My ultra running journey started some years ago in, of all places, Telford.
I can be even more specific than that, it was in Costa Coffee in the precinct and followed a visit to Waterstones.
I had heard of the book Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes a few times on a couple of podcasts. I had looked online at the book and for some reason had not bought it. In the Telford Waterstones they had a copy. I saw it a couple of times and then decided, one day, to just buy it. I then went direct to Costa, bought some lunch and started to read.
I could not put it down and given the opportunity of taking the rest of the day off to continue reading would have done so.
It opened my eyes to the world of possibility. Much in the way that Dean’s own eyes had been opened, something he has described on a number of podcast interviews. Reading voraciously it appeared to me that the only limit on human performance was sleep. We need to sleep to recover not only physically but also mentally and that was a limiting factor to what we could achieve athletically.
I read about his 50, 100 and then 200 mile races where he fell asleep running!
That was it for me, I wanted to try this myself. I wanted to see what I could do. The thought of running 100 miles felt something that was simultaneously beyond me and yet something I could aim for. Why not? Some rudimentary research shows plenty of runners just like me have achieved this. Not to say it’s easy, far from it, but that with the right dedication, training approach and mindset it can be achieved.
Since then I have run a few 50’s and always stopped shy of making the next step. This has been due to a healthy fear and respect for what it would entail. I am naturally cautious, something I only realised while reflecting on this recently, and there’s always been a reason not to enter a 100 miler. The main one being how to be ready for it. Then I realised that you are never really ready for that. You are as ready as you can be. At the end of last year I put my name on the wait list for the Centurion Events South Downs Way 100.
From Winchester to Eastbourne along the South Downs Way footpath. Being on the wait list is one thing but when you get the email saying a space has become available and you are in well that’s a different feeling altogether.
The wait list is easy, just a name and an email address.
You then get THE email and it’s real, there’s the financial commitment (obviously) but more than that I now know that all things being equal on June 7th I will be on a start line and when the whistle or gun or whatever it is goes I will probably be on my feet for around 24hrs. No sleep. That’s a little scary, I would be inhuman if it weren’t but it’s also hugely exciting. The realisation of a dream concocted in Costa coffee, Telford.
One of the reasons for my reluctance to push myself to enter a 100 miler is that what then? When I started out I wanted to run a 100. Assuming I finish and achieve that then what next? More 100’s? A 200? Or a different sport? I really don’t know how I will feel after that as haven’t ever really set myself a goal that was that big before. I have run for many years, dabbled in triathlon (Olympic distance) and even done a marathon swim (6.5 miles) but these were goals that were set with little thought. While I wanted to do triathlon I knew I wouldn’t do Ironman distance – it just doesn’t interest me enough. Similarly with the swimming; I did that as I was waiting for an ACL operation in my left knee and rather than do nothing I trained through swimming. It wasn’t a dream to do a swim like that and I’ve not looked at doing another once since. But with ultra running the goal has always been there.
From where I sit now there’s little point thinking about what happens after 7th June as there's a lot that can happen up to that day and certainly on that day. For now what next will take care of itself.