By Karen Connell
The Wayfarers 100k Ultra was my 2nd ultramarathon and my 2nd ultramarathon win (dammit, why can’t I be good at something that isn’t sooo hard)! Having completed 90k at Lemur Loop, a 12 hour ultra distance challenge, back in November, the concept of running 100km wasn’t too insane for me, and it seemed to follow on nicely from the recent London Marathon. But actually, looking back, double marathon plus 10 miles is in fact pretty insane!!
The route started at sunrise at Combe Gibbet between Hungerford and Andover then traveled cross-country through beautiful, sometimes wild and overgrown, undulating countryside to Fort Widley, high up on the cliffs, overlooking Portsmouth. The route was challenging to navigate at times, with only the official Wayfarers Walk markers to follow. We cost ourselves a fair amount of time with navigational errors and plenty of map reading. As we had GPS trackers on, if we went too far off course, we received a friendly phone call from Race HQ to get us back on track!
I was lucky to be running with Ultra Matt K who was “taking it easy” by running with me. 100k was no sweat for him, while I was barely able to walk on Monday (you may have witnessed me attempting stairs), he was straight back into his physical job accompanying army recruits on a race! Although we overtook a few runners in the second half, the route was very sparsely populated and so it was a great boost to see Matt P just after 50k and a surprise appearance from my mum at around 70k!
With a small field of fairly serious looking ultrarunners who hadn’t been put off by the strict cut-off times, this wasn’t as easy a win as Lemur Loop had been. From the start I was very aware that I was being chased, spending a lot of time looking over my shoulder. One of my low points was realising that the gap had closed in behind me and saying to Matt, “I really don’t want to have to race the last 20 miles”, knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to just relax into it at my own pace! But I refocussed and made sure I put enough distance between us to be safe.
At around 88k we made a catastrophic navigation error which meant that the 2nd place woman took the opportunity to get ahead and she was looking strong. This was a game changer for me. I wasn’t prepared to give up my position in the last push! I caught up with her and we then ran together for a stretch of single-track path until it opened up and I was able to get it back. I arrived into the 90k aid station first, doing the bare minimum I needed to do (showing my number, downing my chocolate milk and grabbing some jelly babies), before legging it back out on route again. I pushed on for the final 10k with enough effort to finish about 12 minutes ahead. I was 1st woman finisher and (because Matt was kind enough to let me cross the line before him) 3rd overall, with Matt as 3rd place man! Stanley and my mum were waiting for us and Stanley led us to the finish line, exhausted, in pain but so relieved to have finally finished and to have actually won!
No more ultras for me this year (probably) but might do an Autumn marathon. Always happy to hear suggestions of how I can reach the next level of crazy running to consider for next year!!