Race to the Stones, Metro, 22 July ’13
Commissioned by Metro to write a 100o word feature on my experience of the inaugural Race to the Stones. Published in print and online on 22 July 2013.
Ridgeway ultra marathon: Run 100km to ancient stones for a primeval high
Over the past 4,500 years, Romans, Saxon invaders, pagans, pilgrims and the odd farmer must have stopped their travels and stood upon this very spot on The Ridgeway in Wiltshire, gazing at the impressive stone circle in the valley below.
But as I stand here on the hottest day of the year so far, the last thing on my mind is the view. I’m ready to fall into a heap.
Despite having run ultra marathons through some of the most extreme environments on the planet – from the Sahara desert to the Amazon jungle – nothing compares to the heat I’ve experienced in the inaugural Race To The Stones challenge. It’s been like running with a jumbo jet engine blowing in your face for ten hours.
Although I’m in second place and the finish line is tantalisingly close at just one mile away, for the past hour I’ve been doing a good impression of Frodo Baggins approaching Mount Doom in Mordor.
And even though Avebury is the only village in the world where you’ll find a pub and a chapel inside a stone circle, neither the promise of a cool lager nor the hope of salvation are enough to coax my legs to go any faster.
Some ten hours earlier, I had started in the Oxfordshire village of Chinnor, joined by 800 other runners and walkers, many of whom had never run an ultra event before.
Race To The Stones is the idea of Olympic gold-winning rower turned adventurer James Cracknell. It follows 100km (63 miles) of Britain’s oldest footpath, The Ridgeway.
‘When we had the idea for Race To The Stones, we wanted regular people to be able to line up at the start with the best runners in the world,’ says Nick Tuppen, head of Threshold Sports, which is behind the event.
‘We believe in the mantra “more is in you”, regardless of where you may finish in the end.’
The race is pitched as ‘one of the most accessible ultras out there’ and competitors are given the option of completing the 100km route in one go or over two days. In the end, almost half the entrants, including me, opt to do it non-stop, with the rest either staying at the overnight base camp or at a bed and breakfast.
This is just an extract. To read more, click here.
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About Race to the Stones
100km ultra marathon along the Ridgeway held on July 13-14 2013. Organised by Threshold Sports
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For more samples of my writing at Metro: http://metro.co.uk/author/tobias-mews/
Photos courtesy of James Carnegie