So, the first two months of the year have passed and with it my first four races. How’s it going? How is the book progressing?
Run202020 started with a bang under the fireworks at Zurich Neujahr’s Marathon which was certainly an exciting start. The fireworks overhead and a rock music adrenaline fuelled blast into the wintry night made Run202020 feel like the epic project that it is. I was nervous, posing for the first time wearing the T-Shirt and setting out into the dark, watching the head torches busltle the riverbank under a cacophony of fireworks was a unique experience. Getting a top 30 global ranking for the marathon with certificate (OK, it was for 2020) was an unexpected bonus for my 3hrs 36 of running.
The weekend following Zurich I travelled to Manchester for a recce run of the Manchester to Liverpool (M2L) route with the friendly team at GB Ultras. That put an extra 50 miles on my running clock across the weekend, but was very enjoyable. M2L is Race 6 of my series. It is on Good Friday.
This is also going to make a great chapter for the book – Zurich has produced a memorable event with plenty of interesting side stories.
The next weekend saw me take on Race 2, Country to the Capital, covering 43 miles from Wendover to Paddington. It is a race of two halves, over the muddy trails and hills of Buckinghamshire before reaching 20 miles of flat canal routed running. A much loved race this one feels very liberating as you really do trail the country into the city, entering the bustling hive of the City via the back door of a footrace on trails and paths. I ran it well finishing top third. Of course, the series was beginning to bite after just two races as I had started the year without any rest at all.
The book write up for this one is looking very enjoyable. People are very passionate about this rare opportunity to footrace into London.
Not resting was a theme carried into the next weekend – 18-19th January when I marshalled the 24hr ultra race at Wiltshire’s Beyond the Far Side event, an event renowned for its extraordinary mud and tricky slippery and sticky hills. I night marshalled the 24hr race and then resurfaced at 7am to race in the 10K event… and WON the race. It was a small field, but I haven’t won a race before, so this was quite a thing for me, an average runner. Not only did I win, but my reckless descending put me some 11 minutes ahead of 2nd place.
So far so good. I rounded off January with a trip to Birmingham for the National Running Show where I met and interviewed some of the heroes of running and ultrarunning.
However a weekend off wasn’t good. My muscles are so primed for running, and I now know that I need to be extremely careful if I don’t run. Just standing up is firing my glutes in readiness… not running and not stretching to counter meant that one foot started to exhibit some Plantar Fasciitis symptoms and my knees not tracking properly. Massage maestro Phil Hale was fairly reassuring though and gave me some exercises to alleviate. A golf ball to step on and a spiky ball to lie on are now ever present in my travelling kit bag.
On 6th February I flew to Turkey, taking in Antalya on my way to Manavgat Ultra. Manavgat looked exciting on paper, but in reality it was so much more, an event of intense beauty and organised by a wonderful generous team. 41 miles this one, but the real challenge is to run 38 miles and then climb a mountain. There were 3000m of elevation scrambling over rocks, often hands and knees deployed. 10hrs 53 mins and 20th place in the race was a good result. The ongoing event fatigue now showing in my right foot.
But resting wasn’t an option as, with my usual ‘I’ll be all right’ optimism I had scheduled an internal flight to Cappadocia where Saloman host a famous Ultra Trail in October. I wanted to learn more about that so 2 days after Manavgat I found myself self-navigating for a 20 mile trail run through the drifting snow, massaging the foot sharply with the golf ball afterwards.
From a writing perspective, this is proving to be a chapter challenged with what to leave out, there is so much to tell and such heightened expectation in Turkey.
Managing a couple of tight muscles is really the bare minimum I could expect after 3 events and the combined schedule so far. I travelled up to the North East on Friday 21st, full of hope ahead of Endurance Life Northumberland, 36 miles across the flatish but unforgiving terrain of beaches and dunes, with a finish at Bamburgh Castle. This was an event that didn’t lack for challenge as the beauty of the area is at its most dramatic when windswept, and with 30mph headwinds we were nearly swept off our feet.
The accumulated mileage of the racing year did catch up with me a bit here, but still 6hrs 21 minutes of epic running was quite a result and I doubt I could have beaten 6 hrs fresh. Good enough for 38th place from 205 entrants.
From a writing perspective, there were many great stories from other runners to share alongside my own, and an outstanding day in this Area of National Beauty.
So, 4 race down, 16 to go, so a 5th of the journey complete. The challenge continues, hopefully in Sardinia on 15th March, though I do have a cheeky marathon now scheduled in before, a wonderful event in its own right and a just in case booking with Italian travel currently in doubt.
Fortunately, replacement event options abound in my schedule so that this series will stay on track, challenging and memorable.