The Halfren Ultra 2012 – Glyn Price
After plenty of Marathons, I had grown tired of road running and pacing, I wanted something different, I signed up for my very first ultra, stage two of “7”. The Halfren Ultra was my challenge, a 45 mile race from Caersws to Montford Bridge near Shrewsbury, and having been born and raised in Montford Bridge this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss out on.
Running about 80-100 miles per month, 45 in one go seemed quite daunting and the kit requirements were slightly different to the road races I had been doing (maps and backpacks) so few months before hand were spent doing longer slower training runs and researching the best kit I would need (1000 mile socks and Camelback were vital!)
Come the 2nd June 2011, I was ready, and my dad picked me up at 5am to get down to the start on a remote farm near Caersws for kit checks and registration. As I said the race formed just one stage of a new Ultra staged race “7” which starts at the source of the Severn and finishes at the mouth of the Severn into the Bristol Channel over 5 days. Its fair to say compared to the runners on the start line, who had already completed a marathon the day before, I was looking fresh on the start line compared to some!
That was likely then the reason that when we started I went off ahead, got instantly lost and felt awful when everyone followed me down a track to a dead end. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise though, as it enabled me to run along side a couple more experienced Ultra runners (Alex and Yin-Hai), who talked me through how I should run it, looking back I was clueless at the start. And so we plodded on at a run two miles, walk 0.2 miles plan, with walking up hills as they came until checkpoint 1 on the way to Newtown after an hour and half, where we were first to arrive.
The course was for a Shropshire lad brilliant, from Caersws we headed north and away from the river through fields and footpaths to the hill at the back of Newtown before heading down and back to civilisation. Here we joined the Montgomery Canal towards Welshpool. Navigation was a breeze as between the three of us we had a GPS, Printed OS Maps and the course route description! Three and a half hours in and I was feeling fresh and arrived at the second checkpoint ahead of everyone! (quicker runners started an hour later and would not catch us until we reached Pool Quay North of Welshpool). As many sweets, cake, sandwiches, power drinks, and water as you could consume was offered and along with my two running partners for the day we headed off fully refuelled.
The next section was all flat along the canal, and maps were not really needed, and chatting with the more experienced runners about their challenges in desert and artic ultras took my mind away from the slowly tiring legs and by the time we reached the 3nd checkpoint I was feeling really confident that I would at least finish. Having just about having passed marathon distance. I was now though in unknown territory however, this was now the furthest I had ever run!
However just north of checkpoint 3 we moved from the canal onto footpaths over cow grazed fields by the river as we headed towards Llandrinio. This was now hard, the uneven ground underfoot, hottest part of the day, many many stiles and gates I had to climb over really took its toll. I barley noticed passing 30 miles! My first blister came, popped and was mended with a plaster. It was a real slog now and it was heads down and concentrate all the way along the river until we reached checkpoint 4 at the Tontine Inn at Melverley. It had now been 8 hours since I started, and it felt like it.
The last stretch was from Melverley through Pentre and Shrawardine to Montford Bridge. This was the hardest bit for me personally and a real battle. The route was on fairly unused footpaths covered in nettles, brambles and long grass for a long while until rejoining the local roads near the Nescliffe Army Base. Jumping off on one of many stiles I landed badly and my shin shot with pain. I kept running though but with more walking for a few more miles until near Shrawardine I finally could not run any more thanks to the pain in the shin and lost my two buddys. I would never have got this far without them! I had to walk the last two miles and eventually shambled down into Montford Bridge where my family were waiting to cheer me in to the end at the Wingfield Arms. I crossed the line of the 45 miles in 10 hours 10 minutes, and it felt amazing to finish something I was not sure at the start I could actually do.
After sitting, getting a brilliant medal, and drink of my family, I made way to thank the friendly competitors who had helped me though the day. A couple of stars they were, and I was glad to see Yin-Hai complete the whole course, and sad that Alex had to retire the next day. Meeting such friendly and helpful people on this race made it all the more special. The same goes for the organizers, and all the people at the check points, the atmosphere at all 4 of the CPs was great, more so at the last one, lots of banter!
I had to head off, running so quick ment I could escape putting my kids to bed, so head off, only to notice almost my entire lower body was stung by nettles, and the pain in my shin was not going away (got minor shin splits and had to rest for three weeks and no running!)
I eventually got home and to bed to sleep it off, but the poor hardy souls on “The 7” were up again on the start line at 7am to start day three the next morning, there longest day of 58 miles. At the back of my mind however I could not shake the feeling, that as crazy as it sounded, I kinda whished I was there with them! Come the end, only 5 of the 19 finished the whole course. Fair play to them. I shall be back next year.