So at 06:50 I reluctantly left the warmth and bright lights of the gym, for the cold and dark of the car park outside. After a short race briefing we were off in the first of glimmers of daylight. I ran with Ross, who I know from the UTMB for the first 2 miles, then settled into a slightly faster pace and went away from him. Unexpectedly I did not see him again until after the finish. I did not know the route, and with no proper route markings I had to hold strip maps in my hand to make sure I was on the correct route. At the start with so many other runners around this wasn’t as necessary as later on, but I still did it just to try and relate the pictorial style maps to what was on the ground, so that I could do it easier when it was more vital later on.
Up to the first checkpoint I was with a large group of runners. But as we neared CP2 I headed off to try and catch a guy that clearly new the route. I never made a great effort but it was enough to drop a group of about 5 runners that I had been with for a while. Once I had earned this break I didn’t want to slow down to make the navigation easier so I followed the red vested runner for about 3 miles, never getting nearer than about 200 meters, which is not quite near enough to mean I could just follow. I continued like this, losing a bit of ground to him as he went through checkpoints slightly quicker than me. After the halfway CP I thought I was closing in on him across the open fields so I took off my jacket and hat. Whilst faffing about I lost more ground to him and decided that I would make an effort to catch him.
I was still enjoying the beautiful day, the mist hanging in the valley, as we moved through countryside to urban areas along canals and through fields. It was a really mixed terrain route, but mainly flat. But the strain of having to read these maps and not being able to close this gap was getting too me. My nice even pace had now been upped to more of a pushed effort. I made a few errors across roads onto new fields, and frustratingly still couldn’t get nearer than 200 meters. It was a bit of a blinkered effort, my whole race had narrowed down to catching this guy in front. Silly really but at the time it seemed to make perfect sense. At this point I was still running at about 7 hour pace. But this was about to change.
I caught him whilst feeling that I had myself slowed and was now feeling too tired for this point in the race. Just before Langold Lake at the 31 mile point, and after actively chasing him for about 10 miles I finally said Hi. I could tell he was going through a bad spell at the same time as me. The 30 mile point must be a tough time in a runnable ultra-race like this. We were both now in “survival mode” still running, as we had the whole way, but at a slower pace. We did walk some of the stiffer climbs. But we ran most of it. At times I felt that I could run faster, but I was worried that the pains in my side from earlier would return ( a lactic acid build up in the abs I think ). So we carried on like this with him navigating effortlessly most of the time apart from one point where I corrected us.
About 2 miles from the end Andy James ran past with some relay runners. It took me a bit too long to think of doing the same as Andy, but eventually I did make a push for the end. I left my running guide behind and made for the finish. I was now moving well and managed a good running rhythm to the finish, which rather quirkily is back in the gym at a desk. The marshal recorded my time of 7 hours 34 mins, and informed me that I was 10 th out of 264 runners and walkers. I am pleased with that. But couldn’t help thinking that if I had, had a good day and not pushed too much at the halfway point I may have been a lot nearer 7 hours. Never mind that’s for next time.
I welcomed my running partner, Ian from Scotland in, he was about 2 minutes behind, then I had a chat with Ian Symmington (a friend of Ross) and found that he had won in 6 hours 43. He overtook the leader Ian Bishop at the 2nd to last CP and Ian Bishop never knew so was surprised at the final CP to find he was 5 minutes behind the leader. It was a very crafty move by Ian Symmington, great stuff.
Top : About 10 miles in and its still a bit cold.
Bottom left : The strip maps fanned out Bottom right : the proof i did it.