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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Race Report: London Ultra 50km

It's not every day that ultra runners give back to the sport but today it was our turn. Starting from yesterday I took delivery of water and food for CP1 of the London Ultra. I had met Rory Coleman before but only to shake hands at the end of an event. Rory and Jen repeatedly phoned to apologise for their lateness but actually were not really that late and we decamped the bounty to my front hallway.

Next morning the alarm went off, we drank coffee and ate hot cross buns together and loaded the car for the 300m journey with 300 bottles of water, a table and some snacks for the runners.

We literally pulled up the car to see about 40 runners coming straight at us!!! OMG!!! We panicked and started throwing our toys out of the pram and then realised that this was Striders of Croydon on a Sunday session in New Beckenham!

Not 10 mins later and the first runners were through. They were as quick as shit off a hot chrome shovel!

We were inundated with packs of runners, while new found buddy Doug blasted out tuned from an iPod dock rested on a dog shit bin! And as soon as they came......they went.......well nearly. We set up and the first runners were through and then after a flash mob of Dulwich Park Runners turned up to shout encouragement and hand out much needed supplies.....Great to see the AWESOME Helen Smith who I ran the SDW100 with last year in 23 hours and Peter Bowles who I saw at the Bewl Marathon and 3 Forts Marathon the next day! This also included the awesome Eric Richardson and Phil Beecroft from DPR. Phil and I are running Wainwrights Coast to Coast over August bank holiday.....192 miles in 5 days.....Awesome............and then we were done.........

But......just out of the rolling mist came runner after runner after runner......It was 83 minutes from the start until the last runner through the 10k mark. It was going to be a long day! I started to decamp and realised that there were runners who after 10k, were spending 5 mins at the CP... We took some shots.....This was deffo the best CP of the day and there were some awesome characters there. George who ran the last 25 miles of the SDW100 with me, Chris, fresh into fatherhood and an Ironman and Connie and Ian who had been running since 7am this morning!

Finally the last (walkers) were through, we decamped and then off to the house to drop the remaining water, have a cup of tea and then off on the route. (thanks Doug for the map!) Mrs UB is training for VLM so wanted 16 in her legs and a train home today. We ran up to Crystal Palace, over Westow Park and despite an hour from the last group through we caught them up really quickly through Norwood Rec. These 100 marathoners were seriously walking so we just carried on. Within a mile we had caught the next group. Susie was a little heavy hearted as she thought this would be a rally long walk and not a run, but these chaps begged us not to wait for them. I informed CP2 that there were 4 runners behind and to phone Rory if necessary.

Over St Reatham (!) Common and down the Bec we predicted more runners but were pleased to see nobody on route meaning that we could do our job and have a run too. Through the Bec and Wandswoth Common and then past the twists and turns betwixt Balham and Earlsfield, the route was London Streets. I would now feel sorry for any trail-hooven runner as these are the same tough paved streets that we run every day. 

Little did we know that there were quite a number of runners that had fallen foul of the street directions. Capital Ring signage was good. Yellow graffiti on the pavement was good and the "Ur" stickers were where they were needed. Lots went wrong here which I would put down to inexperience. Even a girl in the street stopped us and asked what the yellow arrows were for. 

CP3 arrived and these chaps and chapesses were laden with water melon SIS and coke (cola!) They were ready to pack up as they had been there since 10.00am. We traversed the hill up to Putney Vale and across to the Windmill on Wimbledon Common. At this point the Capital Ring signs aren't great and we found our way to the left of where we should have been by about 1km. We had a longer trek down the Kingston Bypass and over into Richmond Park than we thought. Susie wanted to do 16 today and now as tiring as we turned up Sawyer's Hill in Richmond Park. She had decide that at the next junction, coincidentally the start of the Raneligh half marathon, that she would take the bus and train home.

My turn to hit sweeper mode. I upped the pace from a nice 10s to a 7.45s and got to CP4. I stopped for a while and informed the crew that there were 8 behind.....all who did not need or want support. I whizzed on through Isleworth and phoned my buddy Simon who lives there....somewhat under the thumb of his lovely wife. "Any chance of a cheeky cider on a riverside pub in the sun?" "no mate......the wife..." and so it was not to be that I carb loaded with a cider!

I bumped into Army vet Big Sol on the Brentford section. We walked and ran-walked for about 3 miles and was great to have a conflab with a no-nonsense back of the pack bullish runner for a while. he was in high spirits as his wife was driving back to CORNWALL tonight.......Jeez! Anyway, we departed as he wanted to walk the last 4 and I blasted away the last muddy miles and had a catch up with Rory at the end. I''m not sure why he gave me a medal but thanks anyway. I was bowled over by the offer of a free entry in the Cotswold 100. I'll look into that but I might have a wedding on that weekend. Really generous fella but I am always happy to give back to the sport that I love so much. 

Then it was off back home with a packet of crisps and a can of coke in my belly. I ran for about 4 miles, grabbed a tube, ran again for a couple of miles and then ran from the station, to the offy to pick up some wine and then home. 32.6 miles today. All of them great! Will crew next year and happy to do this any time again. It is very fulfilling to do this and I'm happy to have helped out today


  1. Nice days run Rob, a little glad I didn't join you as you were going a little faster than what I would have wanted at some points :-)

    I am really pleased to see you have started the volunteering as well, I get such pleasure from it as you seem to also. However I don't think sweeping in an urban environment would suit can have that one :-) See you next Sunday, I am getting there for 7.00am but going under my own steam as I will be sweeping.

    1. urban sweeping rocks! Everyone else has numbers on and invariably gets stopped. "what are you doing?" " Ultra" and some madness induced muttering comes out of members of the public's mouths. If you were Army major Solomon (Sol) near the back of the pack who I ran/walked with for a time...."I wish these civvies would stop stopping me!"