When is a 50k race not a 50k race? When it’s the John Muir Trail Ultramarathon. I pressed stop on my GPS watch as I crossed the finish line. It said I’d only done 49.8K!
It says a lot about how hard the race was (for me) that I had absolutely no desire to walk another 200 metres to get the distance to 50k.
My pre-race aim was to run the first 30km, run/walk the next 10km and for the last 10km just do whatever it took to finish under six hours.
0K to 6K
A marathon is 44k. This ultramarathon is 50k. My first goal was to do 6k to get to the point there was only a marathon left to do. My reasoning was that I could then tick off that I’d done the ultra bit.
This section was mostly beach trail. it was a little congested with little room for overtaking which was a good thing. It meant I could settle into a nice steady slow pace.
After a couple of kilometres I regretted my choice of clothing. I had a waterproof jacket and a beanie on but it was too warm for them.
Which made me thankful my next goal was only at the 8k point
5K to 8K
Nic’s sister has just moved to Aberlady (the 8k point) and she promised to come to support us. Nic’s parents and sister would be there too as they’d popped over from Glasgow to offer support and see the new house.
I dropped off my jacket and beanie with them. I immediately felt cooler. I won’t need those items again…
8K to 15K.
A nice section through the fields near Gullane. It was relatively flat and easy running but as we exited Gullane the sky darkened and the rain began.
A lot of people have trouble pronouncing Gullane correctly but its very easy. Just say “that town with the weird name next to Aberlady” Everyone will know where you mean.
15K to 25K
The rain had made me COLD, WET AND MISERABLE. I regretted not having my jacket and beanie.
The rain wasn’t heavy but it was pretty relentless. The route passed nice sections of forest around Archerfield Estate. The estate had a great food stop. I had a chocolate brownie. Delicious!
As we approached North Berwick there was a few tiny hills. Hills that normally I wouldn’t even call a hill. Most people would call them slight bump in the road. I looked at Nic. She looked at me. We both said “Walk the hills!”
It was a relief to get to the half way point. Mainly becasue it had a roof so we could get out of the rain for a few minutes. Nic’s parents were here so I thankfully got my jacket and beanie back.
I had another chocolate brownie and to be healthy I also had a Twix. Its vegetarian so it must be healthy! Correct???
They say you should race on what you train on. I eat Twix’s the rest of the week so I might as well eat them on race day too!
25K to 30K
I felt great after the stop. This lasted about 100m when I got told by a marshal to run on the beach. It was a heavy thick sand which made my legs feel very heavy but at least I had a jacket and beanie.
And then the rain stopped!
After the beach it’s uphill past North Berwick Law. Again it wasn’t that hilly and normally I wouldn’t think twice about running it but we still turned to each other and said “walk the hills!”
30K to 35K
We headed into a nice forest section which looped round a small loch. At this point Nic suddenly got a second wind and started to run much faster than me.
I did what any proud husband would do when seeing how well his wife is doing. I screamed “Woaaah! Slow down. I can’t keep up!”
She slowed down a little but stayed about 100m ahead of me. Taunting me with her pace and ease of running.
At one point I spotted some gravestones in the trees. I thought “That’s a strange place to be buried” but I then noticed the names of the graves – Mr Tiddles III, Dwayne Mousecatcher II and Rex. I hope it was a pet cemetry and not real people.
35K to 40K
This section was slightly downhill through fields. It seemed to be a new path as the track and fencing seemed new. We bumped into our suppoirt team again so I was able to remove my jacket again and get another Twix. You can never have too many Twix’s.
40K to 44K
There’s one hill in this section. Again its minor but definitely a “walk the hills” moment.
My legs were sore and tired. I was happy I’d ran 40k but I now switched to walking a couple of 100m every time I completed a kilometer.
Up till this point I’d high fived Nic every time we had reached a goal. I told her the next goal was 44k: the marathon end point.
At 43K she asked for a high five. I refused! I don’t give out high five at any time. Does Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bakeoff gave out one of his Hollywood handshakes before the bake is complete? NO! He gives them once the job is done. I made her wait until 44k and then we had a congratulatory high five!
44K to 49.8K
The sun was out and it was quite warm on the course. This was a really nice section along a river and then along the shore near a beach.
Nic said her knee was sore so she wasn’t going to run anymore. I was quite happy about that so we enjoyed a nice paced walk to the finish.
Occasionally a runner would pass and would say “Sorry! I’m just a relay runner!” to explain why they looked so fresh when we didn’t.
I finished in just under six hours so I was happy that a) I’d achieved my goal time and b) I’d actually run further than I thought I would.
It’s a great race. The route is varied. I never once felt bored running. The marshals are all friendly and supportive. The foodstops were great and came along at just the right time.
I learnt allot for my attempt at the Devil O’ The Highlands later in the year. Mainly remember to bring a Twix.