The Thames Path 100 was my first long ultra in ages and I wasn’t feeling super prepared for it being on the way back from injury with a lack of long runs (or warm up events to build the distance), quality runs and still rehabbing a longstanding piriformis injury (although acupuncture 2 days before the race did help) and a healthy dose of lack of motivation.
I had started running after injury since the start of the year but its only been in recent weeks that I have felt as if I have started to turn a corner and if I’m being honest I’ve been going through the motions with the training at present so wasn’t expecting much from the race, a finish would do.
Having said hello to a few people on the start line and being accused of sandbagging I tried to move back away from the frontline but was deliberately blocked by Hammett and Beechey and had to endure a mile or so of feeling like a tit at the front of the race at the start knowing I wouldn’t be anyone near the front at the end of the race before a couple of ‘tactical wee stops’ allowed me drop off and settle into the pack somewhere.
At the start with the “Beechatron”
I have run this event a few times previously and was comfortable with the race setup and logistics. We set out from Richmond following the Thames Path west towards Kingston and Walton on Thames and despite running a few sections with a few different people met up with Jay Macdonald and we ran quite a bit of the race together.
The weather was pretty strange, it was sunny, bright but felt cool and I pretty much wore my light gloves from the start for most of the race. We also had a couple of odd showers and light hailstones at one point but there was nothing overly dramatic with the weather.
Early miles with supercool Jay M
My best side
My head wasn’t quite into the race and I was thankful for Jay’s company where we chatted about everything but running for a good few hours which really helped pass the time. My pacing was fairly sensible for the first few checkpoints in the 8.30-9m/m range but I slowed after the 20 mile mark (the longest distance I’d run in training) but still trundled on at a steady pace.
Checkpoint stops were a bit longer than planned as I took a few opportunities to try and use the indoor toilets and a lock toilet where available. There was no major issue, I just needed to use the loo but it took until my 4th attempt at Streatley until I managed this properly! At each Aid Station I picked up some snacks, topped up my water and walked half a mile eating on the go before settling into a run once again.
Looking at the watch was frustrating as I was judging my current run on previous performances when fitter so it was all a little depressing but tried to put this out of my mind and just get through the race. The Centurion volunteers and helpers were of the usual high standard, keen, helpful and in good spirits.. same as usual really!
After another aborted loo stop at the toilets in Henley, I arrived at the half-way point around 8.5 hours just about plodding along.. just.
I had some hot food there and said hello to fellow RJ (Reading Jogger) Alex Whearity who was going to buddy run/pace Wendy who arrived mere moments after me and ran straight through. As I got to Reading I met Stouty who had agreed to meet me and run with me to Streatley. This was the first time we had run together in ages and it was great to catch up. I was still running at this point but the pace was pretty slow.. ‘trundling’ is probably the appropriate word here.
Despite a few short walk breaks, we trundled our way past Reading, through Mapledurham and towards Whitchurch when it started to get dark. My effort levels were failing but I did make sure I ran the entire field section through Mapledurham towards Whitchurch Bridge. In the past (before the fences were placed there) that section seemed to take ages, in reality its only about 2 miles so I mentally willed myself to plod that section without stopping.
Pictured at the Bridge over the railway line at Reading with my running ‘wife’ Stouty
As I arrived near Streatley, Stouty headed off home having covered a 20ish mile stretch with me and I was left to my own devices as I reached Streatley with Jay having run on ahead earlier. The toilet at Streatley was a mighty relief (at last) and I headed out around 10pm with about 30 miles to go.
I knew it would get cold down by the river so put my jacket and extra gloves on and started to plod (and trying to avoid the various tree roots around this section). I did ok for a few miles and then all of a sudden totally and utterly ran out of steam both physically and mentally and hit a wall.
Trundling through Whitchurch to Streatley
I tried to lift myself out of the doldrums by running half a mile then walking half a mile, it took me 14 mins to run 1/2 a mile and walk half a mile and 16 mins to just walk a mile and I convinced myself it wasn’t worth the effort of running. As predicted, the temperature was cold by the river at night and now having slowed to a fast walking pace I was feeling the chill and wrapped up further and settled into a march.
From that point, the last 25 miles was a depressing and soul destroying walk to the finish. I sort of knew I might run out of steam but am not sure whether this was a case of a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ or whether I genuinely had ‘run out of fitness’. I felt like I could have tried harder and was pretty disappointed with myself. I can’t really complain about any niggles as despite a couple of small blisters on my toes my legs actually felt ok and I wasn’t really suffering the same level of sore quads/stiff legs at this point in the race but then I hadn’t run it that hard at all.
I didn’t have any company for the rest of the night apart from a number of runners who came past me at different stages of the night. I think the cold weather kept me awake pretty well as I didn’t suffer that usual night drowsiness for a change.
Dawn broke as I started to get closer to the finish and I casually strolled into the finish area at about 6am. Despite some encouragement to jog over the finish line, there was little point faking an effort at the end and I walked over the line and straight towards the indoor area at the finish for a warm cup of tea.
The final finish time was 20.5 hours which was sort of expected but disappointing that my fitness and mental attitude wasn’t in a better place. I can’t really complain about any niggles as everything felt ok. I don’t think I was really mentally invested in the race which showed and I’m sorry to say I didn’t feel much elation at the finish at all.
I didn’t bother with a finish line pic (sorry Stuart.. I wasn’t in the mood and really wanted a cup of tea and a sit down after a long walk!) but I do have a nice picture of my ankle which ballooned up for no apparent reason the next couple of days.
Thanks to the Centurion team and army of supporters for once again putting on a well organised event. I have to put a shout out to Paul Beechey who despite being vastly under trained this year (running wise.. not rowing wise) put in a storming performance finishing 3rd overall and to Wendy Whearity who finished 3rd lady overall. Well done guys, great runs!
From my perspective, I’m not really enjoying the running at the moment and it’s showing in my training and race effort (or lack thereof) and I’ll need to rethink racing plans over the summer. On a positive note I’ve got a 100 miler under my belt and 3-4 months to train for Sparta but I do need to rekindle my passion for running somehow over the next couple of months which is definitely waning.
Thanks for reading the blog!