As the clock turned Midnight on the 31st December and the majority of the country was celebrating the New Year, I was laying wide awake in bed, anxious, knowing that in just four hours time my alarm would sound and I would begin my next running adventure.
I mentioned in my previous post ‘Running away from your problems’ that I intend to run a number of races this year for Mind, over the past few days I have been piecing together a plan for the year. The challenge is to run 15 Marathons / Ultra Marathons in 2015, so far I have already signed up for 5; the Liverbird New Year’s Day Marathon, Peddar’s Way Ultra, Belvoir Challenge, London Marathon and the Yorkshire Marathon, with a shortlist of 24. Ideally I would be running (atleast) one a month, to avoid the races bunching up and to keep momentum going and the target is for 5 of these races to be Ultra Marathons.
Naturally, this plan wouldn’t go off without a hitch.
A few weeks ago I had been suffering with Flu, not the you have a penis it mustn’t be real kind, rather the waking up every morning swimming in a pool of my own sweat and needing to wring out the mattress kind. Five days restricted to my bed, trying to keep awake to avoid waking up drenched. Once recovered I attempted to go out for a run, only to give up after a mile as my chest began to hurt. A few days later I staggered around on a 10 mile ‘run’ and whilst I felt a little lethargic, the distance was fairly comfortable. I later made the decision to sign up for the new Liverbird New Year’s Day marathon, primarily to get the ball rolling on my 15 in 15 but also to see just quite where my fitness was.
With the Peddar’s Way Ultra looming over my head at the end of the month I desperately needed to get some miles under my belt, especially with the two weeks I’d gone without running. At 46 miles it would be far, far further than I had ever ran before and would take me way beyond my comfort zone. Rather than train for a certain distance and then see which races were available, or even choose a shorter Ultra, I have decided to dive in face first and see what happens. First up however was the not too small matter of the Liverbird New Year’s Day marathon.
Typically on New Year’s Day the country shuts down, shops close or open with restricted hours, buses simply don’t run and the streets resemble a George A. Romero film. Which is fine, unless you’re teetotal and want to get shit done. With race entry paid for and train tickets purchased I was left with no choice but to make the 8 ½ mile trip from my flat to the train station by foot. The plan on New Year’s Eve was to get an early night, I’d packed my bag the night before, set my alarm for 4am and did what I could to make it easy for myself the next day. Only my insomnia chose the worst possible time to return and at 1am I was not four hours into my sleep as planned, but frustratingly still awake.
Thankfully the sleep wouldn’t evade me much longer, as the next thing I knew it was 4am and time to get the day started and get my trainers on before my body realised how early it was. When you run through town and encounter not one, but two foxes more than a handful of humans stumbling their way home, attempting to piece together their night, shoes in hand you know it’s either crazily early in the morning, or something has gone very, very wrong.
A year and a day since I finished my 1000KM Challenge with the ‘Liverbird New Year’s Eve Marathon’ I was back in Liverpool to begin the journey all over again. The race itself is a simple, low key affair. Four laps along the River Mersey, running 3.2ish miles out-and-back until you reach the magic 26.2 mile total. Having ran the race before I knew what I was in for, it would be nice and flat, but if the weather chose to be a bitch you would be in for a tough time. In 2013 I got off lightly, it was cold and a bit rainy at the beginning but for a winter marathon, unprotected from the elements it was as good as you could hope for.
This year I would not be so lucky, I’d kept an eye on the forecast daily the week before the race and saw Santa had brought with him a nice little yellow warning for wind. To be honest, I was expecting it to be much worse than it was. On the first lap I could feel my legs slowly warming up, after sitting on the train for an hour and a half they had begun to stiffen up a little and the frantic two mile run from the station to the start in search of toilet left me with little time to properly stretch before the race. As I reached the half way point of the race, my legs felt like they were in the closing stages of a marathon and technically they were. Halfway through the third lap my body had already completed a marathon that day, but I still had another 10 miles to go before finishing the race.
Had I been out on a training run I could easily have called it quits at this point, but the accidental placing of a marathon at the end of a training run provided me with the well needed psychological push to get me through to the end. That and the chocolate and Coke at the turning points of each lap. I had difficulty with my pacing throughout, a few months ago I had run a new PB at the Yorkshire Marathon of 3:26, but with general fatigue, conditions and an existing 11 miles in my legs I knew I would be nowhere near this time. In fact I had no intention of running for any time, it was a case of simply surviving the distance. My watch would have me at almost exactly an hour slower than Yorkshire, but it felt like a much greater achievement as when I crossed the line I had not only completed the first marathon of the year, but clocked up 37 ½ miles for the day and found some much needed confidence going into the Peddar’s Way Ultra.
If you are feeling generous and wish to donate to Mind, my JustGiving page can be accessed by clicking here.