If anyone had told me 6 months ago that I was going to run 128km over 5 days I would never have believed them…it’s amazing how quickly things can change!
I’m a fairly regular runner motivated by the need to burn enough calories to justify my love of / addiction to chocolate (Cadbury’s Dairy Milk if you’re interested), chips and cakes and usually make it out for a couple of runs each week, but had been losing motivation and focus when I joined Kerry’s running group last October. I’ve never joined any running club or group before so I was a bit unsure what to expect, but I love it! The people in the group are friendly and supportive which makes the whole thing really enjoyable. We get together every Tuesday morning to either do some speed work or hills which is something I would never be bothered to do on my own, but I’ve really enjoyed the motivation / peer pressure / support that comes when you’re part of a pack.
To help us get through the recent lockdowns (and not being able to meet in groups) Kerry has been sending us out in pairs on Tuesday mornings (instead of run group) and has been setting a challenge each month. So far there have been Run 300km before Christmas, 4x4x48 (I missed this one), Run your age in KMs each week to name but a few and (to bring us back on topic) the “Run the Classics” challenge. The idea is that on consecutive days you run a 5km, 10km, half marathon, marathon and 50km…on consecutive days! What a ridiculous challenge…who’d be stupid enough to sign up for that? C’est moi.
Since joining Kerry’s run group I had been running more regularly and the previous challenges had helped me up my weekly mileage, so I felt ok about doing the 5km, 10km and half…but following that with a marathon…and then following a marathon with a 50km!! No way, I thought, but I’ll try for the marathon and even if I don’t finish it’ll still be a great running experience.
I’ve run a couple of marathons (last one 2 years ago) and one 50km (4 years ago) before so I knew I could do each of the distances individually, even if it was slow, but in the lead up to the first day I kept having waves of fear (I’m not going to make it. I’m going to injure myself. I can’t do it) and exhilaration (…but if I finish it…what an achievement) and I was glad when the waiting was over and we could get started.
To help keep the motivation high Kerry organised a daily Zoom call for everyone taking part and it was great to hear from the other runners about how they were feeling, what they had achieved and the experiences they had had. The group was made up of people with various levels of running experience and not everyone was taking on all the runs, some were using it as an opportunity to run the 5km they had been training for, others were doing it up to the half marathon and all variations in between, the lovely thing was that everyone taking part was there to support each other with encouragement and praise (did I mention that the people are all lovely? 😃).
My strategy was simple…run each of the distances as slowly as possible to conserve strength for the biggies. However, as someone once said “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” and so it was for me when someone in the group said they wanted to try for a PB on the 5km. Starting off with a fast 5km wasn’t ideal, but I felt pretty good afterwards…so on to the 10km, this time I kept to my plan nice and steady and made it through with no problems. My confidence was building, my body seemed to be holding up well with no sign of any niggles.
Next up the half marathon, this time I recruited a friend to run with me. It really helped having someone to keep me company during the run and the chat made the time fly by. Another one ticked off! Now I was starting to think about something that had seemed impossible at the start of the week…I might actually be able to do this! Just the minor issue of a back to back marathon and 50km to get through first, but at least I had passed the halfway mark (in the number of runs if not distance). Things were getting serious at this point and so on Saturday morning I set off with my friend again (thanks Keith!) to start the marathon…I had company for the first 20km (surprisingly most people don’t seem that up for running a random marathon!) and then was on my own again. The sun was shining and the scenery was beautiful (it’s one of the benefits of living in Bath!) and as the miles clocked up and the remaining KMs ticked down I realised that I was going to finish the marathon and started to dream about the final step…
Finally Sunday morning dawned and with it, as I opened my eyes, came the aches and pains of running nearly 80km in 4 days. Tight hamstrings…check, sore glutes…check, aching calves…check - you get the picture, but even though my body was tired and slightly battered I knew that I only had one more run to finish…one more 50,000m run to do…and then I could lie down…for quite a long time. One of the things I love about long distance running is that you can basically eat any and everything that you fancy, so, after a big breakfast, I stocked up on snacks and water and set off. To make the last run more bearable Kerry had arranged for those of us who were local to run in roughly the same area for moral support and so it was that as the hours passed I achieved what had seemed impossible only a few days before…128km in 5 days. I was really proud of myself and frankly couldn’t believe I’d done it!
After having an ice bath (apparently that’s good for recovery!), a big Sunday roast (that’s definitely good for recovery!), a couple of beers and a few hours on the sofa I was sat trying to work out how it had happened. The only thing I could think of was the story about the boiling frog where (at this point I’d like to stress I have no practical experience of this!) if you put a frog into a pan of boiling water it is supposed to jump straight out, but if you put it in a cold pan of water and gradually heat it up it doesn’t notice until it’s too late…starting out with distances that we all knew we could do and gradually ramping it up made each step seem doable (it’s only double what we did yesterday…) and ultimately meant that we all achieved some pretty amazing things!
I think the main lesson I learned was that anything is possible…if you break it down into small enough bits!
Well done to everyone who took part - we all conquered our own personal mountains…
…and a big thank you to Kerry for organising it and keeping us all motivated…bring on the next challenge!