There are many phrases and euphemisms to describe it – a glass half full, one door opens another closes, a curates egg – since time immemorial it has been an immutable fact of life that we get our opportunities and challenges in broadly equal measure; what we do with them is down to us and us alone.
First off, let me say I think its great that someone can run Fellsman in around 14 hours and then come back the next year and win the event. I didn’t get the chance to really understand how well prepared Duncan Harris was this time around but I do sense he had his lines right and was well trained and motivated for the performance. I also sympathise with Steve Birkinshaw – he was clearly so much fitter than me and will know that he is unlikely to see a repeat of the stomach problems that bedeviled him around Middle Tongue – nevertheless, its one more thing he has to deal with and rationalise in the run up to his Lakes 24 hour record round.
As for me – if you had told me 2 months ago I would get 2nd place I would have laughed. I was running 15 miles/week or less and didn’t have an entry in. By the weekend before, that over inflated sense of self ability that propelled me to many a challenge had returned and I was even thinking of the win. But I know how dangerous that bravado can be – it took me to 3rd place at mile 80 of 100 in one of the world’s elite races only to crash and burn to 28th spot by the finish line.
What last weekend gave me was some discouragement as I toiled up climbs I know I have run in races gone by – the long drag up Blea Moor, the stony track out of Stonehouse – no way could I float up these last weekend. It gave me some discouragement as I slipped from 2nd to 4th to 6th and realized I was somehow missing the vistas, the birdsong, the ever changing pattern of sun and clouds dappling the hillsides. And it gave me discouragement as I was reacquainted with one of the age old dilemmas of distance running – food is fuel, eating is a struggle and nausea is a persistent companion you carry with you. Then, without warning, it gave me quiet satisfaction as a better line brought me back to 4th spot and a bit of determined running consolidated that, it gave me encouragement as Simon vocally demonstrated that he was feeling as nauseous as me and I ran a solid section over to Middle tongue back into 3rd and it gave me amazement as I first passed Steve over to Hells Gap and then held off repeated challenges over the remaining 15 miles. My god – I ran up much of Great Whernside and felt like some of those last 20 miles were covered as quickly as I have ever covered them.
Coming into Redshaw
So, what to make of all this? A comeback or a fluke? Where do we go from here. There has always been a part of me that wanted to set an emphatic record on this race and I was arrogant enough to believe I could go under 10 hours but it never happened. Is it impossible now? This is balanced by the desire to see Fellsman as the Grand Prix of UK distance running – the Western States of the UK – with top UK and overseas runners racing head to head to set that sub 10 hour time. I would be a bystander for such a contest – presumably? …and actually I have always loved the solitude on that race…running alone for hours on familiar terrain, mentally and physically ticking off each section, monitoring the internal systems, taking in the environment; not pressured by anyone else but putting the ultimate pressure on myself – the race of truth.
So, many questions but, at this moment, precious few answers. There are two things I am very clear about though:
- the race takes more out of me as I get older, I felt trashed on Monday :)
- running long has beauty, power and grace - it cleanses the soul - it matters everything and nothing. If you aren't alraedy doing it you should start - life will change.