Jeremy Ellis' reflections on running 100 miles in a day
November 22 2021
Now I have come down from the biggest endorphin high ever, I’ve been trying to find ways of describing the experience of running 100 miles in a day. Each time I keep coming back to this one thing. It takes a bit of explaining.
I always felt I could do the first 50 miles. This is a distance I had trained for and I knew the course well. The race organisers allow you a pacer – read “saviour” – to run with you for the last 25 miles. So the way I viewed things, the bit I needed to focus on was miles 50 to 75.
The Autumn 100 starts in Goring and is a series of four legs. You run one leg and then run the same route back again. Leaving Goring after 50 miles the route crosses the river and then climbs up over and up onto the Downs. This is a big open space where the wind and rain can get you. I think it was about 7pm and so the temperature drops as well.
Friends and family support
As I viewed this section as crunch time, I had asked my wife, my daughters and some friends to come and support me at a place called Bury Down. Bury Down is literally in the middle of nowhere and right in the middle of the hardest part of this stretch. I was trundling along chatting to a fellow runner - it was mile 55 on a race I’ve been dedicating quite a lot of my life to. And guess what? She slips into the conversation that 6 months ago; she had a baby. Yes, that was a humbling moment indeed.
As I approach Bury Down, I started looking forward to seeing my friends and family. We’d talked about them setting up a karaoke and some lights and I wondered what they’d done. As the sound of my feet on grass changed to the crunch of gravel, I shone my head torch round the car park. They weren’t there! I knew it wasn’t necessary to see them but I had allowed myself to look forward to it. And so, I set off out of the car park towards the next check point, feeling a little bit glum.
After a coffee at the checkpoint, I was back out on the open ground, head torch light on the grass in front of me. This was the bit I needed to knuckle down into. A half marathon to go and then I’d be meeting my friend Mike and we’d find a way together to get the last section done.
And so, as I was approaching the Bury Down car park for the second time, I wasn’t expecting anything. Then from about 20 metres away, I saw two people waiting. They looked familiar. And then suddenly, I was in the car park surrounded by my family and friends. About 14 of them I think. And it felt wonderful. I’d made a decision at the beginning that I would smile throughout the race and would hug each person who had come to support me. So, this turned into a series of hugs, tiny moments with each of them, then we all embraced in a big group hug!
Next thing I knew I was out running again, back with the torch light and the quiet night. But this time with a chest full of warm, smiling oxygen and tears rolling down my cheeks. With each breath, there was a slight catch at the top where I was tempted to cry. And each time I breathed in, I felt I was drawing in courage and love. I didn’t know I needed it but that moment changed things. Now I really wasn’t going to get beaten by this distance and I knew I was going to feel proud of myself when it was all over.
A big thank you to all my sponsors
To those of you who managed to track me down on the day, thank you. Each of you made a massive difference. And there’s also a little posse of people who trained with me or who coached me in the lead up to the race. I want you all to know how your support helped me. It might have been a long run together, or just a chat in the pub. But for me, this has always been a mental and physical challenge, so to have had such incredible support has been invaluable.
But the biggest thank you has got to go to all of you who sponsored me. So far, we’ve raised more than £7,000 for the Charlie Waller Trust. If there’s ever a time to be taking mental health seriously, particularly for young people, it’s now. We need to talk about how we’re doing. We need to help each other find ways to support others when they are struggling. We need to be honest and real.
But to explain a bit more about why my sponsors get the biggest thanks, I need to tell you a bit more about all this.
How did this whole thing start? I’d run 50 miles on Easter Saturday 2001. And I decided – completely on a whim – to write to the Autumn 100 organisers Centurion to see if that run might qualify me for the race. They wrote back saying yes and that I should sign up that day. So I did.
I think most people realise that that there’s a lot that can go wrong when you run 100 miles. So ultra-runners tend to keep their first 100 under wraps and not go public.
Sometime in early summer, we went to lunch at the family home of Phil Waller, my brother-in-law. Phil, who is Charlie Waller’s brother, does a huge amount for the Charlie Waller Trust and he’s always got some amazing fundraising project on. I told him that I’d decided to run the Autumn 100 and that I thought people might think it was sufficiently stupid to get behind it. And of course he leapt on the idea.
Why am I telling you all this? When the wheels fall off on a run, the thought that occupies your head is ‘should I go on?’ ‘Wouldn’t it be better just to stop?’
But because so many sponsors had got behind me, because I’d received positive comments on Strava and because of the great encouragement on my Just Giving page, giving up no longer became an option. So, a huge thank you to everyone who left me with no choice but to go through with the race!
Go for it!
This whole experience has made me realise how much I love rising to a challenge and how good taking part in this sort of event is for my mental and physical wellbeing.
If there is anyone out there who has an adventure up their sleeve and can’t quite get it off the ground or if there’s challenge gnawing away in your mind, I’d be very happy to chat it through. I can’t say I will have the answers but I can give the perspective of someone who has been on a physical and mental rollercoaster and come out the other side! And of course, if you are looking for a charity to support, please consider supporting the incredible Charlie Waller Trust!
Swimming 70k for mental health
Thank you to the teams who took part and spectators who came to cheer them on, we hope you enjoyed a great day.
Eight teams compete in this ever-popular annual tournament held at Bradfield College, Berkshire.
The Charlie Waller Trust
The Charlie Waller Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales 1109984. A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales 5447902. Registered address: The Charlie Waller Trust, First Floor, 23 Kingfisher Court, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5SJ.
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