VIRGIN LONDON MARATHON



The 35th anniversary of the London Marathon.


Nearly 38,000 charity fundraisers and professional runners make this year's event the biggest ever!


A whopping three quarters of a million spectators turn out in London to support this iconic and special day!



Another GFA entry


Today is my second try at the London marathon, after an absence last year. I have had two weeks of rest since Brighton marathon as decided against racing the Crawley K2 track last weekend. 

I felt well enough but with shift work in between and no time out at home with Sunday, I just needed the chill and no racing so I can rest my body and mind.

I also have never raced in such a fast, timed lapped event before. I felt a little out of reach with the professional super elites that enter this event too!


Some essentials for the morning: Bigatmo Sunglasses, Inov8 race pack/wrag, Anker battery, Olive Oil, Pine nuts and Salt Stick capsules


It's an early start as trains are limited from Brighton with ongoing engineering works. So Sunday and myself catch the 06:49 from Gatwick to Victoria. 

The train is on time and we can relax drinking bulletproof coffee we prepared for the journey. I had the usual half an avocado and some clear broth when I woke today.


Met a few these Bosh runners heading to Blackheath


Whilst waiting for the connection to Blackheath we spot all the other runners  with the stand out red drawstring bags. 

Soon enough we see other running friends who have arrived on the next train. It is great to catch up with everyone and then the journey to Greenwich. We only just manage to squeeze on the 8:39 service. It is jam packed like the underground in rush hour.


Once at Blackheath we follow the sea of many runners up to the park and bid farewell, wishing everyone all the best. 


Greenwich Park

I am in the good for age area which is just before the red starting pens. Everywhere is very clearly signed and easy to find like last year.

The weather is damp and wet with a cold wind. It has been so dry with low humidity the last few weeks, so a drastic change in the conditions could cause some difficulty with runners today. 

I do not run so well in humid weather.


Found my start

It is still quiet at the moment so I take the chance to use the urinals in the GFA area where the line of runners is far less. It is still too early to drop my bag and let go of my jacket just yet. 

I kill some time chatting with Sunday and updating some pictures online, before he heads on down to the red start to see if he can spot our friend Duc. 

Duc has flown in from Cologne to run today. He ran Boston last week and Paris just before that! 

Duc has got the marathon running bug, thanks to our influence. Whoops!


Braving it in compression shorts and socks



9:45

After dropping my bag to the baggage truck and a last stop at the urinals, which has a very long line of runners now. I head over to the starting pens. I am in pen no1 again which is at the front.

Rather like sheep pushing into a bottle neck, without much movement we wait anxiously and I enjoy the banter and conversation around me. I can hear mentions of Boston last week and Berlin marathon in Canadian, American and thick European accents over us Brits.



Running friend Mark Jenkinson shouts from the back of the line at the top of his lungs to me. He is too far away for me to get to so it is just a cheeky smile and thumbs up to him.

After a few minutes we are all ushered into the start pen and just moments away from the mass start. the sound system seems to be having troubles and the voice over is all broken.




10:10
So without much of a warning we are let off for the go and shuffle along until the bunched up group starts to give...

The crowd support from the roadside is electric and so loud, even this early on in the race. Everyone has come outside to cheer us on...


MILES 0-13
You really cannot keep to a calmer pace here and just have to sprint along with the moving swarm of runners. It feels rather uncomfortable and congested just like I remember. It is impossible to get into a steady comfortable pace for the first few miles as runners are elbowing, cutting in or practically kicking your calves from behind. 

I try to keep my eyes on the ground and avoid the traffic islands and being shoved into the curb side. 

I am running approx 6:30-6:45min/mile on average and so far feeling ok keeping at this pace. I am not a fan of the damp and humid. Although the wind is still breezy and cooling, I still feel warm and starting to sweat more than in the drier weather we have been experiencing of late....


Once at 7 miles and reaching the Cutty Sark, feeling the amazing buzz from the crowds, I start to enjoy the sights and colourful array of people cheering, calling out names and sending good vibes of support as we all run past. 

It is jam packed wall to wall and I wonder how early these supporters arrive to get a good spot...

I take a salt stick capsule along with some water as running this pace and in humid conditions always makes me sweat more. 


Halfway at Tower Bridge



The miles seem to tick by nicely, through the Docks and Bermondsey as the crowds carry everyone along the road. I pass my water along to the person next to me, at each water station, until the tight groups start to seperate more so.

Then at the 9th miles, I keep hold of the next small Buxton water bottle. It is small enough to carry in my hand without feeling weighed down.




11:35
Halfway and over the chip mat with a bleep to know my time is scanned. I check my Garmin and see I have covered this in 1hr 25min.

If I can try to hold this pacing for the next half I could be on target for a 2:55  finish. Time shall tell how I hold up. 

Although much flatter than Brighton marathon I do still struggle with some boredom of the long roads, if it wasn't for all the London turnout today I would find the route incredibly tedious and boring. I actually wouldn't ever run this far in training on roads. 

I prefer my shorter intervals then incorporate some off road and hills into my routine. I have also noticed spending more time on trails even walking on rest days has kept me very conditioned and injury free over the winter months.

I'm just too much an ultra trail runner these days and feel much more comfortable and at ease out on the trails in the great outdoors. 

I have moments where I let my mind drift away and imagine I am running freely down a long windy track with the view of the landscape on a bright, sunny day. 

I can hear all the loud cheering but it is muffled and I have turned the volume down in my head. I just keep my head down and let my legs run on auto pilot.

Zoning out also helps me forget the gloomy dark clouds today. However my vision and clarity is much brighter, as I am wearing the Bigatmo Alutra sunglasses that are photo chromic. 

These Italian produced sunglasses are uv light activated, so in dull and grey conditions they brighten up your vision like on a sunnier day. They really do help with sharper and clearer vision whilst running. 


Bosh HQ (photo by Marie Carey) Mile 22.5


MILES 13-27
After taking another salt stick capsule with some water at the next water station, I carry the small bottle again as it is just easier than running across to try and grab one amongst everyone else.

The route heads east along towards Limehouse and Blackwall, I start to feel fatigued and overheated some, my pace is starting to drop. I try so hard to keep my pace to around 6:40min/mile and quicker, but I feel as if I have started out too fast and I cannot keep this up much longer!

I really struggle with these next few miles, at 17-20 around Isle Of Dogs before heading back on ourselves into central London. I am averaging around 7:00-7:15min/mile and the hopes of reaching a PB today have been squashed...

I take a sip of some olive oil that I always carry running, with another salt capsule. At the next water station there is a Lucozade gel hand out. I wouldn't usually take these, but I figure it is easier to have the sugar trickle now rather than rummaging for the jelly babies in my waist race pack.




Much needed boost from the Bosh support


The gel is a sickly sweet blackcurrant taste. I just squeeze out a small amount and keep hold of it for some more later.
 
Once nearing Wapping at mile 22, I take in all the cheers and support from the uplifting crowds to carry me through. The screaming is so intense it brings goosebumps to my skin. That lump in my throat is growing...

I remember that the Bosh team have set up camp around this point and should be waving the blue Bosh flag here. I scan the crowds hoping I do not miss anyone. Soon enough they are nearby and I raise my bosh band to them. 

It is such a boost to see everyone and is a much needed lift for when I am really flagging!


Still manage a smile at Mile 22.5


13:02
Just approaching the last mile marker along the Embankment and the roaring crowds are electric. It is so loud and overwhelming...


Passing the London Eye and then Big Ben. This is it...


My low mood and disappointment of not reaching my target time are all now forgotten with the amazing sights and support for the final leg to Buckingham Palace. 

I can't move my legs any faster and try so hard to keep at a 7:15min/mile pace but with great difficulty. I see on my watch once approaching the last 800m at St James Park I am already past my 2:57 time that I achieved two years ago. 

Then I am really pleased with my SDW50 result three weeks ago and a 3hr Brighton marathon two weeks ago, so at least my body and fitness is still enough to manage these consistent times. 

I can't race hard and PB every race I do and especially competitive marathons like London! 


The last mile to The Mall (photo by Duc Turner)


This year is a #HandinHand campaign to encourage all runners to finish while hand in hand. This is in honor to the first London marathon in 1981 when the winners Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen finished holding hands. 

Having battled stride for stride for 26 miles, the pair famously agreed to a dead heat, crossing the line hand in hand, a gesture which has come to symbolise the spirit of the event.


Once passing the palace and with the finish line in view I still try my best for a sprint finish but my legs won't pick up any faster, I am done...

I can see the clock reading 2:58. I look to see the nearest runner to my left and ask him to take my hand? I raise my arm but he lets go saying 'that a do', I look to my right and a runner dressed up all in green with a top hat is having the time of his life waving his hands all over the shop, so I couldn't really do a hand in hand tribute to spoil his moment once reaching the finish line. 

I tried...

 1,759th Place 2:59:17


Once through the bottle neck finish it is all over and finished. Catching a breath and collecting my medal I can relax and reflect on the run. 

I felt better at Brighton two weeks before, which is odd as it was after the SDW50. My heart was in it more so compared to today. I did feel that London was very much more congested this year and the dark cloud humid conditions really didn't help with my pacing. 

I have not been training as much road so gave it my best shot today. Happy to reach a sub 3hr for the year as it was two years ago the last time. 


The bling at Big Ben


After a few finishing pictures and goody bag collection I make my way over to the baggage trucks which is the very last one for the GFA numbers. I text Sunday, who I never spotted out today, then Helen that I have finished. Kelly text to say she was watching me on the telly and very well done for another sub 3hr marathon...


Amazing Duc finishes Marathon No3 of the month


I get changed in a portable loo and drink plenty of water whilst waiting on Sunday to reach from Embankment. We arrange to meet at the A-G meeting point as it is the first as the runners exit The Mall. 

Duc is not far behind and should be coming through the exit soon enough. Duc has now achieved three marathons in the month! Two of them majors!

He is beaming when he comes out to meet us and loves the medal


Big smiles with Rachael and Duc


We go grab some coffees nearby and then bump into Rachael who has finished. She did brilliant today and got a PB. Seeing how excited and buzzed she is makes me appreciate the finish that much more. 

I feel the event is so different to everyone and we all have our own goals and desires why we run London. 

It is the peoples race.



Sunday wants a medal 

Would I run it next year? 

I have not yet decided. I would enjoy to see Sunday experience it and hope that he gets a place in the ballot next year.


Such tourists!

Doing the tourist rounds showing off our bling, before grabbing a bite to eat and heading on the train back home...

Nice tech-tee for the 35th


Cheers! home at last


http://lukeashton.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/bigatmo-meso-sunglasses.html

Ultra Luke

BRIGHTON MARATHON 2015



The sixth Brighton Marathon is now the second most popular marathon in the UK after London. 9,420 runners have come from all over the country and Europe to participate in the 'London by the sea' event and join the starting line today.




Selfie Sunday

This year will by my sixth Brighton since the start back in 2010. It's always been a favourite road marathon of mine as it is my home city. 

So much has changed since then as it has grown in popularity. I have made many running friends from Brighton and even further away through my many races across the country and the Bosh Run group on Facebook...

Today is like a runners Christmas in Brighton and the sun is out to shine for us all.

I start my day with the usual pre-race broth (tsp dripping, goose fat, salt, pepper and turmeric) followed by half an avocado and half measure of bulletproof coffee. 

We have friends Helen G and Tanya staying with us the weekend and they even try a small sample of the coffee...

Which to their surprise they enjoy! 


Another white number


I am invited to the elite white section again this year, as my times have been below 3:15 for the past four years. 

I had collected Treymayne's number from the expo for him, so figured it best to stay with the mass starters this year and enjoy the pre-race meet and photos at Preston Park.

I have missed being a part of the masses for the last two years and as I did the SDW50 last week I have no real time in mind for today's race. 


Brighton posse. Tanya, Helen, Sunday and myself


We reach the park and the clock tower just after 8am for the meet up with all the other runners. Trey is patiently waiting and is very understanding that it is all last minute. It was much easier for me to do this for him, as he is not local to Brighton.



Bosh meet. Nick, Sunday and Ash

It's so great to catch up with everyone but time is running out fast and we seem to forget that we best start queuing for the starting corrals...



Runners assemble into the start pens



Interview Jo Pavey



9:00
After wishing each other the best we head along to our starting areas. I can sneak into the very front with my elite number, which is the first time I have been in full view of the very starting line. 

The white tape is the only thing in front of all us runners here ...

I am in the front seat for all the photographers and camera crew, then when Jo Pavey is interviewed I am in full view of the camera. 

That should be my five minutes of fame for the Channel 4 highlights then! 



Selfie time at the start


With just a minute to go all the runners around me do the usual twitching, last moment tying laces, stretching and shaking legs. Myself included. It's quite entertaining to witness and I am sure we look like a serious case of OCD on camera! 


9:15 Start


Miles 0-13
Without much warning we are off and sprint ahead to the sounds of cheering and clapping around the park. 

It's amazing how fast the runners get caught up in the excitement first thing, even with the slight incline up Preston Park Avenue. 

I can see on my Garmin even I am pacing way too quickly! 

It is not until we reach London road and meet the other elite runners who came from Withdean (where I would of started) that I can calm my pace and get into a comfortable rhythm...

Once we reach the library then Theatre Royal, I can see the first Bosh supporters, Tina and Steve shouting 'Go Lukey' as we race down to the Old Steine. 

We lap back on ourselves passing the Pavillion and the live band, then head up the level and to Lewes road. 

Joyce shouts out and catches up with me here, she is good but is sporting a knee support and says it is starting to hurt. I hope it holds out for her....


Ovingdean Mile 9



After passing through Kemp Town then heading back along the seafront. Few water stops and 6 miles passed...


The groups even out and we have more room to settle into our stride.


One hour into the Marathon I take a SaltStick capsule.



Once at Ovingdean for the switchback I see Mark aka Robo, not far behind me, then wave to Trey and Scott.

Lucy's Mark is support on the road side here. Further along at 9 miles I can see and hear a group of Bosh supporters and Lee with big smiles...

Just by the roundabout and back along the sea road to the Marina again. I always enjoy this section to see many of the other runners coming towards me.


I am averaging at 6:35-6:50min/mile the moment and feeling strong in the legs still.



I look out for friends and bosh tops approaching me...
 
Soon enough they come by, then it is like a wave of familiar faces!

Stu, Matt, Dan, Helen E and Nuala, which is taken by complete surprise. Smiles and thumbs up, then Thomas, Marina, Keith and Tristan.


Grinning Sunday weaves out of the big crowd surrounding him and I run to the middle of the road to greet with a high five as we pass. He slaps my hand so hard leaving a sting to remember....


Hove Lagoon Mile 23



After passing Sussex Square and drinking some water, which I have to slow up my pace to drink, as it is big paper cups instead of plastic bottles.

I manage to spot Helen G who is hard to miss in her trademark pink stripey leg warmers, shouting out 'Hey Lukey!'



Once closer to the huge roaring crowds of support and volunteers near the Pier, I spot Kevin calling me, which I later remember should be running!


Passing the camera crew on the roundabout and then reaching halfway by the West Pier.
 
I see running friend Gary by chance, taking pictures. I spot Toby from work and many other familiar faces.



Miles 13-26.2
Bosh runner Nick is cheering support from the side of the road.


I follow the faster runners into Hove and then turning into Grand Avenue for Church Road. I can hear 'Go on Lukey Boy' being bellowed across the road and see it is Steve with Tina.


They have reached this part of the route so quickly!


Once along Church Road I spot mum and dad taking photos, but only by chance I looked in that direction...

After the very long leg towards Portslade then lap around to head back on ourselves again.



I am trying to keep my pace at 6:45min/mile or less where possible, but some miles are more difficult than others and my body goes in and out of feeling fatigued.



I take another salt capsule and sip on some olive oil around mile 17. Then have a chew on a jelly baby for the sugar lift.

I am not overly needing any fuel yet and just feel the heat from the constant sun and no shade...

 Bosh Supporters


I start to sip water at every next water station. Although this year the paper cups instead of plastic bottles are really slowing my pace down. It is impossible to take much water in unless coming to a walk or stop. 

I wasn't initially looking at a time for this year, but as I am feeling strong still I figured I may as well keep racing to my best. The water cups are adding extra time already...


Slowly the group of runners becomes less and less with more gaps between us. I can see the bright orange pacers for the 3:00 time up ahead and slowly creep up meeting them. I stick with them to Hove lagoon then along the Basin Road towards the Shoreham power station. 

Lots more supporters are dotted along this road than I remember and it is a much needed boost. 

I can feel my legs starting to slow on me...


My average pace has gradually slowed to around 6:50-7:05min/mile and although I know my legs will take me, my body is feeling worn from the heat of the sun. 

The only shade has been from Church Road and some of the park at the start. Although the temperature is around 11-13c with a breeze, the sun is still strong with high UV levels.


The last mile...


I keep my head down and take in the excitement from the crowds to distract my tired body. 

Now heading back east on ourselves and passing the other runners, I see Mark, again, looking strong. Then shortly after Roy and Jason (Sussex Trail Events)


11:45
A little more sugar from a jelly baby and a few chocolate covered espresso beans just about lifts my energy after the 22 mile mark, in time for the home stretch back to the Pier! 

I still have to slow for the water cups and now it is when my body is in most need of extra water. So it is a slower pace at every water station...

The 3:00 pacers over take me.


Exactly at 23 miles and giving an almighty roar 'Go Bosher' 'come on Luke' it is the Bosh supporters jumping up and down. Lucy is standing on a step ladder, cheering. I spot Tanya, Rachael, Trefor, John, Annie, Tina, Steve and many more when passing..


It is fantastic to see them and although I may not have shown my enthusiasm as much as liked to, I was very appreciative of how much planning was involved to be at all the right points throughout the race.

They have been brilliant today.


 Determined to get to the finish
(Photo by Gary McKivett)


Once reaching the roaring crowds at the Peace Statue, West Pier, it is the final mile for the finish. 

I start to fade but try as hard as possible to carry my legs that bit quicker to a 6:45min/mile but I can just about struggle to a 7:10min/mile. Other runners look uncomfortable in their stride and some are walking. I still have those stronger runners sprinting passed me...


I am done and ready to finish, I have no power left in me to go any faster. The 50 miler has caught up with me and these last 5 miles have really felt like a mission to get through...

What feels like the longest mile down the Kings Road is clouded with almighty cheering and shouts of my name. 

It is finally the end of my race and it has gone so quickly.... until now. It is still an amazing feeling and I just focus on that clock, but it looks like I am seconds too late to make that special time...

Brighton marathon has never been my fastest road marathon time.


12:15
Looking up at the finishing clock I can see 2:59:59 then it tick to 3:00:00. I was so close but not close enough... The clock is 3:00:33 when I reach.



 Medal No6 104th Place in 3:00:32


Finally I have reached the finish and can stop. The sun has made me feel a little sick so I am glad to get some more water after collecting my medal. I pick up the finishing tee-shirt and bag. I tuck into a banana and catch my breath. 

Surprisingly the legs and feet feel good with no cramping or soreness yet. I can still walk comfortable so that is a sign I am conditioned, even after the 50 miles from last weekend.


I am greeted and hugged by the wonderful Nik Bailey who is team leader at the finishing area. It is great to see a friendly face as I missed her at the expo. 

Walking towards the bag collection, I catch up with Joyce. Sadly her knee gave out. Which is a shame, as she has been doing so well of late. Then we see Kevin, he too had an injury in his foot that stopped him today. 

Great running from them both still, and especially after Kevin completed the South Downs last week. 

Nobody likes to be injured and forced to have complete rest, but it can only make us stronger and sadly it comes with being a long distance runner...


I catch up with Trey who made an impressive 3:12 for his first Brighton. We chat to ultra runner David Ross, who amazingly still performed a 2:53 time with damage to his shoulder from a fall at a previous ultra event...


Here comes Helen Gittens


I eventually make my way around the long exit back onto the beach to get changed and have some nibbles until Sunday comes in to the finish. 

The biggest negative of the day has to be the change to paper cups at the water stations, as this really slowed my pace and cost me those extra 33 seconds... easily. I am trying not to worry of the time as I had a great race considering the tough SDW50 of last week. The time really wasn't my goal today, to begin with that is.

Also waiting about 40 minutes to retrieve my drop back from the truck was a painful task, all the white and red numbers on this truck got mixed up and were not in order. Everyone was shouting out their number at once. 

Lack of communication, I am not sure but it really is something that is not ideal to wait for after running all them miles. 

I did feel sorry for other runners who were in discomfort and hot from the sun.


 Sprint finish


I catch up with Bosh runners Dave and Ash when they walk through the exit and later Roy and Julia. 

Sunday makes it in and I manage to make my way back round to meet him as the runners exit onto the beach. He suffered with cramps again and slight ITB discomfort. Not the time he was aiming for but he finished which is what he wanted. I think arriving back from Georgia yesterday afternoon probably meant he was still dehydrated and jet-lagged.


The bling and resting on the floor


We grab a breadless chicken burrito from one of the many gastro food trucks, as just starting to feel the need to refuel. With added cheese, salsa and guacamole, it was so good!


Heading back to watch the other finishers coming in and catching up with Alma and her friends along the way. I thank her for all her help last week and keeping my parents company whilst waiting for me.

Soon enough our good friend Helen Gittens comes into the finish and we have more room and space to see her for the sprint. She is all smiles and feeling good. 


Like me she too is disappointed with the new style and shape medal this year. It doesn't match the last five years which is going to be really difficult to frame with the odd medal out. 

I have not decided if to frame years 2010-2014 and hold off for the new shape just yet. I have already registered for the 2016 marathon so I guess I can wait for another four years to frame those ones...




Spot the odd one out!?



Once back home and re-hydrated then coffee and chocolate, it is time for some dinner. The local pub The Longman does not serve food on Sunday evenings so we settle for fish and chips before they close. 


I was lucky to not suffer any real soreness or pain from the roads today, just an annoying blood blister behind my small toe nail. it is always a good idea to tape up the smaller and longer toes to help prevent any damage. My own fault for not doing so this time...

As usual Brighton has delivered today! 

Fantastic support from everyone and all the volunteers involved to make this one marathon any Brightonian can be very proud of...


We Love Brighton
 
Ultra Luke

SOUTH DOWNS WAY 50



This Easter weekend kicks off the start of the Centurion Ultra running season with the South Downs Way 50 miler. 


'The footrace takes in the stunning South Downs Way National trail footpath, starting in Worthing and finishing in Eastbourne. Runners begin by climbing chalking bridle ways and track for 6 miles until reaching Chanctonbury Ring and joining the SDW. Then for the remaining 44 miles until detouring off the route to finish at the Eastbourne Sports Track'


Now on the 3rd year and I finally can run this time. It has always clashed so close to Brighton Marathon, but this year it is the week before so I just had to make it. 

With the CTS Sussex Ultra two weeks ago I feel I have enough climbing practice and miles in my legs already. I'm fortunate to be able to train often along the South Downs as it is right on my doorstep.


Dinner Friday night. Chorizo, Lamb, Bacon (cooked in dripping) on Cauliflower mash and Spanish greens.


Two days before any ultra event or mileage I add a little more starchy carbohydrates to my meals. This can be butternut squash, lentils, sweet potato, fibourous vegetables and added fruits.

Then the day before I eat as I normally do, no sugars and no grains. I find I'm not bloated or heavy on race day and still have the benefit from the extra carbohydrates for the longer activity. 



I follow a real food, high fat diet, similar to a Ketogenic diet. Approx 60% fat, 20% protein and 20% carbohydrates. The carbohydrates will vary on activity levels and upcoming races. I do not stay in a Ketosis state all the time, but it does help me during endurance if I do.

This lifestyle choice has helped hugely with my athletic performance and energy levels when running the past few years, but has been a slow gradual process. 

My recovery is super fast these days and with little swelling or inflammation in my muscles anymore, even after a big event or long run. 


I have that gym soreness feel to my muscles the day after a race.


It took me a full 9 months to become fully fat adapted and learn to run on fat. Most individuals cannot just switch this on and expect to adapt over night. It requires work, discipline, patience and training to transition this way.

My nutritional journey has been a two-three year process and only now have I really tapped into listening to my body. Understanding my hunger and how certain types of food and nutrients effect my overall body and mind for performance. 



I can often run many hours and miles on my fat stores alone before needing to refuel. 

So my fuel of choice is higher fats to start race day, then slowly introduce some carbohydrates in small amounts in the later stages...


Race prep the night before. (Pine nuts, pistachios, macadamia, salt) Espresso with splash maple syrup, half tsp raw cacao, salt (for race vest) Clear broth for the morning. (heaped tsp beef dripping, tsp goose fat, half tsp turmeric, salt and pepper) Just add 1/2 cup hot water then let cool. Add hot water to serve in the morning.


5:45
It's an early start come race day and I am not so hungry after quite a full dinner last night. So I prepare my clear broth (that I made earlier) whilst getting ready. 

Then I brew strong arabica coffee ready for a half measure of bulletproof coffee for the road. 


7:00
Broth finished with half an avocado and plenty of water, coffee in flask and everything packed. 

I'm ready to go! 

John is right on time waiting downstairs in the car and I join him, his wife and daughter Lucy for the 20 minute journey to Worthing College on Hill Barn Lane.


Those magic numbers


We arrive whilst parking is still available and the race registration is not overly crowded. 

There were 400 entrants this year, although naturally some become injured, sickness or lifestyle requirements reduces the number that actually will start...


Kit check is quick, as is number collection. My number is missing but lovely Nici (Cenrurion head admin) is on hand to find it for me. 

Soon enough all the runners fill up the college and then we spot many familiar faces. I chat to ultra runners Kevin and Sheila and their plans for the year ahead.


8:00
Darren arrives then we see Jacqui join the kit check line. I chat with Kirsty Reade (Run247) then Jason (Sussex Trail Events) about his Sparta news and our plans for completing the full Sussex Border Path route sometime this year. 

Jason is on sweeper duties today. 

The vibe is of good spirits, friendly banter and calmness. This seems to ease our nerves and pass the time very quickly.


Soon enough it is just 10 minutes until we start so we all mingle over to the field outside for the briefing by race director James Elson. 

We catch up with other running friends then wish each other all the best before taking our places ready for the go...



Centurion Photographer Stuart March


334 runners arrive to toe the start line




Myself, Kevin, Sheila and John



The Go! (photo Jon Lavis)



9:00
The last few group pictures and then we are off. We all speed away in anticipation to meet the downs and start our long journey out to Eastbourne. 

The skies are dull and dark with that thick mist and damp lingering. The ground has got more muddy because of this and makes the climb up to Chanctonbury technical. 

I stay to a steady 8:30-9:00min/mile pace on the first incline, until the route flattens out some.

It takes a good 4 miles for the front pack runners to spread out and then by 5 miles we meet the South Downs way footpath leading to Chanctonbury Ring. 



(photo Jon Lavis)



Just past Chanctonbury 


10:30
BOTOLPHS 
MILE 11
Reaching the first aid station I am already prepared to take a SaltStick capsule. My number is recorded and I spot ultra runner Dan Skrobak (Stinger Champ 2015) who is part of the team here. Dan helps me get a salt capsule out to take and some water. 

I don't need to stay for any fuel so thank him and head over the road with help from the marshal. 



Supporters are dotted along the track up the climb towards Devils Dyke, cheering and encouraging us as we pass. 

I see a few runners up ahead a few minutes at a guess. I try to power jog/hike the steepest climbs at around 12:00-13:00min/mile before picking up to a 11:00min/mile jog once the incline is less so.

Many hikers and walkers are along the downs today in big groups. MTB riders zoom past at lightning speeds on the downhills. Nothing unusual over a weekend up here on the trails...

The road crossing at Devils Dyke pub is packed with supporters greetings us with a warm welcome, both gates are held open as I pass through which is much appreciated. 

I head on down the track, fast and carefully catching up with the other runners that were ahead. Then soon enough it is the next aid station in the mud at Saddlescombe.



11:22
SADDLESCOMBE 
MILE 17
I am greeted by Bosh runners Jane and Trefor who are part of the team today. It is great to see them and know the faces along the way. I grab a cup of water and I am good to keep on the move. 

I thank them and head back up the climb to Newtimber Hill before a steep descent to Pyecombe. 


I find the next five mile section really quite straight forward and can get into my zone and pace at ease. I regularly train in both directions along this track and it feels very homely and humble like I am back on a training run. 

I catch up then pass other front runners down the track, then once heading towards the Devils Dyke parking area I can see running friend Lucy cheering me along. Lucy is like the mother to the Bosh Run group. It is such a lift and great to see a friend up here supporting!

Over the road and a helping hand from Robbie Britton through the next gate onto the Beacon.


All smiles at 22 Miles. Ditchling Beacon (photo Lucy Dean)



The track takes to the left and through another gate for a nice stretch of flat and downhill towards Housedean. 

Lambs are skipping and jumping as I whizz past them. I chuckle to myself but then just hope they don't decide to skip into my path! 

I take another salt capsule here and feel ready to sip some olive oil. I am only just now feeling the need to top up my fat burning engine!


I can spot a runner in the distance coming up Balmer Down Hill towards me, his form and blue jacket look familiar. Once I reach the next gate I can see it is ultra running friend Shawn. He is happily taken pictures and tells me well done. It's good to see him out as he didn't sleep so good last night and sadly couldn't make the race today...



At 26 Miles. Housedean Farm (photo Nick Jones)


He shouts out that I am doing really well and keep it up.

The track leads down, then right, through another gate until reaching a sharp climb into a wooded area. I pass few walkers down here and one chap asks how far I am running. I just manage to shout out 'Eastbourne' as I pass them. 

Once out on the top of the climb it is the steep track downhill to Housedean Farm. I over take a runner that was in front here. He is being very careful in his steps. 

I like my downhill running and always enjoy picking up the pace on these sections...



12:42
HOUSEDEAN
MILE 26
I can see running friend and volunteer Nick up ahead taking photos, before I turn into the aid station and shout out my number. I have managed to cover the distance in 3hr 42min and seem to be pacing very well so far, picking up to 6th position. 

Nick has some Kalamata olives ready for me, which I am now feeling will work a treat. The team help me refill my water bladder, although it probably would of been best I removed the vest from my shoulders first. I have the map and waterproof bulking up the space to fill. 

I know for next time and maybe best I refill myself as it was quite time consuming, or get a bigger race vest!


By now the first lady Sarah has already been in and checked out again.


I grab a jelly baby sweet to suck out the sugar before thanking the team and Nick. I head over the A27 bridge then under the railway line catching up with Sarah. We start to play cat and mouse along the next steady, but steep incline up towards Juggs Road.


The clouds start to feel heavy and dark, with the strong wind really starting to bite. Within minutes the rain starts and it is that drizzle misty rain that makes everything wet!

We reach the top and take it in turns holding the gates open for each other. It is rather like having a pacer buddy along the way. Once taking the route east and towards Rodmell the wind is pushing from behind which is some shelter from the wind now. 

Luckily the rain doesn't last long and for a brief moment the sun peeks through the clouds...



Heading to Rodmell looking north east to Lewes


I plug in my beats to help with the slight fatigue and quiet spell up out here.

I run close to Sarah until we reach the 'yellow brick road' section to Rodmell, where I pass and put my foot down into a 7:00min/mile pace average. I am feeling strong and light on my feet and enjoy the long flat then downhill running. 

Again this is a very familiar track.... which I remember discovering when I first ventured out into the South Downs all those years ago. Getting lost used to be my forte and I was often laughed at for getting into pickles on private land and asking for help to navigate out again. 

Much has changed since then and I rarely get 'lost' anymore. I just find new and exciting footpaths along the trails, which now are a library of memorable routes on these Downs...



Looking to Lewes and Firle


Once flying down Mill Hill then along the dirt track to the crossing over to the River Ouse, up the steps over the Station and then running into the sound of people cheering and clapping up ahead...


13:50
SOUTHEASE
MILE 33
At an average pace of 8:34min/mile and 4hrs 50min of running I reach the Southease aid station. This is the only crew access area along the route today. 

Here I meet Mum and Dad with a crowd of cheering support from other crews and  friends waiting for the runners. The lovely Alma is here with some cheese and olives I requested. 

Alma has become my amazing aid station mum, as she has been a very faithful and dedicated supporter who has followed my running antics for the past few years now.

It is always great to see her at Centurion events and be greeted with such a warm welcome and a hug.... 



At 33 Miles. Southease 


I catch up briefly with the folks and have some coffee with cream they had prepared already. I have enough water still from Housedean, so thank everyone and make my way back up the track to climb the steep hill up on the downs...

It's hard to not stay long at the wonderful aid stations and catch up with my crew and friends, but I'm in the mind set to not stop and let my knees ache by doing so. 

Keep moving forward and rest at the finish...



Heading towards Firle Beacon at Beddingham Hill (photo Jon Lavis)



I take to the steep, chalky and windy climb up over Ilford Hill that leads to Beddingham Hill. I keep this steady and power walk this section as it goes up very steep and long. 

Sarah is hot on my toes creeping up behind me quickly...


Once out along the long stretch towards Firle Beacon, it is still a steady climb but is battled with a strong headwind. Some parts are undulating but on a whole it is an ascent for a good 4 miles. Rather lonely and baron which is testing on the mind and also as the legs start to fatigue. I shelter my face with my buff and do what I know best, to knuckle down and zone out until I can start to enjoy a flat or downhill section...


I am so glad I have the tough climbs from my last ultra event two weeks ago in my legs. I also have been making the most of the better weather and power walking out along the South Downs on rest days. I have found this is good for conditioning my legs and still time on my feet. 

Touch wood I have had no real injuries or niggles over the winter...


Speeding downhill at last and the chalky track that leads into Alfriston Village. A few supporters ask which way the check point is and then once at the main high street, passing public call out the direction to turn for the next stop...



14:55
ALFRISTON
MILE 41
Down the narrow alley and into the aid station to the sound of cheering, greeted by another warm welcome and help from the team. A familiar face, yet I forget her name, helps me remove a salt capsule to take and then asks how I am feeling and if I need anything else. I am told the runner in front only left 30 seconds ago!

I have a cherry tomato and some almonds, then another chew of a jelly baby before removing it and having some water. 

At 6 hours on the clock I am on target for a 7+hour finish. 

I thank everyone and follow the diversion that now takes the route over the river and across to the bridle path track instead of the main SDW path. 




Looking south west to Friston Forest


The route looks so different in the day light and it paints a picture of the epic scale of the South Downs and climb out to Jevington. The last time I ran on this exact stretch (CTS skims some of the climb) over to Jevington was back in June for the 100 miler event.

The climb up Windover Hill is gradual but steep and then once up at the top its a long open field stretch across Holt Brow to Jevington. Friston Forest can be seen over to the south.

My legs are fatigued but it is so close to the finish now I have that second wind of power wanting to reach as quick as possible.

Finally the route leads down into woods and I have fond memories of running here in the dark.

Following the finger posts and Centurion arrows the track navigates out onto a road. 



15:40
JEVINGTON
MILE 45 
Once across Jevington Road and through the Church the aid station is right in front of me. The team outside record my number and ask if I need anything inside. I hesitate before deciding I would like some water and just a little sugar. 

I nibble on couple of pecan nuts and then chew the sugar from a jelly baby. this is my 'sugar trickle' that just helps my brain and body enough to pull through, but without any crash or low. 

It is a technique I have perfected over some time and works very well for my fat adapted body.



I head on back out to the small lane and Sarah has just passed through and is now in front of me. We power jog up the next climb to Willingdon Hill, with some walking breaks, still playing cat and mouse with each other. 

It feels forever to reach the top, but when we do, it is a very nice sight up high and we are greeted with friendly familiar faces from the Centurion team. The guys seem a little surprised to see me already and congratulate us both for doing so well. 

Tim Lambert is by the trig point to show us the turn down the track. I remember this section very well and it is much easier in daylight! 

I am pleased and grateful to see him and we high five when I pass.

The orange spray paint arrow is clear in the grass and I follow this through the gap and downhill along the tree lined gorge.



The tweet roots, ruts and stones are huge down this track and it gets very steep quickly. Although I'm racing down fast I keep my eyes glued to the terrain and where to place my feet...

The track goes on and on before finally getting narrow and then muddy once reaching a road in suburbia territory...



This is it now, the last few miles to the sports track. A sharp turn down a muddy alley that leads eventually to the road, I cross over where I see the red and white tape and turn right.

It feels familiar but then when I reach the lights I see no arrow or tape, I switch back on myself quickly thinking 'oh crap'....

Once back at the tape I look on the floor and see the orange arrow left then quick right!

Cursing myself for speeding and not concentrating enough, I run fast down Park Lane and realise it is right at the next junction for the last stretch...


I saved a jelly baby for this last section so chew into it squeezing out the sugar to give me a kick and some zoom. I am running a 7:15-7:30min/mile pace.

I can see Sarah ahead of me now and crossing at the lights. I make a move across when it is safe and the cars are stopped on red. 


The Finish



I look out for the next left turning as know it is coming up soon by the round about and remember the signs for the hospital. 

There it is, then down the winding cycle path, catching up with Sarah just by the car park. 

She asks what had happened to me! I can hear all the cheering screams and support from the track as I run through the gates. This is the last moment and a lap on the track for the finish. 

I get my phone out ready to stop my Runkeeper, James is shouting 'put ya phone away' it feels good on the soft track but I am ready for the finish now!  

I see Mum and Dad waiting with big grins on their faces.


16:18
THE FINISH
I really do not know how.... but my legs flew around the 400m track in a 6:30min/mile pace and I reach the finish line in 7:18:46.


I kept and held onto 6th place from Southease. Although I was in danger of missing that when I wrong turned just a few miles back...


 

Happy smiles at the finish with Mum



A 50 mile PB for 2015



Proud Dad at the finish


Congratulation hugs from James, Nici and Stuart, then medal collection from the marvelous Mimi Anderson...


The perfect ending to a perfect running day


6th Place in 7:18:46




Nici impressed too!


Just some climbing today


I would like to thank all the fantastic Centurion Crew, volunteers and team for another great show and successful day on the downs. 

Thank you to all the amazing supporters, running friends and family who took the time to come along and cheer everybody along. 

Thank you for all the kind well wishes


Finally a 50 Miler tee and medal



Ultra Luke