Monday, 31 August 2015

I Want It All - Queen

Lyric:- 'So much to do in one life time' - Evans, Mercury, May, Taylor & Deacon

Song Choice:- The lyrics of Queen's 1989 (yes 1989) hit highlight so much of pitfalls that people fall into when they decide to become an ULTRA-marathon runner or decide that they need to run the Marathon des Sables...or both in the next calendar Year! 

'I want it all'...that's what Freddie sings and it's sounds just like something that a petulant child would scream out when instead of getting their fair share, they declare that anything less than 100% just isn't enough. And this is the part of ULTRA-marathon running that's becoming very worrying for old ULTRA-timers such as myself. It's twenty years since I ran my first ULTRA and on that day I felt I'd found my thing! Yes, MY thing! The real thing that took me to a kind of promised land where I could freely express myself and finally enjoy being at one with my demons and the world I'd built around me.

Now, that sounds rather pompous and a maybe bit weird even if I say so myself but challenging myself against 33 miles of grassy towpath of the Grantham Canal didn't test me to my limits of human endurance or run me to hell and back, in fact it just fired up my imagination and made me want to get better at running and run further. I did too...a 42 miler in Doncaster was my next big outing, the week before my marathon PB of 3.24.21 at the Borders Marathon in March 1996. A further move up to the 80 mile World Trail Championships later on in June filled my appetite. 

Building on my experiences I just kept on running and on my way to a 100 marathons, I still managed to break the 3.30 mark again with a 3.27 at the Robin Hood Marathon in 1998. I should have peaked around the 3.15 mark but I wanted to get that first hundred under my belt as quickly as possible. In 1999, I decided I wanted to run my next 100 marathons in 365 days, including ULTRAs, including my first MdS. I got to the end of November and found out that I'd run out of steam and ended up 12 short of the mark with very, very tired legs and in a permanently curled-up position on my settee for the rest of the year as my body went into meltdown.

The thing was, I'd been more hell bent on running further distances and quantities of marathons than really breaking myself over 26.2 miles on the road and it became more of a case of personal survival and remaining injury-free than moving my milestones of speed and PB's on. 

Would I do it again? Well, most of it probably but without a Grand Union 145, a 100 mile Desert Cup and a 48 hour Guinness World Treadmill Record all within a six month period! But then, I wanted it ALL and I just couldn't get enough of running races and travelling the world.

Luckily, I'm still here 21 years on and of course I would've spread things out more if I'd been sensible as I know know just how much running over 26.2 miles can corrode one's body. I know SO many folk that have done this. It's not all bad news though and the best thing is that I've met some amazing people along the way and been able to make my mark on this crazy world we live in. I believe this has been my underlying life-long ambition. Getting the Guinness Book of Records for Christmas as a small boy enthused my imagination for being the best in the world, to be so 9 times is testament to an eight year old's grit and determination. For all it's trials, 1999 taught me so much...about shoes, socks, recovery, pacing and also...some COMMON SENSE!

Anyway, I hear you say, what's this got to do with me? Well, I hope you read this and take some of my thoughts on board as you head for the MdS next year. I'm surprised each year how relatively new runners, will decide to take on 50 mile, 100 mile and multi-stage races punctuated with weekly back-to-back marathons, especially in a period of 200-300 days. A time where I believe they should be serving a fast-tracked apprenticeship. Each year I see people completely burn't out or badly injured well before getting on the plane to Morocco. The race is hard enough, let alone starting it with an injury. Thinking about a sensible approach and working out a sensible forward plan to start the race fit and ready to run is my advice and one I work out with all my MdS Running clients, together. Knowing how to go about this is the minefield.

It's not as hard as you think. If I were you I'd run a quick marathon this Autumn as well as Druid and Pilgrim's Challenge and concentrate on being as fit as possible for the MdS and RACE THEM. I'm not sure you need to add in a 45 miler in January at the Country to Capital and if you run the Urban-Extreme in Dubai early on in 2016, your legs will be toasted until just before the MdS itself which will offset the learns from running in the UAE Desert with the worry of not being 100% for the Sahara. If the Pilgrims's doesn't matter and you can afford it, go and race in Dubai, you can get rid of your expensive kit purchase mistakes there, instead of Morocco..

Ten years ago, folk started their MdS Training in January as more of the competitors back then were runners not weekend warriors. I've already met a lot of the 2016 British contingent and the Facebook Group has accelerated people's thoughts on getting started with their training and planning their race campaign leading up to April. Folk will always obsess about the kit and what food to take but if it starts to become overwhelming, and it will believe me, take a deep breath. Leave the technology at home, switch off from FB, where evryone seems to be so much better prepared and go out for a nice never know, you might enjoy it, as that's why you started in the first place isn't it?

I sometimes take a whole week if not 10 days off from running and take time out to re-energise my ULTRA-ambitions. Lastly, don't try and reinvent the ULTRA-running wheel as lots of people have already been where you are going and gotten the T-Shirt already. Use their experiences and mistakes to make your MdS a whole lot easier.

You'll be so glad you did...

More tomorrow...

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