I’ve completed some decent training over the last couple of weeks and am pleased with the progress that I have been making.
The previous Saturday was another run of just over 20 miles. I’m getting used to running this distance now and feel comfortable doing so. So far this year I’ve completed 6 runs of over 20 miles and I know that there are plenty more to come. This Saturday I ran 27.08 miles – that is my longest training run of the year. Actually, that is my longest training run ever. I’ve trained for marathons in the past and completed 9 of them so far – I’ve never gone beyond the marathon distance in training or an event. Saturday provided me with the ideal opportunity to push beyond my usual limits.
I decided on a route that would challenge me both physically and mentally – a good mixture of road and woodland trails with plenty of hills. The weather was hot, and I knew this would add to the challenge. By going beyond my usual training distances, I knew that this was going to require both patience and determination to complete it. One thing I have learnt this year about ultra-running is it is OK to walk short sections rather than run, it means conserving energy and gives an opportunity to take on nutrition as well.
I’ve also learnt a lot about pacing runs properly – this isn’t like training for a marathon, and I would never run the full marathon distance in training usually. I was also honest with myself about my expectations – this isn’t about hitting certain times, it is about being able to move forwards at all times. I feel having realistic expectations is important.
I hit a bit of a mental dip at around mile 18 for a couple of minutes, but I soon managed to switch those emotions off – there was absolutely nothing I could do to change the situation and I told myself that this is what needs to be done so keep moving forwards, just concentrate on each step and nothing else. The mental dip didn’t last long. I’m resilient and brutally honest about my abilities. I’m also extremely stubborn at times and don’t give up easily. These are the traits I need when the going gets tough. I know that I need to become comfortable being uncomfortable – both mentally and physically. The key is to be able to switch off and accept that things are tough, not to quit, not to break, to be able to keep moving forwards when it feels painful and muscles are screaming at me to stop.
The remaining miles became easier – the terrain was still tough and hilly – because I was just focused on moving forwards and nothing else mattered. I had got to a place both physically and mentally where I felt fatigued, but knew I could keep going. It felt like I could keep going forever.
The more I was pushing beyond my limits the more I felt comfortable. When I finished the run, I looked at myself in the mirror – I saw someone who looked different, there was something different in the way I looked that went beyond fatigue. It was like I had opened a door within myself and revealed something stronger, tougher, and limitless.
Prior to the run I had envisaged that physically my legs would be shot to pieces and ache for days – in the past when I’ve trained for and run marathons walking downstairs backwards becomes the norm (those who know, know) but nothing.
As I reflect on the run I know I got to a place I had been searching for in training for months (maybe years) and I can’t wait to get back there again.
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.