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South Devon Ultra – Alison Jones

I entered  this event, as a prequel to the Glasgow to Edinburgh 55 mile Ultra at the end of March. I thought it would be a good idea to try out a longer than marathon distance at this stage in my training, how hard could it be and what does grade 4, very difficult terrain even mean anyway!

As the event crept closer I started wondering if this was a wise decision, but if I enter I turn up on the starting line. So I asked the lovely ultra- runners at Sandhurst Joggers for any advice they could offer me, and they responded in kind, so I took on board everything except one, which was “don’t do it”.

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The start was originally in Beesands. Then it was changed to East Prowl. It was then changed back to Beesands. Just as well we arrived in Devon in daylight to find the start, otherwise we would have had to find the drop off point in the dark the following morning. The reason for the change was East Prowl was flooded – an ominous sign!

Being new to this Ultra game, I packed all my mandatory kit, including sun cream, sunglasses etc. If it was on the kit list it was in my bag, there was no way I was being disqualified for missing kit, this was the source of much hilarity in the start tent, as we looked out into the dark and rain, not to mention the number of little bags I had filled with white powder (fuel and talc) I could have given a Columbian drug dealer a run for his money.

We were called to a briefing and told that the course was particularly muddy, worse in some places, well it is the winter and they have had a lot of rain, so pre-warned is pre-armed, or so they say…

As the daylight came up, and the rain relented to a light drizzle, off we went straight up a never ending hill, I thought well it can’t get much worse than this, ha ha, how wrong can you be.

The hills turned into mountains, at one point I thought I should have done some altitude training, I think we climbed over 2800m  and there was no exaggeration regarding the amount of mud, it made going on one of Dick’s runs like running on tarmac.

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The plan was to walk the uphills and run the flat and downhills. Well that never happened I spent most of my time trying to stay upright, so it was impossible to get any sort of rhythm going it was basically survival.

The Coastal path runs round the side of a mountain, add in the mud and the stones and the fact that there is nothing between you and the rocks and sea below explains the lack of pictures from this particular location. I could not even look down for fear of slipping, but the sun decided to pay us a brief visit (just as well I brought sun cream).

The rest of the run was more of the same, up hills, down hills and through mud, which I never thought possible, was getting deeper.  I had given up trying to keep anything dry by this point.

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I knew that because of the slow pace I was having to go at that making the last checkpoint would be a bit of a push, but I was okay for time at the second last so thought if I get a move on I might just be in with a chance, have you ever tried running fast with half a tonne of mud in each shoe? The real killer was the 50 steps to climb prior to the mud fest on the other side, by then I knew I would not make it. I had no idea how far I had run since my watch had more sense than me and packed in at mile 18.

I did not make the last checkpoint so did not complete the last 10k, which was the first 10k of the race repeated. Not only would it have been dark, but it might have been the next day.

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I did actually run about 28.5 miles and then another 1.5 miles to where my husband had to pick me up from so in reality I did run an ultra. Albeit in 7.15 hours and despite the terrain and the conditions underfoot I had plenty left in the tank, so as an exercise it did what I wanted, proved I have the stamina for an ultra and that I am insane.

This year the winner ran 45 mins slower than last year so I think that proves how tough it was, also the winner of the Marathon (Rob Corney – Reading Road Runners) won with a time of 3.50hrs.

The scenery was spectacular, and by all means give It a go, if you are a mountain goat or insane like me.

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I got top marks for my kit, so that’s always something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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