So, how did it go?
Being short on time, as with any weekend, my plan was the same as before; park at Stourhead National Trust carpark, run through the night, aim to finish early afternoon and get the train/bus back home after (and then cycle back to Stourhead to get my car the following day).
I stashed 2 bottles of water at 40km and 60km and carried the rest of my supplies in my new Inov-8 2-in-1 race pack. I'm quite an easy one to feed on runs, in an organised ultra I'll indulge at checkpoints and if it involves running overnight I find that I don’t tend to eat much until my body-clock kicks in when it’s the normal time to wake up - think of a proper tummy rumble hunger!
As I was solo and self-supported fending for yourself is a little different, no checkpoints to indulge at, so I aimed to eat something every hour overnight and then something more substantial for the last 40-50km.
The normal fuel for me to carry is Clif Shotblocks, Gu gels and something real, which is usually nuts/cereal bars (Honey Stinger this time) and a savoury treat or 2 - a Peperami is an amazing reward, and I’ll share that with my dog when we’re training :) I also tried some of the new Kendal Mint Cake products, which I found sat very well.
For my electrolytes, I’m a massive fan of Precision Hydration’s products. I preloaded as I always do with a 1500 sachet on the way and then I'll put a 1000 sachet in one of my 500ml soft-flasks, water in the other and the PH Sweat Salts tablets every couple of hours. Zero cramps.
What more can I say? This stuff is ace!
That's enough about food, lets talk running and my journey along the River Stour from source to sea!
Starting at 23:30 from Stourhead House I’m surprised there’s no ‘proper’ sign as there is at Hengitsbury Head, just a little marker on a fence post which is shame really. The path meanders through some woods, short steep hills and single track before opening up to fields where I startled some sheep. Before I knew it I was out of the grounds and heading south.
The route is a mix of trails and fields linked by road sections, some of which were a bit longer than I'd have wished. It's not long before I crossed an empty A303 and run one of the longer road sections. The Stour now looks more river like, in one field I disturbed some cows and they took A LOT of interest in me. 25 interested Friesian cows in the dark coming at you from all angles isn't nice, worse when they decide to surround me and accompany me across the field. All I could think was walk and talk calmly and it seemed to work, the trampled to death thoughts soon melted away.
Back on route, as the river as it snakes around it's tricky to figure out what direction it's going, if I'd crossed it and where I'm heading since being thrown by the cows. Having a GPX of the route loaded on my Coros Apex watch, though not exact, it beeped and got me back on course.
More cows and these fantastic footpaths through tall corn fields looked like they were straight out of a horror movie! Gillingham, check! ......West Stour and cross the A30, check! Marnhull and down to the familiar ground of Sturminster Newton, Fiddleford and Hammoon it's all flat now along the river until I hit Hambledon Hill, where I've got my first water refill stashed, hike that until it's flat, run along and down and then repeat at Hod Hill, with cows at the top of both! That's the only 2 real hills on the route done, and from Hod it's 5 miles to my house in Blandford.
Now there's the big mental challenge ahead of me, I opted not to make it a stop point, resisted all temptation and continued to keep moving. 51km down, halfway, just another 50km to go!
The excitement caused me to up the pace a little and I was feeling pretty amazing running along Carlton Marshall before crossing the A350 and river at Spetisbury, it sounds daft, but as the sun came up the new day begins something happens. I had a little "moment", all I can only say is that something hit me, I was full of happiness and grateful for everything, just being able to be here doing this. I soldiered on to water stash no.2.
With 40km left to go I had 2 litres of water in my flasks, safe in the knowledge that there was civilisation coming up if I needed to go in a shop to get more, all was fine.
On to Shapwick, I followed the river through the fields, yet more cows, to White Mill and up to to the back of Kingston Lacy House, Pamphill and Eye Bridge. From here there are 2 choices, through Wimborne or through the meadows (last cows!!) to the A31 and follow the SVW to Lady Wimborne Bridge - which is bizarre - Canford School, though a golf club, a long, never ending, track and to Longham Bridge.
After this things get broken up a little and there's a nice hill after the next golf club and then it's pretty flat all the way once you drop back down. There's a little more road before crossing the river again and picking up a gravel track that is popular with walkers and families out on their bikes. A runner catches up with me "You going far mate?", "Not to much further, just on the Hengistbury Head", "That's quite a bit further, about 10 miles", "Yes, but I've just hit 88km" and explain what I'm up to and get 'that look'! ......some quick mental maths and that sounds about right. I try to catch up with him to see if I can still move quickly, it works, but I soon realise I'm not going to keep it up and my 12 hour goal is out of the window now and I have another 'moment'.
Once this path stops at Throop it's all road and pavement to round the back of beyond, over A338 until yet another golf club, and busy roads at Iford Bridge and Tuckton, where the gardens along the river are very crowded and the end is ALMOST in sight! After a long gravel track, where I had to queue to get through a gate there are just 2km over the hill to the finish! I know it's a nice day but there are so many people in my way - don't they know what I'm doing? I hike the last hill, drink my last 200ml of water and feel amazing. From here I just ran down the hill, my face beaming, looking for the sign.
I'd done it. All over. I needed a beer and found one at the cafe for £4.50 a can... well earned.
100.77km solo in 12 hour, 45 minutes
Anything I'd do different?
Daytime, eat more, and try sea to source. Sub 12 hours is achievable, with support/company who knows?
How did I get home?
I rented a Beryl Bike and cycled 5 miles back to Throop where my Brother-in-law picked me up as he happened to be in the area.