The Race to the Stones is a 100km ultra marathon along the Ridgeway through Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. I ran it along with Brian and it was mostly off road on chalk tracks and forest trails. The route was well waymarked and there were aid stations every 10km or so. We had a friend kindly agree to act as a support crew for the first 75km or so. Brian has written a full race report.
I wore normal running clothes, shorts, socks and top, all of it from Decathlon. I chose a long sleeve top which was useful both for sun protection and when it got colder.
I borrowed a race number belt Orca which meant the race number stayed on top whenever I changed clothes.
I carried a 12 litre rucksack (Mountain Hardware Fluid 12) which was plenty big enough, possibly too big but very comfy and with no bounce. It had the right shape pouch for a bladder (see below) and useful pockets on the waist belt.
On my feet I wore a hybrid trail shoe (Kalenji KR2) which worked well on the hard-packed trails. Something lighter would probably worked better but would need to be worn in well.
A smart phone was a great tool to have on the race, mainly to communicate with our support crew and log distances and times. We had a Whatsapp group set up with the two of us, our support crew, and our partners included. This worked really well. We could send and receive support notes, and positions as well as getting messages of support from home.
I had my phone in a waterproof case (Ortlieb A6) on the end of a lanyard attached to my rucksack. It could then live in the side pocket of my rucksack and I could pull it out when needed. It didn’t rain so I could probably have done without the case but that is difficult to predict in advance.
The battery lasted pretty well without the GPS running continuously but I took a booster battery (Merlin Micro USB Power Bank), at 40g it was a great way to ensure it didn’t die in the final stages.
We were provided with a race book from which we ripped only the relevant pages, the maps and emergency information, but we didn’t refer to it once. We also had our "GPS", a piece of laminated paper with the distance to aid stations, leg descriptions and information like sunset times. I tucked this into the phone case so it was easy to access on the move.
I also carried £50 in cash and a bank card in case we had to bail out and needed a taxi.
Lastly, knowing we would be running into the dark I carried a headtorch (Alpkit Gamma). I put a new set of batteries in so I didn’t carry any spares.
Kindly provided at the start by Brian, I carried a 1 litre water bladder (Quecha Forclaz) which worked well, having a locking mechanism on the mouthpiece and opening at top which meant it could be refilled without taking it from the rucksack. We refilled these every aid station and worked hard to drink the contents between them.
We also used a endurance fuel powder in the water (Tailwind) which provided 100 calories per litre drunk and caffeine later in the race. Every 10km or so I took a salt tablet. I don’t know if it was necessary but I am confident that cramps in my legs would have finished my attempt at the race so it seemed worth it.
Almost all our food came from the aid stations, which were well provided for and had a good mix of food types and drinks, hot and cold as well as isotonic powders. We typically ate as much as we felt able and shoved a few snacks into our bags incase we wanted to eat between stations. In reality we rarely did and ended up with a lot of spare food in my bag which contributed unnecessary weight.
I also carried a cereal bar and a handful of jelly babies in a ziplock bag at the bottom of my rucksack as emergency food which I wouldn’t bother with in future, I’d just take a few spares from an aid station early on.
To look after myself as I ran I took a few bits and pieces. These are separate from the Medical and Emergency stuff as I expected to use this even if everything went right.
A small pot of aloe infused Vaseline (20g tin) to help manage chafing, in theory the aloe should help with any soreness that develops. A couple of packets of tissues (pocket size) in case the next aid station is just too far away. A packet of wet wipes to help clean up any wounds or to freshen up. I also packed my glasses case so that if I chose to run without I could.
I only used the vaseline, which did its job well but would take the tissues and glasses case again. I wouldn’t bother with the wet wipes, they are surprisingly heavy and tissues and antiseptic wipes would suffice.
In addition to the communication equipment above, I also carried a space blanket (210 x 160cm) and a whistle. I used neither but for the weight both provide a little extra protection and I would take both again. Parts of the route are remarkably remote and by the early hours, other runners are few and far between.
In a ziplock bag I carried a small amount of spare clothing. A sleeveless warm top (Patagonia Nano Puff Vest), a windproof smock (Trekmates) and a Buff which can be used as a hat, headband or neck gaiter. This was all to keep me warm after the sun set, but in reality I never used any of it as I put on a slightly thicker top at 75km as it got dark.
I also carried a spare pair of socks which I ended up changing into at about 35km after some hot spots developed on my feet.
Next time, assuming the weather was the same, I wouldn’t bother taking the sleeveless top, especially with a support crew.
In another ziplock bag I carried a small medical kit.
To deal with blisters I packed a roll of zinc oxide tape, a roll of Micropore tape, a few Compeed plasters, two low adherent dressings (5cm Melonin), two antiseptic wipes, a strip of fabric plaster and a small pair of scissors.
In addition, to deal with larger injuries, I carried a sterile dressing (Medium 12x12xm) and a larger low adherent dressing (10cm Melonin). I ended up giving the sterile dressing to another runner who had taken a tumble and gouged her knee.
Knowing there was likely to be some pain involved I packed 8 Paracetamol and 4 Ibruprofen, and in case of stomach issues, 4 Immodium.
I took two Paracetamol at about 80km and another at 90km, the rest of the tablets remained unused. Almost all the blister dressing resources got used, although I’d probably reduce the quantities a little bit as it was surprisingly heavy when added up.
One of the advantages of having a support crew meant we could have extra kit available that we didn’t need to carry. I didn’t use any of the below but had the weather been worse they might well have been.
Spare top, Spare shorts, Spare socks, Puffy Jacket, Trekking Poles, Waterproof Jacket, Waterproof Trousers.