Another Ultramarathon Running Blog

2012 Thames Path 100

2012 Thames Path 100
Stouty and I took part in the Centurion Thames Path 100 mile run, this was going to be the second of our charity runs in aid of Cruse Bereavement (www.justgiving.com/runsuperherorun) and aswell as taking on the challenge of a 100 mile run with 200 fellow competitors, we were going to complete this dressed as Batman & Robin.
We had an early drive from Reading to Richmond and had collected fellow competitor Shane Benzie on the way. As is the norm before these big runs, I can’t say I had a good night sleep. I wasn’t feeling nervous at all (perhaps subconsciously you are) but I awoke very early knowing I had to be up to get a few things organised (breakfast, foot care etc) and am always conscious of being late.
We arrived at Richmond Town Hall at about 8am and there were a few other competitors about (Mimi, James, Dino and Paul Rushton who was crewing) as we registered and then got changed into full costume. I had a brief interview with BBC Radio Berkshire who had been following our progress (link here). I also met Trin for the first time (hello).
After a bit of banter on the Fetch forums about running the Richmond Park Run, James (Binks), Stouty and I decided to give it a go as a warm up before the race (in costume of course) and Gemma (Winelegs) kindly gave us a lift there, also ran the park run and delivered us back with plenty of time before the start.
The Park run was a bit of fun, however we sensibly decided to take it easy on the way round and posed for a couple of pictures with people before we set off. Half way round, some chap made a comment about not being beaten by Batman & Robin and so we upped the pace a bit for the last mile coming in just ahead of the 25 minute pacer in 24.11. It felt quite warm and Stouty and I were both baking in the costumes.

We did miss the race briefing (apologies to James and crew) but at least 1 of us had read the race instructions several times prior to the race and were comfortable with the race arrangements and we caught up with and chatted with a few more people prior to the race including Allan (Ogee), Jerry, fellow Reading Jogger Wendy, Sarah, Ultramarathonrunning.com’s Keith Godden, Peter Johnson, Jen Bradley and a few faces who saw us at the Thames Trot said hello.
Just prior to the start, there was time for a quick picture for the local paper (Richmond Times I believe) where we pulled a pretty cheesy superhero pose and grimace and we made our way down the steps to the riverbank and start of the race.
Our race plan was no secret really, we were aiming to run the first half to Henley in around 9-10 hrs where we would meet a couple of buddies who would run with us to just after Reading (The Boat Yard) where another buddy would turn up with pizza. We would then power-walk the night and try and pick up the running in the light, with the aim a sub 24hr finish. This would give us around 14 hrs for the second half, which was a power walk pace.
2012 Thames Path 100
2012 Thames Path 100
2012 Thames Path 100
2012 Thames Path 100
Race Start (Richmond) to Walton (12 miles)
We had a 5 second countdown to the start and nearly 200 people set off. I ran and chatted to Wendy for the first few miles briefly as Stouty ran behind chatting to Sarah. We tried to entice Jerry Smallwood with some pizza chat but he politely declined as he had his own personal plan and time. At this point it started to drizzle but was light enough not to cause a concern. Stouty and I were both armed with ponchos in case of emergency, as our normal rain jackets were unlikely to fit over our bulging biceps.
The first mile was a little crowded and as we had started somewhere near the back had found ourselves overtaking several people until everyone settled down into a pace which was comfortable for them. We were running 8.30 m/m, which was slightly ahead of the planned 9-10 m/m but this felt fine as we followed the Thames River westwards through Twickenham and Teddington.
We arrived at the first checkpoint at Teddington in around 1hr 45mins and paused to eat a few items of food and said hello to Mike who was marshalling before moving on in less than a couple of minutes. The plan had been to try and eat something at every aid station (however small) and hold out for the Pizza delivery at Reading as a main meal.

Walton to Wraysbury (12-22 miles)

I recall the next stage feeling really warm, Stouty and I were absolutely roasting in our costumes and perspiring quite heavily. We were averaging about 9.30 m/m pace which was spot on for our target pace here of 9-10 m/m. I ran along with Peter Johnson for a little while whom I keep bumping into at every event I enter.

I must admit to not feeling as fit and as fresh as I had done at the Thames Trot a few weeks before and suspected that I could (or should) have rested and tapered a bit more but didn’t voice my feelings for fear of being negative so early in the race.

I think we spotted Ian Berry around here supporting Sandra Bowers who finished 2ndlady and taking his usual high quality photos (a couple of which are displayed here – thanks Ian).
2012 Thames Path 100
(Photo Courtesy of Ian J Berry)
 In addition, I believe it was around here that we spotted a small group of naked cyclists in full race helmet and shoes but no clothes going at a brisk pace alongside the road we were following. I tried to catch a bit on video (for evidential for voyeuristic purposes you understand) but they were a little far ahead. I thought Stouty and I were a little crazy doing a 100-mile run in fancy dress.. naked? No chance!
2012 Thames Path 100
Wraysbury to Windsor (22-28 miles)
We arrived here at around 4hrs 40mins, which was spot on with our plan having averaged about 10m/m. The only item of interest I recall was when we were spotted by what looked like a hen do sailing in the opposite direction who gave us some loud cheers and waves. In fact, it was good fun to acknowledge and wave to the people all the way round. We high fived various children, stopped for several photos and generally put a few smiles on a few faces which was great fun.

We arrived at the Windsor checkpoint and spotted Dave and Nicky Sayer from the local running club who had come to support myself and Wendy despite never having met me before which was really nice of them.

This was our planned lunch stop and I ate a couple of ham wraps and sat in the fold out chair as Wendy ran in and out of the checkpoint.

As we left the checkpoint, we had spotted a couple of young Super Hero fans with their Mum (Pam) who I believe was supporting someone on the run. We took the opportunity of a photo with the Junior Super Heroes and I emailed it the Centurion link and believe it made it onto the website mid-race which just goes to show how the Centurion team have really embraced social media and modern reporting methods.

2012 Thames Path 100

 

 

(Photo Courtesy of Ian J Berry)

2012 Thames Path 100

Windsor to Cookham (28-38 miles)
The weather took a turn for the worse after here and I believe we experienced some hailstones, rain and then enjoyed the view of a double rainbow over the Thames.
Dave & Nicky Sayer turned up again although our pace had slowed through this leg and we were averaging over 11.30 m/m which was slower than the planned 10-11m/m.
We were still surprising a few random strangers as we ran past them. I heard Binks comment to one girl wearing a Batman hoodie that I bet she never expected to actually see Batman today.
We arrived and left the Cookham checkpoint at 6hrs 45mins which was just at the tail end of our 24 hr plan.
2012 Thames Path 100
2012 Thames Path 100

Cookham to Marlow (38-44 miles)
We definitely slowed at this phase to nearly 12 m/m and lost a bit of time on our planned 10-11 m/m pace as I took a few walking breaks as my stomach was a feeling a little queasy here. I felt like I needed some hot food which was going to be available in Henley.

2012 Thames Path 100

Marlow to Henley (44-51 miles)

We left Marlow at just after 8hrs and continued as we had done previously plodding along with the odd walking break making 12 m/m which was slower than we had planned. To be fair, Stouty was the stronger of the two of us here and dragged me along a bit.
It started to get dark and we pulled out our head torches. The costumer by this point had been pretty uncomfortable but at least they would act as an extra layer of warmth now!
We arrived at Henley and were met by a couple of friends (Matt B – Fetch Cheeky Conswala and Thomas Fetch T-Dogg who were going to jog with us back to Reading and join us for pizza. My Mum and Dad also made a guest appearance and had brought a tin of welsh cakes for us (a personal favourite of mine). I could tell my stomach wasn’t 100% as I nibbled on one but did manage a hot dog and a bowl of beans which went down pretty well.
I briefly saw James leaving as I had arrived and Gemma who must have missed him by minutes and caught up with Trin briefly.

I spoke to Adrian who was pacing Wendy and they were about 30 mins ahead of us. After a slightly longer stop than expected, we said our good byes and pressed on towards Reading.

2012 Thames Path 100

2012 Thames Path 100

Henley to Reading (51-58 miles)

We plodded to Reading with a combination of running and walking, tried to take it easy on the path near Sonning where there are lots of tree roots but I did stub my toe and take a tumble landing on the ground bruising my ego more than anything else although my toe was a little sore and dubbed throbbin’ Robin.

The pace here was around 14 m/m and slower than the planned 12-13 m/m and we were losing more time on our schedule. We picked it up a bit after crossing the Sonning Bridge, this area is near my workplace and a usual lunchtime run so we ran/walked onto the Reading checkpoint where we checked in but moved on quickly as we had a planned pizza stop in about 3 miles time.
Reading to Whitchurch (58-66 miles)
I made a call to another buddy Frank who was going to meet us ahead with some substantial warm food and spare kit which I was looking forward to.
Mentally, I was switching off a bit here as my appetite for running was diminishing as much as my appetite for warm food was increasing and I walked the last mile or so until we met Frank & Leevan.
Allan passed my metres before the pizza stop and we chatted briefly before he carried on after declining the offer of some food.
This was my major stop and I changed base-layer to a clean one, added another top as it was getting cold, applied more sudocrem to my feet and put a fresh pair of socks on. My planned milk-shake drink was scrapped in view of the dodgy stomach but I necked an energy drink and ate a couple of slices of pizza.
Unfortunately, we stopped here a lot longer than expected (Garmin suggests about 30 mins) and I didn’t realise how quickly time was passing. Stouty did prompt me a few times to get a move on as he was getting a bit cold and probably a bit fed up with me by now! However, I judge the time spent caring for the feet well spent as for the first time in a long race (from Ridgeway 85 up to GUCR 145) I actually suffered minimal blistering so the pre-race compeed/sudocrem/toe-sock/mid-race fresh socks and not changing shoes tactics had actually work and Stouty… well apparently it looked like he was suffering from trench foot at the end of the race.
We left Frank, Leevan, Matt and Thomas and marched on for a mile or two to let the food settle down. I plugged in my small speaker to my ipod and we had some music to accompany us for the next few hours and a little sing along on the way. We saw a fantastic full moon surrounded by a halo effect which is supposed to be caused by the refraction of moonlight from ice crystals in the atmosphere. Folklore suggests that this ring around the moon signifies bad weather is coming, so it appears someone knew how Sunday was going to pan out.
Our planned pace from this point onwards was a fast walk 15-16 m/m and we made 13.30 m/m on average so had started to run again and clawed back a little of our time.
As we approached Whitchurch a marshal was well positioned near the bridge giving directions to the aid station which was great but he did indicate we were about 30 mins over the 24 hr time limit so had a bit of work to do. We stopped briefly at Whitchurch for a cup of tea and then moved on.
Whitchurch to Streatley (66-71 miles)
I think it was here when I finally mentally just switched off. Stouty had been dragging me along since before Henley and now I got to a point where I had little motivation for running, the conversation at this point went something like this.
Stouty “Do you fancy running now?”
Paul “In a minute”
(Waits a minute)
Stouty “Do you fancy running now?”
Paul “No”
(Stouty starts to run)
(Paul starts to follow)
(Paul stops)
Stouty “Do you fancy running now?”
And so on for several miles.
We travelled along the path from the aid station to the track path and hills which run parallel but not next to the Thames and made our way to Streatley where we were greeted by Dick Kearn with a cup of tea and a hot dog. I was managing to eat food at each point although the stomach didn’t feel 100%, so this was ok.
Stouty did comment to me that he thought a few people doubted that we would actually finish the run in the fancy dress costumes and if we kept going we would prove them wrong. I don’t know who the “few people” were or even if they thought that but the comment stuck with me for a bit.
Streatley to Benson (71-79 miles)
This was a long and hard stretch and Stouty dragged me through this phase of the night, the costume was really uncomfortable and I was suffering neck chaffing. We did run little (but not much) as our pace averaged around 14.30 m/m so we clawed a bit of time back again.
As we neared the checkpoint, Stouty ran ahead to fill up bottles and grab some tea’s to save some time as I plodded in behind him. Slightly disappointed with no sugar in the tea at this point but decided to walk on with the tea and drink this as we continued. I think it was here that I gave Stouty some spare batteries I was carrying as his headlight was dimming.
Benson to Little Wittenham (79-83 miles)
This was probably one of the worst legs for me. I was falling asleep on my feet and had to grab Stouty’s backpack and hold on as he dragged me on. I was inwardly cursing myself for forgetting to pick up my pro-plus tablets and caffeine stimulant when we had our Reading stop and I was suffering from sleep deprivation and tiredness here.
I recall falling over again and must have bumped my head as I’ve still got a small lump on the side of my head as I write this but it wasn’t anything serious.
Stouty told me afterwards that I kept swearing to myself aswell so not sure exactly what was going through my head but I wasn’t in a happy place and had totally switched off at this point. I do recall mentally cancelling every other ultra race I had booked this year and I was looking for excuses aswell.
Upon reflection, these are the moments you have to endure when you take on a long run and this is why I was slightly disappointed with myself during the run as I wasn’t mentally as strong as I would have liked. I guess you have good and bad days at the office and this certainly felt like a bad one! However, despite this I was physically just marching on and had no doubt I wouldn’t finish the race probably more disappointed I wasn’t going to get to the end in the manner I would have liked (i.e. run a bit more and been in a more positive frame of mind).
I met Kerry Aylmer and Anthony Low (Good to meet you at last!) at this aid station and we stopped briefly for a cup of tea (no sugar again) and spoke briefly too Helen who had arrived shortly before us. Anthony did a good job of waiting outside the aid station flashing his headlight and directing runners straight to him.
Little Wittenham to Abingdon (83-91 miles)
It started to get a little bit lighter which helped wake me from my slumber but this was a long stretch between aid stations and it felt tough especially as the pace had slowed to just over 16.30 m/m.
As we got closer to Abingdon and light, Stouty decided to run on ahead hoping to encourage me to move which I stubbornly refused to do. (The mind is “determined” when positive but “stubborn” when negative)
I was at the point where I was working out if I could make the 24 hr finish at the marching pace I was going and I was going to be ok if I didn’t waste any more time at checkpoints. Therefore as I got to the Abingdon Cricket Club, I marched in checked in and then checked out despite Stouty organising some tea and a plate of beans. “Can’t stop, catch me up” I said to him as I left.
Abingdon to Lower Radley (91-95 miles)
The rain was a little heavier now and ground conditions were really muddy. A friend of mine Katy was going to meet me and run in from Lower Radley but I texted her and said not to bother as it wouldn’t have been much fun, my sense of humour had been left behind near Streatley.
Stouty caught up with me half a mile on from the checkpoint and then ran on. I did jog a little to keep him in sight but then decided to carry on marching as the rain got a little heavier. I did briefly think about getting the poncho out but with 9 miles to go I couldn’t be bothered as I was pretty much soaked through already.
I shot a bit of video of the conditions in which I look pretty beat up as I approached the Lower Radley aid station to find this being crewed by Claire and Drew who took a picture and kindly updated twitter on my progress which I had stopped doing so much due to the rain. I saw Paul (Blackbird Leys Boy) at the checkpoint aswell but didn’t stop to chat.
Katy has actually come out to meet me to say hello and I felt a bit guilty when I walked in and then straight out of the checkpoint mustering a small jog for the benefit of the people watching me leave the aid station but a little while later it was back to marching. At this point the muddy path was fast becoming a bit of a quagmire.
Lower Radley to Oxford (95-100 miles)
Katy had actually driven ahead a couple of miles and waited for me under a bridge and decided to walk with me to the finish anyway which was kind of her and it meant I had some company for the last couple of miles. There was no suggestion of running at this point and we marched along the river passing the Oxford rowing club and had a few brief conversations with a few people wondering what the hell a battered and beat up Superhero was doing plodding down the river.
One lady cyclist was so impressed with my story that met me again a short while after I spoke to her and thrust a £20 note in my direction towards our charity which was a lovely and generous act of kindness to a total stranger and gave me a little lift.

I chatted with Katy as we strode to the finish and she commented that I was reasonably articulate in my conversation but perhaps wasn’t looking my best.

 

The rain was still coming down as we followed the directions to the finish. Aside from a small slip at Dorney, I found the course very well marked with the ribbon and glow sticks although it helped that I was familiar with the second half of the route having done the Thames Trot a few times.
As we approached the finish, I saw one runner ahead and decided to jog in the last couple of hundred yards. At the end Stouty and Matt B were shouting at me to sprint finish so I quickened the pace (wouldn’t quite call it a sprint) and went past David (I think) who waved me past him to finish in 23 hrs 29 mins in 53rd position and under the 24 hr target despite marching the last 20 miles or so solidly and a fair few miles before that.

The Race Director James awarded me the finisher’s medal and buckle (which was nice and heavy) and technical t-shirt and I grabbed a cup of tea and got changed to find steam coming of my body and shoes.

2012 Thames Path 100

I spotted a few familiar faces at the finish. Wendy had finished about 45 mins ahead in 43rd position and 4th lady which was a great result and she was accompanied by Adrian who had buddy run the second half with her. Dino had finished a few minutes ahead aswell and Paul Rushton was marshalling at this point. Stouty had finished about 30 minutes ahead of me in 23 hrs and 42 seconds in 45th position overall.
Other finishers were starting to arrive as the 24hr mark approached and I didn’t want to hog a seat in the tent so got changed and Matt gave myself Stouty and Dino a lift back to Reading where I dozed in the car a bit.
Overall, I found the event to be well organised event. Pre-race the quality of information on the website is second to none and I like the fact that they include twitter updates and live tracking. I understand the website did crash under the demand but this can be fixed next time.
I have to say the marshalling was good as there were a few familiar faces at various checkpoints (thanks for the support guys) but I did like the appearance of the marshals at odd points (Whitchurch Bridge for example) to help direct people around.
The only minor criticisms I heard was a lack of sugar and coffee and potential lack of hot food at later points (but not sure if that transpired or not).
The directions were absolutely spot on course marking was excellent (despite the slight mix up at Dorney Lake). Overall, I would be very happy to participate in another Centurion event (in fact I’ve already entered the Winter 100 in November)
Due to the worsening weather conditions I did hear the race was cancelled a couple of hours after I finished after a couple of runners required medical treatment and remaining runners were pulled from the course.
However, these people have been classed as finishers and have also been offered a free entry next year which is a generous and welcome gesture by the Centurion team, so I can’t see there should be any complaints about the outcome.
For me, slightly mixed emotions overall. I achieved the target but disappointed I switched off during the night which was a bit of a downer. However, a 100-mile race is not meant to be easy so perhaps I’m being a little hard on myself. Well done to Stouty who was the “strong silent type” during the night. I guess that’s why he’s Batman and I’m the side-kick!
Well done to the Centurion team for a good event and to all the runners who took part. Next time, I need to get more photos and video clips of everyone aswell!
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