This year was my 5th time starting the Centurion Running Thames Path 100. I had failed to finish in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Then I finally managed to finish it in 2017 in a time of 26:11:27. This year I was looking to better my time.
In the run up to this race I had taken a different approach to training, namely fewer overall runs but much more focus on long runs. Training had also gone quite well, I’d managed to get a good few months in and was injury free. In the few days before I was oddly calm, which is unlike me.
Before The Start
I’d tried leaving from home on the first train (6am) on a couple of prior attempt. However this always felt like making things harder. Relying on trains, a 4:30am wake up and carting bags across the underground. None of those are conducive to a easy and stress free morning. This time I’d opted to stay locally the night before.
I caught the train to Richmond and made my way to the hotel. I posted a message on the Centurion Facebook group to see who else was staying locally and asked about dinner plans.
Russell Tullet and I met up and had a pizza in a local place. Another guy on the next table who was running the race for the first time also joined us.
Back in the hotel for about 8pm, I had a quick shower, faffed around a bit and then turned in for an early night.
I woke around 6am feeling refreshed, but lazed around till 7:30.
Breakfast was a yoghurt / fruit / granola thing I’d bought the day before, some Belvita breakfast bites and a tea and coffee.
I then headed to Race HQ for the usual Centurion slick registration, kit check, drop bag process. With all that done I was ready to go.
I met a few people I knew milling about at the start, waiting for the off. Everybody was eager to get going, the weather was good and there was a general sense of excitement.
After a race briefing from James and a short countdown the horn blew and the Thames Path 100 – 2019 edition was off.
There’s generally a bit of bunching up of the first couple of miles until people start to thin out a little. After this, for the next 20 or 30 miles, I find is usually the time I chat to other runners. Everyone is still fresh and full of excitement.
I made sure, at each aid station, I grabbed a few items into a doggy bag to slowed for the next mile or so while I ate them. This minimised the time at aid stations and worked well. The other thing I did this time was to wash my face off at every change. Every indoor aid station I nipped to the lo and just splashed a few handfuls of water on myself. Probably just mental, bit I felt like it gave me a bit of a boost.
I’m not really a big fan of the bit through Windsor/Eton, and over the bridge, but I trudged on. I usually have a bad-ish spell at about 30-35 miles, and the same thing happened in this event. I was glad to get to the Marlow area, where there was a little detour due to some works going on. There was a short sharp shower here and by the time I stopped and put my waterproof on it was virtually over.
After the detour the next section was enjoyable and it felt like I was moving well (12 min/mile pace).
At Henley (half way point) I got my drop bag, quickly got changed and had some food. I took a small bag of talcum powder to rub on my feet before changing socks, which worked a treat. As well as clean socks I also had a spare pair of shoes for the second half. Probably took around 20 minutes getting myself sorted. and ready to move on to the night section
Out of Henley, I kept up a reasonable pace (for me, in the back half of a 100 miler), of 14-15 min/miles. Still moving well, and getting towards ‘home ground’ – Reading.
At Reading aid station I put on another layer. I knew from painful experience how cold it can get by the Thames along the section from Reading to Pangbourne (it led to a DNF of the Thames Path 100 in 2016). The section went well and before I knew it I was at Whitchurch.
There I met a friend I knew from Strava, but had never met in ‘real life’ – Giacomo Squintani. He’s a great runner, does tons of miles/week and I thought he’d be way further on, but he mentioned he was struggling on this one. We had a short chat, I wished him well and got myself prep’d and out the door towards Goring.
I kept up a decent pace after Goring for the next 15ish miles. It’s a pretty bleak section past Benson and over the fields to Clifton Hampden. I just cracked on, jogged little bits where I could and fast walked where I couldn’t.
It was getting light as I got to Abingdon at 91 miles in. I just stopped for a water bottle refill and then cracked on. This section, the last 9 miles, went really well.
Not sure if the new day and perked me up, but I was pushing on now. I covered these last 9 miles in the 32nd fastest time of runners that day – which I was really happy with. More running than not, albeit at a pretty slow pace.
A sub 24 hour finish was on, but my brain wasn’t working well and kept getting lost on the calculations. At the final section of path before turning in to the field I was amazed to see 23:15 on the clock. I pushed on for a 23:16:05 finish. A Thames Path 100 PB for me by almost 3 hours and a 100 mile PB by over 15 minutes.
Very pleased !
A few lessons learnt and things to do next time:
- Splashing / washing face at every opportunity.
- Doggy bag for aid station food.
- Don’t wear a luminous yellow hat for finish line photos.
- Build on the new training structure.
Next up is the South Downs Way 100, in 5 weeks.