Scroll down to the bottom for Strava link (spoiler alert!)
The Thames Ring 250 is organised by Challenge Running, with race director Lindley Chambers. It is a 250 mile loop starting and finishing in Goring and made up of stretches of the Thames path, Grand Union Canal and Oxford Canal. I have been preparing for this race since January with nervous anticipation and it was finally time to travel down to Goring for the race start. I left home at 5am on the Tuesday and 3 coaches and a train later I arrived in Goring at about 7pm. I checked in to the Miller of Mansfield pub where I was staying and immediately met a couple of guys that were also racing! A lot of the runners were meeting for a meal at another of the local pubs but I had decided against joining them as I felt it would make me more nervous and then make it harder to sleep. Instead I went for a quick mile leg stretch along the Thames before heading to the local chippy for sausage and chips. I then headed straight to my room to get my kit sorted for the morning before a relatively early night. Race registration (and the pub breakfast) didn’t start until 8am so I set my alarm for 7am. I actually managed a good nights sleep until I woke at 3am and then I dozed after that. All in all it wasn’t a bad pre-race nights sleep.
When I headed down to breakfast at 8am there were already a couple of runners there and more soon arrived. In total there was just over a dozen of us! A full cooked breakfast and plenty of tea went down a treat and I then went and sorted my bags before heading to race registration just across the bridge at the Morrell Room. Registration was really well organised and I soon had my kit checked and a tag added to my drop bag. I collected my hoody and race number and had my tracker attached to my race vest (I then had to get this moved as it felt really uncomfortable)! I was all sorted by 9am and then had a long hour of waiting around. I had a quick chat with Iain and my eldest and then hung around nervously waiting for the start.
Start – CP1 Hurley Car Park (27 miles)
As we waited for the start I positioned myself at the back determined to not go off too fast! My plan was to walk the first 5 mins and then alternate 5 minutes running / 5 minutes walking for as long as possible. We started at 10am and it was a relief to get going after what felt like a very long wait at the start! I always find it hard not to race others at the start of any race but knew I would be better trying to stick at a steadier pace, which I actually managed. The 5 minutes walking at the start definitely helped as well as being slowed down by a few gates in the first few miles. I did find it hard to settle into a rhythm as even with only 43 starters it felt busy and I felt like I was getting in people’s way with my frequent walk sections! However we all soon spread out, quite a few others were running in pairs or groups but I ran on my own wanting to stick to my walk/run strategy. I know from previous races I tend to run too much or too fast if I start chatting with other runners. It did mean a lot of yo-yoing with others during the first day. We were soon crossing the river at Pangbourne and then heading on to a section where you come away from the river, over the railway and pass through Purley-on-Thames. Navigation was straight forward using the GPX file on my watch. I had been nervous about navigating the road/town sections beforehand but soon got into the swing of it once we were on our way. After crossing back over the railway we then followed the Thames all the way to Reading. I was looking forward to the next section as it was the only section I had previously run (in reverse) during KACR last year. Everything was feeling good, I was eating and drinking almost every walk break and my pacing was what I had expected. All good so far!
From Reading you follow the Thames until reaching Sonning where you cross the Thames on the road bridge. It was here that Iain (as my crew) came to my rescue on KACR as I had my biggest wobble of the race! Chocolate had solved the problem on that occasion! This time I was feeling good and happy to just be trotting along to CP1. There were still a few other runners around and as we turned away from the river just before Shiplake I was able to show them the correct way to go. It was nice to have a short chat with other runners but then they stopped at the shop in Shiplake and I headed on over the level crossing and back towards the Thames. There was a short diversion to avoid a damaged foot bridge and then I was at Henley. It always feels strange running through busy towns with everyone just going about their business but I had soon crossed over the river and was again heading along the river path towards the turn away from the river at Aston and the short climb up past the Flower Pot Inn (one of the checkpoints from KACR). I had caught up a couple of other runners but was still sticking to my 5 minutes running / 5 minutes walking and was looking forward to reaching the check point which now didn’t feel too far away! I like this section of river path running and was soon crossing the foot bridge at Hurley. A short run along the island and then across a second footbridge and I was at the check point at roughly 27 miles (28 miles on my watch).
This check point and all of the future check points were fantastically well organised and the volunteers were amazing. My drop bag was always ready for me as was a chair and volunteers were super quick and helpful. There were a couple of runners at the check point when I arrived and a couple came in while I was there. I had always planned for a quick turn around at this first checkpoint and I managed that reasonable well – I didn’t get too comfortable! I had my bottles refilled, topped up on food and gels, emptied my rubbish, had a cup of tea and a banana and was on my way. All in all I was stopped for about 10 minutes.
CP1 – CP2 Chertsey (28 miles)
This next section was where I felt I finally got into a better running rhythm. I didn’t see as many people and just got my head down and got on with it. I had run the route as far as Maidenhead (albeit in reverse) and was looking forward to the public toilets in Cookham! I was sticking to a roughly 12 min/mile pace which I was really pleased with and eating and drinking well. The temperature was great for running and as long as I didn’t think about how far was still to go all was good! Soon after the check point you cross over the Temple bridge and run along the left side of the Thames until Marlow where you weave along some little lanes and alleys before getting back to the river. You stick on this side of the river for quite a while before crossing on a footbridge next to a railway bridge at Bourne End. For anyone that like trains you get to see lots on this race and every time I saw a train it made me smile and think of Iain as he gets so excited when he sees a train on a run! After this you soon reach Cookham and turn away from the river and through the church graveyard. A short road section and then some public toilets in the car park! You then turn down Mill Lane and are soon on a wooded path which takes you back to the river. Navigation was all straight forward and I was feeling more confident following the route on my watch. You run along the road into Maidenhead, cross over the road bridge to continue along the Thames on the far side. I said goodbye to the section of the route I knew and was on to new territory!
I don’t really remember much about this next section to the check point. There were a couple of bridge crossings and short road sections but otherwise river path all the way. Navigation was straight forward and I was just ticking away the miles. I have never run a race with such a long distance between check points and hadn’t appreciated how long it can feel between stops and seeing people. At this point in the race it was OK but it did get harder as the race went on! I had to stop about half an hour before the check point to put my head torch on but otherwise just kept going! As I approached the bridge where the check point was meant to be I saw a sign that said the check point was just up the road in the pub car park so off I trotted! I was still running at the pace I had hoped and aimed for another quick turn around at this check point. I was still feeling good and feet felt fine so wasn’t planning to change socks or shoes just yet.
The check point was another fantastic set up and I was soon munching on a bowl of potatoes and cheese with a cup of tea. Water bottles and food was restocked and I swapped into a long sleeved t-shirt for the night. All the volunteers were lovely and it was great to chat to folk before heading out again. I also changed my skort for a pair of shorts as the waist elastic was slightly too tight and it had been bothering me for quite a few miles. Changed into my trusty Flanci trailblazer shorts and full of food I felt ready to tackle the night! I was about 18 minutes at the check point, slightly longer than I had hoped but with the change of clothes not too bad!
CP2 – CP3 Yiewsley (28 miles)
This was the section I had been most nervous about before the start. It has some quite built up areas and I must admit I was nervous of running them in the dark on my own. My options were to pair up with another runner but that would have meant going slightly faster or slower than I would have liked and with a different run/walk pattern or to just get on and do it. I chose to just get on with it as I assessed that the actual risks are low and I had my tracker and phone with me. It did mean I was slightly on edge all night and very aware of my surroundings! I just prefer running in the countryside on my own at night! In my pre race planning I had hoped to stick at roughly 13 min/mile for this section and I managed this reasonably well sticking to the 5 minutes running / 5 minutes walking plan.
After leaving the check point you follow the river round until you reach Shepperton where you head up the road away from the river. There were 2 points in Shepperton where the GPX and maps differed slightly so I had checked with Lindley before the race and he was happy for us to follow either route. I stuck to the road which I was glad about as there were a large number of teenagers hanging about in the car park which was the first point where the map and GPX varied. Once through Shepperton you cross the bridge to Walton-on-Thames where you follow the river all the way until crossing back over at Hampton Court. This section was slightly confusing as there is more than one path option. They do however all run parallel to each over between the Thames and Hampton Court. Looking at Strava I seemed to have swapped between 2 of the paths and at one point I phoned Iain who told me that people were using both the lower and middle path. Iain was fantastic support through the night and I spoke to him several times for reassurance and a friendly voice! He makes an awesome long distance crew and I would find it a lot harder without him. Just before Kingston bridge I caught up and overtook another runner, annoyingly in this stretch I got distracted and tripped over a tree root, thankfully no harm was done and I jumped back up and on my way. Iain was again amazing and calmed me down!
I don’t remember much of the next section until reaching Richmond which was the next stage I had been worried about. There were several sections through the night where the route went next to quiet roads in woody areas. This did mean I had to run past a few cars of young men, but I just put my head down and kept running and wasn’t bothered by anyone. In Richmond the navigation was actually easier than I had expected and I didn’t have any problems, there were however quite a few youths hanging around which made me on edge even though none of them did anything! I was definitely on hyper alert for this section. My nerves weren’t helped when I turned into Lion wharf Road to find a police car and van pulling over a car – I just kept going! Syon Park was straight forward to head across and seems to be permanently open at the far end now. I was finally on the Grand Union Canal which felt like a huge milestone.
I don’t remember much about this section, I definitely relaxed a lot as I felt the worst of the night was over. This section is easy to navigate and just had one straightforward diversion. The legs were beginning to feel the miles now and I was looking forward to reaching check point 3. I was still only slightly off my plan A pacing which was encouraging (I am always overly optimistic on my plans and have never stuck to one yet!).
I arrived at check point 3 in the early hours of the morning, and looking back was slower than I should have been. The danger of lovely check point volunteers and many hours on my own meant I probably lingered and chatted far longer than I should have. I did check my feet and put on more Sudocrem and I think I changed socks (I can’t 100% remember what I did when)! I enjoyed more tea and baked beans, hot dogs and potatoes (I think) and restocked my water and food. I was having to work at eating on my walk breaks now and wasn’t really enjoying a lot of the food I had with me. However gels were great and I continued to benefit from them for the rest of the race. I think I was about 28 minutes at this check point before I headed on my way.
CP3 – CP4 Berkhampsted (24 miles)
This section had the benefit of being slightly shorter and in daylight, however I tend to find I have a real low in the early morning once it gets light and this was no exception! I felt really tired on this section and because there is little navigation I found it hard to snap out of that tired state. This section is also where you pass 100 miles which felt like another milestone although also brought with it nagging doubts of how was I going to keep going for another 150 miles when I was already this tired! The key with this race is definitely to avoid thinking about the enormity of the task and just focus on the next section. There were lots of positives – I was still running well and managing an OK pace (just over 13 min/miles a lot of the time), nothing was injured (just tired), it was now daylight and I would be seeing my parents and aunt and uncle at check point 5 this afternoon. I can’t remember if I saw any other runners on this section or just at the check point. The path was generally good for running / fast walking. There was one diversion on this section which took you away from the canal and along a busy road but otherwise it was canal all the way. I arrived at CP4 ready for a break and was definitely more faffy than I should have been! Legs and feet were now tired and sitting in a chair was far too nice! My routine was much the same as at other check points and it was nice to get some chat. Henrik was at the check point when I arrived having hurt his knee. He headed out before me as I was still getting sorted with food and drink. I think I also changed shoes at this check point as I figured fresh soles would have more cushioning than the ones I had been pounding for miles and miles. I was just under 30 minutes at the check point in total with 108 miles on my watch.
CP4 – CP5 Milton Keynes (25 miles)
I soon caught up with Henrik who was really struggling with his knee. We walked for a short section and then I started running again. Henrik tried a run but it wasn’t going to happen with his knee so I said a goodbye and headed on. I was unsure if he was going to try and keep going but with a knee that sore and 150 miles to go it seemed unlikely. I was gutted for him as a bashed knee is not a nice way to have to end a race.
So I was on my own again and heading on to Milton Keynes. I was really looking forward to seeing Mum and Dad and my aunt and uncle, but I was also feeling really tired and felt I was slowing down a lot. At some point I swapped to 4 min running / 4 min walking as 5 minutes just felt too long. I decided to try a 15 minute power nap at Milton Keynes to see if that sorted me out for the night ahead. This section of the route is easy running and navigation, looking back at Strava my only slight detour was to head down the Wendover arm of the GUCR! I’m guessing my watch beeped at me and I headed back! For this section I wasn’t really using the map at all and was just relying on the GPX on my watch. As I got more tired Iater into the race I was keeping an eye on bridge numbers on the map as well to minimise mistakes! This was the first section where I really started noticing how long it was between check points and this section did begin to drag. It was hard to keep my mind focussed on the moment and not start thinking of the massive distance still to go!
I arrived at check point 5 about 30 mins behind my A plan which I was very happy with and it was great to see my Mum, Dad, aunt and uncle, they have never seen me mid-race before so I had already warned them I may look awful, be really stiff or just not look very happy. Actually I was feeling good, tired and sore but nothing that wouldn’t be expected at this point in the race. After quick hugs and hellos I soon put them to work refilling bottles, emptying rubbish from my race vest etc (all the glamorous jobs)! I had some food (I can’t remember what) and a cup of tea and then once everything was organised I said my goodbyes and nipped into the little pop up tent to try and get a short nap. I crawled into the tent and soon realised sleeping would be a challenge! My hips and legs were sore on the thin mat so I tossed and turn but didn’t really sleep. I did use the time to rub sore spots in my leg muscles so that when I got up 15 mins later my legs felt loads better.
Looking at Strava I only spent about 30 minutes at the check point so not any longer than the previous one. Annoyingly I forgot to put the elastics back on my gaiters after my little rest and didn’t realise until several miles down the canal path so after that they weren’t doing much good and I took them off at the next check point. The first of many little check point errors!
CP5 – CP6 Nether Heyford (26 miles)
It was now raining and I had put my rain coat on at the check point. This was frustrating as I find I overheat easily when wearing it but the forecast was that it was set in for the night so I was just going to have to get used to it. Another runner had mentioned to me that this next section to Nether Heyford was a tough one so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the first few miles were OK and quite runnable. I had arranged to say another hello to my mum, dad, aunt and uncle at the far side of Milton Keynes and I was really looking forward to this. I felt a little bad dragging them out in the rain just to say hello as I ran by but at least it wasn’t in the middle of the night! It was lovely to see them, I was still feeling good and running well, although apprehensive about the night ahead! I tried to stop and have a chat but they weren’t having any of it and sent me on my way! Once past Milton Keynes the path became quite muddy and wet and was harder to keep a good rhythm on. It was requiring concentration to keep from slipping on the path, especially as it was now dark. At some point I stopped and put waterproof trousers on as I was getting cold – this turned into more of a job than I had hoped as even with zips up the back the trousers didn’t fit over my shoes and I had to hop around trying to take shoes of and put them on!. I managed to slip over at one point when looking up to check a bridge number, before I knew what was happening I was sliding along the path in the mud! Thankfully no damage was done and I was soon on my way again!
Bilsworth tunnel was at about 151 miles. The navigation was easy but the climb up from the canal was steep! Somehow steeper than I had expected and once you join Stoke Road although easier underfoot I didn’t enjoy it much as the cars came flying down the road ridiculously fast. It seemed like it took a very long time before I turned off the road and rejoined the canal. The next few miles to the check point were slower, I don’t remember a huge amount about this section of canal but at night in the rain with a slippy, muddy path they took far longer than I would have liked and it was with huge relief I arrived at Nether Heyford ready for some warm food, a short sleep and a change of clothes. This section had taken a lot out of me and I was worried about the 100 miles ahead! For all this sounds like I didn’t enjoy it in some ways running in the rain was really nice and knowing I was heading towards an indoor check point was a huge incentive to keep pushing on! Being in second place overall and first female so early in the race had been a surprise and I wanted to keep giving the race my best however I was now running further than I ever had before and a second night of very little sleep was new to me. I found it very hard not to let the doubts creep in!
Someone had come out of the check point to meet me which I really appreciated in the rain and as the only runner at the check point I was really well looked after. I soon had all my wet kit off drying on radiators and watch and phone charging. A quick change in the toilets and I was ready for food and a cup of tea. I decided to have an hour’s sleep here and was soon up on the stage behind the curtain. It was lovely and warm and dark but unfortunately the hard floor meant I couldn’t really get to sleep and rolled around and fidgeted for most of the hour. I think I dropped off for about 20 minutes in total. I did take the opportunity to rub and stretch some very sore and tight leg muscles which felt good. After an hour I got up finished sorting my bag and had some more food and another cup of tea and was then off on my way. I was at the check point for about 1 hour and 40 mins in total and left knowing it would now be very difficult to get near the female course record but I was still on target for finishing with a good time.
During this race I learnt that I can manage several nights on very little sleep and for me I think 10 mins with my eyes shut stretching out sore and tired muscles is probably the best. I don’t feel that having an hour laying down really added very much and meant that when I left the check point I just felt frustrated that I had wasted an hour. I’m not sure exactly when I left but it was still raining and I had a couple of hours before it got light. I didn’t mind the rain but wasn’t looking forward to swapping onto the Oxford canal which from previous race reports sounded like it was the most difficult terrain of the race!
CP6 – CP7 Fenny Compton (29 miles)
This is the longest section of the race and it felt it (30 miles on my watch with some poor navigation at Braunston)! There are only a couple of points where you need to be careful for navigation, firstly the diversion at the Braunston tunnel. I was tired at this point and spent a long time wandering around trying to find the correct path. In the end I phoned Iain who thanks to the tracker soon had me sorted out! The other point is to make sure you get on to the Oxford canal, which I managed fine! The path was hard going and only got worse and once on the Oxford canal it is very monotonous. This may be a good thing as concentration is required on foot placement all of the time. There would be sections where the path would improve only to deteriorate around the next corner. The path was quite slippy and wet and was either sloping into the canal or had big holes for you to keep an eye out for. The bushes had thankfully been cut back but they still had nice sharp edges to snag your coat on. This was the start of my low section, my pace had really reduced and I had started faffing – always dangerous and difficult to stop once started. Once it got light I had my morning lull and generally spent this section feeling sorry for myself. The rain did at some point stop and the sun came out. My feet had started being sore in the last section and that was only getting worse and my legs were stiff and tired. I began to see my time slipping away.
I arrived at the check point later than I would have liked and ready for a break. The volunteers were again fantastic and I was soon had hot food and drinks, bottles refilled and bag restocked. I was finding it harder now to eat between check points. Hard pear drops that had seemed like a great idea (and I had enjoyed) had shredded my mouth which was now full of ulcers. I hadn’t really enjoyed the salamis and they sat unused in my drop bag. Babybels and little Kinder-like bars were still going down well and Kellogg’s Krispie squares, although not enjoyable, definitely gave me an energy boost. Crisps were also hit and miss. Gels however were still good so I kept well stocked up with them and I was still eating really well at check points so all was good. I again decided to have a short sleep here and again failed to sleep. 10 mins laying down and rubbing sore muscles is definitely the way to go for future races. I was craving company by this point and so hang around far longer than I should have. This check point also has the bonus of the pub toilets – a real luxury but also another way to waste time. All in all I spent just over an hour here, definitely longer than I should.
CP7 – CP8 Lower Heyford (23 miles)
As the race went on I discovered that I would feel really strong and positive for a couple of hours out of a check point and then would crash, feeling tired and sorry for myself all the way to the next check point. I think in future long races in the latter parts of the race I will stop every 3 hours or so for my own mini check point – some good solid food and a 5-10 min sit down to see if this makes a difference. However this race I didn’t so after a couple of hours of feeling good I plodded on past endless fields, random bridges to nowhere and the odd canal boat. The path was terrible for most of the day and I was faffing! This made the tiredness even worse and at one point I phoned my eldest for a chat as I felt like I was falling asleep on my feet. Every time I saw a bench or lock it was difficult to fight the urge to sit down and I often treated myself to 10 second sit downs. I’m not sure these did much good and only slowed me down more! Everything was tired and sore by this point, including my toes, thankfully the balls of my feet and heels were holding up ok. The sun had come out warm and I was glad it hadn’t been this warm the whole way. It was late afternoon / early evening by the time I arrived at Lower Heyford, the second indoor check point of the race.
The building was lovely and I took my shoes off at the door! I got everything on to charge (watch, phone and torch) and then sorted out my feet which had some good blisters on the toes. My hands had been swollen all day, which is normal for me in long races but I was aware my ankles were also beginning to swell which I was worried about. So while I ate some lovely food I sat with my feet up. This check point was far too comfortable and warm with the TV on. There was also a comfy looking blow up sleep mat in the corner which I managed to resist! I again spent too long at this check point and was just leaving as the next racer arrived. I spent just over an hour at the check point. Definitely room for improvement!
CP8 – CP9 Abingdon (25 miles)
The first 15 miles out of this check point were slow. I had decided that I couldn’t run anymore and was going to walk the rest of the way. The problem being my walk was getting slower and slower! The path does improve and definitely has some good runnable sections but in my head I couldn’t run anymore. As it got dark I put my head torch on only for it to start flashing that the battery was low. This was concerning as I had just charged it! It turns out that in my sleep deprived state I hadn’t realised the power bank I “charged” it from was empty! I turned it down to medium beam and used it on that until it stopped altogether when I swapped onto my spare battery. This was fine but I had a nagging worry about what if this battery didn’t last me to the next check point and I was left with no head torch on a canal in the middle of nowhere. These worries and Iain’s amazing MP3 playlist kept me going for a while until near Oxford when I started getting really tired again. I started hallucinating which I found funny rather than scary and had a section where my family were walking with me, even though I knew they were at home, bicycle wheels also kept doing weird and wonderful things and I kept seeing faces in the path. The most annoying hallucination were seeing people where there weren’t any and trees that appeared to be bridges until I was very close.
A phone call with Iain late evening and he told me that one of the runners behind, Nathan, had picked up his pace and was rapidly catching me. That was fine I was still convinced I was going as fast as I could. Nathan did catch me, which actually felt a relief as I was desperate for some company! I just hoped he stayed for a chat for a few miles before running on! However when Nathan arrived he was very certain he didn’t want to overtake me and was happy to go at the quickest pace I could to the finish. I told him not to be silly and to get going as it was a race after all and he was looking far stronger than me at this point. However he was adamant and I was happy for the company so we carried on together. For his sake I said I would try a run but reminded him I really didn’t think I could run anymore. It turns out I could and once my brain was overruled my legs were more than capable of running. We had a fun few miles running faster than we probably should have done at this stage in the race but it felt great.
We only slowed down when the path again deteriorated into a horrible, muddy, slippy track for the last few miles to Abingdon. I learnt a valuable lesson here that even when you think you can’t do anymore actually you can. I could still run and I really enjoyed it. We had a few almost navigational errors but always noticed and corrected them before they were a problem and I really enjoyed having someone to chat to after so many hours on my own. We turned up at the check point in high spirits and aiming for a quick turn around. Nathan set a time limit which was sensible but I did struggle to keep to it after faffing so much at the last few aid stations. The check point volunteers are again fantastic and couldn’t do enough for us. If you are looking for a quick finish time it is definitely important to limit check point time! After only 20 minutes or so we were back on our way. Clean shoes and socks, fed and watered and with gels restocked, I had also removed my waterproofs which I had been wearing for warmth but since running had been slowly baking in! And the head torch did last out until the check point and daylight!
CP9 – Finish Goring (21 miles)
In my head this section was going to be easier, with only 21 miles to go and back on the Thames path I thought it would be easier terrain. We left in high spirits planning to run / walk most of the way, but were soon disappointed – the path was still awful, claggy, slippy mud and rutted paths. Interspersed with fields of interested bovines, which were tussocky and uneven it made keeping up any pace hard going. The early morning was shrouded in a cold mist that slowly burnt off but meant I was either too cold or too hot depending on our pace and whether we were in a random pocket of cold air. It was a beautiful morning but I wasn’t in much of a state to appreciate it with all my focus on the finish that didn’t seem to be getting any closer! I then made the mistake of looking at my legs and noticing how swollen my knees were – they weren’t too sore but I was worried I was going to injure myself so was reluctant to try running again on the uneven surfaces. I suggested a couple of times to Nathan that he could head on but he was happy to stick with me as long as we were moving fast enough to keep second place and under his target time of 74 hours. Morning is always when my low points hit and today was no exception and I probably moaned far more than I should have – sorry! The sleep deprivation had also caught up with me and I was struggling with even simple bits of navigation. Thankfully we didn’t make any major mistakes!
Eventually the finish crawled slowly nearer and it was with relief we were able to count down the last few miles. I would like to say I picked up the pace for the finish but all I could manage was a run around the last corner to the finish, 260 miles on my watch, joint 2nd position and first female in a time of 72 hrs and 40 minutes. Lindley presented our medals and my trophy and prizes for first female, a few photos and I was able to sit down and relax knowing I didn’t have to get up again for a while! Again everyone was fantastic making sure I had food and drink and everything I needed. Blisters were drained and dressed for the journey home (thank you) and I was able to get a couple of hours sleep in the corner of the room. It was great to be able to cheer in the next two finishers before having to head to the station for the journey home. Thankfully Lindley gave me a lift to the station as it would have felt like a long slow and painful walk with my drop bag!
Of the 43 starters, 19 finished and regardless of if people finished or not everyone gave it their all. Of those that finished I am particularly impressed by those that did a fourth night – I have no idea how you kept going and think you are all amazing. A huge thanks to Challenge Running, to Lindley for a brilliant event and for your amazing team of volunteers – super well organised throughout and I was always very well looked after at all the check points and finish. Sometimes too well(!) making it hard to get back out there and keep moving! And a massive thank you to Iain and my family for allowing me the time for these crazy and awesome adventures.
A train journey and 3 coaches (1 of them overnight) isn’t the best start to recovery and by the time I got home on Sunday morning my ankles had swollen impressively. I had thankfully managed to get some sleep on the coach (hopefully I wasn’t snoring too much!) and managed the half mile walk home from the bus stop. Iain was running a local 10 mile race that morning so after a quick shower and breakfast I headed out with him to support. I really wanted to be there for him as he had done such an amazing job supporting me during the race. Our youngest was also with us so after seeing the racers off we headed to the closest point they would pass after a mile and a half. I managed to hobble there in time to give Iain a cheer and then we headed back to the stands at the track where the race would finish. Angus was playing games on my phone so I instructed him when to wake me and promptly fell asleep! I woke just in time and was able to hobble to the finish to cheer Iain in – a new PB of 1:03:42 and 14th place overall. Then home to put the feet up and sleep.
Lots of sleeping and elevating the legs meant I was able to slowly walk a few miles on Tuesday and since then have made sure to walk every day and I started running again eight days after I finished. Pilates has also helped stretch everything but is a little sore at the time! Thankfully other than very bruised and blistered toes I haven’t had any injuries and just need to give my body time to recover.
Having spent a large portion of the race complaining about how much I hated it and how I couldn’t understand how anyone would run it twice or more, within a couple of hours of finishing I found myself thinking how I would improve my race strategy and how I could do better. It is certainly the race I have learnt most during and I am looking forward to using what I have learnt in the future. I would absolutely love to come back and try again at the race record – I am sure having run the route previously is an advantage and also knowing that I can manage on very little sleep. I could certainly reduce my time at later check points and I now know I can run even when I think I can’t! A little more self believe would also help. Of all the races I have run this is the first I feel I have unfinished business with!