"Even if you win you are still a loser". I believe Sam Robson is still patiently waiting for the phonecall for the job as a motivation consultant for the UK athletics team. He was right though, the previous night I failed the burger challenge. Four very large burgers, a load of chips and some unesseccary hash browns. I got just over half way in before it just got too much.
Premier Inn reception at 5am: this is a familiar scene. I'm not sure Lenny Henry would find it funny how we use his hotels but the Farnham Premier Inn were really really nice, giving each of the runners a goody bag in the morning of an energy drink and a cereal bar. I drove to the start with Sam and Dan Park and complained that all I got was 5 hours of "broken sleep". Dan said "Do you realise you are talking to two fathers of young kids about broken sleep?" Woe is me woe is me.
The biggest point James Elson wanted to make at the race briefing was to all the garmin chumpers (my words not his) that the overall distance was slightly more than 100 miles (but there would be no extra charge for this) and that the checkpoint distances might vary from what your garmin says. I can't believe that people have complained in the past that the race was a bit long, extra free miles?? Ungrateful bastards.
We sauntered to the start where I saw most of the Centurion Team: James, Drew Sheffield, Robbie Britton and Paul Navesey. They look like a bunch of guys who are about to go off surfing or joy riding or something but in actual fact they will be spending the next 30 hours running the most efficient ultra race machine I have ever known.
Robbie asked me why I was at the front with all these thin people and so I scuttled to the back.
I vaguely remember most of the first few miles from the times I have run the Pilgrims Challenge, a fantastic XNRG two day event in Feburary. The usual melee of people I have not seen for a while shuttled alongside me for the first few hours. It was great to catch up with Tim Lambert after a while and then Martin Illott and Peter Johnson where obviously the conversation turned to the Spartathlon. There was plenty of nice running to be had here.
The first CP was about 7 miles in and James and the gang were all there cheering and mocking. The food was perfect; coke, sausage rolls, sweets and ham wraps. While seeing another runner try to explain "running 100 miles" to someone else I interrupted to say that it's basically just one long moving picnic.
I found myself on my own after not too long, around 22 miles was the infamous steps of Box Hill, I've done these many times before but I swear they have added some more steps, it seemed to take a lot longer to get up them. I am never sure whether it is easier to take the steps or just slowly shuffle up the slopey bit at the side. If the slopey bit was easier then why did they install the steps? Was it just for slinkys?
At the top of those I bumped into Gemma Carter who looked to be limping a bit. She seemed in really great spirits and chatted for a while about her training and stuff. She was going to drop out at the next CP and seemed really pleased to have a chat. I don't recall getting that many words into the conversation :)
When I arrived at the CP at around 24 miles I saw Sam Robson sat on a chair. Clearly his race had not gone so well which was a shame as he had amended his #11 to be a pair of side burns which was brilliant. Not sure what I could have done with my 174. Perhaps it is because he only had one burger last night and as we all know one burger is only good for about 25 miles. I only had about 2.5 burgers so was in danger myself.
I jogged on out of the checkpoint and had some really nice easy running, said hello to all the dog walkers and other runners coming in the opposite direction. One of them even said to me "nice blog". At least I think that's what he said. I actually got quite a few compliments about the blog today which obviously make me feel really pleased and glowy but I often struggle to find the right thing to say in response. I seem to feel more comfortable being called a fat slow bastard. So in future just say that. But buy the book. When it's out.
Gemma was texting me asking where I was and I said I reckon I had done about 30 miles and so was not too far to the next CP which I believed was at 31 miles. The other day while running Gemma commented that I was quite good at guessing the distance that I have run without a Garmin or even a watch. Guessing? I said. Guessing??? This is actually a skill I have been able to develop by not spending the last 3 years fucktarding myself with GPS devices. I actually reckon my accuracy would be comparable to these devices (about 5% out isn't it?). Plus I have an estimated 870,000 hour battery life, I don't break when I get wet, I don't have to stand outside like a spaz for ages to figure out that I am at zero miles and I think you'll agree I look way more stylish. Probably the hat.
I arrived at the 31 mile point in really good spirits and could have spent the afternoon enjoying the picnic as I had never seen such a spread of food available at a checkpoint. There was everything there and I gorged and moved on. Was told off for going to the food before giving Gemma a kiss though. The next CP had jelly and ice cream. Never had jelly and ice cream at a checkpoint before.
The terrain started to get a bit tougher (or you might say "technical" if you were some luvvie) which slowed progress. A beautiful combination of open fields and enclosed woods was keeping my attention. It's easy to forget the humidity though, slowly sapping your energy. I was actually testing some kit for the Spartathlon here, I plan on wearing these clothes in the race and wanted to make sure they didn't shred my nipples or balls. The wool works well in humidity, keeping the moisture on. A tip for running in humidity is to wear non-technical tops. And by technical I don't mean a top that has a few stones on it.
I tripped over on the same stone twice. That was annoying.
Anyhoo there were more big hills and on one long hill I got passed quite easily by a lady who I later discovered was Leila Rose who I knew of through forums. She was on her way to smashing her time from last year by over six hours and getting under 24 as a result. She was making it look easy, I however was not.
I only really entered this at the last minute as I was bored of not having a race for so long and I needed something to blog about. I helped out at at the South Downs Way 100 and decided to run this one instead of crewing and while I am crewing I get an itch to run but now I am running I was getting an itch to crew.
I got the the halfway point in about 10:30, making a 24 hour finish unlikely but I was determined to press on. The CP at 50 had Karen Webber written all over it. Loud rock music, hot food and people running around everywhere. It's only a matter of time before her checkpoints have dancing girls on roller skates. One for the suggestion box. Foxy Davy was there too in one of the rare weekends where he is not organising a marathon. Lindley and Sue were there crewing Leila and Gemma was getting me food and refilling. I spent a while in there before heading back out.
It had cooled a bit and now was a 10 mile section to the next CP. It occurred to me that this was just hurting much more than a race should do at 50 miles. I came here with the hope of having a "comfortable" 100 mile run but it certainly was not turning out like that. I have not run long distance for a while, not since the ill-fated GUCR double attempt where I only made 40 miles. With a couple of blisters and sore legs I just seemed to decide in an instant "fuck this, I am dropping out". I called Gemma and said I was going to bail at the next CP. Sixty miles is not a bad run. I'd love to say that I somehow performed heroics to get as far as I did, valiantly battling huge obstacles but in actual fact it was too hurty and I pussied out. The video clip below pretty much describes it.
Gemma came out to meet me to get some running done herself. I was happy to walk in but she was having none of it and making me run faster. "I've dropped out of the race, why are you making me overtake people?" Gemma delighted in the number of kissing gates, I said there had been loads and there was never anyone around to kiss, not even a badger. I went for a wee and Gemma was looking at me for some reason. I said "stop looking at me, I can't go" and her rather unexpected response was "well at least it's bigger than your balls this time". What the hell was that for?
With about two miles to go to the 60 mile point Gemma declared "there are no more kissing gates so I am going to leave you now". Excellent I can walk again. I rolled into the 60 mile point and met Chris Ette who returned the favour of checking me out of the race as I had done to him in the Piece of String race last year. I also saw Kris Duffy who was waiting for Kelly who went on to smash the race in 26 hours, her first 100 miler. This was after having a pretty horrific meal experience the night before when the pub told her (a vegan) that there may be dairy in her hummous. How the hell do cows get involved in the smulching of chick peas?
I am a little bit disappointed I did not finish but at the same time I have to preserve myself for the Spartathlon. Hopefully James Elson understands that there is only one race I will die trying in. The first thing I thought of on pulling out though was that I need to call Fiona at mile 90 to tell her that I was not going to make it there to eat her Pringles and as I picked up my phone she was calling me to ask what had happened. I felt bad but the phone call got cut short as she had to tend to Anthony Forsyth who was already at 90 miles and in contention for the win. In the end the winning time was an astonishing 15:44. Anthony did 16:03 - well done mate, sorry I didn't get much of a chance to chat beforehand.
Can't say enough about how good these events are though. If you are looking for your first 50 or 100 (or 2nd or 3rd or 27th), then Centurion Events are perfect.
Oh, and is it normal to generate huge amounts of ear wax while running? I felt like I made enough to cover the unlikely event of Prince Phillip's next birthday.
Oh and don't forget to LIKE MY BOOK