Wow, not too sure where to start with this one!
I’ve now had a day or two to reflect on Saturday’s events but the reality is that it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It will probably take quite a while. In fact, I’m struggling to string meaningful thoughts together being pretty exhausted, but I’ll have a go whilst it’s fresh in the mind.
Since the Edinburgh 100km in May 2007 it’s been my ultimate aim to run under seven hours for the 100km. The sub-7 club is one with few members, particularly from the UK over the last 10 years or so. On Saturday I had one of those dream runs, it all came together, I felt strong from start to finish, I had a great second half and ultimately I did it – i’m in the club!
The event itself was superb, not surprising given the experience and enthusiasm of Race Director, Richard Donavon. Richard is also RD for the North Pole and Ice Antarctic Marathons as well as being a multi-record holder for extreme running. The general consensus was that it was the best Anglo Celtic Plate race in the event’s history and from my experience I wouldn’t argue with that. Fittingly, the race also drew a top class field. There were plenty of top names from the various home nations as well as from Germany who sent a development team which included the German trail running champion amongst others.
Dawn on Saturday brought a change to the weather from the preceding week. We arrived in Galway on Friday lunchtime to cloud, wind and showers but race day was perfect from my perspective; cool but sunny with a moderate breeze and occasional showers. A good omen?
Fifty or so toe-ed the start line. There was a clear apprehension amongst the runners to get started but once the hooter had gone, there wasn’t much option. My plan was to run a conservative first 50km, then see what happens in the second half – simple as that. No pressure, no frills. ‘Feel good at fifty’ was my pre-race mantra; get to half way with plenty left in the tank. I ran with England team mate and last year’s winner, Dominic Croft, for most of the first 50km. We ran fairly evenly, I was targeting splits of 8min 24 second per 2km/ 42minute per 10km and Dom was hoping for a touch quicker however the pace seemed to work well for both of us and we ran well together, carrying each other through the early stages.
As we approached 50km Marcus Scotney and Allen Smalls started to speed up and close us down but it was myself and Dom at the front at the 50km stage in a time just a smidgen under 3hrs 30mins. Spot on. Thereafter all four of us had spells at the front and it was then that the drama started to unfold. After the race one member of the England support team likened the race me to a game of chess, and in many respects it was. My target was to maintain an even pace, but the other lads seemed to have plans to shake it up a bit. Marcus seemed the keenest to push on, and eventually did, at one point putting a minute or so on me. Allen made a similar push at one point, but soon the cumulative distance started to play a part causing rough spells for us all. Eventually, at around the 65km point, I started to find a strong rhythm which allowed me to pick the pace up when the others were slowing which was the start of a fast and furious spell that brought a possible sub-7 performance into the equation.
Having not thought about it pre-race various thoughts and emotions were spinning round my head. What if I hit the rocks? What if I push too much too early? Don’t throw away this golden opportunity! Well I realised those were things I could control so I made sure I did. Keep drinking, keep taking the gels, don’t push too hard too early and most importantly don’t blow it. I was constantly trying to stay focused but at the same time trying to run some calculations in my head. Well what a waste of time that was. I’m usually quite good at maths, but after 5 hours running at 6.45/mile pace my head wasn’t in gear. So I put I a request to the support team - let me know when there is 20km to go.
The notification duly came and at the 80km point I was about one minute inside sub-7 pace. I had 1 hr 25mins to complete the final 20km. We’re on! Retaining composure was the hardest part towards the end. The thought of achieving my sub-7 goal made me feel emotional. I had dreamed about it for so long, put so much physical and mental effort into the race and been thinking about the people who I was running strong for along the way. My running rhythm was also better than it’s ever been, and my focus was clear, I had to do it.
The final lap count down at the end was inevitable, something I had fought to avoid doing over the course of the race, my body was now thinking about the end. Third from last lap was when the pure pleasure started. Nothing was going to take it away from me then. And then last lap, I gave it everything, 7mins 56 second and my fastest split of the race by 15 seconds. It was pure elation crossing the line - 6hrs 58mins dead on the clock - the best run of my life - no question.
The memories will be there forever.
- Jez Bragg
- Welcome to my blog which I hope to develop with some interesting material on ultra running both on the trails and road including reports on races and interesting training runs, views on kit and equipment as well as anything else I find of interest. I love running for adventure, opportunity and well being. Enjoy!