This time last year it meant everything to me. This time last year I would have crawled out of bed at 5.30 this morning and cycled to a train station to catch the 7.12 to somewhere in Hertfordshire, navigate my way to the start of a marathon or LDWA event, run the event and then brace myself for a long journey home. On a good day I'd get back at 6pm. On a bad day it might not be till it was dark. I could have gone for a long run from home, had more sleep and been able to go to the pub in the evening. But none of that mattered to me so long as the weekend resulted in me adding 1 to my "number".
I was a bit obsessed last year, not with running but with a number. I thought a bit about what 100 would mean. I've known a few people now who have reached this landmark while I have known them and wondered what it means to them. No one stops at 100 or even slows down in the rate at whcih they do them. 100 is a great milestone but in the end it is just a fairly arbitrary number, just like 26.2.
The question of whether a race should "count" now is fairly irrelevant to me. I was discussing a race in a forum which may "count" as 64, may "count" as zero. The race in question was a run from the southern most point in Europe to the most northern. This is an obscene challenge that has gone on to my "to do list" for reasons that do not involve clocking up a number. If this did "count" then you could get two thirds of the way to the 100 club within 2 months. It was suggested to me that it would be pointless doing it if it didn't "count". It really depends what you are "counting", number of 26.2 mile finishes or incredible experiences. I'm now "counting" the latter.
I've enjoyed having more weekends of not running races this year, while still doing as much running as I like. True I wish I lived somewhere that had mountains or forests on the doorstep. Hangar lane and Gunnersbury Park don't quite cut it, but I've cut back the numbers of "counting" events that I am doing now, so I can have more of a life.
Still, the question of what race to choose for my 100th is still something on my mind. Though it is a fairly arbitrary point in what I hope to be a long and enjoyable running life I am well aware that it is a good excuse for a party. Where and when I have this party are obviously very important questions. There are two questions I want to consider when deciding which event to do as my 100th. How spectacular will the race be and how many friends can I get to come and share it with me.
This represents a trade-off, since the more spectacular you aim for the further away you need to get and hence the fewer people you could get along. When I was still hoping to get the 100 done before I'm 30 I was looking at the Portland Marathon as a possibility. It is fairly scenic, not too diffucult to run or to get to, In January so it should interfere with the marathon schedule and there is a half and 10k for the little ones. However I'm now not going to get that many done in time. I could still reach that target if I was obsessed with the number 100 as I was, but I've grown out of that now.
Three Forts Marathon (May) became the next idea on the way home from the race this year. It is a beautiful race on the South Downs, understated but very well organised. A half marathon too and easy enough to travel down to on the day. It would be easy to get a load of people there and that would make the day amazing for me, a good run and lots of friends, maybe a piss up in Brighton afterwards.
The rate I am running them makes this a close thing too, now I'm doing more ultras I don't have much time to do all the doubles/triples I might like to. I don't know if I can make it by then, it would be a great party if I could. If I don't then there is not much going on in the UK over the summer (runners in the UK use this time to run silly short distances and events that involve mincing around on bikes and in wetsuits). Apparently when the temperature reaches 25 degrees that is the time to head straight indoors and recalculate your training spreadsheet, there is no way you are meant to run in this heat. I suspect there is a correlation between this behaviour and their really poor performances when race day is very hot, as was London and Edinburgh this year.
So, with not a lot going on in the summer I thought I could use the UTMB as another way of "celebrating" number 100. This will be one of the hardest races I will ever do and finishing would feel like a big deal. I hope to get a crowd of friends there too though obviously I'd struggle with getting loads. There is a marathon, 100k, 50 miler and the 100. Not sure what the appetite among my friends is for the minimum being a marathon. Would be my choice though if I didn't get there in time for the Bank holiday Monday Brighton piss up.
So, in summary, reaching 100 doesn't mean as much to me as it did a year ago. It may mean less (or more) to me in a years time. I often think about how aritrary the whole time/distance thing is. Why is the number "100" important? Why not 10 or 1000? If the Babylonians had their way we'd be making a big deal of 60 or 360. I might celebrate my 360th marathon by running one which is a perfect circle. That would involve observing something that has never been seen before, a perfect circle is merely a representation contrived to make things easier for us to understand, like the decimal system. The Babylonians got there way with time though and we still obsess about that. 3 hours being the common one for runners. 3 Babylonian units of 60. 10800 seconds. Why don't we all aim for 10000 seconds for a marathon? The distance itself is pretty meaningless too, based on the journey of an ancient war-courier and then extended to please the King of England.
This weekend I'm off to Davos to run a spectacular race and to celebrate Ian's 100th. There will be more than 30 people I know there and that will make it an amazing weekend. I doubt Ian plans on stopping when he gets to the bottom of that mountain and into the stadium. Not sure whether 100 means too much to him other than a good excuse to throw a party. So, whenever 100 comes for me I'm sure to make a big deal of it. The clicking over onto "number 100" will be artificial, the amazing party or amazing race however will be very real.