Supporting the North Downs Way 100

Yesterday I spent my afternoon in a recreation ground in which I spent many hours of my childhood enjoying an excellent playground. But rather than hanging out in the castle, whirling around the roundabout, or swinging as high as I could, I was stood around a Tent (Henks love of his life it would seem) providing nutrition and hydration to weary runners as they came through the 60 mile checkpoint in Wrotham along the route of the North Downs Way 100 mile footrace.

An event hosted by Centurion Running, this 100 miler is the third in their annual Grand Slam of events which commences with the Thames Path early in the year, then the South Downs way, and comes before the Winter 100.

My reasons for volunteering at the event were twofold – firstly, I like to give something back to the running community once in a while and help & support runners and events. Secondly, by volunteering over 8 hours of my life for the afternoon, Centurion offer free entry into the event next year.

I was lucky enough to be in the company of some pretty amazing ultra-based people at my station. Station captain Henk (who had a love for his tent like no other, and also for his generator, and his gas stove) is the ‘brains’ behind Caesar’s Camp Endurance Run. Dick a prominent ultra runner, and Jan are the creators of the Grand Union Canal 145mile Run, and the incredibly epic 250 mile ‘The Ring‘ non-stop race. And Sam, when he finally joined us having completed his other volunteering tasks, was something of an inspiration to be around as he told of his relative newcomer status to running in general (apparently only really running a year or so and now a seasoned ultra runner, off to UTMB soon, and 2nd place in the SDW100 this year in less than 17.5 hours).

The first few runners came through looking pretty strong still – amazingly so, as I think in my mind I thought people would look more disheveled at 60 miles. We set to work filling bottles and feeding runners as they passed through our aid station at periodic points throughout the afternoon as the sun shone down on us.

Now, I don’t ever look this good after 26.2 miles, so I don’t expect to look so fresh at this kind of point in any race. But as runners were coming through between about 7 and 10pm, generally looking OK, I was still kind of thinking to myself ‘OK, yeah, maybe I can do this’. By midnight though, as we sent out search vehicles to find runners who had gotten a bit lost in the dark, and as three runners were in various states of suffering at our checkpoint having given up the race, or missed the cut-off, I was seriously reassessing my earlier thoughts, and very aware of the likelihood of me being in that state at this point of the race.

As I said, a perk of volunteering for Centurion is free entry into the race next year, and I find myself in something of a quandary. At the same time during the race, there is also the 50 mile option which ends at Knockholt Pound. Do I go for the 100, or take the ‘easy’ way out and try to achieve 50 miles, with a (hopefully) better chance of completing?

Before yesterday I had been thinking I’d probably take an entry into the 50 mile race. But now I think about chatting with Sam, and I think that it’s 365 days away, who is to say I can’t train for a 100 in that time? Many people just decide to start with 100 without even doing a 26.2 other than as training, I already have two of those under my belt! In the last few weeks I have actually decided on my first ultra race, and plan on entering the Hardmoors 30 on New Years day 2013. I’m assuming that this really ‘only’ requires a similar training program to marathon distance, though maybe with slightly longer long run(s).

At this point I am left with 8 months before the North Downs Way race. Enough time? I’d of thought so, but if you have any thoughts on that please drop a comment below – I am definitely open to input, comments, help & advice. Researching this afternoon, something like the Cardif Ultra or the Norman Conquest – both 50 milers, both in May – seem to be well placed as an event to train towards when stepping up from the 30, and offer plenty of time still to move up to the 100 in August.

Decisions, decisions!! Input below please (perhaps something more constructive than ‘you’re a nutter!’ though) :-)

Oh and the winner, in 17 hours 52 was the guy who went through 60miles in first place too!!

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