2015 T100 Challenge Report by Ellen Cottom

Wow what a race!

I only signed up for this race a few weeks before the event. I completed TR250 eight weeks prior and was unsure how fully I had recovered. I felt a bit like a fraud only signing up for the 100 but I didn’t want to push my luck. I respectfully renamed the T100 as ‘the fun run’ considering most everyone else was running the T184.

This race is definitely not to be confused with TP100, it is a whole different beast. It is unsupported with only three checkpoints at Mile 26, 50, and 80 which only supply water. You have to carry everything you need with you, no crews/pacers allowed, no race signs/glow sticks and no stopping at shops for additional supplies. It sounds easy enough but as the race progresses these factors become very testing.

I traveled up to Greenwich from Portsmouth the night before the race due to the on again/off again train strikes. The hotel was only a 2 minute walk from the train station, 15 minutes from the race start…and 10 minutes from the Pizza Hut. I had an early night and slept like a baby.

The morning of the race had picture perfect weather. There was an extensive kit check before the start and then we got the all-important ‘trackers’ so all the stalkers could watch our progress. As we walked down to the race start I heard a woman tell her husband in a very stern voice ‘You better not DNF – I have a really busy day and won’t have time to pick you up’. I had to laugh because I always make my partner promise not pick me up anywhere except the finish. It may not sound like that big of a deal but at 0300 when you’re tired and want to quit you know that it’s simply not an option.

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And we’re off. I knew that the first 30ish miles would be all new to me. I tried keeping up with three other guys for the first few miles as they seemed to know where they were going. As we ran through the Greenwich Tunnel I heard a little boy ask his father ‘Why is that lady chasing those three men’. I thought that was so quite cute. It sounds pretty straight forward to just follow the Thames but it’s not quite that easy, especially through the London area. Although I was breathing through my arse I eventually lost sight of the three runners in front of me and was on my own. I was following the TP signs but soon found myself at a dead end so back tracked and waited for the next runners. We found that a lot of the TP signs in London had been vandalised or turned around. There was several times where the signs seemed to point into people’s back gardens. We followed the signs as best we could but there was a lot of back and forth going on. This section is definitely worth a recce if you are not familiar with the area. Several times we would find ourselves looking at a dead end because of construction works and would have to turn back and find an alternative route. There were no diversion signs anywhere but this is unavoidable and just adds to the fun.

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For the next several miles I ran with a lovely man named Ben. He knew the London area and pointed out areas of interest including Michael Caine’s penthouse. I felt like I was on a guided tour on London. We ran through all the tourists’ areas which was very slow going and frustrating but I knew we were slowly making our way out of the city.
Once out of London I was on my own again. I crossed the Thames and saw the route signs for the Hermes Thames Meander Marathon which was scheduled for the following day, finally I kind of know where I’m at! At Mile 43ish I saw a bridge that I know quite well and finally knew exactly where I was and confident enough to put my music on. I knew I could run the rest of the race blindfolded, which was good considering it was starting to get dark.

2015 T100 Results Ellen Cottom

It wasn’t until the second half of the race that things seemed to change. The day had been so hot and my race pack was twice its normal weight. I was also having to ration my water/food which is something I‘ve never had to do. Most races you can have a crew and there are lots of CP‘s with food/water. I‘m definitely not complaining, this race was awesome! I loved how it pushed me in new ways as it‘s the only way to get any better. I learned to look at my mileage to each CP, predict how long it would take me to get there, and that helped me do my rations. I stuck with my three favorite running foods (Peperami, peanut butter sandwiches, and Alpro pudding) and never suffered from any nausea. I’m happy that I didn’t ‘snap’ and take someone’s ice cream cone as they enjoyed the sites of the Thames though.

About 70 miles in I really started to feel it. I realised that I’m definitely not fully recovered from TR so I gave myself a stern talking to which seemed to help. Soon the lights came on and I hit Reading. I saw all the Park Runners warming up for their race. I’d hate to think what they thought of me coming through. Then I hit the Reading Festival – OMG. I’ve never seen so many people and of course they were all coming in my direction. The crowds went on for a couple of miles but most of them got out of my way as by this point I smelt worse than the Thames.

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With about 12 miles to go I called my partner to let her know when I would be finishing. It was so nice to speak to someone…other than myself. I didn’t see one runner for the last 60 miles of this race. During the night I kept looking ahead/behind hoping to see a head torch off in the distance but nothing. With 3 miles to go I saw Paul Ali out on the course taking photos. He ran me in to the finish and then bent down and offered me a piggy back ride to my car…now that would have been a great shot!

This was my 14th 100 miler and I would have to say it was one of the toughest so far. I think that says a lot considering this is a ‘flat’ course. I definitely underestimated this race but I plan on coming back next year for T184 better prepared. A huge congratulations to all the T184 and fun runners. I know the day didn’t go to plan for several runners but a DNF takes nothing away from the guts it takes to cross that start line…