Several long term injuries, illness, multiple races being cancelled, a DNF and an ongoing battle with fitness; it’s safe to say that 2017 didn’t exactly go to plan. It was a year that began with much hope and promise, a year with big fundraising plans, but one that ultimately ended in disappointment. Yet, in many ways it was far from a failure, and it could even be argued that it was my most successful year of running yet.
It was with a crash (and a whimper) that my #run2017 challenge came to an end back in August. Just 3 miles in to August’s Long Tour of Bradwell I slipped descending into Cave Dale and landed hard on my knee. Despite stubbornly trying to carry on for the next 10 miles, each mile got slower and slower, and on one leg I decided that attempting to complete the remaining 20 miles would not be the best idea.
Today didn't go to plan. The forecast clear skies were nowhere to be seen, instead taking its place was persistent rain. 3 miles in I slipped on rocks and fell on my knee. Hard. For the next few miles I would attempt to 'run it off', but soon realised it was doing more harm than good. After 14 miles and over 4 hours I decided to call it a day, rather than limping round for another 20 miles, stopping outside the aptly named Hope Cemetery. My second ever DNF, but one that hopefully was the right decision.
Going into the second half of the year I was already behind my target of running 2017 miles, but that fall would destroy any lingering hope I still had of reaching that number. Taking cue from the knee injury, my body decided it would make use of the fact I was unable to run, leaving me bed ridden with flu for the best part of a week. It would be almost two months until I was able to start running again, choosing as I would the Guardians of the COD RC Marathon as my comeback run.
It was difficult, as to be expected, within those two months my fitness had dropped significantly and after just 8 miles I was thinking of calling it a day. Tentatively dubbed ‘The Unfit & Unprepared Tour’ it would be the first of 3 marathons in a month as I slowly tried to teach my body how to run again.
I would finish the year with only 15 (official) marathons, down from 2016’s total of 17, and with a few less in the bag than I initially hoped for.
The trouble I’ve found with attempting a year long challenge is that there are many variables that are difficult to account for at the beginning of the year, and ones that I had trouble with dealing with at the time. The year was plagued with two long term injuries, the ongoing back injury that troubled most of my Spring, making it difficult to sit down or even sleep, and the knee injury that hit in Autumn.
Whilst I always try to have backup races in case I miss the registration cut off, or can’t make the date, I wasn’t prepared for two of the big races I planned to run this year to be cancelled at a moment’s notice. The first, The Drop 50, was cancelled back in April due to an underwhelming signup response, whilst September’s Relentless Pain & Suffering was cancelled after the company went bust, taking my registration fee with them.
Even away from running it was a difficult year, with what I naively thought would be a simple house purchase turn into a 9 month long drawn out saga, that didn’t finish once we got the keys. The long term stress of which led to me opting to turn back to medication, as it all started to get too much for me to handle.
It has certainly made me rethink before attempting another charity focused ambitious year long challenge again. It is difficult when so much relies on many external factors. Though whilst it sounds like it is a year full of low points, there were three significant success this year that means it could go down as one of my most successful years of running.
Firstly, May’s 7 Marathons in 7 Days saw me pushing myself physically and mentally to my limits, running 7 back to back marathons in a week in aid of Mental Health Awareness Week, unsupported and (mostly) solo. In hindsight it was a surprise that the week was as successful as it was, especially given the fitness issues that I had throughout most of the year. In 2018 I hope to try the same again, although this time getting more people involved and potentially running in different cities.
A couple of months later I was catching the Megabus down to Birmingham for midnight to run the Escape from Meriden, my first 24 hour race. At 10pm and 78 miles later, I had reached Dronfield, a couple miles short of my target of Sheffield, but significantly further than I had ever run before.
Finally, December’s Christmas Cracker Marathon saw me run my 50th (official) marathon for Mind in the last 3 years. I say official as it doesn’t include May’s 7 for Mental Health Awareness Week, nor July’s Escape from Meriden. It is a number that was far from my mind when I ran the first, the Liverbird New Year’s Day Marathon back in 2015. It also won’t be my last.
Currently, as of writing, there are no significant plans for 2018. First and foremost I need to get my fitness back, and get at least an hour off my marathon time. May definitely has my (now annual) 7 Marathons in 7 Days pencilled in, whilst in July I’m set to run the inaugural (think Escape from Meriden in reverse).
I also still have distant hope of reaching 100 marathons by my 30th Birthday, giving me 67 weeks to run another 39 marathons, so we’ll have to check back in later on that one.
There is also the unfinished business of the Long Tour of Bradwell. I don’t like the feeling of any race ‘defeating’ me, so that one is likely on the calendar too. It will be another busy year I’m sure, full of new, challenging races and hopefully less injuries