The Norfolk 100K Ultra Marathon

A long race needs a long report so here goes. 

I’ve always been attracted to long distance events and since my career path took me into teaching this has been more so as I needed the freedom of outdoors. We all have a joke about the loneliness of the long distance runner but I love the endless miles choosing my route and seeing how far I can push myself, not only physically but psychologically because if you’re mind is not there as all runners know you’re body won’t be.

After completing training for and running the Peddars Way Ultra in January I was on a high. I loved every mile, every blister, every rain cloud and every jelly baby. Many people don’t understand where I’m at, but the feeling is exhilarating. I looked forward to the 100k training and followed a very similar training plan for the 48 miler. However after running it there are some things I can adjust (for next time)

Training went very well. I decided to race Heritage Coast cross country marathon on the 1st May to test myself and see where I was at and finished in 2nd place in a time of 4.15. At 11 miles I was on for a 4 hour marathon but decided to slow slightly as the 100k was the goal. This was better than I expected and to be honest it took me a couple of weeks before I was able to complete a 25 miler training run again. A couple of full weeks training followed and then the taper which I don’t enjoy much but is a necessity. Then it happened the dreaded cold! Dragged myself through a week at work trying to feel ok. A visit to Pandy midweek for pre race massage went well but had a good ticking off from her about running the race ill. Should I or shouldn’t I? I had run Amsterdam marathon dosed up and did a PB but this was much much further.

I stood at the start line at 6.50 Saturday morning with a small group of fearless runners not knowing what the day would bring. I once again wore my club vest with pride along with a few others. Not too much talking although I did briefly chat with Ian from Wymondham AC who I knew. I knew the route we were taking to Holme as I had run it in January so was confident and  knew we would all split up. Everyone ran the first mile in 9 minutes or quicker and I soon settled into my own pace. I was near the back of the field but knew from the last ultra I would be overtaking people at 30 or 40 or 50 miles down the road and I did.

The first check point came up really quickly at 8 miles and I filled up my water bottle and carried on. The next section was quite undulating and overgrown so used my efficient power walking technique up the hills trying to eat as I went. The last time I ran this was late afternoon in January and it was all coming back to me. I saw Andy in Ringstead village coming towards me on his uniwheel so grabbed some more food. Soon after I reached Holme bang on my target time at 11.15 again only stopping for water and popped electrolyte tab in. It was getting very hot and I was beginning to feel it.I got onto the path and carried on again striding out a few steps and eating when I needed to. All the experienced ultra runners were already a good hour ahead of me but I didn’t care. At 22 miles I was hot and bothered and overheating and the next 4 to 5 miles were tough. I decided to keep putting one foot in front of the other which is always a good plan and keep eating and drinking and get through it. Eventually I started to feel better and run more than walk. I was on my way to Burnham Overy where Andy was to meet me with lunch etc. It got hotter along the Staithes to Burnham and I could see 2 runners in the distance (I hadn’t seen any for some time) They were getting closer so that moved me forward and my pace quickened. I caught them and told them they had been a target. I went passed and soon reached Andy at the 33 mile half way mark who I was pleased to see and I was starving. I had the most wonderful cup of tea, refilled my bottle and stuffed my bumbag with food and grabbed a sandwich. I put my running cap on which I had really needed 10 miles back. I stopped here for only 5 minutes and carried on eating my chicken sandwich as I power walked off into the distance. Food worked wonders and started to run well again but the terrain was now sand and sand dunes. We were told this would be hard so I decided to take the most direct route I could to pass Holkham and onto Wells where my son Patrick and my sister and her family would be. I climbed a massive dune to see what the terrain was like the other side. It looked flat so stumbled down the other side receiving some strange looks from some stunned sunbathers. The sand was flat but quite hard to run on but I kept going as best I could. 2 miles to Holkham Gap the sign said so headed across the sand the most direct way possible. It was still very hot and the sand was taking its toll. My sister rung me to see where I was. My target was now 50 minutes behind but I just kept thinking and looking forward. She said she would be at Wells beach huts. I saw Patrick running towards and then my sister. “Alright Mum”? “ You’re doing amazing”. It was so great to see them and gave me a huge boost. There were loads of people enjoying the sun and and the beach and some clapped and others said well done. This was the busiest part of the run.

I stopped to empty the sand from my trainers and carried on power walking for a bit to have some water and chocolate and have a chat with them. A few minutes later I was running on and getting back on the cross country track to Stiffkey. Again I had found some momentum and ran quite a few miles barely walking. I went past one chap and had a quick chat wishing each other good luck and then ran on. My watch battery stopped then at 43 miles and I did try to start a second watch but it didn’tt go on so I just went by time. I was running well so couldn’tt be bothered to faff about. I had 23 miles to go! Before I knew it I was at the Stiffkey check point and waved to Andy and Nicki as I approached. Nicki said she was surprised I was in such good spirits. I felt pretty good. I went over to the table and had some coke and bananas. 2 tired runners were here but I left them to it! I didn’t want to stop. I gave Andy a kiss and carried on with Nicki following. I set the pace and we ran and walked up the small inclines. Nicki was amazing and kept make company for the next 15 miles to Sheringham which was brilliant. The terrain was up and down with tracks and overgrown paths etc. We reached Blakeney and then Cley windmill and then the dreaded stone shingle beach which lasted 4 miles! A power walking fest ensued with us trying to find the best line to walk the quickest. It was beginning to get dull as it was early evening but it still felt quite hot. The shingle went on and on and then we saw a couple ahead on the stone bank.

Maureen and John England from GYDAC were there waving. God knows how long they had been waiting for us but they were a welcome site. Nice to have a hug and hear some good wishes. I later found out that they had missed me at Wells!

We kept going and then I recognised the coastal path up the cliff as I had ran this a couple of times before on the Round Norfolk Relay. I was a woman on a mission and just needed my coke and biscuits, whatever they had basically. I had been desperate for a drink now for about 20 minutes so downed a cup of coke and scoffed a jaffa cake. The brilliant check point team made me a cup of tea and I carried on walking as quick as could gulping down the gorgeous liquid. I’d grabbed some more banana and they had filled my bottle. Soon as I had the tea I was running again and we walked up the hills and ran the rest.

Anyone who knows this leg of the RNR will know this route is quite hard work but we could see the hill before Sheringham so kept going. My shoulder was getting quite tight so Nicki carried my water bottle for a couple of miles. On reaching Sheringham I said goodbye to Nicki as Andy was there to take her back to Cromer. He said he could see us coming as my hiviz yellow hat was bobbing up and down.

At this point I should have picked up my headtorch. My mistake. I thought I would be finished by 9.30pm but because I hadn’t ran this part of the course I had no idea what to expect and how tough it would be. Firstly because it was tough cross country and secondly as I had no light. I ran through Sheringham still climbing slopes and steps and then the big one, up and down the Beeston Bump. I felt very stiff climbing up and then down hanging on to the handrail for dear life. At the bottom I  knew this was where the diversion was in place so had a quick toilet stop and tried to keep my wits about me to follow the signs as the dark was closing in and trying not to get lost 60 miles into the run.

I was running again and was surprised how well my legs were working especially after the hobbling on the Bump. I was 10 and a half minute miling still and this rush of energy encouraged me on. It was getting darker by the minute and the signage took me through Beeston Heath a dark forest within camp sites and holiday parks. I was scared shitless! And I just moved as quick as my legs would go. This was tough muddy up and down cross country and then a muddy track with forest either side.

After what seemed ages I could hear traffic so hopefully I was approaching a road. I came out on a village road and got a bit anxious as I didn’t know which way to turn. At this point I rang Andy who in turn put me onto Kevin the brilliant race director. As it turned out I was less than a mile from the finish but I didn’t know that. Luckily because of my RNR experience I knew the way when receiving directions from Kevin. I found my way onto the main road at East Runton and power walked the last ¾ of a mile. I spotted Andy and he passed me the torch and before I knew it I saw the black figure of Jodie.  I called out “Is that you Jodie”? And she ran towards me and gave me a massive hug. We were 20 metres from the finish. “I just want to finish” I said and we walked into the marquee.

I had done it. I sat in a chair next to I discovered was the 2nd lady finisher who had finished 10 minutes earlier. She looked in a much worse state than me but Jodie said I looked  white as a sheet. It was very emotional having the 3rd lady prize given to me after a very long day. My body didn’t take long to shut down. Jodie and Andy helped me off and on with clothes and I ate some tinned peaches and a cup of tea. I remember Jodie saying I had done so well and how amazed she was that I was still running near to the end of such a long way.

After big hugs and goodbyes we got into the car to come home, medal not leaving my neck, until I was sick about ½ an hour down the road. My body really was shutting down after a long day of pushing myself to the max and nutritional stuffs going in.

Felt much better after that and got to bed around 1.30am after some hot food.What a day. I never thought I couldn’t or wouldn’t do it and there were more ups than downs throughout the event. The downs were not that bad but I had prepared well. I would definately do this again. Don’t tell Andy. I am really looking forward to training and running the 50k in November, already entered of course. Then I will consider what I want to do next. 100 miles is definately up there.

I hope you don’t think I’m too bonkers and if you do I’m not bothered. You may think why does she want to run those ultra distances but if you have run a marathon and ever asked yourself the same question then you may be nearer to the answer than you think.

Thanks for reading about my experiences and hope you got this far!

Happy running

Karen xx