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Country to Capital - Camino Squad

Country to Capital Ultra was celebrating it's 16th anniversary this weekend.


Simon (it's iconic Race Director) also took the time to honour 'one of it's own' - Ed Catmur (who died in an accident on the Pennines over the New Year) with a beautifully observed minutes silence.


Over 370 runners made it to the start (at the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Wendover) - plenty of nervous energy and hot steamy bodies as we awaited the 08:45AM kick-off.


For Camino we had over a dozen runners (we set up one of our iconic WhatsApp chats the week before and there was some brilliant banter about how this was going to unfold) in the event and with plenty knowing that this was hopefully going to be the longest distance that they had ever attempted we were hopeful for a high finisher rate x


There are so many things to savour about the C2C. It's the first major ultramarathon of each year and so many great runners love the fact that it's a great way to kickstart a New Year. If you check out the previous race results you will see almost every well known UK ultra runner has been in it. Ed Catmur holds the all-time record - one of only eight runners to ever run under 5 hours. With an 11 hour cut-off you get a real sense of the wide variety of runners taking part - all legends x


We are grateful to all the Camino community runners who took the time to share some of their unique thoughts about this event - starting with our very own Kallum Pritchard who came away with the win - nicely done Kall - setting up the 2024 season perfectly.


BIG CAMINO ULTRA LOVE EVERYONE FOR 2024 x





Kall: "Training lately has been enjoyable; I've always liked training with others, and most of my fellow club runners have been conducting marathon-specific training, so rather than thinking too much about what I'm doing, I just turn up to their sessions and lace my shoes up, it's an easy life! Chasing the speedy guys at the running club has seemed to pay off, as I managed to finish this year's Country 2 Capital around 40 minutes quicker than last year! The race day atmosphere and build-up were phenomenal, and the C2C Camino-Ultra WhatsApp group was filled with support and sure got everyone pumped to start! Before the race we also took a moment to honour the late Edward Catmur, a revered two-time winner of the C2C race.


Last year's race was a rollercoaster—I ran with the leaders, Sage and Andrea, for the initial 17 miles of lightly undulating bog and trail, only to crash hard once I hit the canal. This time, I made the same bold move to stick with the leaders (never learn, do I?). But surprise, surprise, I didn't hit a wall when I reached the canal around mile 22. Instead, I found my rhythm and not only picked up the pace but held onto it throughout the canal section.


Before hitting the canal, my better half Danielle and our little champ Edwin met me for a quick transition, from muddy trail shoes to road shoes, swapping socks, and a general mental boost from them really helped. This was a great moment in the race, Edwin, my 4-year-old little boy and biggest (only) fan, was peeling and feeding me a banana as Danielle help me swap my shoes and replenish my nutrition, a real team effort!


I approached the race as two parts, a 21-mile trail run, followed by a 22-mile 'road' race along the canal, this mentally segmented the challenge. It made a world of difference, preventing overwhelm and helping me focus on reaching milestones rather than dwelling on the remaining distance.


Just before my crew stop around mile 21, I gave Dan (the race leader) a fist bump and said, 'I'll see you after the race', thinking our paths wouldn't cross again until the finish line. After around 4 minutes spent at the family crew stop, changing my shoes (I would be terrible at triathlon transitions) and replenishing, I felt energized and strong, I charged ahead with a quicker pace along the canal. Surprisingly, I felt fantastic. Considering last year's struggle, I half-expected another wall, but it never came. I was cruising comfortably at a pace between 6:30 to 6:50 minutes per mile, revelling in the elusive 'runners high.' Despite feeling great, I wasn't fixated on catching Dan, the front-runner, assuming he was still well ahead at a similar, or faster pace (given his impressive records).


Around mile 34, I bumped into Paula, one of the Camino-Ultra coaches, who was running the route as a spectator, cheering on all the competitors! I gave Paula a high five and she informed me that Dan was just a minute ahead, a total game-changer. I maintained my pace rather than pushing harder, but the excitement of closing in on the lead gave me a boost. Spotting Dan a few hundred meters ahead was still unexpected yet thrilling. Without speeding up further, I gradually passed him, exchanged greetings, and found myself in the lead with about 8 miles left, an exhilarating turn of events.


Before the race I would have been over the moon with a 5hr30 finish, but with less than 8 miles to go I was looking at finishing in around 5 hours, which was totally unexpected. However, when I had around 5 miles to go, fate had other plans. Suddenly, a sharp pain in my left hamstring signalled the onset of cramps. Desperate measures ensued - gulping electrolyte gels and Tail Wind despite knowing it might be too little, too late. With a talented runner on my tail and under 5 miles remaining, maintaining pace became a challenge. The cramps threatened to push me off the podium. Unsure of the competition's proximity, I gritted my teeth, battling through the cramps, even taking brief stops for stretching, but I couldn't afford to linger, at its worst I did a few hundred metres of running with what felt like a completely straight left leg as it has completely seized up, which I'm sure would have looked amusing to the locals I passed.


Around 1 or 2 miles from the end, the cramps eased, and the unthinkable dawned on me, I might just win the Country 2 Capital. Crossing the finish line in first place was surreal, especially knowing I'd completed the race injury-free. Finishing in 5 hours, 1 minute, and 29 seconds was beyond my wildest expectations!  A few years ago, before I was coached by Camino Ultra or part of a running club, I was happy just to finish races, but to be able to turn up to races now and have the confidence and fitness to challenge other runners for a podium spot is very humbling, and for that I am grateful.





The event was a blast, thanks to the incredible volunteers, the buzzing atmosphere, and the invaluable chats with fellow runners like Dan and Ed along the way.

Massive thanks to Camino-Ultra Family, Hillingdon Athletics Club, and the unwavering support from my partner and little boy, they all truly made this an extraordinary experience. An all-around stellar event indeed".


CAMINO: Camino Favourite, Run Leader/Coach, Community extraordinaire and The Speed Project member Trina Dawkins took part in C2C as a strong 'training run' for the up and coming team LA to Las Vegas Speed Project. Trina's level of focus in training has been nothing short of exceptional. Big thank you to Trina for sharing these words.




"What a run, what a race!


Joining this race was totally a last minute decision though I had been training for it. This is my 3rd ultra in 10 months so I knew running 43 miles was going to be a very long run that needed a different type of mind-set.


Gratefully I ran with a number of other amazing women, who I am currently training for The Speed Project with amongst others. This almost felt like a test run of how to deal with challenges along the way. Training up to this point had been going really well and I have been dealing with any previous niggles diligently. Knowing I am always injury prone means that I stick to my training plan as much as possible and try to recover well from every single run.





C2C, I had heard great things about and I knew a few people that had tackled and completed the course. When running ultras I have a routine of things that I carry besides nutrition, kit and the ‘kitchen sink’. You know exactly what I mean (we all carry more than we need, which is never a bad thing as if I don’t need it, I am sure another runner will!) I also carry hand written notes of things I need to do along the way, timings to take my fuel, positive mantras to speak to myself and a list of podcast to listen to should I need it. Though the last two ultras I have not listened to any music or podcasts and just remained in the moment and took in everything that was around me. For C2C, I had a print out of the checkpoint information which contained location, distance and key times. This information was really important to help me (and the rest of the women) I was running with to remain focus and keep pushing on even when it felt hard. This was vital and I felt that the women appreciated me keeping an eye on this information and sharing it with them alongside keeping everyone’s spirit high as it was the first time they had all run over 50km.


I really enjoyed the race, the course, even the mud. I mean I did almost lose my shoes a few times but that’s what trail running is all about. Different terrain, weather, experiences and challenges. Absolutely thankful and grateful for the marshals and volunteers throughout the course! What a bunch of amazing people who couldn’t have done any more. We were fed, waters and supported in the best way possible and I will always remember Go Beyond Challenge for that. It was lovely to meet Simon and chat to him whilst picking up my race bib and at the finish line. I can 100% say that I will definitely be registering for another Go Beyond Challenge event!





Thank you to my Camino Coaches who are always championing and supporting me along the way!".


CAMINO: One of the stand-out performances from Team Camino came from the amazing Joe Langton.


Joe has been training well these past few weeks - especially since returning from working in Malawi where the conditions are considerably different to C2C! This was always going to be a tough adventure for Joe but none of us really expected all the dramas that unfolded.


The fact that Joe turned into a Good Samaritan is no surprise - the fact that Joe came through all of the dramas and finished is equally no surprise to us - but it definitely was an adventure - Well done Joe x




Joe: "Despite the excellent support from my trainers I was absolutely terrified going into this run. Thanks to a few challenging months before hand my training was thwarted by work commitments and injury.


But my training team still backed me and encouraged me to go for it! Hit by cancellation of my pre run accommodation and an upset stomach the night before it felt like the world was still telling me not to do it!


Stood at the start line I was petrified…what was I doing…and oh boy did I feel like an imposter. But the count down started and off we went…and I started to smile. I loved the countryside…but not the mud…the never ending mud…which aggravated the injured calf muscle. And the plan went out the window. But I dug deep…focused on the lessons I learnt…and found my inner strength to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.


With each check point being crossed off I became more determined to finish even though I had slowed to a fast power walk. At 62km I found a fellow runner sick and struggling…at that point the medic within me took over…and irrespective of my desire to make the time cut off it was more important to make sure we got over the line together.


Hand in hand, with her leaning on me for support we crossed the line. I’m not sure that it has even sunk in that I completed the run…I have virtually no pictures in my head or in my phone…and I keep checking my medal to make sure it is real…but I do know I couldn’t have done it without the training and support from my wonderful Camino team."





CAMINO: There is way more to ultramarathons than a finish. The journey (maybe your journey if you have been inspired by these stories) is all about that first step. Life will be infinitely better if you 'get outdoors', if you seek nature, if you do this with others and ideally go a little deeper with gratitude. Running an ultramarathon is like a giant cake and the finish is just the cherry - but the first step is everything and the cake is big x We've been friends with Louise for a while - mostly because Louise is one of those gifts in life that perpetually puts herself in front of others and therefore you are more likely to see her volunteering at run community events. So stepping up at the 43 mile Winter C2C is massive and Louise was under no illusions that this was going to be anything but a massive challenge to beat the cutoffs.


We are so grateful to Louise - for all her warm Camino love and for her kind words about her C2C journey.




LOUISE: " Behind every race number is a story that only the runner knows.


For me , this was my comeback race this year , after a DNS last year. A concussion injury now changes how I live today .


I’d trained on the route and worked hard to get my fitness back to meet the race cut offs . It’s the one part of me that has not changed when everything has and something I’m grateful for . It felt so good to finally be on the start line . A chance to put all the training, nutrition , planning into practice for my 4th ultra .


It was a comfort to see fellow @Camino’s ! Although my race didn’t end the way I had hoped for , by being timed out , I’m proud to be back to race level at 33 miles . I only stopped at the checkpoints and was able to enjoy the beauty of the trails with my legs turning over in a meditative way .


That’s my happy place , in the moments of simplicity that only trail running can give you . I know I’m not alone in my story because of the support I’ve experienced from other trail runners during the last year .


That’s what I love about the trail running community , so generous in words and deeds , sharing miles and welcoming you into communities.


Thank you @caminultra for your generous support and welcome into your family . Onwards and upwards with a grateful heart".


CAMINO: We were so proud to see Trina joined by fellow London Sole Sisters Speed Project runners Linda and Jane - forming a formidable team and doing everything that a super squad needs to do to finish a wonderful ultramarathon. Linda shared these kind words:




LINDA:

"I was really nervous going in to this race but also excited to be running with friends and taking on this challenge with them. 


The first half of the race was quite testing maneuvering through the different terrain and tackling the elevations of Buckinghamshire. The breathtaking views and freedom I felt whilst running kept me in high spirits when I began to dip. This was a mammoth of a run full of laughs, uncertainty, courage, determination and joy. Some of the best moments were meeting different runners along the way and saying a few words of encouragement to each other. I was overwhelmed to see friends and supporters enroute, it gave me the boost I needed to get to the end.

This race taught me a lot, I was able to step out my comfort zone and put navigation skills to the test. I learnt that having a positive mindset will get you far and having a strategy will keep you on track to reaching your goal. Our bodies are amazing and very capable of achieving the unthinkable with the right training. Having my running sisters by my side made this race not only memorable but doable"


CAMINO: Michael Harper had an immense ultramarathon year in 2023 with finishes in

Peddars Way, Camino London Ultra and Epping 50Km and also an epic 85 miles into the Grand Union Canal race (where the last 20+ miles of the C2C takes place). With a monumentally busy work life balance its not always easy for Michael to get the level of training in that he would prefer but his mental resilience is the key. We were looking forward to Michael having a great day and to kickstart an even bigger 2024


Michael:




"Mud - Sweat and Beers


As many know I work in the drinks industry and as a business we have were very busy leading up to Christmas which meant training time was hard to come by.


So, it required some flexibility and regular updates between me and my coach to figure out when the hell I would fit a session in. But I think we managed it. However, it was far less than a year ago when I was training for a similar distance. The direct lead up to the race was simple, we stayed in a hotel the night before so we were nice and close (reducing the travel stress) and I had made a solid plan to hand over to Amanda in terms of what I needed at each CP.


I think the distance between the CPs were ideal for me and my fuelling strategy worked better than any other race. Little and often, take it before you need it was my mantra. Mix between sweet and savoury and keen drinking. Make sure I have a empty bottle at each CP. All targets achieved. What I hadn't factored in was the mud and the hills. But I knew the hills were coming so had already had a thought about taking it nice and steady, save my energy and once on the canal you can grab any time back.


The mud took alot of energy and this put me roughly an hour behind my plan at CP2. But as we had planned my change of shoes and top made me feel fresh and ready to take on the canal. Amanda kept me topped up with the most amazing Leek and Potato soup in the world ever and we kept to the plan. Constantly keeping in touch with voice notes to plan ahead. The planning ahead was important for me as it kept my head in the game. And Amanda knew what person was coming in. She kept me upbeat with her messages, letting me know she was OKAY and had arrived at the CPs. So importantly she kept the stress away so that all I had to do was crack on. Keep standing up, grab and go. So I did.


CP4 and CP5 came and went and it was the final push to the finish. At this point I had been walk running for a little bit. Not even sure the running happened that much, but I was holding a good solid march and felt comfortable so carried on with that and threw in the the odd running spurts and intervals during each mile. As the finish line approached I genuinely felt great, I felt like I had had a good day. A bit broken but as to be expected I thought.





As I walked in the Stow Center I saw Vanessa, a runner who I had been with a couple of times, we walked through one of the big wet bits hand in hand keeping each other up. She was seriously impressive and marched her socks off. That reminds me, I need to walk faster... I love this community - walking into the pub in Wendover and seeing so many familiar faces. People we have spent time with, supported, been inspired by and can now call our friends is something that makes my heart sing. So, I finished my first Ultra of 2024. 1 down......."




CAMINO: Superstar Kris has been a long time Camino supporter (having taken part in our first ever Centre of the Universe Ultra) and is fast becoming a regular in the multitude of ultra distances. After an injury break it was amazing to see Kris back and running so strong at C2C.



"This was my first ultra in over 18 months due my ongoing herniated disc issues.

I signed up for this in 2023 hoping i would be able to even start the race, putting no real goal or expectation on myself, the brief to myself was get it done at any cost.





Training was far from ideal, 4 months of stop-start running but i was determined to make this work. I only found out a few days before the race that so many wonderful Camino's were also taking part, being part of the whatsapp group was a great help mentally, everyone was so supportive. leading up to the race i was very anxious something would go wrong injury wise or that i just wasnt fit enough, once we were at the start all of that disappeared and it was pure adrenalin and excitement to be racing again.


First 17 miles went far too well, I felt strong, was ahead of my target and just really enjoyed it, my hydration and nutrition were pretty good (using two watches, one for navigation and pace, one purely to remind me when to eat and drink seems to work for me) Then the wheels started to fall off....Next 14-15 miles were horrible, cramp in both legs, felt like something might ping at any time, Second half of the course was canal and tow paths, very lucky my good friend Chris, his partner Maren and their dog drove to meet me so i could change soggy socks (with a toe poking out) and trainers around mile 21, This was a total game changer. After a lot of gels and pain killers, I got back into a groove for the last 8-9 miles, After giving myself a proper talking to, headphones in, music on and head down to see this through.


Seeing Camino legend Paula for a hug was gigantic boost for morale when i was in a bit of a hole. I was slower than I wanted to be but im nowhere near fit enough, this was to see where I’m at and build on it. I loved every second of it even when my legs didn’t want to work with me I, was just so happy to be out there. Brilliantly arranged race by Go Beyond, saw lots of familiar faces and lovely to chat to new ones during and after the race, walking into the finisher hall for a cuddle from David Bone was a nice way to finish. In total awe of Kallum wining the race, what a beast of a performance. After my injury issues of late i feel like this was a massive turning point for me. "


SUMMARY:


The amazing Trina & Jane & Linda are all part of an incredible team aiming to take part in the Speed Project - Over 500KM from LA to Las Vegas at the end of March.


If you are able to help support them on this incredible adventure then please check them out here


BIG CAMINO LOVE to All xx


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