Winter Green Man Ultra: 2022 Race Review
The Green Man Ultra is a multi-terrain race following the Community Forest Path around Bristol with distances of 30 miles or 45 miles on offer.
The Green Man Ultra is an event organised by Ultra Running Ltd. Find out more about the event here. The race is held twice a year, in March and August. The race options include a 35 mile 'A to B' route or a 45 mile 'complete loop' route. Both events finish at Ashton Court, Bristol.
The route is multi-terrain with a mix of roads, forest trails, cycle paths and muddy fields. There is minimal elevation - around 2000ft across the 30 mile route and 3100ft across the 45 mile route. The route is followed clockwise in the Summer and anti-clockwise in the Winter.
I signed up to run the GMU30 in March as a practice race ahead of a 50 mile ultra I have in April. I was hoping for a chance to get in some decent mileage, practice with kit and get used to the concept of self-navigation! My training up until this point had mainly consisted of running 34-40 miles/week with at least one long run (20 hilly off-road miles) and one speed session a week.
The race started in Keynsham at 11am which meant it was a relaxing start to the day but planning food intake was a little different. I'd usually have porridge pre-race but because of the later start time I had to go for a double breakfast - cinnamon raisin bagels are a winner for this!
The race started off really flat which meant there was a good chance to cover ground quickly. I definitely started off much faster than I usually would over this distance. Some miles I covered quicker than an 8min/mile - not hugely sustainable over 30 miles! Nutrition-wise I only took on gels for the first 15 miles, mainly because I was running pretty quickly. In other races I've done there have been steep hills which I'd walk and take on proper food but because of the comparably flat course it was a case of taking on gels and not stopping.
The course started to feel tough between 15 and 25 miles. By this point the runners had spread out and there were long stretches where I was running alone. The race is self-navigation and I was using a Garmin Fenix 6 to guide me. The map function on this watch is incredible but it definitely consumes more energy and focus to constantly check the route when there is nobody to follow. Veering slightly off-course and having to adjust my direction was incredibly frustrating, especially 20+ miles in.
At 24 miles I reached the second checkpoint. There are only two checkpoints for the 30 mile event but there were a couple of extra food and water stands in between (I think these were unofficial). I stopped at the second official checkpoint in Blaise Castle Estate for water and Coke. By this point I'd only had gels and dried apricots - solid foods were making me feel really sick. For some reason Coke during an ultra is an absolute lifesaver and it was much needed for the final push.
It felt like all the elevation was in the final stretch at the end after this last checkpoint. No incline was hugely steep but there were a few hills I had to walk. The final mile or so involves running across Clifton Suspension Bridge and then through Ashton Court towards the finish. I was able to pick up a bit of speed towards the end knowing how close I was and I was pretty thrilled to cross the finish line as first female. I'd not seen any other female runners on the route but you never know if somebody's ahead. It's definitely the best I've felt running an ultra and although my stomach wasn't feeling great my legs definitely had more to give - which is a good job given it's just a few weeks until my next ultra!
Official Time: 4:24:48
Position: 1st lady, 3rd overall
This is a small and friendly race. It's a nice opportunity to meet fellow runners, many of whom are local, and the event organisers are really approachable.
The course is relatively flat for an ultra so it's a good option if you're less confident about covering big distances and hills.
There is a lovely warm welcome at the end. You get a t-shirt, medal and food and there is also the option to use showers after the event.
There is a Facebook group for the event which provides the opportunity to meet fellow runners and recce the route together in advance.
This is a self-navigation race meaning there's no arrows or ribbons to guide you around the course. Ideally you need a good watch that you can upload the GPX route to or you need to live locally to recce the route in advance.
The GMU30 costs around £80 and the GMU45 costs around £95. That's pretty standard for an ultra but given it's self-navigation the cost is at the higher end. That being said, some of the entry fee is donated towards upkeep of the Community Forest Path.
For those seeking trails there are significant stretches of road on this route and none of the trails are very technical (though they are definitely very muddy).
If you run the GMU30 then this is an 'A to B' so you'll need to arrange transport between the start and finish. The race offers transport but this comes at an extra cost.
If you're thinking of signing up to this race and have any questions, feel free to send me a message. I'll be running the Butcombe Trail Ultramarathon next, in April 2022!