Thames Path 100 (1 down 3 to go)
TP100 5th & 6th May 2018
I’ve sat looking at a blank screen trying to come up with the words to share my weekend experience of the Centurion Thames Path 100, to do it justice I again need to be willing to share a most personal raw battle of physical pain & mental steel and trust me when you are down to running (moving) on sheer mental will – emotions are fragile. I have committed this year to completing the Centurion Grand Slam, TP100, South Downs Way 100, North Downs Way 100 & the Autumn 100, Saturday was the first test. The Thames Path starts in Richmond and as the name suggests travels largely along the Thames to Oxford covering just over 100 miles.Following a decent night’s sleep Russ kindly drove me to the start, allowing a good 90 minutes for kit checks, prep & briefing before the 10am kick off – great to see many friendly faces at the start.
As we lined up on the banks of the Thames for the 9.45am briefing it became apparent that it was going to be one scorcher of a day, which for 90% of us training through the winter months - well 100 miles is never an easy ask, running into what felt like an oven, just brought a whole new level of pain. The first miles are always difficult for me, it’s easy to get drawn out too quickly when running with others and with a largely flat course there are no natural walk breaks, so you really have to be disciplined & run your own race. The first CP was 12 miles in, I held back to the pace that was comfortable, tried to relax & enjoy the scenery and ignore the sensible folks out on pleasure boats or in beer gardens. I was out of water by the time I got to the CP, this was the repeated scenario on all the first day CP’s as the day just got hotter & hotter.
By the second CP 22 ish miles, I was still holding comfortable & had found some ice cream vans – stopping for ice pops really saved my day – as the mileage grew I was passing more runners, some who had gone out too hard, others who were just melting in the heat.
My plan had been to reach half way Henley on Thames before having to use my head torch ideally 11 hours, but I was slightly over 11.50 into the race 52+ miles on the watch – and the most welcome sight of Russ, Debbie and a total surprise my friend Fiona. My initial 60 second rant about distances & weather out of the way, they found me a seat – I had resisted the temptation to sit before half way, frankly it’s too much of a struggle to get back up! I was finding this race hard going, normally I chit chat with other runners on & off and indeed have made some great friends this way, but I just never seemed to be running near anyone for very long, the field was completely spread. So my first change of plan was to ask Russ to jump in to pace, that was were Fiona was a star player in offering to crew & take over the driving, and of course Russ for quickly getting changed while I stuffed my face with pasta & 2 cups of tea. It was still really hot well to me anyhow, a change of vest (mine was socked) a quick wipe down, we were out of the CP with a 25 minute turn around. Russ being initially a bit too eager as a pacer, I think he was forgetting I already had 50+ miles in my legs.As we went through the night the temps just dropped away, with a damp coldness coming off the river accompanied by heavy fog / mist – making hard work of following the trail by head torch.Russ ran about 14 miles with me before handing me over to Debbie for the final 30+ miles, these were the toughest ones, the ones running on mindset alone.Its difficult to explain the final 30 miles, for me I was simply working on will alone, my body felt broken I knew that I had blisters, chafing, nausea, extreme muscle fatigue, sun burn, heat stroke with a pounding headache, freezing cold in the night – praying for the sun to come up, and when it did boiling all over again.I chose to ignore each & every complaint my body was making, each time I sat at a CP the effort to get back on my feet doubled – I know at 85 miles as I hung on to Russ in a CP I was close to tears, and the temptations to quit was strong, I remember going to the toilet looking at my sorry self in the mirror and repeating out loud “don’t you fucking dare” The end came eventually, the final few miles with happy people out walking by the river without a care in the world, no doubt wondering what was with the depressed smelly runners staggering by every now & then. On one bit there were two kids one on a scooter & one on a bike who kept riding up & stopping in front of me, Jesus how I refrained from stabbing them with my walking poles I’ll never know! - We should carry a “stay away health warning”.I managed a run stagger over the finish line, I’d love to say I felt great – but in honesty I was a blubbering mess struggling to hold it together, as James gave my buckle.
The race this year had an extremely high DNF (Did not finish) rate of 42% of runners, I finished in 26.54 hours, 156 place, 24th Lady & 4th in my age category. It is to date the hardest race I have run, primarily due to the two extremes of temperatures, and also, I think the nature of the course – flat is not always an easy option. Each of these races are a huge learning curve for me, this was my 3rd 100 miler – but they are all a completely different experience.
Work with the temperatures, adjust your expectations where necessary
Run your own race
Commit and be prepared to go through the misery & pain barrier - it’s a physical sport it’s going to hurt (unless of course there could be serious health implications)
Remember if you want to be above average, you have to work for it – you might have talent, you might have skill, but without a decision to commit and give it everything you’ve got – you cannot expect the reward. Far better in my opinion to risk everything and fail, nor risk a lifetime of regrets and could have been.
And finally to Russ, Debbie & Fiona I'm humbled by your love, kindness & ever present support !