The only goal I originally set out to achieve this year was to #Run1000Miles, which seems incredible looking back at what I’ve subsequently managed to achieve this year. I had subscribed to Trail Running Magazine at the end of last year, having achieved my 2016 goal of breaking a sub-50 10k, so the new challenge seemed a great idea. I was averaging just under 90 miles per month and had netted 1,076 miles the previous year, so 1000 seemed a nice target to set again. So what happened next?
A wonderful opportunity came my way to participate in the Manchester Marathon, representing team UKRunChat. Initially I declined. I didn’t want to run any more road marathons. I had scratched that itch at London the previous two year. Marathon box ticked. Or was it? I had completed two marathons, yes. I had also run a very fun, informal trail marathon with The 401 Challenge Ben Smith recently and had absolutely loved it. My recent and very hard earned 10k PB made me realise that perhaps I hadn’t given the marathon distance my all yet, and demonstrated my true potential, so I set a rather audacious goal of trying to break 4 hours (or in other words, knocking 32 minutes off my previous best time). I then set about booking in races and gritting my teeth through winter training.
I booked in a lot of long trail races this year as part of marathon training because (a) road bores me to death and (b) road absolutely kills my joints. I love trail, so some fun adventures followed. I returned to Hebden for the second year running, and had an absolute blast with Jason and Claire for company. You can read the full blog here. During Hebden, Jason told me about the unofficial parkrun tourism club which ignited a fiery tourism spark as I ordered my new cow cowl and made plans to visit many more new parkruns, starting with Runcorn’s Phoenix parkrun inaugural.
Later that month I met up with Jon Rumley for a long run along the Wirral’s coastline and a brief introduction to the Birkenhead parkrun course (I promise I will visit that one before the year is out!).
February saw so much fun training with my running groups, and also a first lady finish at Knowsley parkrun which I was thrilled at. The talented Ben Lumley also came to visit Lincoln to photograph us running, and the beautiful images on this website are the product of his labour that day. You can read about our fun day as running models here.
February saw me do my 100th parkrun too. The month culminated in the Belvoir Challenge, which was a tough cross country event in vile weather, but the cake was worth it. You can read the full blog here.
March started with more tourism, this time to a very muddy Humber Bridge parkrun and then many beautiful spring trail runs ahead of my most anticipated trail race of the year – the Grindleford Gallop. I had been nervous about this one due to the topography of the Peak District, but I was also looking forward to spending a day admiring beautiful scenery. I had an absolutely fabulous day, and was pleasantly surprised with a time of 3:55 for 21 very hilly miles. Not bad going. You can read the full race report here. Then it was taper time for Manchester marathon, with my longest run done.
I met up with Paul Baker for a run around Lincoln to show him the sights, after he joined us for a spot of parkrun tourism, and with 13.1 miles run that day, I was planning to take the Gainsborough 10k the following day easy, but a surprise PB awaited as I knocked almost a minute off my PB from the previous November. I was astounded, and that result gave me bags of confidence ahead of Manchester Marathon, which you can read all about here.
After the ecstasy of a sub-4 marathon, April was a relatively quiet month with some parkrun tourism at Rushcliffe, and helping a client through her first half marathon at Oswestry Half Marathon.
May was my first ultra. Gulp. How did this happen? May was supposed to be a quiet month recovering from my marathon, but sometime back in January, I had signed away my soul by entering my first and only ultra (yeah, I genuinely believed that at the time). I picked a somewhat ambitious yet achievable distance of 40 miles, and then set about trying to forget the inevitable tick of the ultra clock as the big day drew closer. Many people told me I shouldn’t be doing it. Many people thought I’d gone crazy. Many people probably thought I couldn’t do it. But I went and did it anyway, and two days later signed up for the 100 kilometre Race to the Stones. Turned out I had lost my marbles.
Seriously though, running an ultra is the most incredibly life-affirming thing I have ever done, coming a close second to giving birth to my daughter. It cemented my belief that anybody can achieve anything they put their mind to, no matter how crazy it might sound, which is why 100km then didn’t sound as daunting. You can read the full blog about my first ultra here, and hopefully you’re inspired to try it too.
The end of May was definitely holiday time, although you know me, no time for rest – this was an active holiday with Neilson, and I really made the most of all the activities on offer. There’s a full review here.
June saw a long run in Clumber park with Jason and Paul, a run around the Lincoln Knights trail and a HORRIBLE 20 mile training run to keep distance in my legs ahead of Race to the Stones. Round Sheffield Run was also a fabulous event, which you can read all about here.
Suddenly we were in July, and before I knew it Race to the Stones was here. I still look back on this race with disbelief at what I have achieved, but this year I am so very proud of myself. I know that I can do anything now. You can read all about my Race to the Stones experience here (squeamish folk beware).
Since then I’ve been recovering. I had a very quiet August (just 75 miles) because my legs have taken a long time to get over 100km. I’ve been doing a lot more walking, but now it’s time to find my running legs again ahead of the Manchester Half Marathon next month.
On reaching the nice round number that is 1000 miles yesterday, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned from those miles so far:
1/ I’ve learned that when I say ‘Never Again’, what I actually mean is, ‘Wait until the pain has passed and the endorphins kick in and you’ll be ready to prove to yourself that you’re capable of so much more.’ This year I wasn’t even meant to be running a marathon, but a PB at Manchester led to a 40 mile ultra, which led me a 100k ultra. I think it’s called the snowball effect, and I’m already thinking about what’s next.
2/ I’ve learned to never give up, mainly because people are always watching. They’re always watching, even when you think they’re not. My 4 year old daughter especially is always watching and listening, and I am conscious that I must prove to her that she can do anything she wants to, even if people try to tell her that she can’t. So I keep going, and I keep challenging myself.
3/ I’ve learned that I need to dream bigger, because so far I’ve achieved everything I’ve challenged myself with. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved this year, but I still feel like I’m selling myself short. If I can keep going for 19 hours, how much further could I go? If I can knock 32 minutes off a marathon personal best, how much quicker could I go? If I can inspire one person, how many more could I inspire?
4/ I’ve learned that my mind is an incredible tool, and the human body is capable of so much more than we give it credit for. To harness the power of our positive thoughts is to open ourselves up to anything really. I’ve also learned that running is a great tool to calm the mind.
5/ I’ve learned to really listen to my body, because it knows best. Recovery, especially after a very long endurance event, takes a really long time. It’s easy to ignore pain signals and fatigue, as well as the less obvious signs of overtraining, but to do that is to invite injury. Rest days are an important part of training too.
6/ I’ve learned the value of great running buddies. This year I have shared a lot of my mileage with great friends through my running groups, and just generally brilliant folk I’ve met through UKRunChat on Twitter. I’ve shared long runs and parkruns this year with Paul, Claire, Jason and Jon, and I’ve met up with so many people at parkruns and races, and I have many more in the planning.
7/ I’ve learned that you can’t be good at everything. Last year I was getting very frustrated with my 10k time, and put so much energy into trying to PB that I wore myself out. This year, now I’ve gone long, I’m even slower, but it doesn’t matter. I would rate this year as my best running year ever! Why? Because I’ve had fun. I’ve entered races for the fun of it, for the views, for the friends doing it.
8/ I’ve learned not to fear failure, but instead to embrace it. If we live shackled in the chains of our fears, it’s impossible to spread our wings and see if we can actually fly. Completing two ultras this year taught me not to fear the unknown, but instead just to go and try it.
So what’s next? I’ve decided to aim for 2017km next, which is another 253 miles. What’s your goal?