The Harriers 2019 ultra-running campaign was kicked-off by Linda at the D33 two weeks ago where she put in a great run in grim conditions and brought home a PB. Next up was the John Muir Way Ultra on 30th March on the east coast – four harriers made the trip through to tackle this one. Myself and James were hoping to earn our first ultra stripes, Caroline was stepping back into the ultra ring after 7 years as was Chris who has his eyes set on further ultra adventures later this year.
After an early rise we were all on the road by 5.30am and checking-in at 7am at race HQ at Foxlake Adventures in Dunbar. A fleet of coaches took us to the start line at Port Seton where the pre-race briefing took place and, after an ‘all runners’ picture was taken, we started in 3 waves to help ease any congestion on the single tracks near the start.
I started in the first wave with Caroline, Chris & James starting in the second wave. I did have a planned race schedule but after a mile or so I threw that in the sea and continued on at ‘whippet pace’. Unsure (for this longer distance) of how a training run pace would convert into a race day pace plus feeling great I carried-on at a pace which I knew was probably too fast but might be sustainable. Right enough it wasn’t 🙂 and caught up with me around 20 miles which made the last 10 miles much harder than they should have been. Progressive slowing was inevitable but, with some time bagged over the first 20 miles, my final average pace was where I hoped to be and I came home under my nominal target of 4.5 hrs so I was happy and certainly learned a lot for the next one.
It turned out to be an eventful race behind me – Caroline, Chris and James had been doing a lot of long training runs together and completed the first 10 miles as a team. After a dry start the heavy drizzle started around 10 miles and lasted until around 18 miles so we did all get wet and a bit cold. Around 10 miles Caroline was suffering with sore feet, back and groin and was talking of pulling out. Chris also started to feel it a bit after 10 miles. Whilst Chris and James ran ahead, Caroline ‘had a talk’ with herself, a quick massage of the feet and carried on with true Harriers grit. On the beach section around halfway was where our lucky card was used – Chris’s phone fell out his pocket into the sand only to be spotted by James who was a couple of places behind and scooped it up :-).
A break was had at the main RNLI aid station at 16 miles before carrying-on down the ramp onto about half a mile of soft deep sand – that was great fun! Caroline had caught up with the boys at the RNLI checkpoint and overtook them around 19 miles. James had been suffering with a chest infection leading up to the race but it was his feet that were giving him grief (as they had been during long training runs). Chris’s ankles were also suffering and by the halfway point his head wasn’t ‘in the game’ the way he wanted. It’s said that a lot of ultra running is in the head and this is where the real grit and endurance comes to the fore. It certainly did as everyone had to dig deep and adopt strategies to keep going. Caroline used a run/walk strategy she’d used before and Chris and James dug deep and pushed-on, clicking off the miles. The cracking scenery helped and the words of encouragement from the marshals and other runners made a big difference.
Caroline stayed ahead of the boys and came home looking strong in just over 6 hrs – a fantastic and well-managed run and one which everyone was really chuffed about :-). Next home was Chris who showed real fortitude and clocked the miles off leading to the grassy finish straight. James came home shortly afterwards and, despite a lovely set of blisters 🙁 on his heels, still managed a smile and sprint finish. Another admirable piece of endurance and determination to round off a great day’s running – stopping wasn’t an option for the mighty blues!
A huge thanks go out to the entire JMWU team – the whole event was brilliantly organised with fantastic marshals all the way round (echoed by all runners) as well as top-notch course marking such that we were never in any doubt ref. directions. The route is very scenic with a good mix of terrain (that sand though!!) and well-stocked aid stations.
270 runners took part with the race being won by Samuel Hewerd in a time of 3.38.04 with the first female being Nicola Duncan in a time of 3.47.27.
We’ll be back for more next year!
37th Craig Perrie 4.24.38
218th Caroline Hever 6.01.30
230th Chris Hever 6.12.29
237th James Prior 6.21.01
Photos at John Muir Way Ultra 2019