I am generally regarded by ‘normal’ people as a bit crazy, but I am in good company; there are quite a few of us ‘crazies’ aka ultra-runners. I am not sure why, you would not want to run a silly number of miles in extreme, exotic, remote and beautiful places? Why would you be regarded as mad for running marathon distances and longer in the Scottish Highlands, the Atacama Desert, the North Pole and Antarctica? Well, I suppose it comes down to whether or not you are capable of doing it, can afford to do it and ultimately whether or not you want to do it. Running is a marmite sort of a thing; you love it or you hate it. I hate marmite by the way.
It goes beyond wanting to, and I do realise that it is a great privilege to be able to do these things, mad or not: that I am unbelievably lucky to have been able to test myself in such awe-inspiring environments both close to home and further afield, and have the health and fitness to do it. And lucky that nature has allowed me to pass through successfully.
As some readers will know I have a ‘crazy’ ambition to run seven 50k ultra-marathons on seven continents in seven days. This could be seen as the ultimate ‘crazy’ on so many levels: logistics, physical and mental effort, planning, financing. The hope had been to be able to do this in 2016, but it was not to be. With that goal in mind, the advice for 2016 was ‘let’s ease back’, don’t do too many events and focus on the end goal. You don’t want to head into a challenge like that over-raced and over-trained. Good idea I think and so it has been.
Has this been a successful strategy?
It has ended up being a lacklustre year with a couple of DNFs and poor performances. It turns out that I need a lot of ‘crazy’ in my life. I seem to be one of those people who ‘races’ themselves fit. This is not to say that I don’t train, but what I have learned this year is that I need those milestones to focus my training, keep me on point and to achieve specific goals and targets set for each event and which will get me to the end goal.
My year has lacked direction which is probably a reflection on the slow progress I have made with the Global Odyssey and the uncertainty that that brings, but also the lack intermediate targets. Having milestones to aim for not only provides much needed focus, but it shapes your training, provides progression and a sense of achievement and confidence. And perhaps more importantly, it fairly quickly and comprehensively lets you know if you are off-track. There is nothing like the wake-up call of a poor performance.
It is time, then, to add more ‘crazy’ into the mix.
First up the Dunoon Presents 50k in October to ensure that I have good base to keep up during the winter. Good plan, as I followed that by accepting an invitation to take on a monster double extreme marathon in January: The Namibian Sand Marathon and the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon. Eee-ha! That’s more like it: desert sand dunes and 40 degrees followed a few days later by a frozen river and -40 degrees. Then in a fit of enthusiasm I entered the Marathon de Ben Nevis in September which is just 2 weeks before the Dunoon event – oops – or maybe not.
Signing up for new events adds an air of mystery, an element of the unknown, which elicits excitement and motivation. I will need to be super fit and at my best for January. The Ben Nevis and Dunoon events will keep my distance up and get some good climbing in which I will need for Namibia. Doing long distances close together is the first step towards being ready to undertake a 777, as will extremes of climate.
The ‘crazy’ is back on track, back on familiar ground and heading for those monster challenges.