Chester Ultra 2019 – 2 March 2019

From the GB Ultras Website “2019 Marks the Return of this Incredible 50 Mile Ultra-Marathon with Live Online GPS Tracking & 6 Checkpoints en route hosted by the Magnificent GB Ultras Team Supporting your Progress. This Well-Marked race fuses trails on the River Dee with the North Cheshire Way & the Amazing Sandstone Trail taking in Helsby Hill, Frodsham & Delamere Forest.”

The team from Doncaster finished 2nd overall which is a fantastic achievement! 210 runners finished the race.

13Martin Hookway8:30:00
15Simon Jennings8:34:01
17Peter Vickers8:37:00
132Scott Carson11:42:02
132Allan Carson11:42:02

Martin Hookway wrote – I’d been looking forward to Chester all winter. Not only was it a time to see where in my training I was, it was going to be Doncaster AC Ultra Teams first outing of the season. With myself, Simon Jennings, Peter Vickers, Scott Carson and Allan Carson all on the start line. Bad news came at registration when Allan informed us that he may have food poisoning. He registered and headed to his B&B for an early night. We were all surprised when we saw him at the start line the next day.

The course is very well marked and a great mix of terrain, from fast flat canal tracks, to rolling country lanes, compact trail, woods and muddy fields. There is a little lumpy bit at half way. The Checkpoints are well stocked and crewed by friendly, helpful folk. The first half of the race went quickly and smoothly for me, training had been productive. Sadly demons got hold of me and I slowed myself.

I was worried that I’d gone out too fast. Peter soon caught me and informed me that Simon had hit a bad point and was also having issues with his foot. This was not good news for the team, Simon had put in some amazing training over the winter. Peter stating to pull away from me. I expected Peter to pull away totally, but I managed to hold onto him and we ran together for about 20 miles. He helped me along and my mood soon lifted.

Positivity rose as we hit sections that in previous years I had struggled with. I took a fall at mile 40, I fell over nothing, a proper sniper fall! I hit the ground heavy on my left hand side but luckily felt fine. This year I was felling very strong and this bit of luck just boosted my confidence. As my Positivity rose Peters fell, so I returned the favor and helped him along. We ran at a steady pace and were happy in 13th and 14th, It wasn’t until around 4 miles from the finish when we saw 2 runners in the distance closing us down.

Peter suggested that I should push on to keep out 13th place, as he was struggling. I agreed, wished him well and pushed the pace a little. Turned out it was enough to keep the 2 runner off of my tail. I crossed the line chuffed with a PB, collected my medal and waited for 14th. 14th came in then 5 minutes after Simon (15th) shows up! He’d only gone and found his 2nd wind and put in a fantastic finish. Peter soon crosses the line in 17th putting us all within 10 minutes of each other. I was over the moon to see farther and son pair Allan and Scott cross the line together, all DAC team members had made it back with smiles on their faces. All in all a positive days work from the team. Chester is a great event and I highly recommend it to other club members who are thinking of trying a 50 mile race.

Martin Hookway DAC Ultra Team Captain

Alan Carson Wrote“So this was my second GB ultra , first time at Chester and was running it with my son Scott and was hoping we could finish it together. 

We got there on the Friday afternoon and registered at HQ which is when I started to feel unwell , once back at the hotel I had to dash to the bathroom to be sick , thinking that would be the end of it had an early night while Scott went for dinner .

I was up 3 more times in the night being sick and thinking I’m not going to be able to run , I woke at four feeling weak, drank a cup of tea and forced a banana down not sure if it was coming back up.

We got HQ at 5.15 am and went to collect out GPS tracking device checked our hydration pack and got to the start line feeling nervous and a little sick , it was still dark so head torch on. 6am and off we went down country lanes and and across fields heading towards Chester along the river Dee to CP1 7.5 miles in at 7.30am got some water and a bit of food and set off again .

I was starting to feel a bit better now having had some food , Scott was feeling good also.Now heading into Chester town centre and CP2 12.5 miles in at 8.26am , just stopped long enough to get water and set off along the Shropshire union canal heading towards CP3 just before Helsby, it was at this point that Scott’s knee started to hurt, it wasn’t looking good for him but after a few stretches and a bit of walking it started to ease a bit so got back in to a steady pace again .

CP3 22 mile in feeling good at 10.37am Dunham on the hill village hall, bit of pizza and topped up my tailwind,  then back out on the route, after 5mins my watch buzzed to let me know I had gone off route must have missed a turning somewhere we turned round to look for the red and white tape to see where to go only to see another 5 or 6 people had been following us lol 😁.

We are now back on track and making our way across a muddy field and towards Helsby, we are now starting to climb through the wood up to Helsby hill making it hard work for my legs, but once at the top of Helsby hill the view is amazing looking out towards Elesmere port and the Manchester ship canal , but we didn’t have time for sight seeing so we were back on the trail heading towards Frodsham and CP4 28miles in at 12.13 pm and as far north as we go before turning round and heading down towards the Delamere forest along the sandstone trails to CP5 35mile in at 13.57 pm now both Scott and myself were starting slow legs and body was aching but we pushed on through the Delamere forest to CP5 where we got a big cheers from all the people there which gave us a massive boost just when we needed it most all the people at the CP were fantastic and couldn’t help enough.

We leave the forest back on to the sandstone trails heading towards the final CP number 6 at 43miles and at 16.04 we had a bit longer here had a coke and pizza and a rest .

Off again this time heading for Wharton lock which would get us back on the Shropshire union canal and all the way to the finish 9 mile away .

It was the longest 9 mile run ever it went on and on we were getting slower and walking more and more then across a field  we spyed the finish what a site it was we picked up our pace and ran across the line it felt amazing. Our ultra captain Martin Hookway was there to cheer us over the line , we finished 131st in 11hrs 43mins to collect a silver medal each , my happiness didn’t last long after getting the devastating news from Sharon  that my very dear friend of many years had lost his battle with cancer that afternoon I was absolutely devastated , so I would like to dedicate my race to Roy Goffin , RIP my friend” Allan

Peter Vickers wrote Time: 8hrs 37

Place: 17th out of 210 finishers (15th male)

Total distance according to my watch: 51 miles

This was my 3rd 50, after Round Rotherham in 2016 and Pennine Barrier in 2018. I’d managed 20th and 14th place in those, so was hoping to come in the top 20 again. But training hadn’t been too good. I’d done very little in November due to injury, and I’d had two weeks totally off in January due to a nasty chest cold. My longest runs in the weeks before the race had only been 18 miles, which was way too short. So my confidence wasn’t quite there this time around – I didn’t have the ‘bring it on’ attitude I’d had at the Pennine Barrier in 2018.

Still, I felt good on the day, and had a plan: roughly 8min miling to CP4 (28 miles), dropping to roughly 9min miling average at CP5 (35 miles), and then anything around 11min miling from there on would get me a good time. This seemed pretty doable, even if painful for the last 15 miles! In previous events I’d tried to pace it, with slower miles near the beginning. This was something different: bank some good miles at pace early on, then try to hold on towards the end. Maybe it could get me a 50 mile PB. Or maybe it would hurt like hell and the wheels would come off…

It started well enough. 10 miles went by in a flash, chatting with Simon Jennings. Even at CP3 (22 miles) it felt OK. It had been great running with Simon up to here, but things weren’t working out for him somehow. It seemed wrong to press ahead without Simon – his training had been phenomenal, including a 100 mile week. In fact I had told him that if I beat him he could punch me in the face (my biggest training week was a meagre 31 miles!). But what felt comfortable for me at that stage wasn’t comfortable for him, and it just made sense that we split up.

I was knacked through CP4 (28 miles), but still moving well. Somehow I caught up Martin Hookway at about 30 miles. He’d had a bad patch and slowed down quite a bit. We made a good team for a lot of miles. But gradually his bad patch lifted, whereas I was just getting slower and slower, craving the next walk, or the next checkpoint. We went through CP5 (35 miles) not that far behind my target of 9min miling average, but I was getting to the point that even 11min miles were challenging. Martin was a huge support between 35 and 47 miles. These were tough miles! I had really had enough – “a whole world of pain”. But somehow Martin kept me running, even if just at 11min miles.

We were holding places 13th and 14th during this time. I was thrilled with that, and had no ambition to race. I was happy to let 5 people pass me if necessary. But I hadn’t realised just how many runners were coming up behind us, not too far away. Looking back down the canal at 47 miles, they’d nearly caught us. Martin picked up the pace to hold his position, and I kept ticking over at roughly 11min miling (a huge struggle!). A couple of runners passed me, pushing me back to 16th. Then I heard Simon shouting – he had made a huge comeback! In fact, he was 8min miling, which was absolutely unthinkable for me. He flew past. No punch in the face for me – he had beaten me – but it had been a close call. We had only about two miles left when he passed me.

I stumbled on, and somehow got a bit of a lift in the final half mile, when I could smell the finish line around the corner. I was even catching somebody. The final push was fantastic. I suddenly felt good. It was weird – for at least 12 miles I’d been desperate to fall on the floor and lay still for a very, very long time. When I finally crossed the finish line I felt elated, and buzzing. I didn’t fall down. I shook hands, and I beamed, loving every second. I’d come in 17th place.

So how about the strategy, overall? Had the plan worked? My PB for 50 miles was the Round Rotherham, in 8hrs 26. When I hit exactly 50 miles at Chester I checked my time, and it was exactly 8hrs 26! I couldn’t   quite believe it. However, there was still about a mile to go at Chester, bringing me in with a final time of 8hrs 37. Overall, the strategy worked OK, but it feels so much better to be catching people in the final 10 miles, instead of the other way around, that I might try to pace it better next time. Or maybe I just need to train properly!

Martin and Simon had come in in 13th and 15th place, so with my 17th place we’d done a cracking job as a DAC team. I was more proud of that than anything. But had we won the team prize? Three days on we’re still waiting to hear on this but, whatever the case, we could have done no more.

Some final thoughts on the event itself. It was fantastically organised, with great attention to detail. I couldn’t believe how many volunteers there were. The checkpoints were ideal. And the medal is my very best to date (and I’ve got a lot!). I’d really recommend this to anyone. It’s not as beautiful as the Pennine Barrier, for sure, but there are certainly beautiful sections through the Delamere Forest. This is an event I can very much recommend. Peter Vickers

Simon Jennings wrote

After a rocky start with my training in November, everything had gone relatively to plan. I had a few small niggles with my feet and completely discounting a crazy few days just before the race when my fitness levels seemed to drop, I was feeling really good.

My goal was to finish the race in between 8 and 9hrs, which seemed totally doable with the elevation and terrain.

Doncaster AC had five runners (including myself) at the race, Martin Hookway (Our DAC Ultra Captain), Peter Vickers, Allan Carson and Scott Carson. The club had a fantastic presence.

I’d run the first 30 miles of the GB Ultras Pennine Barrier with Peter Vickers in 2018, so we’d planned to run this race together, for as long as possible at least. Martin Hookway is an amazing runner and I had a feeling he was going to shoot off at the start (which he did).

The race started at 6am and this time around we had GPS trackers. So after a very orderly British queue, we got our trackers and headed to the start line.

Peter and I hung about 3 to 4 people back from the front and got ready to start. The race was pretty much flat for the first 28 miles so the plan was to run between 8 – 8.30 splits and get some time in the bag for later on.

Everything felt great for the first 6 miles but then we hit the River Dee and I started having issues with my feet, I had worn my Altra trail shoes, which are great in the mud but not so much on tarmac. The lack of cushioning really started to hurt my feet and with 44 miles still to go, alarm bells started ringing in my head.

This continued until around mile 18, so as you can probably imagine I wasn’t in a good place, in hindsight I now feel like a lot of it was in my head but at the time I was starting to feel like I’d maybe have to stop.

Peter was doing great and I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up. Runners often talk about going to a dark place in your head. When this happens, everything hurts and becomes hard work and that’s what had started to happen to me.

So I made the decision to hang back, slow down and get my sh#t together before checkpoint 4.

This worked really well, after a quick chat with the amazing volunteers at the next checkpoint I was ready to head back out and I was feeling loads better. I knew the next section had some climbs and I was looking forward to a change of scenery.

Everything seemed to come together for the next 10 miles or so, my feet still hurt but it was manageable, I was mainly running on my own but I was ok with slowly ticking off the miles.

I was welcomed at checkpoint 5 with the biggest round of applause I’ve ever heard at a checkpoint. I found out I was in 16th place and was really happy with that.

I headed out into the woods with a chap doing his first Ultra. Everything looked and felt great.

Now, at the beginning, I spoke about how there is always a small mistake I make with ultras, this time around it was my watch. My watch had been doing my head in for the whole race, every 5 minutes it was telling me I was “off course” when I wasn’t and I had no idea why.

What I’d completely forgotten about was that I had changed a setting in the watch during the Mt Snowdon Ultra from “normal mode” to something called “ultratrac mode”.This means the GPS is periodically turned off to save battery power.

This wasn’t a big deal, I thought I knew the route and it was really well marked.

But, I tend to talk a lot when I run, it takes my mind off, well, running for stupid amounts of time. So I was happily talking away to this chap and we completely missed one of the markers, my watch told me I was “off course” for the hundredth time but I just ignored it.

We carried on running until I look down and saw we were almost a mile off track, so we quickly turned around and started back down the path we had just ran down.

Ok, having to run an extra 2.7 miles was going to suck but I was ok with it, until someone on the side of the road said I was in 25th place. I’d lost 9 places because I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Now this did piss me right off and I wasn’t having any of it.

And if there’s one thing that will always get me running faster it’s being a little angry with myself. (Or let’s face it, being angry with someone else works just as well)

There was about 5 miles to the last checkpoint, so I got my head down, picked up the pace and started to catch the people that had passed me.

By checkpoint 6, I’d made up 5 or 6 places (I’m not sure how many) and I had 7.5 miles to go.

I left checkpoint 6 with only one thing on my mind, just finish the race!   

I could see someone just in the distance so I used that to focus my attention. I caught him up, 19th place!

Then I could see someone else just in front. I was catching him fast, so I just kept on going. I managed to keep the pace up, I passed him and then another person. 17th place!

All of a sudden I could see Peter in the distance, I’d not seen him since mile 23(ish) and I was catching him fast.

I caught up to him, apologised for not stopping or slowing down but I just had to keep going. If I stopped now, I wasn’t going to start moving again.

I managed to overtake one more person in the last mile and ended up coming over the line in 15th place! In a time of 8:34:01!

Martin Hookway was just in front, he finished in 13th in 8:30:00

Peter Vickers came in, in 17th in 8:37:00

Scott Carson and Allan Carson finished in 132th, in a time of 11:42:02

What a race!

Once again, GB Ultras absolutely knocked it out the park! It was an amazing event.

Having the GPS trackers was fantastic. I know loads of my family and friends spend the day checking mine and the other DAC runners’ progress.

The course was well marked and, like every other GB ultra race that I’ve done, the volunteers are the most helpful, enthusiastic bunch of people I’ve ever meet at a race!

I’m doing the GB Ultras 50 mile Grand Slam this year and I cannot wait until the next race.


PENNINE BARRIER ULTRA 50 – 22nd June 2019

MT. SNOWDON ULTRA 50 – 22nd September 2018