I arrive at this race in the same way each year. A bit flabby from a Christmas spent boozing and a bit knackered from a 30 mile run the week before.
This time I had the added drag of spending most of December ill so I am a bit out of practice at this running lark. But let's not make this one of those blogs where I rattle out a load of excuses for why I am slow. I am slow because I have done fuck all about it for 2 years. That's going to change this year. 2015 I am going to finish some epic shit again.
I start this race with 7 hours in mind. I know I should be capable of nearer 6 but 6 point something is always well received. 7 plus is a bit tardy. Funny how we get hung up on numbers.
This race always offers different weather and as we started it snowed. The race to the gate was ridiculous as usual, won by Tim Adams this year who had been training specifically for this. I actually wore Adidas racing flats though really because they are the best shoe I have ever worn for British mud running.
Running as fast as you can for 400 metres down hill sure does loosen your bowels.
My approach to this race is to always try hard for the first half and see what is left on the canal. The first 20ish miles are about half road and half mud. The freezing conditions technicalised the mud into level 4.7 sky running grade. It also covered some of the corners in black ice which I managed to take full advantage of.
I started too quick as people were passing me fairly constantly from the first checkpoint. At each and every checkpoint the staff would look at my knee and ask whether I wanted it cleaning. I said no, I look cool like this and chicks dig gashed legs.
The scenery was lovely as usual and the snow made it even better. You can probably get an idea of how beautiful it looked from this picture which is only 93% my own stupid face.
This is now my 6th running of the event and you would have thought that I would know where I am going. I don't know "the way" as such but there are certain turns that I recognise and take. However I am not always sure whether I remembering the right way or the wrong way that I took the previous year. This was as I started running with a couple of girls (Sarah and friend who didn't recognise me from my arse) and I assured them that I probably knew where I was going.
I only actually took one wrong turning, going straight on down a trail when I should have gone right. I ended up seeing Sarah coming back. we decided to just carry on and re-join the course via a really busy road. One of those roads that goes from a 30 speed limit to a 60.
Half way and the trail turns into the canal. This is a welcome sight, it means that you are half way and it means you are on a canal. At this point I was close to Rob who said on facebook earlier that week that he might end up pushing someone into the canal with the week he's had. I let him pass. The sun came out. The geese are not yet psychotic as they will be in May when they think anyone running on the towpath is trying to eat one of their babies.
We had Goose for Christmas. Still have a fridge full of goose fat. They are really tasty. I am doing the GUCR without support in May so might need to eat them. I'll bring some parsnips.
Anyhoo the canal part of the run was fairly standard. I slowed and slowed, hoping to be able to get there in under 7 hours but realising it was slipping out of my reach.
I did have the following conversation with a chap who was running his first ultra
Him - So have you run stuff like this before?
Me - Yeah I've been doing this for about 8 years now. This is actually the 6th time I'm doing this
Him - OH MY GOD!!! What other races have you done?
Me (since we are on a canal) - Have you heard of the Grand Union Canal Race? I've done that one
Him- OH MY GOD!!!! That 145 mile one along the canal. What's the hardest race you have ever done
Me- Erm, have you heard of a race called the Spartathlon?
Him - OH MY GOD!!!!
Me (thinking) - Don't mention LANY, don't mention LANY
Him - I just read this book about a guy who ran across the USA and he stopped all the time to eat big macs
Me - OH MY GOD!!!!
I had to go for a wee and he was running faster than me so I wished him all the best and soon caught up with Drew and Claire who had overtaken me 30 miles ago when I stopped to have a shit. It was good to see them again and good in a horrid schadenfraude sort of way to see that Drew was feeling f****d too even though this was his 7th time of running this event. I do believe he has the WORLD RECORD!!!! for fastest time to do 7 country to capital races. You'll probably see him in the book next year alongside the fastest person to run a marathon dressed as a character from Frozen.
The last miles of the canal were a bit of a slog, though this was the first time I have run along this canal since I left London over 6 months ago. I used to commute on this and lived just off it (near the last Sainsbury's).
So the last few miles became a jog down memory lane. The bridge over the wonderful North Circular that is the boundary of London proper and smells of curry. The bridge I used to piss next to when I was running home from the pub, the Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury's, where I'd try to sneakily eat a bag of pork scratchings before getting home. Trellic tower, the worlds ugliest building, the Grand Union Pub that sells beer from about 10 different London breweries. Basically I was just wanting to get to the pub as soon as possible and eventually I did, 7.17 after I started. Not terrible but not great either.
So until next year....