Andy Falconer


My First 50 Mile Ultra Marathon – The John Lucas Round Strathaven 50

16 Aug 2015 | 3 Comments |

50 miles. It doesn’t sound like much. Until you think Ultra Routeit’s like running a marathon, staggering across the finish line, turning round instead of collecting your medal, and running the route again. I’ve run a few marathons in the last 3 years and ran the Glen Ogle Ultra (33 miles) in 2012 in 6 hours, but that was a few years ago. So why try and run 50 miles?

Several reasons. Firstly, to see if I can. fusionSecondly, the route starts/finishes in the village where my wedding reception was held 16 years ago. Thirdly, for two charities close to my heart. A group of my friends walked 50 miles to raise money for a charity I support, Fusion. One of them had to pull out at the last minute due to a death in her family, and so I decided to see if I could run her 50 miles for her. So you can sponsor Pippa, via me, by clicking here! I also decided to try and complete the event to raise money for my school charity, York Foodbankdonate here.

The John Lucas Round Strathaven 50 is unusual in several regards. It’s run completely on public roads, rather than trails, which means from my point of view (living in the city of York) it is easier to train for. There is also a relay version of the event which sets off half an hour after the start of the ultra. Finally, the route is also used at the same time for a 50 mile cycle racing event! Not your average ultra marathon.

It was a stunningly beautiful route and weather, if a tad too warm for most of us, but seems a bit trite to complain about that when running in Scotland. The volunteers were superb, so helpful and friendly. The route was very well sign-posted throughout but also had stewards at all the key points. You put your 4 drop-bags in large containers in the start area and they were taken to the check points at miles 10, 20, 26 and 40. A huge thank you to Strathaven Striders running club for organising such a great event.

Andy FalconerI’d decided to run on heart rate rather than pace, trying to keep it between 135 and 150 for as much as possible. I started at the back and ended up running the first 20 miles with a great guy who recruits international students for Glasgow University, as well as having a PhD in Renewable Energy! He’d done ultras before so I bored him with lots of questions. The first 20 miles passed really quickly and painlessly.

I thought of the next 6 miles not as the end of a marathon but a really slow 10k run. Things started to get more difficult as I was running on my own and the hills increased. My stomach was also refusing to take any solid food, and I was struggling to swallow much in the way of gels. Not a great recipe for success.

Arriving at the checkpoint at mile 26 I was greeted by my wife and girls who had driven up from York and come straight to the check point. This was a real pick me up, as was a fresh trainers/socks/t-shirt, but I still couldn’t swallow anything other than fluids.

The next 14 miles were hard. Really hard. The sun was out and sapping energy. I was running on my own, although I kept telling myself it was a slow half marathon. But it was the hills the did the damage. I hadn’t done much training for the event and I’d done no training on hills, as York is flat as a pancake. This combination, along with empty fuel reserves meant that I really was struggling. I realised I would’t even be able to walk the last 10 miles, even though my wife was waiting at mile 40 to run the last 10 miles with me. I pulled out at the 40 mile check point after leaving the start 7 hours and 50 minutes earlier. Completing a 50 mile ultra wasn’t going to happen today.

FullSizeRenderIt was the right decision so I felt OK about it. I’d run 7 miles further than I’d ever run before, battled some demons when running on my own, and retired before I injured myself. If I do another ultra I need to do specific training for both the event and also sort out my fuelling strategy. Of the 39 runners who entered the event, 24 started the race, 15 completed it by the 10 hour cut off, with 3 more after the cut off, and 6 didn’t complete the course. The winning time was 6 hours 38 minutes. However, next up for me is the Yorkshire marathon in October!