The Country To Capital – a 45 mile, (more like 43) race from Wendover to Little Venice in central London. Last year this race would have terrified me, in 2013 it was to be just another training run…

I caught the train from Cardiff after work into Paddington, and stayed at the appropriately named “Cardiff Hotel” in Paddington on Friday night. Even after a couple of cans of cider and half a bottle of Shiraz – this hotel was a dump. The room stank of stale fags, the windows leaked freezing cold air and the stag/hen clientele made for a sleepless night. Never again – a TripAdvisor review is my next stop.

The ultra-train

The ultra-train

At 5:15am I could take no more so got up, showered and squeezed myself into various layers of lycra. I checked out and walked down to Marylbone in cold, wet conditions – it was pretty grim and I had more than one moment of doubt… Do I really want to do this?

The 07:12 from Marlybone to Wendover was interesting! There probably has never been a train so filled with men in tights… This truly was an ultra train, I chatted to a chap from the USA, (we had matching New Balance MT110’s) who had to catch a 6pm flight to New York, so – starting at 8:30am he had to run 45 miles and then get to Heathrow for his flight…. Crazy – I hope you made it Steve, though I’m not sure I’d want to be sat next to you on a Trans Atlantic flight!

GPS Uncertainty, (Photo - Kris Duffy)

GPS Uncertainty, (Photo – Kris Duffy)

The train got in at 08:00 and we all headed to the Shoulder of Mutton pub to register. This all worked quite well, and we were 10 minutes late starting at 08:40, it was cold, damp and pretty miserable at the start – but misery loves company – and there was lots of it!

The first half of the race was on sticky, muddy, undulating trails, there was no course markings or marshals – all we had was a map and our wits, and my map was crumpled with my wits in a similar state. Also, remember ‘the first half’ is over 20 miles – what could possibly go wrong? Well, I did crash into a black Labrador at one point – I’m not sure who was more surprised or offended.

I remember that horse

I remember that horse

There was a lot of head scratching at various turnings, though eventually a big pack of 30-or-so of us made our way gradually South. We listened respectfully to the wisdom of veterans of the race who gave nuggets such as ‘Ooh, I remember that horse from last year’. There was a bit of a celebration as we passed over the M25 as that signified ‘just’ a marathon to go. A few miles later we hit the canal which marked the end of our navigational worries.

Aha, just a half marathon left, (Photo - Kris Duffy)

Aha, just a half marathon left, (Photo – Kris Duffy)

The final 20 miles were flat as a pancake on the canal and it was time to put the iPod on and dig in. The first track on was “Simply The Best” by Tina Turner! I was flying, in fact I pretty much cruised all the way to the finish… Everyone I passed said I looked strong which was really encouraging, I think the whole paleo thing is working it’s magic as my carb intake was quite limited during the race.

Anyhow, the finish turned-up in 7:15, and I made it before 4pm which was my goal, a beer at the pub then off to Paddington for another beer and food and finally the train back to Cardiff. What a day 🙂

On the way back I was thinking about why I do what I do… Whenever I’ve done a long run/race I bask in satisfaction for a day or two – and today was no different. Running long smoothes out all the rough edges in my life, it calms me down and make everything OK again. I spent a good couple of hours on the train listening to an UltraRunner podcast and the new Silversun Pickups album and can honestly say that I’ve never been more content.

I’m currently reading “The Chimp Paradox”, and most of it resonates with me. Now – I’m not one to read “self-help” books, but I’d recommend this to everyone. It’s helped the Tour de France team and Team GB – give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen?

I base my life on an “experiment of one” basis – so pick and choose from the cornucopia of theories and pseudo sciences out there. I might go barefoot, eat paleo, use low carb and intermittent fasting, run ultras, lift heavy etc, etc, etc… But at the end of the day, I do what feels right and works FOR ME… I don’t care what the journals, sceptics or critics say – if it works FOR ME, I do it…. If it doesn’t – I don’t. If people are interested then I’ll chat about my experiences and, more often than not – I’ll learn from other people in these exchanges.

In summary, a great day out – and a good test of my ‘flat pace’ – sub-8 for the Thames Trot 50 looks increasingly possible and double Snowdonia should be no problem!

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