UTMB CCC: Fuelled by family and friends…and odd socks

The ballot for the UTMB CCC opened on the 6th of January – my bucket list race.

As I logged onto my computer, I remember thinking there was no chance of getting a spot through the ballot process – the race had previously been cancelled due to COVID and there would be heaps of rolled over entries.  I entered my details and clicked submit, something flashed up on my screen.

Automatic entry.


I clicked the back button and refreshed the page.

Automatic entry – I had enough ITRA (International Trail Running Association) points from previous race placings to qualify…as elite.


The same.

I proceeded.

I was in.


100km, 6,100m. At altitude. Across three countries.


And so, the training began.

I felt strong – even through Winter: early mornings, cold mornings, dark mornings. I absolutely loved it. As with any increase in volume though, I picked up some niggles that I needed to work through

Then five weeks out from the race, COVID struck and I lost two weeks of training…- and maybe some lung capacity. But I knew that I’d built a strong enough base to get me through it… right?


The mountains were like nothing I’ve ever seen before – beautiful monsters that look like they’d been painted into the backdrop of the mountain village.

The town itself was alive and buzzing with race vibes, runners, music. Life.

It was magical.

I was there with my mum, sister and brother too, which made it even more magical.

The question kept coming up – did I have a goal? A time?

I was up against probably the toughest terrain of my life and some of the best runners in the world, but I also wanted to enjoy it and have fun. So I would aim for sub-20 and hope for something like 16-18 hours if all went to plan (spoiler alert: it never goes to plan). My main goal was just to finish, which seemed like a feat in itself.

Plenty of opportunity to fall over… which is one of my favourite party tricks in a race like this.

The race itself consisted of five mountains across Italy, Switzerland and France over 100km with 6100m elevation – the first and last mountains were the biggest climbs with some long and technical (and sometimes steep) descents.


It would be hard for sure – but given how much I loved ascents, it was almost my ideal race.

I also had to consider altitude – Chamonix was already 1,000m above sea level and the climbs would take me to above 2,500m, just to make it that little bit harder.  We could already feel it when we arrived.

The night before, we sat down and planned the race. My family would join me at the start line and then chase me through the Alps on shuttle buses to meet me at 54km, 70km and 81km.

Amazing – such an incredible boost to the race.

Suddenly race day was here.

The race didn’t start until 9am – but the start line was in Courmayeur, Italy and our shuttle bus left Chamonix at 5.45am.


So we were up at 4.30am, aiming to leave the house at 5.15am to get to the bus.

Coffee, mobility, laughs with the sleepy family.

Excitement brewed.

I had checked and triple checked the point where the shuttle buses left from, worried about dragging my family out so early already.

We arrived at the location – it was empty.

“You’re looking for race shuttle buses?”

I nodded in horror, waiting for him to confirm I’d taken my family to the wrong location.

He circled on a map where they actually left from.

“About a 15 minute walk.”

It was already 5.35am.

We didn’t have 15 minutes.


My heart sank.

What had I done?

“We better move.”


We started to jog – even my mum was jogging. A beautifully panicked warm up as such.

I went ahead, hoping if I found the buses I could at least stall them.


Seven minutes later and I was there with my brother in tow. I didn’t even know he could run.

But Imogen had stayed with mum, who was already struggling with the altitude, let alone running in it.

God I felt awful. What if she didn’t make it to the bus in time?

I wanted nothing more than to watch the sunrise with them in Italy and share the start of the race.

“We have others coming but we went to the wrong location.” I said to one marshal.

“That is ok, get on any bus, there will be more.”

Some hope.

Please let her make it.

Another two buses arrived.

And then so did my mum.

I think I cried.

We jumped on the bus, all a little exhausted and shell-shocked but all incredibly grateful.

Sunrise in Courmayeur was stunning as we chilled for a few hours before the start of the race – eating our pre-made breakfast, drinking beautiful Italian coffee and, ahem, queuing for the toilets multiple times.

8.40am – we made our way to the start line via a jumping photo next to the race sign.


Hundreds of people – runners, supporters, TV, media, photographers.

I was in the first wave – the first few hundred of the 2,200 racing.

I found where I thought I was supposed to be according to my bib number, chatted to family, tried to relax.

“You.” A race volunteer pointed at me. “You are in the wrong section. You need to be at the front.”

But I liked where I was.

I followed him and he took me literally to the start line.

Oh dear.

The elite wave indeed.

I looked around me and wondered whether I was:

a) the only one with a body fat percentage over 15%

b) the only one wearing odd football socks because they were nice colours

c) the only one carrying enough potatoes to feed a small army even though it made my pack that little bit bulkier.

I felt small in a very big pond of very good athletes.

“Smile Jess, just enjoy this incredible moment.” Imogen must’ve sensed my nerves.

She was right. So right.

Fake it until you make it.

I smiled and waved at the cameras, took a few deep breaths and chatted to a few runners around me.

This wasn’t about the other runners.

This was what the last few months of training – the sacrifices, the dedication, the 100km+ weeks I’d put my body through. 

This was my moment.

My race.

My coach had told me the first half of the race was a warm up to the second half – and who doesn’t love a good 50km warm up? I needed to not go out hard, save energy in the legs for the final three climbs – especially the last steep ascent and final descent back into Chamonix.

I needed to pace myself.

The countdown began and I said my goodbyes to the family.

“See you in Champex-Lac.”

I smiled, the thought made me so happy.

And then we were off, downhill on the road, at pace.


And before I knew it, we’d hit the gradual climb that would take us to the trail, and to the first big climb.

I needed to get ahead a little, to try and avoid the bottleneck I’d been warned about.

God damn it was humid though and I felt the pangs of a headache gnaw at me from the altitude. I was also sweating more than I normally do.

We’d run maybe 2km when the people around me started to get their poles out, still on concrete.

I figured I should get them out while we were gently creeping up and still moving.

Another kilometre or so and we hit a trail and I could see where the climb was going – a zig zag up a mountain. Stunning.

I took a photo, then a selfie – and noticed how beetroot red my face was.

I was overheating.

I stopped, took my layers off (the thermal seemed like a good idea at the time). T-shirt only, drank water.


And the views as we climbed, golly.


Single track, and a queue. But a moving queue. This would form a perfect pacing for me, I wouldn’t go out too hard on the first climb – because I couldn’t.

I chatted to a few people, then realised most people were already in their pain cave on the climb, surely someone loved climbing as much as me?

I managed a few overtakes as we zig zagged up – my legs felt good. The altitude made the breathing that little bit harder as I ascended but I took deep breaths and just kept moving.

Golly what a climb.

I put some music on – motivation. Pushed harder as the pack spread out a little bit.

This was fun.

This was beautiful.

It was actually so beautiful I just wanted to stop and take photos.

Over an hour of climbing had passed, I’d cooled down, found a good pace, managed a few more overtakes where there were two single tracks side by side, and avoided some falling rocks from runners above.


Then suddenly we were at Tete de la Tronche.

The top?

The top.

The first 10km of climbing was done and I was on track at two hours.

I filled up water and ate a CLIF bar as I moved, not wanting to rest for too long so early on.

“Jessica Short, let’s go get it.” Said one of the volunteers.

I do love having names on bibs.

I smiled, let’s indeed.

The next section was flat and then into downhill – beautiful single track with views over the vast mountains of Italy and Switzerland.

I put my poles away and cruised down, found a running pack at a good pace and we ran through the mountains. Some technical, some just nice.


But then.



I looked ahead and could see the clouds had darkened and were rolling towards us.


The rain was light at first, refreshing – especially after overheating earlier. But I watched as a wall of rain headed our way across the mountain.

This was it.

I continued on, resisting the urge to put on my waterproof (mainly because I hate wearing waterproofs).

Then it turned heavier, so quickly. And almost sideways as the wind that brought the rain to us whipped us too.

Thanks wind.

I stopped – we all did, and put our waterproofs on and I grabbed my poles back out to provide some stability.

It didn’t occur to me to put my waterproof over my pack which proceeded to get soaked through (goodbye powerpack, hello soggy potatoes).

I tried not to think about the thunder, or getting hit by lightning.

The single track quickly turned from dirt to mud to rivers and I tried multiple times to take photos or videos of how crazy it was – but my phone was too wet to even unlock at that point.

In fact, I was too wet, soaked – my feet, my clothes, there was not one dry part of me.


It was harder too, running in the mud and water, balancing. Energy consuming.

I slowed – mostly to prevent a face plant.

There was very little I could do except hope that the rain passed soon and I could dry off during the rest of the run.

I hit the small but steep descent that would take me down to the first proper aid station – with food and energy drinks, and some shelter.

And then just like that the rain stopped, and cleared, as if nothing had happened. Leaving only soaking wet trails and soaking wet runners.

The aid station – Checkpoint 2: Arnouva.

I’d hit 26km in four hours – super happy with the pacing and timing, despite the slog through the rain and wet trails. I was on track for 16 hours.

The aid station was buzzing full of people swapping wet clothes, readjusting soaking packs, and eating.

I looked at the food – a selection of biscuits, cheese and meats. Nothing that was Jess friendly.

Oh dear.

Having suffered through gastro during a race in America – and never wanting to experience that discomfort again, I thought it best to stick with my soggy potatoes.

They were very soggy.

I did a body check – all felt good, if not a little wet. The headache had subsided as I’d adjusted to the altitude.

I left the aid station, still soaking wet, knowing I was heading for the second climb up Grand Col Ferret (the Italian / Swiss border) – approximately 5km of steep-ish ascent followed by 20km of descent.


The climb was steep but switch-backy and more beautiful single trails. With the storm passing over the views were even better – spectacular, in fact. Huge mountains, the biggest I’d seen – we were surrounded by them but also on one of them.

I was in heaven.

The top of Grand Col Ferret did not disappoint – such incredible views of Italy and Switzerland, I wanted to cry. Others around me were also stunned to silence, happy, content. The climb was so worth it.

I knew now was the real challenge for me – the long 20km+ descent into Switzerland.

I had practised my downhill, strengthened my ankles, and was more than happy to take a face plant or too along the way. I just hoped my body would be able to hold up.

I began with a gradual descent at first along a single track with views of mountains for miles. Gradual at first then building speed, but not wanting to completely trash my quads for the rest of the race.

I felt so strong.

I hit a check point a few kilometres later but didn’t stop, continuing on the beautiful single track.

It took my breath away.

The first 10km of down was absolute bliss, and at 40km we hit the beautiful Swiss town of La Fouly – and an aid station.

I knew I could feel the beginnings of what I had self diagnosed as bursitis in my left foot (disclaimer: not bursitis, a neuroma) start to make itself known with the continued impact of the downhill.

I’d expected it, and I knew I could manage that pain. I also knew everything would start hurting a little over the next few hours. Nothing would hurt as much as everything else at some point.


I only stopped briefly, wanting to keep the momentum of feeling good and heading down towards Champex-Lac where my family would (hopefully) be.

I grabbed a cup of coke and headed out, devouring another CLIF bar – berry flavour.

But I could only manage half.


Nausea hit.

Was it the bar…or my body?

I put the bar away and continued onto a forested single track that cut into the mountain edge, quite narrow, and sometimes quite technical. And a very steep cliff to my right.

Don’t fall Jess – or fall left at least.

Just don’t fall.


But then.

Flashes of pain in my knee.


I stopped, gritted my teeth.


More pain, familiar – like someone was axing the side of my knee.


I kicked the dirt in frustration.

I had done everything the physio had told me since my last 100km – the strengthening, the stretching, massage, cupping.


I was close to having a hissy fit right there.

I was coming undone.


“Come on Jess.”

A few deep breaths.

If it was back, I knew it would mostly be on the downhills, and I was most of the part through the largest one.

I also had poles – I could use them to take the pressure off my knee for sure.

I could do this.

I had this.

I continued on as the pain flashed intermittently through my knee whenever I bent it too much.

I focussed on the scenery – and trying not to fall off the side of a cliff or face plant.

At 48km we hit another beautiful Swiss town – Praz de Fort, I shuffled myself down the road and through the streets with people cheering us along.

I love people.

It was a fabulous feeling and it was absolutely beautiful. The foot and knee pain was almost forgotten.

I also knew a climb was coming – the climb to Champex-Lac and to family, and food and a little bit of rest.

I could do this.

The climb did not disappoint – no pain in my foot or my knee.

I was back.

I picked up the pace to make up for the lost time on the downhill.

I’d hit 50km.


Just under eight hours.

I was still on track for 16 hours.

Although I knew in my heart that I might not be able to maintain my current pace with the ITB issues, if I couldn’t run the descents.

I pushed down the frustration and continued the climb.

Then I saw them.

Flashes of orange and black – the other half of the pair of socks I was wearing.


I choked.

I found myself trying to breath and run whilst trying to hold back tears. 


I stopped and took a few breaths.

Then I called her name.


I ran towards her.

I don’t know who was more excited to see the other.

She had a million questions, and we discussed the race, the ITB and foot issues.

“You’re smashing it.”


We turned a corner and suddenly I saw my brother – beer in hand, and my mum – paintbrush in hand, sitting waiting for me.

It was almost too much.

More excitement.

Lots of hugs.



More strength.

I headed into the Champex-Lac aid station. It was one of the larger ones and the first one you were allowed a support crew person in with you, and where supporters could look on…and support.

Imogen met me there.

“What do you need?”

A beer would be good.

I took my pack off and sat down for the first time in over eight hours.

God that felt good.

I grabbed coke and bananas, and tried to eat more potatoes. Anything, but I could feel the nausea creep in.

Then I knew why.

My period had arrived.



Luckily, I had packed provisions.

But now I knew the real battle was on.

I wouldn’t be able to curl up in a ball and take some painkillers to stop the cramps or lie down to deal with the nausea and lethargy I knew so well every month.

Would my muscles suffer? Is that why my ITB has started hurting? Would it affect my joints? I knew it had already affected my appetite.

46km left.

“Jess, you can totally do it. You’re strong.”

My voice of semi-reason (except when Processco is involved), Imogen.

I could, and I bloody well would.

I was ok.

And suddenly we were laughing at it all.

What else could the world throw at me?

I re-strapped my ankle and stretched my legs as she told me about their day, a welcome distraction.

We left the crew section to find my brother and mum – who happened to have a plate of hot chips.

The world was good again.

We hugged and laughed some more.

Imogen and Duncan headed out with me as I left the aid station and ran along the lake, knowing it would remain flat for a while before we headed up again.

I could do flat, and I could do up.

“I’ll see you in Trient.” Imogen said as I left them.

I was beyond happy knowing that.

We said our goodbyes and it was all I could do not to cry again, just to make running that little bit harder.

And so I began, slow at first, finding my rhythm again after sitting down.

The next aid station was in 12km – almost at the top of the climb. My focus was to get there.

The flat was beautiful – along the river, then we climbed into beautiful countryside and I could feel the sun beginning to set.

I saw signs on the trail, warning us of herds of cattle and I had to laugh.

I pushed down the waves of cramps and nausea, put some music on and just kept moving.


Then I saw them – literally herds of cattle.

All wearing cowbells that sounded in the wind or with movement.

I wasn’t sure whether it was eerie or comforting.

Welcome distractions.

Suddenly I had reached the top of the climb – La Giete, another aid station with the tunes blaring.

I tried another bar, managed half, and a gel and block. My appetite was gone with my stomach in knots, but I knew I needed calories. I tried my potatoes, less soggy now. No good, it might have been the first time in my life I did not want to eat potatoes. More gels and blocks it was.

I stopped briefly to chat to the volunteers, all so happy and encouraging, then left to begin the 5km of descent down to Trient.

Oh, the descent.

We were on a single track again, narrow, interspersed with roots and rocks that made it quite technical.

The flashes of pain were back – less flashy in fact and more constant.

Almost unbearable, but not quite.

I leaned on my poles, used them as much as I could to take the weight of my right knee, almost to the detriment of the pain in my left foot which now started to throb.

I laughed.

Because what else could I do?

I tried various different techniques – probably much to the amusement of other runners.

Straight legged seemed to work the best but be the least effective at actually moving forward.

Stop it Jess.

So I just ran, gently, through the pain. And focussed on the trails, and getting to Trient, to Imogen.

And the beginnings of sunset, oh the sunset.

Darkness began to creep and the stubbornness in me refused to put on a head torch until it literally became too dangerous to continue – I had found a rhythm and didn’t want to disrupt it.

But the light from my head torch was amazing, lighting up the forest and the trails in such a beautiful way, highlighting the features I would be navigating even more clearly than in the daytime.


My god the descent, which should’ve been fast (or faster) felt so slow. Was I being too cautious?

Every now and then I would pick up speed and be reminded why I was slowing.


Race stopping, breath taking pain.

I remembered why I was going slower.

I hit 70km, I knew I was close.

I crossed a bridge and saw the familiar socks.






We talked about the various ailments of my body as we headed towards the aid station tent.

We laughed as I realised I might have strained my right tricep from using the poles so much to take the pressure off my knee – that would surely be a first in ultrarunning.

And golly the aid station.

Music and dancing and food and laughter.

It was all you could ask for at an aid station.

Except prosecco of course.

I filled my water, drank coke, stretched.

“Have you eaten?”

Sort of?

We tried bananas and that seemed to be ok – although even the 8-10 pieces I managed probably only really made up one whole banana. It would do.

I gave myself ten more minutes at the station. I wasn’t sure whether I needed that time physically or mentally, more.

My legs were restless, my knee hurt and my foot was in full flare up. But what else do you expect at 70km and 4600m elevation?

The stomach cramps and nausea had become less regular, which I was super grateful for.

Mentally I was in a good place, I was happy despite everything. My body, despite its shortcomings, felt strong,

And I was so grateful for Imogen and the volunteers and vibes.

The pain was all manageable.

The ten minutes was bliss – relaxing with Imogen as she told me about the shuttle bus chaos and her dinner and wine.

Oh wine.

We looked at the remaining profile of the race.

Two more climbs to go, 30km. I knew the last climb was one of them was the steepest and considered the hardest.

But climbs were good – I could do them, no pain and fast. It would just be the descent down into Chamonix that would hurt, like a bitch.

We discussed painkillers – a somewhat sensitive topic in ultrarunning due to the dehydration your body is already facing and the extra strain the painkillers would be placing on your kidneys.

If I needed too, we reasoned, I would take some prior to the last descent.

My ten minutes was up and I gathered my pack and water and we headed outside.

My sister watched as I began to move my body out of its stiffness, slowly warming into a jog.


She sounded serious.

“You know you can stop if you need to, if it hurts too much.”

There was never any doubt in my mind that I would stop. And she knew that too – but I also knew she had to ask.

I’d thought about this a lot before the race, and I don’t know what it would’ve taken to stop me – maybe a broken bone? But I knew I’d run through that before and it hadn’t stopped me.

This was my dream race.

Maybe nothing.

And maybe we knew that.

I wanted to finish strong, the way I’d started, the way I felt.

We laughed as my shuffle turned into a more acceptable form of running.

“I’m ok.”

“See you at Vallorcine in a few hours.”

My heart almost exploded.

I headed off into the darkness – the next climb out of Switzerland and into France.

It was very similar to the first climb – a zig zag up a mountain.

I think I was the only one running up it at that point. And lunging. Moving, fast.

I felt good.

I was revived.

Almost home.

I moved past a few people, trying to encourage them, everyone in their own pain cave.

We hit the top – a mini station.

“You’re at the top, well done! Enjoy the down.”

I cringed and wished there was more up.

This was my first descent in the dark as I entered back into France.

Reduced again to walking and not sure whether the pain in my knee or foot was now greater. Maybe they were equal. I reminded myself to take on some more gels and blocks.

I felt slow.

I was slow.

It was almost disheartening as those I’d pass on the way up, skipped past me on the way down.

I reasoned with myself that, in the dark, I probably wouldn’t be going much faster for fear of face planting anyway.

I gritted my teeth and continued, occasionally catching my breath as my knee flexed a little too much and the nauseating pain shook me.


I could hear Vallorcine, could see the lights.

Almost there.

I yawned.

Midnight – well past my bedtime.

A tunnel.





“I wasn’t expecting you so soon.”

Well, that was a good sign at least.

The aid station was electric – but there was a moodiness about it as it was clear people were struggling. The dark, the tiredness, the pain?

I felt nothing but hope and excitement.

I sat on the floor to rest my legs and ate what I could of bananas and gels as Imogen told me about her evening – and how she’d randomly assembled everything she needed to get a 45-minute nap on the floor in the corner of the aid station, with a sleep meditation for full ambience (and an alarm to make sure she got up before I arrived).

So much laughter.

“One more climb Jess. One more descent.”

I nodded.

An 8km climb, some flat at the top then down 6km into Chamonix.

It would be hell on my knee. And my foot. Well, on everything really. 

But that finish line was getting closer and closer.

I could taste the Prosecco.

We said our goodbyes as she walked me out onto the trail, then turned to get her final shuttle bus to the finish.

Headtorch on.

I was suddenly hit by another wave of nausea and cramps, and crouched and waited a few minutes until it passed.

I laughed – it was some effort to get back up from the crouching position.


Come on legs.

I had this.

My shuffle turned into a march, and I grew strength as I climbed – a gentle slope at first along a grassed trail.

I could see the mountain ahead – golly it was big.

1860m big – 5 x Emily Spur climbs.

I crossed a road, and the climb began.

Steep and rocky.

Almost too steep and rocky for poles.


I passed a few people, careful not to go too hard.

I looked up and wondered whether the lights I could see far up ahead were people’s head torches or stars.

They moved.

Head torches.


Head down.


Get up there.

Climb climb climb.

I climbed sections that had to physically be climbed, rock climbing with no ropes or harness.

Bit of a kicker after 85km.

But it was so fun.

I think I was the only person at that point having fun and enjoying the climb.

But golly it was never ending.

I put my music on and just kept moving.

Almost there.

It was maybe an hour? Maybe two.

Then undulating for 3km – not so fun.

I slowed.

I tried not to get frustrated with myself, with my body.

The pain.

You’re fine Jess.

My head torch blinked three times.



Complete. Darkness.

I took a moment just to look around me – the stars, the lights of Vallorcine, other head torches.



That was all the goodness I needed, the reflection.

I took out my other head torch – not quite so strong but I knew from here my speed would be somewhat limited anyway.

My stomach rumbled.


That was a good sign – my body was working; had overcome the cramps.

Maybe some normality.

I hit La Flegere – the peak.

All the climbing had been done.

This was the final aid station before the descent into Chamonix.

The finish line.

I took the painkillers and a caffeine gel.



I hit the down.

Well, in a slow and calm fashion.

But I definitely picked up speed as the lights of Chamonix came into view.

I slowed only really on the technical sections to pick a path of least resistance and least impact on my knee and foot. But it was such a long descent and there were moments I had to stop to catch my breath to overcome the pain as the painkillers started to kick in.

Almost there Jess.

It didn’t feel like I had run 95km.

Issues aside, my legs and lungs felt strong.

It was so bittersweet.

But I would get in under 20 hours – the ultimate aim. Despite everything my body had thrown at me.

Soon the steep descents and switchbacks flattened and my heart fluttered.



One last climb – over a bridge.



A friend from Bright.

She was there, I wasn’t hallucinating.



“I can’t stop, otherwise I won’t start again.”

And so she ran with me onto the flat, towards the finish. I had never seen her run.


1km to go.

99km down, 1km to go.

I packed my poles away.

There were people there, in the early hours of the morning.

Still out, still cheering.

The town was still alive.


My brother.

And Imogen.

Their smiles.


Now, that was overwhelming.

I was so so proud of them. Of us.

They ran with me, videoing my final kilometre.

“Mum’s at the finish line.”

I wanted to cry again.

Pure happiness.

Pure gratitude.

I picked up the pace.


The finish.



The line.

We’d done it.


I stopped my watch – 99.96km. Erm.

Nothing in me wanted to do the final 40m.


I saw my mum.

More hugs.


A finish line jumping photo, then we moved away from the finish line to the big screen.

More hugs.

And Prosecco.

Hells yes.

Finally, I took my shoes and socks off – the pressure was too much.

My feet looked mummified.

More laughing.

I finally succumbed to some finish line salami, knowing I needed to eat something (although I do believe Prosecco is a food group…).

And we hung around to watch a few more runners come in, with our Prosecco. Together.

No more running.

Just the matter of a 1km walk home.

The Prosecco would help with that.


I was blown away.

The most stunning of all races.

The most technical.

Maybe the most painful.

But the most fun.

The most love and laughter.

The most humbling.

Definitely the best.

I owed everything to the people who supported me in person and from far and wide across the world, (THANK YOU).

The race belonged to them.

And then the serious discussion…I was dirty as hell, but exhausted.

Did I really need to shower before I slept?

The looks from my family confirmed my fears.

I would have to stay on my feet a little longer…

And next? Rest?


Or maybe the multi-day 4 Peaks Challenge in November…


Surf Coast Century 100km: Just Dancing

My first 100km race – ten times 10km. Ten of them.


A 4.00am start – the usual mobility and taping, all the coffee, a pre-cooked breakfast, and a lot of toilet stops.

5.30am and I was suddenly at the start line, nerves in my stomach. But the atmosphere was great, the beach looked amazing – the sun rising over the waves.

I was happy.

Then I remembered 100km was minutes away.

Holy moly.

I messaged my family in England and friends in Aus. My mum replied almost instantly, asking me why on Earth I would do 100km – I didn’t have a logical answer.

But I felt good. My body felt good.

And we were off.

We knew we had an out and back 5km West along the beach, before we would return and pass the start line again. Simon and I ran together at a comfortable pace (ie his warm up pace). We laughed, more excited than nervous.

Along the hard sand then up onto the Surf Coast Walk, simply stunning as the sun continued to rise. We turned back onto the beach towards the start line again, passed the supporters and crowds.

My name came across the speaker “Is that Jessica Short doing 100km?”

I laughed and waved in confirmation. Yes, I am that mad.

Then the legendary Bartholomew family cheered me on as I passed them, having run this leg with them as a team a few years ago. I could’ve stopped right there and been happy with my day.

We continued along the beach and up onto the Surf Coast Walk the other way towards Torquay.

Simon upped his pace, waved his goodbye, and headed off on his own chase and race while I held a comfortable 5:15min/km pace. Trying not to go out too hard. It’s a marathon(s), not a sprint.

And we all continued for a few kms, chatting and swapping in and out of places, enjoy fresh legs and good vibes.

At about 10km I had my first gel. Still managing to nearly choke on it as I ran, inhaled and struggled to breath.


We were taken down onto the beach, onto relatively hard sand and I could see the rocks ahead, remembering how slippery and sharp they had been a few years ago.

But gosh I was happy, the sun and sea on my right and a cool breeze and some gentle flat running.

Then we hit them.


They were hard to navigate, slippery and sharp and my pace dropped significantly as I tried to find a rhythm. I was tentative, making sure each rock was secured before I transferred weight between my feet – worried about my ankles.

It was probably the first time I felt a little… disheartened as I watched others skip over the rocks like they were still running on sand.

I tried fast feet and was rewarded with a slip onto a sharp rock that made my knee bleed.

Patience Jess.

There was no point in injuring myself 10km into 100. Deep breath, I remembered the view; drew strength from the sun, and continued, manging to pick up some speed on the larger boulders.

Me and another runner came to a section where it looked like there was a high route and a low route and a choice between getting wet feet and climbing a little.

Naturally I chose to keep my feet dry and climbed, while the other runner chose the low route.

It felt fine until suddenly I was a little higher than I felt comfortable…and crawling on my hands and knee on a ledge.

Surely this was too dangerous to put in the race?

Yes Jess, it was.

I persevered, crossing over a gap in the ledge where one wrong foot and a slip would sent me five metres onto some jagged rocks below.


“Are you ok?” Said the other runner, clearly relieved he’d made the right choice.

I nodded as I cleared the gap and continued on my hands and feet along the ledge, surely there would be a down somewhere.

There wasn’t. Only a steep drop.


“Do you need a hand?”

Some common sense would be nice.

“No, I’ll just go back, but thank you”

And there I was, shuffling backwards on my hands and knees before balancing precariously over the gap of doom and back down into the safety of the lower rocks.

I no longer cared if my feet got wet.

I shook my head and chose to laugh at myself – that was silly.


I continued on the rocks – nothing could be quite as bad as the ledge and so I was happy with dipping in and out of the rocks, on the sand and in the sea.

I had wet shoes – but I knew the first aid station at 21km was nearby and I had spare shoes and socks there.

After what seemed like hours of running on rocks (but most likely only around 20-30 minutes), I was directed up the steps off the beach and back onto the Surf Coast Walk, grateful.

I could see the aid station up ahead.

Runners started to run towards me – on their out and back from the aid station, the leaders.

Crikey they were fast.

I smiled and cheered them on.

I came across a toilet block, and it seemed surreal to me that I could actually stop and use a proper toilet during a race.

So I did.

Luxury indeed.

I almost took a wrong turn out of the toilets, but luckily saw a runner run past me in the right direction – the opposite direction to the lookout I was heading towards.


The aid station atmosphere was amazing – and it felt so damn good to have people there, food there, music.


I was directed towards the bag drop area, excited by the potatoes I had waiting there (it’s the little things).

I changed my shoes and socks, checked the taping on my ankles.


A fifth of the way through the race – on track for my 12 hours, if not faster.

So far I was happy with my time and my body – although I was getting some tenderness around my hips that I wouldn’t expect to feel until at least 40km.

So, I stretched as I ate my potatoes and repacked my bag with new gels.

And then I was off again, back along the Surf Coast Walk that I’d just run along – cheering on the runners that were heading towards the aid station.

Golly this was fun.

I was now entering Leg 2 of the race – the only leg I hadn’t done in previous races. From the research I knew that it was relatively flat and would take us into the mountain bike trails of Angelsea, and back towards the start where we would then head out towards Aireys Inlet for the final 50km.

The vibes were so good, runners had spread into their packs and chatted as they swapped positions on the undulating trails.


It was at around 35km that things started to go downhill. Something felt wrong. A pain beginning to develop down the outside of my right knee.

I chose to ignore it, run through it – focussing more on the scenery and the trails.

But mild panic was setting in.

I knew what it was, I just kept telling myself that it wasn’t.

Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome.

It had flared up before in the Lara Pinta multi day race four years ago – on the last day, the longest run I had ever done at that point (30km). Crippling.

I knew the pain.

We headed into the mountain bike trails and I could feel myself slow as the pain increased and the sharp stabs down the outside of my knee occurred more frequently.

It literally stopped me in my tracks a few times.

I knew I was in trouble.

But I continued, putting my music on to help me focus.

It worked to an extent – until I got to 40km and the pain was unbearable. Not too bad on the ups, manageable (only mild agony) on the flats, but impossible on any sort of downs without keeping my right leg straight. Every single footstep was painful.


I slowed more.

Runners passed me, asking if I was ok, I smiled and nodded, wished them good luck.

Then I did the only thing a twin could do… I called my sister in Hong Kong.

“Jess! Are you ok?” Excitement.

I didn’t realise until I heard her voice how much I wasn’t.

I couldn’t answer.

It dawned on her pretty quickly that something was wrong.

“What’s happened?”

“My ITB.” I managed, through a strained voice, pained voice.

Don’t cry Jess.

“Oh Jess.”

She knew.

The last time we had run 50km together in this very race she had suffered with crippling ITB pain for the last 15km. There had been plenty of tears, but we had gotten through it together.  

“I’m okay.”

Was I? I could feel tears forming.

I continued running, and talking, and crying.

Golly that was hard.

“Jess stop. Just stop”

And I did. And suddenly talking became easier – because I wasn’t trying to breath and cry and talk all at the same time.

We laughed and that was all I needed.

 I explained the race so far, my rock climbing attempt and then the pain.

“Jess you know you can stop if you need too, you shouldn’t run through 60km of pain.”

I shook my head, blinked away the tears.


I couldn’t stop.

Could I?

My heart hurt.

No Jess.

You’ve got this.

She waited for my answer.

A deep breath.

“I am never giving up wine again – look at what happens when I do.”

We laughed, and chatted more, about silly things that took my mind off the pain and the dilemma.

We said our goodbyes as I was coming up to the 49km aid station – almost halfway. I told her I’d call her after I’d stretched and sorted myself out.

Thank bloody hell for Imogen.

It also made me realise I had people – even though they weren’t physically there. And maybe being on my phone took away from the experience of the race, but by golly I needed them.

A friend messaged me, without even knowing what was happening: 

“Run when you can

Walk if you have to

Crawl if you must

But never give up”

She was so right.

I checked my watch – 5 hours 26 at 49km. I was still on for under 12 hours.


It felt strange knowing I was only halfway and yet I’d been running for over 5 hours. 100km was a long way.

I knew deep down any hope of getting a time I wanted was quickly fading as the pain increased – I would need to put my pride aside and walk if I needed too.

But get it done.

I entered the aid station – again super grateful for the people and the atmosphere there.

I found my dropped bag in the sea of other runners’ bags, and took my time to empty my race vest of used gels and potato bags and put new ones in. I stretched and chatted to other runners, wishing I’d bought my theragun, or a roller – anything.

It felt like everything moved in slow motion as I took time to think.

My plans had changed.

I was no longer chasing a time, now the aim was just to finish – which I recognised was an achievement in itself.

I ate my potatoes, as if that would magically soothe the hurt.

Then I remembered I had painkillers in my bag – for emergencies. Was this an emergency? I rationalised that it was, and that I would drink plenty of water to try to negate the toxins I was throwing into my body, which was already working really really hard.

Then I also remembered I was in the middle of a race, on the surf coast, surrounded by beautiful trails and incredible runners.

From the stretching alone (and maybe the magical potatoes), the pain temporarily subsided, and I jogged out of the aid station.

I knew I could do this.

A friend called, offering advice on how to strap my knees to ease the ITB pain.


So I did, and it did.

And I was grateful all over again for the people.

The last half of the 100km was the 50km I had done twice before – I knew this course, knew the trails and the elevation. Beautiful.

In fact, the next leg was my favourite of all – single track and mountains and just pure running bliss.

I quickly found myself along a wide fire trail that I could see went a long way…then up, a long way. Well, maybe after this bit…

Happy with my taping and the ease of pain on the ups, I began the climb.



I jogged as much as I could on the climbs, the upwards nature not putting too much pressure on my knee.

It was the downs that stopped me in my tracks, the flickers of pain taking my breath away. Like someone chopping an axe into your knee. Maybe.  


I made it to the top of the hill in good time, passing others on my way up – back onto the Surf Coast Walk.

Oh, the views. Aireys Inlet was in the distance and the bright blue sea was smiling at me on my right. The sun was glorious too, although becoming a little hot.  

I began the descent – gradual enough to not hurt too much but it definitely wasn’t my fastest.

The only thing that seemed to stop that pain was to dance, or shuffle, or move in a different way to running that didn’t put that pressure on my knee in that forward motion. The Dosey Doe was  definitely a winner.

And so the dancing began.

I knew I was coming to a long strength of relatively flat trails and tried to push the pace a little.

My knee decided otherwise as the pain transferred to the inside too.


I slowed again to a fast shuffle (I like to think it was a running swagger) that seemed to work relatively effectively on the flat.

At that point there weren’t too many runners around me, and I was grateful to have some music to focus on.

I entered my favourite part of the race – beautiful single track climbing gently up a small mountain.

Oh the climb.

I was now able to go a little faster, and even got back to over taking a few people as the pain seemed to subside.

This was fun again – even when it became steeper and harder on my lungs. I remembered again why I loved the trails, and running, and racing.

I took a gel, and also remembered again why I shouldn’t take gels on the ups as I struggled to breath between inhaling the gel.

I reached for my salt tablets – they weren’t where I left them.

I checked again in more pockets.


Then I realised I must’ve emptied them out at the last aid station.


Well, that was silly.

Not much I could do about it, but luckily I became distracted as my watched ticked over to 64km – this was officially the longest I’d ever run.

I might have squealed. And if I could’ve, I’d have done a jig for sure.

I reached the summit of the mountain, so happy. But I knew the downhill might be a different story.

Maybe I had become used to the pain, maybe it was the painkillers, or maybe the adjusted way I was now running meant the downhill didn’t hurt as badly as I thought it would. Flickers of pain every few minutes to remind me that there was still an issue, but otherwise I took it easy down the hill but moved faster than I thought I would be able to.

I also knew that there was an aid station at 77km where I could stretch and eat the meal I’d cooked the night before – which was actually becoming less and less appealing.

It did occur to me that at any point during the race I could actually stop and stretch, but I also knew if I did that it would take longer and longer to get back up and start running again. Even without the injury.

I knew there was a part of me did just want to lie down and stop – the rational and logical part of me.

Luckily that part of me is very small.

At that point my family were just waking up in England.

“Jess are you still running??”

I laughed, they had had a whole night’s sleep since talking to me, and here I was still out running.

“I don’t think you could call it running…but yes I’m still out here” I replied. And we chatted.

At 70km I did a body check – everything was understandably a little achy in some shape or form. My hips were a little sore and I had a blister on my little toe of my right foot, but my feet and ankles felt surprisingly good. Overall, knee aside, I was good.

I felt good.

So what then?

Disappointment maybe.

No Jess.

I wasn’t going to allow myself to throw a pity party (even though had definitely picked up some new dance moves during the race).

I was here, and I was grateful to be here.

Come on Jess.

My sister called again – maybe to check on me, or maybe she could sense my slight unease.

Either way I was grateful as she told me about her day and distracted me as the downhill now seemed to get more painful and I was forced to stop a few times just to catch my breath from the sharpness of it. I knew she could hear people passing me, asking if I was ok.

“Jess. Are you okay?”

“I could do with a beer.”

She laughed.

“I’m a little tired.”

“You’re allowed to be and you’re doing so well. Does anything else hurt except your knee?”

I told her about my one blister, and we both laughed.

I knew I was coming up to another big aid station where I could properly lie down and stretch, redo my knee taping and actually eat a full decent meal.

Of course, none of that actually went to plan.

The aid station atmosphere was even more electric and the people were so so happy and cheery it was just amazing. There was water, electrolytes, a kitchen with hot food – everything you could dream of.

I went over to my bag and a friend who was supporting another runner came over and started to chat as I got my food out. Day-old potato tuna, avocado and egg no longer seemed appealing to me for some reason, but I managed a few bites as we chatted about the race.

I admit I got distracted talking and not having to move, and time slipped away where I should have been stretching and refuelling, knowing I didn’t want to stay at the aid station for too long.

I said my goodbyes, grabbed some lollies and said hello to a few other runners I recognised.

My legs thanked me for the rest as they allowed me to run pain free for a couple of minutes before the ITB pain kicked in again.

I think I growled when it did.

There was a little bit more single track that would take us out towards a reservoir, fire trail and the forgotten hill (which I remembered).

At around 80km I exited the forest back into civilisation – roads and houses.

I was faced with a large steep concrete hill down to the next part of the race.

It was there that I created my half shuffle dance to get down. My right leg stayed completely straight and only the left bent and I fell into a strange rhythm as I cruised down trying to appear as normal as possible.

I failed.

In fact I laughed so hard at myself that I stopped and took a video to send to my family.

I think my mum was horrified.

“Trying walking backwards?” My sister suggested.

And I did, and to some extent it worked – there was no pain, but the chance of falling over and causing other injuries was slightly elevated. Plus, I think it scared the other runners.

I got to the bottom intact (pride aside) and continued in a similar shuffle along the road towards Aireys Inlet.

My watch said 85km – and was on 2% battery. Oops.

I got my phone out and started my Strava for the last 15km, stopping my watch and saving the run. 5,689 calories.

Yes please. How many Proseccos was that?

I was back near the ocean again, running along the river towards a bridge…that I remembered we had to climb under.

I wasn’t sure how that would go.

But it was a nice change to bend the legs in a different way and squat down under the river.

A low hissing sound made me stop in my tracks, and my first thought was that it was a hissing cat.

A hissing cat. Under a bridge.

I quickly realised it was in fact my race vest brushing against the ceiling of the bridge floor.

That made so much more sense.

I was out and shuffling towards the last aid station at 86km. 14km to go.

My gosh I was grateful when I saw the Coke.

I maybe downed three cups apologetically before asking whether there was any vodka to add to the fourth one.

Apparently not.

I had a few potatoes and lollies and made sure I stretched fully on the grass.

“Not long now, and a beautiful section on the beach too.”

I smiled and nodded, not sure anyone would describe running on sand after 86km beautiful – but I very much appreciated her enthusiasm and thanked her.

And I was off towards Aireys Inlet lighthouse – one of my favourite lighthouses (I LOVE lighthouses for everything they symbolise), happy despite the pain. Moving forwards.

The climb to the lighthouse was gentle and forgiving and I made sure to stop and appreciate the views at the top before continuing along the road for a while.

With my swagger.

After maybe 3km we turned off the road and on the Surf Coast Walk again – I knew where we were headed, and I wondered whether the beach would be forgiving of my knee or not.

It was at exactly 90km as I headed down the steps to the beach that I felt my blister on my little toe burst. Ugh.

I thought nothing of it until that part of my shoe slowly began to turn red.


A blood blister then.

The first few steps were painful and I laughed at myself.

I wasn’t going to be defeated by a blister.

I continued, still fascinated by the colour of my white shoe turning red.

Just to take my mind off the blister, 90km was also at the point that bending my right leg at all actually became a little too painful. And so the shuffle I had created on the steep downhill had now become my… general shuffle.

I arrived at the beach.

I couldn’t remember whether it was 4km or 7km on the beach.

Did it matter?

I wondered whether to wash my feet in the sea.

No time for that Jess, you’re almost home.

I began the run – could see for miles, other runners in the distance still on the beach.

I picked a pace and stuck to it, with no watch I had no idea how fast (or slow) I was going and I was actually pretty grateful for it.

There was a pack of runners spread out around me who were all running the same pace, and we swapped in and out of positions as the last 95km took its toll on our bodies.

But by golly, there was no denying how beautiful it was to be there.

I’m not sure how long we were running but at last there was an arrow to some stairs to take us back onto the trail before one final stint on the beach.

Almost home Jess.

The Surf Coast Walk section was undulating, painful.

There were almost tears and definitely a few stops when my right knee bent without my consent. The pain.

There may have been some swearing.

I took a caffeine gel, hoping that would allow me to go a little harder.

A harder shuffle. A harder swagger.

Come on Jess.

I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to finish – not having to run anymore. What did that even feel like?

I ran past the Surf Club – knew it would take me down onto the beach and not far from the finish line.

So grateful.

I pushed myself into the closest thing I could muster to a run along the beach for the final km, and eventually I found myself at the left turn off the beach, to the finish line.

About 100m ahead of me I could see a photographer, standing on the other side of a small ocean river that had formed.


Cold cold water.

I ran through it and stopped in the middle.

Bloody hell that felt good.

I don’t know how long I was there for, just enjoying the feeling. I could’ve stayed there forever.

“Erm, you’re 500m from the end.” The photographer reminded me.


I reluctantly left the water and made my way onto the boardwalk that would take me to the finish.

400m to go.


I almost felt nauseous.

I wanted a strong finish and so I moved faster – not elegantly, and still no ability to bend my right knee. The swagger sprint.

I turned and saw the line.


A beautiful crowd of cheering people. Friends, other runners, volunteers.

Just beautiful people.

I crossed the line.





I had done it.

13 hours 46 minutes.

And I could stop running.

I found my friends who swiftly poured me a half steine of beer – the most welcome and best tasting beer in the world. I chatted to other runners, stole hot chips off them, everyone was so happy to be at the finish line.

I got a few high fives too – those that had passed me and my swagger were unsure I would finish.

It was never not an option.

The evening was spent doing (not enough) stretching and talking about the race. Trying my hardest to eat normal food, but instead settling for multiple glasses of red wine.

Antioxidants, right?

Was I happy? Of course.

Could I do better? I would like to this so.

Would I do it again? Hells yes.


And next?

I’m going to give the 4 Peaks a red hot crack in a few weeks (injured shoulder allowing).

I’m blown away and EXCITED as well to confirm that I’ve managed to secure automatic qualification (and therefore no ballot) into the UTMB 100km in Chamonix in August – with enough points from the Alpine Challenge and Surf Coast Century to secure my spot. This is a big 2022 goal for me and my race bucket list – and only 6,100m of elevation…


But I have 32 weeks…

UTMB Virtual 50km Race

It’s been almost a year since I ran my first 50km race (Surf Coast Century in Australia with Jessica Short), which was a beautiful and brutal experience. I remember very vividly the excitement, atmosphere and the feeling of crossing the finish line.

The UTMB Virtual 50km in Hong Kong would be very different. It would be solo. It would be more elevation. There would be no aid stations. No finish line. No twin sister. It would also be 30 degrees and 85% humidity.

For most parts, it would be hell…

4am: I was up for mobility and coffee with Jess in Australia (and our new rescue pup Zeus, who enjoyed the downward dog on my yoga mat )

5am: I started the run with 15km on Hong Kong’s waterfront which was amazing. Cool, quiet and flat, with the sun and city rising around me. My legs felt good and I felt ready for what was ahead (spoiler alert: I wasn’t)

Feeling ready on the waterfront

15km: I made a quick pit stop at home to change my shoes and refill water, before heading up to the Bowen Road and then Parkview. The next 15km felt pretty dreamy. I had the trails to myself and most importantly, someone had run before me and cleared the way of spiders. Yey. Even Violet hill didn’t feel as violent as it usually does.

Feeling less ready on Violet Hill.

30km: I hit The Twins, twice. And this is really where things started to fall apart. I’d been making pretty good progress on the kms until that point. But the Twins made me think that my Garmin was broken, because the kms stopped moving (I don’t know why this was such a surprise: I’ve done the twins so many times before). I lay on the floor at the top of Twin 1 in a metaphorical pain cave.

32km: I made a pit stop at Repulse Bay and picked up 2litres of water and four bottles of Lucozade.

32.2km: I vomited Lucozade

33km: Back at Tze Kong Bridge I took the single trail towards Tai Tam Reservoir, which is one of my favourite, before hitting the steep concrete incline towards Quarry Pass. Up and up and up and up. And very little shade. The sun was fully out, and the humidity was high

40km / 1,500m+: my Garmin started blinking low battery so I knew I had to crack on and get this done, or the race wouldn’t register. So, I altered the last 10km of the course to do hill repeats on Mount Parker. Hill repeats. After 40km. Talk about pain cave. And existential crisis. And self-yodelling.

45km / 2,000m+: My Garmin was still blinking at me. The hill repeats hurt. I had to lie down in the shade every couple of kms. But I was close.

48km / 2,300m+: Garmin on 5% battery. I was at the top of Mount Parker and just started running in 50m loops. It rained, I think. I’m pretty sure I was swearing the whole way. Lucy and Jess were the steady voices in my head (aka on whatsapp) telling me to just keep going. Because I honestly thought about stopping. At 48km.

50km / 2,500m+: I’m pretty sure I burst into tears and then realised that a guy had been watching my entire 2km mania . It hurt all over. I had to lie down. I couldn’t speak on the phone.


 50km: I was at the top of a mountain. In a place where taxis couldn’t reach me. I had to walk 5km back down. Farmers shuffle. Pain cave.

5pm: Epsom salt bath. Burgers. Restless legs but a dawning sense of achievement (somewhere in the fog). I had finished.

UTMB Race results: 3rd in category, 7th female overall, 59th (out of 3,501).

Worth all the pain.