With later in the year some of our club members doing the Ladybower 50 ultra I thought about this as maybe step up for those doing it after being recommended of it by a friend. Myself (Rob Beers), Dan Valencia and Clive Kent travelled down to Coalport, Shropshire alongside the stunning River Severn and just a few miles away from Ironbridge to do “How Hard Can It Be Events” Railway Ultra. The firm are well established for ultra events and the fact that you could bow out at 28 miles or do the full 37 did sound interesting if things got too much.
10:00am start and the three of us take a gentle pace, it’s a lot harder underfoot than I’d have believed certainly better in road shoes and I’ve worn trail shoes with very little give. The trail is a 4.5 mile stretch there and back (so 9.3 miles) which you have to complete four times, didn’t know this before the race! I guess it was quite pretty, apart from an old station and a farm with some animals, knowing where you were landmark wise was pretty up in the air and a lot of guesswork was done. The path also was very uneven and certainly as the miles pressed on we really felt it on the quads, many who went out too quick seriously felt it later. It was quite nice reaching the 4.5 mile stage and having a quick drink and setting off again knowing where the next feed station was, seeing the same people pass, certainly it was very friendly and encouraging.
I took off somewhat on shuttle no 3, and by shuttle no 4 was tracking down an Ultra runner who runs for the England ultra team! I must mention the said lady is also the one who recommended the race to me and must take some of the blame for me doing so many OTT events this year. Unfortunately about 33.5 miles in, suffering with dodgy tum most of the day and fatigue it came the time for a cheeky walk. That swathes of the field were walking and very few were now actually running (Must point out Dan and Clive ran the lot), got going again twice more. The final run I managed to hold on and keep going those last few almost never-ending miles, coming in 10th place and clocking up my greatest race distance of 37.4 miles (in 6hours 5mins)!
Dan and Clive came in together (in 6hours 22mins), a very tired Dan, we were energized and inspired throughout by the great support of Jenny Kent (who also got a PB at Telford Parkrun). Despite the obvious tiredness we had a great day, when it sunk in we were all massively proud of our achievements and promoting Stilton Striders in Shropshire (pity no team prize we’d have won!) [Rob]
The idea was that this would be a great warm up to the Ladybower 50 which some Striders would be doing later in the year and also a good step up for those wanting to move forward from Marathon distance. So roped in were Six Striders (Tagged in?) to the highly rated and exceedingly good value Nomad 50k Ultra race promoted by those very friendly lot at Long Eaton Running Club.
There were certainly a few nerves before the day for some as the six striders (Myself, Dan Valencia, Mike Bryan, John Houghton, Michael Atton and Ultra vet Rich Gray) pondered what we`d let ourselves in for. Certainly the gang seemed more optimistic the night before after revealing we would be joined by a lady of the voyage, the lovely Zoe Sewter of Hermitage Harriers who was just as daft as us and drank as much also!
A laid back start with the group starting slowly from the start at Breaston before a long canal section past Shardlow and our first water stop at Chellaston at 10.5 miles. Already some were having problems as `Nips` Atton was having massive chafing issues either that or spending quite a few miles impersonating Dolly Parton! We headed into Derby city centre and by now the Sun was just absolutely beating down, already some of us were slowed by it, you can’t imagine how much strength it takes from you.
The next stop came around 17 miles and from then on the course became more and more offroad based especially after the village of Morley. The course was pretty well marked out but special mention to Rich who actually bothered reading a map and saved quite a few people throughout, lesson learned! Real splendid scenery but again the heat was an issue, talk was becoming less and `I’m out ` as our water bottles drained made us feel we were at times crossing the Sahara. At 26.5 miles I actually put on a fast run past the whole pack just to get to the next water stop, by now our pack is joined by a guy in black and two runners from Liverpool.
Last few miles are amongst the most scenic but also the most tiring –I may have ran the lot but I`m sure people walking were passing me at times, our pace has slowed to a crawl but the last three miles really seemed to take so long. Finally come into Breaston and decide it’s the sad time to finally empty my water bottle not knowing the actual finish is 100 yards away round the corner! Finish the race hand in hand with Mike Bryan (hope someone captured this!) first ultra done!
Best Goodie bag ever (hand pulled pint, Tech T-shirt, Jacket potato, buff, and all sorts) the stops en route were very well stocked, the feel of the race was lovely no pressure just a great ambience, marshals and helpers were mega friendly. Really would like to do this event again and be nice if we can get even more of us doing so. [Rob]
100 miles along the Thames Path is the goal. 28 hours time limit. Start in Richmond, finish in Oxford. A well marked trail that rarely leaves the riverside and obscenely well stocked checked points staffed by incredibly supportive volunteers mean that all the runners have to focus on is putting one foot in front of the other. And again. And again….
This year’s race broadly split into 2 halves – the first 51 miles to Henley, run on mainly well maintained paths, during a warm spring day with the promise of a cup of tea and hot meal at that checkpoint (just over 10 hours in) – before night time brought the rain and attempts to grind out the miles on increasingly rural paths. A brief detour through Reading town centre just as the beer festival was kicking out was perhaps the least scenic section, but at least there was only 40 miles to go!
Approaching the 71 mile checkpoint just before 2am, sole Strider Rich Gray was on course to beat last year’s 24:46 and feeling (relatively) good. However, a brief stop for tea and hot food became an hour’s stop that nearly finished the race there and then. Eventually getting going again around 3am (by which point the leaders had finished – only 29 miles ahead!), with renewed energy, the focus was on moving forward – little running, but every step getting closer to Oxford.
However, the stretch through to 85 miles proved too much, with no food going in and the pace completely slowed, he had to call it a day (it nearly was by then…). Around 180 finishers from the field of 260 (plus over 100 volunteers, and support from runners’ friends and family), this really is a great event that grows more popular (and sells out quicker!) each year. [Rich]
So, here’s the thing about ultra marathons – just when you think you know what you’re doing, something comes along and reminds you who is boss (clue – it isn’t you…).
The Peddars Way is a 47 mile trail, from the edge of Suffolk, heading up through the whole of Norfolk to finish on the coast at Holme next the Sea. Adding a half mile at each end to get the right start and finish areas, this ultra ends up as 48 miles (if you make it all the way).
The first four hours, heading towards the half(ish) way checkpoint at Castle Acre, were very pleasant – cold, sunny at times, and solid trails helping keep the pace (relatively) good. Heavy snow at this point just added to the picturesque views as runners grabbed hot drinks and food before moving on.
Leaving Castle Acre, the trail follows an old Roman Road – on this occasion directly lined up with the headwind blowing straight down from the arctic. The snow became sleet – just enough to soak you through, whilst hitting you in the face with lumps of ice – and most runners grabbed any shelter they could to put on the extra layers of warm and waterproof clothes that organisers had rightly insisted were carried.
At the next checkpoint, with 12 or 13 miles still to race, the most exposed section still to come, and struggling to get warm even whilst running, sole Strider Rich Gray decided enough was enough. 35 and a bit miles in 6.30-ish made it a decent training run, with bigger goals on the calendar for later in the year.