It was back in 2013 when I first started entering trail races. I decided that marathons were good fun (yes, you read that right), but I wanted to push myself with increasingly tougher terrains and route profiles.
Trail marathons I found were definitely my thing. I took to them straight away and noticed I was ‘reasonably’ good at them too.
All that summer, I found myself in the top 5 of events I entered, regardless of how little training I did. I never won any, but I had a couple of 2nd’s to my name and a 3rd place in one of the Hardmoors trail marathons. All evidence was pointing towards me being pretty big news…
… As it turns out, I wasn’t. Not even if it was a slow news day; but it still amuses me to this day that I once entertained this thought.
I knew my strengths and weaknesses as a runner even back then. I have always been better at running up the hills than coming back down again. My top speed is ludicrously slow, but I can do it for a while without getting tired. With all this in mind, you can’t help but speculate how good you could potentially get, years down the line.
Well it’s now two years on; my top speed is a little faster, I’m a bit fitter, a bit stronger and my recovery time is now a lot faster… but I am DREAMING if I ever expect to make top 5 in any events I do now.
So what’s happened?
Maybe it’s because I enter bigger, more prestigious events now… Maybe the other runners that were behind me have all improved a lot more than I have… or perhaps, and this is something I strongly suspect; perhaps, it’s simply the quality of runner ‘across the board’ has massively improved in the UK.
Put simply, we’re looking at a sport on the rise! At least that’s what it looks like from my perspective. The popularity of these off-road running events nationwide seems to going up each year and the number of people discovering that they too can run ludicrous distances off-road.
I’ve not consulted any figures or stats to back up this hypothesis of mine; that sounds like too much hard work. It’s just what I’ve observed using my eyes and jealousy. I’ve also noticed a few more younger faces in the long distance field recently. Ultra-running no longer seems to be exclusive to the over 40’s. A promising sign for the future of the sport!
So this weekend I was running in the Peaks Skyrace, on slightly tired legs from a trail marathon in Wales the week before, but no less enjoyable. One of the best things I noticed from both weekends was the vast variety of runners of all shapes and sizes. There’s no textbook ‘runner’s build’ anymore when it comes to these events. You’ve got your tall, stringy athletes that leap down the hills like gazelles; you’ve got your short, powerful runners that burn up the hills like they’re not even there; and you’ve got your tiny (often female) runners that seem to trot along effortlessly like a metronome, never tiring, never slowing down for 30+ miles. I just find myself in awe of everyone in one way or another.
It’s a great feeling to truly love the sport you’re in and even though my results have on paper fallen by the wayside after a promising start; I honestly couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve still got plenty of scope for improvement if I put my mind to it, so will see what happens. For the time being however, it’s just nice to be in a sport that is seeing lots of new talent come through and a prosperous future.