On Saturday 10th March 2018 I completed the GB Ultras Chester Ultra… woo hoo !! After weeks of training, building running frequency, mileage and duration I successfully completed my first 52 mile Ultra in 12 hours 36 mins. I finished 127th out of about 240 runners, and received a silver trophy… to say I am very chuffed is a mild understatement 🙂
In my last blog post I discussed my inner dialogue in the week leading up to the Chester Ultra Marathon (52 miles around the Chester countryside). One of my thoughts was “52 mile Ultra marathon – who’s your Daddy?”… well, as it turns out, I am!
I was running to raise support for the charity Mind. Fitness and running is a perfect way to help us seek clarity of mind, support our mental wellbeing and reconnect with nature (even mud, more on this shortly). The ability to spend a day with one thing in mind, a single focus on keep moving forward, was liberating, enjoyable and fully recommended. Please support my efforts to raise funds for Mind here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EdwardWallington.
This was my first Ultra, so I had no real idea how I would hold up, but I did have a fair idea what to expect on the course having helped out on check points on last years run. In the build up I spent a good amount of time reviewing the route, both digitally using my Ordnance Survey digital mapping application, as well as on a hard copy map with the route marked (a mandatory bit of kit along with a compass, and ability to use it!). There is something deeply satisfying reviewing the route on a map, assessing sections of country lane, fields (more of this later…), hills (the elevation gain is worth the views), trails and lovely running through forests (my favourite).
The first section of the route was on country lanes, allowing us to get into the run gently. This was great, a chance to ease into the run, find my pace, and enjoy the buzz and chatter of energetic and excited runners to help settle the pre-start nerves. This was a trail race after all, and it was great to turn off the road into our first trail… and then the mud started.
The Mud. Oh, the mud. As we will all know we have had a wet winter and early start to spring, and the day and night before the race was wall to wall torrential rain. This left the trails and fields very very muddy. In many places too muddy and slippy to run; walking was a challenge at times without slipping over, as many found out. I was forced to a slippy walk in many places, even with wearing Salomon Speedcross trail trainers; many runners had chosen to wear less grippy (but more cushioned) shoes or road shoes, and were slipping far more than me. There is something satisfying about squidging through mud, but after a while the fun wears off… you can only take so much ankle deep mud, slipping and slower than hoped progress. Without the mud, I could have run more and finished with a faster time; but the flip side is the forced sections of walking likely helped save my energy and allowed me to complete the run – pros and cons of mud :). Having wet feet all day wasn’t actually too bad, and I soon forgot about it, giving up dodging puddles and just running straight through. The downside of wet feet was a couple of blisters to keep me on my toes, and in the end the blisters were as large as my big toes… nice.
Throughout the run we had to cover sections of country lanes, muddy fields (did i mention the mud?!), canal path, elevation gain over flowing hilly trails and ‘floating’ through forest trails (after a hill gain, a forest trail is magical to run through). It turns out I am not a huge fan of canal paths… the first section was tarmac and my feet suffered a bit. The last section of canal was about 6 miles to the finish line, I was dreading it being tarmac, but turned out to be grass. On a drier day it would have been a doddle, but yep more mud. Overall not a bad last section, but coupled with tiredness and never ending canal (it all looks the same after a while), I ended up speed walking sections to keep me moving forward at a reasonable pace, and then running to the next bridge as soon as I could see it.
A day of running needs some food to keep going. For my Ultra nutrition I used Tailwind, and this proved invaluable and caused me no issues. I supplemented with snacking on dry roasted peanuts, and grazing at the check points, which were amazing! I cannot thank the folk at the check points enough – the energy was uplifting, the food fantastic, and the unconditional help to refill water bottles (even though I spilt more tailwind powder on people’s hands than went in the bottle!) was very greatly received. I always looked forward to the next check point to see the smiling faces, words of encouragement, and banter over the mud. Without this support I certainly would have found the course a lot more challenging – thank you.
The joy and relief of crossing the finish line cannot be explained in words. I think this photo sums it up 🙂
Did I enjoy my first Ultra? I absolutely did! The personal challenge, the being out in the county side, and the friendly, supportive and cheery other runners… a perfect combination.
Do I now have the Ultra bug? You bet I do!
Thank you once again to the Team at GB Ultras, and to all the volunteers who manned the check points and other sections of the course – without you we couldn’t do it!