2 miles after i left the last check point at Barbury Castle, 4 miles from the end, my Garmin died. I logged 80.20 miles at Barbury castle. Then the Garmin stopped at 82.8 miles. i finished the last 4.2 miles in approx 53 mins. i have included the photo of me at the very end in 16:47:50.
The Ridgeway National Trail – a run report
Saturday 22nd June 2019
Start, Ivinghoe Beacon,
Race time 0:00:00. Dist. 00miles
Our plan for recording the attempt was for me to run with my Garmin. I also had a tracker from Open Tracking and the link was shared with the guys at FKT. Ollie (my Crew Chief) was also keeping a “race-time” clock running throughout the attempt. At each of our main check points Ollie photographed my Garmin next to the race clock.
I felt good and was looking forward to a long day running. I had the previous Thursday and Friday off work, so I think I was well rested. I was trying to hold back to about 8 min/ 8:30 min miles. But I was hitting sub 8s. Too fast, but not so I was getting out of breath. I felt solid, just below pushing. I remembered looking at my watch a few times when the mile marker beeped. Conditions were good, the sky was clear, but it was warmer than i would have liked it to be at 7am.
Race time 1:24:23, Dist. 10.75 miles.
Simon joined me at Wendover. Coombe hill was a push, but I knew that anyway, so no big drama. The trail down to the Plough Inn at Cadesden is a bit of fun. It flows well but can be a bit steep down at times. Ollie and Rachel were ready for me when we got there. A quick replenishment and I was off.
CP2, The Plough Inn, Cadesden
Race time 2:11:48, Dist. 16.8 miles
Continued to run with Simon out of Cadesden. Walked up the big hill behind the Plough Inn, I reckon it’s the only hill on the route that is un-runable as part of an Ultra. A short hill workout maybe, but not an Ultra. We then ran on into the woods at the top of Whiteleaf hill. Once I hit about 21 miles I started to feel a low coming on. I always get this around this distance, but I’ve started to think it is linked to going off too fast. I didn’t get it on a recent well-paced 30miler. Instead of just keeping it in my head I decided to use Simon! So told him I was having bad thoughts (negative thoughts, getting on a bit of a downer) and he did the job, helping me to work through and reminding me about the effort and work I had put in and that this run was something I wanted to do. Simon stopped running with me at Hill Road, Lewknor.
CP3, Hill Road Lewknor.
Race time, 3:52:10 Dist. 26.27miles
I was relatively happy with the next section to Nuffield. I like most of it. The woods were so much cooler than the open trails. There are a couple of big open wheat fields where you run through waist-high wheat on a cleared channel, about one person wide. Because I could see right to the other side, I remember grimacing a bit about how big the fields were and how long it was taking to reach the other side.
CP4, Nuffield Church
Race time, 5:28:27, Dist. 34.26miles
Nuffield check point was an eye opener. I wanted to sit down and plopped myself on the door opening of Rachel's car. This sent my left hamstring into a full-on cramp. I threw myself on the floor, face down. Rachel put her hand behind my heel and made me push my heel into her hand. That did the trick. Had a moment of "I’m fucked here!!" and wondered how much further I would get before cramp did me in. Ollie and Rachel kept making me drink more electrolytes and were instructing me to make sure my bottles were empty by the time i saw them again. My legs wouldn't have lasted the day if they hadn't sorted me out. I love the technical downhill sections just after leaving Nuffield. The trail takes you down Grimm's Ditch and then there are plenty of off-camber rooty sections that flow like riding a downhill mountain bike. It's great fun and was in the shade. It's easy to run faster when you are enjoying it!
Race time, 7:16:08, Dist. 43.57miles
We had planned a food stop at Goring. I had filled a thermos with tomato pasta the night before and Rachel dished it up for me. I can remember not wanting more than a few pieces, but Rachel made me take a break a couple of times then go back to it, making sure I ate enough. Ollie had been to a garden centre and bought a spray bottle to keep me cool. I had hoped to be at Goring in about 6 hrs. I was over an hour behind that schedule and that was tough to take. It was still very hot, but I knew the next section well and could focus on getting it done. We had planned for Rachel to run with me out of this check point. It's a couple of miles up hill. Not hard to run, but if your head is struggling it might just be enough of an excuse for you to walk. We got to the top and Rachel went back to the car. I was on the downlands now and there was no cover, save for the odd tree overhanging the trail. By the time i got to Bury Down i was out of water and electrolyte again.
CP 6, Bury Down
Race time 9:12:50, Dist. 52.42miles
The next couple of sections are exposed. I've run them a few times and in favourable weather I imagine myself motoring along quite nicely. Mostly winding and undulating without major climbs to tackle. The gaps between mile beeps seemed to last for ages though. I like my mind being busy, focusing on terrain, dealing with technical sections, a varied run. This type of section gets me inside my own head too much!
CP7, Sparsholt Firs
Race time 11:09:26, Dist. 61.57miles
More of the same between here and the next one. I don't remember lots, specifically. A few people cheered me on by name and I couldn't get my head round how they knew who I was. It was later that Ollie explained that he and Rachel had been chatting to walkers and cyclists, telling them what I was attempting. It was a great lift at the time.
Race time 12:58:28, Dist. 69.95miles
There is a road section out of Foxhill that leads to the bottom of a trail up to Liddington castle. It was always the plan for one of the crew to run the mile or so on the road (for safety) until I got to the hill. Ollie did a great job of keeping me visible to traffic. At the time, I wasn't able to understand why we were moving across the road, I was a bit delirious!! Halfway to CP9 the crew met me. Rachel ran alongside me up the drawn-out climb out of Ogbourne St George until Barbury Castle. There is a farm at the top of the hill near Barbury Castle and they have a bright light that acts almost as a beacon for those on the Ridgeway. You can see the light from a long distance away and it seems to take ages to get there.
CP9, Barbury Castle,
Race time, 15:16:41, Dist. 80.20miles
Ollie had popped into a local pub and convinced them to make me a coffee which was in my flask when I arrived, lovely! This was it, the final 6 and a bit miles. Although I'd never really worried about not finishing, apart from the cramps at Nuffield, I started to realise that I was going to make it. My target time of 14 hours had long since passed, but I was nearly there. 8 months of planning, dedicated training and a top crew had got me to this point.
I had a good solid couple of miles from the carpark at Barbury Castle, through the castle ruins and down on to the lower section of trail. The trail runs quite flat for a while before turning into a horrible rutted path, where over the years vehicle tyres have created channels in the ground almost designed to break ankles. I was well into head torch use by now, but that wasn't a bother to me. About a mile or so to go, there is a trail off to the right that goes down to Avebury, called Green Street. Once I passed this junction the trail turns from grassy ruts back to hard packed stones. It was a shuffle and a walk to the finger post denoting the start of the Ridgeway and the end of my run.
Avebury and its surrounding area is designated a world heritage site and is a spiritual place for druids. The summer Solstice was the day before my run. There were still a few revellers on the last mile of the Ridgeway, dancing to the sounds of drum and bass and they looked so happy. Whether naturally or chemically induced, who cares!! I think I blended in well with them, wobbling past, slightly incoherent and looking like I could do with a good night's sleep.
FINISH, Overton Hill
Race time, 16:47:50, Dist. 87miles
It's done!! Some photos and a group hug with my amazing crew later, and it was into the car for the 2 hour drive home. It’s a great feeling finishing an Ultra. This one was special because it wasn't a race, it was personal to me and I'd done it.