Even with a good number of marathons under my belt, this first ultra made me feel very nervous. I felt quite awful on the coach to the start and was really not comfortable during the run for the first 5 or 6 miles. I must thank a Lady called Ruth on the coach for her conversation on route to the start. She really helped ease my nerves.
A “Nice” man from London told me earlier this year that London was pan flat and the only hills were sleeping police men. I’ve run the London Marathon 6 times and thought the city was covered in tarmac, even the paths in the parks. So how hard could a 50k Ultra be around London?
Blimey, I’ve run cross countries, with less mud and in the Lake District with fewer hills. How wrong was that “Nice” man!
The race was organised from the Quality Hotel close to Wembley Stadium, which is where alot of the runners stayed for the weekend and so did we. The front of the hotel was actually the finish of the event and 2 coaches took the runners to the start at a park somewhere in south London. The route back was along the “Capital Ring”, a route around London for walkers navigating through lots of park land, canals and along the Thames. We were given maps to help but navigation was quite difficult and a number of runners went wrong. I took my time at awkward junctions with the psychology that I’d rather waste time making sure I went the right way rather than run more that 50km. I was very relieved that I did not get lost and my Garmin registered an accurate 31.1 miles (50km) at the finish line.
The navigating got quite comical in some places. At one point in a park, the runners some way in front of me, went in a direction I thought was wrong so I was stood there staring at my map wondering whether to follow the runners or my instinct. Some other runners joined me and to show just how silly it got, they phoned a friend who was a head to check on the direction to go. At other places I was asking the public had they seen any runners go passed who were wearing numbers, it was like asking the audience. The whole thing was getting a bit like the “Who wants to be a millionaire” show.
At another point somewhere around 20 miles the Capital Ring had arrows for two directions with an option for an alternative route. The runners in front had gone for the normal route so I started to follow them. But the runners behind me went the other way. Which group was right? Again I was stood there pondering my map, this was a Fifty, Fifty. I decided to follow the front runner’s route which took me up a hilly and very muddy, slippy path. All I could think was – this better be the right way! The front runners were out of sight and I felt very alone. When I was nearing the brow of the hill I looked back to see a lovely view across London, I would have liked to have taken a picture but I was too knackered to get my phone out of my back pack. I did see at the bottom of the hill that the runners behind had changed their mind and were now back on track following me, which was warm reassurance I was going the right way.
Above is a picture of me with Ben from Crosby, who ran with me most of the race. Thanks for the company Ben.
I was very relieved at 30 miles when I came to the top of another hill and could see Wembley Stadium in the distance.
I can’t complain about the weather it was good conditions for running, 9 degrees, dry, cloudy and fairly calm. I had hoped to complete the race inside 5 hours but finished in 5 hours 8 minutes and 7 seconds. If it had not have been for the mud, hills and navigation I think I would have comfortably achieved my target time, so all in all I’m happy with the time. As it was my first 50km race it is automatically a PB, my first in years!
Two days on and my muscles are aching and sore, no training for a day or two, I’m having an enforced rest. I’ll be quite happy if I never see another Ultra but heck, I said something similar after my first marathon in 1996 and that’s now 37 marathons ago!
I must admit, the way I feel today I have no plans for another any time soon!
Below is the collection of runner’s shoes at the finish, they were outside the entrance to the hotel, looking how us runners felt.