100 miles. It’s a long way. It’s a very long way. It’s the same distance roughly from Portsmouth to Northampton or from London to Brighton and back again. It’s a days drive, let alone a days running! But that’s what our own Duracell bunny Ian Russell undertook in his greatest challenge to date.
The Autumn 100. 100 miles of trails. A mixture of terrain along the Ridgeway and the Thames Path. This course forms a cross shape centred around the twinned towns of Goring and Streatley. Four out and back legs of 25 miles north, south, east and west with Goring at the heart of them faced Ian as he lined up on the start line.
““I’ve been wanting to do a 100 miler for ages” he tells me with his usual enthusiasm “We got there nice and early. It felt like the bees knees when we got there. The organisation was second to none”
The field were experienced ultra runners, with very few rookies amongst them. Despite this, Ian had an ambitious target of going under 24 hours, something that not many first timers get to achieve.
10am came and they were given the off. The first leg took Ian from Goring along the Thames Path out to Little Wittenham.
Ian set out at a steady pace, ignoring the front runners and sticking to his race plan, giving him 60th place at the first turn around point and despite a nasty headwind all the way back he got back to Goring in 3 hours 57 minutes and 55th place.
A quick break at the aid station and Ian set off on the second leg. More challenging than the first but way more picturesque, it took him out to Swyncombe Farm along the Ridgeway Path.
“ I loved the 2nd leg! It was hilly and quite technical with loads of single tracks and tree roots all over the place. I wanted to have this section finished by the time 10 hours in total had passed. I felt really good all the way and managed to get to 50 miles in 8 hours and 57 minutes – a 50 mile Pb!”
The third leg took him west back onto the Ridgeway path to Chain Hill, but this time he wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by training buddy and fellow distance doyenne Dan Williams.
“The rules state that competitors can have a pacer for the final 50 or 25 miles of the race. I’m just there to keep his head in the right place and keep him on target” Dan tells me “I feel humbled that he trusts me to do this for him”
It was starting to rain a bit and was getting a little boggy underfoot, made all the more hazardous bumpy the fading light. But Dan did a great job of keeping Ian amused, fuelled, hydrated and on pace, opening gates, looking for route markers so that all Ian had to worry about was moving forward.
The fourth and final leg saw Ian back on the Thames Path for a flattish section out to Reading. 75 miles behind him. Tired….. beyond tired. Just to make things worse, the heavens opened…. and stayed open. Wet, muddy and cold now, they just had to keep going. Keep going before hyperthermia set in.
“I got to 94 miles and I was suffering. My body was just shutting down” said Ian
But he battled on, through the pain, through the tiredness. Left, right, left, right, putting one foot in front of the other until Goring came into sight for the fourth and final time.
He’d done it. 100 miles. Quick look at the watch…
22 hours 15 minutes and 36 seconds….Target…. smashed!