2 weeks, 21 miles, over 4000 feet of climb and a reflection on 10 years running long distances

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I first started training for the Yorkshireman marathon in the summer of 2009. This was to pass the time during my transition between graduating from university and the rather feeble attempt I made at postgraduate study. My longest training run was 15 miles on road which left me woefully under prepared for 26 miles of hilly trail. Despite realising I was way out of my depth about 3 hours into a 4hr 50 marathon, I managed to make friends who were comfortable finishing the route at my pace and eventually got back to the cobbled roads in Haworth where I got a t shirt and a bowl of soup for my efforts.

This run was like a badge of honour I had in the back of my mind at every marathon I did afterwards, at races which I flew off way too fast at the start or were far hillier, I had a hint of arrogance that nothing would be as bad as the last part of that race. I am glad I chose this instead of a flat road marathon and perhaps because I didn’t end up getting the 3:30 time I was chasing for so long, I still view running marathon distance at a tough pace as far more daunting than what I train for nowadays.

This week was the lowest mileage I can remember doing that wasn’t a recovery week. I did 3 runs of around 6 miles from Wednesday to Friday, the last of these was with my friend Paddy and the first time I had ran on roads since the start of May!

I was toying with the idea of doing hill repeats using the 0.1 mile 200ft climb up Post Hill as one of my taper runs and luckily didn’t chicken out of it this morning. I’m normally confident about my uphill feet placement but this is not as easy coming back down, because of this I forced myself to descend the same way I had gone up. My plan was to do at least 10 of these which would get me a paltry 2 miles as a total distance covered. I had a few lively moments where dust blew off from descending and loosing my footing temporarily but managed to stay upright for all 10 descents. It may not sound like much for a weekend training run but my heart was in my mouth far more in the 52 minutes that took than any of my other efforts recently.

I’m quite confident that every aspect of the route, I have experienced in training recently and my run through the night a few weeks ago has silenced a few demons I had about the early stages. The camaraderie of events like this always helps as well and I’m sure I will make conversations with the other runners which will help pass the time at some point during the race next week. At the 23 races I have done since 2009, I have been able to do this at all of them, even the 2 in Italy where to refer to the dialogue as a language barrier would be an understatement!

If someone would have told me back then I would be attempting a 72 mile race shortly after turning 30, I can’t imagine I would have taken them seriously. Luckily running teaches you far more about yourself than anyone else ever will. I look forward to seeing what I gain in the next 10 years.

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