In March ’22 I completed my first ultra marathon, the D33 along the old Deeside way railway line. I’m told you’re supposed to say never again after finishing your first but not me, I was hooked.
Shortly afterwards I was scouring the internet to see what my next challenge would be and that’s when I saw the advert for GB Ultras Glasgow to Edinburgh ultra marathon, at 56 miles it was a significant step up in distance for me. Training was delayed by a niggling injury and along the way I lost a bit of belief in myself but I mostly hit my targets and come the morning of Saturday 8th October I was toeing the starting line alongside another 300+ runners.
Cometh the hour…
I managed a full night’s sleep the night before the race, which considering my nerves that day was a feat in itself. Alarm set for 3:45am I crept downstairs so as not to wake the whole house, had my usual pre run breakfast of toasted bagel, peanut butter and chopped banana washed down with a coffee and it was almost time to go. My friend, and fellow ultra runner, Greg had offered to crew me so he picked me up and off we headed to the Riverside museum in Glasgow to register, pick up my race number and GPS tracker and most importantly get the toilet duties over and done with.
“It’s time to start running!”
By the time I stood on the starting line I felt good, absolutely raring to go and shift that nervous energy that had been building in me for days. 3, 2, 1 and it was time to go. From the start I stayed quite reserved, sticking to my pacing plan of 10 min/mile, all I could see ahead of me as we snaked through the quiet Glasgow streets down towards the river Kelvin were the bobbing lights of runners’ head torches which must have been quite a sight to any late night/early morning revellers sneaking home. I soon got in to a rythym once the field thinned and feeling comfortable I pushed my pace up to 9:30 min/mile. The first CP was at around 5 miles and no crew were permitted here so I was quite happy to push on to CP2 (11 miles) where I’d meet Greg for a check on how I was, he assured me I was looking strong and moving through the field nicely. A quick refill of active root and solid fuel stock up and off I went.
The sun had come up by now and I still felt good so I allowed myself to take my pace up another notch to sit just above 9 min/mile pace. Fuelling and hydration was also going to plan and I’d loaded up with enough to see me to CP4 as CP3 was no crew permitted. I stopped briefly at CP3 (16 miles) to try the much recommended salted potatoes and top up my water before quickly soldiering on to meet Greg at CP4 next to the Falkirk wheel (26 miles). Same spiel from Greg here, asking how I was feeling, how my fuelling was etc. This time I told him I still felt good but not quite as good as the last time I’d seen him but he assured me I still looked strong, especially in comparison to a few runners who’d arrived before me, and he told me I was still picking off the field in front of me which was a boost. A quick top up of hydration and fuel, some more salted potatoes and onwards I went.
Although the distance between CP4 and CP5 was a mere 4 miles it was on this leg of the race that I started to struggle. I was less attentive to my fuelling as I was now having problems swallowing anything without wretching and as a result my legs were getting heavier and the pain was starting to weigh on me mentally, I was also starting to obsess over the constant left sloping camber of the canal tow path but I was keeping on top of my hydration and the active root was keeping me going albeit a little more slowly. When I got to CP5 (30 miles) my mindset was noticeably more negative. Greg met me with the same questions as before, ‘how are you feeling?’. ‘Are you drinking, eating, peeing?’. ‘It hurts’ I answered. ‘What hurts?’. ‘Everything from the waist down!’. Greg told me that was fine, to be expected and I could block that out. I was starting to build a surplus of fuel I told him, as I couldn’t eat. It was at this point he produced a little pot of heaven and told me to try it, Ambrosia rice pudding! On a normal day I am not a fan of this stuff but on this occasion it was a god send. I scoffed half the pot, refilled my active root and off I went feeling a little better for it and the boost in energy soon filtered to my aching legs.
My legs still felt tired in waves and I was still wretching anytime I ate on the move, or at all really, so by now any time I needed to eat I started walking and just forced myself to get it over the back of my tongue and in to my stomach. This was the theme from CP5 through CP6 (37 miles and more rice pudding) and on to CP7 (50 miles) where this time Greg made me eat one of my Chia charge flapjacks before leaving and produced a pot of custard, even better! 6 miles to go and at this point I knew I’d finish, not that I ever had real doubts about it but what’s 6 miles?
7.3 miles, that’s what 6 miles turned out to be! Apart from constantly awaiting the never arriving sight of Saughton sports complex I felt ok and resolved to run a mile and walk a minute which worked well for me. I had been warned in advance of the turn off the Union canal path on to the trail following the water of Leith and I was keeping my eyes open for it and the cruelest of twists that was the stairs between the 2 paths, down no less. If you know you know!
Finally, I hit Saughton sports complex and the promised land of the track and finish line, a quick wrong turn left on to the track faux pas only to be redirected to my right to do the full lap and from somewhere I found 8 min/mile pace to finish looking stronger than I felt. Medal, finishers picture, a few tears and a hug from Greg (who I couldn’t have managed without) and I was done. 41st place in a time of 9:41:45, a fantastic achievement and well below my sub 10 hour target. What next?
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