It’s been three weeks since the 2015 running of the Thames Path 100, so I know this is a bit later than most of the race reports but I wanted to take some time to reflect on it and try to capture an objective viewpoint rather than the miserable, selfloathing, negative viewpoint that is usual after a DNF (Did Not Finish).
Yes, DNF, again – I am considering renaming this website/blog to ‘DNFs.com’
For those that know me, I have history with this race – DNF’d after 76 miles in 2013, injured 2 weeks before the start in 2014 so didn’t race – now I get to report another DNF after 74 miles.
Leading up to the race I had high confidence that I’d finish it this year – even had ideas of a sub 24hr finish. Training had gone pretty well, lots of back to backs, long runs 2 or 3 times per week and a few select runs that really built my confidence. I did miss my usual long tester (normally a 40 miler about 5-7 weeks before), but I did get a double commute long run day in (18m to work, 18m home) that I thought made up for it.
There were a few hiccups in the final 4 – 6 weeks, most noticeably a hideous bout of man-flu about 3 weeks before than had me hardly move for 10 days, never mind run – but I don’t think that those contributed in any significant way to the DNF.
Anyway – back to the race…
I decided to stay in London near the start in Richmond so that I could have an easier morning this time around (last time was a 5am start from home in Thatcham, to get to the race HQ in Richmond in time – as I’d be running through the night I wanted to avoid that early start again). I decided on a small hotel in Chiswick. Surprisingly I had a good nights sleep and an easy morning, got everything packed and jumped on the tube for the 10 mins to Richmond and then the short walk to race HQ.
After the obligatory kit check, handing in drop bags and seeing some familiar faces I headed to the river. There I met the amazing Richard Kell, who I had run with before on one of his hair brained schemes and who is looking to have a magnificent year. We chatted for a bit, then the race briefing started. A few minutes later the horn sounded and we were off.
First 25 Miles
The first few miles were lovely along the Thames, a bit of sun and some short chats with various peeps. As the morning turned to afternoon and we passed the first aid station at Walton on Thames, the sun came out a bit more and for early May it was actually quite hot. I made a point of spending as little time as possible in the aid station, only topping up water and having a as much to drink as I though my stomach could handle, also walking for a few minutes after leaving the station as I scoffed the handfuls of food I’d grabbed – this worked well.
For some reason I was craving fruit today – every aid station saw me devouring fruit, melon, grapes, satsumas and anything else – I was worried I might pay the price with a number of toilet stops later, but that never happened.
By around 20-25 miles I could feel hotspots starting to build on the balls of my feet – it’s pretty unusual for me to get blisters, so I guess this could be down to the 10 day man-flu lay off. I started to get the impression that it was going to be a tough slog later, by just my general state – but at this stage still confident.
25 Miles to Halfway
From around this point – just as we were getting towards Windsor – I buddied up with another guy. We had been passing each other back and forward for a few miles, had a few chats, so it seemed we were moving at about the same speed. This worked well for both of us and we both wittered on about various aspects of our lives, plans, races we’d run, training regimes etc – it definitely helped pass the time.
Through Windsor and towards the next aid station was okay, as it was so hot a few people had run out of water, and the next station seemed to be a mile or two further than people had expected. I think by this aid station (Dorney at 30.5m) I could feel the hot spots were going to turn into blisters. Still with the guy I had buddied up with, we pushed on making reasonable time at around 5mph. As we got to 40ish miles we slowed a bit but still jogging along for large stretches before walking for a bit. After the aid station at Hurley (44m) we knew it was only a short (7m) section to Henley where our first drop bag was. I kept pushing the pace with fast walking (13-14 mins per mile) interspersed with jogging. We were both suffering with blisters by the time we got to Henley and had agreed to try and keep it to 15 mins at the aid station for a quick change of clothes and seeing to our blisters…
I was disappointed to get here a couple of hours later than I had planned, but ‘hey ho’. I got changed, spend time popping blisters (but no liquid came out ?) and taping them up a bit. Quick bite of food, cup of tea to go and we were off – thinking we had a F1 style super fast pit stop – but it was actually over 30 mins…
Henley (Halfway) to Streatley (71 miles)
This next section was tough. It was dark, the efforts I’d taken on blisters had been no help and getting started after having sat for too long was painful. On the positive side I new this section well having run it a number of times, also we were coming towards Reading which I know very well. I kept up a decent march (given my state) over this section, I could sense that the guy I had buddied up with was flagging a bit now and the conversation from him turned to ‘not sure if I can go on’ a couple of times. I didn’t want to get pulled into that conversation as it would have been easy to talk myself into it too, so as we got to Sonning Bridge my buddy had started chatting to someone else, I put on a bit of ‘speed’ and pulled a few hundred metres in front. Then I started jogging for sections – by the time I got to the Reading aid station I think I had pulled about 10 minutes in front.
Climbing the stairs to the aid station was painful, but walking in to the warmth and friendly atmosphere gave me a lift. I saw Paul Ali there, he got me a cup of tea, I quickly checked out my blisters again (although there was nothing I could do really), grabbed a bunch of food and quickly headed out – I think I was in there for no more than 5 minutes. The next section to Whitchurch I run parts of multiple times per week, I hobbled along the riverside path to Tilehurst then it leaves the river for a bit, gets a little hilly and eventually joins the river again near Pangbourne. This all went okay and I pushed through Whitchurch aid station pretty quickly – food, quick cup of warm tea and then another warm to to go.
At this stage (67 miles) I was still thinking about a sub 24 finish. If I could do the next 4 miles (to Streatley) in an hour, then I could walk it in at 3mph and get under 24hrs. The next 4 miles took me around 1:45. It’s a pretty tough (after running all day and half the night) section with a few tough short hills/descents and my quads were shot…
Getting to Streatley was good. By this stage I was feeling the pain from the blisters with every step (that hideous sensation of feeling the liquid squidge around with every step) and the front of my ankle joint was swollen/painful but both of those I could ignore/put up with/push through. I spent a few minutes at Streatley, had some hot food and then the guys there told me “18min/mile to the end for a finish”. I got myself out of there and pushed on, felt like I was getting a quick march going and I was optimistic about finishing – it was going to be hard, long and painful but I thought I could do it.
My Last bit (71 to 74 miles)
Somewhere I went wrong here, missed a turning or a sign and ended up for too long on the road and not being able to find a way back to the river – so I just cracked on along the road knowing it would take me to Moulsford where the route joined this road anyway. I had my head down and was powerwalking. I felt tired but elated, morning was breaking, the sky was getting brighter – it was amazing…
As I reached Moulsford I started to get ITB pain – it had happened a few times already but a couple of minutes backing off had sorted it out. I backed off to an easier walk for a bit but it wouldn’t go this time. I continued through Moulsford having met up with the route again, but I was slowing – the ITB pain was stopping me from bending my right leg, so it was a limp and it was slow as hell.
I guess that that point I knew it was over – it wasn’t so much of a “I don’t think I can do this”, or “the pain is too much” – more of a realization that if I could not bend my knee then I wouldn’t have the speed/time to finish. I walked on through it (very slowly) for a mile or so but I could tell it wasn’t going away. As I hit the top of Moulford I decided to call the RD and let him know I was done. Unfortunately there was no transport available, and he suggested I head on to the next aid station (3 miles).
I remembered that I had asked my brother to pick me up from the end, and by now it was 6am, so I called him and asked him to come pick me up – he agreed and I settled down by the side of the road.
Virtually every car that went by, and every person checked I was okay and did I need any help – I must have looked a right sight, laying by the side of the road, wrapped in a foil blanket, unable to move.
Anyway, there ends my Thames Path 100 (2015) effort. Another DNF… On the positive side I did learn a lot :-
- Mental attitude – kept going, didn’t get dragged into ‘’”can’t go on” discussions.
- Decent energy levels throughout.
- Kit was all fine – apart from maybe socks (did they contribute to hot spots/blisters?).
- Didn’t ‘waste’ time at aid stations.
- Overall an enjoyable experience
- My puny legs can’t handle the stress/impact (at the moment)
What will I do differently next time ?
- Longer back to backs in training – I think I need to be running 25+15 kinda distances on a B2B – at least every other week
- More focus on time on feet – this is where I think I’ve gone wrong (I have the energy, but my knee can’t take the full distance)
- Increased weekly mileage (add more miles at a slower pace, and more double run days) – I need to be around 80+ instead of 60
- Less faster efforts (limit speed work to once per week) – try to keep in Zone 1-2
- Saturday Night Marathon (25th July)
- Saturday Night Marathon (19th September)
- Autumn 100 (17th October)
- 2016 Thames Path 100 !!!