43 miles into the Centurion North Downs Way 100 event this weekend, I dropped out at Botley Hill. This is my first ever DNF (did not finish) looming over me. 

I was under some pressure to finish in the top three after finishing second at the Thames Path 100 earlier this year. Add in recent long haul travel, lack of rest, coming down with a chesty cold and an ongoing ankle injury from my previous 100k Race to the Stones and the odds were stacked up against me. 

Going into the race with a positive attitude and feeling ready was one thing, but in the end my injury would sway my decision that if I could not run 100 miles safely then I risked not being able to continue running all together.  Sometimes these things happen for a reason.

Lucky number eight?

5:30 An amused Sunday at the race briefing

My top crew Sunday and Helen

6:00 At the trail head starting area

7:30 A perfect day begins

The first few hours of the NDW100 were good fun with good company, lots of familiar ultra family faces dotted around, and shout outs when my feet get spotted. I think most ultra runners who are unsure of my name call me 'the guy in sandals'!

Today I started out at a 9 min/mile pace and hoped to quicken the pace later in the day. 

What could go wrong?...

The famous steps towards Box Hill

The Surrey Hills

Coming into Reigate Hill 32 miles

Refills and crew meet

By mile 31 I reach my crew at Reigate hill. Already aware I have slowed with the steep elevation and large steps to climb, I've gone from 16th position at the first check point to 33rd - quite a jump for me. I was feeling rather fatigued at 15 miles in, but it passed. At 25 miles in my ankle started to ache. To top this, at Box Hill I fell flying downhill and landed on my right hip and leg with quite a hard landing. I soon carried on but it caused discomfort and limping for the next few miles. By now I have mentioned to my crew that I will see how the ankle feels by Knockholt at 50 miles and may need some ice on it.

At the next aid station 7 miles later I see the medic there and he looks at my ankle as I explain the injury problem. By this stage it is rather sore and uncomfortable. After an ice pack and a chat I decide to give it the next 5 miles to Botley Hill to see how it holds up. Already lots of runners come by and ask what has happened. The photographer wishes me the best of luck.

After yet another wrong turn, going too far ahead over the M23 bridge near Merstham, I backtrack on myself and have wasted another 2 miles to the next aid station already. The climbs are steady but still steep. The ankle really is nagging now and in my head I have already made the decision to finish at the next stop. The only way I can complete this is to start walking until the very end - Something I am not prepared to embark on this weekend. I have never even hiked for a whole day!

Once I reach the familiar dark shaded wood that leads up to Botley Hill, I have to climb the last steep mile walking as my ankle is now screaming for me to stop. It is rather ironic that I crewed at this aid station last year and now this year I am walking in to tell the crew I am dropping. I speak to the very helpful Centurion crew member who uses some blue bandage tape to compress the ankle while I wait for my crew to come get me. I spot David who crewed last year and ran some earlier sections with myself and Ian. I tell him I am not capable of running a 100 miles today. I feel so gutted but I know deep down it is the sensible choice to make if I want any running career left at all.

Last scenic moment near Botley Hill

Results as follows:
1st Edward Catmur 15:44:39
2nd Anthony Forsyth 16:03:47
3rd Mark Perkins 17:45:48

1st Mary Heald 22:40:01
2nd Leila Rose 23:47:55
3rd Wendy Shaw 24:21:09

Running friend Andy Nuttall was the running legend, who finished his first 100 miler at just after 11am on Sunday. I am so proud that he had the mind control and will to see it through to the end. He said it was the single most hardest thing he has every put his body through, but he cannot stop smiling now that he is a 100 mile finisher!

To me, a day without running is like a day without sunshine. I enjoy my running lifestyle and have enjoyed running every day since November 21st 2012. Juggling work, training, many races and running - sometimes just 2 miles on a rest day - was at times a struggle. However I really look forward to my run, I never have the feeling of heavy legs as I have been active for so long. 

The run streak does become addictive once 100 days ticks by. But a run streak should not be able to control me and it will not help my injured body.

On Sunday 11th August my 273rd day of my running streak came to an end. I could have gone out and shuffled a one mile streak in, but that would have been a foolish and stupid thing to do. Three times the ankle has caused grief at recent races and that is three times too many for any ultra runner.

I am keeping a very positive outlook. I  see this DNF as less of a failure and more as a reminder not to overlook how precious our bodies can be. Ultra runners need to not take for granted what our limits as runners can be. 

I put the effort of a balanced nutritious lifestyle into my running, so in return I must listen to what my body is telling me. Maybe my hectic race schedule and working long hours have taken their toll this time?

I am grateful this has happened now so that I can concentrate on other areas within my life such as family and friends. Then I start the recovery road with more cross training and gym sessions, followed by quality on and off road running leading up to key races, rather than excessive mileage and running everyday. 

So the plan is to heal up, toughen up, get well, stronger and fitter than I have ever been to fight for an ultra race win another day...

Run Free

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