The Royal Parks Ultra: Part 1Matt Griffiths
Friday, 12 October, 2012
It was still dark in Twickenham and the sun had yet to come up. Most of my neighbours were enjoying their sleep but I sat at my breakfast table eating...pasta! I’d decided that this would be my pre-race fuel and, having made enough pasta the night before to feed the 5000, it seemed a good idea. As I chomped my way through my spaghetti I contemplated the day ahead. The 50km of the Royal Parks Ultra route along the Thames would be only (!) 5 miles further than a marathon. I knew what it felt like to run a marathon - I’d completed 3 marathons in the previous 18 months – but I was yet to find out what it felt like to do another 5 miles further! My first aim would be to run a familiar, comfortable marathon pace and then hopefully push through the remaining miles. I’d trained by using time and feel up until now but had recently confirmed, with my GPS watch, my sustainable long distance pace was 7:30 to 8:00 minute miles. This would be my target pace. One of my enemies on this run would be my ego. He would be pushing me to go faster, would hate being overtaken and would urge me to catch up runners in front – he could ruin everything for me. My other enemy would be my brain and the safety valve that kicks in way before the body breaks down. It would be the voice in my head telling me to stop or slow down, to give up and go home. That voice would get louder as the miles went by. My nutrition was also important and after breakfast I laid all my kit on the table. It did look like an ‘all you can eat buffet’ in front of me! I wasn’t taking any chances. I wouldn’t be getting hungry on this run. If I did get lost in the wilderness of the Thames Path, among the crowds on a busy Sunday afternoon – I would be able to survive for several days whilst awaiting rescue! I ticked everything off my checklist (I knew the pilot training would come in handy!) and packed my gear together. My girlfriend and I had an uneventful journey into London. I munched my pre-race snacks and sipped my pre-race drink. The buses and tubes collected more and more runners until we were walking out the station in a herd of lycra, shorts and sunglasses. It was a crisp, cold day with the promise of blue skies. Most of the runners were there for the half marathon and I found myself scrutinising the crowd - looking for ‘Ultras.’ There was energy in the air and I had a mixture of nervousness and excitement swilling around inside me.