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Test Way 50 Ultra Marathon

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

On an unseasonably warm and dry day TRC idiots.... sorry runners, met up in a field near Linkenholt to attempt a gentle 50 mile run home to the pub.

Arriving fresh faced and full of cheer (which was mainly put on to make sure our support crew of Samantha Bowyer and Andy Herman wouldn't worry any more about us than they already were. I mean let’s face it what sane person signs up for a 50 mile trail run.

I was running with my good buddy Deano who is an ultra-veteran and had already primed to with the line 'every ultra you do will; always be over in miles by at least 2. Shortly after the race brief informed us that due to a shoot taking place in the area some of the course took a slight detour and we would be doing more than 50 miles. 😅😅

8am came and we all ran off like excited children hearing the ice cream van, this was short lived as the first mammoth was literally around the corner, the entire field stopped for a walk.

The first 10 miles were the roughest terrain underfoot and some rather large mountains (well they felt like it) but the views were stunning and worth the climb. Plus after an uphill comes a downhill ...wheeeeee!

Hill Number 1 starts, what goes up must come down.

Dave and Lee burnt through the first 10 miles and disappeared from my view, partly helped by myself and Deano misreading a sign and going for a mile detail through some field somewhere.

The first aid station at 10miles was soon in site and everyone was looking fresh and happy, with the exception of 2 runners who had followed us the wrong way who may possibly have been planning our deaths or at least a kick in the shin.

Mile 10 to 20 where the next aid station was started with everyone’s favourite , a big sodding hill and absolutely no one complained and we all said how lovely it was and that we had no leg pain whatsoever. It was during this part that we saw the river test for the first time! Weird fact about the test way, you hardly see the river test as most of it is privately owned. Still in the early stages of the run we spent this section generally talking utter rubbish whilst running and jumping over styles. We found a bank card in the track which collected and it was another runners so a marshal hastily chipped off the next aid station to track them down which was nice of them.

Aid station 2 at approx. 20miles was full of some lovely marshals and most importantly flat coke and food, I’ve never really been one to take on food before in a run but this day I became a cherry tomatoes fiend and inhaled lots of them…admittedly lots of those tiny chocolate brownies too. Then off for another 10ish miles to the next station. Always break a long run like this into smaller ones the actual distance is just too much to comprehend especially when you get tired and your brain capacity is reduced to that of a 4-year-old who got to stay up late.

It was somewhere around 20-30 miles there was an impromptu aid station set up by the TRCs Peter Ellis’ brother. Free pizza, drinks and biscuits for all which was most welcome.

Another running must …. Be immature with place names. Anyone who disagrees… well Faccombe.

At the mile 30 aid station we caught up with Dave and Lee, Dave was in some pain at this point but after a rest and an internal talking to he rallied and was soon stomping off into the distance knowing he would not be beaten. Runners we are a stubborn bunch!

This is where the course got a bit S*!t, by a bit I mean a lot. Just over 3 miles of the old railway line doesn’t sound too bad? All the railway stuff has been removed it’s just a wide track with trees either side, you can’t see anything through them and all you can see is the path ahead never ending. Mentally I found this the darkest part of the run, I was tired, my legs hurt, and the path just kept going in straight line. After approx. 3 miles it ended hooray, long enough for us to run through Stockbridge and then back onto the railway line for another 4ish miles …FML.

Thankfully for us our support Crew of Andy and the children were in Stockbridge (in the pub the lucky sods) and we took a pit stop to change socks, re Vaseline feet, grab Lucozade sport and lots of food. Before heading onto that bloody train line again. Getting to the end of that train line was the best feeling the world, we didn’t care about the hill straight after it, we actually skipped as celebrated a change in scenery. The mood lifted and Deano forgave me for making him do the run with me. I think he was contemplating my demise on the train line section.

The view at the end of the railway line section.

Next stop Mottisfont and the 40mile aid station where we were greeted by Andy and my small people and Tracey. At this point Dave wasn’t in the best way but after some TLC and nutrition he was once again able to rally round and said there was no way it was beating him. The mental toughness to be in a bad way and say I’m going to keep going is astounding, well done Dave! I heard him tell Lee to go on without at various points in the day and each time Lee looked at him like he had 3 heads and I think the conversation went along the lines of, ‘don’t be daft you silly t”*t we started together and will finish together.

Once we hit Mottisfont I knew where we were for the first time 8 hours! I also knew what was to come and part of that was more hills and Squab woods, which I’ve been lost in before and know that the part where you get lost is really really hilly. So Deano and I shuffled off to ensure we got through here before it got dark. For a race with so many entries It was a weird one we saw hardly anyone all day until this section where people were slowing up after the previous 40 miles. Maybe because we knew the route then and were running home we over took a few people here. We again saw a large river and went over it, it wasn’t the river test (weirdly I know) but the river Dun. We had a big moan for a while about the test way not being on the test, at this point conversation was based on immediate surrounding as we were so tired we couldn’t think beyond what we could see. And even then I hallucinated a runner in the woods that wasn’t there.

We picked up a runner in squab woods who was unsure of the way quite frankly needing someone to talk to after being solo all day. There was only so much listing to us talk absolute rubbish he could take and after the cow field ran on ahead. In the cow field we had one little buddy try to run with us, my rather tall friend hid behind me and I nicely explain to the cow that it needed to bugger off. Then we hit Romsey!! So close to home we could smell it …. Well it is Totton after all.

At Romsey it was head/body torch time as we were losing the light big style. Now anyone who has run test way paths from Romsey down the back of Broadlands will understand the next dilemma. The ground is crap, it gets boggy…a lot, the corn hasn’t been cut down so it’s like a jungle in there, placing your feet in the right place in the dark with only a body torch on isn’t easy. As soon as we entered this section Deanos head torch died (FFS why will men never prepare for stuff) I discovered that when wearing an ultra vest and a body torch the torch swings everywhere except for just in front of you where you want to run. We took the surprising sensible option of walking this section as there really was no point breaking an ankle 6 miles from the end of the damn thing. It didn’t stop one mental guy without any torch running past up though….. I can only assume he’s still out the in a bush with a broken leg somewhere. Maybe the salmon leap fairies will find him.

We made it out and onto some road….. it was glorious to be running on terra firma in the dark and we made up some time on our way to Nursling. Somehow we were still running around 9 min miles at this point. The final check point came into view, as did one of my children rapidly running towards me and almost bowling me over. Tracey, Sam and Andy were there cheering and excited. Mentally at this point I couldn’t remember who I was but someone told there was a pub soon which knocked some sense into me!

This was it the final 4, we knew we would make it. The spirits lifted and we set off like 2 giggling teenagers (I would like to say this was run induced but in fact it’s just us normally). We were on Mill lane in no time and then onto the always boggy trail leading to boardwalks, ah the boardwalks ….as usual covered in cows and poop. We were so delirious with happiness we could have rolled in it. This last part of the run flew by, probably because it was firm under foot and we could actually run. We were soon at the Salmon Leap where Ian and Teresa cheered us through, Ian gave me the best hug at this point, thank you!!

I don’t know how but from here we speed up, the finish was near and we ploughed on, with lots of shouts to each other of ‘we’ve run 50 mother fudging miles’ and ‘hurry up let’s get to the pub’. We were so busy telling each other to hurry up we almost didn’t turn in for the finish and had to be shouted at to turn right.

It was done!!!! 52.9 miles on my watch. Dave and Lee arrived moments later and lots tired hugs were exchanged. Within 5 minutes we were all walking like we were missing a donkey, I mean I’m willing to bet we still are today too.

I wouldn’t say I loved it, I wouldn’t say I hated it. On the most part I enjoyed it (yes idiot that I am), it was the most amazing experience, something to never forget. To discover that physically and mentally you can do that distance. Would I do it again??? 2 days ago I said NO NEVER, today I’m thinking….. Maybe.

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