Autumn 100


“After a few tough years I was back on a start line, ready to go, the sun was out and the air was full of anticipation, this would be my 1st 100 Miler ”

In January 2023 I was able to start running again following 3 years of setbacks, this saw me slowly build my mileage, time on my feet and in turn my confidence grew. It was a gradual build, month after month, to allow my body to adapt and the positive feedback loops to hit my brain once more. That it did and in April of 2023′ I took the plunge and entered the Centurion Autumn 100, a 100 mile race with 4 out and back loops along the Thames Path & the Ridgeway.  After each leg you went back to the race headquarters in Goring, with this being a local race to me, I was super excited to dip my toe back in the ultra water on local stomping ground.

By the time race day came I was fully prepared, I had ran hundreds of preparation miles, some on the course and had follwoowed a strict 2 day a week strength & conditioning plan that was designed to make my body as robust as possible for ultra endurance distances, my nutrition was planned to a fine detail and I knew I would have support throughout the day, I was feeling ready.

As the countdown went from 10, I ran on 1, to a cheer of false start, I eased up for 1 second to give the 1 second back, but this excitement would be something that would impact my race.

Simon Dicks, Focused Running
Simon Dicks, Focused Running


The race set off at a blistering pace, I was with lead pack that soon split into 6, then into 4, then I was running alone, this section of the course followed the Thames Path and was mostly flat, with a mixture of trail and concrete. I had my usual banging trance music on and the endorphins were flying around my body, my star supporter wife Jess, was following the race and tooted me and the runners, a burst of happiness and excitement pushed the pace on. After leaving the road section we dropped back to the Thames Path and hit significant mud.  The night before I had pondered for many hours on what shoes to start in, that night it had rained heavy but the forecast was for a dry weekend, I choose to run in Inov8 TrailFly designed for hardpacked trails.  I knew there would be some mud on the 1st leg but thought this choice would save me minutes at the race centre later down the line by not having to change trainers from big lugged shoes for mud to light trail shoes.  What I know now for me, this was the wrong choice, there was big, deep, wet mud and my shoe choice was not right for running quick in mud, however run quick I did anyway, I was happy.

So I hit the mud in the wrong trainers and I just couldn’t slow down, my legs were turning with high cadence but also sliding on multiple occasions, I had a fear of not losing a second by slowing down, hgowever the seconds gained here were to be lost later down the line.  In hindsight I should have taken it a little slower to save the legs.

The appeal of this race was that you get to see fellow runners all the time, as we hit the turnaround point at Little Whitham I was running in 5th place, I was feeling good, getting my nutrition in and running with a smile, seeing other runners coming towards me was great and I cheered, high fived and looked out for the runners I knew, all of us giving each other a boost as we went along.

Simon Dicks, Focused Running
Simon Dicks, Focused Running

After Benson we were on a road section due to a diversion of the Thames Path, this put an extra mile on the race. As I came into Wallingford, my body gave me the first sign that the early quick mud running, had created an impact on my muscles, both my glutes & quads started to feel sore, something that I had not felt before and a consequence of my earlier actions, this was mile 20.........

As I ran back to Goring, I was feeling good, but knew I had a battle on my hand, I clocked in the 1st leg at a time of 3.25 and I was in 6th place. In the hall the volunteers were fantastic, my drop bag was ready and I was able to quickly reload my pockets with fuel, have the water bottles filled and powder in and shacked, shacked hard to get it to dissolve, this was done by a volunteer who was also a coaching client, this was a nice bonus as a friendly face is always welcome.
I had recced this route so knew where to go next, this certainly helped as I didn’t need to stress about turnings or constantly looking at my watch, heading out of the hall, leg 2 had begun.


I headed out, across the road, through a tight path, dropping down a hill and then onto the trail, this was the first Ridgeway leg, it follows the Thames Path for a while which was muddy, this time I was forced to slow down as the body was giving me the signs, after the Thames section it turns off after North Stoke, here the path is narrow and where the climbs begin. I love climbing and it’s a beautiful section of countryside.  However, I started to lose places, I was moving at a comfortable pace but had clearly started to slow down, my muscles were sore and this was something that would stay with me for the entire race.
The uphill is a continuous long hill, I enjoy hills and had done the route a few times so knew what was coming, this was especially important when I got to the golf course section, on a previous recce run I had got lost ended up on a few greens and fairways, having gone back I knew the route which is straight across the fairway, into the woods and out the other side near a main road, here I crossed and into the ups and downs, some are steep and with fast feet I got down quick, I then hit the famous fields of the A100 where you have spectacular views across the countryside.

I headed out across the fields towards the turnaround point, the final section to the checkpoint is uphill and I could feel my muscles getting sorer with each mile, even though this was happening my mind was 100% focused on the job in hand and I had zero negative feedback in the mind, it was fully positive and thinking about the end. At the checkpoint I changed my water bottles up, added the fuel and took some extra treats of chocolates and crisps, on ultra’s, you just have to get it in and eat whatever you can, the volunteers said I was doing well for my 1st hundred, this sounded good but I knew I was in for a long, somewhat painful road ahead.

Leaving the checkpoint was downhill and my legs weren’t letting up, this was when I knew for the remainder of the race this soreness would be with me but I knew I would never give up!

Homeward bound to Goring I was off, running into many runners and feeling happy that I would see my support crew on this leg, first up were the in-laws, after encouragement from one, I was asked by the other one (mentioning no names)“Are you going to finish?! something no runner wants to be asked during a race, I smiled and said of course, there was no doubt in my mind I would not finish this race. At this point a running friend came into view, it was Paul whom I had met at the Jungle Ultra in 2018, he asked for a cuddle and of course, we had one, this is what ultra runners do, we empower each other, we help each other and we do our best to be there for each other.

It was time to get back to Goring, it would be downhill and my focus was to keep my legs turning with high cadence, this light footwork would help the miles tick over just that little bit quicker.

Simon Dicks, Focused Running
Simon Dicks, Focused Running
Simon Dicks, Focused Running

I ran back into race HQ and finished Leg 2, the big timer showed a time of 7.59 for 50 miles, the 2nd leg had taken an extra hour and I had dropped to 12th, this wasn’t significant to me, or a worry, I knew I had ran too fast at the start and the 2nd half would be abourt completing, not competing.


It was daylight as started this leg, it wouldn’t last long so I had my headtorch on my head, ready to be switched on when needed, this tactic means when it gets dark, there is no stress in taking the pack off, finding the torch etc. After a few miles on a road, it was back onto the trail and the Ridgeway, this would be an undulating leg that was constantly up/down. The first checkpoint appeared to come into view relatively quickly, here I took some oranges and switched the torch on, the night was here, the temperature was due to drop so I wrapped up warm.

During this section In the night, I could see torches coming behind me, this happened frequently as other runners reeled me in, as this was happening I tried to get me legs to move better but they just weren’t having it, the damage had been done and I needed to accept this, I had started to get a bit frustrated but there was nothing I could, I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I find the dark beneficial as you can’t see what is ahead, for me, I keep my head up and it wasn’t long until the turnaround check point came into view, this was a welcome sight as I knew once back at Goring, it would then be the home stretch of the Thames Path with my wife as the pacer, I just needed to get there.

Support was limited on this leg to one person, Craig Williams, another runner I had met in the Jungle, he was waiting for me in a small carpark, the boost of seeing him was fantastic, it pumped me up, but I was unable to stop moving, my legs were done, movement restricted and there was at least another 35 miles to go to reach the end.
I knew I had slowed down considerably so when I got to the final decent on the Ridgeway, I pushed my weight forward and tried to use gravity as my friend, the terrain was rocky with lots of holes/gaps in the path, at the bottom of the hill I was back on the tarmac as my made my final push back to Goring, where Jess was waiting and I was conscious of time, leg 3 had taken me 5 hours and 50 minutes, my placement was now 25th.
I was being very strict with my nutrition to maintain energy levels, every hour I was drinking 500ml which included salt and carbohydrate, I was topping this up with energy chews and anything extra from checkpoints.
75 Miles – 13 Hours, 50 Minutes.


Simon Dicks, Focused Running
Simon Dicks, Focused Running

Leg 4!

The final leg, a flat leg, a leg along a very familair route. I was joined by Jess who was a bundle of joy, full of beans and fresh legs, I wish I had been in a better place than I was.

At this point I was pleased to be heading into the final leg, but my legs were in a very bad way, often there is an Ultra Shuffle at this time in a race, for me, I was moving worse than the Ultra Shuffle. I knew the route which mentally helped me, as we left the HQ we dropped down onto the Thames Path and started our journey to Reading. My legs, already weary and battered, but I knew the true battleground awaited within the corridors of my mind.

Navigating the familiar terrain of my last legs, I leaned heavily on muscle memory to propel me forward. Beside me strode my steadfast pacer, my wife—a beacon of unwavering support and unparalleled determination. With each step, her presence lent me strength, her unwavering belief in my abilities a constant reminder that I was not alone in this journey. As the clock struck 1 a.m., the sight of my brother waiting at a solitary corner in Reading injected a surge of energy into my exhausted frame. Thirty minutes later, the Haswells greeted us at a junction, offering a brief respite before we resumed our relentless march, I simply can’t thank them enough for giving their time during this battle of a day.

The flat expanse ahead became a battlefield, but with my wife by my side, every obstacle seemed surmountable, this flat section goes on for miles, even though I knew this section, had run it a few times, the miles took a lifetime to tick over, eventually the trail turned back to concrete and I knew we were reaching the final turnaround point, little did I know of the hidden decent that was due arrive…….
Reaching the final turnaround point, I faced the daunting ascent of a steep ramp. In the comforting embrace of the checkpoint, my wife tended to my needs with unwavering care, ensuring I was fuelled and ready to tackle the challenges that lay ahead, I drank 2 cups of tea whilst my wife tried to get me to eat something, my body just didn’t want it, so it was time to take on the stairs. The stairs are treacherous, Jess’s steadying presence anchored me amidst the tumult of exhaustion. My muscles, already screaming in protest, rebelled against the strain of navigating the precipitous descent, together, we forged downward, determined to conquer the formidable obstacle that lay before us, we inched our way downward, each step a testament to our unwavering resolve. Time seemed to warp and twist, the passage of seconds stretching into eternity as we descended further into the heart of darkness, finally arriving at the Thames Path once more, we had just conquered 15 or stairs, a true battle.

Summoning reserves I never knew I possessed, we embarked on the final leg of our journey, a laborious shuffle that carried us ever closer to the elusive finish line. With each passing mile, my wife’s unwavering encouragement propelled me forward, her belief in our shared goal unwavering. Knowing what lay ahead was a huge help to me, I pictured it in my mind and visualised moving through the stages, at one point after leaving the path, going through the residential area and rejoining the path, my headtorch started to flicker, a sign the battery was nearing the end. I was surprised as this was a new battery, very soon it died and I realised I had not charged it, a big lesson as I swapped to my spare torch which was a small low light torch, I had saved weight, but the torch was not good enough, I was now relying on my proprioception skills.

Heading through the fields we then hit the final checkpoint, Pangbourne, no way were we stopping as if my legs stopped, it would be hard work getting them going again, past the bright lights, we headed up Whitchurch Hill, during this point we met our good friends Alan and Michelle, we had a quick chat and hug, then it was up the hill we went, knowing that more downhill was coming, which was a sobering thought. The final part was now all trail, the downhill came and threw myself down and blocked off the pain, I was close to the end, the end of my first 100 miler and first race in 3 years!

As my watch ticked over 100 miles next to the Thames, a surge of adrenaline flooded my weary limbs. With the finish line tantalisingly close, I tapped into reservoirs of strength forged through countless hours of training and unwavering determination. Emerging from the shadows of the trees onto the unforgiving tarmac, for the final team, I could see the bridge loomed ahead—a symbol of triumph over adversity, a testament to the power of unity and resilience. Rounding the final corner, I beheld the culmination of months of preparation and undying perseverance. Crossing the line at 21 hours, 19 minutes, and 27 seconds, I breathed a sigh of relief. My first 100-mile odyssey had drawn to a close, and amidst the exhaustion, I revelled in the glow of shared accomplishment with other runners.

This is what makes trail running such an amazing community, yes, it’s a race but we all congratulate and appreciate what everyone has put themselves through to be at the start line, just taking it on, regardless of how it finishes, each and every runner is incredible.

This final leg had taken me 6 Hours and 31 minutes, I finished in 45th place, despite going backwards in the rankings and time, I was truly happy with this, I had completed the 101 mile race and I was back from injury, surviving the 101 mile race

This was a truly spectacular race, each race we do we learn more and for me, these were my key learnings:

  • Make sure to not run fast at the start, I knew this before the race started, but my excitment and happiness took over, would I change this for this race, NO, will I do this again, no.
  • I had too many food options and kit in my drop bag, I just didn’t need it.
  • Don’t sweat over minutes, I should have started in more grippy mud shoes than the hard packed shoes.

It goes without saying that people make ultra races what they are, whether they are the organisers, voluneteers, other runners, pacers, members of public cheering you on or your amazing friends and family, thank you all.