If you just go out there and run 100 miles, it breaks down a lot of barriers in terms of self-imposed limitations’ – Dean Karnazes
Guest Blog by my lovely husband, talking about the latest challenge he’s undertaking:
I guess I’ve been running since my early twenties. At university I would run a few miles in a vague attempt to get fit amidst the maelstrom of booze and junk food. I’ve been running a bit more seriously since Helen persuaded me to go to the gym somewhere around 2007. I found that I gravitated towards the treadmill and felt that I got quite good at shorter distances by 2009. I didn’t run my first race until 2010 at the Great North Run though, which I liked but found very crowded. After that I just started experimenting with running longer and longer distances in training without ever doing another race.
I like running because its very simple. You can do it without having to learn much you didn’t know or having to buy expensive equipment. You can also do it any time, straight from your front door. There’s no need to wait for the next organised event.
I’m not sure why I like to challenge myself. I just found myself able to run further than I expected and the distances increased without me aiming for specific races. I ended up running half and full marathons by myself just to see if I could. Eventually I heard about ultra running through the internet.
Having discovered the ultra running scene online, I signed up for The Wall 2014 race, about 8 months ahead of the big day. An ultra marathon is any foot race longer than the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. The defacto premier distance is 100 miles. I was entranced by the idea. The Wall is a race from Carlisle Castle in the north-west to the Baltic on Newcastle-Gateshead quayside in the north-east of England. It is apparently the most popular ultra in the UK. The total distance is 69 miles, unusual compared to the usual 50 or 100 kilometer or mile distances. It was local and iconic, so felt like a good choice.
I spent many hours training, including doing 10 out and back runs from my house of five miles each so that I could refill with water and food. In a lot of ways the event itself is easier than getting to the start line. In training there are no checkpoints with food and water, and no people on the route to cheer. The training gave me confidence though, I felt stronger and more interested in running when the distances got longer. Having to think about nutrition, hydration, pacing etc adding extra elements to keep my mind occupied.
I completed the wall in a smidge under 14 hours, about 2 hours faster than I expected. I came 80th of over 400 starters. Everything went well and I have great support. The biggest issue was foot damage, although I was very close to catastrophic cramp as well by the last 6 or 7 miles after I ran out of water. Don’t get me wrong though, it hurt. Took almost a week to be able to walk sort of normally, and the damage to my toe nails is still not fully recovered 14 months later.
Endurun24 is another local event. Helen signed me up for the 2016 race because I function better with a set goal. The idea is to run as many 10k laps as possible in 24 hours. Most people enter as part of a team. The terrain should be easier but the duration and mental demands of running laps rather than a specified point to point are much more difficult.
I feel motivated to push myself again, having taken a year out to spend time on other things. However, I still apprehensive about the journey to get to the start. I know that if I get there having prepared properly then everything else is down to luck and fortune on the day.
This time around I want to do some things differently regarding training. In particular I want to rely less on sugary foods and sports gels for energy and use more ‘real food’ instead. Mostly I hope to enjoy the process and expect to execute the plan as best I can given I’m couple of years older than I was last time I started. Completing 100 mile races in 24 hours is a common aim among ultra runners. I dream of making it that far in the 24 hours I have available. 100 Miles = Unfinished business.