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Saturday/Sunday 19th & 20th August – Hell on the Humber


Report from Chris Carver

 

It’s been a long time. Frustrating illnesses mainly along with one or two injuries. September 2012 was the last one but now, at last, I’ve managed to get back the fitness needed to run 24 hour races.

I first heard about this one about five or six years ago and always thought it was an interesting idea – cross the Humber Bridge on foot as many times as possible in 24 hours. Looking at the website I saw that the course record was 29 crossings (116 miles) and that was what prompted me to enter. I knew I could beat that – I know I’m five years older now but I ran a couple of hilly 100 mile races in the Cotswolds and my times were 17h 43 in 2011 and 16h 41 in 2012 (with much help from Hugh Pearson).

Arriving at the nearest hotel to the Humber Bridge at 5.00pm loaded down with kit for all weathers and enough food to feed an army – but no tin opener for the rice pudding, custard, beans or spaghetti. Thanks to a bit of quick thinking I managed to borrow one from the kitchen for a couple of days. First problem solved.

Woking up at 5.00am for a race start at 7.00am Fay and I ambled the ten minute walk to the Humber Bridge Country Park (aka race HQ) where I collected my number and waited for the pre-race briefing. The remaining time to the start passed all too quickly before the 26 runners sent slowly on their way to a traffic cone two miles away on the south side of the Humber. We had to round that cone and return to race HQ as many times as possible before 7.00am the following day.

One thing we were not warned about was the extreme wind on the bridge. And I do mean extreme. For a short while the crossing was closed to high sided vehicles. For the first 15 or 16 hours the speed limit was 20 or 30 mph instead of the usual 50. During the first 10 hours I was almost blown over the fence three times and at about 8 hours I was blown into one of the giant bolts holding the cables in place – bruised left thigh and twisted right ankle trying to avoid the collision.

A totally unanticipated problem caused by the wind was my breathing. I have a narrow trachea anyway due to a dozen or more operations on my larynx and the build-up of scar tissue over many years. Extremely windy conditions in a 10k race or half marathon are hardly a problem as they are over relatively quickly. But half way through a 24 hour race, that’s altogether different.

Also, battling the wind led to the race masseur being needed almost permanently as posture problems became increasingly serious. I had a shoulder massage about 16 or 17 hours into the race.

A few stats now:

My first lap took about 32 minutes but every subsequent lap began with a walking period of 7:40 whilst I ate and drank.

From the start I found myself in the lead and continually increased the lead by running about 30s per lap quicker than my schedule to account for inevitable toilet breaks.

I passed 10 miles in about 1h 07, 20 in about 2h 50, 26 in about 3h 48 and 50 in about 7h 45.

Lap 15 was where the wind began to take its toll (see above) and 60 miles was reached in 9h 50.

A couple of hours later my closest challenger pulled out unable to cope any longer with the intense conditions.

After 13 hours things began looking bleak for me too. I informed the race director and doctor of the problems the wind was having with my breathing and following their advice I ran one lap at a time with a good rest out of the wind (approx. 30 mins) before starting the next. The problem with that is that the muscles began to get stiff during the rest periods and running again was increasingly difficult – leading to ever slower lap times. However, once I got going my pace was surprisingly quick and I found myself passing runners competing in the 6 hour race.

However I’m very pleased that I didn’t throw in the towel and carried on to the end where I was to learn I had finished second with 25 laps (100 miles). The winner ran two and a half laps further. I didn’t catch his name but he was flabbergasted to have run further than me – he obviously saw how quickly I was running in the first half but not how slow my lap times were in the second.

For my first 24 hour race after five year break I’m happy with that especially in those conditions.

Overall a brilliant and well organised event with decent merchandise. Four races on offer too makes for a good day out (whole day that is). 24 race starting at 7.00am, 12 hour race at 7.00pm, 6 hour race at 7.00pm and a special race for children or runners and crew.

But don’t let anyone tell you it’s a flat one. The race HQ is at about 20m above sea level and the first 300m of each lap climbs 10m onto the bridge itself. The next 1000m or so is flat but then there’s a long descent, dropping 30m in about 1300m. Then the same in reverse. The first 1300m climbs 30m, the next 1000m is almost flat and the last 300m drops 10m. That final drop, around a spiral slip road, in the dark, isn’t as easy as it seems after 20 hours or more of running.

And now I’m travelling to Ypres in Belgium as my great grandfather was killed near there on 1st September 1917.

Results have now come through for the recent 24 hour race

MEN
1 – Rich Buckle (108 miles)
2 – Chris Carver (100 miles)
3 – Ian Griffin (84 miles)
4 – Jason Brunt (84 miles)
5 – Keith Lamb (80 miles)
6 – Thomas Quirke (68 miles)
7 – Billy Walmsley (60 miles)
8 – Dan Watford (60 miles)
9 – Mark Dagg (60 miles)
10 – Mark Dobbs (58 miles)
11 – Daniel Slaughter (56 miles)
12 – Gary Shann (52 miles)
13 – Matthew Waddingham (36 miles)

WOMEN
1 – Elizabeth Nairn (110 miles)
2 – Julie Masterman (92 miles)
3 – Sharon Tummons (80 miles)
4 – Sally Wheelhouse (72 miles)
5 – Helen Reevell (68 miles)
6 – Ede Bone (64 miles)
7 – Sophie Hempsall (60 miles)
8 – Catherine Shann (52 miles)
9 – Judy Lankester (48 miles)
10 – Lauren Dearden (44 miles)
11 – Michelle Richardson (44 miles)

  1. #1 by Richard Hamer on August 21, 2017 - 10:43 am

    I nearly went for a run over the Humber Bridge a few years ago after I’d visited a client in Hull; I decided against it as it was a dank November day; maybe I should return but just do an out and back.

    A fine effort Chris; and good to see you back in action.

  2. #2 by Matt on August 21, 2017 - 7:01 pm

    Good effort Chris and good to see you back in harness. I’ve run that bridge and back in the Hull marathon, but thankfully it wasn’t windy. Mind you it’s the best view in Hull. I counted the cables to pass time.

  3. #3 by Antonio Cardinale on August 22, 2017 - 9:32 pm

    It is good to see you back racing the ultra distance again Chris , and your report from the Humber Bridge is excellent , and to to run 100 miles in a such weather conditions it is extraordinary achievement and it means that you are gradually coming back in good shape after all and the second place it is a super result . Well done to Chris C.

  4. #4 by Mark Hall on August 23, 2017 - 10:25 pm

    Really good to see you are back Chris. I do wonder how you can run for 24hrs though!

  5. #5 by Tamara Weatherhead on August 25, 2017 - 7:11 am

    Pretty amazing comeback, Chris!

  6. #6 by Graham Lake on August 25, 2017 - 8:53 am

    Great result Chris, especially after such a long time out of racing. The results also show how much closer (actually ahead here) women are in ultra races.

  7. #7 by Sara Elliott on August 25, 2017 - 5:05 pm

    What a fantastic comeback, Chris!! Stunning performance and can’t imagine how tough it must be running for 24 hours.

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