Ultra Great Britain® – From the Race Across England in 2016, 2017 to the Race Across Scotland 2018 and 2019!!!
In 2016, I decided to make the step up from marathons to doing a 40+ mile run around Hardcastle Crags near Hebden Bridge and quite enjoyed it. Forward a few months to August 2016 and I was one of 24 ‘fools’ on the start line for the inaugural UGB200 race from Southport to Hornsea along the beautiful Trans Pennine Trail (TPT). Only 11 people finished that race and I was 10th but thrilled to have completed the race in 85 hours despite not having a clue what I was doing and leading the race part way through Day 1 (Idiot!!) and nearly collapsing from exhaustion on Day 2 (see Day 1).
Fast forward to 2017 and not to be beaten and because I hadn’t had enough of the marvellous TPT, I entered the UGB200 again having learning lessons from 2016, I had a much better race finishing in 69 hours.
In 2018, Wayne Drinkwater, GB Ultras RD announced that the race was moving away from the ‘lovely’ TPT, North of the Border to Scotland and the stunning Southern Upland Way (SUW) for a 215 mile jaunt across the Borders from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath. Once again, it was too good an opportunity to miss, so I signed up having only attending one recce weekend as I prefer to experience the trails first hand in a race to create more adventure. This race was a real step up for GB Ultras in terms of route and participants with 150 racers starting. I loved the route and was thrilled with a time of 92 hours for the coast to coast journey. This made me the only person to have completed the 3 x 200+ mile races and the proud owner of three buckles.
After completing the Spine Race in January 2019, I was looking for another challenge and thought about entering for a fourth time. It wasn’t a tricky decision and my wife and Crew Chief had also ‘learnt the ropes’ from crewing me in the 2018 edition of the Race Across Scotland. I was also being supported by my parents and brother, Jonathan for the whole route. I reassured them that I was fine through the nights and planned to have support at established checkpoints (CPs) as morale support. It is always great to have a familiar face and Jane does a fantastic job of updating my Facebook page (Colin’s Ultra Running Exploits) with videos, photos and blogs throughout the 215 mile journey.
I will not described a mile by mile account as I am sure that has been done before but I will highlight some of the lessons that I learnt and experiences I have had on this fantastic route.
- The race has developed every year with experience and you can be assured of fantastic CP teams, who are focussed on getting you to the end of the race. The food and support at CPs improves every year and this year it was excellent with attentive but understanding staff.
- The route is challenging in terms of terrain with plenty of lumps, bumps and bogs especially over the West portion of the route. It is a varied route with only very short road sections with the majority being on well-signed trails.
- Your feet will get wet. I used the same foot system that served me well in the Spine Race (Dexshell waterproof socks with thin liner socks) which helped in all but the knee deep bogs. I would use the same system again for this race. Foot care is essential in these races and I change insoles and used talc on my feet at all CPs. I didn’t need to change shoes at all and ran the whole race in Hoka Speedgoat 3, which were perfect for this race.
- As the conditions were soggy, it was easy to keep hydrated on the route at CPs and natural water sources using a filter.
- CPs can be really comfy but I made sure that they were only used for kit admin, eating or sleeping and otherwise I would be back on the trail. Also CPs can be fantastic reset points and I have learned that it is never a good idea to quit entering a CP – always rest, leave and it’s unlikely that you will return.
- I feel that I have adapted well to minimal sleep and managed the race on approx 3-4 hours sleep in total including sub 20 min naps.
- Navigation skills are essential. I always had several methods of navigating from map/compass to handheld GPS to Fenix 3 watch in case one failed I would still be OK.
I was thrilled to finish this years race in 8th position in a time of 85.5 hours knocking a significant amount off last years time and securing a 4th buckle.
I feel that this race is deservedly going to become a recognised fixture in the ultra-running calendar over the next few years.
Will I be going back for another attempt at the Race Across Scotland for a 5th buckle?? Perhaps I could be tempted…watch this space!!!
GB Ultras Ambassador & Physio Matters