The Robin Hood 100 is an ultra marathon run by Hobo events, a small company set up by Robin Hood himself! Ronnie Staton is the event director and creates 6 events per year as a progression onto the longer ultra marathon scene. The events are small in participant numbers and high in quality with the over arching moto of bringing the community together. This spirit could be felt from the introduction briefing onwards. I think it would be wrong not to feel some nerves and excitement just before you take on your first 100mile ultra. The briefing made it very clear that it was also the majority of the runners first 100miler. Phew. This made me feel at ease and put a smile on my face. The whole intro speech was lighthearted and fun. Ronnie spoke a lot about the navigation and directional arrows he has put into place but still how each year someone gets lost! He therefore didn’t trust us for the first 6miles to the canal towpath and ran with us all!
I was so excited to start and had a plan in my head to get through the full 100miles. I had a 24hour time-frame in mind but knew I had up to the 30hour cut-off time if needed. The thought of running until 2pm the following day is not a nice one. I hoped to be finished just as the sun came up a day later.
The first 6miles are quite hard. Even through described as a flat course it is still undulating, running over freshly ploughed fields isn’t great for the ankles either. I sticked to my plan. My plan was to start slow and stay slow, the key would be to power walk up all of the hills. During the first few miles this is a hard thing to do as the adrenaline is running and you feel really fresh. I also felt like an idiot as everyone was running past me, I realised at about 5miles in I must be somewhere near the back of the pack. However, I kept my plan, I ran at 11minute miles and power walked all of the hills. I do pride myself on a very strong power walk.
The beauty of this event is the aid stations. They have the most friendly and helpful volunteers I have ever come across and the stations are also on average about every 5miles. The closest 3miles apart and the longest is 10miles. Focussing on one rest stop at a time is helpful to tick off the miles. Along with the fabulous volunteers it also meant that I was able to see my support crew regulary. This always gave me a huge boost.
The scenery was much more spectacular than I thought it would be, in all honesty I had never considered the middle of the country to be a beautiful location but for running it is great. The whole run was cross-country but nothing too extreme. We ran through estates, fields, woodlands, canal paths, public footpaths and bridleways. The course consisted of a 20ish mile run along the canal path and then two 30mile loops before heading back to where we started on the canal path again. I knew a lot of it would be in the dark so I was not bothered about the double loop. I was however concerned about the 10mile cheeky little extra loop (again this had to be completed twice), this 10mile loop would be without aid. The first time I completed it was at about 30miles. At this point my brain was starting to play a couple of tricks on me; yes my body hurt but the pain from that point didn’t really change, my mind however was telling me I still had a long way to go. Over 100km! That is most peoples maximum ultra distance! I then deployed the music, I don’t listen to music normally but had asked family and friends to suggest a playlist for me. I put the music on and it just lifted me, it felt like I was flying, the pace I was running hadn’t changed but my steps felt lighter and the grin had retuned to my face. I even managed a bit of a dance here and there.
I once again managed to break things down and feel calm. Just one mile at a time. The half way mark was getting closer and closer. At 51.82miles I was then able to run with pacers. The incredible support crew then turned from the best cheer leaders and motivators to a relay of runners. This can not have been easy, they also had been up all day following me to each of these aid stations and acting like a pit stop for a formula 1 car. It was now starting to go dark and they knew that they also were not going to get any sleep until I stopped running. My sister-in-law took the first 10miles with me. At first I was embarrassed for running so slowly; but her freshness and bounce made me feel better and stronger, it was also great to chat about anything but the run and the event. Second stint was my husband who is extremely level headed and told me all the facts about my running times; it was nice to see how proud he was of me. However he also got to see some more emotion as I was not able to hide all of the tears from him, once again we kept on plodding and the miles decreased. My sister-in-law then took over for her final 10miles with me. I was nervous at this point as I was going into unchartered territory, I had never run over 70miles before, the last 30miles were into the unknown. I had no clue if my body could take the distance or the pain. It however seemed to be holding up and the couple of hours with Ruth seemed to fly by; this 10miles were also the trickiest with some big hills and a constant incline. The miles were ticking down. I wanted it to be over now and was struggling to think about eating more food; the main food source for 100miles was melon, I didn’t mind which type of melon any would have done me fine. However, it was getting to the stage that I couldn’t even face any melon. To run for 100miles the body has to be fuelled. I had to keep eating and managed a bowl of lentil soup (strange you might think but it was amazing) which kept me going for the next few miles.
At this mark my Dad then picked me up, I don’t think the has run in some time but decided to take on the next 3miles. He did a grand job but only really had one speed and at most points that was slightly quicker than I was running so those three miles went by in a flash. (Other than the added half a mile where we got lost.) We blame him but the signage wasn’t great at a turning through the woods. ;)
The next 6miles was to head back onto the canal path, my Mum was my pacer for this section. On came the tunes and we tried to dance and sing our way to the next rest stop. I thought it would be easy running along the flat canal path to get back, however this was not to be the case, flat is hard on the body when you have run a long distance and even though it was flat it was all very uneven and narrow, it took quite a lot of concentration not to fall into the canal itself. It was now about 3am and I was starting to fade a little, we came up with a plan that I would run for two songs and per walk for one. This was a genius idea, my average speed actually increased and it was fun. At this point I was over taking a lot of runners (now walking). We all chatted to each other and provided as much encouragement as possible, even though still 10miles from the finish it was clear we were all going to make it now even if we crawled.
Once again my husband picked me up for the last 9miles, the same run and walk routine continued until the very very last rest stop which was only 3.8miles from the finish. At this point I just wanted to get it done, the last few miles are hilly so out came the power walk, at about 2 miles from the finish line Will let me into a little secret. He told me that I was in 3rd position. I just could not believe it, I have never done that well in a running race. He also then told me that the women in 4th is trying to catch up! Argh, the pressure was on. I couldn’t go much faster but I just kept going; the ploughed field near the end of the race was pretty horrendous and ankle breaking but I knew once I had reached the other side of the field I would have about one mile to the finish line. “Just keep moving” became my mantra.
I then saw it, I was about 200metres from the finish, I increased my speed to what felt like a sprint finish but actually was still a plod and I crossed the line and into the village hall filled with emotions. I couldn’t help but cry, I was overwhelmed that I had finished, proud of myself and filled with utter respect for the other runners. I was also so in love with all of my family who had acted as support crew for a full 22hours and 28mins; they had been my rocks and I would not have been able to finish without them. They are all legends.
I still have not decided if that will be my first and last 100mile ultra. Maybe I should quit whilst I am ahead. I would however tell everyone who is even considering to complete 100miles to do this event. It was so friendly, well organised and had a great spirit.
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