Phoenix Running 24 hour Track Race

On the Saturday before last, I was scrolling through facebook while eating lunch after completing day 1 of my planned back-to-back training weekend (7 hours on Saturday followed by another 7 on Sunday) when I discovered that Phoenix Running would be holding a 24 hour track race at Walton-On-Thames the following weekend.

How could I resist a 24 hour race just 10km from home? And a few minutes later I had entered the race and decided that I would sleep in on Sunday morning rather than getting up at 4am again for another long training walk.  My 100 mile training weeks were really taking a toll on my sleeping and I would do anything to avoid another early morning start – even if that meant entering a 24 hour race that was only one week away!

Shortly after entering the race I realised that the race was on Friday the 10th and not Saturday the 10th as I thought I had read.  Not a problem. I would just book a day of work.  And then I realised that we had a major update to the software I’m responsible for at work going live at 9pm on the Thursday night!  That shouldn’t be a problem, I told myself. A late night on Thursday before a 24 hour race would be good sleep deprivation training with just five weeks left to the start of the 6 jours de France six-day race in April.

Next, I thought I’d check the weather forecast.  A cold snap during the week with possible snow but warming up again by Friday.  Should be OK.

So Friday morning arrives. A late night Thursday night with a 15 minute European sign-off meeting at 9pm which ended up taking an hour, then post deployment activities meant it was almost midnight by the time I got to bed.  Waking at 5am, a quick look out the window and rechecking the weather forecast on my phone confirmed that the expected warmer weather was delayed and we would have rain and snow for the first few hours of the race before the temperature rose to 6 degrees on Friday afternoon and dropped to minus 1 overnight.

Anticipating the cold and wet I had packed four changes of clothes, multiple pairs of gloves, neck warmers, socks and hats.  There is nothing worse than being cold and wet, and with this being a track race I could access warm and dry changes of clothes as often as I needed. Even although the weather forecast said snow and rain until 1pm only, I wasn’t going to take any risks.

I was planning on cycling to the race so I loaded up the back of my bike, put on my wet weather over-trousers and one of the two jackets I was going to take to the race, and left home at 6:45am for the 8am start to the race.

Ready to ride to the race
Ready to ride to the race

The race:

There were 28 runners, plus me as the only walker, in the 24 hour race but there was also a 12 hour, 6 hour and marathon all starting at the same time, and about 50 of us lined up on the start line just before 8am.  It wasn’t really raining but there was moisture in the air, and it was cold.  I decided to start without my over-trousers but I wore a thermal top, t-shirt, long sleeved top, my Gore-Tex rain jacket – the more waterproof of my two jackets – and three pairs of gloves (my thin Karrimor gloves, my thicker warmer gloves, and a pair of disposable water-resistant latex gloves that I’ve been wearing on wet training days for the last few years).  I also wore a pair of waterproof socks that I had bought a couple weeks ago in case we have rain at the six-day race. My other two pairs of waterproof socks are now more what I would call water-resistant than waterproof, and I was saving these brand-new socks for the six day, but I also didn’t want wet, cold feet so decided to wear them for the first few hours until the weather (hopefully) improved.

The early hours of the race were uneventful. I hadn’t realised that Timing Monkey, the event timers, would have online results tracking on their website – no idea why I didn’t think to check or ask – so I decided I would only check the results on the TV monitor every three hours as it would mean a slight detour to the aid station tent on the outside of the track to check.  I also decided that rather than wasting time, every three hours (which was when we changed direction) I would just take a photo of the TV monitor and then review the results on my phone while walking.  That would probably save me ten seconds every three hours 😊

Anyway, at 3 hours I had walked exactly 22km and was in 18th place.  22km was about the pace I was aiming for. My goal for the race was to walk for 24 hours and to cover at least 100 miles (161km) but this was a training race as a part of my build-up and I didn’t want to over-do things.  I figured that 22km per three hours for the first 9 hours and then a slow drop off from there through the night would see me walk about 165km by the time the race finished, and that was all I was really interested in.  My goal in this year’s six-day race is 165km on day one, so this 24 hour race would replicate those plans.

The good news was that the forecast rain and snow hadn’t arrived and it looked like the weather was slowly improving.  Wanting to preserve the life of my new waterproof socks, about 3 ½ hours into the race I decided that it was unlikely to rain again and I stopped briefly to change socks.

Other than that, the race was uneventful and I passed 6 hours with 44km on the board and was now in 14th place – not that I was racing anyone 😊

Another three hours gone and it was now 5pm, nine hours into the race.  My manager had sent me a txt advising that all was OK after last night’s software update. I had been wondering how things were going, so I was glad to hear that all was OK. The only problem really, was that I had somehow managed to slow down without realising it – only completing 21.2km in the preceding three hours. I was still on track for 100 miles in 24 hours so I wasn’t concerned – yet.  I had also now moved up to 11th place and was looking forward to the night which is when I get mental energy from passing runners who always slow down more than me when it is dark.

I stopped again at 10 hours to check the leaderboard – 72km on the clock.  Only 6.8km in the last hour but still on track and now in 10th place.

Twelve hours and I was now in 9th place with 86km. 7km per hour for the last two hours was acceptable and 86km in the first 12 meant I only needed 75km in the next 12 hours.  The only problem was that the temperature was dropping rapidly and the moisture on the track (and on everything else including my food table) was freezing, making the track a little slippery. I was wearing my Brooks Adrenaline GTS which don’t have much tread.  With the forecast bad weather I had made a last minute decision to bring a spare pair of shoes, and even more fortunate was the decision to bring a pair of Hoka Cliftons rather than a second paid of Brooks.  The Hoka’s had some tread on the bottom so I stopped to change shoes and also put on a second jacket.  I was now wearing five layers on top!

On checking the TV monitor at 15 hours I found I was only on 105.2km, having walked just 19.2km in the previous three hours.  Interestingly, the gap between me and the two women who had led the race since the start (and made running for 15 hours, to date, look easy) had had actually decreased, so I wasn’t the only athlete who was slowing down. But 19.2km in three hours was less than 6 ½ kilometres per hours and with just nine hours left things could become tight if I continued to slow.

So I switched my phone from playing podcasts to some high-tempo music and switched my diet to highly processed sugar – mainly chocolate, sweets and biscuits – and spent the next three hours walking hard.  There weren’t many people left on the track with all the shorter events now finished, and at times I think I was the fastest person on the track – which gave me the mental energy to push harder.

I deliberately didn’t check the scoreboard again until the three hours was up and was surprised to see that I was now in 5th place and had closed the gap on everyone in front of me. Total distance in 18 hours – 126.8km.  21.6km in the last three.  Almost the same pace I had been walking during the first six hours of the race.

I now only needed 34.1km (actually 34.4km because the race organiser had told us before the start that they would not be measuring part laps, meaning that my minimum target needed to be 161.2km and not 160.9), and I had six hours left.  I could do that easily, and with the fear that walking too hard in this race could potentially slow my recovery and reduce my training over the next few weeks as I complete my six-day race build-up, I decided to walk easy for the next three hours.

The only problem with that was that it was getting colder by the hour and when I stopped for a quick check on the scoreboard at 20 hours I found that it was now minus 2!  By now I was also wearing a buff over my face to keep the cold away from my skin and for the first time ever I was using hand-warmers inside my gloves.  I had bought these from Poundland many years ago but had never needed them until now.  They were amazing and I just wish I knew about these, the waterproof socks, and the latex gloves back in 2019 when I was forced out of Lon Las due to being wet and frozen.

Phoenix Running Track 24 - 20 hours
20 hours in. Dressed for the freezing conditions.

Checking the scoreboard at 21 hours, after taking the last three hours relatively easy, I was on 144.8km.  18km in the last three hours but only 16.1km (actually 16.4km) to get to my 100 mile target.  I was still in 5th place with 4th and 3rd being 11 and 15km ahead of me, and the two leading ladies 16km ahead. And there was over 20km back to 6th place, so I decided to continue walking easy, knowing that with daylight only another hour away my pace would slowly pick up again anyway.

Phoenix Running Track 24 - Dawn

As it turned out, the two guys immediately in front of me both dropped out after completing 100 miles. One of them appeared to be injured and had been limping badly for a while, and the other must have only wanted to complete 100 miles.

So I ended up finishing in 3rd place with 164km.  19.2km in the final three hours.  And just to prove to myself that I still had plenty left, I ‘sprinted’ the last lap in 2 minutes 34 seconds – my fastest lap of the race by 21 seconds!

And then after that, on the way home I went to the nearest parkrun and walked a slightly painful 42 minutes.  Again, just showing to myself that this sport is more mental than physical – in that I could walk the last 400 metres of a 24 hour race at 6 ½ minute kilometre pace but after an hours rest I struggled to walk 8 ½ minutes per kilometre for 5km.

Overall, this race was a great training event.  I got an opportunity to walk when sleep deprived, which is hard to get in normal training and, for only the second time ever, I completed a 100 mile race without drinking any Coke – I’m currently on a Coke free diet from the beginning of January until the six day race in order to lose some weight.  Last year I lost 7kg by stopping my Coke consumption for four months. This year I’ve lost 4kg in the last nine weeks with the goal of losing another 2kg before race day.  Normally in a 24 hour race I will drink Coke during the last 10 to 12 hours but in this race I only drank water.

41 100’s:

This was my 41st walk of 100 miles or further, my 19th sub-24 hour 100 miler, and my 5th 100 on a 400 metre track.

And to think this all started around this time ten years ago when I decided I wanted to walk 100 miles and spent six months training for it!  For this race there was only six days between finding out about the race and standing on the start line.


As always, here’s a little bit of analysis of my race.

If you’ve read this race report and are interested in competing in the next Phoenix Running 24 hour track race at Walton-on-Thames, their next event will be on Friday 1st September.

I’m not yet committing to this race because after the six-day next month I have a goal of walking 200 miles in 48 hours at the Gloucester 48 hour race in mid August, so I will wait to see how I recover from that before entering.  But I suspect I will be there 🙂


NZ Centurions Race 2022

The New Zealand Centurions Race is held in conjunction with the annual Sri Chinmoy 24 hour running championships.  This year saw 18 men and 6 women line up for the 24 hour race plus many others in shorter 6 and 12 hour races.  Included in the 24 hour race were 6 walkers, all male, representing three different countries – two from NZ (myself and Richard Young), three from Isle of Man (Robbie Callister, Chris Burn, and Andrew Titley) plus Martin Vos from the Netherlands.  All the walkers were experienced over the 100 mile/24 hour distance and I was looking forward to a tough race on the 400 metre track at Millennium Stadium in Auckland.

To add to the toughness of my race, I only arrived in Auckland 23 hours before race start after a 32 hour flight from the UK, although it turned out that Robbie and Andrew only arrived a few hours before me after missing their connecting flight in Singapore.

I was travelling to New Zealand for an extended holiday and it just happened to be coincidental that my flight arrived in Auckland in time for the race (or at least that is what I told my wife) and therefore I wasn’t sure whether I was going to walk hard and attempt to break the NZ M50 age group records (or even the national track records) for 100 miles and 24 hours, or whether I would just aim to complete another 100 mile walk inside 24 hours. My training had gone reasonably well and I felt that if I didn’t suffer too much from the 32 hour flight then the M50 records (21 hours 37 minutes for 100 miles and 177.6km for 24 hours set by Gerald Manderson way back in 1998) were a possibility, and when my father volunteered to be my support crew I decided that I’d like to try and break those records.

The race:

The race started in warm sunny conditions at 9am on Saturday 12th November and immediately the three IOM walkers took the lead (amongst the walkers) and after two laps walking just behind Richard Young and just ahead of Martin Vos I made the decision that I would try to walk with the IOM walkers. They were already 12 seconds ahead of me but I moved past Richard and picked up the pace – having walked 3:17 and 3:11 for the first two laps I walked the third lap in 3:05 and after a few more laps in the 3:02 to 3:05 range I moved up another gear walking the next 59 laps at between 2:50 and 3:00 pace until I needed my first toilet stop.

NZ Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race walkers
The three IOM walkers followed by me (32) and Richard Young (14)

During that 3 hours I caught and passed both Chris and Andrew as they stopped for short toilet breaks themselves but Robbie stayed ahead of me and eventually lapped me.

When I entered the race I looked at the calibre of both the runners and walkers who had already entered and thought that finishing in the top three walkers and top ten runners should be achievable but I expected at least one of the IOM walkers to beat me and with the race being the NZ 24 hour running championship I expected that many runners would also be well ahead of me, and whilst things were going well I found myself in 17th place overall and second walker (exactly three minutes behind Robbie) as I completed the first 105 laps (Marathon distance) in 5 hours and 17 minutes.

I had given my father instructions to feed me a bowl of pasta every six hours and I would ask for other food as and when I needed it but would also eat regularly from the food table manned by the race volunteers. And almost exactly on time Dad appeared on the track with my first bowl of pasta at 6 hours. I don’t normally eat hot food, or even meals, in 24 hour races. Instead I prefer to eat small amounts regularly and along with the pasta I was mainly eating fruit and crisps (or chippies as they are called in New Zealand).

The afternoon had definitely warmed up by now and I knew that people were going to start suffering soon. I wondered if I had started too fast for the conditions but now that I had started at that fast pace I decided to keep going hard for as long as I could. I was still averaging a shade over 3 minutes per lap whilst Robbie’s pace seemed to be all over the show.

Unlike the previous two Sri Chinmoy 24 hour track races I have done (NZ in 2013 and UK last year) they didn’t have the big scoreboard to enable competitors to easily keep track of their place so I was focusing solely on my own lap times, checking the clock at the end of each lap to ensure that I was maintaining a steady pace.  I figured that Robbie was likely to beat me but I was walking well and didn’t think any of the other walkers would catch me.  I also knew that my strength was my ability to walk strongly through the night and I had told myself that everyone else would be struggling at 3 in the morning but for me that would be 2 in the afternoon and therefore I would have the advantage.

And that is exactly what happened. I averaged 3:07 per lap for the first 92km (12 hours and 1 minute) including 4 toilet stops (three more than I would have liked but I had just come off a 32 hour flight) and then I had my second bowl of pasta and my pace dropped a little for the next two hours. I don’t know why my pace dropped but I decided it was time to switch to processed sugar – coke and chocolate – and also start listening to some music, and very soon I was back walking 3 minutes per lap, and once I found my pace again I managed to walk between 2:50 and 3:00 for another almost two hours.

By twelve hours all the walkers, other than myself and Andrew, had dropped out and many of the runners were struggling or had also dropped out. With Robbie gone, I was also leading the walkers race.  The high dropout rate amongst the walkers confirmed in my mind that we had gone too hard early on for the conditions, but I was still going well and feeling good.  I started to think about the possibility of breaking Peter Ballie’s 100 mile and 24 hour NZ track records set back in 2005, but I always say that you should never think about how far you have to go in a race. You should only concentrate on the here and now. And whilst I was feeling good, from 16 hours (3am) my pace started to drift a little and I never managed to get under the 3 minutes per lap again which I needed to get through to 100 miles in under 21 hours and 4 minutes (Peter’s NZ track 100 mile record).

Eventually I decided to refocus on Gerald Manderson’s M50 100 mile and 24 hour records. They were still both well within sight although I would still have to maintain a good pace of around 3:20 to 3:25 per lap for the remainder of the race.

Dad had a sleep in his campervan which he had moved to beside the track and he woke at 3am as instructed to give me by next bowl of pasta. I told him that I would stick to coke and chocolate until I got through to 100 miles as I was worried that if I slowed to eat a bowl of pasta – my previous two meals had both taken two full laps at a slightly slower pace to consume – I wouldn’t be able to pick up the pace again.  So I sent him back to sleep for another two or three hours.

Around day break the organisers told me that I was in third place overall. I was walking with Dawn Tuffery at the time and I asked if Dawn was ahead of me.  I can’t remember their exact reply but it was along the lines of ‘Dawn doesn’t count’.  What they meant was that with the race being the NZ 24 hour championship I was third male and in line for the bronze medal.  Unfortunately I wasn’t registered with Athletics NZ so a bronze medal wouldn’t be available to me but I was surprised and pleased to learn that I was in third place, and fourth overall.

At a little after 6:30am I passed the 100 mile mark in a new NZ M50 record of 21:32:44, just under five minutes inside the previous record, and my third best 100 mile time behind the two sub-21 hour times I had walked at the 2016 and 2018 Continental Centurions Race in Holland when I was in the M45 age group.

I was pleased with this and rewarded myself with a can of coke and a Moro bar (my favourite NZ chocolate bar) while Dad went off to make some more pasta.

I was now taking over 3:20 per lap but I only had 16 ½ km to go to get the 24 hour M50 record and just under 2 ½ hours to do that, and I figured that if I had an almost five minute lead over Gerald’s 1998 race at 100 miles, then surely I should be able to break his 24 hour distance too.

I ate my breakfast and then focussed on trying to pick up the pace a little. I knew I would need one more toilet stop and I wanted to build a buffer to allow for that.  I knew that I had to complete a little over 444 laps (in total) and once I got to 170km (425 laps) I started counting down, and also doing the math to check that I would complete the required distance.

At 174km I couldn’t put it off any longer and I had to take one last toilet stop, and then I calculated again – 33 minutes, 8 and a bit laps. That is four minutes per lap. No problem.

I passed my goal distance of 177.665km with about five minutes to spare and completed my 445th lap with 2 ½ minutes left until the race would finish. Often in races I find that once the end is in sight I can pick the pace up for a sprint finish, but today I really had nothing left.  I had achieved my goals and I continued to walk fast, completing another 315 metres, but there wasn’t any sprint finish.

My 81 year old father might say otherwise though. He tried to keep up with me during the last 200 metres and I kept telling him to stop and walk, worried that I would finish to find him keeled over behind me. Fortunately he was OK and fortunately I did maintain the pace right through to the bell as Paul Hewitson had a flying finish to finish just 122 metres behind me in fourth place (male) to my third place.  Paul collected the national championship bronze medal though due to me not being registered with Athletics NZ.

Some analysis:

I love track races and short loop races as there is so much analysis that can be done afterwards (providing that lap times and splits are provided).

This graph shows my lap times (blue dots) and also my time for the last 2km.  I had two periods where I was walking really well – from lap 3 through to about lap 100, and then from lap 270 to 305.  My fastest 2km 14:21 (7:11 pace) finishing at lap 48 (19km) but I also got back down to a 14:31 (7:15 pace) 2km between 115 and 117km. If I was mentally strong enough, this tells me that a sub 20 hour 100 mile is still possible. My best is currently 20:44 from Holland in 2018.

Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race lap times
Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race lap times

Some photos:

I always like to add photos to my race reports.

Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race NZ
Soon after the start. Chasing the IOM walkers
Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race NZ
Finally caught Robbie (31) and Andrew (12)
Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race NZ
Into the night and still going strong
Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race NZ
Three hours to go. Every lap I checked the clock to see how long my last lap had taken. The TV screen was too small to read as I ‘flew’ past it
Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race NZ
Prizegiving. I didn’t get the bronze medal but I did get a trophy for finishing 3rd male

40 walks of 100 miles or more:

In 2013 I completed my first 100 mile walk at the NZ Sri Chinmoy race and at the time I said “never again”.  But as we know, most athletes say “never again” during or immediately after a hard race but they never mean it, and in August 2014 I completed my second 100 mile race.

As you will most probably know if you have read any of my other race reports, one thing led to another, and the distances and frequency of my races and adventure walks increased, and this race was my 40th walk of 100 miles or farther.  Not a bad effort.

Richard McChesney 100 milers 2013 to 2022

And I have plans to continue. I seem to recover well from these long walks. Physically it only takes a couple weeks. Mentally, it takes a bit longer, especially if it has been a hard race requiring lots of focus to maintain a good pace.

My focus now is on the 6 jours de France in April.  It is now four weeks since the NZ 24 hour race and I have resumed training (and walked a PB over the marathon distance this past weekend) and will build my weekly mileage up so that when I return to the UK after Christmas I can launch back into a high mileage phase of about 2 ½ months through to mid/late March, and then the goal is to walk a minimum of 700km in six days.

After that, well let’s see what comes next.

Thanks Dad

Last, but definitely not least, a big thank you to my father for his support in this race.  Ever since I was a teenager running much shorter events I’ve never had a ‘good’ race when he has come to watch or support me, so I was very happy to finally have some success in front of him.

UK Centurions race – Middlesbrough 2022

My first ‘walkers only’ race since June 2019 was the ‘annual’ (except for the last two years due to the pandemic) UK Centurions race which is held at a different venue in the UK each year.  This year it was on a 974 metre cycling track in Middlesbrough with 39 walkers entered.

About a half of those entered, myself included, had previously qualified for UK Centurion status by completing 100 miles in under 24 hours at a previous UK Centurions race and the other half of the field were either walkers looking to add a UK Centurion badge to the badge/s achieved in other countries or were looking to completed a sub 24 hour 100 mile walk for the first time.

Centurions race-walking has a long history with the first person recorded as walking 100 miles in under 24 hours being James Edwin E. Flower-Dixon in London in 1877.  Since then (and before this year’s race) 1,211 walkers have achieved this feat in the UK (I was number 1,131 in 2014) and another 700+ have achieved this in one of the other six countries where Centurion walking is recognised. Many have qualified as a Centurion in multiple countries with the legendary Sandra Brown being the only person to qualify in all seven countries (but that is because Malaysia have discontinued their race) and eight walkers having qualified in six different countries including three of this year’s competitors at Middlesbrough – Sharon and Justin Scholz from Australia and Kim Janssens from Belgium.

In my case, I have qualified in New Zealand (2013), UK (2014) and Netherlands (2016) and this year my aim was simply to walk under 21 ½ hours to break the NZ M50 100 mile record of 21:37.

My training hadn’t been going well though as I have been struggling with foot pain/discomfort since late April but having completed the first 100 miles of the 6 jours de France in May in 24:29 and the first 100 miles of the Warwickshire Ring Canal Race in June in 24:24, I was confident that I should at least be able to walk a sub 22 ½ hour race and if things went well, then sub 21 ½ hours.

I also had two other goals for the weekend:

  1. Join Middlesbrough to my continuous line of everywhere I have walked since 2014, and
  2. Complete my 141st different parkrun (and 489th overall)

Eventually I’m aiming to have walked contiguous lines to all corners of Great Britain but that is a lot of miles and I take every opportunity I can to build on my ever-growing map.  In 2016 I was training for my first six-day race when the UK Centurions race was in Redcar. The cost of getting from London to Leeds was relatively cheap but for some reason it was much more expensive to travel all the way to Redcar (just 10 miles to the East of Middlesbrough) so I decided to walk the 70 miles from Leeds to Redcar the day before the race. This walk passed Middlesbrough to the South East, so on Friday afternoon after arriving in Middlesbrough I went for a two hour walk to join Middlesbrough to the line I had walked in 2016.  I haven’t yet joined Leeds to the main part of my map yet, but hope to do that next year or the following year during another ‘adventure walk’.

UK Map
My multi-year project – walking one contiguous line to all corners of Great Britain

And on the Saturday morning before the race I took the opportunity to walk an easy 5km at Albert Park parkrun, walking would I hoped would be my overall race pace of around 8 minutes per kilometre.

Goals 1 and 2 achieved.

The race:

I didn’t arrive at the Middlesbrough cycle circuit until about 11am, one hour before the race, due to a lack of organisation on my part and a long delay waiting for a bus from my hotel down to the race. When I arrived I met Diana Obermeyer who was supporting American walker, Ray Sharp, and had offered to support me as well. We found a space about 20 metres past the timing mat and set up our table. My intention was to eat the food I had brought with me and take drinks from the aid station which was positioned immediately after the timing mat, so I laid my food out and then made final preparations for the race start at 12 noon.

It was a windy day and looked like it would also be a hot, sunny afternoon so I placed my white towel over my food to both stop the food blowing away and also stop it from being cooked in the sun, taping my towel to the windward end of the table.

It was good to meet many old friends, some whom I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic, and I probably spent a little too much time talking and not enough time preparing which resulted in me still needing to go to the toilet at the time we were being called to the start line. So I put nature’s call on hold and lined up with 35 other walkers to listen to a few words from the race referee and also the local mayor, and then we were on our way.

As always, I started slow compared to many, but at a pace that I felt I would be able to hold for the first 8 to 10 hours, or at least until darkness anyway. My goal of 21 ½ hours would require lap times of about 7 minutes and 50 seconds, although a 7:52 average would actually get me to the finish about a minute ahead of the NZ M50 record of 21:37. I thought if I walked 7:40’s for the first 8 to 10 hours, then with a little bit of slowing down when it got dark I would still be in the high 80km range, maybe even 90km, at 12 hours and if I could do that then 21 ½ hours would be a strong possibility.

And for the first six hours things went well. The walk was proving to be a bit harder than expected due to the wind and a short dip and incline at the top end of the circuit. In reality, what was happening is that from the top end of the circuit there was a short incline of about 150 metres and then we turned into a strong head wind for the next 300 meters. After that we had a tail wind as we walked down over the timing mat and past the feeding tables followed by a short descent into the top end of the circuit.  The combination of the incline and head wind was making us work harder that we should for the pace we were walking and after six hours averaging slightly under 7:40 per lap my pace started to drift out towards eight minutes.

Middlesbrough cycle circuit

Rain Saturday night

After about eight hours the wind finally died away only for the heavens to open and heavy (torrential at times) rain arrived. Whilst most walkers put on waterproof clothing the combination of rain and the lighter wind was freezing and eventually I decided that, with no end to the rain in sight and my first change of wet-weather clothing already soaked, I would take a short break and change into dry clothes plus my Disneyland plastic poncho and also waterproof socks.

In taking about 13 minutes out of the race to do this my attitude towards the race changed and I felt that I was no longer ‘racing’ and was now just walking to complete the 100 miles in a respectable time. I had only completed 70km (43 miles) at this stage, and losing 13 minutes wasn’t the end of the world – although it wasn’t good either – but my mind had found an excuse to stop pushing the pace and when I resumed walking my pace immediately dropped into the mid to high eight minute range.

Interestingly, as often happens, it stopped raining soon after I donned my poncho but I walked for a few hours wearing the poncho fearing that if I took it off again it would start raining, and perhaps sub-consciously using it as an excuse to not walk so hard.

The floodlighting on the course was good and couldn’t be blamed for me slowing down. I just didn’t have the right attitude.

I had decided to walk this race without listening to any podcasts or music but by dawn I was now struggling to walk under nine minutes per lap so I decided to see if some music would get me going again.  And it did, for a while.

A little after 8:40am I remember crossing the timing mat and seeing the time on the clock – 20 hours 42 minutes.  My 100 mile PB.  But on this occasion, I still had 19 laps to go – another 18.5km (11.5 miles).

For the first time (of another 18), I calculated 24 hour less 20 hours 42 minutes equals 3 hours and 18 minutes equals 198 minutes. 198 divided by 19 is about 10 ½ minutes per lap. That last minute was just over nine minutes. Even with a further slow down I should at least complete the 100 miles within the 24 hour time limit.

It was also about this time that my bladder decided it had had enough and every couple laps it decided it needed to empty itself immediately. About half of the time this meant a quick stop in the bushes at the top end of the course and on the other occasions it meant a quick visit to the toilet in the shed at the other end. To say I was struggling is an understatement, but strangely I was still enjoying the challenge.  If it was easy, everyone would do it!

During the night a large number of walkers had stopped and by now the first three walkers had also finished. The rain had long gone, the wind was back but nowhere near as strong as yesterday, and it was just a case of going through the motions to complete the race.

Knowing that I would definitely finish the race in under 24 hours was both good and bad. The good part was the knowledge that I would finish, but the bad part was that with that knowledge I knew that I could walk even slower, and my lap times drifted out to the high nine minute range. Even when faster walkers passed me at 8 ½ or 9 minute pace I had no incentive to increase my pace to walk with them and so I just continued dawdling around lap after lap.

On a regular basis I would hear the bell for a walker and a lap later see them complete their race. Eventually it was my turn but even when I got the bell for my last lap I couldn’t be bothered picking up the pace and I just wandered around one more lap to the finish. My final time: 23 hours, 45 minutes and 21 seconds.  My 39th walk of 100 miles or more, and my 17th sub-24 hour 100 miler.

UK Centurions race Middlesbrough 2022 UK Centurions race Middlesbrough 2022
Saturday afternoon – walking with attitude. Reasonable stride length, good arm swing, head up. Sunday morning – no attitude, short stride, arms held low, looking down.
UK Centurions race lap times
My lap times. Reasonably consistent until I changed my clothes on lap 74 and then they began to get consistently slower
UK Centurions race lap times versus target
I was on track until I changed my clothes, and then steadily dropped my pace

One final thought; I can’t blame my foot problems for my race failure. It was definitely a mind thing. In fact my feet didn’t hurt (much) during the race and didn’t start hurting again until Monday morning.

What’s next?

At the time of writing this I’m unsure what my next race will be. I have until July next year to break the NZ M50 100 mile (and ideally 24 hour) records but my focus for 2023 will be the 6 jours de France again where I want to attempt to break 700km.

This leaves the German Centurions race (if it goes ahead) in early October this year and the NZ 24 hour race in November – I will arrive in NZ 24 hours before that race starts. Alternatively, my only other option will be the Dutch Centurions race in June. That will require a speedy recovery from the six day race which is in mid-April.

So at the moment I’m undecided.