Wings For Life World Run (Cambridge) – Race Report

I think it shows what a unique concept and race the Wings for Life World Run is when at the end of it I felt such strong mixed emotions……both ecstatic and deeply disappointed!

I’m not going to lie, going into the weekend I was SUPER confident. My recovery from the London Marathon and win at the Milton Keynes half in the preceding two weeks made me think I had a really special performance in me. The training stats from the Garmin had shown me that my effort levels for paces just under 6 min/mile were on a par with my Gravesend 100km record run and I had aspirations of fighting for the Global win. I’d told most people that asked that I was aiming for 80km but in reality I was actually planning to head out at a pace that would get me closer to 90km as I suspected that there would be some stand out performances around the world since the event is growing in popularity by the year.

The morning of the race it was obvious that it was going to be a scorcher of a day but my mind was set on global domination! I’d had a couple of text conversations with best mate Trev and physio/support buddy Tim and I basically told them that I wasn’t going to let the weather stop me and that I was just going to go for it…… very cocky and as it turned out……very STUPID!

So off we went and I felt great!!


As expected a few runners went off the front but I settled into my planned pace just under 6m/m with the company of Robbie Britton who had said previously that he’d run a few miles with me before dropping back as he was still recovering from the Highland Fling the week before! It felt really good but I was aware that my heart rate was REALLY high compared to training runs.

Within about 10 miles I had taken the lead and from there on I had the company of two fantastic lead bike support guys and a camera crew on a motorbike which was pretty cool. My heart rate by this stage had already drifted up to around 150bpm (85% Max) which to put that into perspective is about the same as I was running at the London Marathon which was around 40 seconds per mile faster!
My thoughts at this time were that if I wanted to be in with a chance with a Global position I needed to stick at this pace and I rather stupidly thought that even if things didn’t go quite so well and I slowed down I would still be able to maintain a respectable pace and be okay for the local win, how wrong I was!

Things went quite smoothly for the next 15 miles and I was being fed updates from my support crew that I was still hovering around 6-8th place globally less than 1km behind the leader. Unfortunately though as we got close to the marathon distance (went through in about 2:37) I was starting to really feel the heat and on some of the small inclines (generally the course was very flat, if a bit windy) my heart rate was actually getting close to anaerobic threshold level! A not particularly steep hill (but reasonably long) at around 27 miles just stopped me in my tracks and I dropped to a walk… dawned on me right then that my disrespect to the weather was about to ensure I had one of the most painful 90min of my life.

One of my only moments of coverage on the global feed is me dropping to a walk and pulling off my HR monitors as I got stitch!

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 16.05.49

The next 13 miles were a new experience for me, parts of my body started to fail on me that have never let me down before! First was a nasty stitch which would not leave me and then the calf cramps started, first the left and then the right. Every time I tried to pick up the pace they went again and from there I was having to implement a run/walk strategy. My support crew were shoving anything they could get their hands on down me….Redbull, electrolyte drinks, gels, water and trying to get updates about where the 2nd place male was.
When I finally got confirmation at around 38 miles that I was the last man standing I dropped down to a shuffle and was glued to my Garmin which was telling exactly how many seconds I had until the catcher car was going to get me.

I have never been so happy to see David Coulthard in all my life!

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The adrenaline of winning gave me about 5min where I was able to do a quick interview and have some photos taken but then within about a minute of having this selfie taken with David my body had had enough and shutdown.


I then proceeded to have a vomiting fit and had to be put in an ambulance as my blood pressure dropped to 90 over 46 and my oxygen levels dropped. With the help of a very kind medic and an oxygen mask, by the time the ambulance had got us back to the start I had managed to rejoin the land of the living and was able to be reunited with Sarah for a much needed hug.

Big thanks as usual first off to Sarah for all her support and passion for my running adventures, my sponsors Garmin UK (See below for all the gory details of my race splits!) and my physio and good friend Tim Cruise-Drew.

Now I’ve had time to reflect on what happened, I went into the race thinking I would just “cope” with the heat but in hindsight the previous occasions where I have done well in hot temperatures (Stockholm 100km for example) I have been able to do a significant amount of my training in similar conditions. This mini heatwave we had started only a few days back during my taper so I had not really run at all at these temperatures and really should have known better!
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event, just got to decide which location to do. There were some fantastic performances out there yesterday including the overall male winner (Italian Super Vet Giorgio) and my friend Paul Martelletti who smashed out 73km for the win in Ireland on a hilly hot course so I’m sure the standards will only be even harder next year!

……..I’m now going to have a rest for a couple of weeks before I start training for my next adventure – Ultravasan 2016 – The rematch!

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7 Responses to Wings For Life World Run (Cambridge) – Race Report

  1. Blimey what a day. We had a similar experience at Transvulcania on Saturday. Totally underestimated the technical descent at the end and only trained to run uphill. Consequently the uphill was fine and we crashed and burned on the 20k down at the end. Good yo know even the experienced guys mess up occasionally!!

  2. Colin Simpson says:

    Well done Steve. That was really unlucky getting such a hot day.
    The coverage of the English race was almost non existent as you know which was disappointing, especially as you were shown in the top 10 several times.
    Very addictive watching though when paired with the website to see the running field diminish and the top 10 list constantly changing.
    Some where flat and cold next year maybe! :)



    • Phil says:

      Melbourne was pretty flat. Last years Irish winner came down here to run so maybe you could do the same. But it was 20 deg C here at local start time of 9pm. Not that that is in anyway hot for us even heading into winter.

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  5. Matt Devine says:

    Hi Steve, my name is Matt and I’m 16. I am just getting back into running but I am quite heavy coming back 13st about but I was about 12 st before. I wasn’t even lean at 12st around 15-16% body fat. I tend to hold fat and muscle quite easily. Any suggestions to get rid of the fat and some of the muscle . Cheers

  6. Mark Bailey says:

    Hi Steve,

    I write for Runner’s World magazine and we’re keen to interview you for a feature. If you’re around this week and can spare 20 mins to chat, please drop me a line. Thanks, Mark

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