Chiltern Challenge 50km Ultra Marathon

Well, after much build up it the day finally arrived when I would get see if all the preparation and training would pay off and I would become an ultra runner.

The day dawned sunny, and if I am honest a bit too warm for my liking, I was hoping for grey and overcast but as it is July you can’t always get what you want!

As we all know you should, I had packed my kit the night before and so in the morning all I had to do was get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and make it to the start line. Luckily for me the start line was only 10 minutes from home and my wife was taking so no need to worry about driving.

On arrival it was the usual check in process, and the only late change to my kit I made was to get rid of my number belt and pin my number to my shorts, as it turned out that was a good idea as it out of the way and you don’t even notice it, yet it is visible.

Then, it was time for the off, in my head I had a pacing plan, having never run the distance before or even run a marathon, it was just a guess.

Off we went and the course instantly went up a big hill, which you had to walk up, followed by some steps before you could really start running. I was soon into my running and whilst I set off a little faster than I wanted I soon reined myself in and felt ok.

The first checkpoint arrived after 10km and I arrived feeling in good spirits, a quick topping up off the bottles, some food and off I went. A lot of the first part of the course I was familiar with as I had run it during training, only in the other direction.

As the run continued I noticed that I wasn’t actually catching or passing anyone, but seemed to be on my own a lot, with the main pack somewhere in the distance, this started me thinking that perhaps I was out of my depth and shouldn’t be doing this. I quickly got rid of those thoughts on the basis that my steady progress would see me through in the end.

After the second check point I seemed to catch a few people and the conversation was free and easy, I am amazed at how many of the runners played down their own abilities. In particular two ladies who had been doing various ultras and were more than happy to pass on tips but also tell of their future plans, I felt very lazy next to them!

The journey to the third checkpoint did seem to drag a bit, but in the end it came into sight. A much needed drink, more food and a chat and we were off again. This time I caught a group of runner san ran with them for a while, including trough a section where someone had removed the marker tape, luckily we got through in the right direction.

During this period I noticed my IT band was beginning to stiffen up and whist not a show stopper didn’t feel great, this was at about 32km. Sometime later I started to notice my right ankle was becoming sore, in my simple mind I linked it to the IT band and carried on. Then, there was a pint where I had to run downhill and suddenly realised I couldn’t, I simply couldn’t load up my weight onto my right ankle as the combination of the pain from it and the tight band meant to go downhill I simply had to take fairy steps slowly.

Once back on the fact I was able to move again, but the damage was done and during the rest of the trip to the fourth and last checkpoint it just got worse. On arriving at the last checkpoint, again I filled up my bottles had some food and thought about talking to the medics about it, but I didn’t as I was worried they might try and make me stop, this I didn’t want as I was only about 8km from the end. So I pressed on.

The next section contained a lot more walking than I wanted to do, I simply couldn’t cope with any sort of gradient, either up or down, flat was ok. On a gradual gradient I would run for 300m to 400m, walk a bit then try and run again. It was basically the only way.

Eventually, the final section of the run came into view, and I decided I was running the last part no matter how much it hurt, I wasn’t walking over the line. Luckily it was a short road section. As I approached the entrance to the school where we started, people were applauding and offering encouraging words and congratulations, and this carried on till to the finish line, it was a great touch.

On finishing I received my medal, certificate for completing my first ultra and vest!

As I am writing this the following day, my right ankle looks a mess, it is very swollen nd has a lot of bruising, and as if in sympathy the left one is swollen as well, my legs ache for the finishing touch.

That said, it was a brilliant event, a fantastic course, with the checkpoints staffed by brilliant, kind and encouraging people who simply couldn’t do enough for you. The organisation was first class, I know that the company XRNG normally do multi day events and this is their only one day event, but to me it looks like they bring their experience of multi day events to this single day one to ensure that everyone has the best day they can.

So, was it all worth it? Well, my training was spot on “Iron” Mike Shaw has got me in good condition, my nutrition plan worked as I hoped and so if it wasn’t for the injury I reckon I would have been considerably faster than my 7 hours 23 minutes, I think I would easily have broken 7 hours.

Would I do another ultra? I honestly don’t know, the main reason being to train for these long runs means I don’t get to ride my bike and I really miss that, I won’t rule it out.

As with all these personal projects to complete events there are always more people involved than just me, and certainly without them it wouldn’t be possible. Firstly to Mike Shaw of Tri Performance, whose coaching was brilliant as ever and combined with his advice has certainly got me believing you can achieve anything. But, most importantly, the biggest thanks goes to my wife, Suzanne, she supports me in a completely unquestioning way when I do these things, she is always encouraging, comes and supports me and never moans about me going training for hours. I know these are very selfish pursuits and having her understanding and support makes them much easier.

In conclusion, if you are interested in doing an ultra then don’t be put off by the distance or if you haven’t run a marathon it doesn’t matter if you put the time and effort into training you can do it, I did and enjoyed the whole experience.

Go on try it, you might just like it!

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