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Fifty Mile Challenge

 On Sunday 18th of July, I woke up at 4am to make my way to Marshside (Near Herne Bay) to take part in the 50 Mile challenge, writes Rob Carr. The 50 mile challenge is a multi lap affair, eight times

around a 6.55 mile course (total distance: 52.4 miles) mostly off road on farm tracks and footpaths. The course record is 7hrs 1 min.

This was my first ultra race following the Grand Union Canal Run and I was determined to put some ghosts to rest. As a relative novice to ultra marathon running l wanted to see if I had learnt from my mistakes (too many to mention!) from the previous race.

Going into this race I had a concern over my left shin but decided to chance it. So some heavy strapping up later and was good to go!

We all congregated at the Gate Inn Pub in Marshside to register and for the start of the race. I was surprised by the vast number of people. I only learnt later that some people were taking it on as a relay – how sensible! The pub car park was the start/finish for each lap and was the chance to have a pit stop, grab a bite to eat etc. I even saw some people receiving leg massages but alas none for me!

The race started at exactly 6am at a cautious pace. After about 2 miles a small group broke away. One chap in particular shot away and out of sight. I thought he was either a very good runner or just plain crazy. I later found out he was running the first leg of his team’s relay.

As the day went on the temperature rose and as the course afforded very little shade, the biggest challenge was keeping cool! Fortunately water was available at regular intervals by the very supportive and friendly marshals who I got to know quite well after 8 laps

I felt very comfortable for the first four laps and at 3hr48 was just inside my planned strategy of 4 hours for the first 26.2 miles. My goal was to run the race in sub 9 hours so I was on track. It was now just before 10am and the heat was taking it’s toll on me. About one mile into the 5th lap I suffered a swift decline in pace and the rest of the lap was a complete slog. When I got back to the start/finish I decided to take a 7 minute rest. Why seven minutes? Well I arrived back at 11h08 and decided to set off at 11h15.

Amazingly the rest did me the world of good and I really picked up he pace on lap 6, in fact I was running so well I decided not to stop and carried my new found rhythm into lap 7. With 2 laps to go I set myself a target of 1hr20 per lap - hardly Olympic standard but enough to get me in under my goal of 9 hours. As it turns out lap 7 I was quite comfortably inside this time. I got great pleasure on lap 7 when every time I passed a landmark I reminded myself that next time would be the last time!

With time to spare I could afford to take a decent rest at the end of lap 7 but instead opted for a very brief stop and was off again!  The previous two fast(ish) laps had taken a lot out of me and with the sun bearing down on me I simply couldn’t maintain the pace I set in theprevious two laps. Then with 3 miles to go and (probably due to an adrenalin rush and the fact that it was my favorite section of the course) I picked up the pace quite markedly and was running faster than at any time during the race.

I crossed the finish line having completed the 52.4 miles in 8hr47min33sec. I was 5th finisher. Arguably one of my best running performances.

More importantly I avoided making some errors of the past and learnt some more valuable lessons.