Thames Path 100

Thames Path 100 2017

My feet and ankles screamed. I dug in and urged Rob to run me for a final eight minute mile. My only thought was beating last year’s time.

Whilst my breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and avocado was as delicious as it was nutritious, it was tainted by the usual race nerves. On the way to Richmond I drank a coffee, ate another avocado and made the final kit checks. It was a cloudy day – ideal running temperature – and I felt prepared as I set off to beat last year’s time of 100 miles in 18 hours.

This race was more experimental than those I’d run in the past. I was trialling lowering my carbohydrates and eating healthy fats in an attempt to run on my body fat. I was also lowering my sugar intake and using food to fuel me rather than gels. In the year since I last ran Thames Path I’d steadily improved my speed, not to mention increased in confidence. However, as the race began, I overestimated my pace and joined the front line runners, all the while questioning if I could maintain such speed. By the time I met up with the crew (Liam, Lauren, Sue and Leanne) at mile 22 I was in third place, much quicker than I had planned.

Despite it being cloudy earlier, the hot sun was now starting to beat down on my neck and arms, my X-bionic top was not ideal and I started to overheat. By mile 30, my situation was becoming desperate and at the next opportunity I rid myself of my X-bionic top in favour of a lighter Raidlight shirt, although thankfully my shorts were managing to keep my legs together. I met with Leanne near Cookham and was greeted by an ice cream much to my delight, which helped me cool down a lot. I stretched, replenished my Trailwind and had another avocado and plenty of grapes, which I managed to eat easily without drinking too much water. The next twenty miles passed like clockwork, I maintained my faster pace and continued eating, although the sugar-free traybake and crispy bacon became hard to swallow due to a dry mouth. It was at mile 50 that I hit my first real stumbling block.

Hitting the halfway point 7 ½ hours into the race was a high, but it wasn’t without cost. The dry and hard terrain I’d been running on had taken it’s toll on my feet and ankles, and my hamstrings had cramped. I took some S!Caps and pushed through the pain with Sarah Rendall now by my side – I was determined to reach my goal. At mile 58 I stopped and stretched, and ate some fruit to boost my sugar levels at the aid station. Despite the cramp, my run had been fairly steady up until mile 70 (where I was joined by Leanne), but I knew I was beginning to encounter problems when all I felt like doing was lying down in the back of the car and sleeping, which was very unlike me.

It was after I set off again that I encountered my second obstacle. It was mile 71 where I began to feel sick and my vision doubled. My persistence didn’t fade however, this was not the first time my body had started to give up, and I knew that my mind certainly hadn’t. I drank a caffeinated drink and more water and continued, determined to reach the finish line in time.

By the time I ran through Wallingford and reached mile 77.5 , my vision had begun to clear, but my appetite had not increased. Although my stomach was telling me no, I knew I had to eat something to up my salt levels, so I managed a handful of ready salted crisps and continued on my way. My feet, ankles and legs continued to ache and cramp as I drew closer to the final 20 miles, but I looked forward to seeing Rob Barton who would support me from mile 85 to 100.

My spirits lifted when I met with Rob – this was the final push. The ache of my feet, legs and ankles that I’d repressed for most of the race now felt like a raging fire and I struggled to even step up ledges and cross bridges. I was guided by the light of Rob’s torch and his words of encouragement, but as we ran closer to the end, both my mind and my body were struggling.

I didn’t care who passed me, I just had to finish in less than 18 hours. We reached mile 95, 96, 97, 98 and I could slowly feel myself deteriorating and sinking deeper. My feet and ankles screamed. I dug in and urged Rob to run me for a final eight minute mile. My only thought was beating last year’s time.

The finishing line was a hair’s breadth away, and we crossed the line just 6 minutes quicker than my previous time. My legs gave way and I was quickly rushed to the inside the rowing clubhouse where I underwent tests on my blood sugar and heart rate. The aftermath of the race was a painful blur, but I still managed to have my picture taken with my buckle and reach the car to head home. Despite all this, each race is a learning experience and I look forward to the next one, hoping to improve each time.

Ghost written by Bethan Keefe-Hammond