Cast your mind back to 2012. It was a simpler time. The word ‘Brexit’ did not exist, and I didn’t feel the need to compulsively look at property prices in France in preparation for complete societal collapse. On February 29th of that year, I started this blog. I don’t really know why I did it, and it’s fair to say I haven’t been the most prolific blogger in existence. (Not necessarily a bad thing, given the sheer volume of unfiltered verbal excrement that is pumped directly into your collective faces on a daily basis, you lucky sods.)
In the beginning, I’d got all excited about barefoot running. I’m not going to bollock on about that again, you can go back and read my earlier posts. But suffice to say I stuck with it, and eventually reached a point where I could do it properly. Sort of. The book ‘Born to Run’ was what set me off, and as well as barefoot running, it also sparked an interest in ultra marathons. But only an interest. I find YouTube videos about solo climbing interesting, but I’d no sooner try it than set fire to my legs. So running an ultra was never on the agenda, not really. Best to keep things manageable.
Since 2012, I’ve thought about it occasionally. I went off running for a bit as I concentrated on a form of high intensity training called Freeletics, the negligible and long squandered results of which you can read about here if you’re bored out of your mind. I knocked that on the head because I kept getting injured. And because high intensity stuff is really, REALLY boring when you’re doing it on your own at home. I went back to running, albeit in dribs and drabs.
Over the past few months, the urge to take part in an ultra increased to the point where I couldn’t ignore it. I’ve no idea why. There was no particular trigger that I can think of, just a nagging sense that, at 43, there’s a point where you either put up or shut up. Take the plunge or look back on it in 15 years and say, ‘yeah, I should’ve done that’. I was ready. Except I wasn’t. I’m still not, nowhere near. But I’m getting there.
A few people have asked why run an ultra? Why not just run a marathon? I don’t mean ‘just’ run a marathon as if running a marathon isn’t a great achievement. But marathons are ten a penny, they’ve never interested me. My thinking has always been that running an ultra is the next level, something that requires commitment and a slightly crazed way of looking at things. I’ve run half marathons on zero training back when I was catastrophically unfit, albeit fairly slowly. A hugely experienced runner once told me that if you could run any set distance comfortably, you could run double that distance with just a bit more effort. I didn’t want to train for a marathon.
Before Christmas, I started looking for an event. An ultra marathon is, technically, any race that takes place over a greater distance than the standard marathon distance. So a 50K race is, by definition, an ultra. But not really, at least not in my eyes, given that it’s only another five miles. A 100 mile event seemed to a trifle ambitious, so I looked for something in between. And so I came to the Heineken Race to the Tower. (I don’t know if I’ll keep saying ‘Heineken’, it’s not like I’m getting paid for this.) It’s a double marathon, 52.4 miles along the Cotswold Way that finishes at Broadway Tower – just up the road from where I live. It’s on June 9th, which gives me enough time to train. Perfect.
Or maybe not. Maybe a complete nightmare. More than likely a bit of both. I’m under no illusions. There is almost 2000m of ascent on this course, and a cursory look at Facebook comments from people who did it last year shows that the numerous climbs and descents certainly made an impression. But bollocks to it, eh? If it wasn’t worth doing, nobody would do it.
Training is already underway and going well. After a bit of indecision, I’m following a 16-week training plan that Rory Coleman put together for the event last year. I’ll talk about why I chose that one over the plan for this year in my next post, I bet you can’t wait. It’ll be FASCINATING. As well as running regularly, I have joined a gym for the first time in 15 years. This wasn’t an easy decision to make, because I HATE gyms. At least, I thought I did. Turns out that the last gym I went to was crap, and this one isn’t. I’ve only been going for three weeks, and as well as enjoying lifting some weights, I am building a solid library of blog content by covertly watching other people. Covertly, though. It’s important not to take too much of an interest in what someone else is doing in the gym, in case they start talking to you. Brrr.
Anyway, this post is really just an extended ‘hello again’ to all the people who have assumed this blog to have died. I haven’t quite played a blinder with it. At one point, I was getting a thousand hits a week here. Hardly earth shattering but not too bad for a little website with no promotion or advertising. (Or writing ability. Or good content.) By consistently disappearing for years at a time, I’ve managed to grind that number down to zero, so that the only attempts to access the site are by bots who would presumably like to hijack it in order to sell more knob pills or whatever is the scam du jour. Still, even if I’m pissing my words into the wind only to have them blown back onto my metaphorical trousers, I will enjoy the opportunity to ruin your day.