Race Review: The Grand Union Challenge (100km)

This event was stopped in 2016, and replaced by the now also defunct ‘London to Cambridge Challenge’. The event was an incredibly flat and smooth race from London Paddington to Bletchley, running along the route of the Grand Union canal. 

Elevation: Very little! You were essentially running along canal paths the whole way, which made this a fast but tedious route! Certainly not an event for those who don’t like running on concrete…

Number of Participants: Approximately 1000

Verdict: I took on this race less than one month after doing my first 100km in the London to Brighton Challenge, as I was unsatisfied with my performance. As I did the latter with two others who were both hurting and had to slowly limp to the finish, we ended up taking far longer than expected. As such, I felt that I needed to see how fast I could really run this distance on my own.

I will admit the event itself was pretty tedious. After the first five hours of running along canals, I was already bored of them! Add to that some sketchy people along the canal late at night (as it was a Saturday night people were drunk and partying), and I am not surprised that Action Challenge decided to pull the event. 

That said – the event served its purpose in my case, and I finished around 10 hours faster than the time I did London to Brighton in less than 30 days before!

Dave’s Tips

If this event is ever reinstated, I would ensure that you work on your speed!

Without elevation to slow you down, you will be able to reach higher speeds that you can sustain for around 10-12km between the aid stations. If you only train slow and have a low top speed, you will not be able to finish the race quickly! Simple.

Other than that I would really suggest building up the glutes, as there was a LOT of pounding concrete and rarely any change in motion over the distance.

Make sure you are totally comfortable running on harder terrain before the race, and ensure that you get any IT band, or bursitis issues etc. fixed as best as you can beforehand as they will likely get aggravated.

If you like the sound of knuckling down and getting a 100km PB on a flat and relatively uninteresting course, I would suggest checking out ‘The Thames Path Challenge’. It is a much bigger event with almost no incline, and is a marginally more interesting route. 

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