Isn’t it funny the journey you can take in 12 months without really going anywhere?
This time in 2013 I was ramping up for what I expected to be my greatest year of achievements to date including my first ultra-marathon. The reality was a year of under-performances & disappointments, but I found something else. Something MUCH more valuable.
Rewind to December 2013 & I was enjoying a hiatus having completed my first Marathon in November, a break that was probably too long & I paid for throughout 2014. I would like to say this was the only mistake I made preparing for the many races I had scheduled but it would be only the first of many. I would love to say injuries held me back, I bit off more than I could chew or even that I raced to the best of ability. But I wasn’t focused enough and I wasn’t as structured, committed or consistent as I needed to be to undertake the races I had chosen & perform as I hoped and this clearly showed in the majority of my performances.
The watershed moment came in June when I took part in my first ultra-marathon, The Wall Ultra.
I completed it.
That is about as good as it got. I was very disappointed in my performance, I made numerous schoolboy errors on day 1, going off too fast, not refuelling, not hydrating & I’m pretty sure I ended it with sunstroke! My brother who had much less experience & had previously only ever run 6 miles in a day crossed the line at the overnight stop a paltry 9 minutes behind me, this led to making the decision to complete the 2nd day with him. I crossed the line after covering the 69miles in 17hrs 53mins and despite the fact that running over the Millennium Bridge to the finish line with my brother was a highlight of the year & unbelievably emotional, I was devastated by a performance that I felt had let me down. I lost my running mojo, had no motivation to train & I went off the running rails throughout July & into August.
And then things became interesting.
I’d been interacting with UKRunChat since the end of 2013 but had started using it more throughout the year, particularly in the run up to the London Marathon in April. By the time the summer had come round & I had been shattered by what I saw as a disastrous year I was using it has a crutch. The unknowing support from the rest of the community kept me ticking over & then as I started meeting members it began to transform how I viewed my participation in both the sport & the running community.
I received a free place in Spitfire Scramble through one of the regular competitions run during Sundays #fastesthouroftheweek & despite being under trained & off pace I had a fantastic weekend with many #ukrunchat regulars —- although I still hadn’t yet found my mojo at least somebody had pointed out the direction it had gone.
And then came RunCat
Ever since my first race (Great North Run 2011), I’d had it at the back of my mind to complete an event in fancy dress. I thought a good way of masking my below par pace & fitness would be to run in costume. So I put it to a twitter vote: JogDog or RunCat, the personification of the #ukrunchat mascot… and RunCat won by a good margin. So it was that I ended up on the line of Great North Run 2014 in baking hot +25 heat swathed in fur to run for the UKRunChat Challenge charities, Epilepsy Research& Dame Kelly HolmesTrust. It was a phenomenal day, not because I ran a PB (far from it) or because I became the millionth person to cross the line but because I met numerous people from #UKRunChat before, during & after (in @Beesrun case all 3). I enjoyed unbelievable support from the massive crowds lining the roads of Newcastle, Gateshead & South Shields and despite feeling like I was going to pass out at 4 miles I got round & had a thoroughly enjoyable day.
A week later I had the immense pleasure of meeting both @iRunJoe & @crea8it (not to forget the Selfie King @tonywapr), running the Southampton 10k leg of their incredible UKRunchat challenge. A brief moment as they had already covered a couple 100km & had a date in deepest Dorset with @MattUpston but one that formed a large part in my ever shifting view on why I run.
This was compounded when I ran the 25thanniversary Great South Run as RunCat, this time for a charity close to my heart – Motor Neurone Disease Association. I was better prepared for it, was passed by several UKRunChat Twitterati & enjoyed fantastic support from the Portsmouth residents. In many ways it was better than GNR because there were far fewer fancy dress runners so got singled out by the crowds for support much more, kids sprinting past for a high 5 after I’d missed them the first time will stay with me forever. Again, my performance was nothing to write home about, but the standing ovation I received when I finally wobbled back in to the MNDA marquee would be my final race high point of 2015.
So after spending 8 months putting myself under immense pressure & becoming disconsolate when I failed to achieve my goals I had discovered that you can be incredibly slow and yet enjoy it more than ever before. I became UKRunCat, I got my mojo back & running was about the enjoyment of taking part & not just about speed. I went from being a solitary runner with only my own accomplishments to concern me & my own pace to benchmark against to being a part of an extensive team of like-minded people to whom my performance is less of an issue & participation is everything.
I have had my love for running saved by a fantastic community of runners, who with many small gestures have shown me the way & provided a self-belief despite my MANY failings. In turn I have tried to give a little bit back by hosting the #fastesthouroftheweek, supporting the runners at the Gosport Half including the inspirational @mattversusmatt, registering a team for this year’s Spitfire Scramble & in my own small way helping build the community by getting involved in their social media output; https://www.facebook.com/ukrunchat
So now I’ve drawn a line underneath 2014 & I’m moving on. A little wiser, a little more prepared, much happier with my lot as a runner and in deeper ways transformed as a person.
I think 2015 is going to be a great year.