Discipline (icon): Trail running
Area: British Adventure: The Chilterns
Type: one day wonder
Ascent: 1,302m ascent
Duration: 24 hour cut off
Route: Lewknor to Avebury on the ridgeway
Mental strength: 3/5
Physical challenge: 3/5
Technical difficulty: 2/5
Isolation severity: 1/5
BAC overall kudos: 2.5/5 stars
Intro: Race to the Stones is a 100km (or 2 x 50km days) non-stop foot-race that uses the oldest footpath in Britain and takes you from Lewknor in Oxfordshire to Avebury in Wiltshire.
Context: The race follows what is thought to be Britain’s oldest footpath: the Ridgeway. Vikings, Romans, “dragons” & Kings apparently used the route which follows a high line across the hills in order to keep on a firm and dry path. This lends itself nicely to great British views and taking runners “past mighty iron age forts, ancient monuments”. Including: “the field of Dreams”, “the White Horse” at Huffington and Europe’s largest stone circle in Avebury. Race organizers claim their event is the UK’s number 1 Ultra-marathon.
Time of year: July
Logistical recommendations: Take the Oxford Tube from West London and alight at Lewknor. Camp overnight before as the race starts at 7:30am.
Kit list link: There is no mandatory kit list. Keep it light.
If you’re looking for something within 2 hours of London that will take you through some amazing British countryside that you probably didn’t even know existed RTTS is worth signing up for. The race is well organised and attracts a (relatively) huge number of trail runners from across the UK, leading to plenty of support and atmosphere throughout the race.
Going into the race I’d only managed to run 5km in the month leading up to it and given this would be the furthest I’d have ever continuously run I was a little nervous. However as soon as we arrived at the start the atmosphere took over and before you have time to make up any decent excuses it starts. A large proportion of the first 50km follows the river Thames and you see some incredible real estate. Only once you’re past halfway does the race really begin (at least for me it did)
A lot of the terrain is actually chalk, which is very hard, and when wet can be quite slippery. This combined with continuous rolling hills (i.e. downhills) begun to take its toll on me, and in reality without the 6 pills of Codeine I took throughout the day I would have been quite miserable as my knees were failing me badly. Fast-forward to 94km and you get your first glimpse of the finish line from up high on the Ridgeway. The course then takes you down into Avebury and through the stone circle for a photo shoot before finishing at a farm.
The highlight of the race for me was definitely the finish. The final 400 meters of the course is down a closed off road lined by high hedges on either side giving you tunnel vision. At the end of this tunnel you can see the inflatable arch, hear the cow bells and see your mates. This is the moment all the endorphins come flooding in, reminding you just how much you bloody love big days out. Unsurprisingly once I’d crossed the finish line my bucket list hadn’t reduced in size. Running 100km in 12 hours had been a lot fun, but running 100 miles would surely be better…