After 9 enjoyable training weeks running 488 miles since my 85 miles it was time to run another 100 mile. The reason for entering so soon was not to waste 6 months training and also to have a go at a self-sufficient event. This means that competitors need to carry all their food so 5 to 6000 calories to last duration of race, mandatory kit and 2 and half litres of fluid. With only 3 checkpoints to pick up fluid and an additional water point at 13 miles you were not allowed to receive help from anyone giving you food and drink. I relished the challenge although my pack was between 6 and 7 kg in weight.
The last few weeks since not completing the South Downs race have been interesting. After the initial I didn't finish it always best to turn it to positive. I completed 85 miles and fellow runners mostly have been encouraging and supportive but I have received some negative and mocking behaviours. We all make different choices in life and running is no different. The way I see it is that I can do anything I put my mind to and that's exactly what I have done and will do. I will not give up and capable of running whatever distance I like. When running bigger distances a lot more factors to dnf come into play as most can appreciate.
As far as this race went there were a lot of positive and negatives but I just didn't stop for a very long time. I met some fellow runners at the pasta party at Thames Barrier cafe, which was the start of the race the following morning. I had earnt my place to be there, competing in 5 ultras before. There were experienced ultra-runners and first timers but all were very welcoming.
There is an understanding on the start line that will you help anyone, whether it running alongside or sharing kit or food.
There were 45 in total, 22 running the T100 like me with the rest running the whole T 184 miles of the Thames Amazing! But something I need to get my head round if indeed I'm going to run across Scotland. I need to do a lot more night running, and not just around Gorleston, and push myself a lot more but get to that later.
My kit was checked that I had the list of 15 +items on the list. My pack weighed a lot but I soon got used to it. As we headed off at 10.30am it was a beautiful day and temperatures expected to be 27/ 28 degrees. The first half marathon took in a lot of sights heading straight away past the O2, Greenwich and Tower of London. Met Steve a fellow teacher and a couple of ladies and Richard and Natalie also from Norfolk who had done the Norfolk 100k so nice to chat and settle down for a few miles. It was bloody hot but mentally I don't let it bother me as there’s nothing you can do about it. I was just aware that taking on fluid was massive. It didn't matter if I drank 2 and half litres before 13 miles water point as could fill up. Although drinking lots I knew I wasn't feeling my usual self but also knew from past experience it would pass so kept going. Pace was ok but I also noticed other people suffering too so we keep each other going as much as possible. Scenery along the Thames was amazing with some slow parts navigating through people at Tower of London and Westminster. Ran bits of the next 10 to 12 miles on my own but here were few of us about taking care not to go too fast in the heat. We all had a hell of long way to go yet. Reached checkpoint 1 the 26 mile point in good spirits although about 45 minutes behind. Was starting to feel a bit better to get the first marathon out of the way and nausea was passing. It was 5 o clock and still very hot. Filled up soft flasks and added powder and electrolytes that so desperately needed and was helped by Mark Denby who had completed the T 184 in 40 hours, a course record and now competes for the gab team. He said I looked good and in good spirits. Too kind but even I smelt awful at that point.
Headed off for the next marathon with Steve and a lady called Sarah a firefighter from Aberdeen who I spent the night run with. It was going to be dark in just over 3 hours so we wanted to get as far as possible. I found my form and had a good few hours even when it did get dark. Steve left us girls to it. As soon as you get out of London and onto the tow paths the run totally changes. Paths became more up and down cross country trails and crossing bridges at some points to follow the Thames path. It was pitch black and Sarah and I decided we would keep together. I'd really prepared well with my map and where we left the river at times through villages I was glad I had prepared well. We kept running walking eating and drinking. The last few miles trying to get to check point 2 seemed to go on for ages but that is the trouble with night running in the country, everywhere just looked the same. We did run past a couple of pubs getting some claps which lifted our spirits.
Finally arrived at 12 40 am Saturday morning, an hour and half slower than wanted but never mind. Just keep moving forward. Andy was there and needed food so set up mini stove to have hot stuff. Filled up soft flasks again. I was still in running vest so put on long sleeved top although it was a warm night. There were 3 guys asleep in the bags from T 184 so tried to be quiet. Stopped here for 30 minutes and also had some tablets as felt stiff in the backside. Joked with Andy they were my PEDs but they did the trick. Sarah and I decided we would stay together for the rest of the night and the next few miles were tight trail paths so cross country training helped. I had put a compede plaster on my right side of my right foot before I left the check point but the next 25 miles the blister got bigger and bigger. After getting blisters last race I was just going to get through it. We had a couple of detours not finding the route or where the path just ended but soon got back on track. I gripped my map to check it every now and again as to not go wrong and check key points as everywhere looked so dark and you can't see far ahead.
The sun came up about 5 30 which was very welcome. We had past John from Tiptree runners who didn't look good but after checking he was ok carried on.
Natalie and Richard had past us a couple of hours ago but we then saw them having a hot drink on a bench. Natalie had been sick and was trying to settle her stomach. We both carried on and said to each other we just wanted to make it to the next checkpoint at 80 miles. We were getting near to Marlow and it was getting hot again. There was another detour to navigate and my stomach was churning so took the opportunity to go in a nearby bush. Jodie and Andy had both rung giving me encouragement and sensed that I was struggling. It was nausea again but I was still determined to move forward at a steady pace. My legs were actually in good shape but the sick feeling was there. I tried to eat and drink but just got that claggy feeling when trying to eat. I saw Andy a couple of miles after. Time was getting on and I had done 75 miles in 23 hours which is much slower than the brutal hills of the South Downs where I had done 85 miles in 24 hours. Make of that what you will and analyse my performance as I have but I now know that I had sunstroke. As soon as your head says no then the body follows quickly. I felt I had run out of time to get to checkpoint but could have continued by RD. I'm so glad I didn't as I could have been seriously ill. I found a spot to recover in a church yard and was there 2 hours drinking and eating a little, legs higher than my head and going to the loo, more than once. Andy was brilliant as usual. I had a good cry but I don't feel disappointed with myself. I feel proud of what I did on this occasion and didn't give up earlier when I clearly wasn't my normal bouncy self. I am very strong mentally and physically so I have learnt so much from this race and those of you that said you only had ? to do , or why didn't you do it I challenge you to try.
My good friend Di, and I hope she doesn't mind me writing this summed up perfectly I think what doing an event like this means. "I don't think the point is whether we succeed or fail in things in our lives. The point is for some of us to push ourselves to the limit so we know ourselves even better. Most people don't ever bother to try because they are afraid to fail"
Well she is right. There were 6 finishers in my event and 4 in the T184. Many dnf from experienced and not so but are common in these massive events as there are so many factors that you have to work through with so many hours on the course. An interesting read is why we run by Robin Harvie which asked the question Why?
Next time you run a race or otherwise it is worth just asking yourself that very question. Enjoyment and challenge should be at the top. Anyways for me 2017 has been a brilliant running year so far for just those things and much more. I have Venice marathon to look forward to and 2018 sees new challenges again that include running around Norfolk in a week on the much loved relay course and hopefully crossing Scotland.
Happy running! By Karen Peck.