The Event Horizon

You know that moment when there is less time between now and the start than there is between the start and the finish? For example 36 hours before the start of the Spartathlon; I call the the event horizon. The feeling of slipping into a black hole where the only way out is through the other side at the end. It is a time of nervous excitement and panic. Question is, those who are running the Piece of String from this Friday, have they already fallen in?

Well it is only five days to go till the start of the race now. Obviously can't give too much away but I am really excited and a little bit nervous about next week. We have the "routes" worked out now, all that remains is for them to chose one from a possible 5 combinations of races and off they go.

Many people think the £1.37entrance fee is a clue to how far this race will be.  They are exactly right. We don't want them to be disappointed if the race ends up being 10k but neither do we want them to be pissed if they have to take the next week off work.

Picking trails is difficult. I drew a line on a map that I thought would be a nice 10 mile loop. We got about 25% of the way in and were already over 5 miles. Whoops. How long is a Piece of String? I really don't know.

I want the main challenge to be the lack of knowing the distance. As I run around I think of other things that will make it hard. The paths can get muddy, there is some navigation involved, it will be dark, there may be longish stretches without support and it might get lonely.


For a moment I thought bad about this. Can't we make it easier somehow? More checkpoints, markings, nice weather, massage? Then a friend pointed out something that I seemed to have forgotten. People have signed up to this knowing it is going to be ridiculously difficult. People have signed up knowing this is going to take them places where they have never been before. And I am not talking about trails in Berkshire.

Also, these "people" are not the usual people. This is not a normal list of people, or even a normal list of ultra runners. We have a group of people who have done exceptional things in endurance, running across countries, deca Iron-mans, course records, world records, week long treadmills runs, 300+ miles non-stop, deserts, jungles, ice, mountains and roads, channel swims, double channel swims,  running home to Ipswich after running the London Marathon. This could be the highest standard at the starting line I have ever known in an ultra marathon.

Makes sense that they should want to compete in something so pointless.

I have been reading a bit about sports psychology recently. It is facinating stuff and makes me think that what we are attempting here is even more wicked. A key source of anxiety in sports and hence a hinderance to performance is the lack of certainty. This is why sports performers tend to do better at home, or by being familiar with the course, or at least what they are supposed to be doing. That is taken away from them now.

The ability of humans to visualise an end point is one of the many things that makes us such good persistence hunters and endurance runners. To know that it will all come to an end at some point and to be able to distribute effort accordingly rather than run ourselves to death like some animals.

"Flow" - Is a state psychologists say you are in when you seem to be in "the zone". 5 things are required for this. You need to be focused on an activity, of your own choosing, that's not too difficult, but not too easy, with a clear objective, with immediate feedback. Yep, Yep, Yeeeeeahh, NO, yep.

I also read about motivation. Highly motivated people are more likely to compete in events where the chances of failure are high. The chances of failiure in this are very high and as a result I think we have got a start group of 15 very highly motivated individuals.

I am still interested to see whether it is the same people who finish.

If anyone?



Email sent to those who were accepted.

I have some bad news. I am sorry to heap further misery on you in these times. A time when pensions are being devalued, banks are inflating your mortgages, floods are destroying your homes and reality TV is eroding the minds of your children. And now to add to all that you are one of the unfortunate 16 people who have been selected to run in the inaugural "Piece of String Fun Run". Later in life you will look back on 2012 and say "that was just not my year".
So what do you do now? Well your first instinct might be to badger the race organiser with all sorts of inane questions like "How do I train for this?" and "what kind of shoes shall I wear" and "what should my longest training run be?" By registering for this event you have clearly demonstrated that you don't really know what you are doing but neither do you need to know what you are doing. Which is lucky, because you don't. 
If I had to give you some recommended reading for this I would suggest two books. The first being "Usain Bolt - 9.58" and the second being "Just a little run around the world" by Rosie Swale Pope. Both are available on Amazon. I suggest also you opt for the cheapest delivery option that tell you that your delivery will be due "sometime between Tuesday at noon and three weeks next Thursday before midnight". You will learn valuable lessons from this experience.
You may doubt that you can attempt such a thing. If you can keep these feelings within your own mind that is OK. No one needs to know. Only you. If however your feelings should spill out in the form of an email to the race director telling us that you can not attempt such a thing then that is fine (for you) and will enable us to forward this bad news message onto someone else slightly less deserving of this misery than you.

In a little over a month you will be history. Sorry, I mean you will be part of history. You are participating in the first race of it's kind. You really are the lucky chosen ones who have the honour of competing in this new event. You've done the HIGHEST, you've done the LONGEST, you've done the WETTEST, you've done the HOTTEST, you've done the COLDEST, you've done the HARDEST. Now you must put your wits against "THE WORLDS MOST POINTLESS ULTRAMARATHON".

I hope your training has gone well. Obviously you will not know this until after the event whether it was track sessions, park runs, half marathons or running across countries that helped the most. Be thankful that we are at least telling you that it's a running race

You may want to remember some inspirational quotes to get you through this. Might I suggest what Captain Oakes said to Captain Scott on a cold snowy day in the Antarctic. "I'm just going outside; I may be away some time".