a marathon!)! Throughout the day I’d been informed of the final stretch of the course, Spoiler Alert – you run past the turn for the finish, carry on down the road, loop through the stones for a photo opportunity before back tracking up the road and turning into the farm land for the final stretch. Like probably every runner who has reached that point, I couldn’t give a shit about the stones at that stage but hobbled on and puffed out the chest for the photo opportunity.
Crossing the line with a smile on my face, it was done, I was now an ultra runner. A very tired one. The next was to negotiate a change of shuttle bus back to Oxford, I’d booked the last bus for 2am and it was now just 8:30pm. Result! thankfully this wasn’t a challenge and, several bus rides and 24 hours after setting off, I was back home and ready for some well earned rest.
An abundance of food along the way and a medal and some food / beer at the end. You don’t get much more than that although the free photos linked to social media was a nice touch.
- 11:27:10 (PB)