On 12th of March I ran the GB ultras Chester 50 miler. This was the second time I’ve ran it, but this year I’m taking part in the GB Ultras grand slam, this means running all of their 50 mile races by the end of the year.
Anytime someone asks me about getting into ultra distance, I always recommend this race. Not just because it is perfectly ran by the organisers and volunteers, but also due to the variety of terrain and it’s not the hilliest of courses but it’s not flat and fast either.
This year for the first time it started in the Ellesmere Port sports village. You then run along the canal till you get to the second checkpoint in Chester which then you would normally join the beautiful river Dee, however due to heavy rainfall weeks prior the route had to be changed so we stayed on the canal for a total of about 20 miles. Once you’re adjacent to the striking Beeston Castle, you come off at the nearest lock to join the sandstone trail.
The sandstone trail is a 55 kilometre trail starting from Frodsham in central Cheshire to Whitchurch just over the Shropshire border, but today we join about two thirds in and going back toward Frodsham.
After a plodding across a few farmers fields and up a few hills, we then reach Delamere Forest which in my opinion is the best checkpoint. It’s past the halfway point, and the atmosphere generally tends to be the best out of the 7 checkpoints you get during the race.
Now it gets hilly, you run towards Frodsham hill, which in total will be a total of 229 meters incline. Which isn’t much but after 30 odd miles, it feels a lot more. Then there’s a lovely bit of downhill, but then you have Helsby hill, which isn’t as high (181 meters) but it’s steep and you feel it in every muscle in your legs.
The rest of the route is path alongside main road until an opening by the river Gowy, then follow that till you come to an overpass then back on the canal till the end.
You get back to the sports village after a few miles on the canal and you think it’s over, you’ve ran 50 miles, but it’s not. You then have to run a lap of the athletics track, which feels like the longest 400 metres in the world but then you cross the finish line and the euphoria hits.
It’s funny with ultra marathons, there’s no fanfare like you see at smaller distance races. You cross the line, there’ll be one person taking pictures then another person hands you your medal and that’s it, you’re done. This year I had my girlfriend waiting for me with my dryrobe and a can of Raven Hill Trail! I hobbled to the car sipping on a lovely session pale ale and that was it.
The next races for the year to finish the grand slam is the Manchester to Liverpool, Pennine Barrier, Brecon Beacons then finishing it off with Glasgow to Edinburgh.