It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, so as I’m sitting at home twiddling my thumbs, here I go. Prepare for waffle!! I can’t believe it’s only eleven weeks since I ran, walked and slithered around the Winter X Ultra at Meonstoke. I knew as soon I crossed the start line that I was hooked on ultras, but it’s taken a few weeks for the full extent of my feelings towards it to become apparent. Basically, without flowering it up, I’m in love!! Ultra runners are uber cool. Friendly, helpful and welcoming, but also independent, hardcore and off the grid. If you want to boost your ego or self esteem or confidence then run an ultra. I was insufferable before, so heaven help my family, friends and colleagues now!! I might even grow a gnarly ultra runners beard. As if my ego needed more fuel, I was nominated and shortlisted for the “Outstanding Personal Achievement” award at the East Hampshire District Council Sports Awards. It was very flattering and humbling, and the opportunity to meet and chat with Roger Black and Ben Smith (who ran 401 marathons in 401 days) was just fantastic. I was joint winner of the award, and once again it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I’m realising how lucky I am. I still haven’t got to the bottom of who played exactly what part in my nomination, but I’d like to thank them. You know who you are.
On the back of the EHDC award, I was also shortlisted for a similar award at the Sport Hampshire/Energise Me awards which were held at St Marys Stadium in Southampton. What another fantastic opportunity to hear some inspiring stories from some inspiring people. The speakers were the CEO of the Invictus games and Dave Henson who is a team GB Paralympian runner. I was in awe of him. What a modest and self effacing man, a real life role model for anybody to look up to and respect. It was such a fun evening. My Mum said it would be “just like the Oscars” and although I didn’t see Uma Thurman or Cameron Diaz (much to my disappointment) people wanted to talk to me and made me feel like a celebrity. It was quite surreal. I think I was experiencing my fifteen minutes of Andy Warhol style fame. I haven’t just been living it up at awards ceremonies in the last few weeks. I was able to offer my services and help out at the Alton Sports Couch to 5K course which started in mid January. It was a real privilege to talk to the people who turned up week in and week out through some pretty grotty weather and see them improve and grow in confidence as runners.
At the Alton Sports new flagship store in Farnham, and in association with Hoka One One, they held an evening with Team GB ultra runner Tom Evans. Now this was always going to be of interest to an aspiring young(?) ultra runner like me and I wasn’t alone. The shop was absolutely rammed with people who wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth what ultra running at the top level is all about, and we weren’t disappointed. I found myself hanging on his every word as he talked us through his military and running careers and also expanded on his experiences at Marathon des Sables and Ultra Trail Mont Blanc among many others. He then answered questions from the floor and needless to say the main areas of interest were nutrition, hydration, training and mental toughness. He didn’t actually say anything so mind shatteringly new that the earth moved, but I did find myself experiencing a quantum shift in the way I think about nutrition. Tom offered several analogies which really struck a chord with me and I feel that I’ve taken a huge step forward in my ability to train and prepare for the higher mileage events. He didn’t actually say anything that my own Coach hasn’t told me a hundred times, but hearing how he interprets and implements these strategies really hit home. Interestingly he said that mental preparation and toughness accounted for 70% of his ability to race and to prosper over the big distances. I actually think that for those of us at the bottom of the ultra food chain 70% would be a very conservative estimate. I’d put it at around 85% if not 90%. You have to train hard, but you also have to have total belief and the ability to remain mentally stable during the down times. It was a brilliant evening.
For the first time ever I went on an Alton Runners training evening last week. It was hill reps and they were exactly what I expected but harder. My Coach has been doing a lot of glute activation work with me for the last couple of months and I’ve finally started to feel the benefits. She suggested that I take my training to the next level and start doing the kind of work that you just can’t do in the gym. So we turned up and went for it. I’m a bit of a back of the pack plodder, but there were runners of all abilities out that evening and nobody was competing, only with themselves. It was bloody tough. 300 metres up hill and then a slow jog down, then 200 metres and finally 100 metres. Then repeat. I did two repetitions, but some of them did 3 and I think a few of them even started a fourth. These are guys who run 5 minute 30 second miles compared with my 9 minute 35 second PB!! It was great and I’ll certainly be turning up again.
And finally, the reason I’m at home today is that the Fleet Half Marathon was cancelled due to the snow. Quite right too, it’s really hazardous under foot. The frustration is very real though. This was my only race before London and even for runners at my lowly level, race experience is important. You can rehearse your whole race day nutrition, hydration and anti chafing strategies, race at your marathon pace, test out your race day kit and generally have a full dress rehearsal. I’ve been training really hard and my hopes were high that I’d carve another few minutes off of my half marathon personal best, and although it’s not important, it is frustrating. Hopefully I’ll be able to fit in another half marathon later in the year, but with the ultra schedule I’ve got that might not be an easy thing to do. I messaged my Coach first thing this morning to have a good old moan about the race cancellation and the fact that I couldn’t even run from home and I got the normal soothing words about not losing fitness by missing one run and not needing to catch up in the week etc etc. I know I wasn’t the only one moaning and dripping because she told me she was going to set up a counselling group for her disgruntled runners!!
I’m just going into my peak mileage weeks before the London Marathon. I’ve started raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Action because we lost my brother to that hideous disease last year. The impact this has had on our family has obviously been quite profound. Apart from the impact on his wife and children, it’s not fair on our Mum. Anyway, through the generosity of Alton Sports I’ve been given a place in the London Marathon and so this year’s race schedule looks like this:
April 22nd – London Marathon
June 3rd – Striding for Survival 10K
June 17th – Hampshire Hoppit Marathon
July 7th – Serpent Ultra Marathon 50K
October 7th – Downslink Ultra Marathon 38 miles
December 28th – Winter Cross Ultra Marathon 50K
If you’d like to sponsor me you can find my Just Giving page RIGHT HERE!
Thank you very much for reading all of my old nonsense. It’s taken up few minutes of a boring non-running day!! See you all on the trail sometime soon.
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Read more about Chris’ amazing running story here.