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Salisbury 54321 50k Ultra

Salisbury 54321 50k Ultra

The Salisbury 54321 50k Ultra was to be my fourth ultra distance, following the Longman and Brecon Beacons Ultras last year and the Grim Reaper 70 miler 8 days before.

Salisbury 54321 50k

It is set in the mythical county of Wessex starting and finishing on the green beside Salisbury fire station. I was under the impression that the reason for the name Salisbury 54321 was because there are 50k, 42k, 30k, 21k and 10k races on the day. But apparently not. The reason, I am now reliably informed, is that the 50k race crosses 5 rivers, 4 hills, 3 country estates, 2 castles and 1 cathedral. I like to think both have some truth.

Now, apart from the Three Forts Challenge, which was miserable, I have been extremely lucky with the weather at all my big events this year. Thankfully the Salisbury 54321 50k was no exception. The sun was out and it promised to be another fabulous day out. Not 24 hours before, I had been in London taking part in the London Triathlon. Another sunny, hot day and only my second ever triathlon. The question was, how much had this taken out of me for the 50k I was about to attempt.

Obviously I took the camera along. I take it for almost every first time race I do. Exceptions are when I really want to try and run speedy. So my marathon PB of 3 hours 13 minutes at the Viking Coastal was set running without the camera. I did give it to my wife and son so they could film me I as I did each loop. Unfortunately, the ability to realise when the camera was actually recording and when it was not were somewhat lacking. As a result I had lots of very stable film of grass and the side of legs and virtually no footage of anyone running, let alone me.

Steve Way

But I digress. Running the Salisbury 54321 50k along with the rest of us would be Steve Way. If you’ve not heard of Steve Way, his is a nice story. Some years ago he was a rather overweight couch potato and a smoker. He found running and discovered he was pretty good at it. So good in fact that in 2014 he ran the London Marathon in 2 hours 16 and, if you take out the elite athletes, he effectively won the race. He’s primarily an ultra runner and has represented Great Britain in the World 100k Championships and at the Commonwealth Games.

I had to get Steve on film but I knew there was no way I could do it whilst running. So just before the start I jumped to the front and rather rudely stuck the camera in his face. It wasn’t meant to be rude, I was just trying to be quick. But looking back at it, it makes me cringe so much. Horrible!! Anyway, I did it and he’s in the film.

Coke-a-Cola

We set off from the green in Salisbury opposite the fire station. The route took us over a huge variety of different terrain. After the start we were soon running on a wooden walkway beside and over the river. There was plenty of hard packed track and some lovely soft forest floor. At one point I found myself running through a housing estate. 

Unfortunately I had made a mistake with my race vest bladder. During the Grim Reaper Ultra the week before, I had filled the bladder with Coke-a-Cola and it had been fine. I did the same this time but for some reason there was a lot more fizz going on. I’m lucky the whole bladder didn’t burst. Instead it just kept leaking. By 10k in my entire left side was completely soaked with sticky Coke. I eventually opened the bladder to release the gas. At the next few water stations I had to drench myself in water to get rid of the sticky feeling.

Old Sarum and Clearbury

Salisbury 54321 50k is part of a number of races all taking place on the same day at the same time. This did make for a little bit of congestion early in the run. We had climbed to the top of Old Sarum hill fort at 8km and it was at that point that the marathon runners joined us and we all got stuck at a fence stile for 5 minutes. It was fine though because the views were great. It was not an overly hilly course but there was a significant climb to our second hill fort, Clearbury Ring, at half way with gorgeous views over the fields towards the River Avon. It was sweet to see an old couple sitting at the top with a packed lunch. It was more cool when I noticed their race numbers!! 

As well as the two hill forts, I also enjoyed running through Great Yews wood at 30km. Very Narnia. We headed back to Salisbury through Coombe Bissett and Wilton. The final kilometres took us right past Salisbury Cathedral. A very impressive sight. By the time we were running through the city centre it was crowded with tourists and it took some concentration to make sure we followed the signage to the finish line. I felt pretty good all the way through and was very happy to cross the line in 4 hours 58 minutes, a 50k PB. For the record, Steve Way finished in 3 hours 18 minutes!

Swim in the River Avon

When I crossed the line my watch didn’t actually say 50k. I couldn’t stand it, so I ran straight through the finish line an on for another 40 metres until it ticked over to 50k!! That’s the OCD in me I’m afraid. I found my running partner, Richard back at the car. He had finished not too long before me in 4 hours 52 minutes. It was very warm by now so I decided to strip off and throw myself in the River Avon, which I did holding the GoPro camera. It’ a clip which, I’m happy to say, made it in to the final edit of the film!

Very much enjoyed the Salisbury 54321 5ok. Once again the weather made the route even more beautiful and I would like to run this again one day. Not sure if we’ll make it next year as we have a very busy year of races, but it’s definitely one to add to your list. This certainly wouldn’t be a bad first ultra for someone looking to step up from marathon distance.

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