18 days to go till the 100km run.
Longest trainingsrun done. Let me sum it up:
Sunday morning 6am, catching a train to the Northdowns, starting to run at Reigate at about 8:30am, home again by 8pm. In-between 9.5h of running, walking and cursing the bad signage and hills. First 1-2 h full on rain, later muddy and narrow trails that were a constant up and down. 1300m of ascent and 1300m of descent. A very tough day out. Yet on a practical level I have to say, everything worked out. No blisters, equipment and clothing perfect, nutrition worked out, the body cooperated somehow… the mind pushed through. It was a long and exhausting day out, however the next back2back session this morning on an empty stomach was slow, yet doable and my muscles less sore than after last weeks London Marathon on tarmac.
In a way this is it. Longest and toughest trainingsrun done. Ready or not, here we come. I started training for this in the beginning of January. Already in the 2nd week knee pain from hell. It never went. It was present every single day, woke me up every night, running was just painful. I did what I could on the ‘outer’ level. Nutrition, stretching, training, taping, you name it. Spoke to many people, got a million different opinions, ended up more confused than before. Decided to listen to those who know me well, know what I am capable of (and what not) and especially know endurance sport (and how much it means to me). 1 week no running, 2 weeks no long runs and the knee pain became history. Since then I run on painful shins, but luckily on long runs after max 2h the pain goes. So there I am not worried for the Ultra at all. The most interesting thing, and more than just pushing my pain threshold was the ‘inner’ side of things. Taking time to reflect on why I want to do this Ultra and why specifically this one, changed the entire mindset. It means a lot to me to run from London. To leave this beloved city behind and run all day till I will reach the sea. I strongly connect seeing the sea for the first time again with a strong sense of freedom. Sea represents for me freedom and space amongst other things. Last weeks London Marathon has in that way been already quite emotionally moving for me. London is a very special place for me and has taught me lots.
From being a 100km run, or a Ultramarathon, or whatever you want to call it, it turned into ‘the challenge’. Being on the one hand side way fitter than I have ever been gives confidence, yet having never run further than 55km or 9.5h let’s 100km still look like, yeah well, ‘a challenge’.
But this isn’t my point. On the ‘outer’ level I feel like there is not much more to be done. Write up a kit list, plan what to pack for the backdrop and what to take with me in greater detail. The interesting part has been the inner development. One major change has been to be able to share my passion for running with someone. I think on the 9.5h run I would have just laid down in the mud somewhere to feel terribly sorry for myself, instead of running on. I am incredibly grateful for the experience when 1+1 = 3, when being together makes the impossible possible and turns tough long runs into a journey together. And this gives me more confidence and absolute trust into finishing this 100km challenge. Because we are in this together.
Also quite interesting has been the Back2Back experience for me. Again, on the outer level it might be challenging to get out of bed after a 9.5h run and go for a run on an empty stomach. But again this isn’t my point. It’s absolutely doable and after a short time of warming up, checking the body for stiffness or possible injuries and getting into my running rhythm, it is fascinating to observe the ‘inner side’ to Back2Back runs. Many of my ‘normal’ runs are done because I have to. I would go if I feel like it or not. And I will spend a lot of time either pushing my run, speed, etc. or be busy ‘digesting’ my day. Plus I need some time to relax and run off all the physical pressure I am under most of the time. These Back2Back runs are completely free of all of that and I go immediately into a deep state of mind I usually only reach at about 3h into my running. Today for example I went through a lot of possible future scenarios and recent changes in my mind. Yet in a very dreamlike way, not like actively thinking it through or over planning. A incredible beautiful experience and in terms of my beloved sport, 15 years into running and I suddenly discover something entirely new. I am deeply thankful for that.
Giving something full attention, love and a 100% has the potential to give you exactly that feedback. You get the full experience. The intensity you put into it, is what you get out of it. Am I running away from something? Well, I am running towards something. I am running towards the sea, that represents freedom and space for me. A lot went into that 4 months of training. A lot of energy got created and channeled. It is difficult to put into words, yet it is not the first time that running challenges have the potential to turn my life around…