Here I am little more than 36 hours away from the start of what is regarded as one of the UKs hardest, most brutal 100 mile races. And I don’t mind sharing with you that there is a whole heap of nerves going on.
Having run for 5 years plus now and having taken part in races from 5Km to 100miles, I’ve started to reach a point of being comfortable in the fact that I have as much right as anyone else to be at the starting line. But this is different, this is a seriously different challenge. That sense of not belonging, that imposter syndrome is back with a real vengeance.
The reality is that I have worked hard for a year to get to this point, I’ve run nearly 3000 miles, I’ve finished well in many trail races, top 10 in a bunch of them, including some of the Centurion Running events, which are well attended and not the easiest. So I’ve earned this opportunity, and I’ve worked as hard as many, if not most, to reach the start line.
Why did I choose to take on the Arc?
Limits, that’s why! I’ve done OK in my running journey so far, I’ve achieved more than I could have ever believed back in 2017 when I bought a pair of New Balance shoes and strolled around my local park for 2Km thinking that this running lark was easy. However, one thing I have tapped into with running is that I have this desire to explore the limits of what I am capable of achieving. Running the 2021 Robin Hood 100 was meant to be that massive obstacle that took every ounce of my physical and mental determination to get over. And as much as I loved that race, and was overwhelmed with my 5th place finish and 20Hr 19min finishing time, it didn’t take me to the complete extremes physically or mentally. It wasn’t easy, don’t get me wrong, but I never reached the ‘chuck it all in’ point. I never came up to my limit and kept pushing against it to find a way to finish that race. I just ran around, had a great time, and crossed the finish line.
So when I came across the Arc dot watchers in January last year I had a few thoughts.
- I’ve run a lot of that route and that’s a tall order!
- Completing that would be a real challenge
- I don’t think I could do that
Those 3 thoughts instantly turned into ‘I’m entering’.
I spent 6 weeks until the registration for 2023 opened flipping back and forth between doing the 50 and the 100. I thought I could do the 50. Yes it would be hard but I felt 50 was within me. The 100 I struggled to see myself getting through that distance, especially over the course that I have some experience with. Throw winter weather in to the mix and lots of darkness hours and I struggled to see the 100 as something I could overcome.
Come the start of March, I had to decide, and the decision came down to the realisation that I’m looking to find that challenge that pushes me to really explore the possible, maybe by finding the impossible on the way. I couldn’t easily visualise finishing the 100 mile route. That had to be the choice, taking the easier 50 mile option would have left me feeling a little like I had wimped out.
From that I knew I had to train hard. I entered a bunch of events that would give me some great training. The Isle of White ultra, multiple Centurion events, including the pretty tough Wendover Woods 50miler and the night 50Km. I ran night training runs along the coast path whilst on holiday, I ran nights, early mornings. I ran in the heat of the summer, I ran in howling gales and torrential rain. Nothing stopped me getting out there. Well, almost nothing!
Along the way I hit my Boston Qualifying time for the marathon (I’m in this years event in only 2 1/2 months!), I came within 100 seconds of breaking the 3Hr time in the London Marathon, and I finished in a number of my ultra’s in some good positions and times.
On top of the running I took up yoga and strength and conditioning sessions, I bought more yoga equipment than I knew existed previously! I signed uo to online sessions with the rather brilliant Carla Molinaro. I went all in for this event.
And the result, …
Well who knows.
I will toe that start line on Friday.
I will have all the kit I think I need.
I will wait for those drums to sound and the blue smoke to curl into the sky and I will head towards the sea, turn right and head towards Porthtowan, 100+ miles away.
Whether I get there, whether I finish in time and whether I get that buckle, that’s only part of my goal here. By lining up on Friday I have already reached my first objective. Finish or not, I will either get a new buckle for my collection, or I will find that limit that exists within me, right now. And both of those are good. I’m OK with either, What is true though and what is undeniable, either way I have more to find within me. I will continue to explore my limits, and when I find a limit I will explore how I can smash through that and push to the next one.
One of my big motivations is that I have 4 children, and my running journey is as much for them as it is for me. At 40 I found a platform to explore what I was capable of, to push my own belief and expectations I had formed of myself.
I want them to realise that there is so much that you can achieve no matter whether you think the limits have been reached.
Importantly I want them to see as well that you have to invest in yourself to make a difference. It takes work and effort, but with the right intent and dedication there is no reason why you cannot achieve something you previously thought was beyond your reach.
When you think that you are at the end of the journey, it is just the start of another.