FINALLY !!! After three failed attempts, this year I finally completed the Thames Path 100.
In 2013 2015 and 2016 I started this race and each time DNF’d at around 70-75 miles…
2013 was lack of training / distance that caused me drop at 76 miles
2014 I didn’t make the start line due to injury
2015 was again lack of training / distance
2016 was a stupid mistake of not taking warm enough spare clothing (and likely over-confidence after completing the Autumn 100 well in 2015) that caused me to drop at 70ish miles.
Things were getting ridiculous.
I upped my training and make sure I did a bunch of longer stuff. I got some decent long runs done during December ’16 as base miles and did the Thames Trot 50 and the Test Way Ultra early in 2017, both of which went very well (apart from the slight detour I took at the Test Way).
As 2016 had been a failure due to
stupidity incorrect kit I was determined to not make that same mistake again. I made a list, revised it, scrubbed some items, added some others, then started again.
A couple of nights before the event James Elson posted a note about drop bag size, which another round of revisions and paring down.
I had planned to get the train in to Richmond on the day of the event. There’s a 6:30 train leaving my home station that gets me in in plenty of time, but luckily I got an offer of a lift from another local runner, Charlotte Davey, who was also running (as part of the 100 mile Grand Slam !).
That made getting to Richmond a lot easier, and we arrived there with plenty of time.
It was the usual super efficient registration, that Centurion events are known for. Kit check, in exchange for a token, token in exchange for a race number. I also picked up my Hydrapak cups (all Centurion events are cupless now) – can’t believe how small those things crush up to..
I had around an hour to kill, so I headed off to grab a coffee and a quick bite to eat.
Quick race briefing at 9:45, and a few last minute ‘Good Lucks’ to various people and then we were off.
My ‘high level’ race plan was run to Henley is less than 10 hours then try to get to Goring in 5-6 hours and do the last 25 miles in 6-7 hours. I had confidence from the Thames Trot and the Test Way that I could get to Henley sub 10, the Henley -> Goring section I know very well, so should be able to keep a reasonable pace at, and the last section – just crank out ~4ish mph.
To start, I was trying to keep things around 9:00-9:30/mi which is probably a little fast, but it felt easy enough so I cracked on. The first aid station at Walton on Thames came around pretty quickly and checking my Garmin I was about dead on target. It was good to get to Walton Bridge (familiar from Phoenix Running events).
Next section was okay too. I kept a similar pace going. Always like getting to the Wraysbury aid station – indoors and always plenty of people around cheering everyone on.
The next section to Dorney I usually find tough – you’ve run 25+ miles, it’s built up, roads etc. Not my favourite. I was also feeling some pain in my knees at this stage (maybe I had pushed too hard during the Test Way 4 week before). I took a few walking breaks around here and spent a few miles at 11-12/mi pace. Anyway, I pushed on and was happy to get to 30 miles in just under 5 hours.
Dorney to Henley I find hard going. There’s a couple of aid stations in between, but I don’t know this section very well, so it was a case of head down and grind it out. At this stage my focus was on getting to Henley. My feet were starting to ache, knees were giving me pain and the thought of a few minutes, a change of socks/shoes and a bite to eat was the thing that was driving me. Although I now down to about 12-13/mi pace I was happy to get to Henley (51 miles) in 9:46:05
Probably took me around 20 minutes to sort myself out here. Change of shorts, top, socks and top, headtorch on, portable charger to recharge my Garmin and another warm layer for the night section just in case (no repeat of last years schoolboy mistake). I grabbed a tea and some food and headed out – 51 miles done, 10:05 on the clock.
Henley to Reading I’ve run a bunch of times, so I know it well. Through Shiplake, over Sonning Bridge and through the fields to the Watersports Centre. Although this section is only 8 miles, it took me 2 hours. I was definitely starting to struggle now – a lot of pain from my knees. Getting to Reading was a relief (apart from having to climb the stairs to the aid station). I got there with 12 hours on the clock.
I refuelled with some sausage rolls, nuts and biscuits, and a cup of tea. Paul Ali was manning this aid station and asked how things were going (in a manner that basically said you better not DNF this year!!). I knew it was going to be a long slog but I resolved to grind it out. Only 42 miles left….
Those 42 miles took me 14 hours – it should have been around 10 hours, but knee pain meant I was resigned to 3 mph pace for the rest of the race. Man it was a slow, painful slog, but it needed grinding out.
Much of it is a blur as I was in own little world. I do recall trudging over the fields to Clifton Hampden and having to walk to the aid station there. Then a bunch more fields to Abingdon.
Abingdon aid station was funny. There was a chap there, sat down having given up (mentally). The crew there just flatly refused to let him. Every line of encouragement you’ve ever heard… Offers of pain killers, tea, coffee, lucozade… nothing was too much for them to get this guy out.
Eventually, as I was leaving, I told him I was marching it in at 3 mph and he should join me. The aid station crew latched on to this and virtually pushed him back out onto the trail…
We walked/marched together for a few miles, and he was full of doom and gloom… The ground was too tough on his feet (errr… it’s a trail race), overnight events weren’t for him etc etc. but… he was still going.
His family came to meet him just before the Radley aid station (95 miles) and he completely changed his tune (how great things were, it’s an awesome race etc… lol).
For me the final 2 or 3 miles were the worst. I could shuffle a little here and there, but those miles went on forever. I knew the finish was off to my left with a building close by. Ever field on my left, I scanned for that building, but so many of them seemed to be fields of reeds… Signposts saying ‘Oxford 2 miles’, all of life was conspiring against me to make this longer.
My brother had agreed to pick me up from the finish, and in my overly optimistic view (pre-race) I would be finishing between 8 and 10am. I eventually met him sitting on a bench just before the finish at around 12:05. He walked the last half mile or so with me. Then it was a case of putting on a smile and shuffling through the gate and down the finish funnel.
Thames Path 100 – 2017 – 101 miles – 26:11:27