Last year I, together with daughter Cat and son-in-law Jon, ran half of the Croydon Ultra (i.e. 15 miles, 24k). The conditions were appalling, with torrential rain meaning we were running through streams along pavements. Certainly 15 miles were enough.
This year we all entered it again. Cat and Jon were going for the full 30 while I was aiming for more than 20 miles, using it as more preparation for my 1st marathon. I did not want to do 42.2k (or more) as I want to save that distance in an official run until the big day in October. The conditions could not have been more different from last year (well of course they could, we could have been running in knee deep snow). It was in the mid-20s C when we started out (early, at 8.30 just to try to miss some of the hottest part of the day) and climbed to at least 30°C during the 2nd half of the course.
The route was two 15 mile loops, starting in Lloyd Park and heading south through well shaded woodland tracks until the first watering point at The White Bear; with plenty of liquids, food , gels and food (never thought I’d be enjoying Nachos in the middle of a run). Then it was back on mainly footpaths to the start/finish. We did manage to miss a couple of turnings (although a lot of the course was marked with arrows on the ground, at one key point it wasn’t…which meant we ended up doing 28k instead of 24k for the first half of the course.
The 2nd half took us up north towards Catford mostly on well signed pavements or cycle tracks. Cat and Jon had quite rightly left me behind, and I decided how far I wanted to go before turning back. My calculations were amazingly precise, and when I ran over the ‘finishing line I kept going for a further 5m until my GPS Kalenji clicked over to 40.00k; that did provide some amusement for the few spectators. So, under conditions that I hope not to experience in Amsterdam, I have achieved a distance which I know will allow me to complete 42.2k, unless anything untoward happens. Have I also proved that footwear isn’t as important as we think it is. For this run I wore an old pair, that I almost discarded 6 months ago and now use just for Parkruns. They have been through the washing machine twice and have real signs of wear. They served me perfectly well on this run, and I also used them for 7 Parkuns, 35k, on the South London longest parkrun 2 weeks earlier.
Cat and Jon arrived soon after, both having successfully completed their first Ultra actually running nearer 33 miles rather than the 30 expected, an amazing achievement for both of them under such extreme conditions.
And we were in time to shower and watch the other amazing achievement of the day with Andy Murray’s win all of the more coincidental as earlier in the year Cat and Jon meet him at Wimbledon the day after the lost in the Australian Open final.
For Christmas 2010 my daughter gave me an entry to the Croydon half, make you own minds up about that as a present! For the next 3 months I carried on with my solitary 10k – 14k ‘evening’ (anything up to 11.00 pm) runs. The only one that was any different was a morning run, with my daughter in early March along the Thames, about 16k.
So when 3rd April came along being on the starting line (well, 10m behind with other 2:00 – 2:15 hopefuls) in warm sunshine to tackle 21k was disconcerting. The first lap went (too) well; adrenalin and the challenge of keeping ahead/overtaking those much younger than me sent me at too quick pace than I should have been at. The long steady 1.5k climb after 12k at the beginning of the 2nd lap took its toll and after that even the slightest incline was difficult (euphemism, insert your own more appropriated word). But encouraged/bullied by my daughter, who also ran, I kept going and managed to stumble over the line and achieve my sub 2 hour target.