With only a week and a bit left in 2009 (and no more running because of a reoccurring ankle strain) I thought it time to reflect on the year and look at some of the highlights.
Firstly my year in numbers...
Total miles run = 1,624
Number of runs = 181
Avg miles per run = 9
Avg weekly mileage = 31
Number of marathons = 7 (inc ultras)
Furthest run = 52.4 miles
Shortest run = less than a mile (following ankle strain from ACC!)
The year began in earnest as I was in full marathon training mode. In preparation for London I ran a number of half marathons including the Fleet half where I got a PB of 1:32 (which including an unscheduled toilet break due to a bad breakfast selection!). So training was going very well and I wanted to break 3:30. So well in fact that I upped my target time to 3:15 and in doing so completely blew it. Despite the disappointment at the time I still posted a PB of 3:42 (London Marathon race report here). Not wanted to waste all the fitness I had built up from 5 months of marathon training I found myself on the start line of my first ultra run just 3 weeks after London.
The Marlborough Downs Challenge was a 33 mile ultra, and my first steps into the unknown of ultra running... Could I cope with running even further than a marathon!? It was a great day and I loved it, and it sowed the seed for more challenges like this (Marlborough Downs Challenge race report here).
My next ultra was the 50 Mile Challenge in Kent. The exact distance was 52.4 miles (a double marathon). This was something a little different as the course was a 6.5 mile loop on trail, farm tracks and country lanes to be ran 8 times. This was the challenge of all challenges but I relished the prospect of pitting myself against such a course. I should of mentioned that it was around this time (I think before Marlborough actually) that I signed up to the Mad Dog running team. The Mad Dog is my personal online coach who provides training schedules, inspiration, advice and race day strategies. Since signing up with the mad dog he has provided much encouragement and definitely helped steer me successfully through my first ultra races. The race day strategy for the 50 mile challenge was spot one! 9 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of walking from start to end. It felt great and I finished that race on a real high! (50 Mile race report here).
It was actually just after London that I signed up to the next ultra race in the year – the Atlantic Coast Challenge – 3 marathons in 3 days along the North Cornwall coastal path (Marlborough and 50 mile Challenge was training for this one!) The thing I was quickly learning about ultras is that you always have to come back for more. The pain of the race soon dissipates and you are left with a feeling of real elation and a yearning for more. The ACC was surely the perfect answer to this! The ACC was truly epic , and it must surely stand out as the highlight of 2009! The scenery was simply stunning, and the terrain was not to be taken lightly. I paced the 3 days well and actually felt stronger each day finishing 6th on the final day, and 9th overall. Not bad for a novice. And such a different feeling to how I was feeling just months before in London. I had found something I really enjoyed far more than a road marathon. When you train for and run a marathon you become obsessed with time. It’s all that seems to matter. Ultras I’ve found are very different – it’s far more about the journey rather than an obsession with the end and getting there in a negative split! And the journey experienced in an ultra is one that is so such more varied with terrain that keeps you on your toes and scenery which keeps you mesmerised for miles. The ACC combined all these things and was truly stunning (ACC race reports here).
Injury followed the ACC with an ankle strain that put me out for over a month (and evidently still isn’t 100%). I need to learn from this that I can’t always run as far or fast as I would like when my body is saying no. Note to self: listen to body more in 2010. I said before that every ultra seems to be the best yet, and this was definitely true for the Muir Beach trail run in November set in the Marin Headlands behind San Francisco. Once again this race proved (as if proof was needed) just why I like running ultras so much. When you tell people about the distance you might cover in an ultra all they focus on is the very real number of miles you are running and ask why... but of course if running ultras was just about running mile after mile after mile I’m sure I like others would question the sanity of doing such a thing. But there is so much more to it than that... the escapism, the adventure, the thrill, the threat of not finishing, the camaraderie, the sights, the sounds,... just living life... (Muir Beach race report here).
And that’s where I think I will end my 2009 review.
So what does 2010 have in store for ultra disco stu... well there’s the small matter of the Devon 100 miler on 24th April, which should certainly keep me focused!! I’ve entered two ultra races in prep for this one. A 45miler in January along the grand union canal from Northampton to Tring, and a 12 hour race (Wiggle Lightening 12hr) which is around a 10km loop in a park in Herefordshire. Then later in the year there is the Wiggle Lightenings’ big brother – The 24hr Adidas Thunder Run in July (again around a 10km loop!) So that little lot should keep me busy and out of trouble.
Here’s to ultra running.... CHEERS!!