In the week prior to Event 14 (the Forest of Dean ultra) I was fortunate enough to have a meeting at the Defence Medical and Rehabilitation Center (DMRC) at Headly Court and was shown much of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’. I won’t go into detail, but it’s a place where extraordinary people do extraordinary things – staff and those undergoing rehabilitation.
Preparation for the 32 mile (actually 31.76!) Forest of Dean ultra had gone well and being a circular course (running loops) there was no need to carry additional food and water. The main purpose of the race was a trial for the England and Wales Commonwealth games squad and with a field of only 28 people I kind of got the feeling that I might be running on my own a lot…..I was right!
The course was one short lap, followed by 5 longer (approx 5.5 mile) laps. Starting at 10.30, light load of a running belt holding water and a few gels, the first 3 laps felt good. Not too hot, not too many hills, light breeze, I was enjoying the scenery as well as the efforts of the odd Commonwealth trial competitor sprinting past me. The course was well marshalled, with plenty of water stations, but I hadn’t yet come across a feeding station. During an ultra event I’ve found it usual to come across a table with some solids on it once in a while; something that you can eat on the run to prevent your energy levels crashing.
By about 1 PM I was starting to feel hungry and had already consumed 3 of my 4 gels, so asked about food – only to be told that there was none! Not so bad if you are a racing snake on your last lap with only a couple of miles to go, but not great news for a 43 year old ex-rugby player with only a gel and a small pack of jelly beans stuffed into his shorts. Only 2 options really, run or stop – so I kept running. By the time I finished the penultimate lap it was clear that I wasn’t going to finish before the 6 hour cut off time (it was initially promoted as 7 hours, but that’s another story), so the Marshals ‘invited’ me to retire a lap early. Invited = stop or we’re going to remove the course around you.
Anyway to cut a long story short, I finished the ‘official’ race short in a bloody-minded mood, grabbed some food from my car and after a quick break went back out to complete the extra miles I needed to take me over the 30 mile ultra mark. Why? I need to be able to look people in the eyes when I explain what Run4Recovery is all about and why I’m doing it. Note to self – always carry your own food!