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Starting off the season with 45 miles from country to capital

by kirsty
Wednesday 15th January 2014

Race report: Run247 columnist Kirsty Reade kicks off her 2014 ultra-racing season with the Country to Capital 45 - Saturday, January 11, 2014

I live in the countryside but I like the occasional foray into the big city, to find out how the other half live. And so it was that I ran the Country to Capital, a point to point race from the Buckinghamshire countryside to London, as the name suggests.  A true race of two halves:  a race of beautiful rolling countryside in the first half, then flat canal tow path in the second; a race of mud, and a bit more mud, then some concrete; a race of cow poo, and beer cans. You get the idea.

The Country to Capital is brilliant for many reasons. Firstly, it’s early on in January so it’s a good target to have on your calendar to prevent you from falling off the running wagon over Christmas. Secondly, Go Beyond Ultra are a great company who run lovely events in lovely places, with fantastic organisation. Thirdly, it starts at a pub where they were serving bacon sandwiches – self-explanatory. Fourthly, it’s a Saturday race so you have Sunday to recover before going back to work. I am always a big fan of this.

Registration was slick and we were issued with technical t-shirts, race numbers and dibbers (I’m sure this isn’t the technical term but it’s what I call the sensor you wear on your wrist to ‘dib in’ with at each checkpoint). We set off from the very picturesque Wendover in Buckinghamshire on a morning that was miraculously free of rain and not that cold.  But sadly the miracle didn’t extend to drying out the ground and very soon we were in the mud. Muddy paths, boggy bits of field, some slipping and sliding, some more socks which will never be the same again.

One thing I love about races like this is that they are really friendly and the miles flew by as I chatted to people about races they’ve done and are planning to do this year. I met a father and son who were running together, a good few people who were running their first ultra (going for 45 miles in January as your first one is something to be applauded) and a triathlete who was getting into ultras and doing a great job of it. I love the way that you can chat away on an ultra in a way that you can’t on shorter races.  

Run247 columnist Kirsty Reade kicks off her 2014 ultra-racing season with the Country to Capital 45 - Saturday, January 11, 2014

This race requires some basic navigation and I think that I did a better job than normal on this. There was a bit of standing around and scratching heads but I’ve learned the hard way that this is vastly preferable to thinking you know the right way or just following the runners in front of you.  And this is where the sociable nature of races like this comes in handy – three people standing around and scratching heads is always better than one. Even when we scratched our heads near houses and the residents came out and shouted ‘all the runners went that way! It’s definitely that way!’ we still ignored them, before checking, double checking and then concluding that yes, they were right.

The first two checkpoints came and went and then, after about 20 miles, we picked up the Grand Union Canal and soon hit checkpoint three, an oasis of sausage rolls and pork pies. I’d been starting to flag so this gave me a nice boost, as did emptying all the mud and grit out of my trainers. The last bit of navigation came soon after this checkpoint, where we had to take a left turn onto the Grand Union Canal path, rather than just following the stretch of water we had been following. It was good to know that you really couldn’t go wrong now as the finish was actually on the canal, the only downside being that it was about 20 miles away.

It was less muddy now and very, very flat, but we’d lost the lovely views and the picture postcard villages and replaced them with factories, rubbish and strange drunk men on benches. But spotting what was floating in the canal helped pass the miles– several coconuts (no idea), carrier bags, a lot of swans (fair enough) and surprisingly, no supermarket trollies were visible. I saw the father and son again who were running together earlier, now spread a couple of miles apart. Father (veteran of many ultras) seemed slightly put out that son (running his first ultra) was striding on out ahead; son seemed pretty smug.

I had a great chat for much of this stretch with the aforementioned triathlete and as we geeked out on running chat the miles seemed to pass very quickly. As I got closer to the finish pretty much every runner exchanged a few words and there was a really supportive atmosphere. The signposts started playing tricks on me during these last few miles. I’d see a sign to Paddington (close to the finish) which said ‘2.5 miles’, then run for about a mile, then there would be another signpost saying ‘Paddington 2.5 miles’. I think that Go Beyond Ultra put these up specially.

Eventually the end was in sight, as were more sausage rolls, cups of tea and, this being the big smoke, a large array of coffee shops and restaurants for runners to refuel in. First ultra of the year completed in January, which is a pretty nice feeling.  More importantly, I met lots of good, kind people, happy to help each other out and encourage like-minded runners, which is what ultra running is all about, from the front of the pack to the back. 2014: the year of the ultra. Come and feel the love.

Run247 columnist Kirsty Reade kicks off her 2014 ultra-racing season with the Country to Capital 45 - Saturday, January 11, 2014

For more information on Country to Capital or other events by Go Beyond Ultra, check out: gobeyondultra.co.uk

Men's results

1 Edward Catmur 04:48:10
2 Danny Kendall 04:59:39
3 Stephen Hodges 05:28:42


Women's results

1 Edwina Sutton 05:42:30
2 Bonnie Van Wilgenburg 06:15:59
3 Julia Donovan 06:32:36


Click here for full results


About The Author

Kirsty Reade

I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. I'm passionate about helping runners of all levels to improve through running communities I'm involved in, such as Underground Ultra and Free Range Runners. 


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