As my own biggest critic, it’s very rare for me to be entirely satisfied with my running performance, so when this one came good, I figured it was worth a blog mention.
In the lead up to CW50 I was balancing high volume training with injury management, not an easy thing but I just about made it through a 200 mile month with just a few niggles associated with an ongoing foot and knee problem.
My biggest concern facing this event was to get through it without any of my injuries rearing their ugly heads. The cut off time was 13 hours and a total elevation of 5,600 feet. I’d have been pleased to have finished in under 12 hours and without having to manage pain - anything else was just a bonus.
Centurion Running organises this event and I’d heard great things about them, so with no pressure to ‘perform’ and the knowledge that I was guaranteed beautiful scenery (the Chilterns) I was really quite excited about this race and sharing yet another adventure with my running buddy, Caroline. The forecast looked perfect and the race organiser confirmed that conditions underfoot were also looking good.
There was a strong starting field of experienced ultra runners and some familiar faces from previous events. 28% of the field were women, the highest of any @centurionrunning event to date and I was proud to be part of that stat. After a detailed race briefing by Centurion Running founder James Elson, the race started promptly at 9am.
Following a post I saw on Instagram after the West Country 100 miler whereby the winning lady of the ‘Hilly 50’, Rachel Pixie talked about having no race strategy other than to go hard and find out what she could do, it left me curious as to what I was capable of if I let myself off the reigns, ditched conformity and just ran. I mentioned this to Caroline in the first couple of miles and as always she was right on board. The only condition we set was to maintain a ‘chatty’ pace which we managed throughout.
The Chiltern Wonderland 50 course starts at Goring-on-Thames and sets off along the river before it peels off across fields and climbs into the Chiltern hills. It offers a stunning backdrop throughout, with plenty of undulations and technical woodland trails. There are five well stocked aid stations throughout the course and the marshals were incredibly helpful with refilling bottles, offers of hot drinks and anything else we needed. The pre-mixed Tailwind was also a nice little touch by Centurion. Even though we were made to feel so welcome and comfortable, we were in and out of each aid station within a few minutes, totalling just 30 mins of refuel time across the 50 miles.
Among the many things I love about ultra marathons, is the people you meet along the way. There is such a strong sense of camaraderie among this tight knit community and I’m lucky to have met some amazing people in recent years, each with their own experience and story - this ultra was no different. We chatted and ran with a few different people which always helps the miles pass by quicker.
It wasn’t all smiles throughout though. I spent a good 20 miles feeling sick and really struggled to get anything other than fruit down me, and I guess after a few too many slices of pineapple, the fructose acid didn’t help the situation. I was hungry and started to feel decidedly heavy legged as my concerns grew. I took some indigestion tablets which I had in my back pack which eventually helped ease the nausea. By the final checkpoint I was able to get some cake and a cup of sugary tea down me - 9.5 miles to the finish and finally I felt good again.
Just a few miles before CP5 we realised that if we could maintain the same pace, we would finish in under 10 hours. So now with less than 2 hours of running left and the majority of the big hills out of the way, Caroline and I had a new focus and with that a nice little energy boost.
The last few miles flew by and before we knew it we were on the outskirts of Goring, winding our way through the alleys and streets. Our pace was strong and we felt good given that we had best part of 50 miles in our legs.
We were prepared to be running for around 12 hours (using previous 50 milers as a time guide) and in the dark. We ran strong finishing in 9.53 hours (a 2 hour personal best for 50 Miles), in day light, joint 12th female finishers and 65th out of 240 runners.
We received a very warm welcome at race HQ by the volunteers and our fellow runners. It was a great atmosphere as everyone revelled in their achievements.
Thank you Centurion Running and all of the volunteers for putting on such a fantastic event.
Photo credit to Stuart March Photography @stumarchphoto for the great pics.