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Archive for July, 2015

While chatting to a friend recently, I referred to myself as ‘not a very good runner’. She was amazed; how was it possible that I could run marathons and not be a good runner? I tried to explain that being able to run marathons doesn’t make someone a good runner – to be a good runner you have to be fast, or at least getting faster. I am neither of these things, and happily so. She didn’t accept my put-downs: I’m flattered to think that she thinks I’m a good runner, at least.

I guess that running is yet another of the many ways in which we measure ourselves in life, and as such is one of the many ways in which we compare ourselves to others. I think that I’m not a good runner because most people are faster than me. But then again, plenty of those people have never run a marathon, so how does that fit into this equation? After completing a race, no matter what distance, the first thing anyone asks is ‘what time did you get?’ It’s the default, probably because those people want to know how they stack up against that time, or perhaps because they don’t know what else to ask about a race. But it’s boring, nonetheless; it turns running into a competition, and unless you’re at the front, running is only ever a competition within yourself.

I started competing with myself during my training for my first marathon, back in 2012. I put in some effort – hill sessions, intervals, etc. – and got results when I raced. I set PBs in both my half marathon and 10km distances that year, and for the next 12 months or so, every race that I ran I would get faster. This lasted for about a year, slowly chipping first seconds and then minutes off my times. It felt good – it was awesome to cross that finish line knowing that I’d given my all, and I finally started to feel proud of my running. I still wasn’t a good runner, but I felt that one day, I might be.

I don’t know what happened after that. I got  more into marathon running and stopped doing so many halfs; I got busy with other things and running became more of a way to relax and less of something to really try at. Whatever happened, I got slower, I stopped trying, and my half marathon times crept up again, comfortably above the 2-hour mark that I’d fought against for so long. And guess what? I didn’t care one bit. I was still having fun, loving every race that I took part in and particularly enjoying running them alongside my husband (who likes to take races easy!); my life is so full of pushing hard and trying to constantly be better that I never miss this aspect of running. I could be a faster runner if I really tried, but it turns out that I’m perfectly happy being a slower runner.

I don’t want to suggest that there’s anything wrong with chasing times and constantly trying to better oneself through running. That’s not the case, and I have so much admiration for anyone who can get those super-speedy times, whether without trying or with loads of hard graft. But I think there’s a need to stop putting so much onus on speed and time, as if these are the only important measures to live (or run) by: what about enjoyment – when was the last time anyone asked how much you enjoyed a race? It’s always my first (and often only) question, following on from the necessary congratulations that anyone who runs any distance at any speed deserves. Scott Jurek, one of the world’s greatest runners and a current personal hero of mine, sits at the finish line after he’s completed a race and cheers in every single runner, his view being that every person crossing that finish line has done the same task, gone through the same highs and lows, the same preparations and personal sacrifices.

For me, and I’m sure for many others, running is simply not about speed. Nor is it about self-improvement in any shape or form. In fact, it’s the one area of my life where I am free to just ‘be’, independent of any expectation from myself or others. To go out and lose myself completely, breath and feet working in time with one another, thoughts drifting or standing still or fighting one another or just simply non-existent: that is what I run for. Fitness doesn’t really come into it, it’s just a nice by-product; I guess I would be fitter if it did, but the fact that this doesn’t even bother me speaks for itself. I’m glad it’s worked out this way, and that running is simply my way of meditating and being alone with myself. It’s fulfilling (just as getting a PB in a race is fulfilling), but it means that running always gives, and that I can always take from it – failure (or at least not achieving what I set out to achieve) never comes into it.

Windermere 2013 was the only time that I sensed loss, rather than the ultimate of gains, after a race. I had trained so hard for that marathon, and two years later I’m pretty certain that’s the fittest I’ve ever been. I got my still-standing half marathon PB at Keswick two weeks earlier (seriously, how did I manage to get my PB at Keswick? I’m still impressed by this achievement!), and had been aiming for sub 4:30 at Windermere. Anyway, I had a brutal time in the marathon, and plagued with stomach cramps and the strangest inability to focus my mind for a single moment, I came in at 4:31. It was a PB (at that time, I finally made it below 4:30 at York last year), but still it was a failure, simply because I hadn’t achieved the goal that I set out to achieve. After all that effort and all that agony, I wasn’t able to celebrate. That was the moment that I stopped caring about time-based achievements in running, and I’ve been a happier and more chilled out runner ever since.

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A PB, but not sub-4:30, at Windermere 2013.

Why, in this crazy and paradoxical world, does anyone run? We all have our own stories and motivations, and with that come our own goals and hopes. When we set out, we might be running from something or we might be running towards it. What is true on one run or in one race isn’t necessarily true for the next. There’s no need to define ourselves specifically, and certainly we shouldn’t limit ourselves to being slow or bad or ‘only’ anything; the awesome thing about running is that it makes clear how capable we are as humans. Equally, it can show us how incapable we can be at times, too. But health and fitness are unstable, and at any point that we have both of these – whether we’re achieving a sub-3:30 marathon or jogging around the block once a week – we are ultimately blessed. If we can enjoy running on top of all of that, well, what else matters, really?

All too often, when working in my local running shop, customers would berate themselves for not achieving what they had set out to achieve. Or worse, for not achieving a time that they thought would make them worthy of something, I’m not sure what. But these achievements are too often defined by others – the abilities and stories of other people, which have nothing to do with our own. So why even bother measure ourselves against anything other than the single moment that we’re in? To me, the only question that really matters during a run is am I having fun? Everything else is so time-locked, depending on so many factors (many of which are out of my control) that it’s impossible to let it count for anything at all.

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Running happy at Kielder marathon 2014.

It’s true that I might not be a good runner to many people’s standards. I know that my 10km personal best would be a pretty poor effort for a lot of runners out there. But other people’s standards are not what I live (or run) by. In fact, when I consider my own standards, and what I want to be as a runner (or anything else) I’m pretty much as good as it is possible to be: enthusiastic, adventurous and committed. Having fun on a run is always my main goal these days, and while it always feels good to achieve faster times and longer distances, these two factors are just statistics. Needless to say, there are currently enough statistics in my life already.

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I dream of being one of those people who makes their own nut butters. We always have a massive 1kg tub of peanut butter in the cupboard, as well as cashew butter and tahini. It’s becoming an expensive habit. The one thing that stops me from living my dream of endless nut butters (almond butter, I’m mainly thinking of you here) is our lack of food processor. A while back I worked out that it would cost more to buy a food processor than it would to buy a year’s worth of peanut butter, and so that idea was put to bed along with my almond-buttery dreams.

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But as luck would have it, I recently discovered completely by accident that pumpkin seeds are perfectly blendable with only a stick blender. A few minutes and a rather large amount of seedy dust later, I had my very first batch of homemade seed butter. This recipe is based on a spread that my Dad uses on his sarnies every day: pumpkin and hemp seeds with some flax for texture. It’s a bit grainier than the shop-bought stuff, but I guess the addition of extra oil (or indeed a food processor) would solve that problem very quickly. This literally took 10 minutes from seed to squidge. Well worth the effort!

Pumpkin and hemp butter – makes one small jar

150g pumpkin seeds
50g hemp seeds
3 tbsp flax seed
1/2 tsp salt
Oil (I used extra virgin olive oil but hemp oil would be ideal)

Toast the seeds in a large pan on a medium heat until they begin to pop regularly – you can see the pumpkin seeds splitting and the oil bubbling from them. Pour into a jog or bowl with the salt and 2 tablespoons of oil and blend until it turns into a paste. This took me a couple of minutes. Keep adding more oil until it gets to the consistency that you prefer. Spoon into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge. I have no idea how long it will last but I’m guessing a couple of weeks!20150723_153835

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Ultra-comedown

We all do it: dream up all the things we’re going to do once the big race is over (in my case, go to the pub, do loads of walking, get out on the bikes, have lots and lots of rest), but once we’ve crossed that finish line all we want to do is get running again as soon as possible. So I knew what to expect, as it happens to me every time. What I didn’t expect was the grief-like emotions that disrupted every part of my day, so much so that I was a ghost for about a week, constantly running those trails in my head. For about five nights following the UT55 I ran in my dreams, waking up intermittently as I tripped over rocks to find my legs cramping or spasming as I lay there confused.

I had a sports massage two days after the race, which was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever endured, and certainly the most pain I’ve paid money to put myself through (and yes, I acknowledge that I also paid for the UT55: this statement still stands). Despite the agony, it worked wonders, but as she kneaded and pummeled the race out of my muscles I felt as if I were leaving it all behind, and grief began to set in as soon as we left Ambleside shortly afterwards. This was a new sort of post-race downer, and was potentially much more damaging than the general Eeyore-like state that I’m used to. I started putting myself down for running so badly, for taking so long, for not being prepared enough: I convinced myself that I was a terrible runner and that I’d achieved nothing. This was bad enough in itself, but it then led to the planning of the next challenge – I needed another opportunity to achieve something in order to make up for my failure at the UT55. So there it was; all of my effort both before and during the UT55 was worthless, my crossing the finish line was worthless (despite being so terrified that I wouldn’t make it at all at only 12 miles into the run); it meant nothing and I had to do something else, and better, if I wanted to be worth anything at all.

I’ve since identified these destructive thought patterns as perfectionism. The idea that, no matter what is achieved, it is never enough, and so the perfectionist carries on pursuing and pursuing and pursuing. More and more and more challenging goals are attempted in pursuit of, eventually, some sense of accomplishment. And I guess that accomplishment never comes. I never thought I could be a perfectionist; my life is too messy, too slap-dash, too…goal-driven and structured with strict discipline? Oh yes, perhaps I could be a perfectionist. Perhaps its a common trait of adventure-seekers, always looking for the next goal, the bigger distances, the higher climbs. And what a shame to waste all that effort and glory by simply by-passing it and planning to achieve something bigger and better next time.

It wasn’t until I found the words to tell the tale of my UT55 experience that I was really able to appreciate what I’d achieved. I was towards the back of the pack, as usual, but I was the 23rd senior lady: I was one of a very small number of young women to finish the race (only 36 of the 122 female finishers were seniors), and I’d learned and experienced more in that day than I ever have before. Reading comments from other runners, many of whom I’d run with at some point on the day, really hammered it home, and many of them left me feeling a bit tearful. But finally, these were happy tears, and finally I felt really really proud of the whole thing. And I still feel proud, three weeks later. I’m no longer desperately trying to find ways to ‘make up for’ my first attempt at ultra running, and realising that my thought processes were driven by perfectionism was helpful in forcing me to mediate those naughty negative ideas that killed the initial glory that I should have experienced when I was still in Ambleside and still hobbling around. That should have been proud hobbling!

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So what have I been up to? Well, not running, mostly. I’ve only just started going out again for anything more than a 2-mile potter, as it took me two weeks to run half a mile without having to stop for a rest. I’ve been teaching myself how to listen more carefully, and how to be gentle; I hope I can move forwards with this new approach and avoid the illnesses that hit me as a result of over-training prior to the ultra (tip: if running suddenly becomes hard, take 3 days off; if it’s still hard, take another 3 days off – one week off does nobody any harm). Daniel and I have been going swimming once a week, which has been wonderful even though I absolutely hate swimming. We’ve also been enjoying lots and lots of walking, and spent a weekend gaining our bronze navigation skills award in the Yorkshire Dales.

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We have also spent plenty of time in the pub, had some proper weekend lie-ins, and brunched and lunched our way through York. Life has a lot to offer, and training for a big race can distort that. I worry that, on the whole, we runners are too hard on ourselves, planning one big race after another after another after another. Always chasing times and goals as if they’re important. They’re not. We celebrate pushing through and often ignore the importance of stopping, pulling out where needed, acknowledging that we’ve done enough. For the average Joe, running marathon or ultra distances doesn’t benefit our health and fitness in any way (I would even say that it might have a pretty negative impact – opposing views welcome!), and when we start to obsess over needing to achieve something new as soon as we cross one finish line, well, maybe it’s time to reassess those thought processes.

This has been a really steep learning curve for me, for many reasons, not just the ones I discuss here. I can’t say that I’m not keen to do another marathon this year, but perhaps the challenge would actually be to not do another marathon. We’ll see. For now, the lie-ins and the pancake brunches are proving way too good to forego.

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I have no idea how to even begin to describe my UT55 experience. It was both the most brutal and the most brilliant thing I’ve done, and I’ve spent the past five days in a sort of trance, unable to think of anything else. I feel a little lost now it’s over; I find myself running those trails constantly, in my thoughts and in my dreams – I’m reluctant to return to the normal world, not just yet.

The UT55 was so different from what I expected. It wasn’t ‘just’ a marathon with 10 miles on the end. It wasn’t ‘only’ 55km. I’d talked myself down constantly in the run-up to the event, unfairly comparing it as a lesser challenge than the 110km route that many other runners (including my Dad) would be taking on at the same time. And fair enough, it was half the distance and half the ascent, but there was no ‘only’ about any of it, and I paid for my ignorance over every single one of those 55km 58.1km. Because this event wasn’t about the distance; the 55km part was just a small detail in relation to the climbs, the downhills, the terrain, the pain, the heat, the nausea, the fear, the sweat… Three weeks prior I ran the Lakeland Trails marathon at ‘ultra pace’ in six hours; with ‘only’ 10 extra miles to run I’d estimated what I thought was an overly conservative finishing time of 9 hours. Oh how wrong I was.

The days prior to the event had been agonising. I’d missed out on a lot of training thanks to general over-tiredness and a too-busy schedule, and on the Thursday my doctor diagnosed an annoying sore throat as pharyngitis and advised me to consider not running on Saturday. From that point I had almost exactly 48 hours until the start, most of which I spent obsessing over my swollen glands, gargling saltwater and consuming a large amount of very expensive Manuka honey (I even bought the 10+ variety – anything to get me to that start line!). My missing appetite wasn’t helping, and I became immersed in a self-obsessed gloom that would not budge. But, after an unusually long pre-race sleep and a surprisingly hearty breakfast (neither sleep nor eating come easily to me before races), by 10:30am on Saturday morning I felt calm and eager to start the race. The odds seemed to be stacked against me, but by this point the only thing I could do was start running and see how far I could get before I needed to stop.

The start of the race was unconventional and inspiring. Graham (Lakeland Trails Race Director) announced that Kim Collison, extremely smiley TeamGB ultra runner, was about to finish the 110km race, and so our race started with the finish of another: cheering in an awesome runner and his huge grin as he claimed the course record after under 11 hours on the trails (wow). Batala Lancaster set the pace with their amazing drumming, and with that familiar rising sensation in my chest we were off – the UT55 had begun!

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The race details described the first leg as ‘a struggle to Kirkstone Pass’, and this was by no means an exaggeration. Not even half a mile in and we had all slowed to a walk – this felt totally counter-intuitive so early on in a race, but I followed the lead of those around me and pushed my legs up the massive climbs. Roads gave way to trails, by which point I’d already reached the realisation that this was nothing like marathon running. The atmosphere was relaxed and extremely friendly – we were all in it together, rather than trying to push ourselves past one another in some egotistical chase of a number-driven goal. The sun was out, everyone was smiling and chatting – I felt very content, though very aware of my swollen glands and sore throat.

I kept telling myself that every uphill step earned me a downhill step for later, but I soon ate my words after we passed the first checkpoint at the top of Kirkstone Pass. Leg two was described as ‘downhill to Brotherswater’, but even this first descent was quite technical and tough on the thighs, and was nothing compared to what was in store a few miles down the trail. It wasn’t too far downhill before we finally reached some lovely flat terrain – the first of the course so far – and I got chatting to those around me, soaking in the sunshine and really enjoying myself. Before I knew it 9 miles had passed – the point at which I usually have my first snack, but I was lost in conversation and didn’t bother to stop and eat anything. Two miles later we hit the second checkpoint at Glenridding, which was roaring with support and boasted a little tent filled with snacks, water and energy drink. I stopped here for my first jacket potato (I mainly supplied my own fuel on this race as I wasn’t keen to repeat the ‘wheaty sandwich’ incident from a training run – I’ve steered clear of wheat ever since), took on plenty of water and some Coke (Lakeland Trails events are the only time I ever drink Coke, but it must be the best running fuel there is), and then hurried off out of Glenridding. I knew the biggest climb was coming up, and I didn’t want to lose my momentum by stopping for too long at the checkpoint.

At this point the whole thing went simultaneously uphill and downhill, and both were equally massive and uncomfortable. It was only mile 12; I should have been filled to the brim with energy and enthusiasm, but not long after the checkpoint I started to feel really strange. Perhaps it was the heat – I was climbing and climbing and sweat was running off me on the first proper sunny day of the year – or perhaps it was the fact that I’d failed to get any fuel in me until mile 11, but I started to feel incredibly sick, tired and dizzy. My throat hurt, I started to panic, I felt more sick, more dizzy. Suddenly I was really cold and shivery even though the sun was blazing down. I didn’t want to run, and I didn’t know how I could possibly keep going for another 24 miles. I started to get a bit tearful; I wanted to speak to my Mum, to get some rational view on how I felt and some words of comfort. But there was no phone signal and she would almost certainly have told me to return to Glenridding and pull out. So I kept plodding forwards, much too aware of the water sloshing around in the bottle that sat right over my stomach. The nausea rose and fell, the heat irritated me more; I kept breathing long slow breaths and tried to stay calm. I spoke to myself aloud ‘stay calm, just focus’. I ate a fudge bar and felt a little better. Mile 13 passed, the trails were lovely and the day was just beautiful. Let’s just get to the next check point, where Daniel will be waiting.  And then, in slow motion just as last time, I fell hard onto the floor. I can still hear the thuds of my body as various bits slammed against the ground – luckily I hadn’t been running very fast, or the fall would have been harder. Even more luckily, my hands responded this time, and stopped my face from hitting the rocky ground. My knee and leg weren’t so lucky, and as I crawled back up mud and blood intermingled in a gooey mess down my shin. The lady ahead turned back to check that I was ok – ‘I think so’ – I washed myself in a nearby spring, started running a bit more. Things couldn’t have felt any worse at that point. Mile 13 and I was ready to stop.

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The hardest point of the race came almost precisely after that moment. The path veered upwards, rocky scree underfoot, and soon I’d caught up with a number of other runners who were also trying to make the ascent. More runners piled up behind, and I think it’d be fair to assume that we were all going through something similar. The climb kept on coming; even walking this path was difficult, and my anxiety, nausea and dread melted away in the effort. This was the point where I really began to draw on those around me, all chatting with good-humour to try and relieve the burn in our legs and the fatigue that was creeping as far as my fingertips already. At this point I let go of all of my shattered expectations and realised that every step was a new challenge – every step was unknown and the only thing I could guarantee in the moment. Letting go of all of this made the load much lighter; the nausea disappeared and I didn’t see the sore throat again until 2 days after the run.

I say that was the hardest point of the race. In fact, I just assumed it would be the hardest point because it was the biggest climb. But no, the hard part was the excruciating descent once we’d passed Grisedale Hause. I could feel the fibres in my thighs shredding into pieces. Oh my, it was agony. Again, the runners kept me going, as well as the promise of seeing Daniel, who was waiting just three miles away. I was way behind schedule and had no signal to let him know – I knew he’d be very worried by now.

The heat of the day hit at around 3pm, and as we came down from the mountains it started to get very hot, but at least I was able to get some proper running in, pushing myself as much as I could to get to the checkpoint at Grasmere. I felt stones in my shoes, but when I took them off to empty them there was nothing there; not even 15 miles in and I already had a number of nasty blisters developing, thanks to the combination of heat and damp in my shoes. I decided to push forwards and hoped they’d go away; stupid really, since I learned (the hard way) years ago that blisters don’t just disappear.

Arriving at the checkpoint was a real high; Daniel ran with me for a bit and then I went inside to get a cup of sweet tea. We sat down in a shady area (first time off my feet in 5 hours!) and I ate some more food, gulped down loads of water and topped up my bag with extra food and fluid. Daniel covered me in more suncream and gave my shoulders a rub. Pack heavy, replenished and feeling positive I set off again, wondering how on earth my Dad was able take on double the challenge – I’d heard from him at about 9am, when he’d already completed the full distance of my race.

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This is where my race strategy really started. The plan had been to get through the first 18 miles, then on to the checkpoint at mile 23, and then I’d see Daniel again at the final checkpoint at mile 28. My newly-refreshed mind was able to focus on these smaller milestones, and so I decided to take the next five miles carefully, one mile at a time: at this point I felt for the first time that I might actually be able to finish. And, despite aching knees, agony in my thighs and blisters covering the majority of the soles of my feet, I really started to enjoy the running. The support from marshalls and bemused passers-by was simply astounding, and the runners around me felt more like friends than near-strangers. At the next check point I caught up with Maria, a lady I’d run with at the marathon, and it was great to see a familiar face and to swap ultra-notes. I heard myself proclaiming ‘only a half marathon to go!’ at this point: looking back I can’t quite believe that this somehow reassured me! Still, I’d reached my check point – so far so good – and the next challenge was a 10km run to Stickle Barn Tavern, where Daniel would be waiting.

Just put one foot in front of the other. That’s all I had to do; I kept reminding myself that the only challenge was in the moment, to move forwards step-by-step despite what was now excruciating pain in my feet. I had blister plasters, they were part of the mandatory kit, but the problem was that I didn’t have spare socks and I couldn’t bear to remove my crusty ones and then have to put them on again. The good thing was that the pain had become irrelevant – my only clear thought was getting to the next mile, and then to the next checkpoint. Running is a meditation for me, and I can’t remember at all what went through my head in this final half of the race. I was enjoying it, and I wasn’t feeling unwell or anxious or negative in any way, so all I can assume is that I was lost somewhere without any thoughts. The Lakeland fells and the tap-tap-tap of feet on surface allow that kind of escape from everything; it’s why the idea of travelling so far on my own two feet was so appealing in the first place.

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The peace that I’d found in this penultimate leg was shattered in the best possible way at Stickle Barn Tavern. It was overrun with people – runners, spectators, marshalls, casual diners, cyclists – and the buzz of excitement (only 7 miles to go!) was fuel in itself. I took some soup and a cup of tea and stumbled back onto a bench outside. It was gone 7pm by this point (8 hours on my feet) and the glow and scents of the evening cast a warm tinge over everything. Daniel had brought Coke, which I gulped down, and presented me with four more Fudge bars which I refused. I’m not sure I want to eat another Fudge bar in a long time. With some trepidation I got up and started running into the evening, assuring Daniel that I’d see him soon enough at the finish. With only 7 miles to go I was pretty certain that I’d get to the finish, I just had to keep putting those feet in front of one another.

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Thanks to James Kirby as always for the excellent photos!

Surprisingly, these last 7 miles were the easiest for me. There was a lot of smooth surface to run on, and I was able to keep running without stopping to walk for miles at a time. Everything hurt, but it was irrelevant – I could keep going forwards, and so I would keep going forwards. My Garmin beeped me through 30 miles and I got a rush of excitement: this was a strange new territory, but I quite liked it. At mile 31 I felt the sharpest and worst pain yet; it came and went in a moment, yet it led me to cry out in agony as I felt as if I’d stepped onto a shard of glass or a nail. Something warm tricked over my toes, and I realised that the worst blister had popped: finally I was free to run on my forefeet again!

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I was pretty much alone for these last few miles, intermittently catching up with or being caught up by familiar faces. At mile 32 I started singing to myself Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen (unfortunately I only know a few lines so it got a little repetitive) and Superman by Goldfinger (I know all the words to that one). Mile 32, how had that happened? Only a Parkrun-plus-a-warm-up left. Mile 33 – only a Parkrun left to go; each mile seemed easy when I imagined setting off from my front door and running down the river and over the bridge until my Garmin beeped one mile outside Rowntree Park. Not far at all. Mile 34 and a marshall assured me that there were only two climbs left and then it was all downhill. Two climbs and downhill? There was nothing ‘only’ about any of that, but then I’d get over another mountain if I had to; I’d run 34 miles, I could do anything! Mile 35 and day finally turned to dusk, which made me a little sleepy after 10 hours of running. I could hear a tawny owl, and beyond that, the finish line. Then came the downhill of my worst nightmares, so much so that I had to cut out the running and walk – my eyes were watering from the screaming in my shredded thighs. But then we were in Rothay Park, and there were people cheering and clapping, and my legs took over and the pain disappeared: I was sprinting around the corner, cheered on by people who I’d been encouraging onwards hours and miles ago. I saw Daniel, and my Dad standing next to him, and part of me didn’t want to be finished quite yet.

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Awestruck, of myself and of everyone else. Of Graham Patten and the Lakeland Trails team who completed an ultramarathon of organisation that weekend. Of the marshalls who were the kindest people I’ve ever met even after hours standing around taking care of us tired and hungry runners. Of the people cheering. Of all of the other runners, equally the fastest and the slowest of us all – we achieved something brilliant on Saturday, whether or not we crossed that finish line (a good number didn’t; pulling out can take more strength than staying in). Of the guy with the cowbell who cheered me up on both occasions that I passed him – never underestimate the power of a cowbell. Or of a Fudge bar and some Coke. Of my Dad who ran double the distance and still had the energy to complain that he didn’t do a very good job (something that I am often guilty of myself). Of my husband who gave up his Saturday to support me, and who was, on a few occasions, the only reason I carried on. Of the person who decided that veggie chilli would be the appropriate meal to serve us after such a long day, and the girl with pigtails who let me have a massive second portion. And, most importantly, of every single runner who I spoke to during those long 10 hours and 53 minutes; you are the main reason that I was able to finish the UT55, and I wish I could thank each one of you for helping me through. If I’d been given a free mile for every person who asked if I was ok upon seeing my bloodied knee I could have done the UT110 without much effort. But then without the effort it wouldn’t have been so much fun, would it?

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Early bird entries for 2016 open soon. The only decision to be made is whether to do the 55km or to go mad and do the 110km this time instead.

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