BY TOM POLLAK
Richard McDowell posted an impressive win in the longest race of his life – a record-breaking victory in the Tow Path 100 miles race along the Thames from Richmond to Oxford on Saturday.
McDowell, 42, the top over-40 finisher in the 2019 London Marathon, faced challenging weather conditions in addition to the ultra long-distance race along a range of running surfaces and a climb of round 2,000 feet.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there was a staggered start. McDowell was one of the first of almost 300 runners to set off at 7am so it was difficult to establish where he was in the race. More testing were the initial conditions with heavy rain all morning and seven hours of 40mph gusts forecast.
McDowell completed the first marathon (26.2 miles) near Wraysbury in just under three hours.
“I struggle to run slowly when I feel fresh which can be my undoing,” he said. “But I was still very confident at this stage.”
However, as he approached the halfway point at Henley, he hit a crisis.
“My stomach was not impressed with what I was taking in, resulting in a significant amount of vomiting. This was followed by a huge energy crash but I managed to keep moving, albeit significantly slower.”
McDowell was in the lead at Henley, which he reached in just more than six hours, almost 50 minutes clear of one of the favourites Dan Lawson, who recently broke the Land’s End to John O’Groats record and in 2016 also won the European 24 hours championship race.
“I knew I had a reasonable buffer but also this could change very quickly if things started to fall apart,” he said.
With 19km to go, McDowell was joined by an old friend Mike Boucher, his cross country captain when he was at Imperial College 20 years ago.
McDowell reached the finish line in 13 hours 42 minutes 42 seconds to smash the course record of 14:09:54 seconds set in 2016 by more than 27 minutes. During the race he lost 10 per cent of his body mass.
He said: “The legs are also still very much like jelly and it’ll take several days before I stop shuffling around like a pensioner, but with no races in the calendar until October I think I can afford to take a week off.”
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