3 years ago today (9 September 2017) I completed my first 100km run. I realised I was savvy enough to write up a race report afterwards so I thought it was worth reminding myself what it was like.

So… how hard was 100k?

‘Well it was almost certainly the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done. And probably will do. When I first signed up for the event 12 weeks ago I had the ambition of getting under 10 hours and felt that on a good day I could do it. As time wore on, though, and training was interrupted by a cycling mishap and niggles from, well frankly, overtraining I found myself starting the day with the simple ambition of getting around and trying to enjoy (some of) it.
Fears of a dreary day were dispelled from the start with brilliant blue skies and radiant sunshine. Even the scattering of showers late in the afternoon were overcome several times by the sun. For those who don’t know it the Thames path is truly a wonderful route to explore, even if you don’t want to do it all in one go. I plan to do it again by bike at a more leisurely pace and possibly involving more than one of the pubs nestled along the river at suitably frequent intervals.

Now to you… Thank you so much for your donations and words of support. At the time of going to press your donations have reached £1,437 which has already been warmly welcomed by the Alzheimer’s Society. They have already rung me to say thank you, a simple gesture that shows how important this funding is to them.

So how did it go? Well the short version is below:

  • Distance: 101.3km 
  • Time: 9:56:44
  • Placing: 7th of 566
  • Calories burned: 10,400
  • Calories consumed on the course: 2,800… basically a sugar feast! 

If you are interested in the (much) longer version then I’ve added a few answers to some of the questions I’ve been asked about the challenge, starting off with the most common one:

What makes you want to do this?

For me there are 2 stand-out reasons for wanting to do an event like this: 

1) Because if you don’t set yourself challenges you’ll never find out your limits. This sounds incredibly corney but it’s true. The human mind and body is an incredibly complex organism and the way it adapts under stress never fails to amaze me. I had a couple of dark moments during the race including a 30-minute spell when every step felt like needles were prodding into my quads. But if you persist you tend to come out of the other side.

2) Because it is an amazing way to explore new areas. I was familiar with about a quarter of the route which mean that I ended up seeing about 75km of new scenery at a pace that you can take it all in. As much fun as 5k and 10k races may be, you just don’t get chance to see enough!

How do you prepare for it?

To do these sorts of events textbooks say you should have a structured training programme building up your stamina to long runs (e.g. 70k) to strength your legs and prepare your body for the stress you will put it under. However, the farthest I ran in the build up to the event was 21k and it’s simply not that easy disappearing for hours at a time with a full time job and a 2-year old so I generally opted for 2 short training sessions twice a day, built training into my commute and then just relied on positive mental attitude!

What’s it like when you’re actually doing it?

The first 3 hours literally shot by. At the beginning of long races you are all trying to find your natural rhythm and a good pace that you can sustain for at least the first half of the race. I settled into the groove with a chatty Londoner and we spent hours talking about the usual pleasantries (work, home life etc) and then, well running chat obviously. After that I ran 7 hours basically on my own, without seeing a single runner for 40k until the drop in my speed meant I was overtaken by a couple of other runners. It sounds lonely, but it’s important to be able to be able to spend time with your own thoughts and events like this are great opportunities for that!

What do you eat?

Basically as much sugar as you can stomach. It needs to be high GI food which means your body can turn it into energy quickly so you can burn it off. For me this is energy gels, date bars, Mars and the odd random confectionary items at the 7 stops en route (who knew you can still buy Poppets?!) Plus a litre of water every hour with salt tablets.

What happens when it’s all over?

Elation… Relief… Joy… Pain… It’s an emotional experience doing these events. The relief washes over you as soon as you cross the line and when you stop running after 10 hours your legs don’t really know what to do with themselves. Your muscles tighten and joints lock up as your legs are generally swollen and begging you to stop. You lower yourself slowly into a seat making yelps of pain as you do so, and then you try to take it all in. After a few minutes your stomach craves something other than sugar and you wander over to the BBQ to enjoy your first taste of proper food all day. 

Eventually you go home, take an ice bath (if you can handle it), dose up on painkillers, anti-inflammatories and multi-vitamins to start the recovery process.  This time I dosed up on various homeopathic things to help bruising and muscle soreness. You eat more food and then you go to bed and hope that you can fall asleep. It might sound strange but it can be very difficult to sleep after a long race given a combination of muscle soreness and adrenalin in your system. Then you walk like a cowboy/-girl for a few days.

Then what?

After a few days you forget all about the pain and crave the next challenge so you hunt around on the internet and sign up! That’s been the last few years of my life.

But this time it’s different. I surpassed what I thought I was capable of and feel confident that there is little more I could do to improve it without sacrificing too many other things in life. So now I think I’ll take things easy for a bit and then start to enjoy the 5k and 10k distances I previously turned my nose up at!

Final thought

For anyone out there who has ever had an ambition to take on a challenge that they thought was out of their reach, please think again. I did my first marathon in 2009 in Paris. I hated most of the 4 hours it took me to run it and vowed never to do another one. It took me 3 years before that memory had diluted so much that I broke that vow. In the years since then I have done things that I never could have imagined mainly through persistance, curiosity and sharing the experiences with good friends, some of whom are on this email. Life is too short to wonder if you can do something. You’ve got to try for you to know the answer to that question.