Sunday, 6 February 2011

Thames Trot 50 - Race Report

What a great challenge, running 50 or so miles along the banks of the River Thames.

Due to the distance away from home and the logistics of actually getting to the race start it was decided that George and I would stay at a local hotel about 3 miles from the start. We arrived at Oxford at about 8.00pm at the same time as receiving a text from our ultra runner friend David H. who was on the train behind us so decided to wait around so that we could meet up and have a meal. A great evening of running talk and plans with a massive pizza now firmly packed into my stomach we said our good byes.

Arriving at the hotel George and I had to go through the maps so decided to meet in the bar for a quick pint where we met another runner who recognised the maps so spent some time with him and his wife chatting.

I love this sport, everyone is so friendly and sociable.

The Race

The Start
We arrived at the race start at 7.45 am and went about our admin of booking in, putting our bags in the van and catch up with old trail running buddies, the pub and car park soon filled with laughter, nervous chatting, talk of pace and FOOD, a subject that is always discussed with a passion at these events.

At 8.20 am we were summonsed by the Race Director who went through the finer details, the last being the directions:
"Run to the River Thames, turn left, see you in Henley"

At 8.30 am the crowd moved towards the entrance of the car park, a horn sounded, a cheer erupted and the sound of a hundred Garmins being switched on and the thunder of running shoes on tarmac. Within minutes we reached the wooden bridge that bounced alarmingly as we ran across it much to the hilarity of the competitors. We were soon on the Thames Path and were taken aback by the terrain, flat, muddy (not deep) and mostly grassland. There was talk of high winds during the day and it was not wrong as we were soon buffeted by strong winds which was not easy to predict due to the meandering of the river's course.

The course
Due to the flatness of the course it soon became apparent that the pace was very easy to predict and maintain. For the first 30 miles we were constantly hitting out 10 kph (6.2 mph) and with the addition of walking breaks when hit by a strong winds and check points this averaged out at 5 mph which was very pleasing and proved that our training was paying off in recent weeks.

I have found that river running is never boring and there is a lot of stimulation, what with the rowers, the boats and walkers who seemed to take great interest in our endeavors and during walking breaks would often ask what we were doing and either look at you in total disbelief, amazement or a mixture of both.

The Plan
The general plan between George and I was that the run was a training run, one in which we could iron out food & water intake, experiment with things like foot taping, personal kit such as clothing changes and pace. We wanted to approach the run to get consistency of pace and strength of run, we were not to be disappointed, I was very keen about ensuring my feet were in top condition and was very pleased with my taping (more on this at a later date)

The Race continued
Due to the plan of consistent running we were happy just to take it step by step, let people pass us and we them, knowing that we would pass many in the latter stages. Many around us seemed to have the same approach and we used each others pace as our mutual guide but due to this it became apparent that the field did not dissipate for at least 8 miles so there was a lot of grouping allowing time to talk and eat the initial miles up

Checkpoints came and went every 8 to 10 miles which were efficiently managed with plenty of bottled water, cake and sweets. It was at check point I decided to apply zinc oxide tape to the ball of my right foot, a decision I was glad to make as it protected in latter miles. The taping on my inner heels was holding out also, things were looking good down their.

The middle section
Running at a consistent pace can pay toll on the energy levels and my legs were soon aching a sure sign that "The Wall" was threatening me so taking on a carb-gel I continued onwards it got me out of a hole until the next check point which was quite near and there I stocked up on fruit cake, sweets and took on an extra pint of water, this seemed to help as the pizza from the night before was proving hard to budge.

The wind really was picking up now and there was a fine drizzle in the air but we still battled on, mile after mile, lock after lock.

The last few miles
In the last 2 hours of the run I felt really strong, I was in the zone both mentally and physically, yes my legs hurt, my head fuzzy but this had defined itself as a driven need to eat up the miles and I was soon moving off but was totally unaware of George who was being much more sensible and keeping to pace. At Reading (pronounced RED-ING) George and I took a short walk break taking on a carb gel each and I misunderstood his comment to go on ahead, I initially thought I would run to the next check point which I mistakenly thought was about ½ mile away but transpired to be 2 ½ miles away, by the time I realised I had lost George but thought he would be with a lady we had met called Debbie of similar pace so would be OK....I was wrong on both cases (Sorry George)

Night run
I became a man on a mission, I saw runners ahead who were in my sights , one by one I picked them off and was soon aware that the night was coming fast. Again I was in my element, my many night runs and experience in this area soon paid off as I ran on paths, fields and road being carefully to look closely for the finger points for the path and in the night section overtook at least 4 runners losing ground to one.

The lights of Henley-on-Thames were ahead of me, the muddy path soon gave away to the famous board walk and the the tow path as I saw lights, people and the finish line which I gladly ran to finishing in 9:35 hours. A t-shirt and medal were placed in my hand but mostly all I wanted was a cup of tea, 3 sugars, 2 tea bags, the perfect end to a tough run.

George turned up a bit later looking strong if not miffed with my misdeeds of leaving him behind but it was obvious from our efforts that our training, specifically the back-to-backs at weekends were really paying off.


  1. Well done Jerry ... respect!

    Neil G

  2. Jerry another great post, better than reading the Sunday Times. I still cant understand how you manage to keep going for so long. Is it mostly anaerobic fitness? The mental strength must be pretty amazing do you reach a point where the body wants to stop but the mind just takes over.

    Total respect.

  3. Thanks Rob, not as good as Mr Immune who seems to be going from strength to strength

  4. Well done Jerry, you must be mad ! London Marathon would be a sprint for you !

  5. Just found your blog. Great work. I was there too! never knew so mant people did this kind of mad stuff! I really loved the race, hardest thing I ever did.
    Is this your longest race? can you recommend more of the same kind of race?

  6. Hi Johan
    Welcome to my blog, no this is not the furthest I have run, I have run London to Brighton (57 miles), Ridgeway (87 miles), Crawley 12 hours (62 miles). I have done numerous LDWA 50 km runs and a few marathons. Email me: and I will be happy to send you some of my favourite runs.

  7. Hi Jerry, I've just come across your blog as myself and 3 friends are likely to do the Thames 50 next year. We did the Ridgeway 40 in May and loved it. We regularly train along the Thames on Saturday mornings and have seen you all go past over the last 2 years. We've gone from saying "I could never do that", to "let's go for it!". Great story of your experience, very inspirational!