Race report – St Oswald Way


Race report bt Sarah Attwood; St Oswald Way 20th Sept 2014

After every marathon that I have run, ive always thought at the end “im never running an ultra”. Earlier this year however I received an email informing me of a new event…St Oswald way ultra. There were three distances to choose from, a 50k, a 100k and a 100 mile option. Intrigued about this new ultra I read on…not only did it start on the magical island of Lindesfarne, it also ran along the St Oswalds way (that shares a lot of its initial course with the Northumberland Coastal Route….a stunning, scenic course along the east coast)…..how could I resist? ( for a good description of St Oswalds way go to www.contours.co.uk/walking-holidays/st-oswalds-way.php). The 50k was only a few miles more than a marathon…a nice introduction to the world of ultras! I promptly got permission to do it and entered before I/my other half changed our minds.

I wasnt sure how best to prepare for an ultra so I decided to follow a marathon training schedule but with back to back long/medium runs. Luckily due to york marathon I had plenty of people to train with.

Because I was only concerned with finishing my ultra and not paces and times, I enjoyed my week off before the race in centre parks, doing all the things I wouldnt have normally done if I was racing a marathon. We travelled up to Berwick the night before the race and stayed in Berwick holiday park with my parents and our 17 week old puppy. We spent the evening looking at the course and planning all the places where my support crew would be on the course…which was roughly at every village I passed through. It was also noted that the course was 33 miles and not the 50k/31 miles advertised.  We tried to get an early night but I knew I wouldn’t sleep well due to a mixture of nerves and excitement but I managed to get about 4 hours of broken sleep which I was quite happy with. Unfortunately my support crew (my husband, parents and dog) only managed about the same due to me tossing and turning, being generally unsettled and due to locals making too much noise until 1am.

We jumped out of bed at 5:30 and quickly got ready…we ended up having less than an hour to get there, collect my number and do all the usual pre race essentials which didnt give us long…this was hindered by road works on the A1 and us being diverted on to some little country lanes….luckily there was no one else stupid as us up early on a saturday morning so it didnt delay us too much. I arrived on Lindesfarne with 20 mins to spare. I promptly collected my number, went to the toilet and got to the start 2 mins before the gun went off (missing the group photo) at 7am.

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I set off from the priory on the road to mainland. I managed to get talking to three people, two of which I continued running with until the first check point at Bamburgh Castle (19 miles). The first few miles were on road but after that it was mainly trail paths, farmers fields, woodland, clift tops and beaches (depending on which route you took) that you ran along. Due to a little bit of rain in the preceding week some of these paths were quite muddy in places and made me wish that I had worn trail shoes. For some reason I thought the race was roughly 50% on road, 50% off road so I had worn my road shoes, however it was more 80-90% off road and some places were quite boggy. I just hoped I benefited from my choice of foot wear later on in the race when my feet became tired and I wanted more cushioning.

The course ran through the following places/villages;

Fenwick (6 miles)

Belford (12 miles)

Bamburgh (19 miles)

Seahouses (23 miles)

Beadnell (25.5 miles)

Low-Newton-by-the-sea (29 miles)

Craster (33 miles)

At each of these I saw my parents, poppy and chris who encouraged me along my way. Their support was amazing and without them I really dont think I would have done as well or enjoyed it as much. At Bamburgh I stopped and talked to them for 10 minutes, whilst changing my socks and taking on some electrolytes and fluid. It was great to hear about their journey that morning and hear the enthusiasm in their voices about following and supporting my journey. After Bamburgh their support became even more important to me as it was the thought of seeing them at the next village that kept me going.

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I thoroughly enjoyed running with the people I had met during the first half of the race, listening to their stories on why they had chosen this race, their previous training and racing achievements. I was that lost in conversation roughly at about 10 miles that I went the wrong way following a group infront. Luckily they spotted their mistake quite quickly so I only ended up running about half a mile extra. Despite me enjoying their company at the beginning of the race, after Bamburgh (when they left me as I spoke to my family) I felt more content running on my own. I enjoyed taking in the stunning views of the sea and coast line, castles and other monuments along the way. The weather was perfect for running, mild and dry with a cooling breeze. The sun started to come out as I was finishing just after mid day…a perfect finish to a stunning race. image (4)

On the day I thought I came 4th lady, however looking at the results since then its placed me as third…although I’m sure there is some mistake in this. I managed to come 12th over all in the 50k race finishing in 5:26. My average pace was 9:30mm (this excluded the break I had at bambrough but included the climbing over styles and gates, stopping at feed stations, dodging cows and bulls in fields and crossing the A1 twice…which wasnt actually as bad as I had feared).

I managed to consume 10 jelly babies and only one and a half small bars of flap jack (which surprisingly was less than I had in training). I carried 1.5l of water with me but did stop at every feed station (every 10k) for water. I was surprised to not require a toilet stop along the way…im sure 5 hours 26 is the longest ive ever gone in the day not needing a wee.

The views were spectacular and the terrain perfect. I spent that much of my time looking at where I was putting my feet I wasn’t counting down the miles.

Marshalling/markings could have been a little better in places, eg at the place were we went wrong and also just after Bambrugh, were some runners after me took a short cut (unknown to them at the time) due to a marshall moving.

In my goody bag at the end I was awarded a medal and a T shirt (ladies fit), a large bag of chai seeds and a few other bits and bobs.

I thoroughly enjoyed this friendly race and thought that the £35 entry fee was a bargain, I would certainly recommend it to others and would love to go back and run it (or the 100k) again next year. image (6)

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