“You did 50k in your training” they said. “It’s not that much further” they said.
One of those things was true as I lined up for what was the longest run I had ever done. Now the event is done I can, in the comfort of my lounge, say how much I enjoyed it. Looking back!
It was tough and I learnt some valuable lessons which will hopefully see me through future events more smoothly.
The run followed the Thames Path from Ifley in Oxford to Henley-on-Thames.
The event itself was magnificently well run. Aid stations were well stocked and, at the most, 9 miles apart with the gap reducing as you neared the end. Cut-offs were manageable but, at my pace, I certainly had to keep them in mind, especially around the middle of the race where it was easy to be plodding on through without bearing these things in mind. The ultimate limit was 11hrs for the 50 miles.
The route was mostly straightforward, given it was on the Thames Path. There were some stretches which strayed from the river and, a couple of times, I was glad I was in a crowd at these particular moments as I may have missed a turn or two. Everyone was looking out for everyone else however so I can’t imagine I’d have gone too far wrong. A gpx route is available beforehand though so I’d recommend downloading that in future as a safety net.
The aspects that Go Ultra could control were fantastic. The other aspects, however, could have been better. What other aspects? The UK factor.
The entire day was classic British February. 3 deg C and drizzly. I was togged up with about 2000 layers and a waterproof beanie so that never really caused a physical problem. Mentally though it did start to grind by the end. A bit of sunshine wouldn’t have gone amiss. I certain suspect my long suffering family, who shivered for me heroically at the check points, would have agreed wholeheartedly!
The main victim of this weather was the Thames Path itself. Much of the first 20miles was boggy and tough going. In a bizarre way I think this ultimately helped me finish since it forced me to walk intermittently and only run when conditions allowed. This caused a little more stress than I’d hoped as it made the cut off times tighter as well as the unknown of whether the entire route was like that. It turned out it wasn’t and the cut off times were fine in the end so I needn’t have worried. It certainly tested my shoes though:
I’d wholeheartedly recommend this one, especially since it has now moved to October so the conditions should be much better!
I finished the race, my first ultra race, in 10hrs 10mins and it was the most mentally tough run I’d ever done.
Physically it was obviously tough too, in a very different way to the London Marathon. There was less of a feel of being totally and physically done as I had in the marathon. The fatigue crept up on me slowly, as is expected with the slower pace, which I felt was slightly easier to deal with. The main battle was mental once I’d passed 50k and that was where the real difference between ultra running and marathon running kicked in.
The long standing memory I had from the race was the camaraderie and support of all of the other runners. The ultra running community really is fantastic and I blame this race in its entirety for giving me the bug for this wonderful sport!