“I’m slowly getting the hang of this running thing! It doesn’t matter what you do if you don’t blog about it quick enough.” (@ultra_paulo 2014)
My goal for 2014 is to collect a set of distances.
So far, I have collected 5km (parkruns time lots), 10km (Buttons for Brathay), Half Marathon (Midsummer Munro), Marathon (Steyning Stinger), 50km (Day 2 of The Pilgrim Challenge, and The Moonlight Challenge) and 50 miles (South Downs Way 50).
Yesterday, I added a 100km at Race to the Stones, which leaves me with only 100 miles (after failing to complete Thames Path 100, I will be trying again at Winter 100).
Race to the Stones is, in many ways, atypical. Most of the ultras I’ve run or volunteered at have been relatively small, relatively low key, and put on by runners, for runners. They speak to the small, quiet, solitary part of my nature, with huge amounts of friendliness, bucket loads of wonderful people, but also acres and acres of time to spend alone with my thoughts. Race to the Stones is huge. With about 1500 people across the range of events, for the first 45km there was not a single moment when I wasn’t following someone, being followed by someone or running alongside someone. At 45km or thereabouts, the 1000 or so runners who were running the distance across two days peeled off to the left and the 500ish fools who were running the full distance in one day peeled off to the right. Which still didn’t leave much room for solitude.
I hitched a lift to the start with two of the other #rtts100 runners, Cat and Sorrell, along with Mr Cat and Cat’s Dad. Once there, we met up with Susie, Lucja, Hannah, Maja and Kabuki and I scanned the teeming hoards looking for Ady, who had very kindly offered me a lift home after the race.
Registration was simple (race number, wrist band, timing chip, map), the loo queues were refreshingly speedy and there were massive drinking water butts for any last minute bottle top ups.
Just before 8 o’clock, we wandered over to the start, listened to the race briefing (there will be thunder, lightening, rain and hail but you probably won’t die, so off you go and have fun) and then we were off. As I hung back, waiting for a little bit more of the field to go off, I finally spotted Ady’s distinctive sandals and we crossed the start line together.
If I’m honest, I don’t remember much detail about the race. It was remarkably cool, rained a lot, the promised thunder, lightening, and hail turned up, accompanied at one point by the most stunning rainbow I’ve seen. The aid stations (or rather “pit stops”) were about every 10km and there were portaloos galore at each. I spent the early stages of the race playing leapfrog with Maja and Ady, took full advantage of the team cheering squad (Mr Cat and Cat’s Dad) while I was still close enough to Cat to see them, managed to trip over on absolutely nothing and execute a far from elegant forward roll just before Aid 6, and spent the latter stages of the race being overtaken by runner after runner after runner.
Did I have fun? Yes.
Would I run it again? No.
Would I recommend it? Not unreservedly. If you like small and low key, then this isn’t the race for you. If you like slick, corporate events that know the importance of portaloos and know how to sell themselves, then it might be just up your street.
Did the seven other TNF Ultra Team members blow my mind with their speed (Sorrell), infectious cheer (Cat and Susie), friendliness (Lucja, Maja and Kabuki) and sheer grit (Hannah)? Yes.
Was the lift home from Ady the most welcome thing ever, ever, bloody ever? Yes.
Did running for fourteen hours in wet kit lead to chafing despite copious amounts of Body Glide? Yes. If you don’t want to see a sample, then look away now!