|'Is this still life?'
I was speaking earlier today about how my ultramarathon career got started and unlike my clients, I didn’t start off speaking to a running mentor.
Instead, it was a copy of ‘Runner’s World’ magazine which first caught my attention and propelled me towards running even longer distances than the standard marathon of 26 miles and 385 yards. It was the November 1994 issue that really fired my imagination. It was published whilst I was training for my first London Marathon and contained a special feature on ultra-running - the task of running beyond a marathon. Inside there was a picture of an American lady called Ann Trason, and there was a feature on her running the Western States Endurance Race in America. It was that image that rocked my world. I saw that photograph of her running up the Rocky Mountains and I just thought, ‘That’s what I want to do!’
Of course, I didn’t have a clue how I’d make that dream a reality. I just saw a photo of her and thought, ‘Gosh, she looks great!’ It just looked incredible, brilliant. It was like, ‘I want some of that.’ What she was doing was totally surreal to me, it was different to anything I’d ever seen before, it was totally ‘far out’ and way beyond any running concept I had ever come across. What she was doing was also completely off my scale.
But I just sat there looking at that amazing amount of freedom she was experiencing and thought, ‘Wow!’
There was also an article on Alberto Salazar who’d won the prestigious 56-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa. I just saw these people and thought, ‘That’s it. That’s my destiny.’ I felt inspired to go and grab some of what they were having. I knew that it was possible if I trained really hard - having run my first marathon I’d acquired a taste for distance and knew I could go a lot further.
From that day forwards I was hooked - I was fascinated by the concept of ultra-running and the next logical step for me was to really start upping my mileage. Not that I’d been taking running lightly up until this point - by now I was already testing myself, I’d tried a week running 10 miles a day every day - it was brilliant! I did them all in about 80 minutes. I just went and ran them. It was great. It does sound bizarre now, and I’m not being glib, it was just what I really, really wanted to do. It was the sense of freedom that it gave me. I was thinking, ‘Well, I wonder how many other people are running 10 miles a day. I wonder - is anybody else doing what I’m doing?’
My new training regime became nine miles in the morning and nine miles in the evening, four days a week. Then I’d run 20 miles on a Saturday and 20 miles on a Sunday. That’s as technical as it got. I know suddenly running all those miles sounds like I was in self-destruction mode, but I wasn’t. It was a positive mental and physical building process. Naturally, I had some initial aches and pains, like lots of runners do when they start, but my body adjusted very quickly to the new regime, and I’ve never looked back – not once.
What’s driving you forwards to achieve your dream?
1,178 Marathons - 276 Ultras - 9 GWR - 16 MDS