Where & When:
Stour Valley, August 2017
Why I ran this course:
It happened, I was hooked. That feeling, whatever the science is behind it, it had me. Post RTTS I had the craving, I’d sampled something I liked and I wanted more. I wanted it soon. I started looking and I found this local(ish) 100km and didn’t hesitate to sign-up. Race day just 3 weeks away.
Starting in New Market and winding south along the Stour Valley path towards Manningtree. Taking in sites such as Newmarket Race Course, Devil’s Dyke and Flatford Mill along the way. The majority of the route was marked (as it is the Stour Valley Path). Some course specific markings helped navigation, though the dry dusty landscape meant these were often difficult to see and missed.
On the scale of events, this one felt small. Whereas RTTS had over 5,000 competitors, the SVP100 had under 100. That said, the amount of effort and input to organise such an event is still mammoth undertaking. There is no doubt a greater reliance on support and volunteers to make the event go to plan (which a number of local running teams support). The team did a great job with information, route planning, training guides and support throughout the day.
As experienced before, supporters are few and far between. The volunteers at the checkpoints were so attentive and supportive and again without them this wouldn’t have been possible.
There was pretty much no training for this one. I was counting on the fitness I’d built over the past few months and the fact that I’d continued running since RTTS.
Once again I met a fellow runner, Andy, on the train out to the starting point. Always good to get talking, share plans and tips with a fellow runner. Andy and I set off together, both with the intention of making a certain train we’d booked back to London later that evening.
I started out with a little niggle in my right knee felt from a run the week before. Whilst I felt comfortable starting the race, within 10 miles I could feel some discomfort as a result of the hard ground and grooves from tractor ruts (there was plenty of ankle rolling this day!). I was slowly becoming accustomed to managing the mental aspect of pains and niggles experienced during running so blocked it out of my mind, chatting away to Andy and other runners met on the day.
As the miles ticked by, Andy powered on (it was clear he was capable of running at a faster pace and he was focused on catching an earlier train he’d booked). I was now out on my own, head down, miles to go until the next checkpoint. This race was a real learning curve for me. There were long, lonely stretches where I went almost whole check points without seeing other runners, there were other segments where I interchanged places with others, passing each other on several occasions. It dawned on me that I entered the SVP100 with preconceptions. Incorrect expectations even. I had the mind set of “I did the RTTS in 11 and a half hours, I’ll beat that time here”. Wrong. Different race, different place. No two are the same as I was about to find out. I realised that the course was flatter (I think) than the RTTS so without noticing I’d spent more time running and less time walking and recovering. I’d exerted myself more and thus tired sooner. I also didn’t adapt as I ran. One example that came back to hurt me after the race was when I felt some discomfort in my back, something had shifted in my pack and instead of stopping and addressing it, I decided to continue to the next checkpoint to sort it out, some 7 miles later. Mistake, I was in agony for days afterwards and it was only two months later on a holiday that a friend (qualified physio) noticed the lump in my back and massaged it out!
Later in the day I met Chris shortly after the half way checkpoint. Chris had run this race several times before and we settled in together, happy to have some company on the lonely route. We ended up sticking together for the rest of the course, both tiring and relying on each other to get through what was left. Come the final check point the sun was setting and the temperature dropping. we’d slowed to a hobble and decided that we were both happy to walk the final 4 miles (it was probably faster than we were running at this point). All was good. Head torches on we entered some fields, much to our annoyance though we couldn’t get out. Somewhere we’d gone wrong! Walking several lengths of the field we soon managed to back track and get back on course, carrying along towards the river. Further on we could hear some noise up ahead and encountered some local youngsters hanging around on a bridge over the river. We had a choice, left or right (past the youths). They were encouraging us to go right but there were signs for the Stour Valley Path heading left. We didn’t trust them and followed the signs. All good. Wrong yet again! Sometime later we were shocked to see head torches coming towards us in the dark. Yes, we’d followed the path, only we’d followed it in the wrong direction. Great! Lost in the dark again. Needless to say we got some stick as we eventually passed the group on the bridge. Yep, they told us so.
Eventually we reached the finish to a great welcome from the volunteers still working through the night. A shower and some chips later it was time to hug it out with Chris and blag a life back to the station. Lessons learnt. Manage your own expectations in future! I’m sure we’d covered closer to 70 miles with all the wrong turns on the day!
A medal and a Tshirt, both bearing the SVP100 logo – Black Shuck, the ghostly black dog of local folklore. Excellent!