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Ham to Lyme 50K race review

Home Races Trail Ham to Lyme 50K race review

On the 5th July, the fabulous five ran the Ham to Lyme 50K ultramarathon – with the help of Wile E. Coyote, party rings and gin, we ran for the same length of time as an average working day! Over the course of just shy of eight hours, I went from a runner who thought that ultras were for ‘that’ kind of runner, to becoming an ultra runner myself. I was figuring it out as the route unfolded in front of us, and it was a whole lot of fun.

The Ham to Lyme is a 50K trail ultramarathon that takes runners through beautiful Somerset and Dorset countryside, down in the South West of England. You run from a high point near Yeovil, and 32 miles later you arrive at the seaside in Lyme Regis in time for a paddle to cool the legs. This race is perfect for first timers covering an ultramarathon distance and the medal is stunning – that won me over!

Runners running along a trail path towards the sea
Ham to Lyme 50K race with the sea in sight!

In Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, a group of four friends went on adventures around the English countryside with their dog Timmy in tow. Well, this story is about the ‘Honiton Five’ running an ultramarathon, the Ham to Lyme 50K. It was a first for four of us, with the fifth coming back for a second time. With it being my first, I didn’t know what to expect; all I knew was that I had to forget about speed and distance, and treat it as a day out. This is what I told myself when I started to feel nervous, or when non-runners said, ‘that’s a long way!’.

The gang

The Famous Five had their dog Timmy with them on adventures – well, we had Wile E. Coyote, the club mascot on his first long-distance adventure and sporting his club vest, kindly knitted by Rachel during the week. Wile E. had an easy day as we took it in turns to carry him.

Rachel had run Ham to Lyme last year. I persuaded her to make a return visit and I loved that she called an ultra ‘runs between buffets’. To make up the gang we had Claire and our bodyguard Luke, and it was on my head if they didn’t enjoy the adventure. We are all members of Honiton Running Club, we love to race and collect some good bling. We have been running for years and between us have covered distances from 5K all the way up to the 50K ultras. Apart from club runs and parkruns we didn’t do many long-distance training runs together, although in the lead up to the ultra, Claire and Rachel had run a long marathon and Claire, Luke and I ran a coastal half marathon.

Group of runners at the start of the Ham to Lyme 50K race
The gang at the start of the race! (L-R) Rachel, Wile, Claire, Luke and me

Albion Running

Ham to Lyme 50K, and its sister race the 100K, is organised by Albion Running who organise ultras in the South West. This year was the fifth running of Ham to Lyme, which sold out back in the Spring, and it is becoming an established race on the ultra calendar. Plus, its beautiful medal is award winning. The race takes runners along the Liberty Trail from Ham Hill in Somerset to the sea at Lyme Regis in Dorset, along beautiful trails and up challenging hills.

Two runners skipping along a trail running from Ham to Lyme
Two buddies skipping in the sun!

Love for the feed stations

Between us we did carry a lot of food, such as flapjacks, gels and muesli bars, but we all were powered along by the food at the feed stations – which are like buffets, just like Rachel had promised. I think I ate my height in party rings and my weight in crisps, with some pieces of fruit thrown in for good measure. At the station below Lambert’s Castle there was gin on offer; all the ladies declined, however I was surprised when Luke’s eyes widened and he took a triple shot of the gin before we marched up the hill!

Three runners at an aid station with their mascot
The ladies, plus Wile, chilling at a feed station

The sheep

This was the day that we discovered Luke’s superpower: he is a sheep whisperer. It was early on during the day when we were walking through an orchard with sheep lying in the shade created by the apple trees, when suddenly one ran up to Luke as if he and Luke were best buddies and ignored the rest of us. This sheep loved Luke stroking and patting her, and was very happy being tickled behind her ears and followed us bleating away as we crossed the stile and left the orchard.

A runner on the Ham to Lyme 50K stroking a sheep
Luke and his new best mate

Fields of heaven

Just after the marathon mark we ran through three beautiful meadows and I felt like I was in heaven – how I felt is still so vivid now, it was incredible. The early evening sun appeared, the meadow was like a painting with red poppies, cornflowers and lots of grasses, and the number of butterflies fluttering around was nothing I had experienced before – there were hundreds. Plus, the noise of the insects was deafening, but such sweet music. I regret not stopping and getting a video, but at that part of the ultra I was getting eager to finish.

Just part of the stunning route on the Ham to Lyme 50K ultramarathon
Just part of the stunning route on the Ham to Lyme 50K

The end

In the last few miles I feel like I might have deafened Rachel as I was projecting positive words on to her instead of focusing it on me. It was easier to concentrate on helping Rachel get to the end (she didn’t need help,) so I didn’t have to think about how I was feeling. If I had, I probably would have realised how tired my legs and body were, and the finish line would have felt a million miles away. I kept shouting, ‘you can do it Rachel’, ‘we are nearly there’, ‘just another mile’, ‘you can do it’, over and over. What seemed like an age making our way through the town of Lyme Regis we arrived by the sea, and turned a corner to hear our friends and family cheering us in to the finish – we had done it.

The famous five all completed the ultramarathon with smiles on their faces and they all enjoyed it, so I didn’t get any blame! To run it as a group is the way to do an ultra – the fun you will have, the memories you will make and the laughs you will share. I learnt to not look at my watch, to not worry about the time or pace, but just to focus on the here and now. It wasn’t until I passed the marathon mark that I started thinking about the miles I had in front of me. This made me eager to finish the race, when I should have tried to get myself back in to relax mode and not worry about what laid ahead. Yet in the end all that matters is that I am an ultramarathon runner.

Having run 32 hilly, tough, glorious miles, it was fitting that the gang ended the day with a cooling dip in the sea and enjoyed fish ‘n’ chips in the evening sun. The Honiton Five will have another adventure in the months to come.

Runner at the end of the Ham to Lyme 50K holding her medal
Me at the finish – tiredness hadn’t kicked in yet!

Magpie eyes

I, as well as the rest of the gang, do love a great medal. The Ham to Lyme medal does not disappoint; it is truly a beautiful medal, the design is award winning. I had seen last year’s medal and I had seen a picture of this year’s on social media. When I was presented with it at the finish, in the evening sunshine, metres from the sea, I was like a magpie in heaven. It is perfectly formed, the perfect size, so beautiful with a colourful sparkly ammonite in the middle – worth the miles we ran in the heat. I am completely in love with it.

Ham to Lyme 50K medal
Ham to Lyme 50K medal

Verdict

This race has to be one of my favourite races of all time and I never thought I would say that about an ultramarathon. It is very well organised, the feed stations are amazing, with a wide range of foods for runners to nibble, and the volunteers are super friendly, supportive and helpful.

There is parking at the start, but it is quite limited; if you do park at the start, then you can book the bus to take you from the finish back to your car. I would suggest car sharing with other runners or get some kind person, like the Honiton Five did, and get dropped off at the start and collected at the end. As I saw with the Axe Valley girls, you can have your own race crew meet you at various points along the route to give you food, drink or a change of clothes, which may be useful if you are running by yourself. However, my biggest tip would be to run this race with a fellow running buddy or buddies, especially if it is your first ultramarathon, as it just makes the miles tick by easier.

I would highly recommend this race, so for more details and how to enter CLICK HERE now as it sells out before race day.

Olivia Higginson
Olivia Higginson
Olivia can usually be found running around the East Devon countryside with her fellow club runners. She has raced all distances from 5K to 50K, but her favourite distance is a half-marathon. Her dream would be to run in races around the world. Olivia is also a Sports Therapist, assisting runners to keep on running.

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