Just four miles into the race I laid on the floor looking up at the sky. Seconds earlier I had been running along, following a thin trail of runners ahead of me, trying to keep up and keep them in sight so as not lose my way. I turned a corner, slipped on some ice and came down heavy onto the road surface below.

photo 1 (2)

Two runners came up behind me as I slowly made my way to my feet. My right wrist, hip and knee had shared the impact between them, each hurt but not too much. It was only four miles back to the start, and nearly 40 to the finish, but I didn’t want to turn back.

“Watch out for the ice”, I called back to the runners approaching. One skidded round the corner but remained upright. I told them I’d just taken a tumble, they asked if I was OK to carry on and together we walked up a hill, through some trees.

That morning I’d been quite chilled out about the race. I wasn’t scared and pre-race nerves were barely noticeable. I’d got the train with some brilliant women with some serious ultra running experience under their belts: Cat Simpson who came second in a week-long race across the Atacama Desert; Sorrell Walsh who won the Race to the Stones 100k last summer and Louise who clocked up a 100 mile race not so long ago. Steph, sat next to me, nervous about taking on her first ultra too.  She had no reason to be – she was well prepared and finished well up the women’s field.

There’d been a lot of worries shared at the start about getting lost. We were all handed a map at the registration that we hoped we wouldn’t need, intending to navigate the route through a method of ‘follow-the leader’. As the countdown to the start began, snow started to fall and then we were off.

For the first few miles my calf muscles complained. ‘It’s cold’, I thought, ‘they’ll warm up’. There’s one thing I know about taking on long distance events, and that is that a lot can change and how you’re feeling now isn’t how you’ll feel in an hour’s time.

I spent miles four to 15 running running with the two guys who’d joined me after my fall. We ran across a field where the snow came down in massive flakes that seemed too big to be real and began settling on the ground, turning everything white. We waited in line to cross a river via some stepping stones, them both getting a wet foot in the process. They told me about all the ultras they’ve done and hope to do this year and I decided I’d try to stick with them as long as possible before I got tired.

Half a mile before the second checkpoint a huge puddle covered the road we were running down. I didn’t want to get wet feet, so I followed another runner on a diversion through a hedge and some trees before climbing back over a hedge the other side of the puddle. One of my new friends went through the puddle, sprained his ankle on a pothole and had to withdraw at the checkpoint.

The next few miles were a blur of running with different people. Everyone was keen to get to the canal where the navigation part of the race would be over and we could just follow the towpath into London and the finish. We crossed the M25 and had the sense that London was getting closer. Not long after we saw a London bus on its way to Ruislip which drew a small whoop from some of the runners I was following.

photo 2 (2)

As we finally hit the canal, the small packs we’d been running in to avoid getting lost began to spread out and I was running on my own. Checkpoint three at around 25.5 miles arrived and I texted my friends who’d planned to come to the finish to reassess my finish time. I still had a long way to go, but 10 hours was looking like a worst case scenario. I ate a sandwich, took some paracetamol and plugged in my headphones ready to run further than I had before.

At 30 miles I smiled to myself that, whatever happened now, I was into ultra territory. My legs felt good and, like the rest of the day, I let them do their own thing, not really thinking about pace. My hip and knee had stopped hurting and being on the flat of the canal made the pace quicker.

I’d been warned by several runners who’d done the race before to look out for the white bridge and the sign that pointed to Paddington. It was the only part in the second half where it’s possible to get lost. When it arrived, the 13.5 miles to Paddington gave me a boost – I was going to make it. From here on my pace quickened. I forced myself to walk, sometimes for 10 seconds sometimes 30, every time my watch beeped to indicate another mile gone, which broke up the monotony of the canal.

photo 3 (1)

I overtook a few runners, one woman called out to me “You’re going to break 10 hours” and it wasn’t until I was a few hundred meters down the path that I realised she must have known me and my over-estimation from here (sorry I didn’t stop, and nice to meet you briefly).

With ‘Let it go’ from Frozen blaring in my ears, I turned a bend on the canal and could see the London skyline.  The Shard, the BT Tower and the Trellick Tower at Paddington all looked close enough to touch. I felt a bit emotional that it was all going to be over very soon. And then it was.

I finished in 7 hours 39 minutes, much faster than I’d anticipated and without ever wishing it to be over. I had a great day. I collected my medal and joined up with the others in the pub for a few pints to celebrate.

Here’s the Strava data if that’s your bag.

2017-06-23T07:39:43+00:00 18 January 2015|

19 Comments

  1. MissPond January 18, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    Sounds like an epic race! Congratulations x

  2. mum January 18, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    Wish we had been there to pick you up, but you managed as always without “The Mustard Pots”. luv you lots as always Laura, mum and dad xx

  3. mum January 18, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    Brilliant Laura. Good idea to put the time saved running so well on celebrating afterwards!
    Dad and Mum xx

  4. Lynne January 18, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    Fantastic time. Well done. What a great achievement!

  5. Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) January 18, 2015 at 4:19 PM

    Amazing effort! Well done!

  6. Cat January 18, 2015 at 5:00 PM

    Well done, mate! You did amazingly – I knew you’d be much quicker than your estimated 10 hour time! Congrats (and welcome to the ultra club).

    • Lazy Girl Running January 19, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      Thanks dude. It’s a difficult thing to predict but I’m very happy I was wrong.

  7. Maria @ runningcupcake January 18, 2015 at 6:14 PM

    Wow amazing stuff, well done!

  8. Helen N January 18, 2015 at 8:12 PM

    Great time Laura. Well done

  9. Alisha @ Real Girl Running January 18, 2015 at 9:25 PM

    What am amazing effort! Well done Laura 🙂

  10. CrandonRuns January 19, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    AMAZING! Well done on your first ultra – there seems to be so much more camaraderie among ultra runners than in marathons. Glad you enjoyed it – it sounds ace!

    • Lazy Girl Running January 19, 2015 at 3:45 PM

      Thank you. It was a really friendly crowd, I had a great day.

  11. Running librarian January 19, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    great job! Talk about an awesome finish time too!

  12. Andrew Maher January 19, 2015 at 2:30 PM

    congrats on finishing in the day light thats was a great time .I was hoping to finish in the day light but had to use my torch for last 4-5 miles the canal was starting to drag a bit . well done on your first Ultra and a nice report .

  13. Emily January 19, 2015 at 5:43 PM

    Fantastic run, congratulations!

    It was me shouting something about 10hrs along the canal – I spotted you at CP3, and then you came hurtling up behind us running very strong (you put 15 mins into us by the end even though we continued to pass others too).

    Apologies for being a social media stranger disturbing your run. Was recommended your blog a while ago, and then recently realised that I run with the same club in Oxford as your friend Katie who you ran Flitch Way with (small world).

    • Lazy Girl Running January 19, 2015 at 9:04 PM

      Hi Emily
      You didn’t disturb me at all. Always nice to meet people in real life. I was in my own world those last 10 miles with my headphones in and only realised once I’d gone past. Hope you had a good race.
      Laura.

  14. Gill Bland January 19, 2015 at 7:09 PM

    Wow, that’s an incredible time and respect for finishing after an early setback. Inspiring

  15. Ron West January 21, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    Hi, I was a bit slower than you having pulled a major back muscle when overdoing some 10-pin bowling 2 weeks before the race, and like you I also slipped over hard onto my side on some black ice – my fall was at Ballinger Bottom only halfway to CP1.

    I was cross with the organisers for not providing adequate registration staff given that 200 of us would all turn up at once off the only train.

    As I’d joined a queue of a few others using the train station toilets instead of unknown sure-to-be-overwhelmed facilities at the pub, I was last in the reg queue (waited 20 minutes), and they started the race before at least 5 of us had had time to even collect our timing bands (that they’d already time-activated when the race started) let alone hand over our bags to the truck! Handing out the T-shirts to everybody *before* the race was just one more thing to have to take care of, instead of being a valued prize at the end for actually completing the task.

    My race number stayed screwed up in my pocket for the whole race, and I was in such a rush to get going and catch everybody up that I forgot to take my head-torch from my bag and had to do the final 2 checkpoints without, in the near-dark using whatever light was available.

    I think the organisers should have made it much more clear that there would be *absolutely zero* signage so that I would have learnt the map more.

    When I was one of the tail-end & sign-collectors for the Action Challenge “Grand Union 100k” last year, two of us filled 4 large newspaper-delivery sack-bags with all the signage we’d removed from the first 50k alone – I didn’t expect that much of course, but I did think there’d be something where the correct path took a non-obvious sharp-turn through a hole in a barrier or hedge.

    Also, the CP5 staff had actually packed all their gear away 15 minutes before their 6pm cut-off time! so we nearly missed a time & check-point! We approached someone who we thought was a Sainsbury’s cleaner, but it was the CP5 lady! – so with profuse apologies they got half of it out of the van again so that we could swipe our bands.

    Anyway, on the plus side, at least their home-made cake was totally yummy! Could have done with an urn of hot tea at one of the middle checkpoints…

    All-in-all, I suppose you get what you pay for.

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