You want to run 100 miles – why?

You want to run a 100 mile event – why?

by Gordon Saxby

There’s no easy answer to that. For me, it was for the challenge of “Can I?”

The attempt started in late 2020 when I entered the 2021 South Downs Way 100 mile event by Centurion Running. I qualified by completing the UTS 50 miles in 2019.

2021 was a DNF and I managed 41 miles but could not handle the heat. I soon after decided to try again in 2022.

2022 was a DNF (timed out) and I managed 47 miles. I had been suffering with weird hiccups in a lot of races and it was the main cause of failure in this one. It took a little longer but again I decided to return!

2023 was a DNF and I managed 35 miles. The temperature reached the high 20’s and it was just too much for me. It took quite a lot longer for me to decide that I was going to have another go!

2024 – a very different year.

This time, I was coached by Alexandra and we were working towards the sole goal of finishing before the official cutoff of 30 hours. Also, as in 2023, I had the amazing offer from Richard Hoyland to pace me the entire second 50 miles! And, as always, I had my wife crewing for me.

I had spent quite a long time working out a pace strategy for the entire race.

Well, mainly I worked it out to 50 miles where I was to meet Richard and thought “he can get me to the end after that”. (I did have a plan though!)

Saturday, 6am, somewhere near Winchester, it all starts.

Pacing an ultra can be quite difficult. By that, I mean keeping to it, because you feel fine and fit and feel you could easily run faster. But you have to remember what you are doing and how you have trained.

Keeping the speed down to match your plan is so important! 

I had worked out the pacing to each aid station and reached the first one (9.9 miles) and then the second (22.6 miles) pretty much on schedule.

I fell a little behind for a while but in no way alarmingly. It was awesome to reach the aid station at Houghton Farm (47 miles?) – because it was the furthest I had ever reached in the event and I saw Alexandra!

100 mile event

I was feeling so good, the pacing was working out, I was managing to fuel OK and was SO close to meeting up with Richard!

At halfway, I did a shirt and sock change, took on some food and Richard then we set off. By the time I reached halfway, I was still close to my scheduled time.

Having company meant I no longer had to think about pacing, I didn’t have to open any gates, I had someone to talk to – all of that was such a boost to my state of mind! (At this point, in my head, I knew I was going to do it this year, that really helped too)

It was hard by now, 50 miles is pretty much the longest event I had ever done. However, the preparation done by Alexandra meant that I was still able to just keep moving forward. Richard and I ran when I could, walked when I needed to and ticked off mile by mile, aid station by aid station into the night and through to the morning.

100 mile event

I could write paragraphs about it but suffice to say – it was an awesome experience (I love running at night, especially on the trails). Generally, considering what it was I was doing, it all went really well.

Richard kept doing maths to work out potential finish times and for a while, there was a chance we were looking at 28 hours and something – but then a wheel started to get a bit wobbly!

We had run along a farmers’ road and then turned to go up a small track. Nothing difficult, but I had trouble going straight and sticking to the track, weird, must be tiredness.

This inability to run straight continued to be a problem so Richard followed behind for a bit. “You’ve got a bit of a lean” he said!? I had been drinking well (ActiveRoot) and was eating OK, but I tried to up the amount I was getting in to see if that helped.

Unfortunately, it just got worse and worse until it turned into a full-on “ultra lean” 🙁 The only thing that relieved it for a bit was 10 minute rests at aid stations.

A couple of times we set off again at a jog – because I could. However, it only ever lasted a mile or two before I was back to leaning right!

The last 10+ miles were more agony (and annoyance!) than was frankly fair!! But I was so close now that I reckon I would have fought anyone who tried to stop me … I was going to finish!!

The final unfair thing was the finish goes around a running track.

The unfair part was that my lean was to the right but we went round the track anticlockwise … yes, a LEFT turn!

100 mile event

Track finish!

100 mile event Start

Saturday, 6am, somewhere near Winchester, it all starts

100 mile event Dot watching

Alexandra watches my dot on the official Centurion app

100 mile event

Richard Hoyland paces me the entire second half of the event, 50 miles!

100 mile event finisher

Crossing that finish line in Eastbourne (29hours 36 minutes) was the most fantastic experience.

100 mile event

Thank you to everyone who helped me achieve it, and supported me.

I once finished a road marathon and thought- Marathon, twice this?? I can’t do that!

Well, never say never 😜

Just believe….

by

Gordon Saxby

I hope my journey inspires you to keep striving for your goals, to reach for your dreams, and if you need help with those things, Alexandra is there to guide you every step of the way…..you can reach her here

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''In the blink of an eye, everything can change. So, forgive often and love with all your heart. You may not have the chance again''
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Alexandra Oliver

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