Ten things you learn by running 100 miles

1. Hard work pays off. It doesn’t have to be 100, or even 60 or 70 mile weeks. But it has to be consistent and most importantly, it has to be enjoyable. I broke my self-imposed ‘one 100 per year’ rule after recovering quicker than expected following the SDW100, and wanted another crack at running 100 miles, ideally a bit faster. I had a great block of training leading up to the A100 and enjoyed every run. There’s absolutely no shame in putting your heart and soul into something you love doing.

2. You have to run your own race. Always. I knew it was unlikely I’d be able to keep pace with leading ladies Susie and Jess (who finished in an incredible 15:22 and 16:42 respectively). But I knew that if I raced smart, didn’t go out too fast and didn’t lose too much time at aid stations, I’d be OK. My crew were brilliant – as I approached them I’d hold out my empties and swap them with my Dad for full water bottles and food. I think it’s fair to say that we nailed the F1 pitstop style hand over.

3. Always have a plan. I went in with a similar race plan to the SDW100. I secretly wanted a finish time starting with an 18, which was a scary prospect, but I figured if I ran the first 50 miles in 8:30 it would be achievable. Running out to the Ridgeway from race HQ at Goring on the third spur of the race, as my watch clicked over to 50 miles in 7:57 (nearly a 40 minute PB!), I knew I was well on target and deep down a 17-something finisher time also seemed like a possibility.

4. Stuart March takes the best race photos.

5. 100 milers inevitably hurt, but personally the first bit is always the toughest. Regardless of the distance, whether it’s a marathon, 50 or 100 miler, I always find the initial onset of fatigue and soreness in my legs at the 15 or so mile point stresses me out every time and makes me doubt my prep and the race ahead.

6. Falling over while running downhill on the Ridgeway at mile 70 was predictably messy but didn’t hurt as much as I expected. It did result in some impressive war wounds on return to race HQ at Goring and a nice big stratch on the casing of my new Suunto Ambit though.

7. Feeling a bit nauseous is inevable and not necessarily a cause for concern; running 100 miles fuelled by baby food, some fruit and few mars bars could be the reason for that. But it doesn’t mean you’re actually going to be sick, it just means you have to count from one to 100 (and keep on running, of course) and have faith in your fuelling plan.

8. It’s just running all day. And eating. I love doing both these things. Once I realised this the nerves melted away on race morning.

9. Out and back races were you can see and cheer on the rest of the field are also a fantastic experience, and it was incredibly inspiring crossing paths with Susie and Jess on each spur and realising that I was sharing the experience with some phenomenal runners.

10. I couldn’t have run a 100 mile PB of 17:24, coming 3rd lady and 11th overall, without the help of my amazing Dad. Thanks also to my brother who crewed for the first 50 and to James, Nici and all the other staff and volunteers.

All photos by Stuart March and my Dad.

Then you come down

Post-race euphoria. That feeling when you cross the finish line and emotion rushes over you like a wave. You want to cling on to reality for fear of being swept away. But you don’t. You let it carry you far, far to sea, riding on the endorphin crest.

You’ve been training for this moment for what seems like an eternity. You’ve sacrificed a ‘normal’ life: training sessions over evenings in the pub. Early morning runs rather than Sunday morning lie-ins.

And then it’s over and reality resumes. Back at work, back to normality. After the congratulations it’s heads down. Let’s just get through the working day as quickly as possible.

Then you come down.

Physical stiffness sets in, mental fatigue takes hold. Everything feels, well, a bit hollow. The race feels like a distant memory. You double check your medal, did it all really happen?

The post-race comedown really sucks. But, as you listen to your body, post-race, take time to listen to your mind. As you re-fuel on protein, have a sports massage and take a recovery break from exercise, take time to allow your mind to regain its equilibrium. Do things that make you happy. Watch your favourite film. Laugh. Spend time with friends. People that make you feel happy and good about yourself. Hell, plan your next race.

Go to a place you love, a place you feel at one with. Breathe deeply, slowly taking in your surroundings. My post-race blues tend to take me to Pen Ponds in Richmond Park. Sitting on a bench, watching the world go by, thinking about nothing in particular. Letting go, allowing the mind to slowly reset itself. Because spending time in a place I love let’s me reconnect with myself and recharge mentally.

It’s normal to feel down after a big race. It’s not a reason for concern or the root of a more serious problem. But realising this can be the first step to recalibrating the mind and riding out the melancholy.

There are plenty more races out there, races that won’t enter themselves. After all, don’t be sad that it’s over, be proud of what you achieved.

Pen Ponds