As you all know from my previous post, I am running The Longhorn trail marathon on the 23rd of this month. I knew my body wouldn’t take many miles to settle back into the pace of longer distances. I planned to get a steady twelve miler one evening after work on a local trail, then for the weekend, head over to Clumber Park for a good couple of hours out there.
There it was again, that hit only a junkie can relate too – to be out on a long run again is my fix. One thought my mind always drifts to when out on a long run is “the questions” others refer to when they talk about the distances of marathons and beyond. I suppose the nature of these questions are as unique as the individuals possessing these inner thoughts. Some talk of how they ask themselves, can they go back to work? or post on Facebook? that they failed to complete the task they set. Others have shared that they question what they have to give from deep within in order for them to finish or succeed in a certain time. I have still up until now wondered what my questions will be. This topic occupied my mind for most of my twelve miles.
Come Saturday morning I loaded the car ready for a ride over to Clumber Park to run for what was going to be my first twenty mile plus run in a while. I hadn’t given a fixed distance to run….I just knew I wanted to go out there for at least three hours so I could test how my stomach accepted different types of food whilst on the move. I had my usual energy gel’s, Harribo’s and cereal bars with me. (I also purchased a ploughman’s sandwich and some salty crisp’s to eat at an “aid station” stop at the back of my car).
I set off not feeling all that great – maybe I was starting to think of all this running as “training”? Now, I know from my previous hobbies, as soon as I start to think this way, I start to think about the results. And so, I did what I do in most situations of worry or concern, I ate something to cheery myself up. Thankfully it turns out I was just a little hungry since it was an hour and a half since my porridge back home.
Having established I was a complete pillock and admitting that to my pacer on her mountain bike beside me I settled in as usual. I was increasingly happy to know that I had no set route planned, I just took a turn that looked the most remote and what seemed to be leading me farther from my starting point. After stopping every few hundred yards to allow people of horseback, plodding along, taking part it what seemed to be a “Sky Ride” but for horse owners, I stumbled across the Robin Hood Way and consequently a sign for Thoresby Hall. I decided it would seem only fitting to run out that way. I felt a great sense of occasion knowing I would be out in this area in only a matter of weeks to run my first official marathon.
Having reached the aid station (back of my car) I took on some salts, devoured my ploughman’s and a vast amount of salty crisp’s. I replenished my hydration bladder with water and soon after recharging with a coffee I was back on my way. This time heading out the opposite side of Clumber Lake to explore what trails lay ahead.
My Garmin bleeped signalling my first mile complete. This confirmed what I already knew and feared – Ploughman sandwiches are appropriately named! They are perfect if after your lunch you are going to sit back in your tractor and continue ploughing. The schoolboy error I had made was that I forgot when at the chiller choosing my said lunch, that I am not a ploughman, nor am I attempting to be! My body struggled to propel itself forward under the weight of my less than ideal choice of food. I made a mental note – “You want to be an ultra-runner, not a ploughman you fuckwitt!”
A few slow miles passed and I suppose, on reflection, those grim feeling miles worked as a good resource to draw upon for when I’m feeling shitty and have to dig in to get my self beyond that point on race day. The latter miles all felt great, mentally I was positive and excited at the prospect of my up and coming events. I again confirmed I love to run long, and, more so in this environment, where speed simply does not matter.
With prior engagement’s for that evening planned I had to turn back towards my car. On the last mile or so back I felt sad my run could not go on into what was set to be a beautiful evening, but also overjoyed to have felt so good after what turned out to be twenty four miles. I packed up my car, slipped on my Birkenstocks and headed home and reflected on the day. I could only smile at the achievements and laugh at my fuelling faux pa. This was my sweetest fix yet and with all good hits – I only craved more!