After the wash out that was 2016, I started 2017 wondering whether I was still an ultra-runner. Ridgeway 86 proved that I could still complete the distance, but mentally it sucked. I needed a pick-me-up, something simple but fun, something to remind me why I run long, and what better something could there be than Wendover Woods 50?
The Wendover Woods course is fantastic. It’s varied underfoot, has a mixture of steep and shallow climbs, some gloriously runnable downs, a smattering of playful, tree rooty descents and it breaks down into easily manageable chunks. As a 10 mile run, it’s hard to beat but as a 50 mile run it was superb.
After a disgusting o’clock alarm call, I gathered my kit together, ran through the mandatory kit list one more time to make sure that I had everything, double checked that I’d put my running shoes and back up running shoes into the car and set off. I arrived at the field nice and early and walked over to the registration tent to recce the layout. I spotted the coffee van and my heart sank. I had packed all my mandatory kit but left the house without a single, solitary bank note or credit card. Coffee I could live without, but I was pretty sure I didn’t have enough fuel to get back home. Damn*. I kicked myself, walked into the tent, bumped straight into three people I knew, blurted out “I forgot to bring any money” and immediately had three people offering me a sub.
For me, that’s what makes Centurion events so special. Having run a few and volunteered at even more, I know that I’m never more than an aid station away from a personalised pick-me-up, so I spend the bulk of the race thinking about the next positive rather than obsessing about my pace and doing bad maths in my head. There were too many pick-me-ups to remember. A hug from Stu at about mile 1 followed by him popping up pretty much everywhere, Kate and Graham at the Hale Lane aid station, James teasing me about tagging the trig point at the end of each lap and lying very convincingly about how strong I was looking, Jo’s amazing drop-bag service, spotting Natasha at the end of lap 3 and scoring a hug from her at the end of lap 4, and bumping into Chris and Drew at the lowest point of my race**.
A finish was never in doubt. Nici had told me so in no uncertain terms***. What I was slightly stunned by was how much fun I had on the way to claiming my reward****.
* or words to that effect.
** just after a lap 5 runner had encouraged me with “not far now” as I stumbled up the last climb of my lap 4
*** “You WILL finish. I shall allow no other result”
**** My finish line hug from Nici. Obviously.