Ultra runner Debbie Martin-Consani wins Thames Path 100 2019
Scottish ultra running star Debbie Martin-Consani returned to a race she described as “unfinished business” at the weekend. She was not only first female to finish the Thames Path 100 2019, but she also reckons she “got that monkey off my back”.
The TP100, organised by Centurion Running, is a running race of 100 miles from London to Oxford. It follows the national trail, the Thames Path along the banks of the River Thames.
Debbie, 44, of Glasgow, took part in the race in 2013 and was first female (fourth overall), but awful weather that year meant the course had to be re-rerouted.
She said: “In 2013, it was survival of the most stubborn because the weather was atrocious and it was like 104 miles of cross-country underfoot conditions.
“It was quite possibly the worst mud I’ve run it. Also, it was like running from Milngavie to Tyndrum and back and saying you’ve run the West Highland Way Race.
“Although it’s not about bragging rights – I just wanted to complete the full route. I always said I’d go back and this was the year where I don’t have any big blockbuster races and want to do more in the UK.
“Plus, I needed to run a qualifying race to apply for Western States (for the fourth year) and TP100 is one on their list.”
Winning TP100 2019
In 2013, Debbie finished in 19:19. This year, she ran the complete course in 17:40. She was first female again and 10th overall.
She described the TP100 2019 as “far from perfect” although she was very pleased to finish the complete route.
Debbie said: “It was the usual ultra rollercaster. I had my usual stomach and sickness issues. I often suffer from nausea, which I know is fairly common for ultra runners.
“I was vomiting at about 60 miles and then I had some real low patches from 60 to 80 miles. But I had to pull myself together when I realised the second lady, the Norwegian runner Ingrid Lid, was catching me.”
The weather was a lot better than when Debbie raced in 2013. She said: “It suited me. It was fresh, breezy and sunny, with a few rain showers. It did get cold and near freezing when the sun went down and in the latter miles it was a bit foggy and there was frost forming on the plants.
“But this all suits me. At most I put on a light waterproof and some gloves. And it was far better than 2013 and also better than last year.
“In 2018, the race took place on in record-breaking May weekend temperatures of 30 degrees. That certainly doesn’t suit a fair-haired, freckled Scot like me.
“The DNF rate was really low last year – less than 50% – compared to 75% at the weekend. There were 300 starters.”
Darkness and river worries
With so many hours of running over the 100 miles, the participants must cope with some six hours of running in darkness. Debbie was fully aware of the dangers of running along a river path at night.
She said: “In another race, the Grand Union Canal Race, I fell in the water and in the White Rose 60 I was hit by a car. So I am fully aware of the dangers.
“The Thames Path is not exactly a dangerous place to run, however, so there’s nothing to worry about really, although there was a few times when I thought, if I trip here, I’m going in. Considering the amount of people who asked me before the event: ‘Is that the race you fell in the river?’, I thought it wise to keep my wits about me.”
Tried-and-tested race strategy
Debbie is a very experienced ultra runner. Her strategy was one she has described many times before.
She said: “My plan, as ever, was to start steady, stay steady and stick to my own race place. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, especially as I was gunning for a women’s podium place, but I kept reminding myself I needed to run my own race. I can’t run anyone else’s race.
“As it’s flat and I was rested, I had to curtail the pace early on. Even though I was running slightly faster than I planned I was eighth female by the first checkpoint, which is a little disheartening, but I had trust in my own race plan.”
Debbie shared the lead back-and-forward with Ingrid from about 30 miles.
She said: “I eventually broke free around 50 miles, but Ingrid was never far behind. She lost a few places, I suspect going through a bad patch, but she seemed reborn later and caught me after my bad patch and after I missed a signpost over a bridge.
“I had quite a time with navigation throughout the race which was really silly mistakes because the course is well marked. I was just concentrating too much on footing and not paying attention.
“We arrived at the 85-mile checkpoint together, which I sure was way more exciting for the people dot watching than it was for either of us.
“But it was the massive kick up the backside I needed at that point. I got a bit too comfortable and relaxed before she appeared on my heels.”
Debbie enjoyed the race overall. She said: “There was a beautiful sunset on the Saturday night. The colours across the river were stunning.
“I was also pleased to cross the line first after digging deep to break free.
“It is interesting because I’ve never really considered myself a very competitive person, so I was surprised by the way I responded.
“If you’d have asked me before the race how I might have dealt with a rival in the latter stages, I would have possibly said I would have resigned to being beat.
“It’s nice to learn something new about yourself. And if I’m still learning in races, I’m still progressing.”
‘Not quite the race I had planned’
Debbie is still philosophical about her race, however. She said: “I should be happy with my race, and I am. But I can’t help thinking it wasn’t really a performance or time worthy of a race win.
“It was a solid run for sure. I just feel I didn’t had the race I planned or trained for. It is what it is though. I’m not going to go back to chase a time and I’m glad I completed the full route.”
First three males in TP100 2019
- Ian Hammett in 14:36:25
- John Melbourne in 14:58:46
- Paul Beechey in 15:48:19
First three females in TP100 2019
- Debbie Martin-Consani 17:40:08
- Ingrid Lid 17:48:25
- Wendy Whearity 18:26:12
- Craig Holgate in 14:09:54 in 2016
- Samantha Amend in 16:00:09 in 2016.
See Centurion Running for a list of their races including the Thames Path 100.