Reasons to be cheerful


One week on from the Clarendon Marathon. I’ve taken some time out from running this week to rest, recover and get my head back together following my initial disappointment and loss of running mojo. Now I’m ready to get out and run again, starting tomorrow morning when my plans are as follows:


Why do we beat ourselves up when we don’t perform as hoped in a race? There are so many factors which can affect our race and finish time. We train to prepare ourselves as much as possible for each race, doing our best to train appropriately (e.g. running hills when training for a trail marathon or ultra marathon) and anticipate and address factors which might affect us in each specific race. Despite this, we have bad races sometimes. For example, this might be due to the weather, our running kit, changing things on race day (despite all of the advice not to do this I did at Clarendon and am still paying for it), stomach issues or just not being “on it” on race day.

Last week I had a ball in the first half of the race, moving purposefully up the hills and charging with reckless abandon down the downhills, some of which were a little bit technical and all the more fun for it. In the second half of the race the hill climbs got steeper, longer and more frequent and the downhills got fewer and shorter. I struggled with pain in my sides (kidneys) for a couple of miles and really struggled to keep moving with increasingly painful quadriceps and calf muscles. It seemed strange that I could run 50 miles at the NDW50 in May on hilly, technical trails and didn’t think once “I can’t go on” but there I was less than 20 miles into a trail marathon thinking exactly that and wondering why I ever thought I could run a 100 miler in 2015 (the SDW100 is my main running goal for the next 2 years). I managed to keep going – thanks is in no small measure to my running buddy Phil (@BigPhil137) – and finish in just under 5 hours 5 minutes, missing all of my race goals.

For the next few days I felt really down about my performance and struggled with a reduced running mojo. I have been working long hours at work, worrying about my forthcoming operation and how long it’s going to take me to get back to my current level of fitness afterwards, and suffering from toothache all week. Before the race I had decided I would take a week off from running and this has proved to be a wise move!

Thankfully, I’m now feeling much more positive. Here are some of the reasons I have to be cheerful and keep running:

* I ran a new Personal Best (PB) at Clarendon

Despite my disappointment at not finishing in under 5 hours I managed to knock over 10 minutes off my previous marathon best on a course with over 2000 feet of elevation gain. Compare that to my 5 hour 16 minute 30 second (yes, every second does count!) marathon debut at the flat road course at the London Marathon in April 2012 and 5 hours 27 minutes in my (admittedly self-supported wearing a Camelbak and carrying lots of fluid and food) solo Portsmouth Coastal Marathon on Boxing Day last Christmas. The hours and hours of long runs I have been doing in 2013 both before and after NDW50, mainly on undulating and technical trails, have clearly begun to show in my running performance.

* Marathons are not the A goal

I found the whole experience of training for and running my first ultra marathon challenging but incredibly rewarding. Soon after NDW50 I said that I would do it again and would like to do more ultra marathons. I never thought I would conspire running a 100 miler and had the utmost respect for runners like Bryan (@UltraDHC), Dan (@UltraRunnerDan), Kev (@KevOnTheRun) and @Chris (@cmmercer) – who I have met through Twitter and had the good fortune to go for runs with and encouraged me during my NDW50 training more than they could know – who have either run a 100 mile race or are working towards it. They told me I would end up going for a 100 miler and they were right.

* Enforced rest can be a good thing

Listening to one of my favourite running podcasts, the Trail Runner Nation (@WeAreNation) podcast, recently I was interested to hear running coach Greg McMillan discussing the importance of rest and recovery for effective training and performance. He argues that too many runners just keep running, training for one race and then moving on to train for another almost immediately afterwards, without taking long enough for their bodies to recover. Of course, we worry about putting weight back on that we lost through all of the running we did in training (or that we will put on weight when we have kept weight gain at bay while training) and that we will lose fitness if we take a break. McMillan argues that we should take a break and enjoy the process of building back to fitness as this allows our bodies to recover and may reduce the long term risk of injury and an even longer enforced break from running. I have been told by medical professionals that I need to have the operation (nothing serious but something which needs fixing) and will not be able to do any exercise for at least 2 weeks and will need to build back slowly. Perhaps this will give my body the break it needs?

* It’s all about the challenge

I love running. One reason is because it gets me outside, experiencing the changing seasons and exploring the countryside and trails. Another is because it has proved to me that I can do more than I ever thought possible. I never imagined I would be able to run 50 miles in under 12 hours but once I set myself that goal and set my mind to it i did. Now I’m working towards running 100 in under 30 hours. After all, if truly inspirational people like Claire Lomas (@claire80lomas), Rich Whitehead (@Marathonchamp), Stuart Rose (@ms_marathon) and Andy Reid (@andyreid2506) can take on and conquer endurance challenges then why am I worried about it?

It’s time to get back out there and run. I have 2 more weeks of running before my operation so I’m going to get out, run and smile. Rain or shine. It’s all about the miles and smiles.


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