In truth, I’d been wanting to test the waters with a running distance longer than a marathon for some time. So when a race was launched that started and finished in my home town, I felt it was a sign. It also gave me an excuse to do lots of running and rack up some miles for my 3000 miles total.
The only thing I knew about ultra-running was that you go slowly and you eat cake. This sounded like excellent preparation. The Fox Ultra was in April, which is perfect for being able to find training partners who are ramping up for spring marathons. I found myself a schedule for a similar distance and started following it; sort of. I’m an experienced marathon runner so I tend to think that at some point, muscle memory will kick in and I can keep going. After a couple of long runs, I was beginning to doubt this though.
My training led to me running more miles in a week than I’d ever done, which inevitably led to fatigue, but thankfully no injuries. Until I rolled up my yoga mat one morning and my back kind of popped. This wasn’t good. I lay on the floor for a couple of days. I had some treatment from an osteopath. I had to admit that I couldn’t run the first half marathon I had pencilled in as training. I would probably be ready for the one I had scheduled the week after though: speed didn’t matter, as long as I could make it round. The days ticked over, more treatment, still not walking properly, still can’t sit down comfortably and failing on my “fitness to run test” (can I put my socks on without some sort of contortion). So another DNS – I may have been able to shuffle round the course, but I couldn’t actually sit in the car for long enough to get there.
I decided that my priority had to be to get to the start line for the Fox, so I gave myself another week to recover. That left me a month to build up and then taper down my running distance. I started with 1 mile, and went from there.
Fortunately running became easier and I managed to fit in a 30 mile week, alongside lots of stretching and back mobility exercises.
The week of the run came round very quickly. A couple of days before I was feeling a bit strange. I realized that I was feeling nervous. This event was something new, that I didn’t know if I could do, and I’d told a whole heap of people who had generously donated and were waiting to find out how I did.
Fortunately the race started early so there was no hanging around! The route takes runners on a 60km (37 miles) loop around Guildford, taking in the best of the Surrey countryside. Despite worrying about getting lost, I managed to only make a slight detour from the well-marked out route. The feed stations appeared when they were supposed to. I felt like giving up between 35 and 45km. I felt like giving up a lot during that period, but I knew I was running for a good cause, so stopping just wasn’t an option. The downhills were more painful than the uphills in the last 20km, but finally I was back on familiar territory and I knew that I would make the finish.
What can I say? It’s a long way. It’s hard work. I kept remembering why I’d entered: to raise awareness and funds for a super-cool charity. It’s the kind of distance where people ask you “WHY?” I had a good answer. Cricket Without Boundaries uses cricket to deliver crucial health and social messages working across sub-Saharan Africa tackling HIV, FGM and more.
If you can make a donation, it will help me to recover a bit more quickly so I can catch up on my 3000 miles target. There’s still a long way to go and you really will make a difference – to me, to one of the many children I’ll be coaching in Uganda and to the world in general.