The Ridgeway 40 is primarily a Long Distance Walkers event which allows runners to participate. The route covers 40 miles of the Ridgeway from Marlborough to Streatley. The event (I won’t call it a race as it’s pretty non-competitive) bears all the hallmarks of a good LDWA event, good value for money, friendly marshals and of course plenty of tea & cake en route.
This was my third “crossing” (the term they use to describe completions) and I’ve used this as a training run in the build up to the GUCR each time in the past as it normally falls 2-3 weeks before the event so a good opportunity to complete a last long training run.
I was planning on running the event with Alex Whearity & Paul Beechey (who are also running the GUCR) so this worked out well for all of us as a good training run. We paid for the coach from the finish at Streatley Youth Hostel and travelled to the start.
On the morning of the race I was feeling pretty rotten suffering cough/cold flu symptoms for the past couple of days and not sleeping well. My throat was feeling raw and my body was producing copious amounts of nasal mucus. I had woken up at a ridiculous time of 3.30am despite not having to leave home until just before 6am and was feeling petty tired and lethargic. I had been pretty tempted just to stay at home but not doing the 40 mile training run would have left a bit of a gap in the training and I would have felt pretty guilty about it so I went through the motions of getting ready and leaving before meeting the guys at the start.
The runners were requested to take the last coach which we did as it was possible when running that we could arrive at planned Checkpoints before they were setup. The race organisers noted down each person on the coach and then mark the timing the coach arrives as your start time. With at least 3 coaches and people travelling directly to the start themselves then people tend to leave typically within a half an hour window.
As we arrived at the start, we posed for a quick selfie with fellow Reading Joggers James Greaves and Tim Grant before we set off.
Reading Joggers, photo by James Greaves
At the start we immediately felt the strong headwind which was opposing us and which didn’t let up for the rest of the run. However, the weather was fairly cool so ideal temperatures for running. Alex, Paul and I set out and overtook quite a few of the walkers within the first few miles before we had a clear view ahead.
Paul wasn’t feeling 100% at the start, neither was I and Alex was quite happy to tag along with us and so we all jogged along at a comfortable pace up and down the undulating paths and trails of the Ridgeway. I just wanted to get a few miles under my belt, get some fresh air, clear my head from the cough/cold and get into a bit of a run.
About 5 miles into the race, I took a comedy fall, rolled my ankle, falling to my front, grazed my elbow and landed on some stinging nettles. I could immediately ‘feel’ the ankle and after the guys helped me to my feet took some ibuprofen. From years of playing football, I knew it was one of this injuries which might be a little uncomfortable but I could carry on running as long as I kept it mobile and moving but it would certainly swell up when I’ve finished (and this proved to be the case.. as I’m writing this the ankle is being iced).
We carried on running and soon passed Barbury Castle and onto the first Checkpoint. As this was primarily a walkers event, Checkpoint locations were pretty close to each other ranging from 9 miles at the start to a very short one 2 miles apart near the end. At each Checkpoint you were required to have your marker ‘clipped’ and number noted as evidence of covering the route. There were even some portaloos at several of the Checkpoints.
On average these were about 5 miles apart which meant plenty of opportunity to top up water and grab a few snacks if needed. I probably carried enough food and water to get through most of the event and only topped up my water a couple of times and grabbed a few snacks.
Alex, Paul and I chatted as we carried on running. We occasionally hiked the odd climb and a couple of times eased back on the pace when we felt the effort level was rising and took it nice and comfortably. I could feel the ankle with each step but it the discomfort was manageable.
We were near the front of the runners/walkers with only two other runners (Carl and Dan) leapfrogging us from time to time until we got to the half-way mark which saw the start of the 20 mile event which started halfway and also finished in Streatley.
The rest of the run was spent, chatting, moving past Checkpoints, running pretty much all the route and we were making good progress despite the headwind. It was nice to hit the Chain Hill point which marks the turn point of Leg 3 of the Autumn 100 as the route is very familiar from there and it also feels more ‘downhill’ from this point aswell.
Despite feeling under the weather at the start (and despite the tumble… and a second tumble later on the same ankle later on) the run went quite well and I felt ok throughout the whole event.
We did arrive at the last Checkpoint just as they were setting up (so a note to potential runners to remember not to go too quickly) and whilst they were awaiting the marshal with the clipper they did note our numbers before we carried on. We then covered off the last few miles coming off the Ridgeway onto the road and into Streatley before heading to the finish location at the Village Hall (it used to be the Youth Hostel).
My Garmin recorded our running time of 5hrs 53mins which compares pretty well to my last two efforts of 6hrs 30mins and 7hrs 41mins. The official time may vary slightly as it was recorded from the time we left the coach. Paul, Alex and I were the first people to arrive at the finish location with Dan, Carl and another runner following closely behind us but with varied start and finish times any of us could potentially have recorded the quickest finish time but I should once again stress it’s a non-competitive event with no prizes for coming first or last and they don’t generally list the results in finish time order.
Reading Joggers Ultra Team (minus Barry & Wendy)
Overall, the event did exactly what it was designed to do and provided us all with a good long training run effort at a steady pace a few weeks before the GUCR.
Thanks to the organisers of the Ridgeway 40 event and all the marshals who would be out on the course for the majority of the day (the cut off is about 13 hours). It was an enjoyable day and very good value for money. Well done to everyone who took part and complete ‘the crossing’.
Ridgeway event website can be found here
Next up is a ‘birthday marathon’ run in a weeks time around a track which will probably be a 90% effort followed by my first 10k event in 4 years the week after before my first ‘longer’ ultra of the year with one of my favourite UK races, the GUCR where I will be aiming for finish number 6.
Ankle pic, after icing.