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The 2017 Brathay 10in10: the final countdown

It’s almost time. The serious training is done. The last fundraising event is coming up in a couple of days. My kit (enough for a month-long expedition!) is washed and sorted, if not quite packed yet. And I’ve just a few days left at work. After a journey that has taken nearly a year it’s now only seven days until the start of the 2017 Brathay 10in10. And I feel terrible…

But let’s backtrack a little. The last time I wrote I was bathing in the satisfaction of having achieved a serious running ambition – running a sub-3 hour marathon in Rotterdam. Not only was this a great achievement in its own right, but running sub-3 had been the bedrock for my Brathay 10in10 training plan. To get myself into the best shape of my life. And it worked. Just a few days after Rotterdam I felt great, and was experiencing a runner’s high that was going to carry me all the way to the start-line at Brathay on 12 May.

Getting a little lost on the mountains of Italy

A week’s holiday in Lake Garda, Italy (for a family wedding) provided an ideal opportunity for some rest and recuperation, but also a great setting and climate for running. I was soon back into my stride with some lovely runs around the lake (running with a seasoned ultra-runner from Switzerland one evening) and a day spent running/trekking in the mountains.  OK, I might have got myself a little lost but that didn’t matter. It was just great to spend time out in the country without the pressure of hitting a certain pace (6:45 and all that!). The climbing will also have been really beneficial in terms of preparing for the Brathay 10in10.

Wear your race t-shirt or your Garmin when you’re away and you’re sure to find another runner to compare notes with. A member of staff at the hotel was a keen marathon runner (“I’m not as fast as you but I’ve run more marathons!”) and we discovered we’d both run in Rome in 2014. As I left she handed me a list of all the top marathons in Italy and I promised I’d be back. And so it was that I journeyed home with some great miles in my legs, a taste for the local Lugana wine, memories of a fantastic family wedding and also a wedding proposal of my own…

So why am I now feeling terrible? Some of it will be the usual maranoia that many of us will recognise in the days leading up to a big event. And with such a long build-up for the Brathay 10in10, as well as the obvious step into the unknown, it’s perhaps not surprising if the taper tensions are magnified a little. However, some of the aches and pains in my knee and back are a little more worrying, and reminiscent of injuries I had 18 months ago that kept me off the roads for a few months (and led me to write my first ever blog).

And so in a classic battle between my head and heart (sounds familiar…) I’m fighting the urge to keep running (because “I’m not ready”) and instead to focus on rest with a bit of stretching and pilates (because “I’ve done enough”). It’s all very disruptive and unsettling, and makes for a very anxious and grumpy runner. All at a time when I had hoped to enjoy the build-up to this incredible experience and to spend quality time with my family before I leave them for my “crazy running holiday”. I actually think the best thing now will be to just get this thing started. Then I only have to focus on one thing – running 26.2 miles every day (whilst being fantastically looked after and supported).

‘Eyes on the prize’ – this is why I’m running 10in10

I had hoped to use this time to reflect on the journey I’ve been on as I confidently march out to the start line. Instead, a confused and anxious runner seems to be trudging (if not quite limping) towards the start of the Brathay 10in10. Still I’ve a week to pull myself together, and then 10 days to run myself into great shape so all is not lost.

Two good running friends gave me the same excellent advice this week – “eyes on the prize”. And for me the prize is not just the 10 marathons I have to run. It’s also the reason I’m running them. Supporting the incredible work that Brathay Trust do with vulnerable children and young people. And that’s why – sprinting or limping, smiling or grumpy – I will see you at the start in just a week’s time…

PS – she said yes!