A Journey To 100

Chris Notley - December 2019

My running journey really started on the 1st January 2017, weighing around 16.5 stone and pretty unfit, I was solely focused on losing weight and becoming much healthier. With calorie control and using the gym 5 times per week the weight started falling off which was such a great boost, the more I lost the more motivated I was to lose more. I did use the treadmill in the gym but could only manage to run a mile in one go. As someone who is focused on goals, I set myself the challenge of running 5k in one go, it took 6 weeks, but I did it. Spurred on by 5k I did, I continued to run but with no particular structure or longer-term goals. 6 months later the weight was still continuing to fall and a friend at work hinted at some work colleagues completing a 10k wolf run that autumn. With no structure to my training I did ramp up my running and ran my first 10k nonstop on a treadmill in October 2017. That was a moment I will never forget. We completed the wolf run which was great fun but what I loved the most from that event was my newfound love for trail running which would change my life forever.

I was hooked, we all signed up for all four wolf run races the following year and I signed up for the Malvern Hills trail half Marathon early 2018. A tough race for my first half, but thoroughly enjoyed it. The very next day I signed up for the Worcester half and later that year also completed the Worcester City Half and the Bristol half. By the end of 2018 I had run four wolf runs, four half marathons and some smaller races.
As someone who is always looking for the next challenge, I was planning 2019 early on. I knew I was never going to be fast so the motivation for more half marathons wasn’t there, so I decided future challenges lay in going further. I booked the Brighton marathon which was great but in hindsight I did this because I felt I had to, to step up from half marathons. I discovered ultras, researching trail runners on Instagram. Some runners I followed were running Race to the Stones, I watched the event unfold and knew I was doing it the following year. I signed up about 10 months in advance with the view of that’s plenty of time to get fit enough to run 100k. They also run Race to the Tower and Race to the King, initially my plan was to do these the following year but within a fortnight I had signed up for them too. Three Ultras in 5 weeks but it was the kind of insane challenge I love.

I made some errors in training for 2019 but that’s all part of the journey. I ran Brighton which was brilliant then I got injured with my IT band. The injury should have made me think about whether to defer but for me not completing these ultras was not an option. I ran London Revolution a 50km run along the Thames, I was really slow due to injury, but it really didn’t matter, it was a confidence booster for the bigger races coming up. Race to the tower (52 miles) was first and my IT band made any downhills so painful, that race was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, it would have been so easy to DNF but that was never an option for me, I ended up walking the last 30km. I will never forget being in Broadway before the final climb to the finish, mentally a really tough place to be but the feeling of climbing that hill to the finish is something I will never forget. To overcome an obstacle that in the moment almost seemed impossible, to overcome it gives you a strength and confidence. I was wrecked at the finish; I literally couldn’t get into the car at the finish without help. Race to the King (52 miles) was my favourite race to date was up next, I still struggled with injury but less so. These two races were two weeks apart with the 100k Race to the Stones three weeks later. I had mostly overcome my injury for the Stones but was definitely fatigued. The elevation was less in this race, so the extra distance wasn’t so much of an issue. The finish the race series in my first year of ultra-running was pretty special, you have to be mentally focussed that nothing in the world will stop you from finishing, without this mindset I would of certainly DNF’d some races. The year finished with the joust, I struggled with it as I hadn’t training for it but managed to finish on 100km so not all lost.

I watch, read and listen to anything ultra-running every day. To run 100 miles in one day for me at this stage would be my biggest mental and physical challenge of my life and something I hope will give inspiration to others. To go through the lowest lows to the highest highs in a race is such a special experience. Having followed Centurion running for some time, their 100-mile races are the best in terms of aid stations and support. I have signed up for the Grand Slam, four 100 mile races in 2020. Thames Path 100, South Downs Way 100, North Downs Way 100 and the Autumn 100. There is more recovery time between races than I had this year which will help me. I have a 26-week training plan to get me into the first race in May. Following that plan and consistency is key for me, I will stand on that start line knowing I have done everything possible to be ready with no regrets.
If I can go from non-runner to ultra-runner then anyone can as long as you want it badly enough. Don’t be afraid to fail, its from failing that we learn to be better next time and see where our limits are, we are all capable of more than we think.