Well, the Timmyslam may have taken a break over the summer, but it’s been full steam ahead on the running front over the last couple of months, with silly distances conquered, a successful return to racing, seeing others start their running journey and the launch of a big challenge for 2017.
In June, fresh(!) off the back of four spring marathons, I took on my first ultra. The Wall is a 69 mile race from Carlisle to Newcastle, following the route of Hadrian’s Wall, and providing a tough mixed-terrain route through some stunning countryside. Not a day for the faint-hearted then! As we congregated in the courtyard of Carlisle Castle in the early morning sunshine, there was a palpable air of nervous anticipation as we all quietly considered the day ahead of us. “Just get through the first 30 miles without using up too much energy” and “walk up the hills” seemed to be the basis of my strategy for the day. However, I also made sure, to the amusement of others, that I was carrying enough equipment, food, clothes, first aid etc. to cover pretty much any eventuality.
In many ways it is difficult to sit back and write about the run itself – in part because there was just so much of it. But what I can say is that although 69 miles is an awful long way, it was perhaps the most enjoyable, and certainly most fun, running experience I have ever had. Three of us running together really helped (I can’t imagine attempting something like that on your own) and despite us all having the odd quiet period, we kept each other going all day and night. Every time she saw us along the route, Liz was amazed at how relaxed, smiley and cheery we were. And she was right; it was that positive attitude and sense of fun that just kept us going, mile after mile, hour after hour. It also meant that by the time the darkness descended and we headed along the Tyne towards the finish on Newcastle’s riverfront we hadn’t slowed down our pace, and were amongst the fastest runners over the final 20 miles.
So did I learn anything that would be of use to any of you considering on embarking on a similar challenge? Find others to run with; you don’t have to carry quite so much stuff; don’t forget the insect repellent (midge bites were far worse than sore muscles over the following days); you can’t eat too much Haribo; I can’t run when I’m laughing; and don’t tell your mates that you can’t run when you’re laughing! A huge thank you to my band of brothers, Stephen and Ben; we had an awesome day.
What followed The Wall was something that many of us runners struggle with. I had a rest! Having overdone it last summer, and ending up injured through much of the winter, I decided that I would take two weeks off running, before embarking on some serious training ahead of my autumn marathons. We all know how hard it can be to voluntarily give up running, especially when the weather is warm, the days long, and with clubmates racing what seems like every other day. But, there is no doubt in my mind that it did both my body and mind a lot of good, and helped lay a great foundation for some great training and racing over the last six weeks (including a first ever podium!). So remember, we all train seven days a week – rest days are as much a part of any training plan as anything else. It really does make you a better runner.
The best running highlight of the summer didn’t feature me at all, but my partner Liz, who completed a Couch to 5K programme run by my club . Not quite knowing what to expect, she found the sessions relaxed and supportive and was amazed at how comfortable she felt after only a few weeks. I felt so proud running with her as she completed her first ever parkrun, and then seeing her complete her first 10k only a few weeks later. She does still need to learn, however, that running shoes can’t be chosen solely on colour!
Couch to 5k is a fantastic way to get people into exercise and running, in a way that builds up gently from those very first running steps. It was how I started my running some six years ago, and it has been amazing to see over 100 people engage with the programmes that the club has run this summer. We all share the responsibility of promoting our sport and encouraging others to participate, so get yourself involved in whatever way you can – after all, we all started somewhere.
And finally, what do I have planned for 2017? Well, as some of you will already know, I will be taking part in the Brathay 10in10 in May 2017. That’s 10 marathons in 10 days, around beautiful Lake Windermere, finishing on my 44th birthday (what better way to celebrate?). This will be very different from anything else I’ve ever attempted, because I’m not running it for me, I’m running it to support the work of Brathay Trust, who do incredible work supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people. Exciting and challenging times ahead and I know I won’t be able to do it without your support. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.
But that’s for next year. Now it’s time to focus and get ready for the second half of the Timmyslam, and what I hope will be an enjoyable and fast race around Berlin in September. No racing the hot dogs, this time it’s serious…