extreme2015, race reports

Running Warrington Way Ultra

I am never, ever going to run further then 30 miles. I recall this thought vividly as I finished the Cortina trail. I was absolutely destroyed. Ali and I had been running for just over 9 hours over mountains; doing 2750m ascent and descent. Our quads, hamstrings and knees where kaput.

Two hours later I got this tweet:


The Warrington Way starts and finishes in the lovely Cheshire village of Lymm, about 5 miles east of Warrington.    The route takes in the villages/areas of Warburton, Rixton, Birchwood, Winwick, Burtonwood, Bold, Penketh, Sankey Bridges, Moore, Appleton, Hatton, Stretton and High Legh before returning to Lymm.

Hmm – I wonder if I could run 40 miles? Its flat – how hard can it be?

A couple of weeks later I’d signed myself, Ali and Andy up for this.

I really felt that we had to keep pushing ourselves; we’d done an Ultra but it seemed like we could go further and I kept thinking that the point of this year was to push ourselves as much as we could. In the end I stopped arguing with myself and just signed up.

Our training leading up to Warrington involved doing all our other events; basically – Ride London, Race the train, London Duathlon, Dam Ard Triathlon, Hell Up North and Cannock Chase Sportive and six park runs with a small number of long runs.

So when Alison said we’d not done enough long run training I wasn’t worried – i’d run a muddy half marathon with a hangover – that was tough.

Andy wasn’t convinced about getting around leading up to this but he’d had some good races he’d done so i figured he’d be fine.

The week leading up to the event was pretty stressful for me as I had a presentation at the NEC for work. Diet that week wasn’t great and along with late nights and a few beers I wasn’t in the best shape.

Mentally I felt pretty good though as we drove across to Warrington the night before; I’d had a great week; got the presentation out of the way and now could blow some steam off over 40 miles.

Dan used to live in Lymm and his parents Silvia and Roger had kindly offered to put us up.

Silvia and Roger looked after us that weekend and it was great not having to worry about going home after the ultra. We can’t thank them enough for their hospitality that weekend.

Dan and Rachel and their daughters Emily and Fran has been supporting us all this year and we’d now got Dan’s parents in on the act too along with Dan’s sister Jo. I think we must have seen them about 6 times along the way which really helped keep our spirits up.

40 miles is a long way but I figured that I could run 30 as we’d done a couple of 20+ miles runs. I figured by 30 we’d be tired and the last ten would be just a matter of dragging ourselves around.

A week earlier we’d all got together for a run and came up with our race day strategy; which was basically a run/walk strategy. Plan was to run 2 miles; walk three minutes and then repeat for the entire event. I figured that we’d be looking at 8-9 hours.

The day started off wet; I had wet feet just going into register. There were two categories of runners; a relay team who comprised 4 runners each running ten miles and the nutters doing the 40 miles.

In our briefing we discovered that there was a diversion due to utility company doing some work so our 40 miles run was expected to come in close to 42 miles.

My knee decided to to feel sore.

Andy and I decided we’d better try and stick with Ali – as the only one who can run a consistent pace she was our best bet of finishing.

We’d warned Andy that Ali and I would likely have an argument at mile 18-19 as we always seem to go through a sticky point at this stage and he said he’d force feed us if we looked like we running low on energy.

The race started in the dark and the rain but Ali and I managed to try out our Montane jackets for the first time and found them pretty good for keeping the rain out.

startlineAfter about three miles we took the jackets of as very warm and the rain had stopped. Our feet were socked from running through the puddles. It seemed pointless to try and avoid them.

Running and ultra is pretty relaxing in a way; you are going a lot slower – think we were averaging about 11 minutes a mile (including the 3 minutes walk every two miles) – so you can talk. Andy was in his element and kept the discourse varied over the next twenty miles.

In addition we had some notable people joining us at some strategic points!

Dan met us around the thirteen mile point and ran with us for quite a few miles.

At the marathon point (26.2 miles) Andy, Alison and I were crusing. We all let out a cheer that we’d done a marathon. We completed it in just under five hours and had about 16 miles left – I didn’t feel too bad. Andy had been getting worried from about 8 miles as he felt way too tired early on and started to struggle after 26. Roger joined us to run along the canal stage leading up to the third stop. Andy was really struggling and Roger pulled him along to the next stop where he was able to get some fuel. He was contemplating dropping out at this stage but after a brief respite and waving one of the marshals away started to recover.

Getting started was the most difficult point for me after each 10 miles respite; I couldn’t keep my legs from tightening up and it took me a couple of miles to loosen up again.

Despite our exhaustion the last ten miles were great; Alison got stronger and stronger and Andy was back on the pace (well after chucking up). Andy had the answer with some jelly babies and started to make a swift recovery.

At the last three mile point we met up with Rachel; who had been toying with the idea of running with us. We were unsure if she was going to though because shes only just started running; having done her first park run recently. So it was brilliant to see her as we crossed over a bridge and saw her in her running gear. She looked very clean! Her new trainers swiftly turned brown as we crossed a field. Rachel had been worried she wouldn’t be able to keep up with us but believe me that wasn’t a problem we noticed.

My garmin run out of juice around the 39 mile point (wuss); I understood how it felt but didn’t have the luxury of bailing out.


The very last mile i’d stopped for a quick call of nature and found I couldn’t get my legs moving again. I was really struggling. Rachel stuck with me and coaxed me though the next mile and I managed to scoff a few jelly babies which helped.

We met up with Emily and Fran and I ended up racing Fran through the park leading out into Lymm.

I finally caught up with Ali and Andy at the last hill; and we crossed the finish line together. This was a tough challenge and really needed the support from Silvia, Roger, Jo, Rachel, Dan, Emily and Fran to get through this. We all had rough spots and managed to work as a team to pull each other through.

Looking at our splits compared to others we managed pretty consistent times which I put down to going out slow for the first ten miles. There were quite a number of other runs who were twenty to thirty minutes quicker then us but blew up after that. Our consistent pace was definitely the right strategy and we finished in 8:24


Surname Forename Club Awards Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Total time
SHARPE Charlie Spectrum Striders 1st male 01:06:00 01:16:00 01:17:00 01:12:00 04:51:00
SMITH Alison Abbey Runners 01:55:00 02:08:00 02:05:00 02:16:00 08:24:00
SMITH Michael Abbey Runners 01:55:00 02:07:00 02:06:00 02:16:00 08:24:00
WICKS Andrew Abbey Runners 01:55:00 02:07:00 02:10:00 02:12:00 08:24:00

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *