The race is almost upon us, just a few short days to wait now. The training is a given, six months of turning up consistently and putting the work in, but there’s a lot of other things to think about in preparation for an event like this, particularly as it’s my first 100 miler. I have consulted far and wide, reading some books, some blogs, podcasts and of course chatting to other ultra runners.

Drop bag

For my first 100 miler, I’m erring on the side of caution and packing for all eventualities, including for what now seems a low chance of shitty weather. Unlike some point-to-point 100 mile events where you might have two or three different drop bags for different stages, the Autumn 100 returns to race HQ in Goring each 25 miles. I get to access the same drop bag throughout, which means I can be less precise about the contents. I’ve thrown the kitchen sink at it, working on the basis that it’s better to have too much stuff than not enough. I have a complete change of running gear for half way, then over and above that I have extra base layers, tee shirts, spare hats and gloves, spare buffs, leggings, spare socks, spare running shoes, spare waterproofs, rain ponchos. For foot care I’ve included a new roll of Rocktape, scissors and BlisterShield. For chafing and other rubbage, I’ve got vaseline and sudacrem. Towel and flannel, for wiping mucky feet, face and hands, should the need arise. I’ll probably unpack and repack the bag several times between now and race morning, but I think I have everything I need in there bar Tailwind and potatoes which I’ll do the night before.

Mandatory kit

Like most ultra events of this distance, Centurion has a mandatory kit list, much of which I don’t expect to need unless I get in a real pickle. I’ve stuffed these items into a 3L dry bag which I’ll carry in the race pack.

  • Spare base layer
  • Waterproof
  • Gloves
  • Survival blanket
  • Whistle
  • Spare headtorch

This all squishes down fairly small, and it’s not too heavy, certainly less weight than the 2L bladder I’ve become used to lugging about on longer runs. The gloves and waterproof are at the top so can be got at easily if the weather forecast isn’t correct.

There are other items on the mandatory list, but that I would have anyway without thinking too much about it:

  • 1L fluids capacity (two softflasks up front)
  • Hat (buff will do here)
  • Headtorch
  • Mobile phone
  • Cup

On top of all this mandatory kit, I’ll be carrying this clobber in the race pack as well:

  • Paracetomol
  • Debit card
  • Charging pack & cables for watch & phone
  • Earphones
  • First aid kit
  • Vaseline
  • Shit kit


I have no idea what to expect from a 100 mile race. Will my legs give up? Will my head give up? How hard will the final 50 or 60km be? How much running will I be capable of? Will I be able to eat enough? No idea! Still, it pays to have a plan, I think. I’m aiming for a sub-24 hour time for the whole thing, bagging me a special “One Day” buckle. I’ve broken the race up into sections, using the aid stations as handy milestones. In ultra terms, I’m allowing myself a reasonably sporty start as Leg 1 is dead flat and I’ll be on fresh legs. In fact, it’ll be a job to hold myself back to a 12 minute mile pace. I plan to run/walk from the start, using an 8:2 minute ratio. This will help slow my average pace a bit. I’ve allowed what feels like plenty of time at aid stations. In reality I expect to improve on this, I won’t spend more than 1-2 minutes at most of them so should gain some time as I go. Regardless, as someone once said, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, reality could be substantially different. Someone else said that the only thing more useless than a battle plan is not having one at all! So, here is my pace plan, for what it’s worth.


The Centurion aid stations are well stocked, so I could throw myself entirely upon their mercy food-wise, but I want some level of control over the calories I need to take on. My start line vittles are as follows:

  • 8 gels, mix of Gu and High5
  • Salty potatoes
  • 1L double strength Tailwind

I aim to eat one gel an hour, so will likely have spares to carry over to the following leg unless things go a lot slower than I’m expecting. At that strength the Tailwind mix should last me 4 hours. In the latter stages of Leg 1 (and each subsequent leg) I will refill at the aid stations, which carry a more dilute Tailwind solution. I’ll grab some of the food on offer at the aid stations too, so taken as a whole I should be able to shovel in the required 100g of carbs an hour.

For each of the following three legs, each roughly 25 miles, I have:

  • 8 gels, mix of Gu and High5
  • Salty potatoes
  • 1L double strength Tailwind
  • Mars bar
  • Mini wraps (ham/cheese, marmite)
  • big bag o’ hula hoops (50 and 75 miles)
  • Red bull (50 and 75 miles)

These are all in marked bags to make it easy to grab and go when I get to the Goring aid station.


With this race being on my doorstep, relatively speaking, I have been able to recce almost the entire route in recent weeks, some legs more than once, and at night in the case of Legs 3 and 4, mimicking the likely state of play on race day. The trails were in excellent condition and we should see the same on race day, there is no significant rain in the forecast this week. This element of my preparations has been spot on, I have nothing to fear from the course itself.

Pacer briefing

Centurion allow a pacer for the final 25 mile leg through Reading and back to Goring. Patrick, an ultra running colleague of mine, is on pacer duties. With some help from the Twitter ultra mob, I’ve been having a think about what I need from him, and what he should expect from me. This list may evolve further as the week progresses, and may go out the window entirely on race day!

  • Make sure I eat/drink plenty throughout. 
    • Gel/real food every 20 mins.
  • Don’t let me quit unless timed out, or retired on medical grounds by the medical team at an aid station
  • Don’t let me stop/sit at aid stations for longer than a few minutes
  • Be bossy as needed to ensure the above!
  • Watch out for course markings
  • Tolerate whining, grumpiness and swearing, possibly directed at you
  • Keep me awake!  Talk to me, don’t expect much in response.  I may change my mind on the night…
  • Pace will probably be super slow by this time, wrap up warm
  • My legs may not be talking to my brain anymore, you may have to tell them to run
  • Don’t let me go swimming in the Thames
  • If sub 24 is still on, keep me on track
  • If sub 24 is not realistic/possible, monitor cutoffs
  • Distance to next aid station, time left vs above
  • Don’t let me/get me DQd
  • Be honest/brutal if I’m sailing close to cutoffs
  • Fresh batteries in your head torch

There’s nothing much more I can do now except wait impatiently for race day. Bring it on!

I’ll be back soon with a race report.