The Winter Tanners 31mile ultra was something totally new to me. Organised by the LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) this was unlike any event I had ever done before.
Set up for walkers but invites runners the route is unmarked and all participants are given ramblers instructions which to me may well have been written in another language. There are no mile markers on the course, guidance tape, medals at the end or anything you would normally expect from a running event. But as it met the criteria for the 100 marathons club this went down as number 22 for me.
An example below is an excerpt of the instructions. I think there were three pages of this:
Leave start and cont straight ahead across car park & up FP, with APPLIED PHOTOPHYSICS on R. Keep ahd on RD with 3-SPACE (grey building) on R. TR on pavement, by STOP sign, & cont ahd, WITH CARE, passing security hut & MAGNET on R. Keep ahd under 2 bridges & TR onto WATERWAY ROAD. Cont ahd, crossing MILL LANE, WITH CARE, & follow pavement under bridge to cross RD at pelican crossing. TL along pavement under bridge & immed TR & cont ahd on pavement with RD on L. As RD swings R cross RD, WITH CARE, & cont ahd on FP with FiPo on L & LEISURE CENTRE on R. When tarmac ends TR on XTK (FiPo HAWKS HILL). In 275Y ahd over railway & waterworks drive, & cont ahd on RH path across grassy area (shortcutting BW). Join TK from L & swing R uphill. At top of field FL & keep ahd to go thru gap in hedge & TL on BW. In 650Y cross busy RD (A246) WITH GREAT CARE & along drive opp, past gate. In 45Y TR on BW, parallel to drive. At the end TL on TK & keep ahd over drive to pass carpark on R. (1.8M)”
Yep, I had no idea. The only advantage I did have is that this starts in my local town of Leatherhead and costs a mere £10 to enter so I had to give it a go. I was able to memorize the first 6 miles of this one as I knew the route but after I was clueless and too lazy to keep on with the instructions. This is fine but you have to rely on keeping up with others and clinging on, hoping they are not as lazy!!
My experience of this was rain, mud and cold. I started off dodging the puddles and the mud baths but 6 miles, clinging on to a barbed wire fence to dodge the mud whilst a runner ran straight through it probably thinking what on earth I was doing I realised I was wasting my time.
The walkers on this route were amazing and properly kitted out for the job. Some of them were as fast as me attempting to run the route. To be honest I looked ridiculous turning up in my running gear for this. It’s not a route that can be run easily with copious hill climbs and steep descents.
In the end a race I thought could be done and dusted in around 4.5 to 5 hours took a grueling 7hrs 16 minutes. All of it in the rain, mud and ice.
I got home, apologised for the amount of time I had been out and the amount of mud I had bought home. The twins (at four months) were rocking away in their bouncers but I could tell it had been a tough day for all.
To this day I will always recall this race as being a tough one purely for the insane conditions.
This race will always have mud. Its held in January but it did build up some serious experience points for me. I now no longer care about the state of the terrain on runs
Get to know the abbreviations used in the race directions. Saves time having to revert to the blimin glossary each time.
Maybe best to do it with friends