STRATFORD Athletic Club’s Tara Lambert was among 200 or so ‘ultra’ runners who took on the challenge of the Thames Trot 50 on Saturday.
This is a 50-mile trail race following the Thames from Oxford to Henley and, for Tara, it was a fine achievement to finish the event.
She recalls the competition in her own words: “I was struggling in the thick mud along the Thames path and at the checkpoint for mile 20 I was surprised to hear my name being shouted and it was Chris and Jean Whately from Stratford AC who had come down to cheer me on!
“With hugs and flapjacks and positive words, they sent me on my way with renewed energy. I saw them again at the next checkpoint (mile 28) and they helped sort my kit out and get me out again quickly for the next leg as I was getting progressively nearer the time cut-offs for each checkpoint.
“At the next checkpoint (mile 35) I was only four minutes ahead of cut-off and the last person to leave it. Everyone else either withdrew or was timed out. They asked me did I want to withdraw but I rather stupidly didn’t.
“I knew I wouldn’t make the cut-off for the final checkpoint at mile 42 so now I was just running for me. It was getting dark so I turned on my head torch, pulled up my big girl pants and cracked on with it.
“A couple of miles in, I caught up another pair of runners. It was a couple of ladies and, as they weren’t giving up either, we agreed to run together. It wasn’t really running by then, sort of a lurching zombie shuffle!
“They said they were going to get to 50 anyway regardless of cut-offs as they were raising money for charity. I couldn’t turn away from that so at the mile 42 checkpoint, where we were 15 minutes too late, we handed in our timing chips and set off again in the dark.
“There followed eight miles of painful stumbling but I was in good company. Eventually we got to the finish at 8.20pm – 11 hours and 50 minutes after starting and 50 minutes late as the time limit was 11 hours.
“The race staff had packed up and gone home but the ladies’ supporters had got our medals for us. We were greeted as heroes – even me who was a stranger to them. To have been given a chance to complete the run and end the day with pride and not disappointment was something I was incredibly grateful for.
“The saying ‘finish lines not finish times’ is important, although there wasn’t a finish line for us as they had packed it away!”
There were 144 finishers within the time limit who ranged from a finish time of six hours, 22 minutes right up to the limit of 11 hours and beyond.