Category Archives: Events

Doing Big And Scary1


In 1960, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote

Fear has always seemed to me to be the worst stumbling block which anyone has to face. It is the great crippler.2

I am, at this very moment, crapping myself – metaphorically speaking – and I blame the late Mrs Roosevelt for this situation. You see, a couple of weeks ago, I was trying to decide which of two ultras I should enter. Both races take place on the same weekend in August; one I have run and completed before and the challenge would be to complete it faster. The other, a race I haven’t done and is only in its second year of running, seemed like it could be more of a challenge.

By challenge, I mean the very thought of it scares the absolute shit out of me.

Inevitably, that’s the race I chose to enter. Why do I blame the former First Lady for this? Because she went on to write

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Now my name is on the confirmed sign-up list for the 2nd Challenge Running Chiltern Way Ultra. But why does the race scare me so much?

–Because the full course is 133 miles (214km) long.
–Because there’s a 42 hour time limit.
–Because last year a mere 6 people started the race and only one solitary runner finished.
–Because there’s a very real chance I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this race.

I think that’s the appeal. The other race I was deliberating over was the 86 mile Ridgeway Challenge – my first ultra. I want to do it again after DNSing a few years ago because I want to run it quicker. I completed it the first time despite being nowhere near as fit or as experienced as I am now. I completed it even though up until two weeks before the race, I was scared I wasn’t even going to make it to the half-way point. The Chiltern Way is giving me that same fear, that same doubt. It frightens me. It is a thing I think I cannot do – and all the words Eleanor Roosevelt wrote seem relevant:

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.2

Standing up and facing that fear is why I’ve entered the race.3

Map of the Chiltern Way from the Chiltern Society

Map of the Chiltern Way from the Chiltern Society

1With apologies to Andy Mouncey for borrowing the title of this blog
2All quotes from chapter 2 of “You Learn By Living” by Eleanor Roosevelt (1960)
3I won’t lie though – it does help that the start and finish of the race is fairly local too!

Lakeland 100: Death or Glory

The weekend was an unqualified success. I finished the course 32 hours, 45 minutes and 11 seconds and I’m delighted with that. I’m still processing everything that happened so expect several pages of write-up before long.

Real relay baton

Olympic Spirit: Running the Real Relay

I came home from a few days away with the family to find out that an alternative event to the Olympic Torch relay had received coverage from some of the major media outlets including the BBC, the Telegraph, ITV News and the Independent. Inspired by the official Olympic Torch relay, the Real Relay is an attempt to get a single baton around the country, on foot, following the course of the official torch in, well, a relay; a relay run by real runners over 9 to 12 mile stretches, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Oh, and to see if money could be raised for a good cause too, with donations being made to CHICKS, provides free, week long respite breaks for disadvantaged children from across the UK.

I feel very lucky, proud and privileged that I was able to take part in this event. It turned out to be quite an adventure.
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A Challenger Appears

I want to show you something:

That’s the t-shirt I got last year at the Lakeland 100 registration. It’s a competitors t-shirt, worn by those who took part.

I’ve never worn it.

I made that decision when I pulled out of the race last year because I didn’t feel I deserved to wear it. So it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since, teasing me. Taunting me. Challenging me.

John Kynaston has posted a list of his three goals for the Lakeland 100 – bronze, silver and gold targets that he’s aiming for. It’s a good way of spreading bets on a result but also a good mental support for runners. Setting a time goal alone is tricky because there’s always the chance that if your pace slows and you get it into your head that you won’t make the target and the thought of giving up becomes very, very tempting. Stu recently found that in the SDW100. I found it last year, after a fashion, because my head was not on the race but on the idea of not getting too tired to see my friend. Big mistake – my focus should have been on the race.

So this year I’ve already set up some targets and now, with two weeks to go, it’s time to share them.
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Sports Relief Mile 2012

I ran the Sports Relief mile this morning. Well, I say “ran”, but it was definitely a jog. But I did it with my children as it was their first running event (outside of school Sports days etc). My son (6 years old) ran all the way with me and we completed the two circuits of the park it was being held at in about 12 or 13 minutes. My 4yo daughter walked most of it with her mother but covered the distance and was delighted to get a medal.

I am very proud. That is all.

Hardwick X-Stream

The Hardwick X-Steam, organised by Bearbrook Running Club, is a race I’ve been meaning to do for years except I never remember to enter it until after the fact. I didn’t forget this year though. The race is a 6 mile cross-country affair mostly around fields. The main features of the course are hinted at in the name of the race – X-Stream: cross stream. (The name can also be read as ‘Extreme’ which makes the name doubly clever and impressive. Oh yes.) There are three water crossings on the hilly 6 mile course which means it’s both cold, muddy and all together exciting.

Being reasonably local there were quite a few people from my club in attendance (the race is also part of our clubs Off-road Championships so that’s another reason people came). All of us (but for a few of the guys who were going to be challenging for the top spots) grouped together at the start, waiting for the gun. At the bang, the crowd moved off quite fast, all trying to get past the muddy area by the first gate which would become a quagmire after 280 people had passed through it. I definitely set off too fast, trying to get in front of a lot of the crowd. I always do and don’t know why because it’s invariably a move that comes back to haunt me later.
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Thames Path 100 minus 3 weeks.

I saw UltraDiscoStu on Saturday and he mentioned he was hoping to get a place in the TP100 in March. Sure enough I noticed his Facebook update today said he’d got a place. He also mentioned that he doesn’t feel prepared having only run 57 miles last week. 57 miles? In a week? To compound matters, Jerry mentioned that he’d be running about 55 miles in a 5 day period before starting a taper and wondering if he’d done enough for the race.

In contrast, last week I ran, um, 25 miles all told. I probably would have done another 10 yesterday if it wasn’t for the massive blister I found I had after Saturday’s cross country race. I’ve run maybe 100 miles in the 6 weeks since the start of the year which is an average of 16.6 miles a week. In three weeks time I’ll be attempting to double that in one go. And it was all going so well! So, without further ado, here is the TrailDragon guide on preparing for a 100 mile ultramarathon.
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Revenge is better than chocolate

Lakeland 100 entries opened this morning at 8am. It’s a little after 6pm and there are 135 names on the list already. My name is the 135th.

The UTLD100 finishers medal: it will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine!

Relentless Forward Motion

To date, I’ve had a very quiet year on the race front. I think the tally after 9 months is something like Entered: 4, Started: 3, Finished: 2. I’ve pretty much written off the idea of doing anything major for the rest of 2011 but am looking instead to next year. Obviously, my big goal is going to be entering the Lakeland 100 again but unlike last year where I spent the winter thinking a lot about training and being depressed at the pounds I’d piled on, I intend to do more events more frequently so as to keep up the impetus.

At the moment, my plan involves the following events:

January: Winter Tanners (LDWA)
February: Punchbowl Marathon (LDWA)
March: Thames Path 100
April: Milton Keynes Marathon
June: LAMM
July: Lakeland 100

May is currently clear although at one point I did have it in mind to try my luck in getting an entry for the Grand Union Canal Race but have decided that 145 miles of canal path that soon before the Lakeland is pushing it. I’ve already managed to get my entry in for the Thames Path 100 (Richmond to Oxford) and as that’s at the beginning of March, I can then afford to spend the rest of March recovering and still get 16 weeks of training in before the UTLD. The LAMM is something I’m thinking about as the hill experience 6 weeks before the Lakes will be good. The downside is that it’s another expensive weekend away. And I need a partner. Oh, and there’s that sleeping in tents thing. But hey, I do kind of enjoy it and I do intend to be fitter.

Those aren’t the only races though. Each year my running club has an off-road championships made up from a series of local races and club events. I’ve missed a fair few of them this year for one reason or another (bad diary management for the most part). The local Cross-Country league starts in a couple of weeks too so that’s something to keep me ticking over until February anyway. (The February XC match is the day before the 30 mile Punchbowl marathon so that could be a good weekend.)

Anyone else started sorting their plan out for next year already?

Ridgeway Challenge: Preview

The 8th annual Ridgeway Challenge takes place next Saturday and I’ll be lining up on Ivinghoe Beacon to run the course for the second time. As I’ve been up to my eyeballs in preparation and counting out jelly babies for the last few days, I thought a small preview of the race might be in order.

The race takes place on the historic Ridgeway Trail – an inevitable fact given the name of the event. The course starts at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire and finishes 85 miles later in Avebury in Wiltshire. Now I know what you’re thinking – the map above shows an 87 mile route that finishes at Overton Hill so the race doesn’t cover the whole of the Ridgeway – and you’d be right (and your prize is in the post). After several years of finishing at Overton, the organisers felt that it would be in the best interests of the runners to move the finish to Avebury (less wind and rain, more bacon sarnies) and while the race is advertised as being 85 miles, it works out at being closer to 87; a nasty but important fact for anyone new to the event as the last 5 miles from the checkpoint at Barbury Castle is more like 6.5-7 miles (and feels like 10)!

Anyway, that’s enough controversy – let’s talk about the Ridgeway!
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