It has been a genuinely unbelievable year for me and my little hobby of running about. I have covered around 3,000 miles just using my feet, raised over £3,500 for various charities and discovered so many gems we have in the UK as places to visit and run through.
The year, like many others before it, started in January. I had about a week to try and lose what I could of the Christmas beer gut and get myself back to fitness before my first event. There were a lot of big races booked ahead of me, and the first one was a 45 mile ultra, second week in January.
I’d done a couple of ultras before, but I had made the decision to really give the longer distances a go this year to see what happens. Here is a review of all my personal highlights and the usual amount of lessons learnt the hard way…
Getting the ball rolling
It was business as usual when I found myself lost on the Country to Capital ultra. I always get myself lost, and this was an unmarked 45 mile course. I really shouldn’t be so surprised.
I still really think it was a good idea entering a big race in January. It shook the Christmas induced over-indulgent mentality out of me and I was then ready to crack on with the year.
This is a no brainer. It was this moment:
Following 27 days of non-stop hard work, pain and for the most part on my own in the wilderness; this moment pictured above, where I reached John O’Groats after approximately 1,000 miles is easily the highlight of my entire 29 year long life.
What do you do to follow that?
The previous year, after the Manchester Marathon; I had set a time of 3:05. I desperately wanted to beat 3 hours and therefore promptly set that as a goal for before I reach 30 years old.
The trouble was I forgot to enter any; or at least any events flat enough to feasibly think about making it. I hastily booked the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon for about a month after getting back from JO’G with withered muscles and no speed.
I had to get myself over to the running track and seriously train on the shorter distances to get any sort of power back. Seems counter intuitive when training for a full marathon, but if there was any doubt to whether or not I made it; here is the difficult to dispute evidence:
Lowest moment of the year
With a not exactly towering stature of 5’6”, you could argue that all of my moments are low ones. But indeed the lowest of these moments was at the Gritstone Grind ultra in September, having to pull out at the 20 mile mark due to an incredibly painful stomach bug. My first and only DNF to date, and a difficult pill to swallow. However, I did go back and complete the course on my own the following weekend, so that helped.
Difficult one to answer really, as officially, I would say the North Downs Way 100 mile ultra was on paper the toughest race I entered, but in truth I didn’t suffer nearly as much on this one as I did the previous month at the Dig Deep 60 mile Ultra Tour of the Peak District. Despite having done Lands End to John O’Groats; my body wasn’t used to covering this sort of mileage in one go. Plus the hills on this route were pretty ludicrous in places. The NDW100 was still tough, and no shortage of gruelling hills to stare up in agony, but by this time my body was at least a little more used to it.
This year, I mostly learnt about equipment. I was almost not allowed to race in the NDW100 because I didn’t understand what a ‘sealed seams’ waterproof jacket meant and brought the wrong type.
I also did a week’s voluntary work at Trail Running Magazine on a work placement scheme and I feel certain there were times when there was utter amazement at my lack of knowledge of kit and equipment. I saw a genuine look of dismay in the Editor’s eyes when I said I’d never heard of a ‘downs jacket’, and then there was the time I created a truly comical chorus from about 12 people in the office, simultaneously correcting me when I pronounced a… ‘gelet’ like a man’s razor, instead, apparently like a French garment of some sort.
To be fair, that was actually hilarious and I never seem to get tired of people getting frustrated by my stupidity. I think there might be a reason why numerous other runners have referred to me as the “Jonny come lately runner”. I’m learning… slowly.
Running has been very good to me this year. I’ve suffered only minor injuries; I’ve learnt loads of useful information about how my body responds to different things, and also I’ve picked up a lot of useful experience in what equipment NOT to take in freezing cold conditions if you don’t want to catch hypothermia.
For 2015 I plan to dial down the mileage slightly to see if I can get some speed back in my stupid, slow hobbit legs. That said, I have booked a couple of UK Skyraces in the summer, which will probably be my main focus. I might try and enter a few smaller, fell races just to make my schedule look a little fuller.
I also have this minor concern of having no job from the 1st of January and an immanent house move in February, so I might just focus on that for a bit. Sadly, as much as I’d like to get paid for just running around, or writing about running around; that unfortunately isn’t something anyone I’ve asked wants to pay me to do; even with all my dead good righting skills and well good inglish. It’s crazy!
Have a great 2015 everyone! Let’s all try to start as we mean to go on… then inevitably get bored of doing that, and repeat all of last year’s most fun mistakes. I’m pretty sure they say that experience is that thing when you recognise a mistake the instant you make it again. Well if that’s the case, then I think I must be a f***ing wizard by now.
Frodo (… not a wizard, as it turns out)