It still seems strange to me that this time last year the furthest I’d ever run was 15 miles, as I prepared for my first marathon, yet in the last 7 days I’ve completed 2 x 20 mile, hilly trail runs. Is this really me? The asthmatic, wheezy and definitely not sporty child became a marathon runner and is now on the way to running his first ultra marathon.
Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to be invited along for a 20 mile run along the South Downs Way from Seaford (Brighton) to Eastbourne, accompanying Twitter running pals @bryanwe, @maximisemylife, @tomgoom and @DanPark81. Now these guys are all experienced ultra marathon runners (except Tom, who runs a pretty damn fast marathon) and I’m just setting out on my ultra journey. To be honest, I was a little worried that the pace might be too quick for me but soon realised that the going was good. The key to ultra running, it seems to me, is pacing yourself and keeping going. No matter how slow it seems at the time, a slow jog and some walk breaks is enough to get the job done. None of the time obsession of marathon running – which is good as I’ve yet to run under 5 hours for a marathon – just the desire to finish within the cut off.
Our average pace over the 4.5 hours of the run was around 14 mins per mile. To finish the North Downs Way 50 within the 13.5 hour cut off means hitting an average pace of 16.2 mins per mile.
Today I ran another 20 mile trail run, this time alone and on a route where most of it was new to me. The Staunton Way is an interesting route, crossing the South Downs Way at times and with some stunning views. I was worried initially that I would struggle to finish within 5 hours as the pace seemed slow due to the number of hills encountered. I kept going and tried to be sensible with my nutrition strategy by eating before I was hungry. I was happy to finish this 20 miles in just under 4.5 hours and to add another route to the list of long run options.
I’m now tired, hungry (even though I’ve had a big lunch) but, above all, even more determined to make Project Ultra a reality. I believe.