Am I ticking these off now? That is 8 marathons and ultras in 2022, 73 overall in less than 7 years leading up to an anniversary race at Berlin 2022. But yeah, I guess I am. A robot sent from the future to slowly plod ultras.
And so to the Thames Path Challenge 2022 from Ultra Challenges, a company with whom I ran the South Coast Challenge twice, the Cotswold 50K, London to Brighton, and liked to set up, even if the races are very, very expensive.
I have been here before too, I thought as I stood in the Fulham park on the north side of Putney Bridge. And I had, for the 16 bridges challenge, where I was 3rd male and 7th overall.
And I should have been there earlier. My original start time was 7.30am. In Fulham. South West London. I live in North West London. Just for those who don’t know, to get from Hampstead to Putney would involve you going through Finchley Road, Kilburn, Baker Street, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Venezuela, Africa, Beirut, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Mordor, Parsons Green, and then Fulham so I initially booked myself into the kind of B&B where the widowed owner offers you a massage and a shiatsu with every full English breakfast.
Although later I had the brainwave to just ask for a later start (9am). It would mean I could travel leisurely in the tube, but I would also have to run around the herds of walkers who were starting in the two hours of twenty minute time slots ahead of mine but with this kind of race, that is pretty much a given.
And so I arrived at Putney Bridge by 8am, because (of course) I couldn’t sleep and kept waking up panicking about time. I was there in time to fill my flasks with Coke and Lucozade, collect my race pack, pin by number to my tee, drop my back and ignore the warmup before taking part in the the 8:20 start.
And it was pretty much as I said. This race would be a nice run walk to get some time on feet and in the head. The upcoming road marathons (Berlin, Loch Ness and Yorkshire) would all pass hours quicker than most of my races in 2022 and I would be glad of the hours and hours I’d spent on the Chilterns and South Downs, the Cotswolds and here on the Thames Path when I have to dig in.
I adopted a pretty easy run walk strategy that had to be adapted when you hit the herds of walkers who went out in the hours before I did.
It was flat though, and so I could cover a pretty decent distance before being slowed down by the next lot, I am assuming being the start wave before.
It was just a case of keeping on for me. My Plantar Fasciitis on my left foot was killing me at times, other times I couldn’t feel it at all. At the first mis-measured checkpoint I just went straight through. At the second, the supposed half way point that was actually closer to 30K, I stopped, took my shoes off and enjoyed a cuppa and a cheese and pickle roll. Hmmm, roll. Although there was a BBQ there, but only for people finishing there. That was annoying. I could have gone for a burger or a sausage in a bun. Instead, when I would eventually finish, at the 50K mark they had curry and spag bol, neither of which I wanted.
I had originally wanted a top 5 time. It is now my default second target, after finishing (obvs). And I was certainly on for a top 5 time as I hit the 3 hour mark. But then the crowds, and the PF and the realisation I should probably save myself for the marathons hit me, and I slowed down. I took the piss. After the 10-15 minute sit down at half way I also stopped at a pub. I stopped when my wireless headphones died, and had to be replaced by the wired variety. I stopped when my foot hurt. I sat on a bench by a lock.
I slowed at Hampton Court due to the crowds. But this race was needed, as a boost. I have run a lot less this year and plodded a lot more. With 7 of my races being multiday ultras or ultras, and only one being a marathon, I am now a machine when it comes to keeping going. I am not going very fast, but I can keep going forever.
I could if I didn’t stop all those times, and at the pub for a pint of Amstel, have gotten a top 5 time. I know this. But I am not always in the business of pushing myself. If my foot was fine and not hurting I may have done it. But what do I have to prove? To myself or to anybody else? This was a slog and a hike, time in feet and time in my head, 100 Marathon Club number 73 in less than 7 years, and the 8th of the year.
And that is always my target #1 – the 100 Marathon Club. I want to get there by the ago of 50, so by the end of next year, ideally at NYC in November 2023. That would be ideal. Although it would mean I would need to run 20 races next year and beat my annual best.
#2 is to hit 15 marathons and above in a year. After two years in a row of running 12 in 12 I have since run 14 twice, and bailed on races both of those years so know I can run more. I also finish the planned races on 13th November. That will be 14 with 6 weeks to go and both Florence and Malaga marathons paid for. I could also sign up for a lap race but I don’t want to lower myself to do that.
#3 well finish. #4 get a PB. #5 top 5.
Always have targets.
After the first quarter checkpoint being at 18KM, the half way point was 30KM, the next CP I think was 40 but then the next was a further 13KM away. I think the signs were off. The measurements surely were. My watch said 52KM. My feet, in particular my left, says it was a lot more.
As you can imagine I care less and less about the medals the more I get. This was 100 Marathon club number 73. Add the halves and 10Ks, 10 milers, 5K, and other weird distances including the Chester Metric Marathon (26.2K) and virtuals (I feel so dirty) and that is a lot of metal. I may get an artist to do something with them once I hit the big 1-0-0.
Despite everything I was 75th out of about 400 who were doing just day one and the 50K. After the DNFs at Copenhagen and Round Reading I was glad to tick another one off. It was flat. I could do it at least two hours quicker if I wanted and it could be a contender for a two dayer next year to boost the numbers.
The bus ride to the station was a nightmare, and I had to wait for over an hour to get on the bus. There was a SNAFU from the driver. But I won’t go into it. I was just glad to have finished comfortably and was recovered by the next day.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THE THAMES PATH CHALLENGE? YES, but it is pricey
WOULD I RUN IT AGAIN? YES, I may well do it next year with the bro