Report by Eric.
After weeks of speed training and not much in the form of ultra training, I arrived at bishop’s castle with the hope of all the ultra training I did in the winter was still there and that I could use it to get me from start to finish I one piece. That didn’t mean I still didn’t have a goal, as Lou Phillips asked me on the start line what I was hoping to do it in and I said five to five and a half hours this made the man next to us seem abit shocked and she said I thought you would say something crazy like that!
It was a small field of 30 runners taking on this ultra being run for the first time and after a briefing from Alan it was a quick signal of go to start us off. As it wasn’t a fast run there was no jostling for position at the start, more of a gentle ease it to it but as soon as I was going quickly I was down, clipped by a rabbit hole with my foot and hit my hip hard, followed my my shoulder and knee. It definitely hurt but I got up quickly and continued on. As we took on the turns through Bishop’s Castle I knew parts of the route as it follows some of the Shropshire 80km route that I raced a few months ago so I knew I can hit the first 10km fairly quickly as this was the flatter part of the race before some of the steeper climbs. I got going along with another two runners through this first part we were all fairly even until we got to a path that took us along the bottom of the wood. It was overgrown and I couldn’t see where my footing was so I slowed down not to injure myself and the other two pushed on.
Once I got to the end of the overgrown bit it was on to a little bit of tarmac before returning back to the trail along the bottom of Hergan Hill to the end where it was on the the Offas Dyke path and the first of the big hills. 18% climb for half a mile on the Offas Dyke was not very runnable. Once at the top and along the top before heading back down was the first aid station. I didn’t need anything but the volunteers were so upbeat and happy it made the race all the more enjoyable heading back down a hill to start another climb. This climb wasn’t as steep as the first, but was still a climb and the last of the trail section for quite awhile.
Now we were on to the road and forestry tracks for what felt like along time but I think it was only 8 or so miles, but that’s not to say there wasn’t some fun. First off we got the rain so fiddling around putting on water proofs but also an interesting out and back from the second main checkpoint was created. Rather than running out to a volunteer who would confirm you had done the out and back we had to collect a page from a book that corresponded to a number on our race bibs. The book was in a metal tin under a lone willow tree and my number was 21 so found it and ripped it out and headed back to the checkpoint. On my arrival back at the checkpoint Alan was there and asked for my page and if I needed anything I said just some water and without hesitation he took my bottles and refilled them while I got my page out. Once done with repacking my bottles he tapped me on the back and said race starts now and just like that I put on some music on and went about chasing down second place.
I was glad to see the next volunteer and the end of the road as she was directing us back on to the Offas Dyke and back on to trail – whoop whoop! I knew a couple more climbs and descents were coming up on this section before heading back to a crossroads, so I got though them as a efficiently as possible to try and catch second and It worked as once I turned back on the trail under Hergan I could see second place up ahead. From this point on I kept second in my eye line for a good while as we went from trail to some road then back to trail and some more hills and this is where I seemed to make up a lot of ground over her. But it wasn’t until we hit the another stretch of long road and got to the last checkpoint where Alan said 1st is 10 minutes ahead that I really got a move on and passed her. At this point we had done the marathon distance and only had about 9km to go but I felt really strong that I thought I might be able to catch him. I pushed on a little more as this was a loop back before heading back to bishop’s castle. Once back at the checkpoint the boys there said he had pushed on and had a substantial lead so I took my foot off the gas to guarantee 2nd.
From here, for those who know the 10km route from Aprils event, we took in some of that route which includes that hill. On the way back I lost second but managed to maintain the pace to be no more a 10 seconds behind up making sure I had some left in the tank to push on and secure 2nd place and with 3km to go I pushed on to finish. On one of the final gates on the last incline a man said have you just run 50km I said yeh and he said that’s amazing which was a nice comment to have just before finishing, so up the hill I went passed the rabbit hole, left turn, right turn and on to the finishing straight where Alan and Katie cheering me in along with Mum and Dad and a few other volunteers. It was a great atmosphere crossing the line where I was handed the second place medal and a pair of tie die socks which makes a nice change from the usual shirts at the end of a race. They also offered alcohol-free beer which meant I could celebrate a little. My time was smack on goal with a time of 5 hours 30. Lou came across the line in a time of 7 hours 24. I really did enjoy the race even with all the road it’s definitely a fast course if the weather is nice. I will hope to return to have another go in the future and hopefully see a bigger field of runners next time.