Thames Trott 50 Ultramarathon

Well, that was tough. The Thames Trott 50 was my 2nd Ultramarathon and my first DNF (Did Not Finish). On paper it was all looking good. Despite being 5 miles longer than last year's Country To Capital 45, the Thames Path route made it flatter and easier to navigate. In reality it was so much harder. The mud, wind and rain all conspired to make it a pretty grim day.

Mile 1 was fine. A nice, gentle downhill from the start line in Oxford down to the river. Then the mud started. Till then I'd been trying to avoid puddles hoping to keep my feet dry. The path reached a fence which created a bottleneck and split the pack across different gates and gaps, all of which opened into large puddles. There was nearly a fight when two runners got into a barney about Kissing Gate etiquette. "I'll punch you in the mouth if you grin at me again" shouted a rough looking older guy to another runner. After a few hundred metres of taunting each other they disappeared separately into the distance.

The next 18 miles to Checkpoint 2 were just a trail of mud. I was wearing my usual trainers rather than trail shoes which didn't help. Everyone was slipping though and it was all I could do to keep upright for most of it. By Checkpoint 1, nearly 10 miles in, I was on track to my planned timing but only just. By Checkpoint 2 I was half an hour behind and I had already decided that I wasn't going to finish. My original plan would have got me to the finish line in 10 hours 30 minutes, half an hour before the cut off time. I had already eaten my contingency and I wasn't going to get faster from here.

10 years ago I would have been determined to have finished no matter what. Since then I've lost any need to prove myself and now do these events for the joy of it. If you ever want a lesson on why stopping or turning back is always the best plan, see the movie Everest. After deciding not to finish and to make my own plan I could relax a bit and enjoy the rest of the run. Checkpoint 3, at 27 miles would be the end of my Trott. This would take me to 1 mile over a Marathon and technically (but only just) within Ultra distance.

The final 8 miles to checkpoint 3 were slow. Without the need for speed, I walked the rest but still found it tough as the wind was picking up and the rain started. The wind was so strong in parts I couldn't hear my iPod on top volume. By the end I was happy to give up my timing chip, get in the car and go home. Despite not finishing and the grimness of the course, it was still an awesome day and I loved it all.

Richard gowerComment