I can remember clearly, when I first started running, that the draw of long adventure runs were stronger than that of organised races. I got it in my head pretty quickly that I wanted to run the Pennine Way one day end to end and self supported. Reading about races like the MDS or Jez Bragg’s run along the West Highland way just spurred on the desire rather than doing my local 10k race.
I think a lot of us can identify with the first few years of running, where we kinda commit to training but it’s never too serious. Something changed though last summer when, after piling on a lot of weight, I decided to go for it seriously and set myself the long goal of running a solo run through North Wales from Conwy Castle to Aberdovery. Training was going really well until about February of this year when I made the decision to opt for a cyst to be removed from my back which had been troubling me for over 7 years. I was all set to run a solo marathon the week after my surgery date and then go straight into ultra training but with the surgery I was going to be out for 6 weeks at least.
Lots of rest later and I was back running within 8 weeks. Talking it through with my girlfriend Nicky, I decided to go for running Trail Marathon Wales to hit my marathon distance and then try and get back on track with my ultra plan. Hitting the half way point it was going well and then the wheels fell off. My back started to tighten up and the pain really kicked in. I bullied myself around to 19 miles before I just couldn’t take the pain any longer. Stepping off after nearly a year of early mornings, running in sub zero temperatures and exhausting nights was such a hard thing to do. When I got back to finish I cried, something I’ve not done for over 5 years.
Reflecting back afterwards I knew in my heart of hearts that my Wales run, planned for September was off and that I wouldn’t be able to catch up the miles. I still believe that if I’d finished Trail Marathon Wales I’d of had the confidence to go on and try for Wales but it wasn’t meant to be. Deciding to postpone my Wales run was done over a few weeks and a couple of long runs that I just couldn’t hook up on. I knew it was over for this year and I needed to consolidate and move forward. So I’ve postponed it till next year . I’ve spent the last few weeks seeing my Sport’s Therapist Ryan and getting the muscles in my lower back and my core strong again.
To work up to the distance again and get over the mental block I’ve developed of the marathon distance I’ve added two runs into the training for the next 9 months in two training blocks. The first is the Robin Hood Marathon in September of this year and the other is a 50 mile Treadmill Run in January. I felt I needed something organised and focused to break through the marathon barrier and the Robin Hood Marathon provided just that in the time frame. Dropping the 50 miler in there (inspired by Susie Chan) is a way of bridging the gap between 26.2 miles and 70 miles and something I can work towards over the winter.
Ultimately how I see it, these runs over the next few months are just the start of something bigger and better for me. A chance to achieve some pretty hefty goals. In the past I would have a failure like Trail Marathon Wales and my back surgery and given up but not this time. I’ve set my goals, worked hard so far and I’m not about to give up again. It’s often really hard when you have set backs but you’ll never achieve anything in life if you give up. So I’m not giving up.