Funny really, I just never occurred to me that one day I would run further then the Marathon distance. For all the running I have done, it would have been logical to assume I had at some point run further than the Marathon, especially as at one time in my running career 50 – 60 mile weeks was not uncommon and even up to 70 miles per week had been achieved. Despite this I never ever run a good marathon, well at least by my standards. I had dropped out of more than I had completed and a sub 3-hour should have been possible. Ok, looking back I know understand why, I was running everything too fast and not listening to the ‘old-boys’ at the club who were saying I had too slow down. Oh isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing.
So I ran the roads, 5k (17:45 PB) through to the half marathon (1:22 PB) with my favourite distance being 10 miles – flat or hilly. I was also pretty comfortable with 20 mile racing, especially after a winters base training, even managing a sub 2:07, much to my own amazement. But any further, no way, it just wasn’t going to work out for me, despite my best efforts. Yes, I have my London Marathon medal but beyond the experience of the crowds, the sights of famous landmarks and the atmosphere of such a great event, you can frankly, keep the marathon. Funny, as some of my best coaching moments have been with marathon runners. Strange how things turn out.
You can probably see where this is going. If I wasn’t enjoying the marathon, why would I want to run further? Why would you?
So as my running become less competitive, more around enjoyment and running because you ‘can’, I turned my attention to running in the hills. Trails and the fells had always been a part of family life and holidays, so instead of walking them I began to run and cycle them. If I became tired I just walked, then ran some more. I started to mountain bike and trail run in earnest. What I found was that I would go out for around 15 – 22 mile runs, further on the bike, on back to back days. I loved both the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales in particular so found myself spending an increasing amount of time there. This was all before I moved to live in Sheffield.
So the day I broke the Ultra ‘duck’ was actually in Bowland, May 2008. I was training with the rest of the adventure racers from Team Accelerate AR and we were out planning a course for a forthcoming corporate adventure weekend. The plan was simple enough, to head out onto the hills and to find easily recognisable check points that everyday folks could find, with both a challenging route and one that was not so difficult. The distance we would cover was vaugue, the time we would be out on the hill for, less so. We sorted the routes, found some cracking less explored valleys, had travelled on footpaths and on open ground. It was warmer than expected and we were collecting water from streams for drinking. It kinda felt like a mini adventure as we were making the route up as we ran. By the the time we were headed back to base we had been out for most of the day. Dropping of Snape Fell, I can remember it felt very tough, the legs had definitley felt better, yet we were still moving! So suffering from a little fatigue we made it back to camp and it was at this point that one of the guys checked their GPS, discovering we had covered 33 miles.
So that’s it, the day I ran more than a marathon, the day I least expected it.