This will be my third year of turning up on the start line for Centurion Running’s last 100 mile foot race of the year. It will be the fourth annual 100 mile race of Autumn 100, formerly the Winter 100. It is hosted by Centurion Running at the village of Goring and Streatly. Originally hosted in November it was moved to October last year. I have a fond affection for this race as it was my first completed 100 mile race and is a firm favourite for the many people that run this. It is headed by James Elson, Race Director and his first class team. As with all events it has a very loyal band of volunteers and runners like me feel really looked after and supported.
Walking down the High Street in Streatly on Friday 16th October around 5.30pm felt pretty awesome. Seeing the hall that would be HQ made me feel good. James was there with some of the other Centurion guys waiting to set up. It was good to see James, we had a chat for a while. It was good to know he was running tomorrow and would see the race from the runner’s perspective. I was staying at the Swan hotel, a little treat that meant I could just saunter down to race HQ in the morning.
|Before the Start on The bridge at Streatly.|
At just after 10.00am we set off. I follow the crowd and we soon bottle neck at a kissing gate. My Garmin is playing up and not working. I turn it off and back on. It works after 10 minutes. I am going a little fast but feel comfortable. The field is bunched in, I want some space and look forward to when the field spreads out a bit. I talk to a few people. The course is familiar and I know what is ahead. I settle and am running comfortably, the going underfoot is good, the ground is soft with no mud sticking to my trainers. We are making our way to Wallingford Check Point 1 at 6.5 miles. To get here is mainly trail beside the river. The rowers are out and being instructed as they go up and down the river. After a while we come upon the Beetle House Boat House this will bring us onto some road for a while before we head back onto trail.
As we run through Moulsford I think about the other times I have run this stretch of road. Back onto trail this is a section that if it is going to be muddy, it will be here. But it is all fine. The runner in front goes through a gate and gets his running vest caught on the latch, I help untangle him. I soon find myself at Oxford University Women’s Boat Club. I know that Wallingford is near. I am not going to stop. I have plenty of water and do not need to eat yet. I see Brigitte taking runner’s numbers. I shout mine out as I run through the CP. Across a busy road and back on the Thames path. Things are going well. Running to the next CP, 12.5 Little Wittenham, I see the race leaders coming down the road. Into the fields and James Elson appears and says 'hello' as he bombs past, it is great to see him out on course. At Little Wittenham I top up my water and grab some stuff to eat on the go. As I am running through the fields towards the A4074 I pass Louise and we high five each other. The field has now spread out, my pace is good and I make my way back to Goring for the first time. I stop at Wallingford briefly for water and food on the way back. I say hello to Brigitte who asks how the race is going, as does Lisa. I then head off again and I arrive back in Goring in 4.10hrs, average pace 10.01min/mi. I am bang on target and had aimed for 4.10 for the first leg. I do not hang about. I take on more water and food, get another layer of clothing plus my head torch and I am off for the second leg!
|Grimms Ditch 32+ Miles.|
|Sunsetting form The Ridgeway.|
It looks glorious and fills me with gratitude. I soon find myself running back across the golf course. Daylight starts to fade so before I get back to North Stoke I put my head torch on. Luke sends a text asking how it is going. The plan is he will pace me on the 3rd and possibly 4th spur. I let him know I am not far from North Stoke and things are going well. Luke lets me know he is already at Goring. I am soon back to North Stoke, the tables have moved in to the hall. Graham tells me I am making good time. I press on, my legs feel a little stiff when I start to run again and I have got cold from stopping. I keep going. I am on target pace, I had planned to be back to Goring for 50 miles in 10hrs. As I run long back by the river I can feel the chill of the air from being near the water. I cover the 4 odd miles easily and am buzzing to be back at HQ.
I see Jon and Natasha Fielden, regular volunteers from when Centurion started to put races on. It is great to see them sitting there. I spot Luke, it’s great to see him. I get my drop bag and tell Luke I do not want to be long here. I have in the past wasted so much time sitting down in aid stations. I have made a decision that I am only going to put a fresh top on. My feet are good and I want a quick turnaround. Luke is really good and gets what I need. It feels funny to have one of the elite guys looking after you. I have a quick wipe down with wet wipes and put a fresh top on while eating and drinking. I think we were out of HQ within 15 minutes.
The 3rd leg takes in Bury Down and Chain Hill. I find this section slows me down. Apart from it being dark, the trail is rutted and pitted in places and once on your way to Bury Down and Chain Hill this part of the route is quite exposed. I also for some reason really get fatigued on the return leg and on the two previous occasions have really had to fight not falling asleep. So when Luke said he was free to pace, I took him up on his kind offer. We ran up through the village. As we came to the corner James came haring past with his pacer. The next couple of miles are on road, we ran and chatted until we came to the trail, this section is more uphill. I was feeling tired by now. We hiked up the hill. Luke was soon ahead of me. This is how we work, he gets ahead and this spurs me on. I like to keep him in sight, it is a good way of keeping me moving. Once up the hill we start to run again. The wind is blowing and it’s a little colder. I can see the headlamps of other runners ahead on the brow of a hill that we will soon be reaching, it’s an old tank track. I keep thinking Bury Down cannot be far now, it was 8.3 miles from Goring and we have been running for some time now. I am feeling hungry now too. After what seems an age we reach Bury Down, I sit down for the first time that day. Luke passes me sausage rolls that taste good and mini eggs and a volunteer fills my water bottles. Roz Glover appears. We have been passing each other and coming into aid stations after each other for most of the afternoon/evening. We have nodded as we are familiar with each others face but we have not been introduced. Luke introduces us and we say hello. I ask Roz how she is doing. Luke tells me as we leave I used 10 minutes at this Aid Station. Too much time! After a mile or so I feel sick, I want to be sick but it’s just dry heaving. I stick my fingers down my throat to try and get something up. Nothing comes up. I run through my head what is going on. I know I just have to keep running and hope it comes up. Luke later tells me it was not nice to have to continue to push me after seeing me like this. It is 4 miles to the next aid station Chain Hill, we soon find ourselves here. I cannot eat but I try. I am feeling a little reluctant to start moving again. It’s windy and I am feeling cold and sick.
We headed out into the dark and were soon back on the Thames Path into the fields. Luke was running ahead, I was feeling good and excited to be on the last leg. I was not really thinking of time, of a sub 24. At some point on this sort of distance after 50 miles, time and pace becomes meaningless because of the ability to comprehend and think straight. We were soon into the woods and we hiked some of the inclines. Luke was pushing through and I kept running as much as I could. We soon found ourselves at Whitchurch. It was really good to see John Fitzgerald at this point, a fellow runner. We did not stay long. I ate a little and had one of my copious cups of tea. John offered some words of encouragement which were well received and motivated me for the next jaunt, which was 8 miles to Reading.
We head off and through the fields. I have only been through in daylight before, feels strange to be on this part of the course in the dark! The bit I am not looking forward to is the housing estate that we have to cut through, Purley on Thames I believe. I try to eat before we get there but am sick again. Back on the path towards Reading and I start to walk for longer bits now. My head is working against me and in the postmortem of the race I am aware that has been the case for a lot of the second half. I whine to Luke I cannot run anymore, I have nothing left. His response is short and just what I need to hear. "We are not walking back!" It puts a rocket up my arse. Luke is right and I decide I want this again and I commit myself to finishing this as quickly as I can. We finally get to Reading and we go up the stairs to the boat house. We meet Alma and she is pleased to see Luke and I, as we are to see her. Such great support as always and Alma gets what I need. 10 Minutes later we are off, but not before negative self says 'I do not think we will get a sub 24 today!'
I run a bit more on this section following Luke. We power walk for some and are soon back into the fields again, I find my strong and start to run, Luke opens the gates and I run through, making my way to Whitchurch. I keep up a good pace and find it has been my head that has been working against me, telling me I am tired.
|About mile 93 and wanting it! Picture Luke Ashton.|
I focus on my stride length. This is something I have been working on lengthening over the last couple of months. We arrive back to see John, he takes a picture of me and Luke at mile 95. We had done the same on TP100. Today I look fresh and strong!
|Luke and I at Whitchurch 95 miles.|
|Louise and And I nearing the end!|
I normally get emotional and shed a tear as I get to the finish line on a 100 miler. But I did not this time. I think I was just glad to finish what I had set out to do, which was to become a Grand Slammer and at some point I will be back to do better. I am very happy after 9 attempts with 2 DNF's and 6 previously completed 100 mile runs that I have finally got a '100 miles in one day' buckle. That means so much to me. But it also leaves me knowing that I can do better. Luke's comment to Donna, "I think Shawn listens to his head too much" is so true.
After the race I was buzzing and so was Donna, Luke and John. It was strange being at the finish so early!
I want to thank my friends who have supported and those that have given their time freely to pace me over the past year Luke Ashton, Nick Jones and Gary McKivett. And the many others from BOSH run for thier support, Also thank you so much everyone who sponsored me to raise funds for Crohns and Colitis UK, we raised £732.00. Thank you.