Mountain Marathons

This year I was signed up to run both the Centurion Races on the North Downs Way. The 50 mile race and the 100 mile race. I ran neither. I was thinking about this the other day as I am currently gearing up for my first ultra (finally), the Dorset CTS Ultra which is 55km. I wanted to write something about those missed races and the learns, as well as what happens next.

The NDW 50 I decided to can as I was suffering with tendonitis in my ankle after training for and running the Boston Marathon. As well as a non-appearance at the London Marathon, training kind of went awry and subsequently the NDW race in May just didn’t happen. This probably threw me off course so naturally I decided to DNS the 100 mile race also. Call that one fear factor.

Having gone back to the drawing board, I considered what I wanted to do in terms of running this thing called an ‘ultra’. Definitely do one was the verdict. But when? And how?

Moins Hard (means less hard in French) – a start?

I was (and still am) looking forward to the challenge. But I needed an introduction. I needed to replicate the conditions of ultra running, just maybe not the distance. I started with the Moins Hard race in June – see below. This would prove to be a good introduction to the idea of running for more than 4 hours in one go whilst offering the trails and the altitude for me to consider whether I was able to run over more challenging terrain over long periods of time. It took 7 hours.  But it wasn’t an ultra… that milestone still not reached.


UTMB – a spark is lit

In the summer I spent 1 week in Chamonix during UTMB week. It was captivating. I decided then and there that I wanted to be a participant in one of those races rather than a spectator. Where to start? The OCC – see below – is the shortest of the 5 races that take place over the course of the week (In order – CCC, TDS, UTMB and PTL) at 55k. But to run the OCC, you need both to enter a ballot AND have the requisite number of accumulated points, albeit 1, to enter. With the Moins Hard not counting (it’s not an ultra duh) then I would have to run an ultra before the end of the year.


An Ultra, a Sign-Up! In Dorset… in December…

My 3 buddies and I settled on the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series Ultra run in Dorset – see, yeh you get the picture.
This race would:

a) give us the point we need to be able to enter the ballot for OCC
b) is one of the harder CTS races in terms of elevation, so replicate to a certain extent, OCC conditions
c) is the same length as OCC at 55k so good training
d) finally allow me to tick the ultra-runner box on my CV

So that’s what I am now continuing to run for. I think if I had a target time in mind then I would be training harder than I have been. I’m currently running about 40 miles per week, 25 miles of which at the weekend. It’s probably not enough, but I am going to up the mileage in the next couple of weeks to build the endurance that I am undoubtedly lacking. But I am pretty much just set on finishing the race. I.e. finish within the cut-off times to get the point needed to enter OCC. #goals.


What else?

I’ve also started comparing races in terms of elevation and have also entered the ballot for the Mont Blanc Marathon next year too – below yeh yeh yeh. So, for now, 40k – 50k ish seems to be the distance I am concentrating on for trail running. I think if / when I start running more on trails than on road (which isn’t currently the case) then I’ll maybe think about how/why to go longer. One day I’ll do the 50m, 100k and 100m races. But for now (next year) I’m going to concentrate on the ‘just-an-ultra’ categories.


Wish me luck. I do hope you enjoyed the routes crafted in Strava so you too can compare the aforementioned challenges.


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