Crawley 12hr track ultra

Well…. I haven’t been doing nothing, I just haven’t updated the blog.   Apparently blogs don’t update themselves.  This is not good news to me.  I promise to do better.

Following on from a half decent performance in the Thames Path 50 miler (7:42 for 17th place/200).  I decided the next step was to get some experience of going around and around and around and around for a bit.

Race report here:



It was with a great sense of trepidation that my support crew and I made our way to Sussex for the Crawley 12hr track ultra.  My training had not really gone to plan and I had been suffering from plantar fasciitis, however, I was determined to get to the start line and gain as much experience as possible from my first track ultra, even if I wasn’t able to finish the race.
We met the race director, Pam Storey, and some other competitors at a low key pasta party in a local pub the night before and then checked into our hotel to get some sleep.  I was away with the fairies as soon as my head hit the pillow.  The next sound I heard was my alarm going off at 0530.  It was only a short drive to the athletics track at the K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley, and we arrived relaxed and in plenty of time. 
My support crew, my brother Nick and my wife Catherine, were fully briefed on my nutritional plan, my planned pace and my run/walk ratio.  I had planned to run for 28 mins and then walk for 2 mins – but the best laid plans and all that…!


From the outset there were clearly three of us in contention, myself, Matt Hobson and Robin Gardner (former international 100km runner).  Bren Morgan was also moving well, but was to suffer with knee problems later in the race.  Matt set off at a brisk pace and I tried to remain in contention.  This led to a marathon split of 3:20, which was a bit too quick for me so I backed off a bit and went through 50 miles in 7:22, still feeling pretty good.




Somewhere around the 50 mile mark

Somewhere around the 50 mile mark


A track marathon was combined with the 12hr race and the marathoners “invaded” our track at 1000hrs.  It was good to see some new faces, or at least backs… Walter Hill headed the marathoners at a seemingly mad pace.


We changed direction at 6hrs and this came as a surprisingly blessed relief.  Apart from the brief chance to see other runners’ faces, as opposed to their backsides, the change provided a new mental stimulus.
My routine was to consume a gel every 20 mins and about 750ml of electrolyte every hour, split into probably 3 water bottles.  This seemed to work well throughout the race. Solids were a different matter.  I was planning to consume bananas and cheesy mashed potato during my short walking breaks.  This had worked well for the first 6 hrs and then my body started to reject it. Increasing nausea meant that just the thought of solid food was turning my stomach and I was worried that I would lose it all.  In hindsight I may have been better off being sick and then starting afresh rather than continuing to run with nausea.  Just one, of many, learning points that I have taken away from the race.



Luckily, at this point, GB ultra runner Chris Finill turned up at the track to support his friend Andy Smith. Chris very kindly gave me, and my support team, some great advice and effectively forced me to take on more food… and to walk a couple of laps. His theory was that this was an investment that would pay off in the final 90 mins. He was right. I was very lucky to benefit from his enormous experience and feel greatly in debt to him.
By the 8hr point I was definitely going through a low point. The lead was changing hands rapidly and it was very difficult to know where you were as mental reasoning was out of the window by this point and the leaderboard was only updated every hour. It seemed that I was running faster than the others and would just get myself into the lead but then have to leave the track to deal with some gastro-intestinal issues. By the time I got back onto the track I had lost the lead, on some occasions I had dropped back into third place. This was very mentally and emotionally draining. I used every psychological trick in the book to get myself back on top, only to have to leave the track again 30 mins later. The most effective technique I found was to imagine a strong length of elastic stretching from my chest to the back of the lead runner that was gradually pulling me closer and closer to him. The key was not to put in any fast surges that would sap hard earned energy, but rather to very, very slowly make up the deficit. This seemed to work well.


Luckily after 10hrs my stomach sorted itself out and I was able to concentrate on ensuring the win was mine. I knew by this point that 80 miles was unachievable, so concentrated on making 75. It was getting increasingly difficult to get back into my stride after walking breaks, but I still thought it worthwhile to take them. I could see the second and third placed runners were suffering and realised that they had not been taking any walking breaks at all. This gave me a big boost and I was able to lap them a couple more times.




By this point in the race Lorna Maclean was moving very well and looked certain to break the 100km mark for the first time.  Smiler Sid Morrison also appeared to be speeding up and looked better and better as the race went on!  The omnipresent Ray McCurdy also seemed to be having a good race and put in a few faster laps, I think he also recorded a PB.






11hrs 45mins done.  15 mins to go.

11hrs 45mins done. 15 mins to go.






The final hour was emotional and went pretty quickly.  By now I was fairly sure that the win was mine and that I just needed to concentrate on running smoothly and conservatively. As the final whistle was blown I collapsed onto the track, a physical and emotional wreck, tears running down my face.

My wife and brother physically supported me as I hobbled back to the start line to collect my bag and make my way to the showers.  At this point my brother told me that I had run 75.8 miles and that I had indeed won; I really wasn’t certain until this point!

The final laugh? Pam held the prize giving ceremony at the top of the grandstand…. those steps were interesting with fried quads!




The most important part of the day was still to come.  This superbly organised and directed race was to raise money for a very special charity.  AIM are doing fantastic work in Uganda to build homes for orphans and Pam was able to hand over a cheque for £1,000.  Well done to Pam for, once again, raising a great sum of money and for putting on such a good race.  The lap counters and volunteers were as superb as ever – races like this could not happen without them.

In summary, this was a race from which I learned a lot about myself and about how to run longer ultras. Hopefully this experience will stand me in good stead for the Ridgeway and the Sri Chinmoy 24hr race in October.

Crawley 12hr ultra results




One Response to “Crawley 12hr track ultra”

  1. Sam Meldrum Says:

    Well done Tom!

    Good race report too.

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