Last week I took part in the UK’s largest ultramarathon – the 100km Race to the Stones.
If you had asked any of my friends 12 months ago whether I’d ever do an ultra – after some expletives, they would all have just laughed.
Well, I did and here is my story.
We moved from London to Bath in April 2015. I continued to work in London which meant anything up to 20 hours a week sitting on trains. I was 43, becoming increasingly less active and heavier than I liked to admit to myself. Going to a gym never held much appeal but I had enjoyed a bit of running. I ran the London Marathon in 2008 and a couple of half marathons but a typical run was 3 or 4 miles. I’d be good for a few months and then lapse and find myself back at square one.
Then I met Kerry. We talked about my goal of becoming a stronger runner and I started to train with her on a Friday morning. I loved it. I’d end most sessions in an exhausted heap but I felt I was starting to see real progress. And then, whilst doing some HIIT training on my own, I strained my knee. Nothing too serious but it cost me most of the next 12 months as far as running was concerned. My knee would flare up from time to time and I had confidence issues with putting load through it. I felt like all that early good work had been lost.
During this period, Kerry gave me a copy of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I was immediately inspired and before I’d finished the book, I was completely committed to the idea of running an ultramarathon. Kerry was 100% behind me so I went the whole hog and signed up the Race to the Stones.
Time to get the knee fixed. A few months of regular physio and focus and it was starting to feel much more stable. I went for my first run in several months over Christmas this year.
Our Friday sessions began to focus on the strengthening I’d need to support my running. More often than not this involved a TRX strapped to goalpost in Bloomfield Park. And then in the Spring we went up on the Cotswold Way to do some hill repeats. That was in many ways a turning point. Within 10 minutes from home I had access to a quite wonderful running route. I spent many hours over the next few months running up and over Landsdown, steadily adding time and miles until my sessions were up to 5 hours and I was miles north of the M4.
The way your body becomes accustomed to long running was a real eye-opener. A 20 mile weekend run could be followed with a speedier 10km just a couple of days later. The more I ran the more I enjoyed it. Unlike in previous attempts I had no problem motivating myself to get up on the Way. Spectacular views, testing terrain, cows and sheep and lots of time to let your mind wander.
Fast forward to the days before the run. Nutrition, pace, how much to carry… I was confused and felt like such a novice. Kerry explained everything I need to do and we made a plan.
It’s now a few days since the run and all I have are happy memories. It’s a brilliant event staged across a lovely stretch of the country. My wife Charissa and kids, Ava and Alexa were at every pit stop from 40km. That was a great lift and added some fun to each mini stage. At 85km on one of the few roads we ran along, a car passed and out jumped Kerry! Although not dressed to run she joined in for 5 mins which was another great lift to my mood at just the right time.
I finished up at 12:40am. It had taken me 15hrs 10 mins and I was chuffed to bits. I finished in the top half of all men which was much better than I was expecting at the start. I’d made up 90 places over the second 50km. Other than some sorry looking toes I felt great – the plan had worked to a tee.
Would I do it again? Yes!
Could you do it? Well, if I can – believe me – you can. First step, talk to Kerry, she’s the best in the business