Three Ely Runners (Craig Holgate, David Gillespie and Mark Bell) were amongst the group of around 300 runners who took part in this year’s TP100; a 100 mile ultra race along the River Thames from Richmond to Oxford.
At the front of the pack Craig had his 2012 course record in mind, whilst further back in the field David and Mark (both attempting their first 100 miler) had their sights on the less ambitious goals of either “sub-24 hours” or simply “completing the race within the 28 hour cut-off”.
The week leading up to the race had the typical April dosage of heavy and sometimes persistent rain, hail storms, and the occasional threat of snow; so it was nice to wake on Saturday morning to bright blue skies. The weather (mostly) remained good for the duration of the event, mostly dry, a little wind and only 4 short, sharp downpours/hail storms. Though the clear skies allowed the night temperatures to drop to just above zero, and brought a fair amount of fog/mist off the river.
Mark and David set off together for the first 20 minutes before differing strategies came to play and Mark took his first walk break. Mark’s strategy was – run first minute of each mile whilst eating something, run the remainder of the mile; every 5 miles take a longer walk break and eat something more substantial. The other runners around Mark seemed to be moving at a similar pace and a pass/get passed/pass scheme was established as the miles were ticked off. The other runners were friendly and soon several started to share Mark’s strategy and synchronised their run/walk breaks. The first 50 miles quickly passed in this way.
Up at the front of the race, with Craig, all went well for the first 91 miles, the pacing and the eating all went to plan. His legs felt great and he tried to get as many miles on clock in daylight as possible knowing that he would lose time when it darkness arrived. Just north of Abingdon (at about mile 92) Craig made a navigational mistake by going the wrong way. He then compounded the error by thinking he could get back on the route. This got him lost and disorientated in the local gravel pits. (What an idiot!!) Fortunately, a combination of mobile tracking and a few phone calls got him back on track; after wasting a good half hour, getting cold and a losing the desire to push hard to the finish. By the time he got to the finish he saw the funny side of it all (to Abbie’s surprise and great relief).
Further back, Mark was feeling the cold of the night and finding it harder to stay warm as his pace dropped off. The aid stations with their hot soup and tea were very welcome, but Mark was conscious not to spend too much time there. Things had gone OK for the first 70 or so miles, then a pain developed deep within his right hip which made running uncomfortable. Luckily for Mark he had built up enough buffer through the day to mean that sub-24 was still a realistic option – even at the reduced pace. Several hours later… The rising sun and gradual return of the warmth was very welcome and pretty sunrise on the river was not lost…
In the final miles, the worst part was not knowing where the actual finish was. Mark had read all the race info – including the location of the aid stations and finish, but by this stage was unable to recall which side of Oxford it was on. With his GPS reading 101 miles there was nothing that looked like the finish in sight. Then a gentleman in the Centurion t-shirt, jogging in the opposite direction, pointed out that the end was just over two small bridges and then half a mile on the left. And he was right. The finish. Get in!
There were 207 finishers.
1st – Craig holgate 14:09:54
2nd – Samantha Amend 16:00:09 (1st female)
107th – Mark Bell 23:14:02
201st – David Gillespie 27:39:08