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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Gatliff 50km Ultra - Race report

Gatliff XC Ultramarathon by ultraBobban
Gatliff XC Ultramarathon, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.
I nearly hit the alarm and kept counsel under the duvet but instead, at 5.00am, put the kettle on for some strong coffee and a hot shower to wake me from my slumber.

Anyway, with a small stop off for a bacon bap (thanks to Costa at Esso) I bimbled down to the start and by the time I'd sorted out compression socks and body glide, the legends that are Jezza Ultra Magic Forest and none other than the emperor of the ultra; George Celtic Tiger, fresh back from GUCR glory.

Start to CP1.

The Garmin required some maintenance at the start so a 7.45 kick off allowed the morning air to lighten up. It was overcast and miserable. We had a new recruit, Barry, or as he is now affectionately known; Bazza. It wasn't 1.5 miles into the course that we stopped and perused the directions as we realised they had been put together by someone insane. 10 mins running around a golf course looking for markers. Over the railway and away we went. Through and out of Edenbridge and towards Tandridge. Now I have looked on Google maps, across the affectionately known "Rabies Heath Road" which conjurers up all sorts of insanity and frothing at the mouth.....oh yes; Ultra Runners.


Frustration for me here as I thought I knew where I was going after Merv had directed us incorrectly (through no fault of his own; an experienced man that he is) owning to piss poor instructions. After feasting on Jelly Beans, we were all in a better mood and the profanity polluted the Kent and Surrey with our disgusting language.

I bought a cheap 2MP video camera from Ebay that weighs in at about 25g. I'm not Spielberg but I'm practising!

The CPs kind of blend in to one another now but we crossed the M25 and up the North Downs escarpment, ensconced in smutty jokes about ejaculation and the like. 116 steps up the hill and I sensed that I had a bit of oil in the tank for the day.

I was beginning to take more interest in the directions as we had gotten lost a couple of times now and wasted an hour or so, although it was all shits and giggles. We got to a road crossing and what could be described no less than an "utter codpiece of a woman" retorting at my statement about the LDWA directions. "THESE......are not LDWA directions!!" she said. The directions were clearly wrong but she could not resist attempting to remonstrate about teh aboricultural error in the handout. "It can't possibly be that says Cypresses and those....are Scots Pines". After a merry dance down a big hill we reverted to route one and went back to the site and indeed found the Cypresses.....which in actual fact were Leylandii.

Rule number One. Never, ever listen to an old fucker who looks and sounds posh and haggard enough to know.

Lunch was a village hall that had been converted into a sauna at Woldingham. Milky teas and 3 sandwiches later, we decided to head off under the amazing directions that stated turn left......with the organiser stating that we follow the arrow...pointing RIGHT!

From this point on I really enjoyed the race. I felt light on my feet and from CP3-4 whizzed along, talking to George and following poles and even adding extra miles onto the clock while Jezza and Bazza followed us across hill and down.

CP4 was the best of the lot. Some of the marshalls actually had humour.....which was nice. Not only that, they had a great camper van for dogging. Wow.

High on endorphins by now my brain was saturated with the feel good buzz that does not go until at least Wednesday and we hopped across fields (of clay) with vim and vigour. We connived to celebrate Bazza becoming an ultra athlete through Westerham and indeed he did! Good show Baz.

Between CP4-5 I feel a little bad as I should have said to the boys that I wanted to go for it. We came up the Vanguard Way off the North Downs, then onto the Greensand way and towards Chartwell. There were a couple of real killer climbs and I felt like running both up and down at this point. Baz was about with me and then 2 fellas from Reigate running club came past and we got chatting....and then I twisted my ankle. Stopped. Panicked...and then thought...Go!

Then I took a tumble. Don't read maps when running over tree roots. Head over heels and back up with only a key stab mark in my thigh to prove it.

I soon realised that heading though Chartwell and back down towards Crookham Hill that I was miles in front. By CP5 I saw Bazza at the out and back and G and J about 10 mins later. I took a gamble on doing this on my own.

CP5 to the finish was lots on me talking to myself, going wrong 3 times and hydrating. A lot of this was fairly flat and mainly wind behind stuff. he watch hit 33 miles and I knew the finish was close........and then it hit 35 and finally I came into the Edenbridge sports and social club to no applause but a firm pat on the back to oneself on a job well done. According to the legend Jezza, 3825ft of climbing and in excess of 100 styles and kissing gates, many many gates to lock and unlock, slippery slopes, steps, killer hills and no wonder it took 7 hours 43 mins! I think the course record will stand for a while at 5 hours.

Sorry I didn't wait for you both at the finish. 20mins later Bazza came in and by then my legs seized up so I needed to be home and in need of a good cider. These guys are legends and just amazing to run with.

Thanks for a super day chaps and good luck at Brecon next week


  1. Rob, probably my #1 favourite quote in a blog "Rule number One. Never, ever listen to an old fucker who looks and sounds posh and haggard enough to know."
    Well done today, you were on fire at the end :-)

  2. You are a man after my own heart. I also run/jog/walk ultras and drink cider.....and follow lycra!

  3. This Bazza chap sounds like a bit of a dude :-) Great report Rob and really nice to meet you on Sunday, hopefully we can do it all again sometime soon.

  4. I like your comments about the route descriptions. It's no surprise that the fastest completion is almost always by David Wakeling, who just happens to be the guy that sets the route. Ahem :)

    Nice report, happy trails.