What an experience! I now know what it takes to be an ultra runner! The months of training to get to the start line, the physical and mental strength required to complete the race, the highs and lows…
The start of the 50 mile race was 6:02am, a couple of minutes after we had cheered the start of the 100 mile race. The weather was crisp and clear, blue skies and sunny.
My plan was to run with Louise Goddard and pace her to a podium finish. We had met on the two organised recce runs and did our own recce a few weeks ago and were confident that we could finish in under 11 hours.
Our initial pace for the first 25km was far too fast and so we eased off as we came down the side of Pen Y Ghent
1-30km – all going well and setting the pace for Louise
31km – twisted ankle
34km – running solo, couldn’t keep the pace for Louise any more due to ankle
40km summiting Whernside (721m) was tough
40-40km descending Whernside was even tougher. Shooting pain in my left knee – had to manage the pain and only stopped when pain was too much.
49km started feeling light headed ascending Ingleborough (719m). Tripped and fell, cutting left hand and elbow. Later found that I’d sprained my right wrist
Towards the summit my legs felt like jelly and I was feeling like I was falling asleep whilst running. This was not good. Sat down and had some food. Two other runners stopped to check if I was OK and they gave me an electrolyte tablet and a pack of dried apricots. Got up and started walking to the summit. A marshal saw that I was not looking great and gave me 2 options – go back to the previous checkpoint 6 miles/10km away and end the race and post a DNF (Did Not Finish) or get to the summit and then carry on as it was mostly downhill to the next checkpoint. There was no way I was going to give up and DNF so I carried on.
49-57km Shooting pain in my left knee was bad – somehow managed to zone out the pain.
57km Reached the final checkpoint took on more water and ate more food. Ascent of Pen Y Ghent (656m)
73km started running with Siobhan – the route generally wasn’t marked very well and we bumbled along until we met some hikers to get directions. Luckily we joined a couple of guys doing the 100 mile race on the same course.
78km the four of us missed the final turn and a solo runner behind us didn’t give us a shout.
78-80km I was really angry at the solo runner and the red mist descended! I decided to catch and overtake him. I put in a 5:15min/km and a 5:35min/km giving it everything I had, ignoring the pain and tiredness! I finished a minute ahead of him and retribution was mine!
At the finish I was presented with a gold medal which meant that I had finished in the top 50. At the time this did not register as I was so physically and mentally tired and I was glad to have made it to the finish. It was a lot later that I found out that I was 38th place overall!
So what are my reflections on my first ultra? Yes, it was tough both physically and mentally; yes I need to eat and drink more; the camaraderie amongst runners is second to none and the check point crews and marshals are the unsung heroes.
Would I do another ultra? Yes, as I’ve signed up to The Lap, a 45 mile / 72km run around Lake Windermere!