London LOOP #FKT - with a lot of help from our Friends x
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
We really loved all the beautiful feedback from our recent Capital Ring disaster. Seems like most of you prefer to hear about the dramas and facepalm moments!! So as there is already some “London Loop FKT” (fastest known time) run stuff on the actual FASTEST KNOWN TIME website and STRAVA; and soon to be an article on Ultramarathon Magazine, this one is going to go super off-grid for you….
Over ten years ago, Daz and I used to run an annual ultra organised by Rory Coleman. It was 50 km of the Capital Ring and was aptly called the ‘London Ultra’. Back in those days 50 km was a big deal and we often took around 6 hours. If you could have seen us back then it was proper comedy stuff - wrong trainers, poor nutrition, no run strategy and poor execution.
A few years later we were preparing for our first 100 miler and decided to tackle the full 75 mile+ London “Capital Ring”, albeit in two 40 mile stages over a weekend. I fondly remember the fatigue of starting the second day (maybe something to do with a skinful of beers in Balham) and the sheer exhaustion at the finish of Day 2.
Daz and I have now completed and "FKT’d" the Capital Ring on several occasions and a few weeks ago we went back to try and reclaim the FKT from Jonathan Burnham’s (Russ Tannen and now Dom Jones has since crushed the FKT). We lucked-out on picking a 30+ degree day and with no crew or available shops (Covid-19) our attempt just melted away.
I mention all of this because (to help with the Why do you do these 100+ mile runs question) Daz and I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to do a 150+ mile run - we did the London Ultra, then we did a longer one, then we did another and made a right mess of it, then we did it again and it was marginally better. We read a lot, we listened to other runners (who were and still are better than us), we joined ultra communities online, we prepared better for bigger runs, we did bigger runs, we won 24 hour runs, we massively messed up 24 hour runs and all the time (secret source) we loved every second of it.
Why the “LONDON Loop” and Why now?
When lock-down restrictions on exercise were lifted I signed up to Nathan/Tori Flear's superb LEJOG (Land's End to John O'Groats) 874 mile virtual race and set a target of approx 100 miles a week. Cheekily I wondered if this level of mileage would win the race but two guys went head to head and averaged over 200 mile weeks to finish inside of 30 days.
During my "virtual mile" weeks I picked off a few new FKTs. Somewhere amid the madness I just thought about closing off the LEJOG with one of the few UK 100+ mile FKTs and the London Loop really appealed. Why? Well it was near home in London and it was big :)
Running any big distance with no-one to help you is a pretty daunting prospect. I love running alone, the peacefulness and escapism but I'm not a massive fan of spending hours figuring out navigation and nutrition on my jack jones. For one, that level of narcissism is a stretch too far, even for me and any running enjoyment would just get sucked out by all the non-run logistics.
Ultra Legend James Poole supported Bone through sections 5 + 6 +7 including Happy Valley and Mayfield Lavender farm - so beautiful (James and the landscape)
One thing you need to know about the London Loop is that it is a much loved way for walkers to complete small A-to-B routes but it's not on many runners radar. After hours of internet research I could only find evidence of a successful 4 day finish by Colin Dear. I spent a few days in front of a spreadsheet compiling a breakdown of the Loop's 24 sections as per the TFL website and calculated a set of 10 mile points. With the idea of an attempt now devilishly in my head, I dipped my toe into the WhatsApp blue sea to speculatively find out if any of my close ultra buddies would be willing and available to run or crew me. The response was beautiful. All my buds were in for either running or helping.
Over the summer I've had the immense pleasure of coaching one of my closest friend’s (Simon) son Ed. He's a budding middle distance runner and we've run a few 10 milers. When Simon offered to help it felt a great idea to propose the idea of Ed starting the run.
Close friend (Masters short and multi 24 hour distance finisher) Bryn and I succeeded in a recent FKT on the Tunbridge wells Circular and he was eager to help on one of the South London legs. Equally Anna (in training for MdS debut) who lives near Putney had researched that a start near Ewell would help her get a 20 mile run into her training block. Anna had done some studious research and worked out that there is a major underpass at Hatton Cross that you can only reach by a serious long detour (if you follow the GPX) but that there is “another route in”. This kind of detail is incredibly exciting and ridiculously nerve-wracking in equal measures. Thankfully Anna pulled off a master-stroke and if you follow our new GPX you need to say ‘arigato’ to Anna!
Friend and ultra superstar (she won’t like me saying this) Anna paced a superb set of sections including the ugly Hatton Cross and quite frankly heart-wrenchingly stunning Bushy Park
Local to me are friends and ultra-gods - Alison, Paula and Stephen. We've run loads of crazy made-up ultras including plenty of Night Runs and they were my obvious choice to pick off this logistically frightening section.
NIGHT FEVER NIGHT FEVER
Who you gonna call for a NIght-Run - the WALKER!!!! She will beast you and make you eat three gels in 45 minutes!
One of things daznbone have been pretty awesome at in recent years is the volume of night runs and the advantage that you get from becoming more familiar with running at night and the strange ways that your body and especially your mind goes when you mess with the rhythms of sleep. The no.1 daznbone night-run supporter has been Malaysia’s second best ultra-runner (she is going to go absolute apoplectic when she reads this bad gag) Alison Walker. Seriously Alison is a very dear friend and an absolutely brilliant ultra-runner (destined to smash many races/records in the future). When you ask for Alison’s help you get 110%. How many people do you reckon you could get to cover a 10 hour night section support run-buddy role with the possibility that it could a) not happen at last minute b) end before you have begun c) end somewhere in the middle of the night leaving you both stranded. How many people would genuinely love to sign-up for that? One :)
The first (of two) major crew stops was orchestrated by the incredible Paula Bedford. She kindly volunteered to drive her camper over to an industrial estate in West London (picking up Alison and another ultra friend Stephen Macintosh on route) and at around 21:00 pm I was lucky enough to be sat down and fed a fantastic noodle dish, served a sugary tea, given some savoury snacks, dressed in some night-time clothes and sent on my way with some Orbital tunes. Now that is world-class crewing right there. It’s important that I offer you as much honest and candid narrative as possible - so one thing I wasn’t that aware of but which could have had a major impact on this entire #fkt is that the crew team actually first parked up in the car-park of a “strip pub” (they called it a Gentleman’s parlour) - the fact that it was actually open in Covid times and that a burly bouncer actually came out to scare them away is priceless. Did I say that I needed a massage.
The incredible Spencer Milberry who came out in the dead of night to help with some valuable water refills and the spendour of Watermelon x
The route (attempted clockwise) would take me back around to Enfield Lock on the morning of Day 2 and here loads of friends from my club Victoria Park Harriers came out to support. The king of all friendly faces was Antonio, a much loved runner in the club. After 24 hours of gels and sports brand bars (all lovingly organised by our friends from KOMfuel ) my body was beginning to reject these fellas and thankfully