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.

The journey to running 100 miles at the North Downs Way 100 

Cat and Keith NDW100

October 2014 Run the Atacama Crossing in Chile and finish as 2nd female. Race a marathon the week later (also in Chile) and finish as 3rd girl in 3 hours 23 minutes. Win £300 cash. Feel a bit invincible.

November 2014 Return to the UK suffering from a severe case of the post-race blues and in need of a new, big challenge/adventure to cap Atacama. Enter TransGranCanaria 125k (129k?) ultra-hardcore mountain race and North Downs Way 100 mile race.

December 2014 Start training again. Right hip hurts when running over eight miles. Simultaneously ignore it/worry a little.

January 2015 Run 43 miles at the Country to Capital race with friend Susie. Have a laugh but hip feels a bit sore. Somehow beat previous year’s time.

January-March 2015 Carry on tentatively training. Self-diagnose hip pain as possible burstitis. Pain never gets above 2-3 out of 5 on long runs, so cross fingers and carry on.

March 2015 Fly out for TransGranCaria. Run around 70k of 129k before DNFing with a sore hip/bad stomach. A nice Yorkshireman in his early 60s takes me under his wing. He tells the nurses in the medical tent funny stories while I cry and be sick. He lets me sleep on his sofa.

April 2015 Take my hip/legs to see Simon Lamb, then an NHS physio, who diagnoses possible gluteal tendonitis. Prescribes rehab (squats!) and gentle running.

May 2015 Continue to train/rehab hip. Volunteer at the North Downs Way 50 mile race. Spend the day feeding ice cream to ultra runners. Have an great day. Resign myself to probably doing this at the North Downs Way 100 in August, rather than running. Feel OK but a bit sad. Email Centurion Race Volunteer extraordinaire Nicky to register as a volunteer.

June 2015 Have a long-overdue ultra-sound scan on hip. No tendon damage detected. Coincides with running without hip pain again. Feel relieved/a bit worried about having enough time to train for impending 100 miler.

June-July 2015 Squeeze in two 30-ish milers, one along the North Downs Way (where I get very lost) and one at Race to the Stones 50k. Have a bad day at latter and hate races. Never want to do another one. Moan to the marshals about running 100 miles in a month.

July 2015 Walk nearly 30 miles along the NDW three weeks before NDW100 with some friends. Feel a bit more confident about not getting lost on race day.

T-2 weeks Spend lead up to the race in complete denial. Don’t want to talk logistics with my crew.

T-1 week Have crippling fear about running 100 miles. Realise my Dad can’t crew and pace. Realise I really need pacers too. Luckily I have superhero friends Susie and Gemma on hand to help.

Race day Get to the race start OK. Aim to just get between checkpoints, rather than focussing on the overall distance. Scenery is amazing. Weather is perfect. Hills aren’t as bad as I expected. See friends along the way. Feel good. Get to 50 miles in ten hours, bang on target. Eat some pasta. Pick up my first pacer, Susie, then Gemma at 60 miles, then Jon at 72 miles. It gets dark and realise that running through the night is a lot of fun. Don’t eat enough. Opt for Frijj chocolate milk to get some easy calories in. At the 82 mile checkpoint, Jon tells me we’re finished with the hills. Then we immediately have to climb another huge one.

Race day plus around 24 hours The sun comes up. We still have another ten miles to go. Reduced to a power hike. Want to get it over and done with but running hurts. Stomach hurts. See Dad two miles before the end. Cry a bit. Cross the finish line in 25 hours and 34 minutes. Cry a lot. Sit down and try to eat a bacon sandwich. Can’t get up again.

Post race week Live in my race t-shirt. Take race buckle everywhere. Can’t believe I ran 100 miles. Think I like 100 mile races. Maybe it’s ‘my distance’. Dream about running sub-24 hours next time.

2 weeks after NDW100 Sign up for South Downs Way 100 next June.