back from the brink

Another weekend, another 100 miler in the calendar after the disappointment of the failed GUCR attempt two weeks ago. My cough is still lingering but feels like it's finally shifting and the forecast is for a hot dry day, so I’m feeling confident. Well after all, I *know* I can run 100 miles. 

Getting to the start was slightly more stressful that usual:
  1. I probably ought to either take Friday afternoons off for races, or be a lot more organised in the week beforehand - rather than trying to find, pack and arrange everything into drop bags, run bag and finish bag in under 45 minutes.
  2. Check online and trains showing as on time.... so I grab a coffee passing through Croydon, grab a sausage roll in Clapham... then hear the announcement over the tannoy that there are severe delays of up to 45 minutes expected.
Uh oh, I'm not going to make evening registration, not a huge issue since I can just sign on in the morning, but I'd wanted to be ready to go from waking up.
Then an automated announcement is interleaved announcing that the next train is the one I want.... with one that the next train isn't stopping. Finally the train disappears off the departures board.
and then 15 minutes late, it's announced arriving, and it actually does.
OK cool, I settle in to read my Neil Gaiman book, then regret not having any music as two slightly inebriated people behind start a loud and annoying discussion about work as a GDPR consultant (was a license to print money apparently) and tales of expense account entertaining. I distract myself sending snarky WhatsApp messages.

Finally into Winchester and I power march from station to the sign on with my new pop-up tent over my shoulder.
This way
I gaze wistfully at a pub on the way and wish I had a little more time to settle in for a pint. oh well.
Finally at the start (after missing the gap in the hedge and marching half way down a field) I get to see a few friendly faces and say hello to everyone. I have minutes to spare and I think I'm the final sign on for the day.

Right, out comes the tent. out of the bag. quick shake and kazam done. Oh yes. Pop-up tent. 10/10.
Go for a little run to get some fresh air and calm down.
Usual sleepless night though, just can't get comfy and see the hours ticking over. As usual, drift off at about 3:50... and manage about 10-15 minutes of sleep. Aaaand its time to get up. Bleugh.

Unzipping to see the start gantry being inflated, stretch, coffee, porridge, and after removing a massive caterpillar...

...fold up the tent almost as quickly as the erection. Neat. (sigh. the tent)

Mingle and glance around but can't spot anyone I know, I really ought to be more organised and arrange to meet people for a chat at events. Filling up my brand new easy access water bladder, discover that I haven't actually got any way to restrain it inside the running bag, but figure out a way to use the clip on my pocket knife as a clasp. OK sorted. I really out to organise kit slightly earlier.

06:00 - 0 miles - Winchester

After the usual preliminary chat from James we're off. I have a plan. I'm starting slowly, perhaps a little too slowly but that doesn't really matter. I know this start well and you run a lap of the field before hitting the trail and unless you're in the first 20 runners or so you're going to be queuing twice at the pinch points. So. Whatever. I've got all day. Literally.
Once onto the SDW I see James and stop to shake his hand and tell him I'll see him in Eastbourne, I seem to get a "what the hell are you doing" look in response. 😁

In the first few miles I see and chat to someone running in sandals, we compare and contrast - I'm at the absolute opposite end of the scale in Hoka's and gaiters. I think my feet look more cheerful anyway.

08:00 - 9.8 miles - Beacon Hill

The first aid station is a tiny pit stop on the left of the trail, I'm not hungry after just 9 miles, I've got plenty of water and don't need anything so I just run on through.

I mingle and chat with a handful of runners over the first few miles, have a nice chat with
Corinne Rodgers (no I don't have that good a memory, I looked up photos and numbers) including discussing the possibility of stepping in dog poo as soon as we get onto the pavements in Eastborne. (You probably had to be there, it was quite funny at the time. :)

Old Winchester Hill


10 miles in and there's a field of cows. They won't move. I actually have to push one aside to get to the gate in the field.
There follows a series of stiles between the next few fields and I get into a nice rhythm to bounce over them (there are advantages to being 6'2 with long legs).. until I just slightly misjudge one and slam my shin into the bar.

There is swearing.

and now I'm limping slightly with the occasional twinge from my leg. FFS.
Buster Hill

10:00 - 22.6 miles - Queen Elizabeth Country Park

I'm tempted to get an ice cream here but decide it's just a bit too early still. Water top up, a few nibbles and out and on.

11:30 - 27.2 miles - Harting Down

Harting Down next up, just over a marathon and feeling just fine still keeping my steady slow pace but already now steadily moving past people.
It's now getting really hot though, I grab a load of biscuits and jelly babies.
I see Graham helping at this one and say "Hi", it's always a boost to see familiar faces on the way.

There are amazing views.
Harting Down
At this point a group of mountain bikers rides through.... but they soon stop to fix a puncture. I pass them a total of six times over the next 10 miles or so, as they stop for mechanicals, to have lunch or just talk about their route.

13:00 - 35.1 miles - Cocking

Cocking aid is "the long one in a field", there are always a huge number of cars, crew and supporters at this aid point that you need to run through. It's always a boost seeing so many people out cheering you on.
Time for a few cups of coke and some sandwiches.


14:45 - 41.7 miles - Bignor Hill

Little tent on the right of the trail, and we seem to have hit a little rush of runners all arriving at the same time.
Melon. I eat melon. Lots. I try to keep moving quickly, I want to get to Washington.

15:28 - 46 miles - Water tap

I'm looking out for the water tap as I run, I had thought it was by the bridge but can't see it. As it happens there's a marshal standing next to it a little way ahead. 
Oh yes. It is hot.
I push the tap. My head goes under. and stays there. awesome!

Yeah ok, the timestamp is a bit off. :)


16:15 - 50.1 miles - Kithurst Hill

Carrot cake! I had been dreaming of cake all the way up the hill. No idea why... but there it was. I explain that I'd been dreaming of cake and they ask if I'd seen their notice on Facebook - like I'd be organised enough to check aid station details in advance and remember them, or to use Facebook at all. I explain it's just a coincidence, or providence. I dreamt it. It appeared. I must try to dream of Ale from now on.
I take a slice. and another. but they're very small so I finish off with a final piece. Brilliant. I head off, glancing wistfully back.

Right. That's the half way point, it's time to start counting down the miles now. I'm looking forward to the big aid point at Washington.
The only trouble with cake... I'm now craving coffee. I want a large mug of coffee. Not long now.

At some point I realise I've now had waaay too much sugar and coke and I'm now absolutely buzzing, I see my watch reporting an instant pace of 9 minute miles. Ahem. Better calm down.

16:50 - 54 miles – Washington

I take my time at the Washington aid station, eating hot food, drinking coffee, getting my drop bag and swapping my shirt and socks over. I collect my running poles to help spread the load to my arms and just in case I have any problems now (they got me to the end of the NDW after injuring my ankle)
After regrouping mentally and getting organised I see Ally and say hello. I get a coffee top-up to take out with me and stroll on. I get a few sarcastic comments about walking holding a large orange mug of coffee, not sure why, this seems eminently sensible to me.


At some point just as I pass through a gate I glance back and see someone not far behind so I twist around to hold it open.... but just as I shift my weight and turn I hear, and feel, a pop in my ankle.
Er. Ah. Ow. I fear the worst but find that as I keep moving the pain eases off and it feels fine from them on.

18:41 - 61.2 miles - Botolphs

Botolphs is the odd little aid station in a lay-by next to the A283, I take a few tomatoes and yet more melon. Then have to wait for rush hour before managing to find a gap to cross and head up the next steady climb.


19:12 - 63 miles - YHA Calippo

You beauty
It's hot. There's a Wall's ice cream sign.
I'm inside and queueing.... slowest service. EVER. Don't they know I'm in a race?
I seriously consider also getting a bottle of Becks to take with me, but decide perhaps not this time.
Anyway, I stroll on up the hill Calippo in hand and it hits the spot. I wonder why they aren't official sponsors of any Ultra's.

the soup of the beast

20:10 - 66.6 miles – Saddlescombe

Still feeling good, but really hungry now. I see that there is hot soup and ask for a soup and a coffee.
I wolf down the soup but it's really hot, after cooling a bit I devour the rest and regret it almost immediately, it seems spicier than I'd expected and I feel ill straight away.
I'm really hoping that it's just a brief wobble and I'll be able to walk up the hill to ease it off. I take a slice of banana cake and put it in my pocket. This was a very smart move.

Running up from Pyecombe towards Clayton Windmills, I call Cara, I say hello and ask what the plan is, right now I simply can't remember where she said she might be able to first meet me, did she say 70 miles or 80 miles? I'm really hoping it’s at the windmills, but I just can't think clearly at the moment, and all I want is an exact time and place. I'm annoyed that she doesn't tell me, I say “it's going to be a surprise is it”. She agrees. I’m very close to snapping back unwisely, but my brain sensibly steps in to remind me who is helping who here, and who is going to be up all night and driving me home. I calm down and remember, *I* know how I feel, but no one else does.
I see people just ahead near the windmills and try to be sick before getting there but nothing happens.


tilting at windmills

20:50 - 69 miles - Clayton Windmills

Arriving at the windmills I see Cara! I'm now annoyed that the first time I see her I feel at the worst I have all day and must have just moaned (yup, apparently I did). I don't feel like any of the food she’s carried over (ok apparently "lugged up the hill") but take a few flapjacks and drink some milk concluding it'll hopefully settle matters one way or another.
Departing wrapped up warm.


A little while later I'm sick and feel better immediately, although this is a brief respite -
I'm sick a few more times over the next few miles and no longer feel better.

22:44 - 76.6 miles - Housedean

I’ve not been able to eat anything since mile 66 and I look at the food in the aid station and just can’t face any of it. I sit down for a minute to try to get it together, drink a coke and I take a coffee with me in my big mug. Something doesn’t taste right though, I’m not sure if the coffee has creamer in it or something or just my taste buds are misbehaving but it doesn’t stay down for long.

i get knocked down. i get up again.

23:37 - 79 miles - Middle of nowhere

All of a sudden I feel dizzy and wobble. Then I can no longer stand up and I fall over. I can hear ringing in my ears.

uh oh this is bad.

I realise that I'm in the middle of nowhere here, there is no shelter, and nothing to sit on or lean against. Just the top of rolling downs, a chalk path and grass.

OK, I'm going to have to try to walk for 5 miles, I stand up take two steps and fall over again.

I can see lights approaching, but the first runner just goes straight past me, however the next few each ask if I'm ok. I explain that I just need a rest although I do consider telling one of them to give my number to the next aid station and send someone back if I haven't appeared there in a couple of hours.
I want to lie down for a snooze but, 1: there is no suitable shelter and 2: I worry that someone would call in the paramedics if they saw me.
I decide to just make myself small and sit down for a while, I have no idea how long for (checking on Strava I'm sitting for about half an hour). When I get back up I use my sticks to support my weight and start moving along slowly. Really slowly.

I dig through my pockets (memo to self, in future pack glucose tablets) and discover the piece of banana cake I'd stashed away earlier. Hoping that my stomach is now settled down and I can get a hit of sugar. I start taking tiny mouse sized nibbles, but have real trouble swallowing.
Over the next few miles the process repeats, tiny nibble, mouthful of water, swallow.
Finally I start to feel better, and it really helps that I know this section backwards (and forwards) having both recced it numerous times and also recently marked it out for the SDW50. I can remember every single corner and hill and know exactly what's coming up and when. I can’t stress enough just how much this helped me here.

After a while I progress onto a couple of small flapjack squares just as I head into Southease.

It's a new day, it's a new life for me, and I'm feeling good(ish).

00:56 - 84 miles - Southease

I meet Cara and explain how I'm feeling now (tired, battered, but better), I state that I'm going to finish and Cara agrees that clearly I am. (I think I'm coming across as "upbeat and positive" here but Cara tells me I looked and sounded angry). She explains that I'm way behind schedule and any "banked time" was now gone for a sub 24 finish.
I reply I'm really not bothered I just want to finish. I rest for about 20 minutes and then I'm ready to bring this home and start to head out. We agree that we should meet up at both of the next two crew points just to make sure I’m ok - originally we'd thought just one would be enough.
Just as I leave something triggers in my brain and I remember that this is the aid station that Phil said he would be at, I look around and find him to say hello, managing to blind him with my headtorch in the process.

02:00 - 86.4 miles – Firle Beacon

The first quick health check with Cara, couple of flapjacks, check water and on.

Along the way I’ve been practicing my mental arithmetic and I’m pretty sure I am actually still on for a 24 hour finish. As long as I don’t stop and keep up a steady pace which I now seem to be able to do. Every few miles I check my watch – oh additional kit for this run: new watch:

I find it reassuring to know what the actual time of day is so I can judge eating and know when and why I'm feeling tired, but I'd rather not be mucking about switching screens on the Garmin, so this is perfect it's about the most basic watch you can get, dirt cheap, tiny, light and with decent sized numbers. Several times in the day other runners had asked did I know what the time was, so it can't just be me who loses track.

Do or do not, there is no try.
At some point in the night I briefly see Yoda in the bushes. This must be a good sign, and makes me smile. Just the one minor illusion on this one though, not the full psychedelic experience I got on the NDW100, but a nice touch, I didn't get anything on the TP100.

02:38 - 89 miles – Bo Peep

Another very quick stop, I can tell Cara is keeping a close eye on me and wants to be sure that I’m OK, she counts how many flapjacks I’ve still got on me and gives me another two. I ask how I looked, apparently "pissed off" and "tired". Excellent.

03:13 - 91.6 miles – Alfriston

It's really nice to get inside a building for a moment, a cup of coffee and some crisps. I don't want to hang around now though and get moving again. Carrying my coffee mug with me.

the loneliest aid station

04:12 - 95.7 miles – Jevington

Another building, I nip in but most runners seem to be going straight past and it feels and looks so lonely inside! I decide to rectify this situation and strike up a cheerful conversation with the volunteer inside. OK I simply said "gosh you look lonely" - I should probably work on my motivational speaking.
Some more salty crisps and have a quick chat about the next hill, and that it's straight up to the trig marker. I say farewell and press on.

After leaving Jevington I finally realise I’ve done it. I remember what’s next, it is indeed just a single long climb to the trig point, then downhill all the way to the finish.
Not only will I finish, but I keep updating my mental arithmetic and know that I’ve got plenty of time in hand now.
This. This is beautiful.
A surprise, I see Keith Simpson at the top by the trig point, I’m impressed at the amount of tape and marking there is up here and hope they’re keeping warm on such an exposed spot! I know how easy it is to head off the wrong way here without the marking. I start the long barrelling descent down the valley of death…..

sting in the tail.

Half way down, as the weeds are brushing on both sides I feel a sudden searing pain in my right hand, I look down to see something there, and realise I’ve been stung. I’m not sure by what since I just brush it away quickly, it looked dark and like a bee but there is no sting remaining. You have got to be kidding. That. Hurts.

Finally down onto the road and I keep a gentle jog going for a while but the tarmac feels so hard, I stop a couple of times but am determined to run in and around the track.
Into the car park Cara spots me and runs over, I ditch the sticks and hat and Cara asks if I want to run around with her. Obviously.

I put on a burst of speed and head towards the arch..


Done. OK That wasn't so bad.
I can see sausages over there.

A moment or two later. I still think I look awful in these finish shots.

I look around for James but he must be busy somewhere, that's a shame I'd been looking forward to saying 'I made it then'.

Bringing it back from the brink

My ankle swells up afterwards and the bruising starts to come out for whatever I’ve managed to do down there, icing for a few days seems to get it back under control though - should be out for a run soon.

I *still* have my cough, going to have to see the doctors soon if it doesn’t shift soon, although I’m not sure mentioning I’ve run two 100 mile runs with it and it hasn’t helped will go down too well.

Two down, two to go for the Centurion Grand Slam. Looking forward to the North Downs 100 now, but not feeling good about the Autumn 100, the race is truly my nemesis.

For some reason from 2017 this was changed to being a “no crew permitted” race (I keep meaning to ask James about that). Despite the superb level of aid provided by Centurion I worry that I’ll need someone to make sure that I’m OK towards the end. Perhaps I need to organise some pacers for this one, although that will be a completely strange and new experience having never used any before.
Unfortunately, Hugo is still too young for Centurion pacing duties despite being a beast of a runner.

I don’t have the same emotions that I had after the Thames Path 100, this time I don’t burst into tears. I’m annoyed that I lost so much time after 66 miles, but I’m feeling overwhelmingly contented.
I’m amazed that my body was able to pull itself back together, regroup and finish this thing, that reassures me that if I need to I will be able to do that again.

I’m also now annoyed that I feel like I could have kept going at the end. I’m still uncertain whether I want to attempt the GUCR 145 again, but now I have that nagging doubt in my mind, what *could* I do?

Strava link

* Decent photos by Stuart March

Ally (@photogirlruns
Phil (@Donealready
Keith (@2coldfingers


  1. Replies
    1. Cheers Mike. Got a bit of a gap now.... need to find something to do.


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