Can I just say; wow – what a month it has been!
I am now two weeks post race and finally feel like my body has recovered properly from the 50km Ultra Marathon Race To The Stones. It was a truly amazing experience running along the scenic North Wessex Downs Ridgeway which is one of the oldest paths in England. Now that I have had some time to reflect upon the race, I wanted to sum up what my experience was like and add some recommendation for anyone considering doing an Ultra Marathon in the future.
It started with staying overnight in the basecamp at the halfway mark, with other contestants that were going to be running the rest of the 100km and some that were only racing the last 50km like me the following day. I had a nice hot dinner at the camp, went to a yoga session to loosen off the legs before it was time to get ready for bed. After a terrible night sleep, I got up at 4.50am the next morning to make sure I had time to get a good breakfast and sort my running vest out with all the necessities for the run. When the start signal went off at 6am, I was so ready for it!
From the start the temperature was already at 17, going up all the way to 30 for the last 3 hours of the run, it was so hot! I made sure to have one of my water bottles filled with electrolytes and the other with squash, plus I also had a 1Liter bladder at the back on my vest to ensure I had enough fluid with me. I also took salt tablets regularly from the 20km-mark and throughout the run. I am positive I had drunk about 3-4liters on liquid by the end of it all. I also made sure to stop at every pit stop for a few minutes to top up on liquids and some food, which was also surprisingly good.
In my training before the race, I had only been running 30km at the most, and I was nervous about the last 20km as I had never run that far ever before. Halfway into the race at 25km I had made a good time of 2hr 46min, and the legs still felt surprisingly good! By 30km my motivation was still on top of the world and I had some good music to keep me pushing through the distance. I had to stop a few times along the way just to take a picture of the beautiful surroundings and that on its own was a good motivator. I would really recommend looking around and up from the ground when you get tired, because there is so many nice things to see and to get your thoughts distracted from the incomparable exhaustion you are feeling.
I made some good friends along the way too, and especially thanks to the guy who helped me reach for my food and kept me company at the 30km mark, and the guy that made me push myself through perhaps the quickest 4km of the whole race coming up to 40km. One of the best things about the whole experience was all the lovely people I met along the way, especially the casual runners and cyclists and lovely dog walker who all encouraged me to push through along the route.
The last 12-13 kilometers from the last pit-stop to the finish line was the longest of my life. I was on for a really good time and was starting to feel the heat and exhaustion creeping up. I had at this point pushed my body further than ever before, however, I was determined to finish in under 6 hours which seemed very realistic. When I finally arrived at the Stones with about 2km left to finish, my legs were feeling very heavy and I literally felt like I was shuffling along rather than running (that knee drive went out the window), but again it was only such a short distance left so I had to push through. I had to stop and walk for a couple of minutes during the 2km and then finished off with a sprint (or at least I think I was sprinting) the last couple hundred meters to the finish line. And BAM! I had completed the biggest challenge of my life in 5 hours and 47 minutes and finished in 13th place (!) – and I can now call myself an Ultra Marathon runner!
Lastly, I wish to thank everyone who has supported me through my journey and a huge thanks to the people who have helped me with training plans, advice, my running partners and everyone who have cheered me on. I promise this will not be the last you will see of me 😊
Best wishes to you all,