I’ve liked the idea of ultra running for a while. I am full of awe & admiration for ultra runners so a few months ago a group of us signed up for Running Adventures 32 mile run on the North Down Way. This isn’t a race; it’s a group run so we run & share the experience together.
A great group of friends that I know from twitter started talking about this a while ago & I wasn’t sure. I felt quite aware that they are faster runners than I am but this group run is designed for everyone & only requires 10/11 min miles & a good level of fitness so I pushed my reservations aside & signed up for my first ultra distance run. It was exciting that I would get to run with a fabulous bunch of people & I liked the idea of the group run. We would get to experience it together rather than your regular race that you run alone at your own pace.
I’ve done 3 marathons this year. The most recent was Bristol-Bath which had some pretty big hills but I somehow managed my PB of 4:03 which made me feel a bit more confident going into this.
2 weeks before the big day a few of us got together & did a 23 mile training run over the South Downs Way. This was a fabulous day with Natasha, Jeff & Ben. We had a great day of running & it was perfect prep for our big day.
A few of our group unfortunately were unable to join us. Helen & Jeff had niggles that couldn’t be ignored going into a run of that distance & Ben was moving house. The whole run had been Helens idea so it was a real shame she couldn’t make it; and all 3 of them were missed. But we are planning more group runs so we will all get to run together soon.
In the build I up I was quite nervous. In all honesty I was scared of holding the group up. During the week before I posted on twitter that I was feeling nervous- I wasn’t sure whether to share it & considered just keeping those feelings to myself but I am so glad I did as it gave me the boost I needed. People are so reassuring & remind you that you can do it; I was reminded of my Berlin Marathon time & that made me think of Bristol to Bath, where I got my marathon PB with some big hills! It made me feel confident & remembered that I can do it! I will do it! It will be the longest run I’ve done! My nerves were back to excitement.
We had been signed up for so long but the last couple of weeks flew by & you find yourself on a train to Guildford making sure your bag is packed with shaky hands. Paul was kind enough to pick me up at the train station to drive over to the car park where it would all begin. The rest of the group were already there: Matt, who runs Running Adventures so was our guide for the day; Ash, who is training for The Wild Elephant Trail in Sri Lanka in March with Matt; Saul, who is doing Marathon Des Sables 2016; and the #ukrunchat gang Emma, Natasha, Paul & me.
We all had our running vests packed- we looked like an Ultimate Direction advert. We all got ourselves together & then started our adventure.
We got started & chatted our way along through the beautiful Surrey countryside. I think we got a bit excited at first as Matt told us all to slow down- we had a long way ahead of us. We walked up quite a large hill, it was a bit hard to get started again & the bit after that was quite tough. When we got through that part I think we were all relieved to find we’d all found that bit tough. We ran through woods; climbed over a couple of trees; walked up hills (apart from Natasha who was happy running up them); we were rewarded with some beautiful views from climbing so high.
I had heard of Box Hill but I had never been there so I was a bit nervous about reaching it. That was around 18/19 miles into the run. We were given the option of a bridge or stepping stones- we went for it across the stepping stones & it was great fun. Then there were the stairs. The climb up Box Hill is tough. You don’t expect it to be sound tracked by Gangham Style but there were some girls walking up (more stood laughing at their friend struggling with the stairs) playing it from their phone. We reached the top & stopped for a short time at the café to stock up on water for those that needed to & use the toilets. Natasha brought a large coke that we shared- I have never known coke to taste so good! I decided to give the SOS Hydrate a try as it had been recommended to me & I didn’t feel like eating- it was pretty good & I definitely felt the benefits afterwards.
There were parts of the run that were tough. There were times when I wanted to walk but running with the group was great motivation to keep running. When someone said we were at 27 miles it was quite exciting- we’d passed the marathon distance! Watching the few at the front was quite incredible- they were so strong. I had to remind myself that I was doing pretty well myself & was happy to be going at my own (slower) pace.
We turned a corner & there was the car park- the end of our run! We had just run 33 miles! We were ultra runners! It was quite an amazing feeling. As it wasn’t a race there was no medal but as it was the longest most of our group had run we had talked about having a memento so I had some engraved medals made up for the whole group so we would always have a reminder of the day. We took a group photo that Ash missed as he had dashed off to run home!! It was a bit surreal- we all put some warm clothes on said our goodbyes & headed home.
I drank a chocolate recovery drink & got my train home. I was shaking all the way home as I was so cold despite having a few layers on. I got home & was going to have a good stretch but my legs were so caked in mud that I knew a shower was needed first. I had been told by other people that after an ultra they’ve felt a bit emotional when they got home & that’s exactly what happened to me. It sunk in that I had just run 33 miles! I had a minute or 2 of having a little cry & then was fine again. I had a shower, got myself dressed up ready to head to a friends Christmas Party- I even wore heels! (Benefits of a house party- after an hour the shoes were off). It was a fabulous party with lots of bubbles; lots of food (that I ate quite a lot of) & great friends. It was great way to finish off the day. I wasn’t sure I’d last long at the party but I was there till the end.
On Sunday I spent the day in my PJs watching TV & eating. My legs are a bit stiff and I feel pretty tired but I also feel pretty amazing. I’m buzzing that I became an Ultra Runner and doing it with such a great group of people was amazing. I am so proud of all of us. I loved it and I would recommend doing a run with Running Adventures, I would definitely turn to him if I had a big race & wanted a training plan & advice.
Am I hooked? I’m not sure yet. I’ve been thinking about Race To The Stones for a long time and I’m currently not sure. Running with the group really kept me going so I am unsure if I’m up for it by myself. But we shall see what 2016 brings…..watch this space….
I would like to say a massive thank you to Matt for organising the run; Ash; Saul; Emma; Natasha & Paul it was a real pleasure running with you all; Helen, Jeff & Ben who couldn’t make it but helped persuade me to take on the challenge – particularly Helen who came up with the whole crazy idea- I can’t wait for us all to get together soon for a run; and the #ukrunchat community for helping me fight the nerves & reminding me to believe in myself & getting me there (you know who you are).
Sign up for your own Running Adventure or for coaching/training plans and advice: www.runningadventures.uk
Kit & fuelling
I forgot my running watch, which didn’t bother me as I tend to use it much anyway. It would have been good to see my stats but it was quite nice running & not knowing constantly how far there was to go. I borrowed everyone else’s stats so I could add it to my Nike app & Endomondo afterwards.
I wore my usual Nike shorts & socks; Green lamb long sleeved top; Runderwear; Shock Absorber Sports Bra & of course my Team Red Tech Tee. I wore Mizuno Wave Hayate. Gloves & a hat to keep warm too (not my usual baseball bap as it would have flown away as it was pretty windy).
I have an Ultimate Direction ‘Jenny’ Vest. In my pack I had a water bladder with about 2l of water; a rain jacket; tissues; lip balm; snacks including a flapjack; brownie; a cheese & onion pasty; some SOS Hydrate powder. In my flipbelt I had some shot bloks; a couple of gels & my phone.
What I actually ate/drank over the run: I had 3 shot bloks out of 1 pack at different points over the run; at the café at the top of Box Hill I had some coke that a few of us shared (it tasted like the best thing ever!) & a glass of water with the SOS Hydrate powder.
Stats (for those of you that like some numbers)
Distance: 33 miles
Elevation: 6268.4 ft
Total Time: 6:59:57