The Thames Trot is a 47 (ish) mile ultra race, hosted by GoBeyond. It runs from Iffley, near Oxford, to Henley ‘down’ the Thames Path.
After having a great time running the it in 2016, I had signed up for it again this year (and I expect it’ll be a regular feature on my calendar now).
Last year I wanted a sub 9 hour finish but ran a 9:25. I wasn’t too disappointed with that as the weather (and mud) was pretty horrendous. Anyway, this year training had gone well and I wanted my sub 9 hour finish.
Early start, train to Reading, train to Oxford, minibus to the Hawkwell House Hotel, registration etc all happened smoothly. The folks at GoBeyond have a pretty slick operation going.
I had a cup of coffee, got changed and pinned on my race number. Then I handed over my drop bag and picked up my timer wristband – all set.
Race briefing at 8:20ish and then off we went at 8:30.
I knew from last year that when you get to the river there’s a gate thing to go through that always gets jammed. It also get pretty jammed (and muddy) in the first part of the Thames Path.
So, I headed off pretty quickly to try and beat the rush. I reckoned 7:30/8:00 minute miles for the first mile or two, to get in a position where I wasn’t being held up with a queue in front of me (and hopefully not holding others up behind me).
It definitely worked, and after a bit I settled down to a more realistic pace.
Weather this year was a bit better than last year, but there is no getting away from the mud around that area, even after a few dry days. It’s the kind of mud that clogs up the lugs on your shoes (whichever brand) and you end up running with feet that weigh somewhere between 3 and 10 kilos each ! I was wearing Hoka Challengers so with the platforms on those babies, as well as another 3 inches of mud stuck to the bottom, I was probably hovering around the dizzy heights of 6ft !
Quite a few bits in the early part of the race are effectively ‘single file’, and I settled into a steady pace with a group of 3 or 4 people.
Training had gone well, and I was feeling good. The mud was causing a few slips here and there but nothing too bad. I felt like I was covering ground faster than last year, mainly because I wasn’t being held up, and I was slipping around less.
After around an hour we came to Abingdon where the parkrun was just finishing up. A few of the runners there hung around to clap and offer a bit of encouragement. A few miles later I bumped into Charlotte Davey running the opposite way, she was out supporting Karsh and getting some TP100 training in.
Although I’ve run this route before and other races on this part of the Thames Path, I got ‘navigationally misplaced’ just after Benson. I missed the turn off for the weir and took a bit of a detour round the town, eventually coming over the bridge into Wallingford and back on to the route.
The next section from Wallingford to Moulsford is one of my favourites. It is also around half way at this point. I was getting a bit of a blister by this point (had forgotten to Vaseline up my toes), so the next 4 ish miles to Streatley were uncomfortable.
At the Streatley aid station I took a few minutes to sort out the blister, but removing Dirty Girl gaiters and mud clogged shoes took longer than I though and I probably lost around 20 minutes here.
Streatley to Reading is another favourite part for me. There was a bit of walking as the path rises up out of Streatley, but I was still running well at this point and feeling strong. After getting through the wooded section it’s along a lane then down Whitchurch hill, over Pangbourne bridge and onto the open fields. For some reason everyone seems to think these fields go on forever / miles. I measured it a while back – 2 miles exactly.
At some point during this section I was having lot of shoulder pain, so I stopped and took a couple of paracetamol. Started again, and just got my head down and pushed on for the Purley upon Thames aid station. By now I’d covered around 34 miles and was still running/shuffling pretty well – about 10-11 minute miles.
The next section, through Reading, is ‘home territory’ for me as I work there and frequently run bits of this at lunchtimes. I was on autopilot, cracking on, pushing for a 8:30 finish which looked to be on the cards if I could keep the current pace up.
Its good running, on decent tow paths in this section, so I pushed on to the Sonning Bridge aid station at about 42 miles, getting there in 7:39. With only 5 miles to go an 8:30 finish was getting away from me.
Not sure if I gave up on it here, but the next 5 miles were a good couple of minutes per miles slower. The terrain is a little harder, and it was late in the race, but the next 5 ish miles took me about 1:05. Not sure I could have pushed these out at 10 minute miles for an 8:30
I love the last part of this race, out into the middle of the Thames on a wooden bridge and then sweeps back in again. After this there’s a little paved section then the finish…
Official time 8:45:56
A full 40 minutes faster than last year. Inside the 9 hours that I was looking for, and likely sub 8:30 if I hadn’t had to mess around at Streatley with a blister.
Looking back and comparing this years metrics with last years, I was around 20 minutes up (this year) at Streatley, but promptly lost those 20 minutes. The real gain came in the last 20 miles where I made up 40 minutes, simply by not slowing down so much.
More longer training runs obviously helped. More to build upon for next year…