I signed up for this epic challenge in January. I had been thinking it about it for a loooong time- probably since before last years as I briefly considered a last minute entry but I didn’t feel brave enough. I’d seen other people on Twitter that had done the 100k & I was in complete awe. I just had to sign up or I would have regretted it. I went for the 100k in one go option- I think that getting up the next day & doing a 2nd 50k would be hard- 1 go would be tough & I wanted to give it a go. Once I’d signed my name & got the confirmation email I got that stomach twisting “oh my, what have I done?” feeling.
100km is a long way. In the build up I was pretty terrified & excited too. I was faced with the inevitable “have I trained enough?” feeling but I knew that I had done as much as I could & just had to go for it.
It’s also a bit intimidating. For every distance I’ve run before I have built up to close to the distance before the event: before my 1st half 11 miles; 1st marathon 22; 1st 50k I’d done a marathon……but when it comes to 100k the furthest I’d done in one go was 50k. This is often the case with ultra marathons- can you imagine doing a 50 mile training run?! It’s just not feasible for most people. But this year I’ve done 4 marathons & 2 50k runs as training so I’m happy I’d trained well (I always feel that perhaps I should have put in a bit more but I did what I could).
The race weekend came round so fast- it’s been my focus all year so it was crazy that it was finally time to pack my bag & head to Avebury. I stayed in Avebury the night before- this is the end of the race & it seems like a much nicer idea staying close to the end so you don’t have far to go after the 100k. Avebury is a tiny little place with one pub and lots of prehistoric Stones “Constructed over several hundred years in the 3rd millennium BC, during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises a large henge (a bank and a ditch) with a large outer stone circle and two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is unknown, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremony”.
My alarm went off at an early 4am (yawn) so I could get dressed, eat breakfast & leave at 5 to get the 5.30am bus from the farm that would mark the end of the challenge, to the beginning in Oxfordshire. I had a cup of Green Tea in a take out cup to have with me for the journey as it took 1hr 45mins. I put on some music (Reggae) to tune out & slept for most of the journey.
It felt pretty cold when we got off the bus. I registered & picked up my tshirt & hat I had pre-ordered, then filled in the back of my race number & put it on my vest. I was stood near some other runners & heard them talk about looking out for Spencers Pink Socks (@smillbury) so I knew they were ukrunchat people so I got to meet Ian (@iankenna), Mark (@markkenna) & Emily (@strangecwrt) pre-race. I put my sleeves on as it was pretty chilly. I put my bag in the bag truck & got in the toilet queue which seemed to go down pretty quickly as I chatted to some other runners in the queue (who I then saw several times during the run- I hope they did well).
The time seems to have flown by, once by the starting area I met up with Darren (@runnersknees), Tash (@natashaelsdon) & Sean (@seacon75). I knew there were lots of other ukrunchat people about but it was a large crowd so I didn’t spot them all.
As we stood waiting to begin the clouds parted & the blue sky made it’s first appearance of the day. And then we were off with 100k between us & the finish line (or 50k for the one dayers or those doing the 2 day option).
It was a nice easy start, with so many people starting at the same time there was some bottlenecking but I think was a good thing. It meant we couldn’t get too excited & start off too fast. It was a lovely atmosphere & everyone was chatting through the opening stages. It was a pretty hot start- I was glad that despite being freezing I had put sun cream on before the start.
The First Half
The first half was beautiful, hot & beautiful. Did I mention the heat?
Anyone that follows me on Twitter knows I am a summer girl, I much prefer running in warm sunshine than the cold & rain. I did enjoy the sun but the heat was pretty intense in places. On a hill we queued to get over a kissing gate & it was so hot in that little area- once over the gate there was very welcome breeze. We went through a beautiful town called Goring where a Regatta was being held & it’s a gorgeous little place but damn the heat bounced off the buildings & made it a billion degrees- it was tempting to jump into the pretty river.
I found it pretty good going in the 1st half. I stayed hydrated & drank a tailwind to stay fuelled. Plus at checkpoint 4 I filled up a bottle with some ‘SOS rehydrate’ which tasted amazing-I must have needed it. At the checkpoints I’d also been drinking coke &/or squash.
The way I was facing this distance was check point to check point- it’s too overwhelming to look at the full distance so my aim throughout the race was CP to CP as I have heard many advise on twitter & I wasn’t sure it would work but it certainly did the trick.
The only trouble I had in the first half was just after leaving checkpoint 3 (I think) my bag started chaffing my back. I was a bit worried about a big chunk of my back being missing by the time I reached the next CP but luckily I saw Sean who put some sports tape over it for me- it didn’t cause me anymore grief for the rest of the race.
At each check point I was seeing various people from ukrunchat. I’d seen Spencer & Sarah, Natasha, Chelsea (@chelsgreg73), Sean & Jonathan (@jwburton1967). It was lovely seeing familiar faces. It became clear that everyone was struggling a bit, it was super tough & we hadn’t even got to half way. People who I have seen at marathons & other 50k runs who finish strong were all finding it difficult today.
There had been a few hills in the first half that I walked up- walk up the hills & run the flat & down hill is about as much strategy I have for any long run.
There was a 5k to 50k marker & it felt like a pretty long 50k but it was nice to be able to see the half way camp in the distance. As I was coming into half way I saw Susie, Shaun & dog. It was nice to see some familiar faces & they asked how I was doing- I answered truthfully & wasn’t sure how I’d get through another 50k. Susie advised eating & getting on my way. I’m not a big eater when I’m running but I had decided to spend a bit of time in this checkpoint. I had a stretch & then went to get some food- I really did try but one bite of pasta & a bit of lettuce & I realized I wasn’t up for food at all. I had enough of that stop- lots of people were stopping so I needed to get out of there & get on my way to get past the mental barrier of half way.
The 2nd Half (this might hurt a bit)
Once I left the half way point I felt great. I ran most of the way to the next check point, when walking the hills it was hard to start running after but I realized that my legs felt better running than walking. I felt pretty good- it was like a new burst of energy for the 2nd half.
What a difference a check point makes.
I reached check point 6 & felt pretty nauseated. I had some salt in squash (as everyone was doing- taking on salt was important in a race in that heat). I decide not to dwell on the feeling & to get on my way & hope it passed. A guy asked if he could walk with me & we walked & chatted all the way to the next check point. It was lovely chatting to Rob & it really helped me through that point of the race & I was able to forget feeling ill & got on with it.
At check point 7 it had started to get dark so it was time to get the head torch out & put on an extra layer as it the temperature was dropping fast. I heard someone say they may finish around 2am if they walked the rest of the way. This was a bit soul destroying. Time definitely isn’t important in a race of this length but I had thought I may finish in 15/16 hours. 2am seemed like a long way away. So this motivated me & although it was dark I got out there & started running. I felt pretty good for it too. This didn’t last too long though as I am not confident in the dark & I didn’t want to fall over so I had to walk on the uneven pathways.
When I got to check point 8 I was feeling knackered. I needed a boost & to sort myself out a bit so I could keep going. I had a magical cup of tea & some biscuits which made me feel much better. The magical feeling lasted a while but soon left me. A guy from Derry started walking with me & we chatted away but we soon became quiet as we were both fighting to carry on. We lost each other for a bit but when he caught up with me he said “I don’t now why I’m doing this anymore”. I couldn’t help much except to be there feeling the same. When you’re in a field in the dark avoiding cow pats it’s damn hard to keep going. I was feeling emotionally & physically exhausted. I sent Tash a text telling her that “I suck & haven’t even reached the last check point yet”. My brain needed picking up.
I reached checkpoint 9 & burst into tears. I hid away from where every one was gathered & had a bit of a moment. I was tired & it was late & it was 11k to the end- 11k has never felt like such a long way. I sorted myself out & went to sit down with a coffee & a caramel bar. I was chatting to some other runners which was picking my spirits up a bit when I thought I saw Darren- he had his back to me so I wasn’t sure till I looked down & saw his On trainers. I shouted for him & he came over- I was SO relieved- I wouldn’t have to do the rest of the race alone! I finished my coffee, put my trainers back on & we went on our way.
I really don’t know how I would have got through that last 11k alone. I’d probably still be sat in a field crying somewhere. That last 11k was tough, so tough. There were some super uneven paths and it felt like we were in the labyrinth when she is in the maze & the paths just go on forvever- it felt relentless, I felt like we were making no progress for a long time.
Eventually there were some lights in the distance that slowly got closer. We walked past the gate to the finish to go down to the stones (part of the route). People were coming towards us & I must have asked most of them “How far till you get back here?” They all assured me it wasn’t far. It wasn’t & we walked down to the stones & around a couple of stones & a flock of sheep & back to the gate. The field wasn’t the nicest surface to walk over but we soon reached the road & were headed towards the finish line.
We’d done it.
I got myself a glass of water & went to lay down in the luggage tent. I then got myself up to get changed & hobbled around to find a paramedic as they were missing from the medic tent as I wanted to get my feet checked out before we left- just in case they were a mess. He looked at them & said they were perfect- if only everyone’s feet looked that good after 100k J They were just swollen & tired.
I felt pretty dizzy whilst waiting for a cab back so had to sit down on the grass for a bit. The cab soon came & it was time to shower & sleep.
The next day I got up for breakfast at the B&B & then Darren,Tash, Nick & I went for a great roast dinner & some Prosecco before I headed back to London.
I still can’t quite believe I’ve done it. I’ve learnt tha t 100k is not to be underestimated & it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I’ve been pretty exhausted since & have slept a lot. My feet & legs have recovered well but I am still pretty tired and am not ready to focus on another race just yet (my next one isn’t till September so I have time to recover). The exhaustion could also be down to illness….
On the Thursday before the race a rash came up on my neck. I ignored as best I could putting sudocrem over it during the run. I got it checked out at the docs on Tuesday and it turns out to be Shingles. So it looks like I did 100k with Shingles! I’ve been feeling pretty crap this week & haven’t made it in to work yet.
I cannot wait to be better and wear my tshirt with pride & drink some more Prosecco to celebrate (there is a bottle or 2 in the fridge ready).
I would definitely recommend Race to the Stones. I would suggest doing the 2 day option & would say if you did the 1 day just be mentally prepared to be out there A LOT longer than you anticipate.
It’s a really well organized race. I have some great phtotos that were uploaded straight onto Facebook whilst I was running/walking & the check points are really well organized. I was disappointed that there were no photographers from the half way point, including no finisher photo but I have been already been assured this will be fixed for next year. I also felt disappointed with the end- the pictures of the end for the people who did it in 2 days show they got an amazing atmosphere, cake & free hugs. After 100k a bit more love & food & drink was needed for the one dayers. I am certain the race organisers take these comments on board & they have already emailed me to say they are looking at these things for next year & there was food/drink I just didn’t see it/see signs for it.
Would I do 100k again? No way! I’m pretty sure I won’t change my mind on this one. I’m not sure I can put myself through that again. But if you want a challenge that is bigger than you can imagine – go for it!
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