• Barry Gerhold

The first bus...

The first bus...

Today was my first event since becoming a full member of the 100 marathon club. Marathon/Ultra number 101

Today I was at an event hosted by Lindley Chambers of Challenge Running. The St Peters Way Challenge, a 43 mile trail route starting at Ongar and finishing at Bradwell-on-Sea. Once at the finish line you would be transported back to the start line by a bus where 3 had been arranged.

The day started of wonderfully well where I gave a lift to the legend that is Rob Cowlin. It was a pleasure to chat to you as always and I have only just realised now that there was no singing in the car which was disappointing. A Cowlin, Gerhold duet would have been spectacular.

We arrived in Ongar around 7am for our kit to be checked to ensure that we had packed the mandatory items and we then collected our race numbers and went back to the car to get ready. Shortly afterwards we attended the race briefing and were underway at 8am.

For the first few miles I was joined by Keith Simpson (Cat's dad), who I first met when I was regularly running at Riddlesdown parkrun years ago. An amazing marathon /ultra runner who clocked some very impressive times and completed equally impressive challenges. We discussed “The bus” briefly. Both agreeing that the 2nd of 3 provided buses would be the most likely outcome. That giving us a comfortable 9 and a half hour window to get the job done

This event required a lot more navigation than I thought, but fortunately I was prepared with a new toy. A Garmin 64s which is made predominately for hiking, but thought that this could aid me today if need be. It turns out that this helped me much more than I could ever have expected.

Every runner was provided with a route description. A whole sheet of A4 would cover an 8 mile section. This is great if you know what the hell your doing, can read whilst running, can correlate what you are reading to what you can actually see on the trails, don’t get easily distracted and you have a bit of common sense. If you do not have one of them things then it is likely that you are going to get lost.

Others like me bring along a GPS unit. Again you need to understand what you are looking at, you need a little bit of common sense, you need to hope that it can find satellites and also hope that the batteries last. If not. Then you’re going to get lost.

So to sum it up, you are most likely going to get lost at some point.

From early on people were going the wrong way when there really was no need, my map was showing quite clearly where we needed to go, I left Keith and headed to the front of a small group that had been formed, taking over navigation. I found myself to be pushing a little bit. I think a little bit of competitiveness had leaked out into my legs and they were trying to do some crazy shit, so I let them have a bit of fun for a bit, before I settled them down a few miles later.

I managed to keep a relatively consistent pace up for a good amount of time, and during this patch I came across Robert Cameron-Wood, we discussed our past and upcoming races “As you do” and then conversation turned to “The bus” Again we ruled out the first bus, purely due to the amount of people in front of us. It was likely that they’ll fill the bus up before we get there and also it would have been a bit of a stretch to make it to the finish by 3.30pm which is when that bus departs. At the 24 mile aid station Rob told me to go ahead without him whilst he filled his bottles up.

So off I went, it wasn’t long until fatigue was setting in, I think at approximately 28 miles I could feel the legs tiring and it progressively got worse. I attempted to eat regularly, a handful of nuts & raisins and also nut butters sachets. Every now and again I would find the energy and motivation to power on.

I now found myself regularly looking at my watch wondering if maybe I could make “The first bus” between now and the time Rob and I discussed and ruled out that possibility, I had probably overtaken a good twenty or so people. So that bus was now an option, providing I made it back by 3.30, but that was going to be tight.

Unfortunately I had no option but to add many walking sections, it is something I come to expect, especially with these sorts of distances. This obviously slowed down my average pace and I risked missing that bus, but I continued. I was fighting against my legs, they were quite politely asking me to walk and this was proving uncomfortable, but soon enough the finish line came into sight. No time for any of that walking malarkey now, time to finish strong.

I crossed the line in 7hrs 8mins and was presented with my medal by Lindley and was then told that I have a space on the first bus. Woo hoo! Chuffed to bits.

Seems I cared more about this damn bus than I did the race.

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