OK as everyone else is doing it.....
I mentioned in an interview recently about feeling like Brooks in the Shawshank Redemption. If you don't know the story Brooks spend 50 years in prison from around 1910 to 1960, when he got out the world had changed so much he could not cope and he killed himself. OK it was not at all like that but I did have a weird depression with running that I don't think I had felt before. Certainly not for so long. The post race blues are a common thing for any runner who has just achieved something they were obsessed about achieving, as I was with the GUCR, Badwater and the Spartathlon when I completed those. However this one was different.
I had nothing else next. Well nothing nearly as big as as running across the USA. From the day I started running I always had something "big" to aim for whether that was a marathon, my first ultra or some much bigger ultra. I was always comforted by the thought that at some point in the future I will be presented with another unique challenge. It was easy to keep going.
A few friends hinted that the year after would be difficult. The few weeks after arriving in New York were very difficult but made much better by being reunited with my friends and normal life and being given the opportunity to talk about it at length, as if I were able to re-live it all.
The year started well enough, the great ultra running social reunion that is the Country to Capital in Jan. James Elson made us all run too fast in the first half and it was hard work hanging on but managed to finish in reasonably good time. I then did my first Endurance Life event for the first time in years and really remembered why I love them so much. I was given the opportunity to talk about my American Adventure with them and also I became an ambassador for them. A great start to the year, see the video of me saying ummm a record amount of times here.
I spoke at some more events and ran my first Centurion Running race, the Thames Path 100 miler. It was actually my first 100 miler. The weather was horrid and I was not really putting in much but I finished in a little under 24 hours.
In April I started something that really was impossible. I said earlier that I had nothing "big" to look forward to but in reality I had something much bigger than anything to look forward to. This was going to be by far the hardest thing I had ever attempted. There it is, "attempted". I never said "I am going to attempt to run across america or run Badwater". I always said I am going to run across America or I am going to run Badwater. The continual use of the word "attempted" before I even flew out there.
Now realistically a race where 10 people out of 200+ attempts means that any effort I put in was unlikely to succeed but I have never gone into anything before where my expectation was failure. I just wanted to go and see what it was like and see how far I might get. I realised in retrospect that this was a mistake, I should have gone "out there" without at least hope that I might do it, however unlikely. I actually had no chance, the finishers of this run have 4 things going for them, they are insanely fit, they are very well trained, they are at the top of their game and they get a bit of luck. It takes more than just some stubborness to get through this, stubborness that will get you through most things. I gave up too easiliy but was out of my depth and I do one day want to return but will make sure that when I do my chances of finishing are at least better than zero.
On returning from the USA I decided that I was not going to be able to give the Grand Union Canal Run my all and decided to withdraw. It was a hard choice but thought that someone should have the place who was not just doing it for the sake of it. While that race was running I got engaged to Gemma, that more than made up for it. She has been so wonderful and understanding of my ultra running obsession since she started seeing me about 3.5 years ago. I never forget her first words to me "GET THOSE HIDEOUS BLISTERS OFF OF FACEBOOK".
The next big thing I tried was the Ultra Tour South West (UTSW), a 100 mile really hilly run on the Cornish Coast organised by Endurance Life. I should have been able to do this but my mind wasn't in it from the start and I bailed after just 20 miles. Nothing wrong at all I just really didn't want to be there. This was a low point for the year, wondering whether I could ever be bothered with it all again.
This continued into the 10 peaks challenge; a brutally hard fell run that will take most the best part of 24 hours to finish. This time I bailed right near the end, with 19 hours run and one more peak to complete I just went back to the hotel. This was another low point.
This indifference to running got me reading about motivation and sports psychology and gave me a lot to think about. Why could I not be arsed with anything anymore? So many times I would have normally have gone for a run but instead I stayed in, ultimately feeling worse. There were a lot of things bothering me, stress and anxiety and a general feeling of there being no point to it. It was a pretty miserable time.
Heading towards the end of the year and for what has been the "main event" for me in 3 of the last 4 years I feared my own surrender again. I gave in too easily in Barkley, in the UTSW and in the 10 peaks. I worried that I would contrive a set of circumstances where I would justify quitting. When you go into a race without a committment to give it everything to finish you have a much lower threshold for the pain, the tiredness, the boredon, the point. It's so much easier to say "well I've done enought for today, well done me, I'll just head back to the hotel now, I don't need to finish this".
Fortunately for me I underestimated the power the Spartathlon has over me and over others. This race has gone from something I was merely going to "tick off" a few years ago to one where I feel compelled to go every year and recruit an army of UK runners to race too. This is the main event of the year, of every year. I can't imagine every being away from Greece when it is happening.
I finished the Spartathlon, or the Spartathlon made me finish it, it's hard to tell. This year was amazing, brutal heat forcing the most retirements ever. I immediately felt like the year had been a good one, that's what this race means to me. I feel like it's miy job to make others feel the same. Listen to me banging on about it in the Economist. I can't believe I said that at the end...
And though the big races were over for me I still had a couple of things to occupy me. First off is an idea I had about a year ago for an evil race. It actually happened, the Piece of String race was a success of sorts, the weather was terrible and 2 out of 10 runners finished. I was amazed and humbled by the determination and attitude of everyone who took part, doing a race with no defined finishing line in such hard conditions. I really enjoyed planning the race, looking for routes, thinking of more evil things and then staying up for 48 hours watching the whole thing unfold. It will definitely happen again next year. Thanks again to James Elson for staging it and for all who were involved.
Lastly I finished my book. I still have lots of speeling mistakes to correct but it looks like how I want it to look like now and I am looking at publshing and self publishing options. Pros and cons of each. Hopefully it will be released soon in the New Year.
And that's it basically. I've decided what 2013 will look like, long runs, weight loss, more writing, more speaking, more race directing, new race obsessions and of course a trip to New Zealand to wed the lovely Gemma. More detail to follow.
Things I learned in 2012
- Barkley deserves 10 times more respect than I gave it (and I already gave it a lot of respect)
- Being lighter really does help with the running
- Prolonged periods of indifference mean I need to find another challenge
- The UK is full of great people willing to try something completely different and unique
- Gemma is pretty awesome (I actually already knew this)
- The only way out of the Spartatlon is to finish or be finished
- No matter how shit you think your running year has been it becomes an awesome year if you get to kiss that foot
- It's hard to get interest from publishers, unless I call the book 50 shades of brown
Roll on 2013.