D&T Road Runners endurance specialist Jan Strachan tackled the Centurion Racings Autumn 100 mile event this weekend.
The race is the last in a series of four 100 mile races held annually in Southern England. Departing from Goring on Saturday the race centres on the town as it comprises four out and back legs of 25 miles along two classic trails that converge in Goring.
Jan had previously tackled several ultra-races, however her preparation for the event had been compromised by injury and it was touch and go as to whether or not she would actually make the start.
The first leg had bright sunshine and saw Jan head out West to Little Wittenham on the first out and back section on the Thames Path.
On returning to Goring, she was faced with the more challenging but beautiful second spur of the course, out to Swyncombe Farm on the Ridgeway.
With an already amazing 50 miles under her belt, leg 3 took Jan west on the Ridgeway to Chain Hill before returning to Goring. Here Jan picked up the first of her two pacers. The rules allow for runners to be accompanied by another runner for the second half of the race. So Jan had her coach and seasoned endurance athlete, Ollie Jedrej, accompany her on the third leg. By now it was already almost twelve hours into the race and dark as Jan and Ollie headed out into the night.
As well as pacers, the runners were allowed to have support crew meet them at regular intervals. The support crew help the runners by keeping them re-supplied with food and water as well as changes of kit and dealing with their other needs. They also act as cheerleaders and aim to keep runners spirits up during low points. In this regard Jan was well served by having Rob Deane, who has crewed for Jan on many occasions in the past and his girlfriend, Rebecca White for whom this was a whole new experience.
Returning to Goring at the end of leg 3, Jan had already been going for 20 hours and 75 miles. By this time she was in a lot of pain from her back, hip and knees in particular. Here she said goodbye to Ollie as she paired up with her second pacer, Dacorum and Tring’s road running captain, Jamie Marlow. By now the moonlit night of leg 3 had given way to heavy rain as the pair headed out for the final leg on the Thames Path to Reading and return for their 100 mile finish.
Jan really started to struggle as the large portion of training that she had missed earlier in the summer started to take its toll. Initial hopes of a sub 24 hour finish had vanished and now it was a case of getting to the finish within the time limit. The Autumn 100, like many other endurance races, has strict cut off times.
She managed to get to the last turnaround checkpoint in Reading in just under 24 hours. and so was faced with a last section of 12.5 miles to go and approximately four hours to complete it. By now she was dead on her feet and in tremendous pain as her back had seized completely.
Jan was lifted up by the thought of receiving the legendary Centurion buckle presented to all finishers of the race. This prospect together with Jamie’s presence helped her to keep moving despite the pain. Eventually the finishing line came into sight as Jan made her way up the slight slope to the end. Jan crossed the finish line in 27 hours, 40 minutes and 34 seconds.