Wednesday, May 16, 2012


So what's next? now there's a question............the simple answer being, I don't know. I've just been reading some of my blogs over the past year and its been an interesting journey providing many fun and varied experiences in some of the most beautiful places.  What impression have I given of this sport ? Have I described the reality of it sincerely ? In the races I think I have, because they are all their own unique experience but what is difficult to communicate is the constant focus, hour after hour....its incredibly demanding both mentally and physically. Running for an hour through the woods on a training run is great and taking part in 20k races is really exciting when competing against the others.......but ultra's are very different.
      The actual ultra is hard but the training is sometimes harder. It takes time and sacrifice, not only for me but for family and friends. If I am not out running then I'm back home talking about it and I'm sure to the non-athletes it must be very boring. There are many days when to go out for a 3 to 4 hour training run is the last thing I feel like doing especially when I can't even compete in the actual race. I know the real challenge is against yourself but spending hours just 'toeing the line' can sometimes be both monotonous and soul destroying. Once you have succeeded in achieving your goal, then what? I'm glad that I finally managed to complete a full ultra with no pains or injuries and I would like to build on this......but there is a price to pay....and that is the hours of training. Most people who run ultras do so because they primarily like to just run in nature, be it valleys, forests, mountains or deserts, they have an in built desire to just get out and run. A pair of trainers, shorts, vest and a water bottle and your good to go, its basically pretty simple.......and for many that's the appeal.
Running up the Sorrento peninsular, Italy.
     Why even race at all? I could just go on long adventurous runs for the hell of it; and most of the time thats what I do, be it the rim of the Grand Canyon or the hot desert of Monument valley or perhaps the Peak above Hong Kong or high up in the Alps on a summers evening. Sometimes I have used my running to discover unusual places such as the Manchester Ship Canal at dawn meandering its way for miles under the city.....bizarre I know but still fascinating. Another such occassion was the streets of Toronto at 5:30 am where you witness the sadnes of the underbelly of society or the tow path along the Thames on a cold and frosty night. Of course most of my runs are in nature but wherever I go I always run and I see and experience many different sides of life, city or country.
        Is it dangerous? not really, but there are occassions where if things got out of hand it could be. I broke my leg whilst running about 3 years ago. I was in a ravine but my mobile had a signal and I was able to call for help. Luckily I was very near home with a track to a road. If that had been high up in the Alps at dusk and with a dead phone battery then the outcome could have been very different. But people have accidents every day in the most normal situations and so I think if you are sensible then thats all you can do.
    So back to the question, why race? To me its another experience, you are running with others who have trained like you and there is a sense of the 'event' in that you are all part of something. In some respects its a celebration of what we do........( Am I going off on a tangent here?)....but really it is the completion of the challenge or goal that you have set yourself. You have to finish and hence the emotion at the end; this is a feeling you don't get when running on your own.
         10 days after my last ultra  I began to get an excruciating back pain and an even stranger pain under the arch of my foot. What could this be? I thought maybe a cold draught whilst sleeping, or a dodgy mattress, lumpy pillow, maybe the car I was hiring, bad fitting shoes, stress, aeroplane seats, new chairs in the Cafe, reaching up to fix some curtains, etc etc..........and then it suddenly dawned on me.......could it be something to do with running an ultra marathon up 10,000 feet , over rocky terrain for 10 hours?............Nah, surely not.
        I know it sounds ridiculous but I never considered this option. Most of the time I don't get injured as a result of running, its usually something else. But , as we were going to Italy for a 5 day vacation, I thought I would rest and not run. By the 4th day I still felt bad and so I decided that there was only one possible cure...........
                         Do hill repeats up Mount Vesuvius !..........that did the trick.
     Now the back pain has gone and the foot pain is easing. What does all this mean? Well in my humble opinion I believe its got something to do with not running. I had run non stop for months and then after the race I rested and took it easy.....and so everything began to slowly stiffen up, tendons, joints, muscles, even sluggish blood circulation. Its hard to self diagnose and quite possibly spurious but thats what I think, and it worked, so I'm sticking to it......Happy trails :)

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