Ok, so I have decided to start my blog afresh to reflect starting running afresh yesterday. By starting afresh I mean that since DNFing at mile 65 of Caesar's Camp 100 in October the amount of times I had intentionally gone out with the purpose of going for a run until yesterday 8th February I could count on all of my fingers and toes even if I was paraplegic. I hope that joke doesn't offend anyone; I like to think that if I was paraplegic I would see the funny side of that joke. Anyway.....
Yesterday was the Cotswold 50k; an informal event organised by Tim Lambert involving an out and back 32ish mile run from Bath to Old Sodbury and back to Bath. I was credited with helping to organise the event but short of agreeing that it was a good idea, promoting it a little bit and doing an off-the-cuff race briefing in which I insinuated that Jez Bragg's solo run across New Zealand was the result of Tim not being able to open a tin of rice pudding at an aid station when crewing for him at Western States 2012, which pissed him off so much that he had to go to the other side of the world to calm down, and then I painted Emily Canvin as the kind of person who'd point and laugh, take a picture of you on her phone and share it on facebook just because she'd annihilated me in North Dorset Village Marathon last year despite me running a big PB, I can't say I did much organisation, and so all credit must go to Mr Lambert. As it happens, Emily was doing this run on the back of winning the 50 mile Thames Trot the previous weekend and still made it to the half way aid station before I did, and so her merciless rubbishing of my running abilities continues. Looking at it another way though, runners like Emily exist to keep the rest of us humble; runners like Emily don't need to be kept humble because they already are. The inner peace and humility that comes from being bloomin' good at running seems to be something that all bloomin' good ultra runners I've met share.
So 18 of us ran; I won't list all of them, partly because I don't remember every single one of the names, and partly because I want this post to be relatively short. What I will say is that each and every one of those runners brought their own personality to the day and the personalities blended into a delicious soup nearly as tasty as the gluten free flapjack made by Chris and Nikki Mills that was present at the half way aid station. The half way aid station was run by the peerless Nici Griffin. I told Nici she was the real star of the show on the day and I meant it; if you had to be outside on a day typical of this stormy winter we've been having would you rather be running and keeping warm or stood in one place waiting for a bunch of silly sausages who thought it was a good idea to run in that horrendous weather to arrive? She never stopped smiling or dancing, and was her ultra supportive self the whole time. Her wonderfulness has not gone unnoticed in the ultra running community, hence the glowing praise plastered all over facebook of her endeavours, and her employment by Centurion Running this year. Anyone who volunteers for the length of the Spine race must have a phenomenal love of the ultra scene, and this is crazily inspiring for the rest of us. Nikki also did a fabulous job of volunteering on the day, even going beyond the call of duty to give myself and Emily a lift back to Bath when we dropped at the half way point. Emily's excuse was a hard 50 mile run seven days previously. Mine was possibly having to rush off to Bristol at any moment, but I wasn't even remotely disappointed to not run the return leg because I have to admit that those 16 miles to half way had been the toughest 16 miles I'd run in a very, very long time.
So basically it's a simple equation; if you don't run properly all winter then 16 miles is going to be pretty tough unless you're Kilian Jornet or someone like that. For me it involved a bit of cramping just 8 or 9 miles in; I think this was because I hadn't eaten enough, needed some electrolytes and because of the mud leading to a greater effort in most strides, but essentially lack of training was mostly to blame. The route was stunning; sweeping hills, pretty (if a little blustery and unnerving) woods, picturesque valleys. After my cramping I decided to slow it right down for a while, eat a bit, have some electrolyte-infused water (half a Nuun tablet) and it was at that point I was able to reflect a bit, stop thinking about how much distance those ahead of me were putting on me and just enjoy the fact that I was outdoors, the breeze was on my face, I was far away from anything urban and I was at peace. Lovely stuff! I even got a bit of an endorphin high when I started running again, and had ideas for a couple more books in my head - not books about my own story I hasten to add. Maybe one day they will get written, but for now I have my first one to promote/sell....well, I will as soon as the publishers decided I can have it anyway. Several people said they were looking forward to reading it during the day, and I am looking forward to being able to allow people to read it, that's for sure.
Was great to run again, great to run with other people again, great to meet people in the flesh I'd only spoken to online. Everyone was awesome. Mega props to Kat Ganly for driving down on the morning of the race from Brighton (as well as Nici driving down from London) and devouring lots of KFC on the way home having put in an awesome run. Also met Andrew Jordan, Richard Hill, Zoe Thornburgh, Rich Cranswick for the first time as well as others I'd not been expecting to meet. What lessons did I learn from the day? Well one of the main ones I still haven't learnt is not to go shopping when still high on endorphins. I appear to have bought a crazy green jumper with a couple of fish on the front. Luckily it wasn't too pricey, but will I wear it again? I'll have to, won't I.
If I was to give a final thought it would be that running is good, and ultra runners are usually good people. I already knew that. So how about something I didn't know? Well Ok, thanks to Richard Hill I now know that a 10 acre farm in South Wales may cost somewhere in the region of £200,000. Now that is intriguing! If I sell half a million copies of my book it may be something to consider (that would be more than £200,000 but then there's tax, living expenses, debts to pay off.....basically I still may not be able to retire on it.) Thanks for reading, and happy running and non-running to you all.