For my 48th birthday I decided to run the OAR. I had recced all the sections so navigation was not an issue. The biggest issue overall was that it was the hottest day of the year by a long way, with temperatures in the mid 20s by 10.00 in the morning and were around 30 most of the afternoon. I had planned to cover the 85km in 11 hours but with the heat it ended up being just under 13 hours.
I had divided up the route with 3 rest breaks. The first section was from Westcott to Cublington which included a hill and probably the roughest terrain of the route. Most of this was through fields and the paths had become very overgrown compared to even a few weeks ago. This made the going quite tough and one field was almost impassable with oil seed rape. I had started at 06.00 and the paths were almost deserted of people, but not cows! Although the first rest stop was due to be in Cublington, the support didn’t arrive on time so I carried on to the next stop at Wing.
A quick rest stop with child baked beans set me up for the next section which was more open farmland with sheep and cattle keeping the vegetation down. I was accompanied by a friend for perhaps 10km of this section and then his wife for another 5km. The first bit was through fields and was rolling before joining a tow path on the canal. This was probably the most tedious section of the route as it was completely flat with very little air movement and the temperature starting to climb. I had a second rest break at Marsden where the route goes into the village before returning to the tow path.
I ran this section alone for some 8km before leaving the tow path to climb into woods in Wendover. Having seen very few people so far, to arrive in Wendover Woods where there were crowds of people was slightly surreal, although the spotless loos were welcome! However it didn’t take long to leave the woods and drop down into Wendover and to an added rest stop due to the heat. I carried 3 litres of water (2l of water in backpack; and 2 x 0.5l of hydration fluids) but this wasn’t enough due to the heat to get through without these additional breaks.
A friend met me in Wendover and he ran with me up Butlers Cross, which has a great view over most of the OAR route, and down the other side into Ellesborough. The next section went up the third and then fourth summit of the route over Whiteleaf, with another great view before going down quite a steep path into Princes Risborough.
I had a fourth break here and a friend joined me for the remainder of the route, about 25km or so. I needed a longer break at Princes Risborough and refuelled fully. The next section was flat through fields but I found myself slowing down due to growing tiredness and definitely wasn’t skipping over the long grass as I had been doing at the beginning. I was glad to have company.
The final stop, again added due to the heat was in Haddenham and I changed my shoes to a lighter pair of X-talon; it was good to get rid of all the wheat tares that had accumulated in my shoes over the day. It was around 17.00 by this time and the sun wasn’t as strong as before, but it was still very warm. The next section was rolling and climbed to Chearsley before dropping and going up to Ashendon. The final climb from Ashendon to the end in Westcott was beautiful, although with some very skittish cows. I managed to speed up over the last km, though a dog-leg triangle back to the start to finish just under 13.00 hours.