There is a slight chilly breeze today and a temp of 3c at the moment, Sunday can see I am already feeling the cold so we head back into the warm pub and wait at the bar. Sam soon arrives, and I crack a smile at her club BOSH Run beanie hat, our Facebook group will be so proud of my support team today, already I am looking forward to the updates and videos once finished. I take a quiet moment to study through the updates route and directions trying to remember key points. I hear from behind me, ‘hi Luke, how you doing’. Turning round I see a friendly smile from Paul Ali (editor Ultra Tales). He says he better get his number so we wish best luck to each other.
We move on outside. we can see a long line for registration curling around the car park. I join the line for the outside toilet. Lots of pictures taken and last minute preps. Runners are stretching and jumping on the spot to keep warm, myself amongst them. Sam and Sunday are waiting nearby once I return. A few last minute checks, map out ready with directions, fasten up my OMM rucksack and pull my buff up to keep the cold off my face. I think I am set to go! I hear Sunday saying hello to someone behind me and then I notice the Bosh wrist band. It's Bill Guiver from our running group. We talk some about training and wish each other all the best. He asks how Long I think today will take me? I tell Bill around 7 hours or so is a good guess, depending on how I am feeling.
7:55 7:43 7:23 7:29 7:28 7:43 7:44 8:27
From Iffley the road leads south to Kennington. Then heading over a temporary footbridge with high panels on both sides. This is narrow so we run single file until out and into an open grassed area behind the village. The track leads by the Thames but already you can see where there has been flooding across the pathway. Splashing through puddles then water ankle deep, it is impossible to avoid. Cold that it is, my feet stay dry from my extra layer of SealSkinz waterproof socks. Up and over the railway bridge then a left onto the road towards Radley, we stay straight on this road until reaching White Lane and turn right to Abingdon and then the road skirting the housing estate to pick up the A415. I make some chit chat with the couple of runners passing by and ease into a comfortable steady pace. The Thames route is flooded here so this is a diverted route, it is road and pathway until the first check point.
After passing through Abingdon the route continues on forward through traffic lights then eventually I see the Wagon and Horses pub. The runners near by shout out to turn right here as I look around for any markers. Further up I can see the distinctive Go Beyond flags, support team and spectators dotted about. This must be Culham lock, check point one. I see on my watch 58:22 and reached 7.46 miles. Once I approach the crew I scan my tag until it flashes up red, grab a bottle of water and start drinking. I look around to see Sunday and Sam but no sign of them. I text my sister and snap shot my Runkeeper to save a picture. I help myself to some vanilla Gu gel and a 9bar from the table, thanking the team as I head on.
7:50 7:58 7:51 7:52 8:19 11:52 7:46 7:28
Continuing ahead over Sutton Bridge the route is still diverted as the Thames path is completely flooded in this area. At the next junction it is a left towards Didcot on the B4016 road heading to Appleford. The road is paved on both sides and I stay to the left. I catch up with a few runners up ahead and wish them well when overtaking. I feel the need for the Gu gel now. There seems to be another race going on as lots of runners are heading towards me by the railing side, I can see a field to the left so it must be a park run taking place. The runners clap and smile when we pass each other, this is a nice moment to take in although rather strange to witness.
As the road approaches Appleford the directions take us left onto Church Street, past the church and onto a muddy track through fields. The fields eventually open up to large, boggy, mud puddles and I go careful with my footing and grip in places. Few steps over stiles and then the track leads back into a deep wooded area with the path heading through the middle. It's a steady incline but a slow, slip, slide of a plod to navigate around the huge deep mud puddles and it is inevitable that my feet will be ankle deep in the thick bog. The shoes I am wearing (La Sportiva X-country) have material covering the laces so I had to attach my 'dirty girl gaiters' with elastic on the toe box. But the deep mud soon pulls them off so they are slapping side to side once I reach the grass up. The brief moment pause is nice on my tired quads. I rinse my feet in a puddle and pull the elastic away. It's already torn and looks unlikely to hold (thanks mum for trying though). I have a Nakd berry bar and a packet of Nakd orange raisins with some water.
I can see one of the guys up front slowing down looking a little confused. I check for my map in my back pocket, it is not in that side, or the other pocket. Damn! I've lost my map and directions with it too! Ok no point worrying now. As I approach, the runner is unsure if it is straight over or around the farm in front? He is running on memory of the directions without a map either. After a moment to think. A few other runners catch us up from behind. The others agree to head up the track on the right around the farm, rather than through the gates that have been left open to the farm. I follow the others but look back just in the right time as I see a small group and Paul Ali is amongst them. I know he has run the trot last year and he is going on his GPS directions by the look of it. I head back towards him and he confirms it is straight up passing the farm. He shouts back to the others going the wrong way.
We head up the muddy track that leads eventually onto a gravel pathway and then alongside the Thames. It's a very scenic sight of a bridge over the river with a picturesque village on the other side. I run with Paul and the group for awhile and ask how his new running vest is going, I ask about the Thames Path 100 that he has done before. He explains its similar to this route but in reverse. Hopefully on the riverside, if the rain eases off. We head over the Shillingford bridge then across to the A4074 continuing down the road which will head to the next checkpoint. The group starts to filter and spread out finding comfortable paces. I hear a car toot and then can see hands waving from the window as it passes me. Sunday and Sam shout out 'go Luke'. This is the first race where I have had a crew drive past me to cheer me on! It's a great feeling!
Further up, crossing the road I can see where the runners in front have found the check point tucked behind the hedges of the road. I see Sunday taking pictures as I pass, then my sister running to catch up as I arrive at the Waterfront Cafe, checkpoint two. 2:10 on my Garmin and 16.22 miles covered. After grabbing 2x Gu gels another 9bar, bottle of water consumed. I think I am set to go. I hug them both, they tell me well done and to keep going. I explain I lost my map and directions so need to catch up with the runners in front. I make my way back out onto the road side and spot a stray to tail. The time is 10:50
9:36 8:15 9:35 7:50 7:46 7:41 8:10
Heading back up to join the A4074 I cross the road to see a few runners making their way down the road. Again this section has been diverted off the Thames path route. I catch up with Paul and his running buddy who are refuelling at a marching pace. They tell me to head straight on this road. Pass the mini roundabout, through a track and into Reading road. The next large roundabout I check with the guys behind and they right hand to the B4009 that leads into Goring. This will eventually lead to Goring station for the next check point.
I slow my pace for the time being and allow Paul and two others to reach me. I tell him that I lost my map and directions in the wood so may need to hang with them as my Navigators! Paul tells me well if you go into my back pocket of my running vest, there should be a direction card that I have spare. ‘Take it’ he says, ‘no point me holding you back for directions, if you want to get going’. What a nice thing to do. Team spirit award goes out to Paul Ali. I thank him ever so and say I will see him again soon anyway. I wish them both the best and get into my zone, focusing on the road miles ahead. This is a long straight road that goes through the countryside, taking in some brilliant views. The sun comes out to shine and I reflect on how lucky I am to be able to run this far, grateful to experience this on foot as there are so many others out there who are unable to. My moments of discomfort and pain remind me how privileged us runners really are.
I have a blackcurrant Gu gel that contains some much needed caffeine. Closer to Goring and following the signs, I can see two familiar faces filming and shouting ‘well done guys’. Sunday is on the left side of the road and my sister is on my side, clapping and cheering as we pass them. The chap next to me does the MoBot. The road starts a steady incline into the village and I pass the runner ahead and almost reaching the next. Sam drives past and toots, waving hands from the window. 10 more minutes into the residential area of Goring I can see the Go Beyond flags to the left and many spectators looking out towards us. Sunday and Sam cross the road as I approach to scan my tag. ‘Well done’ they say, ‘doing so well’. Lots of pictures from sis as I drink some water, fill my CamelBak and take another Gu gel. Sam takes a picture of my Garmin before I head off again. 3:12 and 23.58 miles. The time is 11:50
9:49 8:14 8:33 8:51 8:56 8:11 8:24
Continuing down the road towards the station, I soon realise after going past that I needed the small lane to the left. I see other runners heading this way so switch back round. The road reaches the Thames path and onto Whitchurch-on-Thames, part of the original route. It heads slowly up and I can see the view of the river down below through the many trees. It is rather dense woodland in places here so I watch my step as I go. I cannot see any runners up ahead, or hear anyone close behind, me so it is just me, the track and the great outdoors. My leg muscles are tired but not enough to slow me down just yet. The track is quite narrow and a few dog walkers stop to allow me to pass them.
At 26 miles in, marathon distance, the track leads up alongside a fence. Steps face me, but not just little steps, huge big steps on a steep incline. It looks painful. I walk this part and my quads are really feel the burn. Eventually at the top I can slowly pick up pace and head further down the track.
I tuck into a 9bar, as I am feeling hungry all of a sudden. Once the path ends I follow the directions as I need to take the road into Purley. I am in Pangebourne, I think? I wind through the small village and eventually see signs for A329. Right turn as per the directions. The road bends round and under a bridge, then up a hill pass the station, Pangebourne, again? I realise I have just done a lap round the village, so quickly head back the way I came. I must have come in the other end and should be taking left onto A329 as I was facing the wrong way. Once I reach the junction I carry on the A329 and hope for the best. Further up I can see Sunday standing on a wall by a BP garage, taking more pictures. I shout out ‘I went the wrong way, came in the other side’. He tells me that I haven’t dropped places and I am on the right track. ‘See you at the next check point’ he calls back as I pass.
The road is rather busy and noisy. I hope the route joins the Thames path again soon. I can see traffic lights further on and check the directions. If this is Purley Lane then I need to go left. I can see once reached it is so head on down. It is rather steep, over a railway bridge and bending round the housing estate. I can see the check point table and spectators by the kids playing area. Once reached, I scan my tag until it flashes red. I say ‘hey’ to my support crew and Sam introduces me to her friend Gaenor who has come to join them until the finish. The team check I am feeling ok. I drink a bottle of water in one then have a cup of electrolyte. I am ok for gel at the moment. I check before I leave the way to go as the directions are the original route all the way until check point 5 and I have no map on me. I am told straight up this road, left rejoining the A329, then take the path down the steps before the station. Easy enough. The Garmin is 4:14 hours and 30.05 miles.
12:59 9:58 8:14 8:52 8:05 8:18 8:44 9:18 9:52
I say bye to my crew and plod up the hill back over the bridge. I am fast walking rather as my hip starts to hurt with every step. Once round the corner I rub the area hard, but can’t tell if it’s the muscle or ITB again like last month. I stop to stretch using the foot across the other and then touch the toes. I wonder whether it is the start of cramping. Hopefully the electrolytes will start kicking in soon. I walk on then eventually steady trot, slowly, it is still very uncomfortable so I stop to stretch again. I have more water and then walk down the road looking out for the steps on the left. After a minute or so I am slowly plodding up the road and try to not think of the discomfort. I reach Tilehurst station and look for signs or steps over to reach the Thames path. Nothing. Maybe it is further up. I pass the station but soon realise I have gone too far so head back on myself. I look over the railings at the station and can see the bridge further up, so I must have not seen the path. Damn. I quickly make my way up until I see a sign. Eventually a small post with Thames path is by an alley. I curse myself for not looking. Maybe the discomfort and worry of my hip side tracked my judgment. Over the bridge, down the steps. Ouch. Going down stairs always is a mission after being on the go for so many hours.
Once on the right path the track leads down the Thames path route all the way through until the next check point at Sonning. My discomfort in my hip is tolerable but still a dulled ache. I feel in need of real food so stop to get out a veggie wrap I made up for today. These are great when out training or a long event, I can eat them on the go even whilst running as they are so soft to eat and digest. After 10 minutes or so and passing a few other runners up ahead, who I never saw previously as they were behind me the whole time. My hip discomfort starts to ease off and I think the salts and food really has helped. After going over a bridge as the banks have flooded here, the path is very wet and the puddles eventually are ankle deep. Walking through the deep parts of the route, my feet and toes really start to feel icy cold. Even wearing waterproof socks will not keep out the cold on my feet. Once out of the urban areas all that is up front is thick muddy fields along the banks.
I catch up with the two and tell them how I took a wrong turn, the chit chat is a good distraction to my ice cold feet. The path leads down a scenic sight of trees and Swans lining the water edge. I can hear cheering and clapping from around the corner, then see Sunday with phone at the ready filming. Paul and his friend scan their tags followed by myself. Another bottle of water drunk then a quick chat to my crew. I tell them how deep the water was and that I cannot feel my toes. I say my goodbyes and want to head on to keep up with the others. I shout back ‘I will need my socks’. Then after I get over the bridge I realise that that probably made no sense. Runners high deluding my brain no doubt. 5:32 and 39 miles on the watch.
10:07 9:54 9:12 9:26 9:11 13:24
After heading out of Sonning and wishing Paul all best when passing. I catch up with a runner I spotted back at the beginning. We chat some and how too much road is playing havoc on everyone. The route is diverted again here until the finish. Going past The French Horn pub and some farms the route takes left, then crossing the A4155 further up. This is one busy road but soon enough a driver gives way to let me cross. The lane up ahead soon becomes a small country road passing the odd cottage and farm here and there. I have another Gu gel which should last me until the finish.
The lady is behind me now and she is really keeping my speed up almost pushing me along. I guess this is what a pacer would feel like. Approaching the end of the track by the stile my hat blows off and she grabs it for me. Heading across a field, through woods and then over boggy mud and puddles eventually the track leads through High Wood and Harpsden wood. We stay with seconds of each other, either I am following her or she is just steps behind me.
Many leaves and mud scatter the tracks in the woods it is hard to see which path leads out. The lady behind me catches up and asks a dog walker which way out. She points us in the right direction and we eventually make it to the road. Pass a church which is Harpsden road that meets Reading road. I suddenly need to relieve myself so find some trees in an alley behind some houses. Not ideal.
6:21:46 in 8th position, sandwiched between the first lady Naomi Tier and the second Alison Young. Alison was just 5 seconds behind me. I collect my medal and the director congratulates me and says it is good to see me once again. I have my bag handed to me personally which is a nice touch, but then there aren’t that many runners here yet. After a hot coffee and a struggle, but help from Sunday to get my shoes off and change my socks. We all head over to the cafe for much needed food.