Chester 50 mile ultra – race report by Giulia Neri

2nd February 2024

I’m one of those who run to keep sanity levels in check. I tend to run a lot, and I have been doing so for many years. So I just thought “I might as well run a 50 miler”. That’s it. I wish I had a better motivation to speak of (like fundraising or something), but I don’t. I managed to stick to something that resembled a training plan, which I’m quite proud of, considering that I normally just get out of the house and run until I drop.

I picked the Chester Ultra because: 1. There were still places available. Most of the other GB ones were full; 2. I am more of a winter than a summer runner; 3. I really wanted to go to Chester zoo the day after the run.

On race day I woke up bright and early, at 4.10. I scoffed down two bagels with peanut butter butter and nutella plus a can of chilled espresso. I took all my mandatory kit, plus a TON of food, then I walked about a mile to the event village, where I got my GPS tracker, ate a banana and stood in the cold for about an hour, regretting having woken up too early. A guy made a not-so-funny comment on my Barbie-pink shoes being pretty but unsuitable, and someone else was overly concerned about me not wearing a Garmin (I thought one only needed their legs to run, but never mind). At 6 am the race started from Ellesmere Port Athletic track. I turned my head torch on and slowly glided along the canal towards Chester. Everything was very peaceful and atmospheric. All I could hear were the footsteps of my fellow runners. The first 13 miles were pretty uneventful, as the canal path was nice and smooth. I had two or three gels and a flapjack.

At the third checkpoint I tried Tailwind sports drink and made a mental note to keep away from it for the rest of my life. After that, the real race began, as I became acquainted with the main feature of the event: MUD. So much of it! They told me that the 849 meters of ascent would have been challenging, but they were nothing compared to the mud. The first field I crossed, just before the 20 miles checkpoint, wasn’t too bad, but, right after I left the gazebo, still chewing on salty potatoes, I found myself in a proper swamp. At one point, I sank knee deep (I kid you not), and two other runners kindly helped me out. Unfortunately, one of my (formerly) Barbie-Pink shoes came off and I spent a lot of time trying to dig it out. After I found it, I had to empty it before putting it back on. Fun times.

Then it got better. I went through some pretty woods and passed the 27.5 mile checkpoint, where I ate more potatoes and savory snacks (I was sick of gels and cakes). I had a quick chat with Claire, one of the (AMAZING) marshalls, who was wearing a Percy Pud hat. One of her colleagues told me that I was in the silver medal range (participants 101 to 200), which surprised me greatly. More woods and mud after that. I had a few chats with the other participants.

This race was extremely well marked, with bright red paper ribbons every few meters. I didn’t need to open the GPX file at all. I passed a few runners before I got to the next checkpoint (35 miles), then enjoyed a slight downhill descent towards the 39 mile checkpoint. I had potatoes (yes, more potatoes), and some spectacular savory pretzel-like snacks full of peanut butter. The marshall who signed me off said that I only had the equivalent of three and a half park runs to go, which, somehow, really encouraged me. And then the hail, the second biggest feature of the event, manifested itself. At one point, I was finding it hard to keep my eyes open. Finally the hail stopped, but it kept raining, which wasn’t that bad, except my glasses were steaming up, which forced me to take them off and slow right down, as I was afraid of tripping. I ran about five miles on the road towards Ellesmere Port, trying to focus on the fact that it was almost over, and that I would have had my weight in pizza for dinner. It stopped raining and everything, including my mood, brightened up, until I saw one of the red ribbons pointing me to the direction of more MUD. It was only for a mile (and about 10 stiles) though. After that, I was back on the canal I started from, for the last three and a half miles.

When I got to Ellesmere Port’s Athletics track, the finish line looked like a mirage. I know, it’s a cliché, but it’s true. As I was trying to spot my husband who had told me that he was standing by the banner, I heard the voice of a marshall saying “Another lap, please”. For a second, I took that very personally and considered withdrawing. No, not really, but I did think that was just mean. And then, there it was: the silver medal. I put it around my neck, grabbed a can of non-alcoholic Herdinger (love it!), and had my picture taken. I walked to the car with my husband, where my father in law had (very wisely) covered my seat with a plastic sheet. He called me “the creature from the black lagoon”, which was quite fitting.

And, yes, I had my weight in pizza for dinner. I also went to Chester zoo on Sunday and really enjoyed it.

I was the only Steel City Strider among the participants.

Strider result(s)

Position Name Category Time
170 Giulia Neri FV40 12:00:57
The race was won by Christopher Beckmans (06:51:04), and by Zoe Murphy (07:58:24).

Full results


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