Why would anyone want to run long distances? Why on earth would anyone run a marathon? How many miles is even in a marathon? 100? 200? 13? Isn’t running bad for your knees? Is it really necessary to own that many shoes?
These are questions that I have asked myself or have been asked in the 12 months since I started running. As my running journey has progressed it is the first question above that has given me the most food for thought.
Why would anyone want to run long distances?
Why would anyone WANT to run long distances?
The answer to this hasn’t been easy. But as I set sail into my second year of endurance running…the answer is becoming clearer and clearer. People WANT to run because, as Christopher McDougall implicitly states – People are BORN to run.
I have been fortunate enough to be offered a place to run the London Marathon 2020 for Headway Luton having run the London Marathon in 2019 for them too. That marathon helped change my life and the lives of many others affected by any form of head injury. It helped me kick smoking and drinking and generally leading a sedentary lifestyle and in the process raise nearly £4,000 with my friend Charlotte for Headway. When I found out I had been successful in the ballot to get into the London Marathon 2019 (I was one of those annoying people who got in on the first time of trying and had never run before), that was when my running journey began.
Last year I created the “Double Trouble” challenge (London and Belfast marathons – a week apart) because I wanted to push myself beyond what I thought was possible. I remember joining my local running club near the time I found out I would be running the London Marathon 2019 and (nearly) passing out after running my first mile in 13 minutes! My goal last year was initially to just finish the London marathon, but the more I trained the faster I got. The healthier I ate. The more weight I lost.
I then decided to do something a bit crazy (for me). My local running club were organising a weekend trip to Belfast so members could take part in the Belfast marathon. It was 7 days after the London marathon. I decided to sign up for it because I wanted to push myself even further. Beyond what I though my limits were. I wanted to train for 2 marathons in a week having gone from nearly passing out after running a 13 minute mile. I named this challenge the “Double Trouble” challenge.
I managed to complete both London and Belfast in under 4 hours. In fact, I was quicker in Belfast than in London by 3 minutes and that course had a lot more elevation than London!
After completing Belfast, I didn’t want to stop running. I had gone from not understanding why people would want to run, or how many miles were in a marathon to completing my first 2 marathons, a week apart in well under 4 hours. I wanted to know how far I could push myself.
So I signed up for an ultra marathon 2 weeks after Belfast. I completed the Tullaroan ultra marathon (39 miles) and came 6th in that race. That was an unbelievable experience because I didn’t feel as much pressure to run for a time as I did for London and Belfast.
Since then I have run a further 3 marathons, 2 ultra marathons and raced against a steam train through the Welsh valleys. I then wanted to push myself and do something bigger. Something even crazier. So I entered the Druids challenge. This is a 3 day 87 mile run through the oldest trail path in the UK that connects the east of the country to the west. I trained hard for this challenge. I worked on speed sessions, hill session, long slow runs on road and trail and peaked at running 100 miles a week. This was a race I had trained for with my friend Sarah who had been given entry into this race as a birthday present from her husband Stuart! We trained hard together and felt prepared going into the final few weeks before the race.
But then disaster struck. On my last run before my two week taper I damaged my achilles tendon! I was devastated. I was inconsolable. I saw medical professionals and sought advice from other, more experienced runners. I was told by everyone that I should not run until I have made a full recovery as I would risk rupturing my achilles which would mean not being able to run for at least a year. I went to see my physio who explained to me how I needed my form to be when running the race. I asked her why she wasn’t advising me to not run the race like everyone else had done. She explained that she knew me well enough to know that I would attempt to run the race no matter what anyone said! She was right…
I only got as far as 100m from the start of the race before I had to drag my right leg on the ground due to the pain upon impact on my achilles was simply eye wateringly painful. I had a decision to make. I could do the entire 87 miles like this (I was averaging 3 miles an hour) and risk making things worse, or I could get to the first checkpoint (at mile 11) and quit. I got to 11 miles in 4 hours. 4 hours of trudging through forests and dense, muddy woodland alone. I had a lot of time to reflect and decided that today was not the day to be going all “mind over matter” but rather logic over being fallacious. At mile 11 and the first checkpoint, I threw the towel in. The hours immediately after that were really tough. I thought quitting was a sign of real weakness. All those hundreds of miles in training, all for what? For this? The only bit of solace I had that day was knowing that my friends and Sarah who had entered the race had done so well.
As the dust has settled, I have had some time to think about what happened. Even though I was unable to complete the Druids challenge, the journey to get there had been a blast. I have to put things into perspective and realise a year ago, I didn’t even know how many miles were in a marathon let alone even contemplate running in one. I have met so many amazing people, experienced trail running and got to see my friend Sarah push herself beyond what she thought her limits were! You can only control the controllables, and in the time I have been injured I have been plotting my challenge for next year. I’m hoping to recover by the end of 2019 so I can start training again.
I have those demons that I plan on burying and I will do this by attempting my second Double Trouble challenge by attempting the Pilgrims Challenge (66 miles) and the London Marathon 2020. (This year called the 222 challenge). Helping Headway Luton in the process will allow me to raise vital funds for a charity that does so much for the local community and for those with brain injuries. It is a topic that hasn’t had the attention it deserves and I hope to raise at least £1,600 and create more awareness for them.
Thank you to everyone that supported me last year. You are all incredible and amazing. Please do consider supporting me again this year. Here’s where you can donate this year:
What Headway do:
Headway Luton is affiliated to Headway UK. Headway UK conducts research, provides publications, a helpline and national awareness raising campaigns. Groups and branches on the other hand, provide the support to people with an acquired brain injury, at a local level. Headway Luton is one of 125 groups and branches across the UK. Headway Luton supports 269 clients across Luton, Leighton Buzzard and surrounding areas.
Professionally qualified staff operate two day centres, one in Luton (Monday to Friday) and one in Leighton Buzzard (on Wednesdays). They also have a Community Support Team who can visit Luton clients in their homes.
Headway Luton supports people through a range of activities such as speech and communication support, cognitive exercises, money management, arts and crafts, music, social interaction, yoga and physiotherapy to name a few. They also support people through crisis intervention, health and wellbeing advice, advocacy for housing, benefits and money problems. Headway Luton can also provide training to other organisations about Acquired Brain Injury.
Find out more via their website: www.headwayluton.com