Ultra Running & Reviews

Race Report “Thames Trot, The Boat Race 50 Mile Ultra” 6th February 2010

by on Feb.06, 2010, under Race Reports

it was early!

This was to be my 2nd ultra in 2010 & also a qualifying race for The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®. As such I was expecting quit a tough race. I got to the hotel the night before the race & realised I’d forgotten one of the most important bits of my kit, my head torch! My wife Sam said she’s get one and somehow get it to me before it went dark. We arrived in Oxford at the Prince of Wales Pub in plenty of time to register & sort out my kit ready for the off. I talked with some of my friends from the Lands End to John O’Groats team who were also using this race as a training run. We heard two runners had done the full 50 mile course the night before just to reach the start! I started at the very back of the field this time just to make sure I didn’t get caught up in the race for the front. I needed to pace myself, this was just a training run.

race number & medal

We ran down the main street of Iffley and over the locks leading to the Thames path. The first bridge we came to felt like it would break under the strain of all the runners & bounced up & down as we crossed. I was surprised how narrow the Thames was at this point, not much wider than a canal. As the inevitable fast start passed we started to settle into a pace for the rest of the course. About a mile in I met one of the runners who had run the course the night before and asked him how he felt, I can’t repeat what he said but he looked very tired! He also looked very muddy & I asked him if the course was very wet later as we had lots of rain the previous days before the race. He said it was muddy with just a few wet patches.

I’d taken two pairs of trainers for this run, my favourite off road shoe the Saucony Grid Jazz 12 & my proffered road shoe the Brooks Adrenalin GTS. It’s always hard to know weather to go for a road shoe or a trail shoe, if you wear a road shoe it can mean slipping about in the muddy sections but having better support. If you wear trail shoes the mud can clog the tread and you end up with a huge clump of mud on your feet. It soon became obvious it would be the latter!

As we made our way along the Thames the mud got thicker and thicker, we ran through a very wet field about 2 miles into the race which meant giving up on having dry feet for the rest of the race. I’ve never run such a muddy course, it stuck to the tread on your trainers, then when you ran through a stony section the stones stuck to the mud and made it tough going even on the rare road sections.

nice tech t shirt with Thames Trot Ultra logo

I passed checkpoint 1 Culham Lock at 10 miles feeling quite fresh and ready for the next section. At CP 2 Benson Waterfront which was 19 miles into the race I was feeling very hungry & knew the organisers had provided the famous fruit cake which I like, as I got to the CP I could see quit a crowd & decided to quickly fill my Camelback with water & grab some food to make up a few places. Just as I finished filling my water I looked over to the aid station food table & noticed only 1 big piece of fruit cake was left! I grabbed it & some jelly babies and set off for the next CP at mile 27, Streatley-on-Thames. As soon as the cake hit my stomach I felt better & managed to stay on pace for the next few miles until CP 4 which was Mapledurham at 36 miles. By this time I was getting a bit worried that I may not have a torch for the last few miles which were tricky in the dark because of mud and the fact we were running along the Thames. I’d left the CP at Mapledurham & started running through the village which was one of the last places I could have met my support crew & got the new head torch. Just as I thought it was too late I saw a people carrier in the distance and it was Sam, she handed me the torch through the window as I ran past. It’s at times like these you really need a good support crew who can work out where you’ll be at a given time.

When I got to CP 5 at Sonning I could feel myself tiring and was again ready for some food, this time it was meat pies and energy bars. Just as I got back onto the Thames path I could see 3 swans in the distance, as I ran towards them they started to take off. I never noticed before how big they are & how long it takes them to get off the ground. They flew past me & I could hear their wings flapping. It was a beautiful picture seeing them fly off just as the sun was setting.

As I ran along I heard someone behind me, it was another runner who was struggling a bit with shin splints. We chatted for a while and as it got darker I put on my head torch. Soon I was on my own again & thinking about the finish. It got very cold as it went dark & the sweat on my clothes felt cold against my skin.

I glanced down at my Forerunner & it said I’d run 47 miles. Only 3 more miles to go & I could rest. The path which we ran along got very narrow and at one point I was very glad I had a head torch, the path had crumbled away and it was hard to see where you were going. With about one mile to go we came onto a tarmac path and one of the marshals told me to run for where the lights were. I ran up the path and through the finish to collect my t-shirt & medal & some very welcome food and a nice hot cup of coffee. I thanked the organiser for what had been a very scenic & enjoyable race and made my way to the car for the 200+ miles drive back home.

Medal 2010

Happy Running!

2 Comments for this entry

  • andy k

    I was very interested reading your account of the Thames Trot as I am running it February. i have read a few comments in runners world of people getting lost in the Goring-Streatley,I assume you didn’t have that problem.
    I just hope I’m somewhere near where you were when it got dark,it doesn’t thrill me to much the thought of running in the dark!
    Cheers Andy

  • Colin Fitzjohn

    Hi Andy, it’s not too hard to navigate the race but if you are having any problems you could do what I do and team up with a good map reader. The main thing is to wear the right trainers & take along a good head torch as part of the rout is right by the river & will probably be in the dark.

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