You’d probably all thought I’d had my ultra marathon fix after doing Race to the Stones (RTTS) last year…Oh how you were all so wrong!!
This weekend I took part in the London Revolution trails event. Originally it was just a cycle event starting at Lee Valley Athletics centre in London, ending at Windsor race course. There are four route options – weekender, ultra, Southern and Northern stage. You can camp out at Windsor or tackle the course all in one! This year was the first year with the trails options, and I thought it was really well organised and planned event!
When I heard that they were adding this trail option, I couldn’t resist in taking part. With the start being so close to home and the finish area only a short drive away, it seemed perfect.
Admittedly I felt quite nervous on the day. I felt like I had prepared myself enough, hadn’t done enough training/long runs and seriously started doubting myself. However, when I turned up at the start line to be greeted by Charlie, Andy, Mel, Hannah, Emily and Lisa, I knew I was going to fine! I also got to finally meet Anna, her husband and beautiful daughter!
At the start it was very different to RTTS. It was small but there was a great buzz in the atmosphere, and everyone was really excited. The walkers started at 8.30am, followed by our wave for the ultra and marathon distance at 9.15am and the next at 9.30am. The half marathon wave started 12.30pm. For a grey day, it was actually quite mild. Within 5 minutes of starting I’d taken my rain jacket off and regretted bringing it with me! I was thankful for the event leaders, who followed Charlie, Andy, Lisa and I around the course, for holding on to it for me!
Once we had started, we made our way through the streets of Marlow and headed out towards the trails/hills. Feeling good, we made our way through the woods, up a few hills, greeted by some beautiful views and down towards the first pit stop. Here the course splits and marathoners double back and ultra marathoners headed out through Hambleden and up more hills. We didn’t spend much time at here, but to quickly use the loo and grab some fuel to go. What we were then about to be faced with, was NOT expected!!
Hills, and LOTS of them!!!!
This view at the top was WELL worth it!!!
Once we had surfaced from the monster incline we carried on into the woods and stumbled upon the quagmire that had developed over the recent few days, and what we had been warned about before we started. Luckily, Charlie’s white socks managed to stay white, however the new shoes didn’t get away so lightly!
Down the hill and deeper into the forest we went, heading back towards Hambleden and to our second pit stop.
Not spending much time here, again, we grabbed a few snacks and carried on. We were now making our way back to Marlow/base camp, along the high ground, down to the main road, through fields, passing fast flowing streams, through THE darkest of tunnels and down to the river. At this point we had lost Andy and Lisa. Andy was getting calf cramp and told us to go ahead. I felt bad leaving him but I knew he was serious about us going ahead, and he in great hands with Lisa by his side!
I will not lie, this ☝🏼was not fun! At one point it was SO pitch black, I couldn’t see Charlie in front of me. Afraid I’d fall down a hole, I ran faster to keep up with her and get out! A few miles later and we wiggled our way through the, now busy streets of Marlow, to the third pit stop.
The most exciting thing about this pit stop, was the watermelon! I can not describe to you the cravings I had for it and I literally jumped for joy when I saw it!!!! For a second, it took my mind of the cramping in my left calf and gave me that boost to get going. Again, we didn’t stop here for long, just because we didn’t want to start seizing up and we were also on for a good time!
Onwards we wet and with only 22.1km to go, we were getting into the pain cave…the cramp continued and I started to get uncomfortable. At this stage, my mind was also starting to go, and if it wasn’t for Charlie, I definitely would have walked a lot more than we did. We were now making our way to Windsor and thankfully it being along the river, it was flat. Through Bourne End and towards Cookham, we ran a lot of the way, crossing the river and along to pit stop 4, I was very thankful for another rest station.
We spent a little longer here, using the loos, filling up my water pack, grabbing a few more sweets and doing a bit of stretching. I could feel myself mentally deteriorating and at this point wasn’t sure how I was going to get through to the end. Before we left, we were warned of a rather large wasps nest in the bush, suggesting taking a wide berth when we passed it! Here, a friend of Charlie’s caught up with us and we chatted for a while, which was a welcome distraction!
Making our way towards Maidenhead, we passed the 15km. Knowing we only had a few more pitstops, and smaller mileage in between, we continued to run/walk when we needed and enjoyed the quietness and beauty along the river. As we passed over the Maidenhead bridge, we were greeted by the sweetest family of geese!
Not having much longer to go until our 5th pit stop, we continued running. I felt okay and my cramp had gone. I took my mind off things by singing to myself and enjoying the views. It’s strange when you run with someone, as your never sure of their pace and if you’ll keep up or manage to fill the time by chatting. There were moments of silence, and I used these times and when Charlie was in front of me, to focus/almost lean on her, to get me through. We often played cat and mouse with a few other runners, who were so supportive and friendly. We passed a few walkers who encouraged us on and boosted our confidence, with many of them mentioning how strong we looked and our fast pace. Reaching the fifth pit stop, we didn’t spend long. We were so desperate to sit down, the temptation was too much and we needed to get going again. We were ready to be done now.
Carrying on and with only 3 miles until the next stop, I told myself I could do it. “It’s just a park run” I repeated and we managed to get a solid 2 miles of running in. Passing through a lock and reaching the final pitstop, we didn’t stop. There was a cameraman just past the tent, Charlie grabbed some watermelon and we ran towards him. Less than 3 miles to go, we’ve got this. Or so I thought I had…
After a mile of running, we took a quick walking break, I munched on my cliff bar hoping it would give me something to get me through. We were both very deep into the pain cave now and all we had to do was to keep going. We took turns in “carrying” each other, talking about post run massages and how desperate we were get our shoes off and sit down! As we reached an opening along the river, to the right we saw the finish area, Charlie’s husband and children by the bank, shouting at us! A huge boost we both needed! About a mile before the end, I let Charlie go ahead of me. I knew I couldn’t carry on at her speed. For me, this ultra was not about a time but all about the experience and I’m glad she chose to run on and smash the sub 7 hour PB! I met a really friendly man, who I walked and chatting a little with, until he ran on ahead.
On my own, I messaged Becky and started to cry. I’m so thankful for her quick, response and boosting messages back, to get me going again. I started running, along the main road and into the racecourse. The end was so close, passing finishers, who were congratulating and cheering me on. I ended up catching up with the man, who I wish I’d caught his name, when Charlie left me. Together we made our way up the final few metres and over the finish line.
I was DONE.
We congratulated each other and all I wanted to do was cry. Out of nowhere a medal was placed around my neck and I searched frantically for Charlie. I spotted her in the distance and instantly burst into tears, as she ran over to hug me. I’d done it. I’d finished one of the most mentally challenging events of my life. Shaving a good hour and half off our RTTS, I was just glad I’d completed it. I didn’t give up, there was NO way that was happening. I fought hard and I am beyond proud of myself. I had the best day. Yes it was hard and painful towards the end but I’d do it again. Crazy as it sounds.
“You’ll be wistful for ‘the wall’ of the marathon, when you hit ‘the death grip’ of the ultra.” – Bob Glover. This quote sums it up. This ultra broke me physically, and tested me mentally. I did hit ‘the wall’, found my second, then third wind and experienced another level of endurance I didn’t know existed, let alone, thought I ever would experience or had in me.
If I’ve learnt anything from this, it’s how mentally strong I am. I have doubted myself so many time before races and events, that I’m not ready or haven’t trained enough. Not now. No matter what is thrown my way, I am a stronger person from this day and I have Charlie to thank, for playing a major part in it. Our friendship has grown closer, and I’m beyond grateful to know this inspiring and amazing lady.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to every single person who wished me good luck, encouraged and congratulated me. Your constant support means more to me than you will all ever know. A massive thank you, also, to the organisers and volunteers at each pit stop, along the course and at the end. Without you, these events don’t run as well as this one did.
I hope you have all had a wonderful weekend. Congratulations to all of you who raced, rode in the Dulux London Revolution, smashed PB’s and experienced their first ultras. I hope you are all proud of yourselves! Ride that high and tell everyone about it!