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Cotswolds “100 mile run” – Paul Reynolds – 9th to 12th June 2017

http://www.100milerun.com/cotswold-way-challenge/cotswold-challenge/

I chose to enter this event for a number of reasons:

  1. as one of a number of events this year to mark turning 40.
  2. I wanted use this year’s events to “go from A to B and see the country”, rather than doing long distances over laps.
  3. 2 years earlier I had tried to mountain bike some of the Cotswolds Way, but realised it was very bike unfriendly. It often stopped being bridleways turning suddenly into footpaths with no MTB right of way, stiles, steps and bike blocking gates. I realised if I want to complete it end to end, it had to be on foot.

 

DAY ONE (Chipping Campden to Hailes) - 17 miles

I caught an event organised coach from Bath to Chipping Campden after having spent the previous night in a lovely comfortable Air BnB, to where I would hopefully also return in 4 days time!

After registering, sorting kit out and the briefing, we were released at midday in small groups from the start line from Chipping Campden. This event isn’t a “race”, so there was no official chip timing etc. Checkpoints were there just to ensure we hadn’t got lost etc.

Although it wasn’t a mass start (to reduce impact on the town), it was a fair procession through to the first checkpoint, until after which we gradually started to break up into smaller groups over the distance. We ran through agricultural land and open hills to Broadway Tower (2nd highest point along the trail) and then Broadway town.

Along the way I bumped into Jamie McDonald (http://www.jamiemcdonald.org/) who I recognised at registration. Jamie was also entered along with a few of his friends and his Dad. I recognised him from following his challenge of running Canada coast to coast unsupported, dressed up in a Flash superhero suit! Awesome guy, and we caught up a few more times over meals and drinks over the next few days.

It was a glorious long descent down into Hailes fruit farm were we camped in warm sunshine.

Approx time: 3 hrs 36

 

DAY TWO (Hailes to Cranham) - 30 miles.

After breakfast we ran over Cleeve common and Cleeve Hill, past Cheltenham and its racecourse. We then enter a woodland section, with occasional open hillsides such as Coopers Hill, the home of the annual Gloucester Cheese rolling event.

Along the way I thought I recognised someone out for a run going the opposite way… but wasn’t quite sure. So as we crossed, I called “Chrissie?!”, to which she replied “Yes!” and we passed! So turned out to be Chrissie Wellington (http://www.chrissiewellington.org/) 4 time Ironman World champion. Not the most in depth conversation, and I don’t think either of us really wanted to stop so she could sign my shoes (like Non Standford 🙂 !! ) After coming across a few more runners and then chatting to one, I realised they were taking part in the Race to the Tower double marathon, and I’d seen Chrissie first as she was leading. Turned out not to be the best laid plans, 2 large running events going opposite ways on a narrow footpath in places on the same day!

It seemed an endless run on to the runner’s village at Cranham, a scouts camp. I just managed to get the tent up before it started to rain, and it was good to get into the scouts building for some hot food and company.

The blisters were starting to kick in now, and I was very grateful to the medics who took on the unpleasant job of draining blisters in field conditions, one of many times over the weekend, not just for myself but for a number of other people who were a lot worse off with infected blisters and chaffing than myself!

That evening there was a talk by Anna McNuff (https://annamcnuff.com/) who ran unsupported from South to North coasts of New Zealand, and happened also now to be Jamies girlfriend through their shared  love of adventuring. Another inspirational character… also surprised us by stripping off unveiling her “Pants of Perspective”, which she called upon at a particular low point having crossed endless rivers, being days away from any form of civilisation and then unfortunately fracturing her ankle. (Now available as a book! See https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072N9H3LN). Compared to what Jamie and Anna had done, our 100 miler seemed like a walk in the park, literally, and we had no excuses!

Approx time: 7hrs 30 mins  

 

DAY THREE (Cranham to Wotton-under-Edge) - approximately 26 miles.

We continued southwards, passing through the towns of Painswick and Ebley and the halfway point of the trail.

I initially overtook a runner soon after the start, but we leapfrogged a couple of times and ended up just running together. I spotted his IM tattoo on his leg, and turned out he wasn’t the “1 timer” I thought he might be. Rather had done 12! So I thought this would be a good person to get the end of the day with! His name was Michael and he was Swiss/French. We got on really well, and at any point where the conversation did run out, his house music which he was playing over his handheld speaker filled the gaps!

We had views of the River Severn estuary from Haresfield Beacon and Coaley Peak. At this point we could see the man-made tower called the Tyndale Monument on the distant horizon, which signalled the 1 mile marker to the final runner’s village.

As we went through Dursley, Michaels thoughts turned  to his prime objective, of where he could find a pub that would let him buy a pint to take away! He seemed quite shocked at how hard this was in the UK, and after numerous efforts (and pints downed!) he found somewhere. My concerns in the town focused more round restocking my empty Compeed stocks!

On familiar territory heading towards the Monument, I picked up the pace and left Michael and a few others we had picked up along the way, and made it onwards to the campsite. But wanting to show appreciation to Michael for the days entertainment throughout the whole day, I jogged back and picked him up 1 km before the finish.

Approx time: 8 hours

 

DAY FOUR (Wotton-under-Edge to Bath)  - approximately 34 miles.

Michael and I had loosely planned a final departure time of 0830 but I missed this by 20 mins packing up my gear. Michael was in a pre-erected tent, and the prospect of running the longest distance on the last day was slowing me down a little. I also decided to ditch most of my “mandatory” equipment I had been carrying for the previous 3 days, and reduce the amount of food I was carrying, relying on checkpoints more. This saved me several kilogrammes.

Having stayed nearby previously, I felt a little on familiar territory and it was good passing a farm house where I had stayed previously for a week. I soon overtook a group of 4 runners from York running club. They caught back up at checkpoints, and we spent a lot of the day leapfrogging. We passed through Alderley, Lower Kilcott, Hawkesbury, Horton, Little Sodbury, Old Sodbury, Tormarton, all of which could grace any postcard.

Thankfully the countryside started to flatten now, with open agricultural fields, before the long descent into Bath. The route passes the location of the Battle of Lansdown in 1643.

On the long downhill stretch to Bath, I thought I had finally dropped the 4 York runners and had some clear distance from them. It was quite crushing, when as I turned around in a grass field having a breather, they came out of no-where and caught me up. (I’m sure I ran a longer route, but they disagreed!) I admitted in the pub later that night that was the point the broke me, they said that was quite clear from my body language!

Having been warned about unnecessary routes in Bath, we decided to all run together to the Abbey. We were all very tired, and a group consensus seemed good insurance against taking a wrong path. However, after an initial mistake costing us some time and distance following the correct route (but unnecessary) back uphill, I got Google Maps out and we followed the arrows straight to Bath Abbey! The pace started to quicken again, and on the final turn to Bath Abbey there was a nice crowd cheering the 5 of us to the sunny finish line. I didn’t want to spoil the York Runners photos, so let them cross together. This spoilt my own finish a little as it was a little staggered. We had bonded a little over the day, and especially the last few hours, but I didn’t want to spoil their finish photo.

We then headed off to a pub and spent a couple of hours winding down and enjoying a few drinks before we headed off our different ways.

Approx time: 10 hours

 

Total distance – 107 miles

Overall time: 29 hours

 

Overall impression:

It’s a “low key, low impact” event. It helps keep entry costs low, but means some things were more “relaxed” (i.e. left to our own devices) than would be at other events.

Positives:

Great camping sites/facilities provided, food quality and quantity and we even had evening entertainment. Luggage was transported without issue. Having dedicated field medics on hand was reassuring and useful.

Areas for improvement:

Meal times weren’t well organised, we had 1 power extension with 4 sockets, and domestic 2 kettles which wasn’t great for a few hundred runners. (Our instructions were to carry a charged mobile phone which was switched on at all times… Powerpacks came in handy, but power was still needed.)

If I did do it again, I would probably pay to have a tent put up for me, as much as this hurts to pay £180 for this privilege. Alongside being a slower runner anyway, I always seemed be at a disadvantage. I was certainly one of the last people in, then having to put my tent up whilst others were eating. So after breakfast and taking the tent down, I was often one of the last to leave in the mornings, so again, last to arrive etc! Whist I was envious of those who were glamping at times, I did keep reminding myself they had paid some £400 for 3 nights in a posh and pre-erected tent!