London 50k Ultra Feb 2013

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This was to be only my second attempt at this distance. So far I haven’t been too interested in running further than a marathon but curiosity is growing in me, as to what I could achieve so maybe I will be taken down this road at some point in the future. But certainly currently the goals are to complete 100 marathons and get myself ready for the Brathay 10 marathons in 10 days this May.

I had picked to do this race again for exactly the same reasons as 2 years ago when I did it. There aren’t main other races at this time of the year, it is good to experience a run which is a little further than a marathon as part of my training for the 10 in 10 and a chance for a PB.

The race also coincides with the kid’s half term so the Collins family decided to make a 4 day London break of it. We went down by train on Thursday and returned after the race on the Sunday in the evening. Getting the train to London is no hard ship these days in fact it is a pleasant way to travel, enjoyed by the kids and only just over 2 hours from Wigan.

We spent the rest of Thursday having a wonder round London’s China Town and Covent Garden. Most of the time the kids found it interesting, with the pretty shops and street performers but toward the end of the afternoon Lucas kept telling us how he was suffering with lots of aches and pains and needed to go back to the hotel for a rest.

On the Friday we went to London’s natural history museum, a wonderful building with lots for the kids to see, they really enjoyed it and I think even us adults found it interesting. Abbey found the gem stones the most interesting, Lucas liked the dinosaur in the main hall. After that we went to Harrods, I couldn’t believe Yuk-Lam had never been there! I was expecting the kids to find this very boring but was amazed how they loved it. Lucas said it was the best shop he’d ever seem. Abbey liked the girl’s clothes section but I’m afraid it was look only! We enjoyed a drink and ice creams in the Disney restaurant. Onward then to Hyde Park, I had remembered going there as a child and getting close to red squirrels, I was hoping to give my children the same experience. There is always plenty of grey ones all over the country but not our native red ones. Sadly we found out they are no longer there, what a shame but we still enjoyed a nice walk in the park along serpentine lake. The day was rounded off with a trip to Hamleys toy shop on Regent Street, the most fantastic toy shop for kids, layed out over 5 floors! Lucas absolutely loved it especially the Lego Stars Wars section. If you have children it is a place you must take them at least once.

Saturday’s plans also didn’t quite go to plan, we thought we would go to Stratford and have a look round the Olympic park only to get there and find out it is all fenced off. Next to the Olympic site is Westfield a large new indoor shopping centre which Yuk-Lam was itching to have a look round so the family obliged, like we had an option. Afterwards I suggested a bit more typical London sightseeing which was to include Big Ben as Lucas had kept mentioning he wanted to see it. We went to Waterloo using the underground and walked to the London Eye which I think is a great spot to see the centre of London with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament just across the Thames. A new playground had been erected in the park next to the Eye which wasn’t there last time we came. It was full of a large wooden climbing frame which the kids loved and played on for over half an hour. This conveniently used up some time while we waited for a cruise on the Thames. The Cruise was a very relaxing, pleasant way to see London and I would recommend it to anyone.

For all the travelling round London we used the underground system. It’s very regular and an efficient way to travel round. The kids found it fascinating especially Lucas who would count the number of stops to each destination.

Sunday – Race day

Finally it was race day, the London 50k Ultra, my second time at this particular race and only my second outing at this distance. A very early start was needed to get the event coach from the finish at Perivale running track to the start, somewhere 30 miles away in south London. As I was sat in the coach watching the sun come up over the Olympic stadium my mind cast back to last time I did this race and was sat in a similar coach but this time unlike 2 years ago I didn’t have the same nerves. In relation to my other times my PB for this distance is quite slow, I was therefore expecting to make quite an inroad into my PB however the race went today. The weather was perfect for running, still, clear, plenty of sunshine with a milder temperature than of late, probably about 8 degrees.

Usually when I’m at a marathon I bump into plenty of runners I know but the Ultra scene is a different set of people and I hardly recognised anyone. It was good to see a couple of familiar faces in the form of fellow TiT’s, Rik and Rosemary.

I decided to run the race at eight and a half to nine minute mile pace and was hoping to finish in about 4 and a half hours. The race started well and at half way I was only a couple of minutes outside the time I was aiming for. Rik was alongside for company. We had made a couple of wrong turns but each time had quickly realised our error and got back on track. The Course uses London’s “Capital Ring” which is a way marked path circling London, I understand it is approximately 76 miles in total so we were running just under half of it. It takes in many of the city’s parks and also goes along the Thames through the picturesque area of Richmond. The route is marked with its own “Capital Ring” signs which are a picture of Big Ben with arrows going round it.

Above, running into the finish at Perivale track, visually giving the wrong idea of the course considering the horrible slippy mud I had been running through for the previous 2 miles.

At 18 miles Rik wanted to take the pace a bit more easily so said good bye and dropped off behind me. The field was now very strung out and I had to start relying on the map and the signs to guide me round the course. Running wise I was keeping a good steady pace and not slowing down but due to a lack of signs and some poor detail on the map I went wrong twice and lost several minutes both times.  This is pretty infuriating when runners you have already overtaken then catch you up. The last 2 miles of the course followed a meandering stream along a very sticky and slippy muddy path. The distance on my Garmin was already over 31.1 miles (50k) so I had run further than the race distance. I eventually came into the Perivale running track after completing 32.26 miles in a fairly disappointing 4 hours 50 minutes 28 seconds, a PB but some way off what I had been looking for. Strangely Rik had already finished, he must have sneaked passed me at one of the points where I had gone wrong. All in all still a good run, good training and I had seen some lovely sights in London but also a bit disappointing. It has wet my appetite to maybe run another 50k at some time in the future but over a more accurately measure and well marshalled course.

On the train on the way home enjoying a chicken burger, fries and my new 50k PB.

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