Running The Country to Capital Ultra Marathon
You know what? There’s part of me that wants me to fail in ultras or other races so I have a story tell. Reading successful race reports is really the author just listing events, facts and trivial observations like “my left foot still existed at 23 miles but I’m pretty certain my left testicle started crying for it’s people in the direction of Alpha Centauri’.
If you shit yourself or you get disqualified for taking a bus to the finish line, then the blogs write themselves.
Writing this Country to Capital race report was therefore fucking agony as nothing dramatic happened.
Phase 1 – Stiles, ice and more fucking stiles
At the start I was pumped up as fuck and was annoyed that there was queues for the stiles. I have this suboptimal strategy where I always carry a water bottle with me and when I come to a stile or a fence I hurl the fucking thing over to the other side like a grenade and then pick it up after I’ve awkwardly clambered over to the fetch it.
I must have climbed over 5 stiles in the first 2 miles. It was getting fucking ridiculous.
Luckily the terrain wasn’t as bad as expected in the 1st section. The biggest problem for me was the ice on some of the downhill stretches. That shit is fucking terrifying and I took to walking down some of them. My imagination gets the best of me sometimes and I can see me gliding downhill on ice, doing the splits and ripping my groin in half.
The first rest stop was good, the crew were very helpful and there was enough food there considering the really low entry price.
Phase 2 – Tricky mud, lots of rain, lots of swearing and some annoying hills.
It started raining and I started swearing at all of the weathermen who had promised wall to wall sunshine for most of the fucking day.
I kept slowing down on the really muddy bits and got agitated when others were behind me. I started to panic and slip around and I honestly felt like a nuisance whenever a queue would form behind me to pass me.
I also tripped over two separate tree roots within the space of a minute here. When I hit the first one I shouted “fuck!” with a pack of people behind me. When I hit the second one I shouted “GET FUCKED!”. Fuck only knows what would have happened if I’d hit a hat trick.
I hate when I get bitchy like that. I’m not a terribly nice person to be around.
When I think back to how I behaved in my 27 hour trek to Brighton, I’m surprised someone didn’t fucking shoot me.
Phase 3 – It starts snowing, I get lost and country starts to become the capital..
I got lost 3km after checkpoint 2. I followed the wrong arm of the South Bucks way. If I’d been shooting for a specific time I’d have lost my shit at this point, but I kept calm, retraced my steps and let my watch guide back on course.
Navigating with the Fenix 3 saved me a lot of the time. I loaded up the GPX course file onto it before the run and set it as my active course at each checkpoint. The watch has a data screen that tells you how much of the course is left and the direction to follow to stay on course represented by an arrow which is controlled by the inbuilt compass. It works so well that even a clueless wanker like me only got lost once over the course of 43 miles.
It was after this that things got easier for me. The sun came out as I was passing through more urban areas with roads and footpaths that were free of ice, allowing me to make up some of the time lost in my earlier detour.
When I got onto the canal I fucking rejoiced.
Phase 4 – Coasting on the towpath. Easy. Nothing much happened.
I lost my shit at the turn towards the Paddington Arm of the canal. The canal path was muddy as hell for 2 miles and I got back into my “fuck’s sake” kind of mindset where I was bitching at puddles and generally feeling aggrieved at being FORCED through this shit again.
The mud didn’t last long and I was soon back on path. But the greatest obstacle lay just ahead.
Literally 1000’s of these Luftwaffe cunts. Everywhere.
I’m not great with birds even on a good day. I tried to pick the least muscular swan, raised my water bottle towards it as if to say “Cheers” and edged my way around it. Luckily it moved out of the way.
Temperamental wee cunts.
Phase 5 – Flow
Nothing fucking happened. I ran. Moved my legs up and down. My lungs were nomming on oxygen and my body was converting it to carbon dioxide. Some serious left leg then right leg then left leg again shit on the go. Thrilling.
Phase 6 – Finish the fucking thing and try not to blind any West London likely lads.
I put on my head lamp and decided to just go for it. I knew I wasn’t gonna be running for much longer than an hour so I switched the Petzl onto “burn a hole through the Sun” mode. It was perhaps a little selfish of me, but I have fucking poor eye sight and no depth perception and the last thing I needed was a quick dip in the canal after 40 fucking miles.
I got reprimanded by this fucking angry old geezer who took exception to my gung-ho full headlights approach. He said something like “Mate that light is blinding and not in the good fucking London way!”
I didn’t know what he was talking about and I’m assuming neither did he.
Someone also stopped me for directions with only 0.6km to go and I ended up pointing them in the right way but I took the wrong direction myself. That is almost the perfect metaphor for this blog over the past 5 years.
I wanted to prove to myself that I was still able to run long distances at the weekend. Mission accomplished.
I finished in 8 hours 51 minutes and ran the 2nd half of the race considerably faster than the first which was to be expected as I haven’t ran in the countryside very much before. I have my reasons.
Thom Yorke writing Fake Plastic Trees.
Enjoying the day
My attitude towards running has been evolving slowly and I hope it continues as I don’t want to return to being who I was before.
You can either treat ultramarathons as another trial where you have to get under a certain time limit OR ELSE or as a nice day out where you can see some countryside, meet some people and challenge your limits.
The best way to think about an ultramarathon is to consider it a way that you can spend all day doing something that you enjoy doing. You don’t go on a fishing trip thinking ‘fucking hell I have to spend all day with this rod reeling in fish’. If you practice running it becomes easy to move. Easy as walking was before you started exercising. It becomes something you do to get away from everything else and the miles drift by.
Pain becomes mild discomfort and that slowly turns into nothing.
A lot of people take up running in the hope that it will get easier for them over time, not because they are weak, but because they want to make a positive and permanent lifestyle change.
It really does get easier if you stick with it.
I think the problem with ultramarathons is the name. Ultra. That makes me think of muscular men with six packs throwing up on themselves as they drag their pet horse with rope on a 814 mile training run.