Monday 11 July 2011

Croydon Ultra 30+4 miles

So yesterday was my first ultra and the experience was mixed

The first 15 miles were brilliant, well marked and mapped out country side running south of Croydon- my kind of running.  I ran in a group with a guy I had met before at the Midsummer Munro, a guy from Marlow and a runner all the way from Washington DC (he hadn't come over specifically for the race!).  We chatted and kept the pace reasonable although relatively brisk.  Good times!  At the half way point I popped to the loo at the club house and was back on my way at just over 2 hours.

The second half was less brilliant.  The idea was you got onto a cycle path and took this all the way to Catford, but it wasn't that simple.  The route description was significantly less detailed for this section and there were no route markings apart from the cycle path signs.  It all went wrong when a group of about 4 of us couldn't work out which cycle path we were heading for.  We chose the wrong one and ended up on a route going round the houses which added another 3 or so miles on to the route.  We did manage to get back on route in the end after meeting up with a few more confused runners and a phone call to the organisors.  Things went relatively well after this point until the turn around/water station.  The problem- we couldn't find it!  We found it in the end, although wasted a lot of time and another mile or so in the process.  Speaking to other runners many gave up looking and turned around and managed to get some water from local pubs/residents and headed back.

At least, having found the turn around point I knew my navigation worries were over.  Unfortunately at this point the wheels fell off and felt pretty rubbish and could only manage a walk, run, shuffle combo.  Me and the guy from Marlow ran/walked together until we got caught by some other runners.  I just couldn't keep up with them but was determined not to let them out of sight.  After a couple of miles of run/walk/shuffle I was feeling better, if a little sick, and managed to pick up the pace to catch them up and in the end passed them.

So, what are the conclusions from this.  Getting lost was rubbish and very demoralising; I was not alone in this, but in the grand scheme of things it's not the end of the world.  Check out the magic forest's race report for a very similar experience.  What else?  I know, ahead of the 40 miler in August, that I can cover 34 miles; so with some further training to consolidate I should be able to cover 40 "no problems".  Despite feeling very grumpy when we were lost the atmosphere with the other runners and race organisers was great and I had fun (in general!!) across the race- especially in the first half. 

This was the first year of the Croydon Ultra, and there is certainly room for improvement.  I think it could be a really good race if they could sort out the route description and marking for the second half.  I think the route was maybe a little ambitious for the number of organisers/marshals available.  One option could be to make it two laps of the first 15, which whilst would make it a little repetitive and have more hills, would give them a lot more room to run a smoother race. I also thought it was a bit strange having both faster and slower runners setting off at the 8 o'clock and 9 o'clock starts.  By restricting the early start to just the slower runners would had more people running the route at the same time and in theory less chance of people getting lost.  Either way without people like Ian stepping up and organising races there wouldn't be any races- so well done on him for setting it up and I hope the event goes from strength to strength and becomes part of the South London running calender because there were many great aspects of the race and its organisation.

So the final result- a disappointing time of 5:54 but I came in at 7th, so I was pretty pleased with that, a second top 10 for the year!


  1. Simon
    I am really pleased that you came up with the same conclusions about the course as two loops of the first half would be a great, if challenging route. The race was definitely one of two half, hoppy bunnies in the first half, heroin addict's syringes on the second!
    I was really hoping for a sub 5 hour run but with all the time wasted looking for the way was irritating.
    Good luck with the training for August's run, where is it?

  2. Cheers Jerry, the 40 miler is UltraRace Peaks (in the Peak district finishing in Derby)