Chiltern Challenge – 50km of Fun
by Alex Killick
Many people have said to me that they couldn’t do it and early last year I would have agreed with them. I mean I could hardly run 5K at the beginning of 2016 let alone 50K. Mr K did his first 50K towards the end of last year and that got me thinking. I like the idea of smaller more relaxed events and so when I found out about the Chiltern Challenge I thought maybe I would give it a go, then it appeared on the list for the club off-road series and I knew I had to do it!
So training wise I had no plan – I just started running more, going out for hours and getting lost, stressing about everything and anything and taking too many photo stops.
I had a few niggles with my knee which I won’t bore you with but started having physio a few weeks before the race – the problems aren’t going to stop me running its more a long term management thing but the week before the race I was told I have weak calf muscles and quads, it truly is a wonder I can walk let alone run! (glutes still to be tested but I am reckoning they are the only thing holding me up!)
I started a new job 2 weeks before the race which kind of enforced tapering and helped distract me (or double the stress) from what was to come. The week before I started to feel rubbish and every niggle stressed me out but that’s normal pre-race paranoia, right?
Anyway race day arrives, not too early a start but feeling sick and just wanting to get on with it. It was cold and raining a little so I panicked and decided to wear my running jacket – which of course came off after 10mins running and stayed tied round my waist for the rest of the run. My sunglasses also stayed on top of my head the whole time! Although it rained a little and the sun never really made it out it was perfect conditions.
There were 3 start times – 8am for the walkers, 9am for runners and 10am for Elite (under 6hrs). I started at 9am alongside Mark and David started at 10am.
There was a race briefing and then we were off – this is the part where it all becomes a bit of a blur so I will do my best. The first couple of km were slow – a combination of number of people, narrow paths, stile, steps and hills. For those that did the Ashridge HM a couple of weeks earlier there were similar steps. What happened for the next 7 1/2 hours was roughly this – I ran, walked when the hills were just a little too much, aimed for feed stations every 10k with a gel every 5k in between so mentally I was just running 5ks, made sure I drank plenty and tried not to fall over. The time actually flew past. The first feed station I spent too long at as there was a toilet and I thought I had to use it as there may not be another one! The second feed station David caught up with me which unsettled me a bit as he had said that he would probably catch me much further on, I was also feeling a little unwell but the next 10k were much easier and it felt like I ran much more and faster. By feed station 3 I felt good though the next 10k were a little tougher – stiles were getting harder to climb over and I was losing the ability to open gates! The last feed station was about 12k from the last and that extra 2k made all the difference – I was starting to wonder if I had missed it! Finally it appeared and coke never tasted so good! So now it was the home stretch. My Garmin had died by now but I was using Strava on my phone, unfortunately when I last looked at my Garmin there was about a 2k difference from my phone so in reality I had no idea how far I had to go. I text David to let him know I was getting closer. Towards the end there was a steep decent that involved more steps – impossible to run down with my wobbly tired legs! Then it was open fields and in the distance I saw a sign – 1Km to go! I was a little disappointed as I thought I was going to make it under the 7 ½ hours but as I ran that last kilometre David appeared to encourage me on to the end. I finally saw the finishing line and Mark had also hung around to cheer me on (thank you!). 07:35:53 and it was done! Looking back I don’t think there was any point during the event that I thought I wouldn’t finish, no wall, no physical issues that could have stopped me so I guess I must have prepared pretty well, though there is always room for improvement and I am planning to do another ultra in the future.
The organisation of the event was great and although they handed out maps at the start there really was no need as the route was well marked and easy to follow. The food supplied at each stop was great and there was plenty tea and cake afterwards. A nice touch was being given a certificate to mark my 1st ultra. It really is a lovely route with over 1000m of climbing though I spent a lot of time looking at the ground trying not to trip over!
Finally, I just want to sneak in a big thank you to David, our girls, Mark and everyone who has supported/encouraged me through this – it wasn’t easy but it was never impossible!