On July 8th, 2023, my brother Craig and I participated in one of the most popular races in the Threshold Trail Series calendar: the Race to the Stones 100km ultramarathon. Here are some facts about the course:
– Route: Lewknor to Avebury
– Avebury stone circle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
– 90% completion rate
I won’t bore you with all the details, but here’s a brief account of the key and memorable events during my race. And if you don’t feel like reading, you can watch Craig’s YouTube vlog about the experience below.
Booking this race was impulsive, a case of “ah, just book it, we’ll sort out the accommodation and logistics later.” In typical Tweedledee and Tweedledum fashion, we left booking a hotel until the last minute. Consequently, we ended up with what can only be described as a “shed on wheels” in the middle of nowhere. (It was a campsite, but not within walking distance of the race start, so we had to take a 5am taxi.) With insects all over the ceiling and an inability to lock the door, I fell asleep within minutes—unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Craig, as it took him a few hours!
On race morning, we woke up at 4:30am and quickly consumed our elite-level nutrition of Aldi cakes and a banana. The taxi driver didn’t forget about us, and by 4:58am, we were on our way to the start. Thankfully, there was a coffee van, as we had over an hour to kill before the race began. Threshold Sports’ CEO, Nick Tuppen, spoke to us about the event and how they had recce’d the course. He provided us with the history and some details of the course (I may have mentioned that Craig was filming it for his YouTube channel, and I think Nick wanted to cram in a lot of information!). It was the race’s 10th anniversary, with 1,400 ‘Non-Stoppers’ taking on the 100km distance in one go.
At 6:25am, Craig struck up a conversation with another YouTuber (“I JUST KEPT RUNNING”), while I stood in the start pen, ready to begin. The race started promptly at 6:30am, and we set off into some pleasant, wooded trails for the first 5 kilometers. There weren’t many hills at the beginning, although there was a challenging one just before the first pit stop.
The pit stops were well-stocked with lots of fruit, chocolate, and snacks. They had High 5 energy gels and drinks ready to go, and the volunteers were very attentive (they just wanted to get rid of us as quickly as possible). At this point, I could only stomach pineapples and melon.
Around the 30km mark, we experienced our first downpour. I welcomed it because, despite the overcast weather, it was scorching. Unaware of the chafing that awaited me, I continued on. We reached the 50km mark in approximately 5 hours and 15 minutes, which wasn’t too bad. We decided to skip the hot meal (based on the discussions on the RTTS Facebook group, it didn’t seem like we missed much—just some beans and a jacket potato), put our heads down, and carried on.
The section between 50km and 75km was a monotonous slog, to put it simply. Every part of the trail looked the same: a gravel path flanked by hedges, occasionally crossing a road. It was relatively flat, so the slow jog never really stopped, and the boredom persisted (the rain had killed my headphones).
When we reached the second-to-last pit stop, I felt very sick due to the heat and lack of nutrition. The thought of gels or any other food made my stomach turn. For the last 40km, I fueled myself with coke and water. I spent around 10 minutes at the pit stop trying to gather some food for the next leg, which happened to be the longest at 15.5km. Salt and vinegar Walkers crisps were my food of choice, but I didn’t have enough saliva in my mouth to eat them. So, fueled by a few slices of pineapple, flat coke, and half a bag of Walkers crisps, I carried on.
The stretch from 84km to 87km was the most challenging part of the race. I had never felt as sick in any race before. Every step felt like a gamble as to whether something would come up. I knew I was dehydrated. Luckily, the final pit stop was at 87.5km, and after cracking some jokes with the volunteers and guzzling lots of water, I was eager to finish the last 13km.
From 87km to 90km, I found a slow but steady rhythm. I had separated from Craig just after the final pit stop as he was filming a segment for his video.
Beyond 90km, the rain came down hard. The trails in the last 5km were extremely narrow, and due to the rain, they were completely waterlogged, making it a struggle to stay upright. After swearing at the ground for a few minutes, I realized it wasn’t improving the situation, so I had to suck it up. Before I knew it, I was on a wider, downhill path to the Stones. During the last 4km, I had someone hot on my heels, but I managed to widen the gap in this section—serves them right for making me navigate the waterlogged area.
For the final stretch from 98km to 100km, the course didn’t take us directly to the Stones. Instead, we ran around a cone in the middle of a road, next to the Stones. I didn’t mind; I saw the Stones, and they were cool, though not as impressive as Stonehenge. The rain was still pouring, and my sole focus was the finish line. Since it was an out-and-back section for the last 1.5km, on the way back, I spotted Craig and informed him about the exciting cone to come. After gliding across the final farmer’s field, I found myself back on a paved road, and it was downhill to the finish line. I picked up the pace for the last 300-400m (around an 8-minute mile pace) just to reach the end.
After 12 hours, 33 minutes, and 9 seconds, I finally finished. They conducted a mini-interview with me, and obviously, I was tired because when they asked how I found it, I said, “enjoyable.” That was a complete lie—it was brutal in many ways—but we made it in the end. I achieved a personal best in a 100km event, which made me happy, especially considering I hadn’t undergone proper training for it.
Craig followed shortly after, finishing with a time of 12 hours, 49 minutes, and 39 seconds—a great time considering he had been off for three weeks due to illness.
I wouldn’t say Race to the Stones was my favourite ultra, but it’d be a good one to go for a PB in the future. I have unfinished business with the London 2 Brighton 100km and am still chasing sub 12 hours on that course. If you made it this far, congratulations! Craig and I are eyeing up a local 50km for 2024: Three Castles 50km. Who’s going to be joining us?!