I entered the Fox Ultra as it is organised by people who I have marshalled for on many previous occasions and they always put on a good event that is slightly out of the ordinary. It was on the day before the London Marathon but as my plan was to run fast at Manchester a couple of weeks before, it seemed like a hard but do-able weekend of running. In talking with Lina about events we were planning to do, she also became interested in the Fox as part of training for a longer ultra later in the year so we decided to run the event together (see Lina’s excellent write-up of her take on the event).
Early start on Saturday to pick up Lina and get to Godalming just as day was breaking. It felt like one of my Audax cycle rides, lots of people looking slightly apprehensive (the organisers) and others barely awake (the competitors). The start was low key in the middle of the green and we were off. The route follows an established circular route round Godalming (similar to the Ramblers Route round Bracknell) and had event markers in addition to the route and footpath markers so very little chance of getting lost. It is largely off road with occasional sections of road, mostly in the first part when there is little traffic and the participants are less tired. The route goes through some lovely woods complete with carpets of bluebells and through farmland complete with oil seed rape. After a couple of hours we got to the second checkpoint at what would be the start of the marathon distance event starting a little later. A brief hello to Martin Gould and we continued through some woods onto a road where we passed Max Woods on his way to the marathon start. Soon we passed another railway station and made some comments on the fact there seemed to be lots of opportunities to take the train back to the start. Later Max passed us during a particularly steep descent (or at least that was our excuse for walking at that point).
The miles passed with controls about every 6 miles or so, with well stocked refreshments (including tea and coffee at the penultimate one). Each control was located close to a road, with very little civilisation seen between controls. There were many hills on the route including crossings of the Hogs Back, although the ones towards the end seemed the biggest. There were also long sections along the Wey navigation which had the benefit of being flat although could be rough underfoot. By the end we were walking all the ups and some of the steeper descents and only running on the flats.
We finished in about 7:40 on the green in Godalming and consumed some ice pops in the sunshine. We both felt very pleased to have managed the event with little injury and, in Lina’s case, still feeling strong at the end.
I dropped Lina back and went home to recover before London (although there was a small matter of a family Barn Dance that evening to go to).
Another early morning and my legs were feeling tired. Walking to the Library to pick up the bus seemed to sort them out. I had no idea how long they would continue to feel like that and was prepared for an immediate breakdown and a very long walk.
Green Start had its usual mindboggling queues for the toilets and an opportunity to catch up briefly with Lisa, Lucy and Kathryn. My plan was to start at the back of my pen and take it really slowly. I bumped into a couple of Finchcoaster ladies who were planning some quick running, suitable for the pen we were in, so I ended up starting nearer the front than I meant to. Nevertheless I let the hordes stream past, settling into an easy pace. Legs felt OK, I was taking in gels every 3 miles, sips of water at alternate drinks stations and waiting for the wheels to come off. Past the newly restored Cutty Sark, at 15km I looked out for Steve Smith (ex-SJ) looking after the timing mat and shared a selfie, just as Charles came past. Halfway came with a lovely stretch of nearly 2 miles (I really have done London too many times that I can start wondering about things like this) where the outbound and inbound routes run on opposite sides of the road. The DJ was as loud as usual, the elite runners were just returning, as usual. Then off to docklands and a surprise to hear Sara Lambourn call my name. Later on a quick wave to Dick Newman, always located somewhere around the late teen miles. Still the wheels seemed to be turning although the pace was beginning to drop. Back along the joint section and I was becoming more convinced that I would be under 4 hours.
I always look across at those running/walking out and think, not only have they still got a long way to go but there are still hundreds more behind them. Up the ramp by the Tower of London then through the City and out of the tunnel and up the seemingly steep ramp onto the Embankment. By now it was just a matter of maintaining a reasonable pace to the end. The miles are almost all gone and, having worked in London for some time, very familiar roads. The new New Scotland Yard looked very shiny and then the right turn at the Houses of Parliament and it was almost all over. Birdcage Walk seemed shorter than usual and then the turn for home and a warm welcome by SJ at the finish. Not a quick run, but then London never is for me, but quicker than Manchester two weeks before.
My legs were now tired and the walk back to Waterloo was definitely slow and steady trying to avoid the family and friends trying to meet their runners. I bumped into the Finch ladies on the train who had both had good runs.
Overall it was a great weekend. It had all the elements that I enjoy in running, great countryside, running with clubmates and catching up with runners from the local running community. It had gone according to plan and having set realistic targets for each event I was very happy. My targets had been:
- Fox: have an enjoyable run with Lina and not be so broken that I could not start the Marathon.
- London: get round un-injured and run it all, not worrying about the time (but hopefully under 4 hours).
- Overall: Enjoy both events and not get injured.
Set realistic targets and enjoy your running!