This was my second time at the inaugural St Oswald’s Ultra and it will always be special to me as it was my very first ultra back in 2014. The event offers distances of 50km, 100km and 100 mile and all routes start at Holy Island and follow the St Oswald’s Way through some of the most stunning scenery in Northumberland. This is a point to point race so the organisers suggest parking at your finish location and they arrange for buses from there to the start location at Holy Island. Once again I went for the 50km option as a ‘warm up’ event for my 50 miler in 3 weeks time.
It was a VERY early start and when my alarm went off at 3.15am I questioned my sanity and wondered why I chose to get up so early to go and run! I remember a time when I wouldn’t have been to bed by 3.15am! My fiancé is one of those really annoying ‘morning people’, I however am not. He jumped out of bed, straight into his race kit which had been neatly laid out the night before and off he went to start organising breakfast, packing the car etc. After a few minutes I slowly pulled myself out of my lovely cosy bed and stumbled about looking for various bits of kit I had dotted around, as I still hadn’t decided what to wear! It’s always difficult to decide on clothing for Northumberland in late September! Anyhow, weather looked good so I went for my favourite Lululemon Pace Rival Skirt, Salomon S-lab Sense Running Tank, lovely pink Injinji Socks, Smartwool Underwear and my favourite running shoes ever Hoka Challenger ATR’s. After what felt like an eternity applying vaseline to various places, I stumbled downstairs, sorted my hydration pack, was handed coffee and a porridge pot and then ushered into the car. It was still only 3.45am!
We made the journey to Craster, which would be the finish location of our 50km race. We’d arrived before 5am, so well in time for the bus at 5.15am. In 15 minutes I made a record 3 visits to the public loos and then off we were to Holy Island with lots of other sleepy looking people. Upon arrival, we had to register and were given our numbers. After another 2 visits to the loo we were on the start line.
The thing that occurred to me most was the number of people, so many more than last year and I think the majority were in it for the long haul and braving the 100 miler! I met up with some friends who were running the 100 mile race, they were as calm and relaxed as ever! We then had our race briefing and a few moments later we were off! Now, as I’ve learnt with ultra’s the start is always very low key and it takes me a while to realise I should be moving forward. This race was no different. Moving slowly forward I realised I was near the back and wanted to move forward as I imagined the 100 mile and 100km runners would want to move more slowly to begin with…. Although this clearly doesn’t always apply as the winner of the 100 mile race flew past me early on and went on to win in a time of 18:56:49! So after weaving in and out for a while I met up with a friend and we ran together along the causeway and off the island for the first 5ish miles and I have to say a little quicker than I had intended! The ‘strategy’ (and I use this term loosely as I tend to just turn up and hopefully make it to the finish line) was to practice pacing and hydration / nutrition for my 50 miler. Well that by now had completely gone out the window as I was moving much quicker! But I felt good and thought I would just run as I felt and not pay any attention to pacing. As we made our way towards Kyloe Woods, my friend who was running the 100 mile race had decided he would behave and walk the inclines, but I felt good so continued to run. I approached a check point at about 12 miles and decided that I should stick to part of my ‘strategy’ and top up my Tailwind Nutrition, which by the way… AMAZING! I continued towards the coast, which was stunning and passed through a golf course… standard on ultra’s right? I then arrived at Bamburgh Castle and one of the main checkpoints (19.5 miles). I glanced down at my watch and realised I had arrived here about 30 minutes quicker than last year which left me feeling quite pleased with myself! As I was only using Tailwind and didn’t need to top up yet I passed straight through this checkpoint. Knowing I had got there so much quicker than last year hearing lots of cheering from the lovely supporters and volunteers gave me a boost and I got in a few speedy (relatively speaking) miles towards Seahouses. I also caught up with a lady from NE Marathon Club who told me there was only 1 lady ahead of us… WHAT?? How had that happened?! I tried not to get too excited as there was still a long way to go. We ran together for a while but somewhere in between Seahouses and Beadnall I had a bit of a bad patch and she ran ahead. I decided it was time for some music which has actual magical powers for me when I’m having a tough time.
I pushed on to the next checkpoint at Beadnall, topped up the Tailwind, got overtaken by the man doing the 100 miler and continued on the ‘final stretch’ towards Craster. Knowing I didn’t have too far to go allowed me to push on and I managed to pass a few people. Through and alongside another golf course I was getting ever closer to Dunstanburgh Castle and I knew that meant less than a couple of miles to go.
At this point I met another one of the 100 miler friends, we chatted for a while and I moaned about starting to feel tired… then realised this poor guy still had nearly 70 miles to go and quickly shut up! He then told me to push on to the end so I did. One thing I will say about this section of the race is after Dunstanburgh Castle, you’ll be looking down at your watch and cursing and you’ll realise you’ve now passed the 50km point and the end doesn’t appear to be anywhere in sight! Having nearly had a nervous breakdown about this last year, I was prepared this year and although it’s hard to see the finish point at Craster (53km), I knew it wasn’t too far away.
I had lots of cheers from lovely walkers and thanks to the nice guy who held the gate open for me. At this point I heard my fiancé (yes he’s got a big gob too!) shouting for me. He’d obviously had a great race (finished 5th overall and over 70 minutes quicker than last year!!) which spurred me on. He ran towards me and we high-fived before I sprinted to the finish, 50 minutes quicker than last year! And did I mention the finish was at a pub? RESULT!
I was welcomed by lots of lovely supporters and volunteers and handed my medal and t-shirt, before been told I had also finished 2nd lady (12th overall out of 85 finishers) and was given some prizes and a trophy! Full results are available here. Great result and a great day! I then stuffed my face, drank wine and cheered in the other runners! This is one of my favourite races for so many reasons but worth mentioning are:
- Great organisation with friendly, helpful volunteers
- Great support at checkpoints
- Stunning coastline and views
- Great value
- Great atmosphere
- It’s almost impossible to get lost (HUGE bonus for me)
- It finishes at a pub (50km only!)
See you next year!