Grand Union Canal 145 Mile Race
Despite a hot and noisy nights sleep, I woke up excited about the race ahead. After the usual bulletproof coffee with butter and coconut oil as well as a croissant, we headed off to the start where a cleanup was happening on Broad Street. Once there, we greeted some familiar faces from the Centurion family as the anticipation began to set in. Although the atmosphere was calm, you could feel the nerves of the fellow first time runners.
I was set and ready… and before I knew it we were off!
The first few miles passed like clockwork, despite a weather disturbance at 9.7 miles where I was met with a downpour of heavy, warm rain. Although it was muggy, I was in fine form and began running with Tom Sawyer, setting a steady pace of 8 ½ minute miles. Although I was enjoying the race, by 17.2 miles at Kingswood I wasn’t feeling like eating much and my leg was starting to twinge with shin splints. This didn’t phase me and I happily enjoyed a Costa given to me by the crew. 22.5 miles down the line at Hatton Lock, I was still doing well but was careful to notice the temperature rising and the breaking cloud coverage.
I made a quick toilet stop and carried on my way. At 31 miles I was starting to find the heat and humidity tough and I took on plenty of food and fluid. I kept going steady with the run and had a short two minute walk for 0.2 miles as a quick recovery. The number of bugs flitting around was certainly not helpful!
At 35 miles I was feeling very hot despite it being very windy and cloudy. I kept drinking plenty in a bid to cool down and was in good standing in 6th place. At 40 miles I had two new bottles and to stop me overheating, and despite this problem it was nice to see Cat Simpson along the way.
Annoyingly, I made a wrong turn and ran 2 miles of course and subsequently had to run 2 miles back to mile 45 where I found the right way and I began to cool down as the temperature dropped to 18 degrees and it began to get stormy. I was beginning to feel better and ate some more watermelon. By the time I reached checkpoint four I still felt good, and was now in 7th place. But by mile 60 the weather turned against me once again and as I heated up I could feel myself starting to struggle. I pushed through and five miles down the line I meet up with Liam, Edward, Sue and Leanne which gave me a boost as I started to feel sick, and tried to be sick but couldn’t. I continued with Leanne to mile 70, despite still struggling with the heat.
At mile 70 I had to stop and lay down with a cold buff on head and wrist for about 20 minutes. This made me feel much better and gave me even more strength to carry on now joined by Edward. On the way I saw Drew Sheffield and James Adams and had some Hula Hoops, changed my top and asked for more salty food in order to boost my salt levels. At 80.4 miles I had half a packet of fries (just what was needed),and took a coke with me. By the time I reached checkpoint six I felt much better. As the night drew in I put my head torch on and charged my watch. At the 90 mile mark I finished with Ed and started with Gary,
eating some 85% dark chocolate as well as getting a new juice to refuel. As the darkness surrounded us, I began to get cold and decided to change to a long sleeved top. At 94.2 miles we reached Slapton Loch and saw Andy Jordan, I didn’t know it then, but another runner had retired ahead of me and I was then in 5th place. At 99.8 miles I had a quick cup of tea, tray bake and a top up of fluid and kept going. When we reached mile 108 we were supposed to meet the crew, but there was an incident with the car park closing when the car was still in it!
I decided to remain unphased and set off with Gina, my legs sore but still moving, and I later discovered that we only missed the crew at the next aid station by seconds (after they managed to get the car out of the car park).
As we continued, I went past a runner in a very bad condition sat by the side of the canal, I was now in 4th place. It was dawn and light was starting to come through, but the mist and fog hanging over the river was starting to play tricks on me and I was convinced I saw the crew waving at me from a bridge ahead. I tried to stay focussed on the ground in front of me to keep my mind from playing tricks. The crew finally caught up with us and I received another coffee. Day had broken and although my legs were sore I was still able to run. I reached checkpoint eight with only a marathon to go – this gave me hope that I was going to make the finish. I set off with Gina for the final six miles, listening to the sounds of the ducks and watching out for Harry the heron who had been following us since mile 70!
By the time we got to mile 127 the crew was not feeling too good, Gina stayed on to run another 6 miles with me – as long as her car could be moved!
Sue had to leave us at that point to go back to work at Evolve, she had been driving the support runners round all night for me. A massive thanks to Sue! Gina and I were counting down the bridges until we got to Bull’s bridge, we still didn’t know who or where any of the other runners where and I hadn’t run with another runner since mile 44.
As we edged closer to the end I was about to say goodbye to Gina and run the last 10 miles on my own… but my crew surprised me as Liam stood there waiting to run with me!
He agreed to run with me for the next four miles and we set off, taking in all the sights of London on our way. The miles were flying by, and Liam seemed to be enjoying it, which only spurred me on further! We bumped into Sarah Sawyer as she headed out to find Tom, and my legs were starting to feel good again. Liam finished with only 5.8 miles to go, and my crew surprised me once again when Leanne joined me in running to the finish.
The last 5 miles seemed to take a long time, (in the end just over an hour), and although my shins had been on fire since mile 90 my legs were just about holding up.
We ran past a lot of Sunday runners, most of whom were blissfully unaware of what I had just done or what I was about to complete! I was relieved to see the finish line and I crossed and finished in a time of 28 hours and 44 minutes, in 4th place! The finish was small, friendly and intimate and it was fantastic to see friendly faces from earlier in the course. In summary; a great course with great people, I would definitely do it again!
Ghostwritten by Bethan Keefe-Hammond