The Royal Parks Ultra: Part 3

Matt Griffiths
Tuesday, 16 October, 2012

I threw some Swedish fish (jelly sweets) into my mouth and glanced across at the hills near the Petersham gate. ‘’This is where you busted your gut doing continuous hills,’’ I told myself. ‘’If you beat those hills then you can beat this.’’ The fatigue subsided and I motored along - although my pace was now closer to 8 rather than 7:30 min miles. My cramp returned on the route back to the river because I had to stop at a busy road junction, and despite my pleading face, the drivers powered through, giving no quarter. Once up to speed again, however, the cramp subsided. I sank another gel and some electrolyte and soon I was steaming ahead again. I passed another walking Ultra, a look of despair on his face. I quickly stopped at another aid station to restock with gel and water and thought aloud; “Keep moving, keep moving!” Soon I was back on the river path, with over 40k behind me and then, around a corner I burst upon a 42.2km sign – the marathon! The sign was surrounded by a small cheering crowd. I was now officially an Ultra runner! Less than 8k to go and I could feel the effort level had increased to maintain my pace. I weaved my way over Kingston Bridge, around shoppers, bikes, dogs and children. As I entered Bushy Park I could see two runners ahead. One had stopped and was stretching out his cramp, the other I was gaining on. I kept pushing to keep up my speed. I was now running on the Bushy Park Run route with 3km to go. I had just over half a ‘park run’ remaining and I tried to ignore the fatigue. ‘’Controlled discomfort is what I’m feeling,’’ I thought to myself, ‘’just another threshold run.’’ I shot pass the cramped runner and now I was only 50 meters behind the Ultra in front. I ran over a humped back bridge where I passed unnoticed by a small crowd. The spectacle for them was a duel between two magnificent red deer stags, antlers locked in combat. I could hear a voice echoing across the park. It was the finish announcer! I then saw the finish tent in the distance, directly ahead of me, but I was cruelly steered away from it as a marshall directed me to the left, to start a curving clockwise loop to the finish Less than 1km to go and I could actually hear people cheering at the finish line. 500m to go, 20m behind the runner in front and the next marshall pointed to my rival and said ‘’you can take him.’’ matt-griffiths-blogI still felt strong and had some more energy to burn. I moved up a gear and closed the gap. Any hope of surprising the runner as I came up behind him were dashed however by the noise of my rattling backpack and my heavy breathing. He opened up and at a full sprint we tore down the finishing straight, to the delight of the small band of screaming supporters. I crossed the finish line about 1 metre behind him and, in the true tradition of Ultra runners we grinned and high fived each other. I felt elated, I felt like doing a victory lap of the park, I felt like doing the mobot and for one crazy ‘Dean Karnazes’ moment I even considered whether I should turn around and run the course again backwards! As the adrenaline subsided though I came down to earth and settled for hugs and high fives with my supporters, a painful masochistic massage and a cool glass of champagne. The next few hours were a period of contemplation. I had conquered my Ultra by good planning and preparation and run a cautious race. I finished in just over 4hrs 14minutes and in 19th place and had some energy left at the end. My immediate mission was now accomplished. Those hours of sweat and effort, in the heat, the mud and the rain, had been worth it. So what next? I have already signed up for the Manchester marathon in April with my eye on a Boston qualifying time. And Ultras? Definitely! matt-griffiths-blog  I can feel that there is a 100 mile Ultra out there, sometime in the future, calling me, waiting for me. But in the meantime it will be more running, some quality training and fine tuning of my racing techniques. Also, my sister just moved house recently, so I must go and visit her. I just happened to notice, on google maps, that her new house is 43 miles away and there are some good tracks and paths on the way...


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