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.