Competitors line up at the start of the race
10:35am, 28 August saw the second T184 and first T100 start together from the Thames Barrier Cafe in glorious sunshine.
Although only in its second year the T184 challenge has already gained a reputation as one of the toughest races out there and, like last year, a large number of the entrants were unable to start as they did not feel fit enough or ready to take on the challenge. A number of those competitors came along to crew and gain valuable experience for next time.
Those that were ready for the challenge set off under the watchful eye of family, friends and the general public watching on the online Gotek tracking system.
Anthony going through his pre-race kit check
This year we added an extra water point at 13 miles. As the leader Mark Denby passed through I checked my watched slightly confused at his speedy arrival! This actually set the scene for the race and the crew began (hastily) to change their schedules just to keep up with him. The rest of the field passed through the water point and it proved to be a popular addition and one we will keep.
CP1 at Brentford was the usual busy affair with runners making adjustments to their kit and taking on food before heading to Windsor and their first experience of darkness in this years challenge. A few competitors pulled out at this stage and, to their credit, stayed on to crew.
Peter Tiffin making his way through London
The section between Brentford and Windsor saw a few more competitors pull out keeping the pick up bus busy. It was a perfect night for running and most of the field passed through Windsor, taking time to pick up water and eat before they moved on to Henley.
Mark Denby was continuing to pull away from the field although Tom Garrod was working hard to make a race of it and he was looking stronger and stronger as the race went on.
Lee Bhagat passed through CP2 as the T100 race leader with Ellen Cottom following closely behind and looking strong.
Lee Bhagat taking part in the T100
CP’s 3 and 4 saw another 9 competitors decide they could not carry on, the pick up bus was getting busy again. Competitors reached the 100 mile mark in very warm conditions. The Swan at Streatley is the finish line for T100 where Ellen Cottom came in at a time of 26.22, a great time when you consider she is carrying everything she needs with her. It would be great to see Ellen take on T184 next year. Lee Bhagat came in as 1st man in a time of 27.18 and became the first T-Series challenger to complete the T184, T100, T60 and T1! The podium places were completed by Reece Jacobs in a finishing time of 31.23.
Ellen Cottom winner of the T100
Reece Jacobs approaching the finish of the T100
As the competitors moved on to Oxford they entered their second night, when the race becomes really tough. Although you are competing with full race support, you are carrying all of your food and kit needed for the the challenge. There are longer races (not many) and there are races with more elevation and harsher weather, but carrying everything you need – no drop bags at CPs – and nowhere warm to sit and recover during the race, means you are gradually ground down and it soon becomes a battle of the mind as well as the body.
With Mark Denby so far ahead at this point the fascination of watching the race online became focused on whether he would break Karen Hathaways 2014 course record of 47.18. In Mark’s own words ‘the wheels came off a little after Oxford’. Well it’s all relative I guess!! He pushed on in his lonely quest to break the record and reached the Stone and finish line in an amazing 40.47! After receiving his medal he shared with us his thoughts on what he could have done better and how he could have gone under 40 hours (it definitely wasn’t down to a lack of planning!). Mark’s T184 victory earns him a place in the 2106 BTU Jungle Ultra. It will be fascinating to see him compete in that, he’s already chasing for race information so he can start planning!
Mark Denby at the finish of the T184, an incredible effort.
Tom Garrod came in 2nd in 55.50 looking incredibly fresh and with lots of thoughts on how he could go quicker next time – what have I got to do to tire these guys out??
With Mark and Tom finished our thoughts turned to the rest of the field who would take their personal battles into a third night. For the reasons stated earlier, two nights unsupported is tough, you can now double that!!
Tom Garrod finishing in 2nd Place
Peter Tiffin defied the laws of gravity and ran into CP5 with 2 minutes to go and moved calmly on.
The 3rd finisher was Alan Cormack who came in at 59.13. He is a Spine finisher and remarked that although T184 is on the Thames Path in August, it’s an incredibly tough challenge. He was determined to come back next year with some lessons learnt and we look forward to catching up with him again.
Soon after Alan, Lee Sutherland came in at 61.15 and became the first competitor to finish two T184 challenges. He did is customary act of laying by the stone and swearing ‘never again’!! See you next year mate!
Dave & Jane pictured earlier in the race
Next to enter the final field that hosts the Stone was Dave Cox and Jane Benson. Dave would also be a second time finisher of T184 and Jane was returning after her unsuccessful attempt in 2014. They had run together the whole race and, as I jogged out to check a runner whose tracking position looked odd, I came across Dave and Jane. As always they were together and giving each other moral support – I think by now they had run out of things to argue about and were focused on beating this challenge together. It was that moment when the toll of taking on T184 really hit me, Jane was completely spent but was somehow still moving, incredible!! I gave her a big hug and Dave, never one to miss an opportunity, filled me in on some of his race tactics. We parted company and a few minutes later they finished in 62.25 with Jane finishing 1st lady and Dave becoming joint leader with Lee Sutherland in the battle of T-Series miles covered. To those looking to take on T184 but have doubts about how to take it on, you could do a lot worse than look at Jane’s approach of lots of planning and reccies. She has gone from a DNF at CP3 in 2014 to finishing 1st lady in 2015.
The tracker I had gone out to check was that of Jerry Hunter, there was no need to panic. He was in good spirits and jogged into the final field reaching the Stone flanked by myself and Sharon Walton who came out with me. We hung back at the end as Jerry was greeted by his wife Lesley, his brother and his wife, in a time of 62.45.
Next to finish was Johan Swinnen. There are three things I remember about Johan; he had travelled from Belgium to take on the challenge, he was a true gentleman and he had the heaviest pack I have ever come across! He came in at 71.48 which was a great effort and he has vowed to be back next year with a lighter pack.
This left 8 competitors out there and to a Race Director’s delight, seven of them had grouped together. Dave Baker, Christine Buckledee, Chris Edmonds, Phillip Studt, Anthony Hugill, Ernie Jewson and Christina Calderon made up the group. There are some very experienced runners in there and I felt comfortable as they left CP7 that they would all finish and indeed they did, coming in at 78.03 in a formation that makes the Red Arrows look sloppy. No doubt choreographed by Ernie Jewson who became the third competitor to complete the T184 twice, despite starting with an injury!
This left one more runner out there, Peter Tiffin who, true to form, ran the final mile to CP7 with two minutes to spare. Ever calm he refuelled and pushed on to finish in 78.58. I was privileged to share a couple of moments with Peter during the four days and his determination is amazing.
So, that’s it for another year. Thank you to everyone that took part and for those who were not successful we hope to see you again next year with some lessons learnt. All places next year come with the T1 workshop included. It would be great to see you there to catch up and learn some valuable tips on how to beat this challenge.
We are adding teams of 2, 3 and 4 to the T-Series challenges in 2016 – it will be great to see how this works on a self-sufficient challenge.
All T-Series places for 2016 come with a pre race Pasta Party at the Thames Barrier Cafe on 26 August. We look forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new ones there.
A final thank you to the crew, it’s no secret these events could not take place without you and I have had many thank you messages from the competitors, we hope to see you all again next year.
Shane, Race Director