Scotland’s G2E: The Glasgow-to-Edinburgh 55 mile ultramarathon, April 5th 2014.

LG2E14_full_035It was last November, after a successful 10k run in Manchester, England, that I committed to run my first ultramarathon. During a drunken conversation that night with my friend, Goose, and my brother, Greg (who is in remission from leukemia and who we were raising money for), we agreed to enter an ultra next year. Hands were shaken and no more was said. Two days later I got a text message from Goose saying he had found an ultramarathon in Scotland: a one-way route from Glasgow to Edinburgh, total distance 55 miles.

The farthest I had ever run was 13.1 miles.  Training started straight away, as we were in December and the race was in April. I concentrated on getting three runs in during the week, then doing two back-to-back longer runs over the weekends, gradually upping my distances.

The race took place on Saturday April 5th. I finished work at 15:00 on the Friday, and by the time I got to Glasgow and booked into my hotel it was 23:30. The race started at 9:00 the following morning. I went to bed reading up on the route and any last minute tips.

LG2E14_full_001The next morning, I checked my bag, ensuring all my food and gels for the run were packed, and packed a separate drop bag with sandwiches and extra gels that I would get at the 24 mile point.  I met up with Goose and Greg and we got a taxi to the start line.

Once we arrived and finished the registration, the reality hit me of what we were about to do. We had raised nearly £3000 between us, and there was no way I was about to drop out – but the nerves really hit me. My previous five weeks hadn’t gone exactly to plan, and it suddenly dawned on me I hadn’t prepared as well as I could have. My plan was to run between 10 and 11 minute miles and see how I was feeling near the end, to see how much I would walk.

The race started, the weather was light rain and no wind, which was perfect. Goose left Greg and me behind straight away, and I didn’t see him for rest of the race. Greg and I stayed together at the start, running our planned 10:30 pace. The first 20 miles seemed to go past quickly, with Greg and me sticking together. However, I had possible over-hydrated, as Greg was getting annoyed with my frequent toilet stops. At around the 22 mile point Greg had had enough, and when I stopped again he carried on.

I was alternating between eating some protein or salt gel every 30 minutes, and ensuring I kept hydrated.  The light rain continued and the running conditions were perfect. At the 24 mile point I stopped for five minutes while I got my sandwiches from my drop bag, and took off my light waterproof jacket. I glimpsed Greg here, for 30 seconds.

LG2E14_full_200I walked while I ate, then started running again and felt good. I made it to the 30 mile point and that’s where I hit the wall. I think it was more psychological than physical.  The one thought that kept going though my head was ‘I have got a marathon to run yet’ . The more I saw people who were mixing walking and running, the more appealing that got. Even though it had stopped raining, the terrain was heavy underfoot now. Lots of rain meant large puddles were covering huge parts of the canal path. Before it hadn’t seemed much of an effort dodging these, but now it felt I was doubling my distance by doing this.

The water stops were spread out on average every 10 miles. At the beginning these stops didn’t seem that important. Now they were all I was looking forward to. At every stop, I was welcomed and encouraged by friendly volunteers. Plenty of fluids were available, and homemade chocolate shortbread was a great morale booster.

LG2E14_full_454By now I felt I should be able to see the city of Edinburgh, but it never seemed to come. The periods in which I was walking were becoming longer, and it was getting harder and harder to start running again.

At the 44 mile point I started to perk up again. I was getting to the outskirts of Edinburgh, and it was surprisingly nice to view residential areas rather than the beautiful countryside I seen all day. However, my GPS watch died at this point, and it was amazing how it affected my morale. I tried to guess my time running the next few miles and asking fellow runners what point we were at. Every step seemed like two back/one forwards. I think some of the information I was getting from other runners was wishful thinking, as I heard similar distance from several runners and big distance gaps.

By this time, my legs were failing me. My knees were aching and my hamstrings and calves were severely seizing up. I felt like I was getting nowhere, and the light was beginning to fade. All that was going round and round in my head was I will never ever do something like this again and why the hell was I doing it? The pain was getting horrendous, and if someone told me I could quit I would have done so straight away. At every corner I expected the finish that seemed never to come.

Finally, in the distance, I could see a group of people that appeared familiar. My wife and family were waiting about 200 m before the finish. A bounce in my step came back that hadn’t been there for the past five hours. My wife and Auntie ran beside me for the final painful metres and the sight of the finish was pure delight.

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11 hours 26 mins was my finishing time. Slower than what I wanted, but at the time I really couldn’t care less, I was just so glad to finish. Goose had finished in 14th  with a great time of  8 hrs 17 mins, and Greg had an equally great time of 10 hrs 42 mins.

That night I had to crawl into taxis to and from my hotel and getting into bed was an achievement. However, two days later when the pain had gone, I was soon wondering when my next ultra would be.

In total, 147 runners from 17 countries set out on the G2E, and 126 of those made it to the finish line. Marco Consani and Fionna Ross, both from Scotland, took first male and female, with times of 6:19:35 and 7:44:02. Click here for full G2E ultramarathon race results.

The date of the sixth edition of the Glasgow-to-Edinburgh 55 mile Ultramarathon is tentatively set for April 4th, 2015. Keep an eye on http://www.resoluteevents.co.uk/G2E.html or check in with the G2E organizers on Facebook for more info.

Lee Shearer is an officer in the Royal Air Force. This was his first (of many) ultras. Photos courtesy of Edinburgh Sports Photography.