Excitedly I bid farewell to my wife and son as they left in the morning of Friday 13th September 2013. “do well, good luck, miss you”. I was now in prep mode and had all my kit out on the bed. Nothing to chance, check once, twice and then pack. Race pack done over night bag done. I even made wraps for the event (peanut butter and jam, almond butter). I was well prepared.
Train station empty, on the train sit back and chill….. Ebbsfleet…..Stratford!!!!!!!!! Shit! I have left my Garmin on the laptop. Social media helped me out and luckily fellow runner from the club heard my plea and collected it along with a spare jacket he had forgotten. Relax again.
There were no more issues and I got to Newmarket with ease. I met the Race directors Mat and Nic in the bar as planned and kit checks done, number collected all very swift and efficient. This is when I decided I needed one of them swanky race T shirts. A couple of Guinness’s and pasta sorted me out for the night as I went back to the star wars bar and hotel I had landed in.
The start was split into 2 phases 0715 and then 0915. I was on the 0915 and was, and not my main focus aiming to catch a friend on the 0715 start.
We are off smack on time, GPS on. We ran along like a line of ants and passed the time chatting with folk about the inane stuff when you are not really sure what to say. I ran with a few guys for a while as along the devils Dyke its pretty much single file and interesting under foot going through the woods. I met a guy called Dan whom I recognise from twitter and throughout the day we seemed to keep meeting at various points and an Ex RAF Regt guy who was doing this for charity along with a solo round Great Britain sail. He was aiming for 13 hours and so was I so this looked like a good partner ship what with me being ex RE. Oh the banter!!
Check point 1 (12 Miles) came and went and we were ahead of schedule by over an hour and felt great. No time to stop crack on and then admin my self at the next one. I thought this route really is a joy and then………. ploughed fields, this was a real treat and I loved the additional weight and clumps. This knocked my pace and as much as it pained me I walked to the top of the hill, cleaned off and…. bugger another field.
Check point 2 (23 Miles) it was full of decent food drinks and picnic table so I fed and refilled and changed socks. Maybe I spent too long here but it was worth it. As I left I ran with Dan again and we had the craic about how we were doing etc. wished each other well and off we went. I met a few guys on this leg who came passed me looking strong and saying “well done fella” “looking good mate” as they disappeared. I carried on at my pace determined to stay steady and keep a rhythm going. I ran for while with a guy I recognised from the UTLD, (he was a 100 runner while I was a 50) and while chatting got asked by some kids “what you doing?” we told them a long run, like you do. “Oh, we have seen others today doing that but they turned off this road at the bottom of the hill”. First navigation error. we turned thanked the youths and apologised to each other and carried on.
Check Point 3 ( 33 Miles) I was now over half way (the DNF of the TP100 still haunts me). I took on very little food here and took too long sorting my admin out. I needed to get going but I also was feeling a bit, I don’t know what it was, down. “Man Up you Girl” and off I went solo now for the first time. Map in hand I left and was determined to lift the pace and get to 42 miles. I tried to look about at the scenery which, was beautiful by the way but all I was focusing on way the distance to the next turn, foot placement, drink, eat and breath.
Check Point 4 (42 Miles) as I approached the check point with about half a kilometre to go I got a “well done, keep going looking strong”. Just as I was about to thank this random well wisher… his bloody mate ran past looking like a frigging steam train. Oh well I took it and kept up with him to the check point.
“Top of the hill turn left…….” I was off once again 20 to go, It wasn’t till I got to the very top of the hill that I noticed runners below me. Second navigation error. Back down and a target in front to catch up! Now I will pick them off one at a time. That my friends did not happen. I met Dan a few miles along where he had been going through a knee issue. He had decided enough was enough. We shook and he told me to crack on finish this. We will meet again I hope.
Check Point 5 (50 Miles) I had now been solo for some considerable time and was having waves of highs and lows. Each sign or marker tape gave me a high and each cow field gave me a low (they are watching us). They look at you and they are planning something. Anyway I found the check point having run around the outside of the village and bumped into Steve my mate from the 0715 start. “Where’s the check point mate”. The look of joy on his face knowing I was a tad lost was priceless. In and out head torch on and 12 to go. I can do this! Now this is when It went a bit pear shaped. I ran off saw now Stour Valley Path way markers and assumed I would follow the river…….after reaching the national speed limit signs on the road, no footpath and no idea where I was. I turned back to my last known point and then. As if by pure chance I saw 5 head torches facing me with race numbers. “how you doing pal, are you OK?” I was now. The lads were from a local running club and had done this route so many times as recces and new the way to the finish. This is when I realised that all I needed to do was run. No more navigation, no more singing to myself and telling myself to man up a lot. We went passed my mate and I told him I knew I could catch him. “took your time though”. Great retort
Check Point 6 (57 miles) last one a 5 to go. Paul, Ivan and Horace were awesome they looked after each other, and me, and we all paced in turns and maintained a fair pace. We passed runners who were now walking and feeling low. “looking good Fella” we meet again but this time its me giving the encouragement. Not to be one up or anything its just good to hear as I know when I have been crashing and burning. We hit the main road and there some 500 metres away is the sign for the picnic area.
Finish (62 Miles). We crossed the finish at the same time. Medals and T shirt and a hearty reception from the directors and volunteers. 14hours 6 minutes . I was chuffed to bits.
I have now reflected on the race and have taken on some very valuable lessons. Especially that no matter what anyone says Cows are intimidating and are planning a revolution, mark my words. I hope to now build on this and I am more confident of achieving my ultimate challenge. 2014 Centurion Running Grand Slam (4 x 100mile races).
If you have read this I thank you for being patient. As I blog more I am sure that I will be more insightful to each event and to the training I am doing. Happy Running and stay safe.