St Helier, Jersey, Channel Isles

Life After The C.I.100k

It’s been a couple of months since the C.I.100k and I think the full enormity of the event has now sunk in with me and I feel I can start to process and sum it up, hopefully in this blog piece. What an epic weekend/ race it turned out to be! Firstly, I need to start by saying how much I admire everyone who toed the start line for that race, it was tough, it was technical, and it was dark. After speaking to James Manners, the winner, even he said that he had underestimated how technical and tough our Jersey cliff paths are at night. We were blessed with reasonable weather for November, with no rain, a clear cool evening and a bright moon, which definitely made things slightly less hard than they could have been.

A few stats about the race:

We had 35 solo runners, 2 x 2-man Relay and 2 x 3-man relay teams start the race. Out of these 12 Solo runners and all 4 relay teams made it to the finish line, with 8 of the solo runners making it within the 14-hour cut-off and 2 of the relay teams doing the same. These numbers tell the story of how tough that race was on their own. I loved being out on the course to be a part of the race and witness first-hand the persistence of each runner out there, it was truly humbling. I know some people had been in work that day and some had travelled in to Jersey even, so less than ideal conditions to begin!

I also have to say that the Checkpoint teams were absolute angels, keeping a cheery spirit and looking after each one of the competitors who came through their checkpoints, and the spirit of camaraderie that emanated from each checkpoint team was so great to see. Some of the volunteers were on duty from 10pm through til 8am the following morning and were as full of energy at the end as the start. Without these guys the event would not have happened, so I am indebted to each and every one of them.

When the runners set off at 10pm on that night, it was the culmination of a crazy plan of mine cooked up shortly after the 40 mile Double Top Ultra in May 2019 – our first ultra marathon. I was aware that a lot of the runners who took part in the Double Top finished comfortably within the cut-off and whilst this was a testament to how hard the runners had trained I wondered what would happen if we lengthened that course to 100k and made the race at night? I took the average Double Top finisher time which I think was around the 9-hour mark and added on 5 hours to come up with that 14 hour cut off that we employed for the 100k. I honestly felt this a tight yet achievable time for most runners with a  good base of training in their legs based on the performances from the Double Top, and would form the basis for a great challenge.

If we refer back to the earlier finishing % stats this did not work out that way, and I think the main issue which perhaps nobody anticipated was the fact that the Jersey cliff paths are hard work at night, there are a lot of technical sections and this can really slow one down. I spoke to a lot of people in the lead up to the race and they had done training runs and been around the 6:15 – 6:30 mark for half the course in daylight and I felt that most of the people who started the race were definitely in this bracket, and as long as they kept moving through the checkpoints and didn’t have any issues in the race would be on course to make the half way point in a decent time to then turn back round to make the cut-offs. 

This was not to be and at the half way point, I was there to deliver the bad news after 7 hours 30 that runners would be unable to continue in the race, which for me was a low point of the night. Seeing people who had put so much into the training and preparation for the race having to call it a day was hard both for them and for anyone with a heart. It was a tough call but one that had to be made both for the safety of those remaining runners and also for the wellbeing of the volunteers who had given up their Friday night to help us out at the race. There was no telling how long people could be out there as people coming in at 7 hours 30 would undoubtedly be slower going back and so I had to consider this. Nonetheless once we had closed the half way point there was a sombre mood that descended upon us and the volunteers present and definitely took me back to times when I have had to stop races. I knew some of the runners would be disappointed and I felt partly responsible for this – had I set the cut-off too tight? Was the race really unachievable for all but the most fit? These are all questions I asked and continued to ask myself a couple of days after. But I really do believe that with the right training and conditions, any of the runners who started that race could have completed it, a little like achieving a PB in a marathon however, a series of things are required to go right on the night: Well rested, Well hydrated, Well Fed and generally to be in a good frame of mind for the race. Add to this the ability to keep moving, not stalling at checkpoints and making the most of the flatter sections and downhills to run and whilst it is not an easy race, eminently achievable by a trained runner, with some good off road night run training under their belt. 

The race went well, we learnt a lot from putting on a 100k ultra marathon at night, and I will not claim that we got everything 100% right in the first attempt. But the things we didn’t get so right will be addressed for next year and will mean the 2nd year of the 100k will still be as challenging, but I think everyone involved will have a better idea of what is involved. I have decided to include a 50k option for the 2020 race, this will be a 7-hour cut-off to allow more people to get involved who maybe aren’t up for the 100k distance.

The winner of the 100k – James Manners – crossed the line in 11 hours 26 minutes, which I believe again puts into perspective the magnitude of the challenge. He wrote a great race report which can be accessed here. The lady’s winner Leanne Rive came in in 12 hours 33 with a big smile on her face and as previously mentioned we had 14 other runners crossing the line. Again, I can’t reiterate enough how much I admire everyone who took the line that night, taking on an unknown challenge, in the night, I only hope that this who didn’t complete the race took something away from the experience and can apply this to their running going forward and consider this part of the training and development process.

The 2020 date has been set – Friday 27th November at 10pm, 100k, 50k, 2 man relay and 3 man relay options are available. We hope it to be another inspiring, challenging and rewarding night.

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