There are many things I enjoy about racing, but in my latest race the best thing about it was running with a friend.
I recently ran my first ever 100K race, Race to the Stones.
With over 1600 runners at the start line is the largest ultra race in the UK.
Competitors have the choice to complete the race in one go, or to take a camping stop overnight at the 50K point.
I was lucky enough to be selected to be part of The North Face team, 10 brilliant women all tackling the distance in one go. The team comprised of women with a varied running CV, first time ultra runners, some who had a few ultras under their belts, super fast marathoners, all were up for the challenge.
Once again my training had not been on top form. I’ve begun to dabble in triathlon, focussing on (much needed) training in swimming and biking.
At the start line I decided to run for as far as possible with the ultra race winning Team Captain Cat Simpson. She wanted to take this one steady, and her steady is my ultra race pace!
We were off, the route took us along the Ridgeway, a national trail that dates back to prehistoric times. It’s a well trodden path, and pretty much in a straight line South West. The elevation was not that bad. There were hills, mainly ones which were shallow enough to run up, but went on for ages.
Cat finds running up these long hills not too problematic. Towards the end I was dragging myself up them!
Thunder and lightning was forecast, and it was not until after a free pasta lunch (provided by the pasta van at the 50K mark) the heavens opened.
It rained. Hard. That combined with the humid weather made conditions towards the end less than ideal. But Cat and I kept chipper, and kept pace.
Every six miles of so Cat’s husband (member of the 100 marathon club!) and father were there cheering us on. It was such a boost to see them regularly.
Toward the end of the race, rather painfully, you have to run past the entrance to the finish line and circumnavigate the 3000 year old stone circle at Avebury, then back on yourself to the medal. It was only a mile or so but it felt like a hell of a long way.
Cat and I crossed the finish line hand in hand.
In ultra circles, some are not so keen on this race due to it’s commercial nature. It is a bit expensive to enter, however the organisation was excellent. As there were so many runners, there was more support along the way than I have ever seen on any ultra. There check points were well staffed, with medical staff, portaloos (!!) and had heaps of food. The course is well signed, and it’s a great challenge distance wise. I couldn’t fault it on that front and would recommend it.
But the best bit? It was running with Cat.
She really was the perfect running partner. She is very easy to get on with, encouraging, we knuckled down when it got a bit tough, we kept each other going and she made me laugh.
The North Face team did exceptionally well, Sorrel Walsh, a super fast marathon runner nailed it in her second ever ultra, coming home first lady, 2 hours faster than last year’s female winner. Lucja Leonard came over the line 9th lady and Cat and I were joint 10th women in 12 hours 31 minutes, and 70th overall. Not bad out of all the entrants! All the other North Face team ladies finished victorious too.
Ultras are great to experience, but even more so when you do it with a good friend. A testimony to how addictive ultras are some of the team have already signed up to 100 milers next year!
Next up for me – various triathlons, and the tough ultra, Ring O fire.