Run the flat and walk the hills..

Stuart Sharland’s race report on the Stroud Trails Ultra….40+miles and 7,000ft of ascent.

Firstly, a little bit of background on why I decided to attempt the Stroud Trails Ultra. I am in training for Race to the Stones in early July (100K straight through). I have been marathon training and completed the Milton Keynes marathon only a week before the Ultra. I also decided during training that I wanted to complete 100K in one week, which I achieved over a 6 day period. More importantly, I love a challenge. This was the first year the Ultra was run as part of the Stroud Trails, I had run the trail marathon two years previously, and loved the experience.

Race day:

I was so nervous, something I hadn’t experienced for some time prior to a race, understandable I suppose, as 40 miles was going to be the furthest I had ever run. I have completed a couple of 50Ks over the last few years, but nothing this long, with one hell of a total ascent of 7000 feet.

Arrived at race HQ, just after 7am, I was the first there out of the three of us who were running together. Got my number, sorted my kit. As myself and my two mates (Craig and Rich), stood at the start line, looking very apprehensive and slightly worried, and both these guys, are experienced marathon/ultra runners.

And we were off…….our strategy, was take it steady, run the flat and downhill and walk the significant hills. The first 10 miles were a blur. We chatted, laughed and tried to put to the back of our minds how far we were attempting to run.

Craig was so impressed with the beautiful surroundings and how picturesque the course was. A few check points past by, drinks taken, jelly babies eaten and stored.

Then I had my race dark point between 10 – 15 miles ish, and at one point mentioned to the lads, that I might bail at the full marathon point. They both reassured me, whatever happens, we WILL finish this. I was worried the marathon 6 days earlier had taken too much out of me.

Our aim, was to get to 20, regroup our minds, take pictures, then get 22 miles where we re-join the marathon route, get to 27, only a half marathon to run, then to 30 miles, single digit figures to go.

15 – 20 went really well, I had hydrated well and I met my partner Rachel at a check point around 15 miles, which gave me a huge boost. I honestly think, it took me 15 miles to get into the race.

Our strategy was working well, some stunning scenery, good banter and I felt strong. Although we did get lost twice during this period. I also saw some of my family at Wallbridge at 27 miles, which was fab, huge hugs from my kids, banners etc. and we finally got to eat some ‘proper’ food. That half a Mars bar and crackers tasted like nectar. Although the canal path was a slog, I knew, for the first time…..I AM GOING TO DO THIS.

30 – 35 miles hurt, but we kept going, was relieved to get the canal path out of the way, so we could settle down to run fields, woods and the last two hills. One being Pennwood, which I found surprisingly easy, I remembered it from the marathon a few years ago being harder. Which was a nice surprise.

35 – 40 miles were a slog, we got lost again twice, luckily on one of the occasions, a friendly non runner came out of his house and pointed us in the right direction. Getting to the Amberley check paint onto Minch common was a lovely feeling, knowing we only had a few miles to go (even though we went off course during this period). Getting to the Wallbridge for the second time was such a buzz, with less than a mile to go. The run back into Stroud town centre was surreal, back up the hill, left at Costa and we were at the finish. The race went by in a flash, although we were out for nearly 11 hours and actually completed 42 miles, with the additions we added accidently to the route.

Across the line

The race is a fantastic advertisement for how beautiful the area is, it’s well organised, and it is very challenging….but that is half the challenge.

I want to thank all the people who made this happen. The organisers, the fantastic marshals, all the people from Cotswold Allrunners, my family, Craig and Rich, and finally, Rachel Pearce, for training all those miles with me, your support and help on the day and just being there….and being you.

Would I run it again……..of course……I’m a runner!