Last summer I was casting around for a race in Bedfordshire and I came across a really fun sounding race called Bingo Race. What happens is: Your running number is a 3 number bingo card. Each runner has their own bag containing bingo balls. You run a loop of 2 miles, then pick a number out of the bag. If it's on your card, you cross it off and do another loop. When you've crossed off all your numbers, you're done. Obviously this might take a while.Unfortunately at the time I was training for A100, my first ever hundred mile race. I sent a begging message to my coach:
Alice: I really want to enter Bingo Race on 12/9. I’ll take it easy I promise! It’s 5 weeks before A100 and it may/probably does involve 10 hours of running on a flattish course. Please let me <praying emoji>
I passed the official photographer hiding in a bush. He must've taken this picture after I passed - sometimes it feels a bit like the paparazzi! Nevertheless I love this shot. Somehow he's managed to make me look quite elegant and dramatic, neither of which I was feeling at the time!
I think somewhere after this was the 30k aid station (the aid stations were at 15, 30 and 40km, which happen to match the scoring in tennis and made it very easy for me to remember where they were!) I remember moaning to the people there about being advised to wear trail shoes.
Shortly afterwards I was running on some extremely unpleasant gravel and chatting to a chap named Guy. He had some Kendal Mint Cake flavoured gels - I'd never even heard of them but how exciting that they exist! I took a (not very good) photo so I could find them on the internet later:
An example of the signage, which was utterly fantastic again. An arrow sign points the right way, backed up with the orange tape, with a 'Wrong Way' sign in the distance for the avoidance of doubt.
Shortly after this I saw Ben's plane fly overhead! Unfortunately I only saw it when it had already passed, so it was too late for me to do anything except wave my arms wildly and take a photo. I looked up on Glympse about 30 seconds later and he was already far away - planes are a lot faster than runners, haha.
There were some runners just behind me who saw me leaping about and they caught up with me as I stood trying to get my breath back. I explained, "That's my boyfriend up there in that plane!" and one of them said, "Well he could have made an effort!"
The race continued. There were a few short sections on road, which I was bitter about. I took more paracetamol, playing hard and fast with the maximum dose limit. I texted Ben to let him know, just in case something bad happened (spoiler: it didn't).
Here's the three lads again. As you can see this is 'trail' but it may as well have been concrete for all the softness and bounce I was getting off it.
Shortly after this I started running with a girl whose name I didn't catch. It was her first ultra - she was supposed to be running Race to the Castle but it had been cancelled so she was doing this instead. She seemed to be doing fine to me but nevertheless seemed worried about finishing. We had a nice chat and she asked me casually what the furthest distance I'd ever run was. When I said '100 miles' she was awestruck. Shortly afterwards we arrived at the aid station and she told the people there - including the RD! - how inspirational I was! I was quite embarrassed but it was also a huge compliment. I still find it surprising that people would be inspired by me - I genuinely think anyone could do what I do. (With the caveat that they have to actually WANT to).
After the aid station it was only 10k til the end, which seemed manageable.
At one point I saw a pedestrian taking a photo of one of the ribbons. I stopped and asked if everything was alright and reassured him that the race organisers would be taking down all the ribbons once the race was over. It piqued my interest though so a bit further on I stopped to take a picture myself:
A few minutes later Ben appeared. He asked if I wanted anything - sadly the unbelievably fabulous pizza van they had at Chiltern Ridge Ultra had been replaced with a Pancakes and Waffles van. Now I love pancakes and waffles as much as the next person but after nearly 6 hours of eating sugar it was the last thing I wanted. I couldn't face coffee or hot chocolate either, so in the end we just walked back to the car and went home.