I don’t normally write about my race experiences, but hopefully this may inspire some of you to have a go at an Ultra / life experience to test yourself and your mental fortitude.
Escape from Meriden – A unique race!
EFM 2021 (Escape from Meriden) by Beyond Marathon which was carried over from last year. A unique race in itself because of the premise whereby there is no specific route. Its your route and your challenge.
A collection of hardy souls (that well may be crazy to some degree), all meet in the Meriden at the monument that marks the middle of England. The premise, get as far away as possible within 24 hours with the distance measured as the crow flies, or if you’re the little bit crazier, go as a ‘chained’ pair (where the chain is real, its heavy and you are not allowed to take it off but you and your running buddy have the pleasure of having 36 hours and sharing a number 2 together undoubtedly at some point!).
The day of the race…
The day started well, my kit was all packed up early, ready to go. I Tried to get some sleep in the afternoon but that didn’t happen so knew that was likely to come back and bite me in the arse at some point.
I made my way to the train station for an unremarkable journey via several trains to Birmingham International and then managed to cadge a taxi lift off of a couple travelling to Meriden as several buses did not show up. Made my way down to registration to get my tracker and T-Shirt (got given the wrong one though as it was an Escape from GB one).
I was then left with 2 ½ hours to kill, so what to do….the pub it was where several other like minded souls had made their way. After a couple of non-alcoholic drinks and several shared storied of Ultra running it was time to make our way up to Monument.
A sight to behold to see 150 odd souls, many dressed up in prisoner jump suits (given at registration but not for me). Got talking to a few individuals of where they were heading and a runner called Shaun was going more or less the same way as me and was carrying an injury. As I am only 3 months out of Anterior Tibial surgery, we decided to run/walk together down to Moreton in the Marsh.
Midnight arrives and the race starts with bodies running off in every direction, looking almost like a Christmas tree with all its lights had just exploded!!
The night section just flew along, with myself and Shaun keeping each other going and sharing stories. My route had been planned to run pass garages and shops etc, but not surprisingly, the first couple were not open so it was a relief at about 7am after 26 odd miles to find one that was open. A quick stop to eat, drink, not be merry and top up on fluids and we were away again. We made our way quite uneventfully to Moreton in the Marsh, crossing the silver medal line about 2 miles outside and where Shaun had a mate and he had a drop box. Shaun had already decided to sack the race off at this point which was a shame for me. After a quick change and a coffee it was time to bid farewell to Shaun.
Now I made my first mistake as I made the decision to change my planned route and run down the Fosseway to Stow in the Wold thinking this would save about 2 miles off my route. Bad mistake as after about ¾ miles no pathway. This is a very busy road and jumping up and down off the verges did my legs no good what so ever. After what felt an eternity, I made it into Stow in the Wold and Tescos to the rescue as my energy levels were seriously depleted by this point. After chomping down 3 sugary ring donuts, coke, sandwich and crisps, I was ready to go again.
I was back on my planned route which was down the A424 and cut off to the Rislingtons and then the final stretch to Lechlade/ Highworth and Swindon. This turned out to be a bad choice for my route as this road was similar to the Fosseway and pretty much destroyed my legs. I managed to make it to Upper Rislington where the roads are long and boring. At this point I was losing focus and struggling for energy with the light failing. I could see on my route The Lamb pub at Little Barrington where I was hoping there was a table outside and I could rest, phone my wife, eat and re-adjust (believe me, I had chafing at this point where a man does not want chafing – I think Gerry Lewis may have been a runner as I know where the saying ‘Great balls of fire now comes from).
Thankfully, there was a table outside. I rested, refreshed, got my head torch on and what I could really tell was how quickly the temperature was dropping as I could feel my core temperature dropping.
The ‘Walking Dead’ shuffle…
I got back up to start again and could barely walk. The dreaded ‘Walking Dead’ shuffle had started. I did a quick time calculation and realised I was unlikely to make my original target but as I had made the silver medal, thought this was time to be sensible. A quick call to the wife to meet me at a garage about ¾ of a mile away was then made. I shuffled my way there and switch off my Tracker to complete my race.
Will I do it again?
All in all, a great experience, 52 real miles done, positioned 62nd out of 126.
Things to remember; don’t deviate from your chosen route – there is a reason you chose it, actually look at the elevation on your route so it doesn’t surprise you (unless of course you like surprises!!) and avoid really busy roads.
The inaugural Weston-super-Mare half marathon ran today (24/03/19) in the brilliant spring sunshine.
It was almost as if the warm, bright sun was ordered especially to herald in this race which snaked in and out of this popular seaside town.
Usually with first time events there are teething problems but I have to say Weston was almost incident free.
The bag drop was seamless – but then the local scouts looked after the taking in and handing back of bags so it’s no surprise it was organised so slickly. Every marshal I came across was more than courteous, in fact they were very friendly, chatty and supportive. The views of the now famous “new” Weston pier, the coastline and sea, and the very typical British seaside landscape of large hotels, fish and chip shops (they have so many) and pubs were all welcome as you ran the 13.1 miles.
Downside? Only one – not enough toilets but no doubt that lesson will be learnt for next year.
The route – the blurb said it was flat. To quote a fellow Strider “Flat my ar*e!” Yes, the seafront and beach – yes we even ran a couple of miles across the sand – was flat. But the rest of the route was undulating – in fact in places down right hilly! But as one volunteer said to me at the end this is Somerset – she had a point.
The route was very pretty – out of the town to the village of Uphill – guess what, that was hilly – and back and then out the other end and up and down some more hills.
The legs were aching by the end but the finish was worth it – back along the seafront and then on to the pier to finish. Well if you’re going to run a seaside race – the pier needs to feature.
So 10 out of 10 for Weston – I loved it and so did my fellow Striders who ran with me.
Here’s to next year’s race – one I would compete in again. And let’s hope the sun shines again to make it another super sunny Weston-super-Mare half.
Tomorrow a number of Striders will be lining up in Bath for what is a major half marathon in the regional racing calendar.
The route for me is not inspiring – effectively two loops leading you out of the city and, albeit a flat route, the relatively small amount of supporters you see once you are out of the city doesn’t help.
However, Bath is a big and busy race. It’s ideal training for big marathons like London – it helps you get used to the crowds, a packed starting line-up and the feel of a city based race, which is always different to more rural runs.
It’s also good for PBs because it’s flat. The goody bag isn’t bad either.
If you’re running tomorrow – good luck, I may see you there.