Tuesday 10 April 2012

Viking Way Ultra 147 miles April 7th 7am Complete

It sounds like a long way, and yes it was! I ran the race in 36 hours 23 mins finishing at 7.23pm on the Sunday, having set off at 7am Sat, running non stop through the night. I had a short plod over the Humber bridge to the start line beforehand rounding off a nice 150miles!

The Friday night I arrived in Hessle near Hull and stayed somewhere called Redcliff house? I think which was really nice although I basically dumped my bags and headed over to the registration about 1 mile away to pick up my race pack and map etc. We had a good chat and a big feed as all the runners arrived and also Liz and Alan from 9bar with the new race kit that kept me warm and dry for the weekend! They were brilliant support along with all the other staff manning and womaning the checkpoints, it must be tough staying awake and dealing with grumpy runners for all that time, so thanks! After that me and Annie took a quick trip to the Humber Bridge to check we could walk across it (and yes we could) so we didn't have to worry about a taxi on the Sat morning. The staff at the B and B were incredibly helpful and generous also very brave letting me roam free in the kitchen!

As for race day me and Annie met up and set off over to the start, the Bridge seemed never ending like a treadmill! We made it over and found the start just in time (about 15mins before kick off) some quick photos and a race briefing along the lines of 'your cut off times are being shortened by 30mins and I don't think it's going to rain, and please don't hassle the bulls' then we were ready to go, Brilliant!

The rough plan for the race was to run at a steady pace for the day and cruise along then slow it down a bit for the night section ready to pick it up again at daylight and finish at some point in the afternoon on the Sunday. After a chatty few miles with a few other runners I somehow ended up at the front by a few seconds at the first CP, Neil Bryant caught up and we ran together for a good few hours getting a good feed at the CPs. Navigation was relatively easy on the whole providing you kept the map out and followed it, as I had done no recces at all, the one or 2 moments where the brain switched off left me scratching my head for a few moments but I managed to stay on the route quite happily. The rest of the day seems to blend into one moment as though my brain was switched off... I'll do my best....

The Viking Way route mostly follows country lanes, tracks and footpaths around fields, some of the grass was a bit wet with the occasional drizzly rain we were getting but road shoes were fine for the course. The route continued anyhow more fields more tracks more lanes and so on, passing a small town or village every now and again with the occasional person asking 'Where are you running to?' and looking puzzled when you mumble back 'OAKHAM' most people must just think I was joking....

Coming into the evening there was a long section on a disused railway and I spotted some highland cows in a field and then a sign saying beware snakes! Despite scaling the fence and having a good look around I found no snakes and pressed on, photographing a few of the sculptures along the route instead.

Nothing too exciting apart from another CP with Alan and Liz waving the flags as I came into view. Great motivation! A little later I got my night gear out well before Lincoln and remember plodding around a few fields, passing a ruin of an old church perhaps? There was a sign but I didn't read it, not long after I hit the canal to Lincoln with the Cathedral lit up it looked quite nice! It was a long slow trudge, the path was quite rough and I was feeling pretty faint and generally not too good, Richard Lendon caught up who I ran with at Grantham and he pushed ahead to the CP. Eventually I hit the glowsticks marking the turn off to a CP manned by James Adams and another chap. I got a couple of cups of tea and smashed back some delicious pineapple fruit cake of some sort before heading off into Lincoln...

I got to the cathedral without too much fuss but spent ages looking for the marshal I was expecting, after a couple of laps of the cathedral I decided to carry on heading down the high street I guess around 1am, I probably stood out a little bit as I wasn't wearing jeans or a short skirt and instead black running shorts a black jacket and a headtorch! I just nipped across the road as I dodged around the staggering folk and someone shouted 'Stop there!' I turned and it was the police, just asked what I was doing as it looked like I was trying to run past without them seeing, no worries...

After this I headed along a ridge of fields that weaved along before coming out for a small section on the main road to Grantham, I just leaned against a wall to tip the gravel out of my shoe and a police van passed, promptly did a U turn and pulled up beside me. Apparently it looked suspicious like I was trying to hide behind the wall and then I was obviously asked what I was doing out at half 2 in the morning dressed like a ninja so explained the race and where it was going 'ohh.... not my idea of fun that mate' replied one of the guys, 'me neither, at the moment' I said, they laughed and they moved on!

Eventually I popped back out to the main road we were due to cross and hit the checkpoint at 98miles, I caught Richard up and we made it in and got some food down, Richard had made his mind up to drop out here he was having some troubles but between me, Mark and another runner we convinced him back out which he wasn't too happy about (sorry Rich!) but the 2 of us stumbled along just as it was coming light muttering incoherently to each other as we fought to stay awake, I found I couldn't keep my eyes open and would suddenly look up and Rich would be 30m ahead, I had been falling asleep running! We carried on in this manner for a while and then decided to split up now we were at least both semi awake perhaps halfway to the next CP around 115miles. I ran on to the next CP which seemed to take a loooong time, got some good food down me and the best cup of tea of the whole race this was CP 7?

 From there it got muddy across a footpath dissecting a field of oilseed rape, the type of mud that builds onto your shoe for 5 steps until you feel like your running in those silly toning shoes or some kind of dodgy platform shoe, then flicks off sending you way off balance, before repeating the process, after this field there was a large concrete drain cover with lots of foot scraping marks around it! Looks like we all had the same idea!

Neil, Paddy, Mimi and Chris who had foot scraped before me?

All that mud felt like I was wearing diving boots with the weight!

From this point on the course became incredibly muddy, I usually like muddy races but I was convinced I had gone off course somehow and checked and rechecked the map and backtracked to a sign I could remember but I decided I had to be on the right track and Mark the organizer must just have a good sense of humor sending us through this mud! There was lots of motor bikes using the trail even they were trying to get around some of the worst bits of the mud!

Struggled for traction up here!

Not really any space to go around it either!

 From check point 7 to 8 it was 17miles which took forever my speed dropping quite low as I struggled to even stay on my feet through the mud never mind run. The route meandered around a small airfield where gliders take off, I thought it was gliders as in model planes when I saw it on the map, it was much bigger than I expected. Moving around this and into some more mud before hitting a few km on the road into the checkpoint 8 where some very enthusiastic people were bouncing up and down waving me in, Thanks guys! I demolished half a tube of Pringles and a cup of cola and cringed when I was told it was 11miles to the next (and final CP) The course wasn't too bad, a little bit around some fields which was slightly rough and a wee bit on the road I was moving quite well and kept a steady jog on. I met Liz and Alan as they clapped me through Greetham (sorry to keep you waiting!) and I moved on around a couple more fields eventually coming out with a steady descent to the 9th and final CP, I was expecting it to show up but couldn't quite see it at the time then suddenly 2 ladies jumped out of a parked car and cheered me over, what a relief. By now my running pace was probably 12min mile on the paths that were flat and smooth even though it felt like I was flying.

Rutland Water

I was quite happy to see this!

Maybe could finish the race at a pub/cemetery/hospital instead of a library
Myself and organiser Mark Cockbain  

I made my way around the Rutland water before finally joining up with the main road into Oakham, I ran all the way into the finish, by now I just wanted to be over with it. There was Pam, James, Mark, Alex and Mimi and somebody else who I have forgotten (i think? Sorry!) waiting at the end. A big relief, I think I said something along the lines of 'Thanks Mark that was interesting' before getting my nice yellow T shirt and a whopper of a medal, considering the size, I think it was modeled off a shield the vikings might have used in battle, glad I wasn't flying home or I would surely have been stung for excess baggage fees.

Finishing bling

I rolled in 5th position (I would have been happy with any position what so ever) for me it was just about challenging myself and seeing how long it would take me to complete the distance, about 40miles further and 10 hours more than I have run before. It is hard to compare times on races so long as there are so many variables like terrain and amount of hills, with only 7 finishers of this race gives an idea how tough it was. There was a very strong field with some impressive 'running CV's ' on the start line, a few world records, multiple John O Groats to Lands End finishers along with GUCR finishers etc just to be on the start line was an achievement in itself! Very big well done to all runners, one of the best organised races I have done, very smooth and well executed, there was a brilliant team on each checkpoint.

I would reccomend the race to anybody who might like to lose about 5/6kgs in one weekend whilst eating jelly babies and crisps and guzzling cola, or maybe you just want to push yourself and see what you are capable of doing, Mark has done some incredible races himself and had everything covered this weekend.

Some other thoughts that didn't go anywhere particular...
The maps provided were a4 OS maps, 34 pages in total, it was kind of similar to a checklist, at first I was ticking off the checkpoints, then it became the pages, then it became a 1km grid square, having a mini celebration every time I turned the page

Although I mention a lot of mud during the final marathonish distance, trail shoes would have had little benefit really being that muddy, the comfort of my road shoes far outweighed any seconds of difference trail shoes might have made.

The weather we had wasn't particularly warm although it wasn't totally freezing either, had it been the week before water between checkpoints might have been just enough depending on the runners pace.

A few people asked what I had eaten so I'll try and recall in no particular order

  • 10 handfuls of hula hoops approx
  • Zipvit electrolyte chews 3 packs
  • Cliff shot blocks 5 packs
  • A few nuun electrolyte tabs
  • 25g whey protein shake (felt brilliant after that too)
  • 3 9 bars
  • About a brick sized amount of cake in total
  • half a tub of pringles 
  • a litre or 2 of cola
  • about 8 small cups of tea
  • a handful of jelly babies
  • a pot noodle
  • 2 jaffa cakes
that is about all I remember. Before the race we had a buffet in the pub so the all you can eat was fully abused, a couple of fish a couple of sausage and about 3/4 of a chicken and a few chips.

Despite eating things like this before the start still 5kg lighter than normal!

After the race I had a hotel about 30sec walk from the finish, the Old Whysteria and they were very helpful and did a mean breakfast! I ran a cold bath and sat in it and shivered for a bit nearly nodding off before having a shower and jumping into bed after a quick snack. 

Massive thanks to all that texted and tried to call me through the race with support, it all helped thanks so much! 


  1. Excellent blog Charlie and another great result. Not too sure about the look of that pre-race meal though!

    1. Normally I would stick with a pizza pre race although this all you can eat buffet at reception was there waiting! You would have enjoyed the mud (maybe I would had it been a 10k race)

  2. Hi Charlie, Just catching up on this running stuff I used to do! Sounds like a great start to your ultra year. Nice one mate. Catch up soon.
    Dave D