It’s surely a logical progression to go from Half-Marathon to Marathon, right? Somehow I missed that lesson and signed up for a 50k instead. Besides, marathons tend to be on that horrible ‘road’ stuff – no fun at all. After following the antics and advice of accomplished ultra-runner Sage Canaday on YouTube (Vo2maxProductions, check it out), I was inspired, and gave myself 12 weeks to train myself up. Sure enough, after my first week of training, I pulled my calf on the downhill of Kaim Hill Race, but managed to resist running for a week and tapered my recovery nicely. My training consisted mostly of slow daily runs, with the occasional race/fartlek/long run – peaking at 87km in a week. By race day last Saturday I felt as prepared as I could be, although a little miffed that my longest day’s running during training was a mere 30km (which was split in half by lunch in Kinlochleven).
I ran with the lead group of seven for the first 10km at a comfy pace of 5mins/km, and for a brief moment thought a podium spot might be on cards. I then realised that most of these guys were running conservatively, so Crispin Walsh and the other speedy ones upped their pace a bit. I stuck to my pace in 6th position, ate my £1 Tesco double chocolate cookies and everything was going as planned. I dodged the first aid station, feeling great. By 25km the distance was starting to hurt. Although I had a good aerobic base built up, this was uncharted distance for my joints and muscles. Descents hurt, and a long forgotten Iliotibial Band injury was flaring up again. The rain was then hammering down at an angle, I put on my vaguely waterproof jacket and probably had my lowest point about 34km. My stomach wasn’t coping well (an existing issue which was exacerbated by the running), and I put myself on autopilot to get to aid station three at 38km. After a liberating stop at the portaloo I realised that I’d been caught and put back to 7th, so I ploughed on. I could see the 5th placed runner in the distance too by 40km, who had completely exhausted himself and was walking half the time. I passed him and tried to get him running again but to no avail, then saw the next runner 400m ahead powerwalking up a rise. In a malnourished daze I thought to myself – “I’m a Westie, I run up hills” and could hear voices from previous races saying ‘Come on Westies!!’ in my head. I ran the hill, clawed my way back, and passed him with 1km to go. The last km was wonderful, smiling away at the dog walkers and mountain bikers who looked very confused.
I finished fifth in 4.37.20, which was a bit over my ‘ideal’ target of 4.15, but the fact that I finished at all and didn’t bonk felt fantastic. It was nice to see the heavily bearded face of Graham Kelly at the finish, and I hobbled to the massage hut for some more ITB torture.
Six months ago I couldn’t run for 90 mins without bonking even at a sluggish pace, but consistently high weekly mileage (~60km) seems to have sorted that out – seeing the proof that my training had paid off feels great. This year I’ve set PBs for 5K, 10K and Half-Marathon, which are likely to be broken again soon.
I was so dazed and ‘endorphinated’ after the run that I missed fellow Westie Arnis Saltums and my girlfriend Ashley finishing. In all the euphoria, within minutes we were talking about signing up for the Fling next year. Is wanting to put your body through an even longer bout of torture like the Fling masochistic? Who cares, we’re ultramarathoners now!