This year was a bit of a mixed one for me. I picked up some great medals over the 12 months and got my name on the finishers list of a couple of events I had to do. However I don't believe I have made as much progress as I did in 2008, when ultra running was still very new to me and I was sailing through it without much resistance. 2008 was a year where I could say I (almost) enjoyed every step I ran and ended the year in much better shape than I started. 2009 just seemed to be a slog throughout. I don't want to make excuses, it was down to me being unhealthy and overweight. I was unlucky for the first part of the year but I had to power to change it and I didn't.
I ended 2007 in a low place. My first 50 miler was cut short due to illness. Partly my own fault for eating dodgy food while drunk but nonetheless I ended the year on a low. I was supposed to finish the year on high having completed the longest run I'd done and would give me a good start for the GUCR which was 6 months away.
I responded to it well. I signed up for an ultra every other week and had intended to rest in between. Jan and Feb were basically 50 mile runs every other week with marathons in between. March and April I was only running marathons but was doing 2 or 3 some weekends and high mileage in between. Here I stumbled upon a marathon pb the day after a 24 mile fell race. I was in great shape.
In May I ran the race of my life, completing the GUCR in 30.36 hours, quite fast in comparison to all other attempts. The first real tough challenge of my running life went beautifully.
June I did nothing but July I got right back into it, running more marathons and then Davos, a 49 mile mountain run. I thought nothing of running a marathon 6 days before and also 2 days before, I knew I could run anything at this point and I did.
August I ran my first multi-day race, the MOOSE. Despite crunching my ankle on the very first day I still managed to finish and had the time of my life running the long day, completely on my own and out in front.
I wound down the remaining 4 months with another dozen marathons. Just keeping everything ticking over and finishing the year on a high, completing Rotherham and then the Hastings Marathon the next day. In between those two I drank about 8 pints of Guinness and was in quite a poor state in the morning. Hastings was the hardest run in the world for the first 5 miles but as soon as I sobered up a bit I was off running again and by the end it was just like a nice long run. I had no memory of the 50 miles or 8 pints the day before.
I finished the year in the best possible way, remembering that it is the thing that will make me feel better in any situation. By the end of Hastings I could have turned round and run it again, but I had a train to catch.
Started with a bang. I'd just got over a chest cold that hung around for a couple of weeks but then ran a marathon in Zurich on New years day. I followed this 4 days later with an near pb (it was a bit long and I took a wrong turn) in the 100 marathon club AGM Marathon. Things were looking up and I was looking forward to an intense Jan/Feb of running similar to last year. Then I got another chest cold which put me out of most of Jan. I came back with 2 decent 40 (37.5 really) races and then off to Lanza to train for the MDS.
I thought Lanza would be ideal training for the MDS, fairly warm (I was going to wear layers) and lots of volcanic trail to run on. Perfect. However the whole week was blighted by rain and cold weather. I didn't see much point running in the rain. Then I caught my third chest cold in as many months, right before flying out to the desert.
As it turns out the rain was perfect training for the MDS, the thing was flooded. A football commentator would call this "ironic" but football commentators are all idiots, it was just a horrible coincidence. My cold did not improve and I suffered the worst week ever plodding through a desert unable to run for coughing and unable to sleep either. I finished just to tick the thing off. Miserable.
I got over the cough just in time to run a pretty shit London Marathon. I didn't like it at all, all those people running and cheering. I then spent the year doing the same races as last year but much slower. The GUCR was a huge 7 hours slower. Things went wrong and some schoolboy errors and complacency made the run much harder. I am still pleased I finished and thought I did very well in the circumstances but the one thing that was on my mind throughout and after that race was that while I was in this shape I was not going to finish the Spartathlon.
3 forts, Davos (despite being rested), Tanners, Picnic, Salisbury 54321 - all slower than last year. These were all entirely my fault, being too unhealthy and overweight. I even attempted veganism for 2 months where I lost a lot of weight but also a lot of energy. I decided halfway round Salisbury that I was going to ditch it and have a hardcore august to train.
August was the best month of the year, I ran for fun again. I was running 30 miles back to back without even trying, I'd run 30 on a school night. I ran all over London and repeated my Reading run again. In the last few days of the month I ran 153 miles in 5 days and the last mile felt better than the first. I loved every one of them, The Spartathlon was back on..
In September I flew out to Athens and into a very new world. People who run ultras as a way of life, some for longer than I have lived, it was common for someone to say that they had finished the Spartathlon 10 times, Badwater 5 times, run across the States, run across 100s of miles of ice. I felt like a child amongst great men.
Without going into detail the Spartathlon was the best thing I have ever done though I did not appreciate it at them time. I flew through the first 100 then really suffered. I finished but at a cost of nearly destroying myself, I tried to run races over a month afterwards but did not give this race the respect it deserves. I spent the rest of 2009 not doing much running in anticipation for great things in 2010.
2010 - What will be different?
Some changes I am going to make are;
- Quit drinking for 2 months and try to get below 12 stone by March
- Make running my commute the norm, 90 miles per week is probably too much but I should at least do half of it
- Run everywhere, to the shops, to the club, to work. Run more than I get the tube (I will keep a count)
- Run every day
- Buy less shit
- Write more about it and take more photos
And some targets and challenges for 2010
- Run 4000 miles
- Finish any big race I start
- Run down into Sparta and up to that statue
- More solo runs along Britain's paths and coastlines
Much of it is out of my hands. I will enter the Badwater lottery system and will run if I am invited. The UTMB is already over-subscribed with more than a week left to register.
It all starts today (kind of). I am missing the first marathon of the year because I am still suffering from the LE2 plague. Still going out for a run though.