Autumn 100: race report

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In the first half, when everything was so easy (Photo: Stuart March)

“So how far is it?”

I was just preparing for the Friday night drive to Goring with my girlfriend Cate as we’d planned to make a long weekend of it and stay in the usually sleep Berkshire village. She plugged the postcode into the map on the phone and told me it would take about an hour and a half.

“How many miles though?”

“Exactly 50.”

“Ugh. Seems like a long way.”

Even as I said it I realised how ridiculous it was to say such a thing when I was about to attempt a 100-mile foot race the very next day. It just goes to show how I had been thinking about the race. It’s six miles, then another six, turn around, another six, one more six and back to the start. Then off again, and so on, bit by bit. Not 100 miles in one go because that’s too much.

Even 50 miles in a car is too much, mind.

Once we arrived, the weekend couldn’t have begun any better as we a) got the last parking spot right outside The Miller of Mansfield (which luckily isn’t in Mansfield) where we were staying and b) I made it to kit check and registration just in time before it closed that evening. There was plenty of time in the morning but I wanted to avoid all that and so seeing Nici Griffin, James Elson and Louise Ayling, amongst other Centurion stalwarts was a reassuring kick-off to proceedings. A leisurely meal with Cate, (pre-race ‘mention’) Dudley and his wife Irene, left me feeling relaxed and ready for sleep before the big day.

The Miller of Mansfield makes delicious food, as evinced by the guinea fowl I’d had the previous evening. (And yes, that’s the fanciest pre-race meal I’ve ever had.) What it doesn’t do is huge portions. So as well as the pancakes I ordered for breakfast, I had a bowl of muesli, a banana and a couple of coffees to set me up for the day. I’m not a believer in carb-loading for ultras as I’ll be grazing all day anyway. If I bonk, I’m doing it all wrong.

My original plan had been wear my old Saucony Peregrines for the first half and then switch to my new ones for a comfier second half. At the last minute I decided that I might as well go for comfort from the start. What could go wrong?

Despite not needing to go to registration, I popped by to see if I could see anyone I knew and between there and the briefing across the river in Streatley, met Conrad for the first time, and also saw Sarah, Bryan, Phil, as well as Ilsuk, Sean and Bex, my old Ridgeway Challenge buddies.

Me, Ilsuk, Seanie and Bex. Plus cheeky photobomber

Bex in particular had showed an interest in adopting my 9 minutes run, 1 minute walk approach which I was planning to do from the off. As she and Seanie tend to start these races at pace, they wanted to rein it in and I was more than happy to call out “Walkies!” every 10 minutes.

As we made our way along the Thames Path in the general direction of Oxford, I recognised very little of it despite having run it before. However, I couldn’t blame the dark on my tripping up and executing an elegant forward roll after less than two miles. Good to get it out of the way early though – I was a lot more careful after that.

These are the most fun miles of any ultra. Everyone (near me at least) is taking it easy, chatting, smiling and on this occasion, enjoying the sunshine. There were a few supporters out on the course, most notably a couple with balloons and a list of race entrants which they used to call out our names as we passed, which was a lovely touch.

Not sure who was photobombing who here (Photo: Cate McVeigh)

Not too long after the first checkpoint, where I saw Irene and Cate, the race leader came barrelling past in the opposite direction, followed quickly by two more of the chasing pack. Soon I started seeing more people I knew and expected be near the front, like Jess Gray, fellow Fulham Running Club star Cat Simpson, Dudley and another Fulham runner Leo, who on his first 100 was either killing the race or himself to be in the top ten so early on.

As we approached the 12-mile turnaround point, I saw Matt Teague who I’d forgotten was racing, and not long after, Con and Sarah, who left me hanging for a high five I’m still waiting for.

11 miles in and Seanie is already drunk, apparently (Photo: Ilsuk Han)

My concerns soon refocused on my left hamstring which was complaining, and slightly too early in a race of this length. Then it dawned on me. By taking my new shoes, I’d forgotten to switch my small but significant heel lift from my old shoe, meaning I was now unbalanced. Over a short run I can cope with this but with 87 miles left I was going to struggle or even break down completely. Luckily, the spares were in my drop bag so I would put it in at 25 miles and hope not too much damage was already done.

Aside from a 10-yard detour when I was too busy talking to see “Vaseline Alley” (a reference to my Thames Path 100 experience – don’t ask), the journey back to base was uneventful. Seanie was struggling with the pace at times but he usually takes about a marathon to warm up anyway.

 

Goring 25(ish) miles: 4h18m (135th place)

After a relatively quick turnaround at which I put the insert into my shoe, I set off down the Ridgeway with Bex and Seanie in tow, my role as Pied Piper apparently established. With both of them requiring regular stretch breaks however, I found myself keen to pick up the pace a bit and left them to it for stretches, only for them to catch me up at a hill or gate. Mentally, I think it’s important to find a rhythm and while it didn’t make a huge difference, I felt better for having the chance to stretch my legs a bit. I think I also completed a 50k PB here – although I couldn’t work out whether this was brilliant or terrible news. Had I set off way too fast or was I in great shape? Or both?

Seanie “stretching” on the Ridgeway

As we hit Grim’s Ditch – a wonderful piece of undulating wooded single-track – I saw Cat who was going well as third lady and Dudley who wasn’t happy with his dodgy ankle and looked set to drop at Goring. There was no sign of Leo who I later found out from Ilsuk had taken a wrong turn and added on three ‘bonus’ miles. Not ideal but if anyone could cope it was Leo.

Bex in the big field

Eventually I reached Swyncombe (37 miles), refuelled, gave Grand Slammer (some people do all four Centurion 100-milers in a single year!) Mark Thornberry some encouragement, put on my jacket as it was starting to rain (spookily bang on 5pm, just when James had said it would) and set off again. The break hadn’t done my left knee any favours though and it took a good few minutes of walking before I could run without any pain. This section back to Goring has more down than up and when I was moving easily again I took advantage, fairly flying along the trails (relatively speaking) as I put off firing up the headtorch for as long as possible.

After a while I caught up with Ilsuk who looked a bit lost and we set off towards the North Stoke checkpoint together for a bit to eat. Before we left, Bex and Seanie had arrived so we knew they were still going strong. As we left, my knee once again complained and for a moment I was worried I wouldn’t be able to run at all. But within a few minutes I was fine. Leaving Ilsuk to take photos of the setting sun, I pushed on in need of some halfway nourishment.

Goring 50 miles: 9h42m (108th place)

Idiotic grin, tomato soup and tea (Photo: Cate McVeigh)

Assuming this was 50 miles, I was just 8 minutes outside my PB for the distance, albeit on a more forgiving course than the North Downs Way. So again, I was wondering if I’d gone off too fast. I felt in good shape through and in the absence of pasta which would have been my first choice, a cup of tomato soup with croutons and tea (not mixed) did the trick. I changed my t-shirt for a long-sleeved merino wool layer and was about to leave when Sarah Sawyer threatened to throw me out for hanging around too long. That’ll teach me to wait for Ilsuk. I probably did faff about too much here as I’d also heard from Seanie that Bex was having trouble with her ankles, but he was waiting to run with her so off I went.

Within a mile of leaving Goring, I noticed that the bottom of my left shin was sore. I loosened the laces on my shoe and caught up with Ilsuk who, like the rest of those around us, was walking up the long road to the top of the Ridgeway. I’d always planned to walk this hill but I soon noticed that I was moving considerably faster than everyone else, including one guy who was running. Before too long I was on my own in the darkness, and then, as I emerged from the tree-lined path, in the bright light. The moon was, if not full, pretty close, and with a cloudless sky it was a beautiful night for running. I still needed my torch for the trickier parts but for long sections I conserved batteries and walked and ran by the light of the silvery moon.

After a good while I finally reached the Bury Downs checkpoint, a welcome tent on a hill where I stopped long enough to grab a warming cup of tea and marched on towards the next one.

People often ask what I think about when I run long distances and the short answer is I don’t know. After 60 miles and at night, I’m mainly monitoring how I feel and asking myself searching questions.

Am I hungry? (A bit. Have a gel anyway, it can’t do any harm.)

When did I last have an S!Cap? (On the hour. You know the rules.)

Is that a bush or a cat looking at me? (It was a bush looking at me.)

Is this uphill or do I need to try and convince myself to run this bit? (Definitely uphill.)

When will I get to the turnaround point? (About 11pm.)

How long until I get back to Goring at my current pace? (Another three hours after that.)

I saw Chain Hill, the 62.5 mile turnaround point, from half a mile away. The flashing multicoloured lights gave away the location of the “rave tent”. It’s aptly named, with techno being pumped out of the speakers, white pills readily available, and people in various degrees of joy and distress, some full of energy, others slumped in chairs. I was starting to get cold when I wasn’t moving so grabbed another tea, thanked the rave organisers and danced out the door. As I was leaving I bumped into Ilsuk just as he was arriving. He said he’d catch me up so I pressed on. Shortly after that I saw Seanie who told me Bex had run 100 yards out of HQ before deciding to drop. I was surprised because of the two of them, I thought she’d been in better shape earlier.

For me, it was onwards and downwards. With tea in hand, I was still marching at a decent clip and got some friendly abuse from a fellow runner regarding “how unfair is it that his legs are so fucking long”. I apologised and strode off into the blackness.

By this point, my shin was hurting a lot more and for the most part I wasn’t running the downhills. For some of the flats I broke into a trot but mainly I walked as it seemed to be the quickest and least painful way to move. I was also remembering Paul Simpson’s race report from the previous year in which he described how he walked every step of the second half and still finished in under 24 hours. Now, I didn’t want to walk that much – I came to run – but now I was this far along, it seemed stupid to potentially worsen my injury and have to drop. If I could get back to Goring at 2am, that gave me 8 hours to walk 25 miles and still get the one day buckle I’d come for.

Goring 75 miles – 16h03m (94th)

75 miles done and still smiling (Photo: Cate McVeigh)

By the time I reached Goring I was getting cold, so I put on an extra layer, changed my buff for a beanie and got my mittens out to take with me on the final leg. A small bowl of chilli con carne with bread warmed me up and before long Ilsuk showed up. With no sign of Seanie, we set off with one thing in mind – get back before 10am.

We soon saw Jess Gray and then a while later Cat with her dad Keith pacing her, and they were on for brilliant finishes: Jess 2nd lady, 5th overall in 16:42 and Cat, 3rd lady, 11th overall and in 17:24.

Despite my protests, Ilsuk would now and then suggest running for a bit which my leg wasn’t happy about but just about managed. We reached the Whitchurch checkpoint in an hour or so and saw James pacing Leo before we saw the man himself. James seemed to be struggling more than Leo, which is no slight on James, just a huge compliment to the man who would finish his first ever 100 in 18h31m and 15th place.

If anything though, these acts of inspiration left me feeling even more desperate about the task ahead. This was going to be a long night. We walked and ran a bit, I protested that it hurt too much, Ilsuk ran ahead and I tried to catch him with my fast walking or he’d wait a bit and let me catch up.

Then fog swept in across the fields by the Thames and for a moment I wasn’t in a race, I was just someone out in the countryside at night doing something ridiculous for no good reason and it was fun. Pointless but kind of exhilarating. I clearly needed to eat something.

The moon, the fog and a couple of runners

Once you get through the housing estate, you go down, at a conservative estimate, 6 million steps at Tilehurst station and back onto the Thames Path where the infamous ‘Welcome to Reading’ sign awaits. Experience told me that this meant it was another four miles to the checkpoint. But what a four miles. It’s hard to capture in words just how slow time seems to go when you’re at mile 83 and your leg doesn’t like moving and yet moving is the one and only thing that will bring an end to the pain. Well, other than dropping out and that was not going to happen. Not this time.

Finally, finally, the “Reading” – let’s be done with it and call it Windsor shall we? – checkpoint hove into glorious view and I just had to climb the steps (bastards), order a tea and ‘lighten the load’ before heading out the door with Ilsuk once more.

It was 6am. We had four hours to get our sub-24 finish.

“Shall we run?” said Ilsuk. “I don’t think walking will be quick enough.”

“I think it will. But you go. I’ll see you in Goring.”

And off he trotted into the rain that had just started to fall. I wondered whether I had it in me to run through the pain to get the sub-24 if it came to it. I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted it that much but quickly removed the thought from my head. I was going to do this. I just needed to keep moving.

It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t run or that it hurt, although it did. It was more the fear of risking further injury and having a repeat of last time. Having to drop out at 95 miles once was bad enough. Twice in the last 10 miles would just be stupidity. Play the percentages. Lay up in front of the stream. Don’t be be Tin Cup. (If you’ve never seen Tin Cup, get on that immediately – absolutely peak Kevin Costner, and a much underrated film.)

Keep walking, no slacking.

Keep eating.

Ignore the rain, it won’t last.

Daylight is coming.

As I approached Tilehurst and the Welcome to Reading sign again, more and more people were coming towards me, also on their way to a finish. I gave everyone a “well done” and felt for them, because that stretch is really tough, and they’d been out just as long as me with a lot further to go. Their will to carry on was incredible.

Earlier in the day I’d heard Rachel Lonergan say she had an umbrella in her drop bag, which I thought was a great gag. Then, as I was heading back towards the river, there she was, with her umbrella. Genius. Truly. If you’re walking anyway, why not stay dry?

Then it was the endless fields to Whitchurch. Familiar faces battling their way on. Phil. Kate. Graham, still smiling and accompanied by his pacer Rod. Tinu, still moving forwards, desperate for her first 100 finish, at her third attempt, on her birthday (she would go on get her buckle with half an hour to spare). Finally, there was Dan Park sweeping, a man who really knows how to give a high five, and that was the last person I’d see coming towards me.

The white bridge at Whitchurch.

The checkpoint.

I don’t hang about as it’s 8:20am and I only have about four miles to go. Barring a bear attack, I’ve got this in the bag. I start to smile. A few people around me are shuffling to glory but I’m happy to walk it in, and even manage to overtake a couple of people as they limp to the end. I’m through the last of the fields and onto the footpath. The end is close. I’ve been dreaming about this and I ready myself for 100 yards of running up to the village hall and for the first time I get a tiny bit emotional.

 

There’s a lump in my throat but I swallow it down when I see Cate and give her the biggest, happiest (and probably smelliest) hug before going inside to get my number taken and I can’t stop smiling. I think I did a little dance in front of the timers and couldn’t care less what they think. I see Louise who seems to have been there for about 36 hours and give her a hug whether she likes it or not.

Goring 100 miles – 23h26m (95th)

 

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Photo: Stuart March

Hug from Centurion godmother Nici, buckle, photo from Stuart, and a sit down from which I would struggle to get up. But so happy.

There it is! The ‘100 Miles One Day’ buckle (Photo: Cate McVeigh)

Nearly two weeks on, I’ve had plenty of time to assess my race. Being a greedy and ungrateful so-and-so, I’m a little disappointed not to have got my secret 22-hour finish. But actually, any finish would have been amazing so I’m still very proud of sub-24. I need to get stronger and fitter if I want to improve at this distance, while I’m feeling more and more comfortable at the 50 mile event. And considering that I only did my first marathon three years ago at the ripe old age of 40, I think I’ve made some good progress.

Thanks and apologies

Both of these to Cate, who is so supportive despite understandably spending the whole of these races worried while I’m enjoying myself. Turning up at 2am having had no sleep really is exceptional crewing, as well as the inevitable after care as I hobble around for days after. Love you.

Thanks to Centurion for another flawlessly executed race, and your mind reading volunteers who knew better than I what I wanted most of the time. Apologies if I failed to thank anyone but I tried my best. You were all outstanding in your field, in some cases literally. Out, standing in your… oh, never mind.

Thanks also to Ilsuk for dragging me to Reading, and to Seanie and Bex for keeping me company and putting up with running off like an excited puppy when I saw “a good bit”.

Many thanks to everyone who sponsored me – I’ve raised over £550 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Post Script alert:  I found out much, much later that having ‘dropped’, Bex had actually been persuaded to carry on and had ground out a finish, despite her feet problems. What a hero. Seanie meanwhile had stopped at mile 75, saving himself for the Centurion 50 Grand Slam. Still, not a bad effort on basically zero training!

And finally, congratulations to everyone who started and everyone who finished. It takes a lot of dedication, effort and guts to even be there and I’m honoured to be a part of a special club. By which I mean the ultrarunning community. Getting this…

… is just the icing on a delicious cake. Mmm, cake.

Official Autumn 100 race report and results

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Autumn 100: (Less than) 1 week to go


MONDAY (0 miles)
Yoga and foam rolling for breakfast. Mmm, tasty.

TUESDAY (4.5 miles)
Classic two-bridge loop first thing. Felt fine, although I’m way more phlegmy than I ought to be. Decided to find out if it is sinusitis and booked a doctor’s appointment for Friday. It could be that a course of antibiotics will clear this up once and for all. I don’t feel bad enough not to run but it is annoying and can’t be helping me.

WEDNESDAY (7.6 miles)
The last run commute before the race. Decided to warm up with an easy mile and then keep my pace sub-8 minute miles for the remainder. Despite a decidedly unhelpful easterly headwind for part of the way, this felt really good. I reckon I’d be in good shape for a half marathon PB right now. Which is both encouraging and worrying, given that my race is a little bit longer than that and at a very different pace. Still, happy to be feeling fit. Having said that, there’s a slight pain emerging from my left knee which I’ve never had before. I’m sure it’s nothing, he says unconvincingly.

THURSDAY (0 miles)
Decided to listen to the knee and did a core workout and some foam rolling instead of running.

FRIDAY (4.3 miles)
Early morning two bridges with Leo, Emily and Andy. Not super easy pace but still conversational and felt pretty good. Saw the doctor and got a nasal spray. Can’t do any harm to try it.

SATURDAY (4.1 miles)
As instructed by the doc, I took the nasal spray first thing and waited for the magic to happen. Taking it completely easy at parkrun is an exercise in futility, so I decided to go for a 10k-ish pace. No complaints from the knee, felt comfortable and finished strong in just over 22 minutes. A couple of months ago this was my best effort so I’ve definitely made some progress. Thanks, track sessions! Also, there was very little in the way of post-run mucus, you’ll no doubt be delighted to read.

In the afternoon, I went for one of my regular appointments to see my chiropractor to make sure everything was in order ahead of the race. Turns out the knee pain wasn’t nothing, and that one of the muscles in my quad (there are four, you know) was very tight, so he worked on that to loosen it up.

SUNDAY (0 miles)
Stretching and foam rolling like a boss. I could have run today but I’m not going to get any fitter now and I may as well start the restful week to avoid putting any additional stress on my clearly overworked muscles. I’ll do one more run on Tuesday and that will be it until next Saturday at 10am.

Weekly total: 20.4 miles

So that’s it. Training is complete. I probably should have done more strength work and this may come back to haunt me, but what’s done is done. I am confident I can finish this time and I’m really looking forward to the experience, even though I know it’s going to be really hard. That’s why I’m doing this though – to test myself. Here’s hoping I  pass.

 

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A100: 2 weeks to go

MONDAY (0 miles)

If in doubt, have an extra rest day. That’s my motto. So no running today but a challenging core session before breakfast. I remain hopeless at side planks. Something to work on during the off-season.

TUESDAY (4.8 miles)

This was meant to be an easy 5-miler round Southwark Park at lunchtime but unexpectedly the legs felt good so it turned into a progression run. Sometimes it’s nice just to run how you feel.

WEDNESDAY (13.3 miles)

Unable to get to the biannual Fulham Handicap race in time, I ran an easy 4 miles with the newly formed and rapidly expanding work running club and then headed homewards. Ended up doing a nicely even-paced half marathon, and all in a fresh-out-the-box pair of trail shoes. Deciding I needed a second pair for the forthcoming race, I upgraded to the new Peregrine 6 from Saucony. Just as comfortable on road, I didn’t get a single blister or so much as a hotspot. Definitely “second half slippers” for the big dance.

THURSDAY (0 miles)

A tad sore from last night, I ditched track and did some foam rolling first thing, and then again in the evening. No fun but needs must.

FRIDAY (4.5 miles)

Early morning easy bridge loop with Leo. He carried on and ran in to work. I really wish I’d done the same as a) it took me way longer on the tube and b) if I had, I would have topped 200 miles for the month. Still, 191.3 for September was a decent total and probably my biggest ever. Not that size is important…

SATURDAY (8.2 miles)

The plan was to jog the first 4 miles, then 5k pace for the remaining 4. But I ran too soon after breakfast and felt queasy from the start. Still managed 3 decent miles but I just wasn’t feeling right so jogged it in. Not ideal, but I should probably get used to running while not feeling great. There could well be a lot of that in two weeks’ time.

SUNDAY (9.7 miles)


A nice easy trot up through Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park. It seems to take me about an hour to get into a groove these days and sure enough, the last half an hour of this was the most fun.

Weekly total: 40.8 miles



This was the first week of this training block which at times felt like hard work. I feel like I’ve done most of the required running and now I just want to get on with the race. Hitting the mileage goals, nailing the tough sessions, getting up early to go to the track; these are all things I love and do willingly, but it’s tiring, physically and mentally. So I’m looking forward to a couple of low mileage weeks and a LOT of list-making. You can’t run an ultra without making lists.

 

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A100: 3 weeks to go

 

Photo by Leo

MONDAY (0 miles)

Yoga in the morning, foam rolling in the evening. Despite yesterday’s long(ish) run, I actually felt like I could have run today. But I stuck to the plan and gave my legs the chance to recover.

TUESDAY (11.6 miles)

The plan was to run with the newly-formed running club at work and then run home, all at a nice easy pace. But the only person who turned up is young and quick so I did miles at tempo pace and then jogged homewards. With a few miles to go I decided to see if I could respond to an increase in pace and to my surprise and delight found myself fairly flying along and didn’t want to stop. Just occasionally, there’s a pace and point in a run where it feels absolutely exhilarating to be running and this was that rare time for me. I guess this is the runner’s high you hear about. And bloody marvellous it was too.



WEDNESDAY (11.9 miles)

Again went out for a few miles after work  with the office whippet and someone else so again started out speedily. Soon settled down to a more easy pace for the journey home and got back feeling not too knackered.

THURSDAY (0 miles)

Probably could have gone to track for some mile reps (my original plan) but decided they wouldn’t be high quality so had a lie-in and did some extra foam rolling, which I definitely needed.

 

FRIDAY (5.7 miles)

For the first time in ages I got up in time for the Friday morning run with Fulham Running Club along the Thames. Was rewarded with some good chat with Leo (who is also doing the Autumn 100 – his first 100 but I’m sure he’s going to be brilliant) and some FRC ladies, as well as a beautiful sunny and misty river run. Was tempted to continue the run all the way to work but need to save the legs for tomorrow’s route recce.

SATURDAY (24.8 miles)

Cat, Dudley and Leo refuel at halfway

We picked a beautiful day to check out leg 3 of the Autumn 100, from Goring village up to Chain Hill, west on the Ridgeway. I was running with Dudley, Cat and Leo, all of whom are running the A100, and all of whom are a lot quicker and fitter than me. The pace was a touch hot for me and I paid for it in the final ascent at mile 20 but overall coped fairly well on tired legs. It was a stunning day out, although the wind up  there could be a bit challenging come the night of the race. If all goes to plan I’ll be up there from about 8.30pm until about 2am. Great to see it in the daylight and sunshine though!



SUNDAY (0 miles)

A day of rest. Lying down, eating, a spot of yoga and some foamrolling. Looking forward to an easier week.

 

Weekly total: 54.1 miles

This was peak week for my training. In the seven days from last Sunday to this Saturday I ran 71 miles, which I think is the most I’ve ever done in that period. So while I felt a bit disheartened to see the other looking so fresh after our recce, I won’t be running anything like as fast as them on race day, and I won’t have had quite such a big week. It’s easy to get distracted by other people’s running but I need to focus on myself and stick to my plan.

A plan which will now also see me doing more core strength workouts over the coming weeks. I’ve been neglecting them and even a few short sessions a week will help me to be stronger come race day. 20 days to go…

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A100: 4 weeks to go


MONDAY (0 miles)
Yoga first thing. Sore back by the end of the day. I think my body just gets confused when I don’t run!

TUESDAY (7.7 miles)

The run commute this morning and for a few miles decided to keep it easy all the way. But the further I went the better I felt so this ended up as a steady progression run. I think I’ve also finally found a route which is fairly direct but without too much foot or road traffic. Score!

WEDNESDAY (6.1 miles)

Nice steady bridges loop with Fulham Running Club. Great to catch up with people even if I didn’t fancy beer. Probably thinking about tomorrow morning’s track session…

THURSDAY (6 miles)

A beautiful morning by the time I headed home. By then I’d done 10x400m at a decent pace so happy with that.

FRIDAY (10 miles)

Worked at home so took the chance to do an early evening run round Clapham Common and back. Even at an easy pace I was pretty tired by the end. Four days’ running in a row is about my limit.

SATURDAY (10.1 miles)

A rare Saturday off running as I was volunteering at the inaugural Chiltern Wonderland 50, a new ultra from Centurion Running. My first time doing over timing and boy, is it hard work! Runners should be made to come into the check point one at a time with a gap of no less than 30 seconds 🙂 Great fun and good to see lots of familiar faces doing so well.

SUNDAY (17.2 miles)

A wonderful weekend of running altruismwas rounded off today when I ran to Kingston Bridge to meet Steph who was doing the Richmond Marathon. When I met her (at mile 16) she was a bit knackered, having set off too fast. So I just ran with her to keep her company and see how close we could get to her pre-race target of 3:35. She showed incredible grit to tough it out for 10 miles and finished in 3:37. Top effort from her and great fun for me. I also did some foam rolling which was considerably less fun.

Weekly total: 47.3 miles

My biggest mileage week for a while. This week I’ve been thinking about finishing the Autumn 100. Literally, how I’ll run (or possibly walk) those last few yards and how great it will feel. I don’t know if visualisation works, but I’m willing to give it a try. If nothing else, filling my head with positive thoughts feels good so I’ll keep doing that for now.

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A100: 5 weeks to go

MONDAY (0 miles)

Yoga am, foam rolling the calves pm. Seem to have gained a twinge in my lower back overnight. Probably just a reaction to it being Monday.

TUESDAY (5 miles)

It may be September but it was very warm even at 6:15 this morning. Humidity and early mornings always make me feel sick but managed to avoid blapping all over the Thames Path. A few form drills in the park followed by an easy progression run.

WEDNESDAY (8.2 miles)

Started the day with a short (25 minute) leg session, with lunges, squats and stability exercises. The plan was to run a quick 10k as part of my 8-mile run commute home. As soon as I picked up the pace, I felt something like indigestion which I couldn’t shake. It was also warm, and I set off too fast so after 5 miles decided to cruise the rest home. I don’t know what brought that feeling on but I also couldn’t eat dinner which is very unlike me. I’ve also had a bit of a cold and have been phlegmy on my runs, although maybe I need to lay off the milk and cheese for a bit.

THURSDAY (6.1 miles)


A couple of easy miles to track, some form drills to warm up and then 6x600m. Still feeling a mixture of nausea and indigestion so this wasn’t a great session. Also, as it was less than 12 hours since my last run, I wasn’t recovered. Still, got it done and I now have 48 hours to rest up, overcome this stomach issue and have a crack at my parkrun PB on Saturday.

FRIDAY (0 miles)

Early morning yoga and some foam rolling in the evening. Classic.

SATURDAY (4.5 miles)

One of the many great things about running with a club is that there’s usually someone faster than you. Well, there is if you’re me and you run with Fulham. So I asked my speedy chum Andy Han to pace me to a PB at parkrun today. He did his best but I couldn’t keep up and despite getting to halfway in 10:08, 20:19 didn’t happen. But given it was 25 seconds faster than last week, I’ll take 20:22. If I can work on my mental attitude when I’m getting fatigued I can crack this. Maybe even go sub-20.

SUNDAY (15.7 miles)

It’s the second Sunday of the month and another chance to run the Thames Hare & Hounds’ Second Sunday 5, a 5-mile trail race on Wimbledon Common. Cheap, cheerful and low key, usually – there were nearly 60 runners today – it’s a good, lumpy test and the perfect training for the winter cross-country season. I did this in July and finished in just under 40 minutes so the aim was to jog there, give it a go, and then run for an hour afterwards to get my weekend mileage up.


Knowing the course was a bonus and I felt comfortable with a pace of just over 7 minute miles until I reached the Toast Rack which is always a battle of attrition. Maintaining a consistent pace and finishing strongly are always my aim and with the exception of a girl who took off on the final descent, no one overtook me after the first half mile. My time was 37:00 so very happy with that.

Weekly total: 39.9 miles

Another good week. Every now and then I wonder if I should be doing more miles – which I will, a bit, for the next two weeks – but I’m confident that the good quality mileage I’m doing is helping to improve my overall fitness. Hopefully this will be at least as good as just doing more miles. We shall see in less than five weeks!

 

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A100: 6 weeks to go

MONDAY (0 miles)

10-hour flight from San Francisco overnight. 30 minutes sleep. Swapped an easy run for a nap.

TUESDAY (5 miles)

A few easy miles in some cheap new shoes. Turns out they’re cheap because they won’t last long! Comfy though. Also got a slightly painful but much needed sports massage in the evening.

WEDNESDAY (8.1 miles)

Resurrected the run commute, overcoming jetlag-related nausea to finish strongly.

THURSDAY (6.8 miles)

Early morning track session. Felt a bit nauseous (again) so started with 2×800, followed by 4×400, and then 2×800. Decent session and wasn’t even interrupted by the local geese. They must have known I meant business.

FRIDAY (0 miles)

Early morning yoga and that was it for the day. Absolutely shattered. Sometimes I love rest day.

SATURDAY (4.6 miles)

After a few weeks of shorter, faster runs, I had this notion that I might be able to get close to my parkrun PB (20:20). However, beating this meant 6:32/mile pace which seemed unlikely so I just set off at what I thought was a sustainable pace. Aside from a slack second mile, I was happy to finish in 20:47. Maybe next week. Also got my regular maintenance session at the chiropractor which should keep me in shape as I up the mileage.

SUNDAY (19.5 miles)

I’ve been sneezing all week and just assumed I was allergic to going back to work. But when I woke up with the feeling of a cold in my head I very nearly didn’t go for the planned long run. Felt a bit ropey for the first few miles but by the time I reached Richmond Hill for some continuous hill reps I was in the groove. While it wasn’t a quick run, I finished feeling strong, which is all I can hope for at this stage.

Weekly total: 44.3 miles

A good week. Need to focus on doing more strength work though. Starting to have muscle overuse injury thoughts. Mentally, I’m 100% ready to finish a 100-miler. Physically, I’m not so certain.

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