Updated: Sep 8, 2022
At this years Camino Ultra Lea Valley 50Km we witnessed many epic 'first-time' finishes from a majority of our runners. One incredible runner/soul is Alice Light.
We first met Alice through our Greenway project and ironically Alice kept missing our social events and she would private message us and say we were jinxed but how much she was getting out of the experience of learning new short trail routes in London. We talked more and we shared our 50KM events and Alice (like almost everyone we meet) said 'I don't know if I can do an ultramarathon'. Alice was training for a marathon at the time (and had signed up for an even greater 100KM) and we know runners often put huge pressures on themselves at the marathon level and therefore it is natural to feel that an ultra may be a 'stretch too far'.
So we happily went to work on Alice - convincing her that a 50KM was 'not only achievable' but also something that could be a platform for her to achieve her dreams of even bigger goals in the near future.
Below is a joyous blog on Alice's wonderful journey at this years Camino Lea Valley 50KM - THANK YOU ALICE x
I started running in early 2020 with a couch to 10km App having signed for a half marathon. I had a secret desire to run a marathon one day but thought age was my barrier. This was when I was unfit, coming out of trauma and had a very low self-esteem. When I struggled to run for 2mins and I didn’t know what an Ultra
Marathon was!! Sadly, it was also when many around me said things like “a 10km will probably be your limit”, “a half marathon is really bad for your body”, “don’t bother with a marathon too tough on the knees”. This triggered something inside me and my love affair for running started.
Fast forward to early 2022 and after a brief conversation with a good friend I decided to sign up to a 100km ultra marathon!! I needed something big to work towards as I had Paris Marathon booked for April 2021 but I didn’t want my journey to end there. Paris became so much more than running a marathon and it was the hardest thing I’d done mentally, physically, and emotionally in my life due to an awful experience there years ago. So, with the 100km booked for July 2022, I needed to find a 50km training run in June ….!
I run solo a lot as I find peace in that time alone, a time I can escape and enjoy the movement of my body, to feel present in those moments has helped me find a much deeper understanding of myself. When I can shut out the noise and connect with myself. It was however evident that I needed a race day experience, better start line experience, to face my fears, to be part of an organised long run. To not leave the anxiety I have to the day of the 100km. It was like fuelling; I needed to get it right, feel the feelings and emotions of a race day to best prepare for running a 100km.
This is when I thought of Camino Ultra. It made sense as they are a small friendly company who support great causes close to my heart like Black Trail Runners, Run Grateful and more recently She.Races. I have been part of their London Greenways challenge since January and their abundant joy and positive energy was something I could feel deeply and absolutely love, plus their endless support is incredible.
It felt right so I signed up to their Lea Valley 50km Ultra on 18th June. From the moment I was on board I felt like part of something special, not because I made the finish line cakes for everyone (!!) but because Camino Ultra care about their participants, they care about each one from start to finish and I really felt that. Hugs were a plenty when I arrived at registration on race day, and I instantly felt calmer. I wasn’t a number I was
Alice, and I noticed that this wasn’t just with me but for all runners. It felt like family.
Needless to say, the nerves did come.
The pre-race briefing was informative, concise, and not too long. The tears showed up briefly when Darren said “we will soon make our way to the start line” but I kept my cool as Mark, founder of 1gratefulrun, was there chatting to me. We were in a deep conversation and the next minute I was off. It was the perfect way to relax my mind, shake off the nerves and forget about the anxiety.
I was away.
The first 11km took us through lovely woods and pathways under bridges and to the first checkpoint at 11.5km. Most runners were ahead of me by this time with a few I played tag with for a while. It was pleasant and easy going and I decided to just enjoy myself. Remembering that it was a training run.
I soon found my rhythm and relaxed into this new adventure to become an ultra-runner. Training for my 100km, going from checkpoint to checkpoint. Feeling present. Smiling along the way, still nervous but happy I was taking part.
When you run solo having good checkpoints is key, especially for a runner like myself who’s a slower runner and therefore out on the terrain for much longer. The checkpoints were great, toilets were available, friendly faces in abundance and all the fuel you needed. I’ve trained with fuel so aside a banana and refilling my water I
didn’t need any of the snacks and gels on offer, but it was reassuring to know this was available had I needed it.
After the first checkpoint we hit the canal and there we stayed following its meandering route to the finish line, just another 39km! I remember seeing people swimming and wishing I could jump in and refresh as it was so hot, the sun was beating down on me and a jump into cool water was very appealing! My mind drifted to running a triathlon and what it would feel like to run after swimming. When running I will always have several conversations with myself and I can easily get lost in my own world as the kilometres pass by and I plan future events and trips, talking to myself about my goals and ambitions. today this was no exception.
The cheers as I approached checkpoint 2 at 25km were awesome. The support and friendly faces were sincere and really appreciated as I carefully refilled my fuel & water bottles. I kept focus, I was only halfway after all but the support gave me the nudge I needed to the final checkpoint at 37km and I left feeling very grateful.
Trail running will usually mean there are no spectators along the route as if you were doing a road race, so you must bring your own vibes. What felt like endless towpaths, barges and ducks was hard at times. Straight lines and a flat route was new to me so again I had to keep focus and remember my “why” of running for all
women everywhere, running grateful. Saying hi to the few walkers or bystanders I met helped and some smiled and cheered and some didn’t but I kept smiling.
As I moved towards the finish line, I was alone. No longer playing tag with other runners as I eased beyond checkpoint 3 at 37km. After I reached the marathon distance, I knew for my body and mind and this excited me, I felt a new spring in my step and felt lighter. It was a great feeling to be achieving what I had set out to do
and the happy feeling was flooding my body, everything was Ultra from that point on! I knew my supporters were at the finish line waiting for me and with many showing support online. It was felt and it was appreciated… I was, in truth, never alone.
I have always known it is my privilege to run, to be out there following dreams, creating memories, changing the narrative of what “Alice” was to so many and to myself. I was becoming the new version of me and allowing myself to fall in love with this process, not just with running but with myself too.
In those quiet moments, keeping focused, pushing towards my goal I felt proud of myself. I felt love.
Camino Ultra made my finish line moment feel like I was a superstar, with my dear friends and boyfriend cheering my every step it was emotional and it was beautiful. In that moment, as I reached for the sky, I felt so present and so happy.
Camino Ultra put on a great race day which will stay with me forever. Not only for the confidence it gave me but for the community they have created, and for which I am part of.
I was now an ultra-runner.
See you all in Epping Forest on 15 th October for Camino’s new 50km Ultra when I’ll be volunteering on the day,
bringing my signature smile and happy vibes to the party and providing more homemade vegan cakes for all