It was the first running of this event and combined with the promise of an essentially flat course and a low entry fee this enticed me to try my first 'Ultra'.
It's an early start anytime that you see the M42 empty of a morning. So, it was quite a pleasant drive to the meeting point in Burton-upon-Trent.
Registration involved receiving a toggle which attached your ID/chip to you for the day. Shortly after we headed for the coach that was to take us to the start.
A friendly face helped take my mind off the day ahead during the coach journey (cheers Mike). But after a good hour's travel in the coach, fears that we'd be in Telford by the time the coach stopped were thankfully averted as we turned towards the start at Outwoods (just outside Newport). A brief walk (700 yards not included in the total distance!) and we arrived on the Millennium Way.
Standing towards the back of the assembled crowd of around 100 was a slight mistake as it turned out we were heading the opposite way and I found myself at the front of the pack. It was here I stayed for at least a couple of minutes as the normal order of things was soon restored once we'd started.
Photo of Millenium Way start taken by Beyond Marathon
The first ten miles or so were along a greenway towards Stafford, passing the first checkpoint in the process. The checkpoints were all well stocked with sweets, biscuits, water, squash and other goodies. At each checkpoint your ID/chip is scanned with a phone and once this is done you can be on your way again (fuller timing system detail at: http://beyondmarathon.com/racetiming/ )
Some slightly tricky navigation round Stafford - and wrongly, blindly following a couple of other runners meant a couple of dead-ends and reroutes were needed, but once out of the town normal service resumed and it was off through some lovely muddy fields and back on to the canal path. You're given a full route description and basically had to look out for the route markers as often as possible.
About 19 miles in there was another checkpoint. This was quite handy as it was at this moment that the first shower of the day appeared. Again plenty of smiling faces, route overviews and general checks on your well-being to be had.
Just outside of Rugeley the course changes tack off the pathways and on to farm fields. Most of the fields were wet and muddy which were expected, but it appeared that in each field the cows had moved on only after they'd churned the whole field over that and stiles and bridges made it quite hard going in places but still enjoyable.
At around 28 miles in there's a third checkpoint next to a nice looking pub in Yoxall. Fizzy snake sweets and a quick water top up and it's off again for a few more miles of fields.
At mile 32 it's then back on to the canal towpath and apart from a few crisscrosses over bridges it was pretty much a straight run back to the leisure centre. It's here the final scan takes place and your race is over.
Plenty of food available again here, all served up by volunteers - pizza, jacket potatoes drinks etc. You get a completion certificate which is different to the usual bling and happy with that.
As mentioned above it was an inaugural event, but it was well organised, well manned on the check-points and in terms of value for money compared to some other races it stacks up really well. Main objective was to finish which I did and i'm overly happy with that.
A lot of lessons learned for the next one. All preparation could have gone better:
- Carry less liquids to start with - carrying four litres at the outset should have been avoided by using tablets or re-hydration sachets etc
- photocopy original maps rather than carry two of the whole ones
- wear my trail shoes a bit longer in the run up to the race next time
Finished the race feeling great. There's usually an odd emotional moment towards the end of a long run so, left alone with your thoughts for so long on this one that did happen. I rested at home the next day and wasn't quite prepared for the drain to have lasted long enough that i'm getting caught off guard and worked up whilst watching films.
Apart from that there's been no other fall out. I think I dropped at least 6lbs on the run so have happily replaced that. No problems with staircases, no really achy muscles. I've hit the gym for stretch sessions the last couple of mornings and that's got to have helped - so far so good!
One thing I shouldn't have done (but worked out ok) was wearing new kit for the first time. I'm used to wearing compression socks. They seem to help on long runs - cramp during runs and niggles after runs do seem to be reduced.
As this was a trail run, I wanted a bit more sock thickness so opted for my tried and trusted Thorlo trail socks and tried out a new pair of Wiggle | 2XU PWX Calf Guard | Compression Base Layers . It read and they appear to have done the same job, so quite happy with these on their first outing.