A wise man once said, “You will never be able to escape your heart, so it is better to listen to what it has to say.” (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist)
Which is why, in a little over 3 weeks time, I’ll be in a field somewhere in the Chiltern hills ready to put one foot in front of the other and cover 100 kilometres along one of the country’s ancient footpaths. My destination? The ancient stone circle at Avebury. Why? Well, this is the big question, isn’t it. I’m not sure of the answer to that yet, but I know I’m supposed to do it. Events over the last 3 years have somehow been leading me to this moment, or maybe there’s something else even bigger over the next hill, so I’m going to trust in myself and give it my best.
Currently, especially in the heat of the past few weeks, I am feeling inadequate and unprepared, especially when I look at the weekly mileage some of my ultra training peers are putting in, and I wonder, can I really do this? Can I really run 100 kilometres in one go? And why am I even putting myself through this? The thing is, I know it’s going to hurt. I know there will be (many) moments on that ancient Ridgeway path next month where I will question my sanity and my motivation so I’m delving deep inside now to think about why I have accepted this challenge.
The truth is, Race to the Stones was not in the plan this year. In fact there wasn’t even a plan to do an ultra at all, but somehow the universe has conspired to test me, and I’m not sure why. I have had a lasting urge to try ultra distance shortly after swearing “Never again” after my first marathon in London only 3 years ago. It’s as though the universe wants me to keep going because shortly after uttering those words, I didn’t enter the London Marathon ballot, but in the October, shortly after the ballot results had been announced, I received a tweet from the London Marathon to say I had won a place in the 2015 event. I genuinely couldn’t turn it down – it was meant to be. So I ran it, and since then I have wondered how far I could go, but had never been brave enough to take that step. I wasted last year “trying to improve my 10k time”, so this year I decided to take the plunge and see whether I fared better when racing long distance, so I entered Manchester Marathon, and finally decided to enter that ultra while I was already marathon fit. It turns out I still hate marathon distance but I managed to go sub 4 hours which I was thrilled at. The eye was still on the big prize of 40 miles at the Dukeries Ultra in May. (A huge thanks to UKRunChat and Breathe Unity PR for making both of these events happen for me by the way.) You can read all about my Dukeries experience here, but I will say although it hurt, it left me wondering if I can do that, what else am I capable of?
Four days before Dukeries, a really strange thing happened. I was on a run with Jason @outrunninghills who was preparing for Race to the Stones, and we were talking about our dream races. Race to the Stones has been on my want-to-do list for a while – I remember seeing images which @ChallengeSophie had posted when she took part in it a few years ago and they really inspired me. I also remember her saying how it was the hardest thing she had ever done. Without belief in myself however, it seemed a very extravagant outlay, so I had not entered and had no plans to do it this year. That same day I was telling Jason it was my dream race however, later in the afternoon, something really strange happened. An email arrived from the PR company for the event sponsors asking would I like to take part in it. Of course, I HAD to say yes! So I agreed to join the Dixons Carphone team and do the 100km option. The universe really is always listening. I took this offer as a sign that I’m meant to do this which is why I’m not too worried about those niggly self-comparisons my conscious mind keeps making as I read about my social media peers’ training. The crucial thing is that everybody responds differently to training. I seem to take a long time to recover from long distances (20+ miles), but I can happily do 2-3 runs per day to get my mileage in, so I’m doing what feels right and trusting in my own body, as I know it will get me through on the day.
The wonderful team at @CurrysPCWorld have provided me with a load of tech to help with my training, for which I am very grateful, and with the big event only just over 3 weeks away I am getting excited about fulfilling a dream I’ve had for the past few years. I am confident that I will complete Race to the Stones. My plan is to set off at a sensible pace, and make sure I stay well hydrated and fuelled. I have had the opportunity to thoroughly test my fuelling strategy of Tailwind and regular snacks and as long as I don’t give into temptation to sit down at that midway 50km checkpoint, I know my legs will let me carry on.
I’m excited about the opportunity to take part in this iconic event, and I’m most excited to find out where this may lead me to next.