Wendover Woods 6 hour challenge - Training & race report

Six hours, one 5.25 mile loop. Read Tim's write up of what happened.

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Story by Tim Mills @mitzllim

When I signed up for this challenge I was intrigued by the premise - complete as many 5.25 miles loops with (180m of climbing) in 6 hours on a challenging trail course in Wendover Woods. Here's what happened...

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Training plan

Rather ran than using a random training plan from the web and following blindly I opted for a different approach.

I knew I would need a base of tempo, interval and long slow runs. I kept each week consistent and completed them on all trails, mixing up the shorter runs with some intervals and hill repeats, then using our London Marathon Trail Series for the LSRs.

I eliminated “junk miles” and instead mixed it up with run commutes to the office and a few days which I would purposely be on my feet for 6 hours, aiming to hit between 25,000-30,000 steps.

All in all I have done about 800km of training miles which is roughly half of what I did in preparation for London last year, and 99% have been on the trails.

Other things I incorporated this year was religious foam rolling and a decent warm up to runs. However, the biggest change was my diet, we went vegan*. This was a natural step with my kids being diary intolerant anyway and my wife just prefers vegetables.

*I would be a terrible vegan if it wasn’t for my wife - https://www.instagram.com/veganmummydiaries

Added bonuses, although I am not tee-total I haven’t had a drop of alcohol this year and despite having young children, sleep has been very good. 

It took a couple of months to notice but energy levels have started to increase and 5k and 10k personal bests in the month leading up to the challenge were a welcome surprise!

Pre Race fuelling

I knew that hydrating myself was key, the two days before the race I managed to drink a gallon of water each day and many many toilets breaks!

The night before, I was hoping for a delicious pasta creation but life got in the way and a huge portion of chips was the result. 

Breakfast was much better, I prepared myself some overnight oats - Almond milk, chia seeds, oats and maple syrup, topped with some frozen raspberries followed by a jam compote with a ton of granola on top.

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Race report

I picked up Chris (who was using the race to prepare for his Norway ultra-marathon) early on Thursday from Wendover train station and we made our way to race HQ in the Woods.

There was only 80 people in the race so it was low key and relaxed, which was bliss. No pressure and being able to rock up 45 mins before a race with no queues was a great feeling.

Chris and I set off together and for four laps we trundled along letting everyone else burn themselves out, blathering on about running, podcasts, Netflix and more importantly exciting plans afoot for Runaway Adventures - especially with our birthday coming up!

We pretty much had the same fuel plan - Water, SIS gels, peanut butter butties, bananas, Trek Bars and Trail Mix.

We had a short stop between most laps, as it’s 6 hours so there was no need to rush the refuel.

The first two laps whizzed by, but the third lap I felt a bit weird, my stomach was turning over and I thought I was going to have a repeat of the exorcist style attack I had at the London marathon, but after a few KMs it passed.

We chatted to runners as we went past and one guy was doing his 100th marathon in something like 448 days, which is a record for the fastest 0-100! As someone who was only on his 4th Marathon this was quite humbling - big shout out to Paul.

By the end of the fourth lap I was busting for a wee which Chris pointed out was good as it means I was taking on fluid well. The 5th lap was a game changer and it was down to four wise choices Chris and I had discussed.

One - We hadn’t carried our packs because we were able to pass them at the end of each lap and refuel. Chris had a handheld lightweight water bottle which I’ll invest in next time.


Two - We had plodded along for 20miles, walking the steep ramps and the minute we felt our heart rates go too far we power walked. I'm watching the Giro d’italia at the moment and I can see similarities - the peloton will cruise along and then ramp it up the last few km’s depending on the breakaway.

Three - Chris mentioned headphones and music, I must admit I don’t often train with headphones, I just like to get out the door and run but in this case it was perfect. I loaded up my playlist and took off, by the end of the 5th lap I had gone from 9th to 3rd. Then it was time for the last game changer.

Four - Poles, I borrowed my Dads walking poles and despite only practising with them a day before, I whipped them out and sped down the descent.

I used the poles to push myself on and by halfway round the 6th lap I had overtook 2nd place and with 4km to go I even put 7 mins of space between us. Running over the line in 5 hours and 35 mins was the best feeling, I could have gone out for a 7th but when I heard the leader was on his 8th lap, I thought better of it.

I was chuffed with the result, we had set the goal of 6 laps in under 6 hours and was happy to come in well under that. My biggest success was the changes I had made to the overall holistic approach to this year. Being able to listen to advice from Jahn, Caitlin and Chris about adventures in Pembrokeshire and talking to fellow trail junkies on our runs, it’s a great way to collect advice from things that went right and went wrong.

I spoke to the organiser and they are having another one In the autumn so hopefully we can get a few other Runaway Adventures involved. 

Training plans for the future

My plan from now on is to go back to the start and working on all distances and try and achieve my best results, when I started running about 5/6 years ago I quickly jumped from 5k to marathon and I feel time devoted to each distance will help me achieve great results.

Running Goals: Maintain fitness, eat cleaner, add swimming and biking, shy away from junk miles, add core work, more rest days, run happy, reduce stress, run less races or maxed out workouts, inspire others, more Chiltern trails runs, meet the other guides down South, and most importantly don’t let it all get in the way of the family. 

Times to match/maintain or improve

  • 1 Mile - PB 5:25
  • 5km - PB 19:26
  • 10km - PB 40:43
  • Half - PB 1H 29 *Marathon - PB 3:37
  • 50k - PB 5:26

Boxes to be ticked

  • 50 mile
  • 100km
  • 100m
  • Trip to Chamonix 

Thanks for reading. @mitzllim

Post written by

Tim Mills

Chiltern Hills trail guide

Chilterns local Tim has a background in teaching & coaching as well as holding awards in athletics & orienteering.

He began running seriously 5 years ago after the birth first child, starting with 5k/10k local road races to lose a few extra pounds. Shortly after he signed up for his first trail marathon, deciding that's where running should taking place!

Now his mission is to convert everyone he meets to the beauty of the trails.

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