Report from Chris Carver
I first entered this race in 2006 and, it being my first ultra, I had no idea what to expect. On that particular day the weather was abysmal and after just over 30 miles the paramedic on duty pulled me out with a very badly blistered foot.
Since then I knew it was only a matter of time before I ran this one again and when that chance presented itself in October last year I just had to accept. I wasn’t particularly fit at that point but I managed to get some serious training done over the following four months. Not easy given Fay’s (my wife) current illness, but she was unbelievably supportive and understood my need to go back to south Wales.
In 2006 my target had been 5 hours and I had been ahead of that until about 27 or 28 miles. This time I had no idea what my target should be – I knew I couldn’t run 5 hours – but by mid-February I also knew I was fit so I decided to aim for 5h 20. That works out at very close to 2 mins for each of the 161 laps . . . easy for pacing myself.
We arrived at the track about an hour or so before the race was due to start and passed the time keeping warm and catching up with old friends and rivals before the serious business began. The race itself. I didn’t know what a 2 minute lap felt like so I set off well within myself and passed 400m in about 1:42. Slowed down and passed 800m in 3:30. Carried on like that for a few laps until I managed to hit the 2 min target very consistently. I was 60 seconds ahead of schedule by that time though but wasn’t in the least bit worried as I knew a toilet stop would be needed at some point.
The first couple of hours passed without incident (10 miles in 1h 19:22 and 15 miles in 1h 59:36) but after that my pace, slowly at first, got difficult to maintain and I reached halfway in exactly 2h 40 knowing I wasn’t going to manage 5h 20. Luckily I had some other targets – first and foremost was my pb of 5h 41:42 from 2010 when I ran on the roads in Perth, Scotland.
So, with 3 hours still to go I dug deep. I knew I was slowing all the time but still reckoned I had a good chance. About an hour later the soles of my feet starting aching. Those of you who know me will also know that I’m a heavy footed runner and I’ve been known to finish long ultras with black and blue soles (bruises). Eventually, after about 4h 30, I had no choice but to change my footwear. Fay was there to make it as slick as possible but time still slipped by – especially as I needed to then walk a lap and take some painkillers to help with the bad pain in my left shoulder.
Running again it was not long before Fay told me that she would soon let me know when it’s 10 laps to go. The next few minutes seemed to last forever but the countdown was now underway and with 10 laps to go my thoughts were “that’s about 2.5 miles, from my house to Pool, no problem”. That stayed with me almost like a mantra. And then it was 5 to go, then 3, 2, final lap. I had tried to pick up the pace a bit over the final few laps but finished with a time of 5 hours 44 minutes 13 seconds. Not a pb but better than my previous track best for 40 miles (6h 01:49 from London in 2008).
The winner was Michael Taylor (St. Neots) 3h 53:04 and first woman was Helen James (100 mar. club) 5h 41:34
My achievements in this race: personal bests at 50k (4h 17:33) and 35 miles (4h 55:25). Track bests at 50k, 35 miles and 40 miles. Age graded pbs at every distance from 20k to 40 miles. Age graded track bests at every distance from 5 miles to 40 miles.
Lessons to learn: (1) shoes that are fine for long runs are not necessarily fine for long races, (2) it’s better to underestimate one’s fitness and start a bit too slow, (3) track ultras are a bit special and I would encourage all runners to try one.