'THE WINTER 100 IS A 100 MILE CONTINUOUS TRAIL RACE BASED IN THE VILLAGE OF STREATLEY ON THE RIVER THAMES. THE COURSE REFLECTS THE SHAPE OF A CROSS AND TAKES RUNNERS ON A SERIES OF 4 DIFFERENT 25 MILE OUT AND BACK SPURS USING SECTIONS OF BOTH THE RIDGEWAY AND THAMES PATH NATIONAL TRAILS'
AID 8: Streatley
Sunday helps me outside change into my warmer jacket, gloves and swap batteries, as the SE07 headlight is already fading. I change carry bottles with a fresh coconut water. Helen is on her way to base, so I should see her on the return. Already 20 minutes has passed, so I say my goodbyes and head right on the high street following the pink tape this time.
Fortunately the Ridgeway is fresh in my memory, this summer, I ran the Race to the Stones and then a year ago the Oxfordshire Ridgeway along the same path. The steep uneven climbs, then steady descents start to really test my tired legs.
Nothing but large open fields, with a stronger wind chill blowing in, my buff is my saviour to protect my constant streaming nose. I listen to my ipod as a lift to help me through the lonely night. Feeling in the zone and running on auto-pilot. Already an hour in, the headlight is starting to dim, even on a 70% beam. I eat some nuts and check my olive oil I am carrying. It has chilled and gone too thick to drink in the cold. I have another S!Cap tablet with some coconut water.
Once up close to the A34, the track is very muddy in sections and the route markers are not so clear in the blackness. I can still remember the route and follow the track under the road then out onto the steady incline up towards Bury Lane. The wind comes in across the valley and all that can be seen is twinkling lights from Chilton, some miles away on the horizon.
Soon I can spot headlights approaching nearer, and it is into the marquee at the next stop.
Shortly, further up the track, Matt passes me on his return, then followed by David and Barry. My light is getting dimmer by the minute and soon enough it flashes on and off, before finally dying. I am plunged into complete blackness and thumble for the PETZL headlight. I didn't notice but it has already drained to very low and the beam is so faint I can barely see the track below. I aim the light straight to the floor and keep my head down climbing the last hill to the last check point on this spur. I can see the monument 'Battles of Inkerman and Arms' standing high up above, so I know am on the right track.
Two bright car lights beam down the track up ahead, just another mile or so and I spot that the lights are moving and these are actually from the team at Chain Hill. I can hear calling and clapping then eventually the team come into view.
AID 10: Chain Hill
(9:39 min/mile pace)
Thanking the support, for all the assistance. I head back down the hill, for the return back to base. The cold wind is not so bad now it is behind me. Again I find the headlight starting to fade. Within a few more miles and after the next stop at Bury Lane the light blinks, fades then dies... rather annoyed and frustrated with this, and no more power left in the PETZL, I decide to use my iphone torch, which surprisingly is very bright. Angled correctly, it guides the track very well. Luckily I always carry an ANKER back up battery with me on these events, and I still have more than half the juice left.
Soon enough, and feeling my body lifted from my beats, ironic that 'No Limit' and 'Stronger' shuffle round twice during this spur. I head down the small lane and back past Goring golf course then swing down onto the high street, where Helen is waiting with the camera, huge grin on her face!
I head on into base after running for 12 hours and 24 minutes. I am greeted by a loud cheer and applause, Nici checks in my number and congratulates me on how I am doing. Time to change my shoes into Merrell Trails and put on the SealSkinz socks for added warmth. I eat some more seeds, peanut butter, nuts and cheese. Sip some olive oil from my box supply and have a strong coffee. Another water refill, and I think I am ready to keep moving.
I see Helen and Sunday outside, thanking her for coming by and that will catch them both at Reading. This section is left again across the bridge then over the road, to the other side of the Thames Path route for the last 12.5 mile stretch before returning back again.
The path feels familiar from when I ran in the Thames Trot race and the only difference is it is the other direction. I leave the urban street lights behind me and I am plunged into darkness again. The grass is thick and frosty below, with the cloud low, creating a thick fog. I run close to a pair of runners, Eduard and David I think. We chat some before I head on, leading the way, 'Go get that sub 17 one calls back'.
The fog makes it very hard to see where to go, so the only way is to look to the ground and stay on the small track in the grass. The gates appear frequently and glow sticks are the guide. Eventually the fog lifts slightly and visibility improves.
Heading into a deep wood and then climbing over more tree roots and leaves, the terrain is tricky and the path very narrow in places. The drop by the path is steep down to the river so I stay close to the bank. I walk the hills, and really start to feel my legs crying with the stress of the day. It is the first time they really have felt tight. Starting to jog and pick up pace is very difficult after walking. My legs feel like wood... I remember the big steps when they approach, and I have to hold onto the support to walk down.
AID 13: Whitechurch
I head back onto the lane towards the bridge, go the wrong way, before noticing the other two runners going over the bridge, which is closed off to cars at the moment. It is a sharp left then back along the river before coming out into a housing estate. The turns to get out are here and there, and rather confusing, but it is clearly marked with tape.
Sunday has my trusty Silver Trail headtorch, so I use him as my guide. My legs are stiff as a board and it takes a good 20 minutes for them to loosen up. I am shaking like a leaf with the cold and it is a while before I feel warmed up. Sunday keeps talking to distract me from feeling the cold. I hear about the day and all the amazing support from running friends and my running group. My sister and parents have been following my Runkeeper and the live feed on Centurion.
Just a quick stop into Whitechurch aid station, I have a few pieces of dark chocolate washed down with some strong coffee, it tastes good as it melts in my mouth. I am really not sure if the sugar will lift me any, this late in the race, as I am just visualising the finish in my head. My legs are done!
I can see some houses and the odd light come into view. 'This is it' says Sunday, you done it. I am so pleased inside, but my quads are screaming at me to stop! The familiar bridge is nearby and we pick up some pace. I head up the road and back on the high street, Sunday is right behind me and starts to clap. Over the bridge then around the corner and back up to base. Helen is waiting and cheers us on. I walk inside to a great welcome of applause and congratulations!
I feel great and buzzing to finish a 100 miles for the second time this year.
I receive my one day buckle and tee from James. Fellow Bosh runner Darren is waiting here for Shawn, to pace him out on the final spur. We chat and eat before thanking everyone for all the great support and great team work they have done to see us through to the finish.
8th position 18:17:51
I would like to pay special thanks to Sunday, Helen, my friends and family for their continuous support and encouragement. Thank you for believing in me.
A huge thanks to Nici, Brigitte, Alma, Tim, James, Robbie, Paul and all the team and volunteers for making the Winter 100 a great success.
See you next year!
Sharon Law 18:44:09
90 runners towed the start and 69 runners completed the event.