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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Thames Gateway 60 Race Report

I woke up at 4.45am and proceeded to stuff my face with bananas, coffee and ready brek before getting into the car and whizzing down to Eastling in the deepest darkest North Kent countryside. A beautiful place to finish an ultra....but no doubt it would be in the dark. Arriving at the start it was clear to see that Race Director Mike Jones had clearly learned from the Norman Conquest 50 and there was a plethora of Coke, Water and an assortment of snacks and savouries that even James Elson of Centurion Running would be in awe of. Even the race brief, the notes, the atmosphere was far more professional than the NC50 which was really good to see. I was impressed by how different it was. Race briefing at 7.15am was a sombre affair, as was the hour-long coach ride to Gravesend, where apart from a few of us chortling at the back, the rest were silent.

Arriving at Gravesend we were greeted by a mist that set in, like a pea-souper. This was truncated by a realisation that we were about to run 60 miles and polite conversation ensued and some cameraderie developed. Then the rain set in. It was here to stay for the longevity of my run. The run that was to end much sooner than planned.

A quick race briefing from Mike Jones and it was off at 9.00am through the mist and mirk and along the Thames estuary. The field quickly established it's top dogs. There were those who were bidding for glory and those who were biding their time. In just the first mile I had worked out the potentials in the field. My 2nd place podium at the NC50 was fresh in my mind and there were 2 runners that I had an eye on that were keeping their powder dry and a few that would go off hard and no doubt be reeled in after 25 miles or so. Navigation should be easy. Keep the bloody briny to the left and carry on to Faversham and then do a sharp right. No such luck. Punctuated along the coast were various factories, quarries, inlets, reserves and the like. All of the runners went off course around a sand quarry and with a map ref and recon around some hefty barbed wire fencing we were back on track through the pouring rain. A short Essex chap blasted into the lead, followed closely by a younger fella. I sat on their shoulders for 4 miles until they went off track and then decided it was time to get the map out and do my own recon work. CP1 at Cliffe came up pretty quickly and I was pleasantly surprised to see a chap who we ran with on the NC50 between miles 6-17. He worked the CP very well. A massive improvement on the NC50 where there were points with no CP (CP4) or a fella with a fag hanging out of his gob, on a phone and nothing on the table...CP6) Off then for the next 10ish miles to CP2. It was up through the RSBP range which was a climb of 150ft or so that the magic of the now good country trail faded to the grey that ensued and enveloped the estuarine course as my high hamstring woke up and shot a double espresso of pain up my nerves and into my brain. I had been happy as larry sitting early on the back of the front two guys. The pace was soooo comfortable I could have gone off like shit off a hot chrome shovel.......however.....up to the climb there were some sections where I felt some issues that began to manifest themselves in two ways: 1; in my upper hamstring (a big issue for forefoot runners as this is the trigger for the calf fast-twitch. and 2; in MY HEAD. Now my head is an amazing place normally, but with a baby on the way, things change. Things change a lot. So with that in the back of my mind the brain off, brakes off mentality now becomes subdued. The foot went off the gas and I slipped from 1st, to 3rd to 4th and then walked as the pain took over.

Happy face became angry face as I watched the lead, the glory, the podium, the trophy slip though my fingers. Then the angry face became forlorn as I took a £53 taxi back to the car and took a hit on the bank balance as well as the running prowess. However, I know when a man is down and I was certainly down. Walking was fine but this was an ultra and running was very very painful. Walking would have meant a disasterous 15+ hour 60 miler and not a lovely 10+ hour podium finish. I then DROPPED. Mentally this is a VERY VERY painful thing to do but with an injury, there is little choice.

So, after an eventful cab journey with what can only be described as (a lanky binman) an experience, I arrived at race HQ and spent some time conversing with the Race Director's sister who was utterly supportive and brilliant and hopefully did not see the bad side of my DNF. Evolution is a wonderful thing and I definitely think the the team around the Ultra-Trails brand have learned lessons from there issues around the NC50. I am now confident that this is a brand that will be a growing force in Ultra running. Race directions do need some work on but evolution is about moving forward. I have offered my services to support from a race marshalling point of view. I really appreciated that conversation, particularly as I was cold, wet and low after the DNF.

My hopes go out to the rest of the crews and runners and hope the event went as smoothly as it started. I arrived home to a hot bath and a lovely dinner party with some amazing friends that I would not have seen had I completed the race. However, I am confident that this would have been another podium had I not been race ready. Since I have woken up this morning the pain in the rear has subsided and I will be seeking out someone to fix the problem over the next few week. A DNF is a DNF and I've had a couple this year, but there are more races and it's not worth longer term damage.


  1. Sorry to hear about the DNF. Always had but sounds like you already know why it happened. Here's to recovery and the next race.

  2. Hi, Nice to find and read your race report/blog. Do you happen to have a copy of the race results for the TG60 2013? The company who ran the event have now closed down and there are no results online. Many thanks.