Stort 30

Here’s how the conversation went in the car on the drive up to the Stort 30…

Here’s how the conversation went in the car on the drive up to the Stort 30…

PAUL: “What time are you aiming for?”

ME: “Anything sub 5 hours”…thinks for a moment…“but I think I’ll go out at 9 minute miles.  See how long I can hold on to the pace. That’ll be 4 and a half hours.”

PAUL: “Sounds good.”

And here’s the conversation about 10 miles into the race…

ME: “8 minutes 24; we’ve just done our slowest mile.”

PAUL: “Do you think you can keep this pace up?”

ME: “Who knows?”

The Stort 30 is a 30 mile ultra, starting in Bishop’s Stortford and running along the river (canal? navigation?) Stort for 15 miles before turning around and following your footsteps back to the start.  It’s flat, pretty, and billed as fast.

With a marathon PB in my legs this summer I therefore figured I’d have a crack at something fast.  There’s just one problem with that, 30 miles might sound not much more than 26 miles, but once those wheels have fallen off an extra 4 miles can take an awful long time.

So 10 miles in, running side by side where we can, or single file where the trail narrows, I’m still feeling strong; strong enough to make the “slowest mile” jibe at Paul.  Needless to say, the next mile is knocked out at 8:07 as we stream passed another group of runners.

And so it goes, along the canal, lots of locks, lots of narrow boats, definitely beautiful, but becoming repetitive.  We make the turnaround at what sounds like a Sunday afternoon Polish rave and retrace our steps, dodging the oncoming runners.  I take a brief wrong turn (how I don’t know as the course was really well marked), Paul pulls away, and finally, at the 18mile mark the pace takes its toll and my wheels fall off.  By 24 miles I’m staggering and by 26 miles any hope of sub 4 and a half hours is gone.

And those final 4 miles?  Well, they were a special kind of Hell made up of staggering like a drunkard, and generally feeling sorry for myself before finally settling into a shuffle which was mostly just leaning forward and trying to not fall on my face, until I entered the finishing field and crossed the line in 4 hours and fifty minutes.

So, under 5 hour goal achieved but there’s a real lesson here, which is decide a pace and stick to it. 9 minute miles I could’ve probably maintained, but 8:20 it turns out not, no matter how strong I felt at the beginning.

And the Stort 30?  A great race, highly recommended, and definitely one I’ll be returning to.



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