Country to Capital 45: My third Ultra marathon event

The Shoulder Mutton pub at Wendover, Hampshire is my meeting point today for the Country to Capital cross country run organised by GoBeyond, finishing in Little Venice, London Paddington. 

07:40: It is still very dark with fine rain and sleet blowing through the village. I head to the registrations desk inside. Lots of runners are already sat eating bacon rolls and drinking tea.

I collect my tech t-shirt and race pack, I head over to the chip desk. I am number 8 and match my chip to my corresponding number. Number pinned, I take a look at the route map supplied and keep it safe in a clear bag.

I take my bag to the baggage van, to be transported to the finish – this is one of the services offered by GoBeyond for Ultra runners, as logistics are not that easy. 

I hear the 8:14 train to Wendover is delayed by ten minutes so we may have a later start than 8:30 scheduled. The temperatures will reach a maximum of 3C with -3C wind chill up to 24mph in London today.

Buff, hat and gloves essential in 3C temperatures!

Outside is brighter, the rain and sleet has stopped, but the harsh wind is cold to the core.  I keep my buff wrapped right over my mouth and nose.

Waiting to start

“20 minutes!” I hear announced, so I check all my belongings are ready, and Garmin set. I hug the folks and mingle into the front start area. We stand at the road side waiting patiently.

08:39:  Countdown begins.... and then the front of the pack sprint off fast down the high street. I follow trying not to get caught up with the crowd and concentrate on staying at my comfortable pace, which is a steady pace of 8:30min/mile. The group head through a short alley then onto a shingle path reaching the Ridgeway that is the Chiltern link route.

We encounter puddles and thick, deep, mud beneath. Over fields and a stile or two before heading uphill past a farm.

A chap recognises me from my Twitter. We ask each other how things are going then he spots one his buddies from behind, so I head on watching my grip through the mud. 

I approach another stile, climb over and slip as I jump into the mud. I speed up around the field following the group up front, then through a gate at the end of the field. By now we have passed Lee Common on the map and begin to descend onto the trail, under some trees and then out onto very deep, muddy track.  

The route begins to climb along the hedgerow until we reach the top that opens onto a road marked Herbert's Hole on the map. As we go into another field I see a face I recognise, yet cannot place.  He is tying his laces and eventually catches up with the group and says “Hey Luke, looking strong I see" it is James from Centurion. “Hey James, yeah, how you doing? You know the route, right?”

“Well, yes but I am not so sure about those guys upfront” he laughs.  I wish him well and focus on the route ahead.  I met James Elson when I volunteered at the North Downs Way 50 back in August. I have two of his events planned this year. James is a very experienced elite runner in the Ultra family, he runs and hosts some of the top races throughout the country.

The lane heads back downhill, passed many farms along the way with names such as Little Padnor, The Highlands, Little Friars and so on.  I settle into a comfortable pace around 7:45min/mile and seem to have a small group of four to six runners around me.  I can hear their conversation about upcoming  races such as 100 milers and talk of previous events. 

Once the road bends to the right we carry on back up the Chiltern link trail. Up a steep climb and across another stile, I can see a group up ahead from here. It suddenly feels very cold with the biting wind hitting my body. The grass is thick in places so it feels heavy on my quad muscles as I tread.

Two spectators are cheering us up the hill and I smile, thanking them as I pass, while checking to ensure it is the correct direction.  The road leads downhill and I can see the next town below, which is the location of the first check point. People shout, cheer and clap the closer we get. I see the Ultra flag. This must be Chesham. My chip tag flashes red as I reach the table.

09:46:  One hour 5 minutes have passed and reached 7.5 miles. I take a Gu gel lime flavour that is handed to me and a bottle water. The support team take my number down. I send some texts then I tuck the phone away and have the gel, thanking the support team as I leave. Already a dozen or so runners have come flying through the check point. I head on around the corner and over a junction, careful of traffic. 

The route heads under a bridge then onto a playing field where kids are playing football. I follow the group through a track at the back of the pitch, which follows a stream. I continue to catch up with the group in front and covering good time at a pace of 7:45-8:00min/mile.

The trail continues by the River Chess leading over a bridge and onto the Chess Valley trail. The terrain is a combination of wet red leaves and mud, but soon the route will be just pavement into London.

We pass plenty of country houses and farm lands and I settle into my zone. I am in a group of about six and the runner upfront seems to know where he is going. I am putting all my trust into him right now, although still checking the map too.

I make small talk but the ‘navigator’ speaks little English. I am not sure he understands much other than ‘this way’ ‘left’ ‘right’ ‘forward’. We continue  through the streets.

Now we are in the village of Chorleywood East.  I can see a guy on the fence taking pictures and think it must be a photographer. But he is using his phone… As I get closer he looks familiar. It’s our friend Will from London. He shouts out: “Well done Luke” then something else but I cannot place what.  I wave and reply “Hey Will!” pleasantly surprised to see him.  I check my Garmin and see that we are just over 15.5 miles so checkpoint 2 must be soon.

Will's photo of me at Hayes.

A runner from the group behind catches up and asks who that guy was, he tells me Will said I am currently in 12th place. Wow! I was expecting to be around 20th position or so.  The other runner is very pleased with the news.  

We see a photographer on this lane so I smile and thumbs up when I pass him. I can see what looks to be a pub up ahead. Mum and Dad should be here.

Approaching Checkpoint 2
11:08:  Two hours 27 minutes on the clock and I’m at 17.5 miles. I spot the folks and then the table with the scanner, wave my chip, grab a bottle of water and start drinking. I take some Gu gels - chocolate flavour this time. 

Chatting to mum at Checkpoint 2
Dad taking pictures and mum comes over. I give her a hug and she asks how I am feeling. She says “Have a little rest now eh?” Bless her, she does make me laugh. I will have to rest once I have finished, I reply. I assure her I feel good and no niggles. A mother’s job is never done! I text my partner Sunday and ask dad to keep sister Sam up to date. I hug them both and tell them I will see them this evening.

Mum: "Have a rest now, eh?"
I make my way over the road to the few runners that have just left and follow them down the street. Within minutes the lane goes round to the left and I can hear traffic, it opens onto a bridge and I can see this is the M25. I see a big signpost for Berkshire. After the bridge the next track is on the right. The lane eventually meets a road and its right onto Tilehouse Lane.  I have managed to keep up with the navigator and a runner all in blue.  

Another running buddy who has been back and forth with my pace is not far behind. I see an Army helicopter from over the field and climbing fast over our heads.

This must be Denham Aerodrome and the village coming up soon.  The road leads through Denham Green village and then past the church. I can see a runner cutting through the church grounds and follow him.  I then realise that this cannot be the way as it’s off the road.  

I quickly make my way up the path, back onto the road and see the first lady going past. I stay at her pace for the time being and ask if she is well. She smiles and says ‘Yes, feeling good.’

There is something very therapeutic running at the same pace with another person without the need for any conversation. Our way of communication is with just every step.

I remember my second Brighton marathon in the last 4 miles, a young student paced with me. He sped up, then so did I, I sped up and then he followed and so on. No words were spoken.  Then the last mile he sprinted to get his victory!  At the end we hugged and he thanked me for taking him to the finish. I told him 'you did that all on your own my friend’

The other runners up ahead seem to be heading over a small bridge onto a golf course. I can see the navigator so speed up to reach him. We cross a few main roads with caution and then carry on the trail ahead.

The road goes down past residential houses and we find the railway line with a bridge overhead and the station steps underneath. This is Denham station.

Once through the tunnel, past a school field, through Denham and onto the South Bucks Way. I can see on the map that we are close to Uxbridge and the Grand Union Canal, so this is where the route stays straight literally to the finish. The fun has just ended for me as I suffer badly pounding the pavements.

Photo credit:
Oh well keep at it, 7:50min/miles on average and I thank the navigator when passing, not sure he comprehends or hears as he has his music in his ears. He is smiling. I can see larger buildings and hear traffic so the Canal is getting close. Soon enough the signs on the track are The Grand Union Canal and along the water edge, a very long stretch past Uxbridge and then into Cowley where checkpoint 3 will be.

Many barge boats on both sides, some small, some that appear to be homes. The smells of cooking drifting into my path along the way. I can hear a mixture of trumpet-like sounds coming from the few swans in the canal. I slow my pace to jog around the swans sat on the bank.

I can see a few watchers and they clap and shout ‘Well done mate!’ when I pass them. My feet are starting to feel the cold.  Although my Seal Skinz socks provide waterproof protection they can’t keep all the cold out once my shoes are wet. My soles feel tender and the few miles on pavement already create discomfort in my aching muscles and feet.

I am hungry and feel myself flagging, so I have a seeded stack bar followed by another Gu gel. I past Uxbridge Moor, then 40 minutes later I can spot the check point flag in the distance just before the next bridge.

12:25:  Spectators and supporters clap and cheer as I approach the aid station. I scan my chip. My Garmin says 3:40 and 26 miles covered. ‘Well done’ the support girls say.  ‘Water, electrolyte tablets, jelly babies? Help yourself.’

I take some water and then refill my Camelbak with help. 

Another two guys arrive. In the time I have been here, which is not long, I count about five runners check-in plus the first lady. Everyone is in and out quickly as they all head back onto the path. I text Sunday and my sister.  

I drink some electrolytes and take a caffeine Gu gel for later. I open my bag to get out some 9bars and slice of Adukichocolate brownie I made up before the race.

I thank the team and eat the chocolate brownie as I walk on. I can feel a tight discomfort then a pain down the right side of my leg, by the knee.  It feels like ITBS* (Iliotibial Band Syndrome). 

I finish my brownie and lean onto the fence at the side of the path. I stretch and use a technique I learnt to put the left foot crossed over my right and keep my legs straight, bending down and touching my toes until I can feel a pull and stretch. I stay like this for a good minute. The pain is still there and I can only hobble slowly. Ouch. I have to slow to a walk again.

DNF (did not finish) is the first that springs to mind. I decide to give it a few minutes and try again. I do the touching toes stretch again. Then try a plod, ouch, hmmm painful, I keep going at an attempt of a trot, if you can call it that. I am sore, aching, and now hurting.

A few minutes of pain persists, then a dull ache and my limping stops. I get my pace back into a jog then up to a 9:30min/mile. The dull discomfort is there, but it is bearable. No pain now, so I am happy to continue slowly. I have very rarely suffered from ITBS so this is a new one on me.

I am managing a 9:00min/mile now. It’s rather dull this area with just walls and lines of trees on the other side. I can spot a few spectators taking pictures up ahead and it looks like Sunday from here.  I get closer and see it is him, and Will cheering “Come on Luke, keep going!”  

I smile on seeing them. “Well done!” he says as we hug, before he pushes me off saying, “Go, go, go on! Keep going, don’t stop!”  I wanted to stay longer. “30 minutes behind first place, well done!” Will shouts after me. “Thanks Will” I call back.  I can feel a tear as I leave. I have a big grin on my face and it was just the lift I needed. 

The discomfort has left my leg and I feel in good spirits again. 

28.50 miles on my Garmin. I can see the first lady in sight as we approach the small bridge with the sign ‘Paddington 13.5 miles’ to the left. We take the track to the left after the bridge. The bank here is grassy but very muddy in places, some relief for me and I can rest my feet for this stretch.

From the Canal up ahead I can spot the runner all in blue, and a few others further in front. I am keeping a steady pace at the moment and it is still a struggle to pick up any more speed. I feel like I am going at a snail pace. Every small incline and bridge feels like a mountain, I am practically crawling over the next bridge.

Keeping my head down and my pace at 8:15min/mile, I am now running alone. I have overtaken the runner in blue. I see a photographer snapping away ahead. I have a blackcurrant Gu gel and a 9bar followed by water to see if that can give me a little push.

Soon enough I feel a bit better. The next aid station is in sight under the next bridge. As I approach I make sure my wristband chip is visible and scan it once approaching.

I am greeted by a sweet lady who asks what I need and how I am feeling. I text Sunday to say thank you for being there.

13:20: Four hours 38 minutes and 32.76 miles covered by now. I have a bottle of water and drink it all in one. I take another chocolate Gu gel and then chat briefly to the spectators next to me. They say ‘Big well done’ to me and are in awe of how I am still running and looking fresh.

I thank the sweet lady and say my goodbyes. The first lady shoots past the check point at this stage so I carry on along her side for a while. I feel the need for fuel again so have the Gu gel. I see signs that Paddington is 9 miles away, so that must be close to the finish area in Little Venice.

I still struggle to keep my pace at 8:30min/mile, with my tired overworked legs. I see a runner ahead that I can never seem to catch up.

13:40:  Five hours have ticked by and past Perivale on the map and I can see the next check point in Alperton will be approaching soon. A few minutes later and out of nowhere checkpoint 5 is at an opening to the pathway. I quickly stop and so does the first lady within seconds behind me. I see me chip flashes.

14:00:  The lady here checks my number and takes my time down.  I have been running for 5 hours 19 minutes covering 37.13 miles. I drink another bottle of water and feel fuelled enough. The first lady has already left. I can feel my right leg ache again from standing still. I thank the team and head off.

Ouch, that familiar discomfort. I stop to stretch, rubbing the area. I drink some more water and attempt at a jog.  I feel it easing off as I warm up and get back into my pace. I WILL finish this race today... I keep telling myself.

Over a steep slope on a bridge ahead, my legs feel like I am lifting lead weights. 

I see signpost with Old Oak Common and Kensal Town.  From the distance I can see the first lady picking up pace and she is a good 45 seconds or more ahead of me. I couldn't possible catch up, besides she deserves to come before me. This girl is a machine and is so inspiring to watch. I look forward to seeing her at the finish.

10 minutes or so pass as the Canal gets narrower. And the route more urban. The clapping and cheering from up above and over bridges is a sign that the finish is close. I see a sign for Paddington 1 ¾ mile ahead. I try with all my strength to push faster forward but my legs won’t pick up any quicker.

The closer I get to the end the more flow of people and spectators I can see. I hear someone shout, ‘Well done, almost there!’ Joggers stop and clap as I pass them on the canal path. This is it, almost there...

Photo credit: Richer Sea Photography
14:49: I can now see Will and Sunday clapping and taking pictures from up the steps. ’Well done guys, come on Luke. Whoop!’ I hear Sunday shout and another ‘Well done!’ from Will as I run past them both. Under another bridge and then I can see the finish sign finally. Yes I did it. 

I finished my third Ultra marathon event.

I walk up to meet Sunday and Will, hugging them both. They ask how I am feeling. I collect my medal. I am 10th in my age category, but will have to wait for official results for overall.

My Garmin says 42.97 miles.

Sunday goes to meet my sister Sam who is trying to locate us. I see the first lady sat in a camping chair, I congratulate her. She is beaming and hugs me with a big smile, saying thank you. 

I go to fetch my bag from the van. My sister arrives as I come back and she is so annoyed she missed my finish. I tell her not to worry and that she is here now so that is the main thing. 

Sunday and Sam help me to cover up with the warm clothes in my bag. They help me add a fresh pair of toe socks over the pair I have on. I bag the wet muddy trail shoes and put on my sandals for comfort. 

We head into the Waterside Cafe long boat in front of us for hot drinks and to warm up as I cannot stop shivering.  Sunday and Sam have the lovely job of massaging my feet and toes as they are so numb I cannot feel them. ‘Support crews really have the best jobs, so glamourous!’ Sam jokes.

I finished in 6:09:00 and in 12th place overall, 10th for my age category.  I am delighted with my result and feel hopeful for the 100 mile event in March. The first lady Zoe came in 10th place in 6:08:01.

Click here for Results.

I would like to thank:
GoBeyond for organising a great day. Big thank you to my support crew mum and dad for driving me to the event and seeing me off, and my clever sister Sam for arranging all the race logistics and the drive back home. 

I am always grateful to my Bosh-Run group for all their continued support and well wishes at all my events, it means a lot. Then finally my partner Sunday for being the most understanding individual any one could ask for, supporting and being behind me 110% every day and always.

Run Free

Ultra Luke 

*ITBS is one of the leading causes of lateral knee pain in runners. The iliotibial band is a superficial thickening of tissue on the outside of the knee, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee, and inserting just below the knee. The band is crucial to stabilising the knee during running, moving from behind the femur to the front while walking. The continual rubbing of the band over the lateral femoral epicondyle, combined with the repeated flexion and extension of the knee during running may cause the area to become inflammed. 


  1. Nice report Luke. Good to meet you at the weekend, we definitely went a longer way early on as I had to push on a fair bit to catch up people I was running with before. All good fun though :)

    Looked like you were running well when I saw you on the canal and a solid result too. I will most likely catch you at another race this year. Take it easy!

    1. Like wise! Great strong finish from you speedy! Yeah catch up with you very soon! Happy training!

  2. It’s a blog with full of latest and spectacular information’s – This blog has helped me to gain much more information. I would like to appreciate the blog owner for his efforts residential lift

    1. Thank you Artico Homelifts for you kind words. Great to know my adventures can help others achieve their's too!

      Ultra Luke

  3. Great blog Luke as I am doing my first ultra in 2 weeks,especially interested in fueling

  4. Replies
    1. Great stuff Colin! Best of luck and enjoy it. I'm not running it this year. Just some training runs until the next Ultra


Please add your comments here. I would like to encourage discussion on running, training and nutrition. Luke