Last year, after I finished running the London Marathon, I sat down and thought to myself “where do I go from here ? How do I step up the challenge ?” I love trail running so I decided that I was going to do more of it, but then I thought about the types of races you do on trails and I immediately thought of an ultra marathon.
I started to research races online and decided to sign up for one of the Threshold Series because they looked so we’ll organised and supported, so the day the entries to Race to the Stones opened I entered immediately. So what is Race to the Stones ? It’s a 100km race from Lewknor to the Avebury Stone circle along The Ridgeway which can be done over 1 or 2 days, but me being me I signed up for the one day event and started planning my training.
As always I completely over complicated every aspect of my training plan, I convinced myself that I wasn’t doing enough even though I had ran 2 marathons and more half marathons then even I wanted to count between January and June. The time came to start my tapper and I immediately started to worry about how undertrained I was, even to the point of thinking about pulling out ! But after chatting to a few friends I decided to at least give it a go (and the hotel and Cattery were booked so at least it was a weekend away)
So off I went to Devizes, a little town about 7 miles from the finish line that I thought would be a good base because it had things for my wife to do while I was running (i.e shopping), little did I know that the local celebrity band was playing in the pub I was staying in on the Friday night, so there was not a lot of sleeping to be had and ear plugs would have been very welcome.
I was up before the crack of dawn with less then 3 hours sleep, I tried to get a bit of porridge down me along with a strong up of coffee to wake me up, and then into my waiting taxi for a quick ride over to the finish line where I got a coach to the start (if a coach ride takes 90 minutes you know your in for a long run). After a quick race briefing and a interesting fact about the course (a nice touch I thought) and we were off, I kept telling myself to slow down for the first few miles but once you get in a line of runners on single track you don’t really have a choice but to go at the same pace as everyone around you, but before I knew it we were into the first pit stop. The rest of the run into the 50km base camp just flew by, the Ridgeway is quite beautiful in places but I’ve got to say that I did get a bit feed up with seeing Didcot power station for most of the first half, not getting any bigger or smaller, just sitting there which I found a bit disheartening.
The 50km camp had a massive food tent, so knowing I had a long day ahead I stopped for a pasta dinner and a cup of coffee, which was both very welcome as I was getting a bit cold because of the rain for most of the morning. After quickly using the facilities I was back on my way, a lot of people had stopped at the over night camp to do the run over 2 days so the number of people running had really thinned out, which made a lot of the last 50km very lonely. I spoke to a few people as we were running and at the pit stops but didn’t really stay with them for very long which was mentally very hard work. As the night begin to draw in I knew it was now very unlikely that I was going to finish in daylight, but my aim to get back to the pub before they closed the bar was still on, so I dug deep and pushed myself well beyond any limits that I thought I had. With a mile to go I passed the turning to the finish and ran to the stone circle to have my picture taken and then turned back the way I came to get to the finish line, I had been warned about this but still thought it was a bit cruel on the part of the organisers. As I got to the finish line I heard my wife call out to me, I ran over to give her a kiss and them crossed the finish line to be completely overwhelmed with emotion about what I had achieved.
I made it back to the pub to a very welcome pint before the bar closed, and it was on the house so it went down even better. Sitting in the bar people were asking me what I had just done and when I was explaining that I had just ran 62 miles the looks on their faces were ones of shock and horror along with the comments like “I don’t even like driving that far”.
Overall I really enjoyed this event, the pit stops were very well managed with a wide choice of food and drinks along with very encouraging volunteers working hard to make sure that all the runners and walkers were well looked after, there were even people out in the course cheering us on which I was not expecting. The route was well marked which I was very pleased about because I can get lost running 10km so I was a bit concerned about running 100km. Now I can say I am an ultra runner, and to be truthful I think this could just be the start of it.