Cotswold Way Record

COTSWOLD WAY RECORD ATTEMPT

21-22 July 2012


On the weekend of 21-22 July I made an attempt on the Cotswold Way National Trail official record, That is, the fastest time anyone has ever traversed from one end to the other along the official route.  It has been a bit of a dream of mine over recent years to have a crack at one of the national trail records, and I favoured the Cotswold Way for a number of reasons mainly it’s location, length and popularity.
Taken from the National Trail website:
The Cotswold Way is a long distance walking Trail that runs between the market town of Chipping Campden in the north and the city of Bath in the south.  The Trail is 102 miles (164 km) long, and runs for most of its length on the Cotswold escarpment.  It passes through many picturesque villages and close to a significant number of historic sites, for example the Roman heritage at Bath, the Neolithic burial chamber at Belas Knap, Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey and many beautiful churches and historic houses.  The Cotswold Way has existed as a promoted long distance walk for over 30 years. Following many years of lobbying by the Ramblers Association and others, its special qualities have been recognised and in 1998 the government approved its development as a National Trail.  The Cotswold Way was formally launched as a National Trail in May 2007

The official record for running the Cotswold Way stood at 22hr23min, set by Frank Thomas in 1994.   However, I was aware of an unofficial time of 21hr43 and a Trailblaze (finishing just short of the Chipping Campden town centre) of 21hr28.  To achieve an official time I required an AA registered time-keeper at the start/finish and runner(s) alongside me the whole way to verify I had covered the correct route.

Of course, I wanted to beat both official and unofficial times but I found the organisation of time-keeper and crew to be as much of a challenge as the run itself!  The run was originally to be a double attempt, with Peter Cusick.  Unfortunately he had been suffering from an injury and had to pull out of the attempt, but would assist my attempt.  Another pacer also had to pull-out having broken his clavicle in a triathlon a month beforehand.  On top of that, despite many enquiries I couldn’t find a time-keeper and it wasn’t until a few weeks before the attempt that a time-keeper got in contact with ME.  So not the best lead-in, but in the end (as you will find out in the report) I couldn’t have had a better crew for the record attempt.  The team:

From Bath (Start)
Dan Martin (main support/driver 0-55miles)
Mark Palmer (runner 0-55miles)
Sue&Tom (runners 0-10miles)
Pete Cusick (runner 10-30miles)
From Painswick/55miles
Scott Garret (main support/driver 55-102miles)
Austin Blackburn (runner 55-102miles)
Jason Harisson (runner 55-102miles)

Dan and Scott had both supported me in previous Ultra events so already knew a little about what my state of mind would be like as well as personal requirements.

I’ve known Pete for a while, an awesome endurance athlete.  He also managed to get some help from Sue&Tom.  All three of them knew the first sections (of my attempt) of the Cotswold Way route very well.  Mark is a bit of a ultra running legend.  I knew him from the Brecon Ultra (that he has won every year).  I didn’t realise until the run itself that he also has a good knowledge of the route having grown up in the area.

The runners from Painswick were Austin and Jason.  They are both experienced and confident ultra runners, and both have already completed 100mile races this year (Jason just 3 weeks previous).  Austin was local to Painswick and did a number of recces before the attempt.

A little bit on my fitness prior to the event.  Following the disappointment at the Grand Union Canal Race where I had to DNF (@67miles) from’ leg seizure’ I was keen to see my physio Helen Smith to have a check-up and work out what the problem may have been.  We couldn’t put it down to one issue, but it was perhaps down to a lack of sleep, and cold weather.  I just hope it doesn’t happen again.  Once again I turned up at the Department of the Environment Sports-Day  in mid July to take part in the 400m, 800m and 1500m races, run over a 200m grass track.  I came away with gold in all three events and felt quite strong, which proves my top-end speed still hasn’t taken a huge dive from ultra running…and old age.  I’d held my weight at just over 70kg.  That’s 2-3kg lower than 2009-2010, when I was at my Ironman peak.  But most of that weight loss (as my photos will testify) is a loss of upper-body muscle tissue, as a result of a drop in swimming and reduced weights sessions.

The attempt was to start at 1pm on Sat 21 July.  I’d discussed all sorts of start times with Pete during the year.  In the end it came down to the availability of the time-keeper for the start/finish and allowing time in the morning for myself and crew to travel and prepare ourselves.  We were lucky in that the worst of the rain had stopped a few days beforehand.  However, the temperature had risen to 25c during Saturday afternoon which made the climb out of Bath quite demanding.

THE RUN

On Saturday morning I drove to Chipping Camden to park the car.  Dan met me there, we moved nutrition from my car into the back of his and we continued to Painswick where we picked up Mark.  From there, we drove down to Cold Ashton village.  This would be roughly 10miles into the run, the first of our aid stops, and the point at which Sue and Tom would pass over navigation and pacing to Pete.  We left Dan here and continued with Pete in his car.  He knew the best route into Bath city centre and dropped us off very close to the Abbey.

It was heaving around the Abbey and we knew it was going to be a struggle dodging our way through the streets.  The time-keeper Paul, and his wife Kate, met us shortly before 1pm and took a few photos just before I nipped around the corner to start off my Trailblaze timing chip.  (From the Trailblaze website:  ‘All Trailblazers carry a small timing tag which is sent straight out to you following registration. You must insert the tag into each of the Trailblaze checkpoints that are located at regular intervals along the trail. Your tag records a list of all of the checkpoints you visit and the times that you visit them.’)

Paul and Kate had four stop watches between them (just in case!) and set us off from the doors of Bath Abbey shortly before 1pm.  I’d decided to run with off-road shoes (inov8 roclite 295s) thinking the route would still be muddy in parts.  I also wore compression shorts and a sleeveless tri-top which had a few useful pockets.  I ran with a waist belt (750ml bottle) and a Harveys map.  It wasn’t really required until final 10-15miles when I passed it over to Austin as back-up.

Start at Bath Abbey. From L – Mark (ran to 55miles), Sue, Me, Tom. Pleased the rain had stopped, but it was hot (and busy)

Once we were off we found it understandably very congested around the streets and it wasn’t until the Royal Victoria Park that we started to find some space to stretch our legs.  Unfortunately the next 2-3 miles involved running up through the Bath golf course and to Primrose Hill, and then on to Penn Hill and Kelston Pound Hill.  I had to grab a few looks back towards Bath at this point to appreciate the fantastic views.  We passed a few walkers on the way and once or twice received words of encouragement, I wonder if they were aware of what we were doing(!?).  The pace was quite comfortable despite the heat and elevation.  Sue had to drop back at one point but Tom continued to navigate for Mark and I around the Bath race course and on towards Cold Ashton.  There were a couple of marshy spots on the way but nothing that couldn’t be run with trainers so I started to think about a change to more cushioned shoes as my feet were already feeling a little flat from running in the inov8s.

The approach to Cold Ashton on Greenway Lane had another (road) climb and I felt strong enough to run this with Mark (taking note of his uphill running technique, that blows-out the rest of the field at the Brecon Ultra!).  I checked-in to the Trailblaze post beside the A46 and we reached a waiting Dan and Pete at Cold Ashton.  I had devised a schedule prior to the run so the crew knew when I would roughly arrive at aid stops.  The schedules were based on 18hr30min and 20hr finishing times, both of which turned out to be a little optimistic.  When I arrived in Cold Ashton I was already 10mins behind the 18hr30 schedule, although I wasn’t too concerned as I knew I’d held myself back a little and lost a few mins walking through a busy Bath.

Trailblaze checkpoint beside the A46. I had the TB timing tag attached to my watch.

Cold Ashton – Aid Stop 1 (@10miles)
Time =  1hr37min
est. 33min inside official record (OR) average pace.  10min inside unofficial record (UR)
Unofficial based on Trailblaze checkpoints

The early aid stops were all quite lengthy, ranging from 4-10mins.  I should have been a little quicker, but in a run of that length aid stops are such a relief that it’s hard to tear yourself away.  I needed the dead-time to sit down and try to digest a little food.  This was much easier than on the move.  We said goodbye to Tom and started the second 9mile section to the Dog Inn at Sodbury.

I wanted the second section to be at a faster pace.  Pete was keen to get us moving and we were to run on a section of the Cotswold Way that he holds the record for in the Cotswold Relay (a popular event that runs from North to South over 10 sections.  Incidentally, Tom holds the ‘King of the Cotswolds’ title for fastest aggregate time over all 10 sections, achieved over 14 years of racing the event).  I liked the way Pete let me run on ahead occasionally to see if I’d find a few of the more tricky turns on the trail.  Little did he know I had the route programmed into my Garmin watch as another backup so could see the turns coming up.  Unfortunately I couldn’t make out a barbed wire fence stretched across the trail at one point and we both ran into it, Pete gashing his arm.

It was a beautifully warm and clear day and there were some wonderful views over this section from Cold Ashton to Tomarton and then Sodbury (aid stop 2).  However I was still quite surprised at the slow average pace thanks to relentless ups and downs, gates and stiles, and marshy ground (I wanted to prolong the time I could run with dry feet, so I was tentative in soaked fields), that would break our rhythm.

Top of a climb, taking a short break with Pete

Sodbury Dog Inn – Aid Stop 2 (@19miles)
Time =  3hr2min
(est. 1hr10 inside OR pace, 15min inside UR)

It was 4pm when we reached the Dog Inn and getting quite hot.  We’d been blessed with a clear day, which was great for the views but not so good when running up and down exposed countryside.   At this and the following aid stop in Hawksebury, I took a moment to pour water over my body as well as over-hydrating on electrolytes.   I knew I’d need to top-up on the 750ml I was drinking through the 1hr30 sections.   I also decided it was time to move to a more cushioned off-road shoe, so I put on my Mizuno Wave Ascend.

Pete and Mark seemed full of energy which added to my concern.  Was I a little under the weather, or did I need more time to settle in(?).  Section three was a relatively short 4-5miles to Hawkesbury.  A nice run around Horton Fort and Horton Court, and then we were able to stretch our legs over Highfield Lane and Bath Lane to the next aid stop.

Hawkesbury – Aid Stop 3 (@24miles)
Time = 4hr4min
(est. 1hr10 inside OR pace, 15min inside UR)

I headed straight for the water bottles once again and doused myself, phew it was warm!  I also took another shoe change as my feet were already taking a battering and getting quite sore.  My final pair of shoes was the Asics DS trainer, a cushioned road shoe that would at least absorb more impact and enable me to run on the harder surfaces without taking as much out of my feet and legs.  It had seemed dry enough to this point and although there were more forest trails to follow, I didn’t expect it to cause a problem as long as I watched my footing in the mud and on technical descents.

The next 7mile section to Wooton Under-Edge was more of the same, a mixture of fields, hills, a couple of road sections and plenty of stiles and gates, especially leading into Wooton.  It was here that Pete had to leave us.  He’d locked his bike up here in advance so that he could cycle back to his car at Cold Ashton.  While I hunted down the Trailblaze checkpoint Pete and Mark skipped off down the trail at quite some speed, locked in a head-to-head to the ‘finish line’ at the bike.  Pete had done an awesome job of navigating and given Mark the heads-up on a few tricky sections to follow (although Mark was quite sure of the route anyway).  Before we left Pete I asked him whether the Way would get any easier….he answered with a few consoling pats on the back and an empathetic smile.  Not good.  I found out a week later that he still just about holds the fastest Trailblaze split time from Bath to Wooton, no wonder he dashed off to his bike to leave me to find down the Trailblaze box.

Wooton Under-Edge – Aid Stop 4 (@31miles)
Time = 5hr13min
(est. 1hr35 inside OR pace, 15min inside UR)

A few minutes later we reached Dan in one of the residential back-streets of Wotton.  It was good to be back at the car.  At this point I was feeling quite drained, both from the route itself and the weather.  I’d reached the point where food had started to lose it’s appeal and was now feeding on necessity rather than enjoyment.  This was earlier than expected but could have been speeded-up by the warmer weather and higher core temperature/heart rate.  I’d grab tit-bits of whatever grabbed my attention, while washing down the odd mouthful of a ham sandwich with water.  It was still quite warm so I splashed water over exposed skin before Mark and I headed off through the town.

From Wooton I turned on Google Latitude on my iPhone so people could try to follow my progress online (apparently it didn’t quite work as occasionally my icon skipped from the Cotswold trail to South Wales!).  We headed back up into the hills, and followed the escarpment through Westridge Wood and past the Tindale monument, dropping to North Nibley, and then back up to  Stinchcombe Hill Golf Course, which seemed quite popular on the day.  As we dropped out of the woods above Dursley to meet Dan I decided to nip back into the woods again(!) and take a toilet break.  This was the first time I could take a time-out from either running or hydrating/eating, so you could say I made the most of it.

I know, anyone would think I’m a tourist!

Dursely – Aid Stop 5 (@38miles)
Time = 6hr30min
(est. 1hr50 inside OR pace, 5min inside UR)

The best ultra runners in the world learn to eat/drink on the move, no stops.  If I hadn’t spent 25mins at the Dursely aid stop and simply walked through then I could have gone 3:00-4:00/mile slower (almost hiked) the last leg and still  come out with the same split.  It started to occur to me that racing ultras and time-trialing course/trail records were not quite the same thing and the latter requires a little more mental focus.  Let’s face it, I didn’t have any other athletes to catch/be catched by.  It was a bit of an adventure with fellow ultra running friends against a clock that seemed to far away to be of immediate concern.  I kept being assured that everything was fine and yet I knew that I needed to get as much time in the bank as possible before the inevitable crash.  At this point I was already feeling fatigued, dehydrated and struggling to eat and yet I had 17miles of hills still to go before the ‘halfway point’.  At least the extended break gave my stomach the chance to digest a little more food.  But I’d much rather walk slowly to eat and drink than take a 5-25min time-out, and this is something I need to work on in the future.

The brain can send very powerful signals when it’s not happy.  Most marathon runners will ‘hit the wall’ at some point when they race – this is usually the point at which glycogen levels are running low.  In an ultra run of 100miles (or similar) you go beyond this, to the point at which the brain is also being starved of glycogen.  In my experience this is several times worse and can leave you feeling like death. Unfortunately it also has to be endured, sometimes for several hours!

From Dursley the route continued once again up and on to the wooded escarpment.  It was a pleasant time of the day and we made some good time up on this section, being both light underfoot and lightly undulating.  The temperature was starting to wane and the views from the top of the hills were stunning as we approached the town of Stroud to the North.  Mark had been faultless with his navigation and occasionally let me take the lead for some of the more tricky descents.  I had to watch my footing on the muddy slopes with my road shoes, as well as dodge tree routes and stones.

Ryeford, Stroud – Aid Stop 6 (@47miles)
Time = 7hr56min
(est. 2hr10 inside OR-pace, 20min inside UR)

This was to be Dan’s final aid stop before the changeover at Painswick.  I told him to let everyone there know we’d probably be at least 1hr over the 18hr30 schedule I’d set prior to the day.  I wasn’t too despondent about the time as it had been a tough course, but I was a bit worried about what condition I would be in later.

Dursley aid stop, with Dan

A few more nibbles on a ham sandwich, some crystallised ginger (that Mark had taken a liking to) and we were on our way.  The Trailblaze checkpoint was a little further on and would be the last one for some 18miles.  I was keeping an eye on the Trailblaze splits to make sure I had a buffer over the unofficial record(s) too.

I’d changed into a long-sleeve OMM top but didn’t consider taking a headlamp as it still seemed quite light.  As we ran through Standish Wood back on the escarpment, around Haresfield Beacon/Hill and Stockend Wood the temperature and light dropped dramatically.  Under tree cover I was finding it hard to run at Mark’s pace and make out any routes or stones underfoot.  I consciously lifted my feet a little higher to reduce the risk of tripping.  Mark was bounding along like a rabbit on acid, perhaps making the most of the final few hours before his run ended at Painswick.  The dwindling light was probably good in as much as it hastened our progress.  There would be no more appreciation of views or posing for pictures.

The final two miles into Painswick seemed to go on forever.  I was keen for the break.  The welcome we had from support and Austin’s family was terrific, and it felt like I was coming to the end of a race, let along halfway through a 102mile trail run.

Painswick Car Park– Aid Stop 7/Change Crew (@55miles)
Time = 9hr31min
(est. 2hr30 inside OR pace, 30min inside UR)

The Painswick car park was perfect for the changeover.  Mark and Dan had done a great of job of getting me through the majority of the distance, and now it was down to Scott, Austin and Jason to guide me through the night and following morning.  Dan had already briefed them on how the run had gone so far so they knew that we were well behind schedule, but had a comfortable buffer on the official record.  Mark signed off the record ratification form and they both headed home, job well done.

I took another long break here to try and get some more nutrition on board and put some warmer clothes on.  I was looking forward to using the Petzl RXP headlamp for the first time, and it worked really well throughout the night.  I put on a winter beanie which turned out to be really useful as it got quite cold through the night.

Changeover at Painswick. Scott and Austin on the right. Prepping for some night running over the Cotswold Way.

As we set off the guys were in high spirits and we were looking forward to a bit of an adventure running through the night.  I asked them to walk the first five minutes so that my body could get accustomed to moving again, before we picked up to a jog.  It was already dark and quiet as we headed out of Painswick and on to the fields and hills.  The next 6-7mile section to Crickley Hill went over Painswick Hill, Kites Hill, Coopers Hill and Witcombe Wood.  Basically more of the same, albeit in the dark!  Austin ran a five metres in front and did all our navigating, while Jason ran by my side and would offer a little savoury food or bite of a banana every now and then, washed down with a little water.  But it was a struggle to get anything inside my stomach.  My brain was sending very strong signals that I couldn’t, shouldn’t eat and the nausea was gradually building.  But I was never physically sick during the night which makes me wonder whether or not I can ‘force it’ a little more next time.  My leg muscles were fine, but the engine was shutting down and I couldn’t raise my heart rate without feeling this nausea and getting heavily out of breath, so any uphills of decent gradient we walked.

As we approached ‘The Peak’ on the edge of the escarpment near Birdlip Austin warned us of Doggers (I’ll leave you to google that one).  There was indeed a car parked by the side of the hill with headlights on full beam.  We were about 10-20m down the side of the hill, and as Jason and I turned our heads (and headlamps) towards the car Austin shouted back at us to keep looking ahead or “they’ll think we are interested”.  He seemed unusually informed on the matter(!).  To be honest I think they’d have been disappointed with three sweaty ultra runners.

Jason did a fine job of entertaining Austin and I through the night.  I was happy enough listening to him chat away, however, as the night progressed I started turning into Father Jack with a request or response of either “Drink!” when I need a mouthful of energy drink, or “Feck”” when I tripped on something.  Without glycogen to fuel the brain I was unable to converse most of the time.

Air Balloon Pub, Crickley Hill – Aid Stop 8 (@62miles)
Time = 11hr27min
(est. 2hr5 inside OR pace, 40min inside UR)

Scott was on hand at the back of the Air Balloon pub, although had the lights off, keeping a low profile because he didn’t want doggers closing in on him!  I had a few sips of coffee and Justin once again picked up a small bag of savoury snacks for later, should I have the inclination to take a few bites.  I sat down on the back of the car, closed my eyes, dropped my head and had a few minutes to myself, then we were off again.

The next section was probably only around six miles in length although they started to feel a lot longer than that and all uphills were walked.  I was quite happy to run on the flat and downhills, and the road sections were fine as I was running in road shoes and could keep up a decent shuffle.  During the day I was happy not to know what was coming up and just enjoy the scenery as it presented itself.  Now however, I wanted to know from Austin just what each section had in store, especially the hills.  If a section was flat then I knew I could shuffle along and the average pace would not be damaged.  If there were steep hills then we were reduced to a slow walk.

On the approach to Ullenwood Manor we came upon quite an extravagant set of large colourfully lit marquees.  There was music, but not a lot of other sounds.  We were keen to check it out but decided to press on.  Maybe they’d been attacked by the doggers.

At Ravensgate Hill we made a slight navigational error.  We ran past the drop off the hill, so had to turn back.  Austin ran back up the hill to scout, while Justin and I grabbed a bit of a break.  We were quite relaxed about the whole thing, and no doubt confident Austin would save the day (or night).  We saw his headlamp skip around for a while, then it disappeared.  A few moments of silence and then a shout, indicating he’d found the elusive turning point off the hill.  About 10mins lost but we enjoyed the break and never made a single error for the rest of the run, which was great.  Rest over, but at least I had a mile of downhill before the next aid stop at Dowdeswell reservoir.

Dowdeswell Reservoir Car Park – Aid Stop 9 (@69miles)
Time = 13hr36min
(est. 1hr30 inside OR pace, 15min inside UR)

Another break involving a few sips of coffee and energy drink.  Those few sips of energy drink (and whatever other morsels I could manage) would mean I could start each section with a little more vigour (relatively speaking).  Wouldn’t last long but the guys could at least get a few words out of me until Father Jack returned.

I have to say I don’t remember a lot of the first half of this section.  The climb up through Dowdeswell woods on to the escarpment seemed to go on forever but I was happy with the walking.  The final two miles were run around Cleeve Hill towards the golf course.  The views to Cheltenham were fantastic.  The temperature was very low and I had to zip up everything and keep on the move, but I knew that in an hour or more the sun would start to rise once again.  After checking in to Trailblaze, we dropped into the golf club car park for the next aid stop with Scott.

Cleeve Hill – Aid Stop 10 (@78miles)
Time = 15hr05min
(est. 2hr inside OR pace, 25min inside UR)

We took our time off Cleeve Hill.  The first two miles were downhill and Austin was keen to knock off some ‘fast’ miles to make up for the long break at the golf club, but I needed a little longer to build up from walk to run.

The sun was just starting to peep over the horizon so we could now make out the route ahead a lot better which was useful because Austin’s recces had ended at Belas Knapp, which was only a couple of miles further on.  I passed him my Harveys map for the remainder of the run as a back-up.  As we dropped down towards Winchcombe it was now approaching 5am and the streets were deserted except for a road sweeper.    The roads were nice and flat as we continued through the town and over the fields towards Hailes.

Hailes Abbey – Aid Stop 11 (@86miles)
Time = 16hr52min
(est. 2hr inside OR pace, 25min inside UR)

It was at this point I knew I could finish the run, although I was not yet sure what time it would be.  We started to make calculations based on current pace and knew that if we could keep to 15:00/M or quicker then we’d get a time faster than the unofficial record(s).  At 20:00/M I knew we had the official record in the bag, but I wanted to press on and see if we could break 20hrs.  It was good to know that each section would now only be circa 5-6 miles, which broke up the final 16miles nicely.  The night was now behind us and I even managed to eat a few pieces of banana and half a bottle of energy drink over the previous section, so was feeling a little better with myself.

Over the next section I called Yve to let her know how we were doing and give her an anticipated finish time.  Scott called the time-keeper to do the same.  We were looking to finish in Chipping Campden around 9:30-10am.  The finish line was getting closer…

Stanway and Stanton were probably the most beautiful (and expensive) towns on the route and it was nice to appreciate the Cotswold Way once again.  Scott had parked surreptitiously around the corner for fear of being turfed-off by the locals for not having an expensive enough car.

Stanton – Aid Stop 12 (@91miles)
Time = 18hr15min
(est. 1hr40 inside OR pace, 25min inside UR)

A short break at Stanton.  We knew we were closing in on the finish, and the sections were a lot shorter, so no reason to be hanging around.  We were still requiring a pace of 15:00/M too, which meant with aid stops included we were not going any quicker than that pace.  This obviously came at quite a surprise.

A long climb out of Stanton to Shenberrow Hill, followed by a number of undulating fields before a drop into the town of Broadway.  I enjoyed running this section, perhaps because I was less than seven miles from the finish (with only one major hill) and the temperature had picked up.

Broadway – Aid Stop 13 (@97miles)
Time = 18hr15min

Scott was waiting in Broadway High Street for the next aid stop.  We were all in high spirits at this point.  I hadn’t taken a time check but we knew that as long as we kept up a similar pace to previous sections then we were on for a sub21 hour time, which I would have taken at that point.  This was probably the shortest aid stop of the whole run.  A few sips of liquid, some words of encouragement from Scott, and we were on our way.

We were preparing ourselves for the climb up to Broadway Tower.  Because I knew I couldn’t run up the hill it took the pressure off a little.   The plan was to walk all the way up and then make the time up afterwards.  It was getting quite warm again and I regretted not changing out of my night clothes.  I’d taken off the gillet, but still had on leggings and a long-sleeve thermal top.  I enjoyed the walk up the hill, although had to stop once or twice to let my HR settle.  Once over the top I was able to get back into some running.  The dry wheat fields were a bit demanding on sore and swollen feet, but on a downhill with a clear sky it was quite a pleasant run.  The diversion to Dovers Hill was a bit cruel (another view point for the national trail) but there were plenty of walkers out to enjoy the views.  It was nice to see other people again.

We were now running towards Chipping Campden on a gentle downhill road and I started to think about the finish and got a little emotional.  I tagged into the final Trailblaze checkpoint just short of the town itself, and we rounded the corner into Chipping Campden high street to the cheers from friends and family.

We reached the official end of the Cotswold Way and the time-keeper recorded a time of 20:36:48.  After everything that had happened we were comfortably inside the records (1hr47 faster than the official record).  I was probably too tired to shed a tear but settled instead for a few hugs with family and the friends I shared the adventure with.

From L – Jason, Austin, Me, Scott. Top team! Couldn’t have done it without them and the guys before.

Exhausted, need sleep, but really pleased. Official time = 20:36:48 (1hr47 inside old record)

I really couldn’t have done it without the help of all those that supported me over the weekend.  And I also have to thank Paul and Kate for time-keeping and James Blockley at the National Trail Office, for providing information.

Scott asked me after I finished if I’d do anything of this distance again.  My immediate answer was a big “No”, but of course things change once you have time to recover.  I’d like to consider one day having a go at the Coast2Coast and/or Pennine Way records.  These are the big ones,.  But I would need to improve.  I have to start encouraging (or forcing!) my body to take on board more calories.  I will do more 100km to 100mile races but have to do a little more research of ultra running nutrition first and maybe do some private tests (not that you can do many 100km+ training runs!).  My leg muscles are fine, in fact it only took eight days for me to get my running back up to pace again.  But my ankles were quite swollen and my achilles tendonitis (left foot) is still quite painful after two weeks.

Will the record stand?  I hope so, at least for a year or two.  It’s quite difficult arranging a time-keeper and runners to verify the route, which might put a few people off an official attempt.  Put it this way, if someone does beat my time, I’m happy to come back and try again.

The next trail I’ll probably have a go at will be the Ridgeway National Trail (86miles) or section(s) of the Coast to Coast (190miles)  if there is enough time left in the year.  This will be on my own steam to try out some nutritional and pacing strategies and recce the Coast to Coast for a future attempt.  Wikipedia has the current C2C record at 39hr36min (Mike Hartley 1991), beating Mike Cudahy’s previous time of 46hr49min in 1985.  I’ve read Mike Cudahy’s book ‘Wild Trails to Far Horizons’, and will need to go back and check his account of the Coast to Coast run.  I’d be interested to know which routes these guys ran (there are route diversion/alternatives which would make a big difference to pace and overall distance).  I also need to check what arrangements are required for an official time, sort out pacing/navigation and maybe a sponsor.

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Links:
Cotswold Way National Trail Website Report
Jason Harrison Report
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9 thoughts on “Cotswold Way Record

  1. Excellent report
    And the run wasn’t bad either :)
    The best picture on there is the watch and you.
    Emotional and understated at the same time, you should put that one in a frame on the wall.

  2. Congratulations on your record breaking run! Thanks for such a great report too. I am off to attempt the trailblaze this week… although in a slightly slower time I imagine – nothing for you to worry about! Hope you’ve had a good recovery. Wendy

    • Ha ha – no chance of breaking your record, no fear there. The plan is to do the whole thing in one go. There seems a couple of good days for the weather, so we’re going for it. We haven’t got a support crew though, so we’re relying on shops, and good natured people to let us get water! Wish us luck!

  3. Cracking report Darryl – brought back some good memories even though it was only a few weeks ago. I even felt a bit emotional towards the end for you as we approached Chipping Campden. What you managed really was a massive achievement!! My boy still reminds me that I helped set a world record! LOL!! :-) keep me posted on your other attempts for any support you might need!! Austin.

  4. Thanks mate. Was good fun. Wendy (commented above) did it non-stop over the weekend just gone and reckoned it was a tough course. I might ask you guys if interested in Coast2Coast next year or year after. Tougher challenge but the views will be awesome partic over the Lakes section.

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