Back in 2012 I had never run a marathon and was training for Norwich half marathon.
Then 5 weeks before Marriott’s Way ultra was due to start I heard about it, mulled it over and decided to give it a go… Everyone thought I was crazy. Maybe I am. I finished in 6 hours 56 minutes.
This year my goal was to beat last years time.
From 7.30am a large group of runners were forming. Some were “only” taking part in the fun run option of running halfway, and could be easily spotted by the fact they were less heavily loaded than the ultra runners. There seemed to be a few more people than last year. I checked in with Paul Woodyatt and then had a quick chat with a couple of other runners. I wasn’t feeling nervous in the slightest, a big contrast to last year when this was my first ever ultra and I wasn’t sure if I could complete it.
I can put my confidence down to:
- I was using tried and tested gear
- I know the route really well
- I’ve run longer ultras in the meantime
Marriott’s Way Ultra is an out-and-back along a disused railway line from Norwich to Reepham. With no checkpoints until the halfway point, where water is provided but no food.
I carried dates, a banana, a sesame snap and 1 gel for food. I did have a few concerns about hydration. Last year I had worn a 3 litre camelpak, I drank all 3 litres before halfway and then another 3 litres on the way back. This time I was going to carry only 1.5 litres. My emergency plan was a £2 coin that I could use at the shop in Lenwade, this would mean a detour so I wanted to avoid this if at all possible.
The weather forecast looked fairly good, with clear skies and no rain forecast. The only negative was a strong wind, but this was blowing in a westerly direction so a cross-wind for much of the route.
After a quick briefing, we started at 8am, I was soon near the back of the pack, but this didn’t concern me as lots of the runners were only doing half. I settled in to a pace between 9 and 10 minute miles. My plan was to attempt to keep to somewhere around 10 minute miles for the whole way.
I met my mum and aunt about 3 miles in, out walking their dogs. A 10 second stop and I was on my way again, supplied with more dates and some dried apricots.
The rest of the jouney to Whitwell Station (14 miles) was fairly uneventful and I was happily making progress. At this point the route detours onto roads, to avoid a badger set on Marriott’s Way. I caught up with a runner who is preparing for the Spine next year – his training is to run an ultra almost every week! After a couple of miles I rejoined Marriott’s Way heading west and ran into the wind here, thankfully much of the route is shielded by trees. The route heads out west then loops back east and into Reepham. Last year I was suffering badly at this point and had seriously considering quiting. This year I was still feeling fairly good.
I arrived at Reepham (18.7 miles) and after refilling my drink bottles and having a drink of cola I set off again. Time to get here was 2:53:55 so it looked like I was well on the way to beating last years time, of course you can’t always predict these things, but it certainly looked hopeful. I realised I hadn’t been taking s!caps so I popped one.
The return leg was going well until at Mile 25 I started to flag badly, I ate, drank and took another s!cap. By mile 28 I was feeling ok again. With 10 miles to go I knew I was going to beat last years time for sure.
Around this time I met a brave young man who was still on the outward leg, Matthew Manson, who despite having a steel rod in his back, had entered and wanted to see how far he could get. He asked me to pass a message on to the organiser. He had covered about 10 miles by this point and was pushing on to Whitwell station. This gave me new perspective on any aches and pains I may have been feeling. Wishing him the best of luck I carried on. I contacted Matthew after the event and he did manage to get to Whitwell by 2pm. Impressive effort!
The remaining miles were fairly uneventful, just trying to maintain a 10 minute mile. A short hail storm added a bit of interest 🙂
I finished in a time of 6:23:43
33 minutes quicker than last year.
Full results are available on the facebook page
I shouldn’t have worried about the hydration, I have become more efficient at running distances – I drank 1 litre on the way to halfway and 1.5 litres on the return leg. Quite a contrast to last years 6 litres!
This is a great event and as it’s free, super-flat, with minimal navigation required, I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking to try an Ultra. Thanks to Paul Woodyatt for organising.