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SVP 100

Rachel Bodsworth and Adam Chamberlin took on the SVP100 in August. The SVP100 is a race that was put on by ul­tra ath­lete Mat­thew Hearne in an at­tempt to bring ul­tra run­ning to the East­ern Re­gion and al­low run­ners to ex­per­i­ence this type of event and show­case his loc­al area. It is a simple concept, the race fol­lows the river Stour from a start­ing point in Newmar­ket all the way through the Stour Val­ley and fin­ishes in Brantham as the river merges into the es­tu­ary and fi­nally the sea. As usu­al there are check­points along the way but to add some ex­tra spice cut off times to keep you press­ing on.

It seemed only fair to let them describe the race themselves as it is so different to everyone.

Starting with Rachel, this is her account of the race.

It’s always an early wake up call for the SVP100 and my alarm went off at 3.45am. After a final kit check I drove to Brantham to take the coach to Newmarket. The journey to the beginning of many of the marathons I’ve run is part of the experience; people chat and excitement builds as you near the start.

The SVP100 is very different, it’s still dark outside and as soon as the we‘re underway everyone turns off the overhead lights and concentrates on rest and breakfast. I was in awe of the runner on the seat behind me who curled up and seemed to sleep to whole journey. There’s no chatting as we all are all aware of the distance to be run ahead and need to conserve as much energy as possible. Once in Newmarket we join those being dropped off by friends and family and head to the hall to register. The Memorial Hall is manned by extremely cheery (for 6am!) volunteers. Runners begin to chat about their training and triple check their kit.

In an attempt to give myself some extra confidence I had decided to wear my black 3 star t-shirt. This obviously means absolutely nothing to most people but it’s the t-shirt you receive after running the SVP100 three times and there’s not too many of them about. My training hadn’t been as consistent as I’d hoped. I ran the London Marathon in October 2022 and April 2023 but then a chest infection and various medical appointments halted what I hoped to be a strong bank of training. I’d managed a couple of good long runs in the month leading up to the race but I needed all the help I could get. After the race briefing we all walked up the road and at 7am we were off. A slow and steady start is required and I soon fell into a comfortable pace alongside a group of fellow runners.

100k is daunting to run but I never consider the whole distance, instead focusing on each check point and making sure I’m hydrating and fuelling as I go. I try to reach the second check point in Clare feeling strong and knowing that that’s a third of the race completed. Then, I concentrate on Long Melford, which is over half way. The route from Nayland to the finish is very familiar so it’s a push to the end. Sounds simple?!

At least half of the effort running long trail runs is mental so I try to trick myself into thinking so! In reality, I found fuelling hard, when I arrived at each aid station I stood for a while looking at the selection waiting for my body to tell me what I needed but it was difficult to stomach anything and then I became hungry. I made myself eat the salty potatoes at Lamarsh and chastised myself for consuming too many sugary snacks. I got it right last time but felt nauseous for a lot of this run.

I also managed to trip over twice resulting in some lovely cuts and bruises. Seeing Kitty with new socks and the first aider at Nayland was a welcomed relief. I’d phoned her after my second fall as I had blood dripping down my leg and wanted to look my best for the finish photos! Despite quite a bit of walking towards the end, and needing my head torch, I finished well within the cut off. I’d rung my children when I got to Stratford St Mary and they’d got a lift with a friend to be at end. I was so pleased to see them all, they’d brought snacks and took the obligatory medal photos.

These are the moments I remember from the race; chats with fellow competitors, Lucy appearing at the first checkpoint and spraying me with cool spray, Kitty’s magic socks, phone calls when the hills were tough and my Dad sitting at the Mill Hotel in Sudbury with a change of shoes and then walking with me along the route to his car. The check points and their volunteers were amazing, the race was very well run and has amazing scenery. If you’re looking for a long day out next August I’d definitely recommend it!

Now for Adam’s take on his race.

“You’ve got this. I love you. You can do it”. These words sound in my head and bring me back down to earth, back to a field in Suffolk some­where between Cavendish and Glems­ford. My situ­ation slowly comes into fo­cus, I see a foot­path with a couple of run­ners ahead, I’m run­ning and then it all comes flood­ing back. Today is the 12th Au­gust, a day I have had circled in my di­ary for nearly twelve months. It is SVP100 day.

In 2022 I signed up for this race, not really know­ing what it would take to com­plete it. I was very new to run­ning, I guess I still am, but in my head to run 100km I just needed to run for longer. Let’s just put that one down to ex­per­i­ence and know that in 2023 I had come back to com­plete the race.

Back to the field and those words. Whilst the words in my ears were ac­tu­ally those of Siri the phone as­sist­ant, it was be­ing read from a mes­sage Lucy had sent to me. I had left her at check­point two in Clare and planned to meet her again in Long Melford. Al­though around 4km from Clare I had hit the first deep trough of the day, I say first as this was not go­ing to be the last and from here we were in for a rollercoast­er ride!

Run­ners al­ways com­ment about that point where they ‘hit the wall’ and how it feels. I’ve nev­er really un­der­stood if this is a phys­ic­al or men­tal re­sponse. Are you running low on en­ergy? Is it muscle fa­tigue? Has the mind just giv­en out on put­ting one foot in-front of the oth­er? Whatever the reas­on I had found a wall as I entered Cav­endish and had tried to call Lucy to let her know my pace was drop­ping. Un­fortu­nately the call had not con­nec­ted and I had mumbled some strange garbled 2 words into her voice­mail. The words were so mixed up it con­cerned her to the point that the mes­sage of en­cour­age­ment was sent.

It worked, I found a bit of ex­tra mo­tiv­a­tion to keep on push­ing to­wards Long Melford at which point I was joined by an­oth­er run­ner. We spoke about our running ex­per­i­ence and ad­ven­tures as we trav­elled down the high street. Turns out I’m still very new to run­ning from an ex­per­i­ence level.

At the check­point it was the same pro­cess as the last two, re­fill my vest flasks with flu­id and take on some food for the next leg. My race plan was not to stop too long, keep mov­ing and make those aid sta­tions as early as pos­sible. So it was out of Melford and onto Sud­bury via the Rail­way Walk, trails I know well which provided an­oth­er much needed mo­tiv­a­tion­al boost. As I entered the more fa­mil­i­ar sur­roundings I could not help but no­tice more and more run­ners along the trails. The realisa­tion was that this was the start of the 50km race.

The next check­point at the Lamarsh Red Lion rep­res­en­ted a big achieve­ment for me, it was this check­point last year where my race ended. This time around I was not the last per­son on the course, far from it, I was around two hours ahead of sched­ule, but it was be­gin­ning to take its toll on my body. For the first time in the race I sat down and spent five minutes tak­ing a break whilst Lucy re­filled my bottles and en­sured I was tak­ing on fuel. With the sun still out in full I set off to­wards Bures and the next check­point in Nay­land. The beauty of the SVP100 course is that as the race pro­gresses the check­points get closer to­geth­er, so much so that the last one is only a ‘Park­run’ from the end. I needed to use this to my ad­vant­age as I was be­ginning to slow and things were get­ting very tough. The last few races I have taken part in I have found my hips were the weak point and so I had tried to pre­pare for this with some time in the gym, work­ing on core strength. It had worked, now I found it was my head that was giv­ing out!

With nearly ten hours ra­cing in the legs it was a men­tal battle to keep on go­ing. As I came along the Stour and into Na­lyand I heard a fa­mil­i­ar voice call­ing out my name, Kitty the Hares chair was on the bridge call­ing me in. At the check­point I was greeted by not only Lucy but Karl and Sam Cooper, more Hadleigh Hares ath­letes. Whilst I nev­er let it be known, I knew if they did not keep me mov­ing I would have prob­ably struggled to leave that aid sta­tion. With a smile I left the aid sta­tion with a ba­nana and pea­nut but­ter burrito; af­fec­tion­ally known as a ‘Ba­nana Power Bar’ in our house. Along with food I had the know­ledge that I could walk to the end and still make the time cut, it was my race to fin­ish and all I needed was the men­tal fortitude to do so.

Com­ing into Stoke By Nay­land the Coopers were once again in full sup­port, thanking them I set off to­wards Strat­ford and the last check­point. Much of this sec­tion I have covered in the Stour Val­ley Mara­thon earli­er in the year so I knew the hills and trails. Again it was time to dig deep as I struggled to keep a de­cent pace go­ing, I race with a few of the 50k run­ners and fel­low 100k run­ner, John. John, an Amer­ican who was over in the UK for work had been with­in a few miles of me since Clare. We would pass each oth­er and ex­change words, en­cour­aging each oth­er and without know­ing it help the oth­er through those low points.

As I entered Strat­ford with the check­point in sight the sound of mu­sic and a PA system was awe­some. The race vo­lun­teers were call­ing in the run­ners and dan­cing away the aches and pains. With my num­ber checked in and pock­ets full of sug­ar I set off into Con­stable Coun­try to­wards Flat­ford Mill and the fin­ish line. With only 5km left to com­plete I was de­term­ined to keep go­ing des­pite the now ag­on­ising pain in my quads as I tackled any des­cent. I tried my best to keep my pace at best a jog and worst a brisk walk, un­for­tu­nately the rest of my body was join­ing my legs in re­fus­ing to co­oper­ate, even mo­tiv­a­tion from my Amer­ic­an friend was not enough and I watched him gap me. Tak­ing a breath­er just after passing Willy Lot’s fam­ous cot­tage I checked my watch and the route. It was only 3km to the fin­ish, that is 3000 meters, or look at it an­oth­er way; 3000 steps. “Come on Adam, you do that dur­ing your lunch break. 3000 steps and it is all over, don’t for­get you are go­ing on hol­i­day to­mor­row af­ter­noon. That is your re­ward, get this fin­ished and get your back­side over to France to re­lax. Get it done!”.

The next 2800 steps were proof that the head is really the un­sung hero in these endur­ance events. It was only as I entered Brantham and was over­taken by a run­ner who looked as fresh as a daisy with knees high and arms pump­ing, my head fell and the pace dropped again. What did it mat­ter, I had one corner and one play­ing 4 field left to hit the fin­ish line. As I ran to­wards the fin­ish arch I could feel the last 13 hours of ef­fort and emo­tions build­ing, lumps in the throat and those wa­tery eyes as I crossed the fin­ish line and re­ceived a SVP100 medal. In a daze I found Lucy who helped me re­move my run­ning pack and empty my pock­ets of en­ergy products so that I could fi­nally sit down. Over the next the few minutes the days events began to sink home, I had just ran from New­mar­ket to Brantham, a total of 101km. Spent nearly 13 hours tak­ing over 114,000 steps. John walked past with his fam­ily and he thanked me for the mo­tiv­a­tion and com­pany over the race, it was then I un­derstood more about run­ning ul­tra dis­tance events. Whilst you need the train­ing in your legs and the pre­par­a­tion in your body, the key is hav­ing the men­tal at­ti­tude to push through dark mo­ments, ride the peaks and troughs and ap­proach it with a growth can-do mind­set. 12 months ago I had only been run­ning for a short time and the event proved too much. This year, it was still very close to be­ing too much but with the right ap­proach you can push your body to the fin­ish line. It is the support from friends, fam­ily and com­plete strangers that keeps you put­ting one foot in front of the oth­er. So thank you to all those that got me to, not only the fin­ish line but also the start line, and a massive thank you to the sup­port and event staff that give up their time to en­able the race to take place.

A huge congratulations to both Rachel and Adam, as this is such a huge achievement.


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