Having never ‘competed’ in a multi-day ultra, when my coach Rory Coleman suggested it I was both very excited and apprehensive.
Set on the stunning historic Ridgeway, runners start near Lewknor in Oxfordshire and finish by the Avebury Stones in Wiltshire, covering a total distance of 100km. Some people chose to run the race in one, whilst others, including me, took part in the Weekender competition which was 50km Saturday and 50km Sunday with a base camp in between each day. There were also options to run one of either of the two days.
We could pack everything we would need overnight in a large bag, leave it at the start and pick it up for the night at base camp and repeat for day 2 where we would find it at the end. In my naivety, I literally packed everything. I’m scared of being cold (I needn’t have worried, turns out it was the hottest weekend so far in the year) so big hoodies, thick sleeping bags etc were all packed. Turns out my bag was the heaviest and largest there lol. Lesson learnt.
However, this meant I could ‘race’ light knowing everything I needed for recovery in between days would be there waiting for me.
I had entered the race simply just to complete, to put together two 30+ miles a day and to experience new scenery and run with like-minded people.
So, at 7.10 am on Saturday 9th July I crossed the start line of this inaugural race series. Lots and lots of runners, everyone excited about what lay ahead and I totally got caught up in this buzz. Having tapered through the week leading up to the event my legs felt fresh. Rory and some of his other coachees were also taking part in the race which proved invaluable to me.
In a nutshell, I went a bit quick first half of Saturday and struggled a bit second half. But I dragged myself over the finish line of day 1 around the midday mark, maybe a bit after, and then had all of Saturday afternoon to recover.
Amazing weather, a great catering tent, phone charging points, showers, tents in lines all ready for us and our bags available for pick up meant this was some form of clamping. What an introduction to multi day run events.
The DJ man on the microphone welcoming all the finishers through was absolutely brilliant. I have no idea of his name but he is really good fun and made a fabulous atmosphere as finishers gathered by the finishing line cheering on runners as they made it to the end of day 1.
The glorious weather certainly helped and as the sun set on the first day, the vibe in base camp was fantastic. People helping each other out, sat chatting, some people sat reading. I spent the evening stretching in the yoga tent, using my massage gun and applying a bit of taping to help with cramping muscles overnight. Recovery shake in at 8pm I headed to ‘bed’ where I have to say, I slept brilliantly.
0400hrs and those of us who were up early enough were treated to a spectacular sunrise. This seemed like a special moment and one of God’s gifts.
Due to the heat, organisers had agreed to let us start an hour earlier than planned which meant we could get going at 5am. So bag packed up and dropped off again, race ready I set off with a few runners that also wanted to take advantage of the early start.
Another beautiful day. I paced it a lot more sensibly after a talking to from my coach and far less runners to get excited with. I passed a couple of walkers who were doing the 100km in one go- I assume they had slept a few hours at one of the pit stops…
At 10.04am I crossed the final finish line. What an experience. The first Weekender to finish and the DJ man (I must find out his name) was there at the finish line again high fiving and welcoming home all runners.
The weather was amazing from start to finish, the Ridgeway offered spectacular views across some of Britain’s finest countryside and the incredible team of race marshals, volunteers and the fabulously stocked pit stops made this race a truly fantastic experience.
The weekend was capped off by discovering, once I was home, that I was first female home and 5th overall. Maybe I’m not too bad at this ultra stuff!
Huge thank you to the organisers. Definitely worth putting on the list, even if you’re just a walker. I cannot recommend it enough.