In what sounds like quite the event, a trio of SJs headed out along The Ridgeway, the oldest path in Britain. Taking a step through history, the route finishes at the historic Avebury Stone Circle. How did they find it? Let’s find out below….
Andrea Hadfield – “When Alison suggested entering Race to the Stones, and I realised it would tick off 2 marathons in 1 weekend, I signed up – barely looking at the information about the event. It was only the week before that I actually looked at the route, with people asking me where we were running and me replying ‘er, somewhere near Oxford…maybe?’
The early start was soon forgotten as we donned our sunnies and crossed the start line with hundreds of other people – all with different motivations and goals, but all with 100km of running/walking ahead of us. The mood was cheery, with people moving to the side to let faster runners through, there was a lack of ego and great camaraderie between the participants!
Now, one of my favourite things about long distance trail events is the food, and RTTS didn’t disappoint – each aid station had something different to tantalise our taste buds and kept us guessing about what delights would await us at the next one! Watermelon, pineapple, Nutella sandwiches and salted crisps being some of my highlights.
The route was extremely varied, crossing glorious golden fields of wheat, narrow wooded tracks, riverside paths (hang on, what river is that?) and rocky hilltops. The last few miles into base camp were hard going, with the heat of the day getting to us, but before too long we could see the welcome sight of our overnight stop on the horizon.
Base camp was an absolute delight – we shovelled food into our faces as quickly as possible with the wooden spoons that were essentially flat pieces of wood, and then retired to our luxury accommodation to finish off the wine – even happier that we’d brought our own booze when we saw the queue for the bar!
Day 2 brought more of the same, with a few extra aches and pains, but the knowledge that once we finished we could be on our way home to a well earned glass of fizz, followed by a bath! As we were blessed with slightly more overcast skies, we made steady progress, keeping to our run/walk strategy and watching the kilometres tick by. It was lucky we had been warned about the final loop down to the Avebury stone circle, a slightly soul destroying out and back, before the home straight to the finish line!
The reason we are smiling in all the photos is because it was such a fun weekend – with the challenge of the distance adding to the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at the end! It definitely wouldn’t have been the same without Sharon and Alison, so I highly recommend you take them along with you, should you wish to do a similar event!”
Sharon Burfield – “Race to the Stones was an epic event, made even better by the company of Alison and Andrea. I would highly recommend it, as well as upgrading to a wigwam with supplies of G&T and wine, of course! We arrived bright and early on the Saturday morning, and didn’t have to wait long before we set off. Knowing we had just over 50k ahead of us, we stuck to our strategy of running down the hills, and walking up them, with an occasional jog along the flats.
I was very aware that I was under-trained and inexperienced over this distance, but it was still hard not to run at times! Over the course of the first day, we enjoyed the scenery, talked about lots of random topics, including cats, running events, and life in general, and Andrea and I ate lots at the aid stations (these were absolutely amazing!). We then arrived at the iconic field that is often in the pictures advertising RTTS, so took a few pics, but there was also a photographer at the top of the hill. He was very jolly and took lots of pictures, but also randomly started to talk to someone called ‘Nish’… Well, we all thought he was talking to the man next to us, and just laughed it off. However, a few miles later, some spectators asked me if my name really was ‘Nish’, and it was at this point we realised my t-shirt was covered up by my hydration-vest, leaving just the ‘Nish’ of ‘Finish’ visible! Hence, I was actually the ‘Nish’ that the photographer was referring to!
A lesson for me to always check the writing on my tops before heading out for a long run!! Arriving at base camp was a relief, and I was certainly very grateful for the blow up mattress, duvet and pillows in our wigwam, as well as the lovely (if slightly warm) G&T that awaited us. After a good feed, and a few drinks, we settled down for the night, ready for another early start. Day 2 arrived with a few more clouds and cooler temperatures, which was a welcome relief. Again we maintained our strategy of running downhill, and walking the rest of the time, all whilst putting the world to rights. As our pictures show, we had a blast!
My husband had arranged to stay with his friend in Swindon and suggested we meet at Burbury Castle on day 2. Looking at the map it looked like this was about half way through the route, so we estimated we would be there between 11 and 12. However, it soon became apparent that we wouldn’t get there until much later, so I assumed he would miss us, and head back. By this time, we had passed the 75km mark, and Alison’s blisters were starting to play up, so we were looking to sort them out at the next pit stop (number 9). However, before we reached this point, I spotted some cyclists ahead waiting at a gate – my boys!!! I ran down to greet them and was rewarded with some lovely hugs and kisses! Here we stopped to empty Alison’s back pack of all the sweets and chocolate we had collected, and of course these were devoured within minutes by my boys. My boys stayed with us until the aid station, opening all the gates for us, as well as a few of the other runners, who were very grateful.
After a short time stuffing our faces at Pit Stop 9, my support crew headed off (after upsetting many of the runners by shouting out ‘Only 6 miles to go!!’, and we carried on. Of course, it did start to get tough, and there were some really narrow and rocky paths to navigate, but we finally neared the ‘Stones’ and were able to run down towards the finish. This was a fantastic feeling, and I even managed to get a flying feet photo just before the line. All in all, RTTS was a fantastic event, so well organised with great aid stations, and of course, excellent company! I’m looking forward to doing Race to the King next year, and am excited to be part of the ‘three amigos’ in many of my forthcoming events!”
Alison Jones – “100k From Watlington to Avebury I came across this race earlier in the year and thought it sounded “interesting” so I asked Andrea if she fancied entering. Speaking to Sharon I learned that she too had entered along with Run to the King in June with Jackie Brighton, but Jackie could not run therefore they deferred their places to next year, but since Andrea and I were in this one, I said to Sharon, why not join us and we will do it together, thus the 3 amigos were formed. I know I am always moaning about having to get up really early for some of these events, but this one wins hands down, so at 03.30hrs I crawled out of bed, we had booked parking at the finish and were taking the shuttle bus to the start.
We were booked on the 06.30 shuttle but arrived early so got on the 06.00 shuttle, just as well as the traffic was heavy and it took longer than expected to get there, just enough time to use the loo’s, get changed and dump our bags then we were off. To say we were well prepared would be an understatement, Sharon has been on limited running due to injury, although Andrea managed 13 laps at endure she had been tapering since. I had been running a lot but mainly club runs and 10ks – were we prepared for 50k back to back? Of course we were! Before we left on this epic adventure I had broken down the route into the distance between pit stops (as the aid stations were called – tuck shops would have been more appropriate) and that was part of our master plan just run from pit stop to pit stop the longest distance being 7.8 miles.
We aimed to be walking the hills and running the downslopes and flat (where possible) but always running into the pit stops where Andrea ate her body weight in water melon, just as a starter, the volunteers were fabulous as was the selection of food / crisps / fruit / chocolate and drinks, even the portaloos were in a pretty good condition. Andrea’s love of water melon seemed to be conveyed to each pit stop since they started meeting us half way up the track with trays of the stuff, I think they were calling ahead to say Andrea is coming! The weather was very hot on Saturday, which does not suit me, being Scottish I am more at home up to my knees in snow or fighting my way through a gale (that’s a Scottish summer I am taking about).
So my feet started to complain, with only 10 miles to go until the end of day we ploughed on, I thought I could sort them out back at base camp, so on “Nish” Andrea and I went. Having planned this like a military campaign we had already sorted out who was bringing the Gin & Tonic and who was on wine duty so that was our impetus to get to the finish of the first day. We arrived at basecamp to great fanfare and saw a sea of green one man tents, but since we had upgraded to a wigwam we went about finding this, luggage unpacked, shower taken, blisters plastered and Gin & Tonic’s drunk we went off in search of food, which for mass catering was pretty good. Then a good night’s sleep on our blow up beds with a plan to be on the road for 06.30 the next morning, the biggest decision we had was what to wear since it was overcast and a bit on the chilly side so obviously we went for shorts and vests.
Although Sharon had applied blister plasters to my heels I was still feeling pretty sore when we set off, but with only 50k to go I knew I had to get on with it, they were at their best either when I was running or going uphill, so I did get some relief, but this leg contained very Stoney roads, which were a bit precarious to run on, who wants a twisted ankle at this late stage, but every time I stood on a stone it caused further agony. We decided at this point that before we started running we would all let out a moan, it didn’t help much but it was funny. The end was in sight, we made it to the stones, learned a lot about each other and how much we have in common, put the world to rights, kept each other going, provided the world with a shortage of water melons and had the best experience imaginable.
We crossed the finish line hand in hand, to end a fabulous weekend with 2 amazing women. Amazing we came 288/725 so not too bad and even with my shredded feet I came 5/18 in my age group, so just goes to show you it pays to be old. We even heard a joke: 4 people on an aeroplane which is about to crash and there is only 3 parachutes, the first guy says I am a professional basketball player and lots of people depend on me, so he took a parachute and jumped out, then Donald Trump said I am the President of the free world, I am a super intelligent guy and everybody loves me, he then took a parachute and jumped out, that left The Pope and an 11 year old boy, The Pope says I am an old man and have lived a good life, whereas you are a young boy with your whole life in front of you, you take the parachute, but the boy says there are 2 parachutes left, one for each of us, that super intelligent guy took my backpack.”
Wow. Quite the weekend, what an achievement from the three ladies, the three amigos, the three musketeers, whatever you want to call them, one thing you have to say is that they’re incredible runners! Well done guys, I hope you treated to yourself to a well earned bath and a drink when you got home!