Written by Peter Johnson.
For anyone starting one of canal races, your mind has to be in the right place, my only dnf from I believe 18 gucr starts was because I couldn’t face the next section, you have to fight the demons in your head.
It obviously helps to train for it, most of my long training runs are doing Long distance walkers association events, you get to spend the day or night in lovely countryside with like minded people, plus the checkpoint food helps to train you to eat on the run. You also need some speedwork to sharpen you up, entering races can get expensive but we are lucky to have parkrun these days. Back to back long runs are a good idea so you are used to running tired. What you wear is obviously a personal thing, I am usually the scruffiest one at the party, but I think waterproof socks are a good idea, the morning dew can make the grass very wet.
Getting to the start relaxed and ready to run helps I think, there is always tea and biscuits available and you get to meet your fellow victims, sorry runners. If you have support crew and buddy runners they will think for you when your tired brain doesn’t work but don’t worry if you haven’t, the checkpoints are excellent with experienced volunteers (Don’t forget to thank them) they will do everything they can to get you to the finish, unlike some of the commercial events that want you to dnf as its good for their tough race image.
A day and half of canal towpath can be tough on the head, just seeing a lock or bridge can feel like a pools win, but a friendly wave or smile to boat people or towpath users helps so much, apart from maybe the fishermen, they are all pleased to see you.
The beauty of the canal races is their friendly nature, if unsupported you see the various support crews and get to know them, they always ask if you want anything and they mean it, I know I have been helped during the night when feeling bad and miles from a checkpoint.
I would advise anyone whose thinking of quitting during the race to give it a lot of thought, a good support crew should talk you out of it, if unsupported the volunteers will, they have me on many occasions.
When you cross the finish line you will be made so welcome, any suffering you endured will be forgotten.