Karen Peck achieved her 5th Ultra marathon this year and the longest on the Thames Path starting at the Thames Barrier on Friday of bank holiday weekend and finishing 100 miles later in Goring Oxfordshire the following day. Before starting at 10 30 am we all had thorough kit checks on this self-sufficient endurance run. We had to carry a list of compulsory kit plus food for the duration of the race and 2 litres of fluid. Only 3 check points at 26 miles, 52 miles and 80 miles on this event with an extra water stop at 13 miles which we all needed on this very hot weekend.
As it was hot, hot, hot and with the experience I already had gained I started out at a steady pace getting through the busiest parts of London and passing all the big sights. After Westminster it was a quick water fill up with special drinks etc and then on to Check point 1 just before Syon Park. I was going well and after a 5-minute drink filling again headed off with my dinner for the evening which was a pouch of food I could easily slurp up on the go. It was good having something more satisfying after snacks all day to maintain energy levels. There was a handful of us who were back and forth and I did chat with 2 or 3 people. I was aware that I wanted to get as far as I could before it got dark so remained focused and kept a good pace with more running than power walking. I had a map but also route on my new Garmin so easy to follow. I was Miss Consistent as usual and kept going well determined to get to check point at 52 miles by midnight. I caught up a few people which was good, some in my race and a couple of gents who were on the 184 miles. ( challenge for the future maybe)
It got dark not long after 8 so it became very dark apart from head light and occasional streetlight when passing through villages. A lovely lady called Clare who I had met during the day caught me up at about 45 miles, so it was good for both of us to have company and we stayed together for quite a few hours.
We reached 52 miles just after midnight and stopped for a few minutes to tend to a couple of hot spot blisters and fuel up again. We needed to do this right as it was 28 miles until the next check point at 80 miles. I love the night running and although the trail was up and down with tree roots etc which kept our focus, the dawn soon came. There was a stillness and serenity to the early morning mist on the Thames with a beautiful sunrise behind us which we had to look at for a few seconds before running on.
I was going to meet Andy at the 80-mile point so had that to look forward to and the cup of tea he'd promised. Clare had a friend meet her along the way which was nice and he also had cheese and marmite sandwiches and extra water so we topped up as it was already beginning to warm up for another hot day.
Clare and I then stopped for you know what. "What happens on the Thames Path stays on the Thames Path"! Feeling much better we got through Marlow and then onto the check point in Henley. I had a quicker running pace and Clare a quicker walking pace but had to stop for toilet break and she got away from me. I could see her just ahead coming into Henley, but you have to do your own thing so just focused on seeing Andy and getting ready for the last 20 miles in the scorching heat of Saturday.
Andy walked into the check point with me trying to keep up and helped me bandage my arm. ( I had a nasty chaffing) and fill water and sort special drinks to keep me going. This was going to be tough, very little shade and hopefully enough fluid to get to the finish. Another lady who I had met at different intervals during the previous day was at this check point and we soon headed off together. Maria was good company for the next 20 miles which was eventful as we had to get past the throngs of people at the Reading festival with some narrow trails and again very little respite from the sun. We both laughed at mile 97 as there was a surprising hill with tricky stony terrain which was dry and slippery, a gate to climb over and a field of cows to navigate through. But with only a park run to go and our spirits high we made it to the last mile. My mouth was so dry as I only had a sip of water left but the finish was so close. We walked quickly over the last bridge sensing our victory, so pleased with our success with such tough conditions.
Out of the 33 starters in the race there were 18 finishers. Maria and I had come joint 8th place overall and joint 3rd lady finishers in just over 29 hours. Clare had finished in 2nd. This race was much slower than my first 100 miles but a hell of a lot hotter! You can tell by the look on my face how chuffed I was. Maria's words," Thanks for your great company today and you didn't moan once, you loved it didn't you"? Well you know my reply.
I have gathered so much more experience this year by completing 5 more ultra-marathons, a 2nd place and 3 3rd places to boot.
Report by Karen Peck.