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1 Prospect Court
The Broadway
Farnham Common
Bucks SL2 3QQ
01753 647339
Unit 1, Prospect Court, The Broadway, Farnham Common, Bucks SL2 3QQ - Telephone: 01753 647339

Ryan's Thames Path 100 mile 2017 race

I reckoned I was about 85% there with training towards Thames Path 100 miles. Runners are never certain if they’ve done sufficient training, or the right type for 100 miles. Get to the start line as fit and as healthy as possible. I managed both, if not for a niggle in the groin that had come on in the last month. At least it was the last part of training.
I hadn’t done any training runs longer than 29m, mostly comprised of some 10m morning runs, followed by 10m afternoon (commute) runs to break them up, plus smaller versions of those runs. Also a couple of little marathons thrown in. Wasn’t sure if I should have done a 50m race or not. By the race weekend it was immaterial, nothing more to be done.

I had a crew of two, my ever-supportive wife Tania and ever-keen friend Phil. Both have been there for me on previous epic events I’ve done, but at least 10 years ago. So here we were, older and hopefully wiser. Phil loves getting stuck into stats and logistics which was fantastic for me to leave navigation and, if I wanted it, time updates for a predicted finish. This event is well supported by the organisers so wasn’t 100% reliant on crew to provide me with all my replenishment needs. In the past they’ve dashed to next checkpoints, not because I had a speed wobble, but to set up gas cookers, prepare foodstuffs, etc. In this race, Centurion Running provide decent spread of nutrition at all checkpoints, with hot food after halfway. Also, we’d been unlucky with the weather in some past events, so they were rushing around to keep warm as well!
The three of us are at the start in Richmond feeling under less pressure as our meticulous plans were in place. An overstuffed car of extra clothing, food and water was safely parked in a pre-paid car park (much less stress than driving to a race and trying to find parking!). All that needed to take place was the start.

I was dedicating my race to my cousin currently battling with cancer. With all the agony she's been going through, this seemed the least I could do. It certainly put everything into perspective for me.

A fairly low-key countdown set off around 300 runners from Richmond at 10am. I chatted to a couple of runners in the early stages clearly on a run/walk strategy to hopefully stave off too much walking later on and delay the inevitable fatigue. I enquired of them what strategy they were using. One was regularly passing me and I was passing him. He told me he was doing 4 minutes of running, 2 of walking after the first 4 minutes. I hadn’t heard of that strategy before. I saw he had finished about 45 minutes ahead of me after the race so it clearly got him to the end before 24 hours.
Spencer Milbery was doing 9 minutes of running, 1 of walking. Another doing 25/5. It got me wondering there and then should I adopt a similar approach? The conditions were ideal – coolish and dry underfoot, great to (relatively) push on too hard too early on and end up walking too long too slowly later on burnt out. I reckoned I’d run comfortably within myself, walk around the aid stations, or when I felt like it. There were no hills to aim to walk up, this is a very flat race. A downside according to some runners around me early on, or was it a convenient (but valid) excuse to get in early? Having varied terrain will break up the engagement of the same muscles. Whatever the theory, we still had 100 miles to cover.

This worked fairly well for me, trying not to think too far ahead, bank some time and run comfortably for as long as possible. I was carrying a tracker I’d obtained from and having friends and family track me. This motivated me knowing I was being ‘followed’, not to speed up, just to keep going! Tania would periodically inform me she was receiving messages from friends all over the world on social media urging me on, telling me I was mad (heard this before many times!) and they were inspired. All hugely motivational for me. The power of social media right there. Centurion Running doesn’t issue GPS trackers like some other events, but update runners’ progress at some checkpoints. This was a near-live update of my progress.

Having not run a single distance of further than 50 miles in the last few years was a fact I was trying to shove further and further back in my mind. It’s been (almost to the day) 10 years since I completed GUCR, 145 miles in 41 hours. Despite it being a long time ago I was trying to bring that up the queue in the row of positive thoughts I was reaching for. I knew that would be the main way I was going to complete this event.
And thus it was. Reaching halfway (Henley) around 8pm, still on target for sub-24 I knew the slog was coming on. Thankfully Tania and I had done some recce runs along these sections where the path veers away from the river which can become daunting at night when fatigued and dark. That was a mental lift as many have got lost finding their way back to the river.
Steady progress through Reading (58m) I ran with Lee, we had run together on and off earlier and were going at a similar pace. I wanted to walk a bit more but he had a run/walk strategy going which I fell in with. We picked up another runner I was also with earlier, Colin, and the 3 of us stuck together from mile 60 until 85. Lee was leading the walk/run strategy and we blindly followed! It was great not having to think as much.
I did wonder at one stage if we were walking a bit too much. I was in two minds as the walking was quite nice, but conscious it could be hampering my ambitions of a sub-24 finish. But at the time with 30 miles to go I reckoned I could possibly afford the walks now to potentially run later when I needed, so I hoped. But in ultras, anything can go wrong at any time.
The ground was very dry (rather that than wet) and subsequently rutted in parts, so extra care needed through grass and in the night to be sure an ankle doesn’t turn on the numerous uneven surfaces.

I was fortunate I was not suffering with stomach issues or blisters. I’d had hot beans with the crew at halfway, a bit of soup at Streatley (71m), didn’t fancy sweet biscuits. I was glugging at the Tailwind energy drink provided (first time I’d used it, bit risky to do that but by all accounts it doesn’t upset most peoples’ stomachs. Such it proved for me). This strategy seemed to be working for me so didn’t try to shove anything more than I could inside me for the sake of it. I was also eating a lot of fruit provided by Tania which I was enjoying – cold, sweet and hydrating.
With daybreak and the inevitable new lease of life, we reached a point Colin and I wanted to run a bit more and walk less, so we took over the strategy and ran a bit more. Lee followed. I tried to walk fast during the walking breaks, but I am not a fast walker so had to jog to catch up at times. Something I need to work on.

At 85m checkpoint knowing I would finish, just a matter of within 24 or not. Phil informed me I needed to do around 14 min/mile to do it. Just a bit faster than my current run/walk strategy. That would be fair bit of running on already sore legs, and some walking. I can do this. Buoyed on by this I set off before the other two to walk off some tea and bits of food I actually fancied at the time. Colin ran past me saying he was on a roll. Lee caught up and we walked with another who was going to walk 15 min/mile in to the finish. I knew I was incapable of this, so set off in pursuit of Colin, inspired by his effort at this stage. Lee was seemingly spent and I had a good spell moving away from him but not catching Colin. He was man possessed and subsequently finished half an hour ahead of me. What an effort.

An executive decision was made for Tania to join me with 9 miles to go at Abingdon aid station. We’d discussed her running with me at some stages in the night (buddy runners only allowed after halfway) but as I was with the two guys I didn’t need her. Now on my own the timing was perfect. Her instruction was to keep me moving, cajoling me with singing and telling jokes! My sense of humour had certainly failed by now, but it was still having a positive effect. Also reading messages on social media to me which were were sinking in and pushing me along.
Relatively little fatigue from going through the night, the lure of the end was huge, down to single figure miles. A few others in the know on the towpath informed us less than 6km to go. Still a drag but within reach. Mild panic with 20 minutes until the 24 hour cut-off, the finish seemingly not in sight. Each corner of the towpath not revealing a field with CENTURION RUNNING banners. Asked a couple of runners already finished and walking away with dread how much further, hoping they wouldn’t say “Couple of miles and you’re there!” Instead, the angels they were, said “Round this corner, you’ll see the field! Well done!” Relief when saw they were right.

A finish and within 24 hours, 23h47 my time. As it turned out I was the final recipient of the ‘100 Miles In A Day’ buckle. Emotional finish with the crew, friends Sooz and Michael had made the trip out to see me in which was appreciative. Only mild relief at finishing, as usual my positive attitude was such that I knew I would almost certainly finish, barring any unforeseen circumstances, which luckily for me I never had.
115th finisher (not that that matters) out of 205 finishers within the 28 hour cut-off. 88 retired. It was great and inspiring to see familiar faces at the finish helping out, who have also completed epic and long events. But for now I was wallowing in my achievement.

Expecting to chat excitedly with the crew on the way home lasted 15 minutes, then the fatigue hit hard! For them as well. A decorated front door with chocolate and balloons from our running neighbours Julie and Danny brought my achievement to the fore once again! Had the rest of Sunday afternoon to snooze, couldn’t eat much dinner but slept well that night!
Managed a 4k walk/run on the Tuesday to try flush legs out, a massage that day, but a week on still fatigued and no more running!

My Brooks Caldera were the perfect shoe for me – cushioned, light grip (didn’t need too much) and slightly wider for expanding feet. I had taken extra shoes but had no desire to change. I wore gaiters the whole way as well to prevent debris creeping in.

Some of the timings Phil documented if anyone's interested in some stats!

16th January 2019  Sable
Are there races in November or December 2019 in Europe?
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