I would like to start to expand my blog to more than just the occasional race or long run report which by their very nature are very me, me, me, and start to explore further afield about what makes us ultra runners tick. First off though I'm no writer and so don't expect to find something that is free flowing or easy reading, instead it will probably be a little (very) clumsy, and more a collection of individual thoughts which even I probably don't know where they are leading but hey if you don't try you will never know... My one hope is that perhaps what I write leads to discussion amongst fellow minded runners of topics in which we can all relate. So instead of the usual comments that we all feel compelled to post having read someones race reports, which we in kind look forward to reading ourselves when we all eagerly upload our own race reports and wait to see if any one has bothered to read it, that perhaps this can lead to more 'down the pub type discussion' about running, what motivates us to run, and anything else that may happen to crop up.... I told you it would be clumsy!
So anyway I've had 2 weeks now to reflect on completing my first 100 mile run, and so thought I would capture my thoughts and feelings on what this means post-race. I've read elsewhere in other runners accounts of ultras that your first 100 miler changes you, and leaves a lasting impression on you that you will never forget, so imagine my disappointment when I woke up the morning after the race feeling very normal. There was no life changing moment or sudden realisation of clarity. I didn't feel god-like, or different nor did I feel like I had achieved anything more than just another run. I was exactly the same person (just a little sorer for my troubles). I wonder what others experiences are of their first 100?
The thing is, '100' is after all just a number (quite a large one), but just a number all the same. So why should it matter so much and perhaps it doesn't. So if the number of miles that one runs is not terribly significant then what is? What really makes us tick? What makes us put in all that hard training, and those early mornings?
Perhaps it's time (another number) in which you complete a given distance that is more important. It seems to be a common held belief amongst ultra runners that in fact time is less important though, and what is far more important is the journey itself that we all take when embarking on our latest challenge. What I find is that, the journey and the time it takes me to complete it are inextricably linked. You can't separate them. On the TR24 race which was a fixed time race - time obviously played a very central part to the whole thing. It was also an amazing journey which I thoroughly enjoyed as I covered mile after mile with a keen eye on my watch and my pace band to ensure I succeeded in my quest. Thus the time in which you cover a given distance I think is a far bigger motivator than distance alone.
So on the TR24 as I slowed down in the latter stages the journey became far tougher as I became less motivated and didn't feel that I was running it in style. It wasn't less enjoyable because of the pain factor (the pain is always going to be there when running long!), but because I wasn't able to run it in the way I wanted to. In others words I couldn't RUN. We run because we love running.... that's why we do it. So being reduced to plodding along surely stops it being a run, and becomes something all together different.
I therefore feel that it is the 'style' in which you complete an ultra that gives you the 'feel good' factor and that glow of real satisfaction. Style being the ability to pace it right from the start and not being reduced to a crawl as you eek out mile after mile. I want to run not walk, and whilst walking is an inevitable and strategic part of ultras, the 'style' in which you cover a given distance is for me what counts. Now of course 'style' is a very individualistic thing and we will all define it in different ways. Running in style for me also includes enjoying every second no bad how things get, to smile at your fellow runners, to laugh, and to empathise with others, and to not be overly obsessed with ones own goals in a race, but to enjoy the journey. The distance of that journey is irrelevant in my eyes.
One thing everyone has in common when starting a race is that we all have some kind of game plan. We have a clear (or even vague) idea in our minds about how we want to run the race. And I think that the execution of this plan and the style in which we run are very closely aligned. Distance becomes irrelevant. You could be running a 3km park run or 100 mile ultra, but the basic rules are the same. You go in with a game plan, execute it, and thus run it in style - the way you had visualised running it many times before in the lead up to the race. Then you sit back with a warm glow of satisfaction on your face and bask in the glory of what you have achieved.
For me the execution of my race plan in the TR24 was the most pleasing element of my race. And whilst I hit my 100m target it was the style in which I did it that mattered most of all.