31 reasons why I’m looking forward to running 31.07 miles otherwise known as The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon
No, I haven’t gone completely mad after my week with a cold and yes, you did read the title of this blog post correctly. With less than a week to go until The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon, I am really looking forward to this epic challenge. Here are 31 reasons why I can’t wait to run 31.07 (rounded up) or 50k on 6 October 2013.
1. It will be my biggest challenge yet
I’ve run more than 10 marathons, several halves, cross-country races, not sure how many 10ks, 5ks, but I have never paced myself for longer than 26.2 miles. If anything will put my body and mind to the test, it’s going to be this race. I’m not setting myself a time to beat and have no real expectations. What I do want to do, however, is cross the finish line with a smile on my face.
2. It’s a gentle introduction to ultra running
While gentle and ultra don’t look like they belong in the same sentence, the Royal Parks Ultra has been considered to be a baby ultra because it is only 8k more than a marathon. This offers novices like myself the opportunity to test the waters as it were.
3. It may be just what I need
After training for so many months now, I feel that this “baby ultra” race will be my make or break time. Either I love it and will want to try more ultra-type adventures or I’m going to decide it’s not for me and put any “Mini Mimi Anderson” aspirations to bed.
4. It will help me assess my running goals
Some runners just like to run, while others (like me) have certain goals. At the moment, my main goal is obviously to complete an Ultra but trying something new will help me decide what to aim for next year. Should I be battling the marathon PB? Or perhaps upping the mileage? I’m hoping at least this Ultra will help me identify what path I should take in 2014.
5. It’s not that far
No, I have not lost my mind completely but in the grand scheme of Ultra running races, the Royal Parks Ultra is not that far. This means I do not to have worry too much about the training I’ve done so far affecting the other races I have on this year.
6. I couldn’t compete in the Royal Parks Ultra last year
Last year, as in 2012, was definitely a wake-up call in every sense of the word. From the highs of the Paris Marathon, where I achieved a PB at the Paris marathon to the lows of an injury that put my training back months (and then losing my contract at work), last year was a toughie. And I had to make the decision to pull out of the Royal Parks Ultra because I wasn’t mentally or physically in the right place.
7. Now I can really enjoy some of the most beautiful parks of the world
If you read my blog regularly, I hope it comes across that I really dig beautiful scenery. Some of my favourite races so far have taken place in the diverse countryside that this green land has to offer (check out my pics of the South Downs Marathon). When you live, work and socialise in London, it can be difficult to (sorry) see the wood through the trees or see any forage full-stop. The London Marathon is a great example of a race that takes part in the beautiful concrete jungle that is the City but you just don’t get the sense that London is a truly green capital. The Royal Parks Ultra route takes you right through the many beautiful and protected areas of London and I can’t wait to experience them all in one day. Come on, I’m selling it to you now aren’t I?
8. Not to mention the sights
Undoubtedly, the London Marathon is a brilliant experience but (now here it comes) you miss out on the West side of London. The Royal Parks Ultra takes you right past the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Battersea Park, Richmond Park, Putney Bridge, not to mention Kew Gardens (where there’s a fungi festival on at the moment for any wannabe mycologists). I’ll also be passing over eight bridges that cross the Thames, just don’t ask me to try and name them all.
9. And the different terrains
I’ve run on roads, footpaths, park terrain and even a cycle track but I have never run on them all in the same race (apart from the cycle track of course). The Royal Parks Ultra includes towpaths and park trails as well as the not-so-forgiving concrete roads of central London. It will certainly be a test for my little legs.
10. The start of the race is in Central London
Hurrah, at last, a race that starts not umpteen miles away from my home (or a cycle ride away). All I have to do is work out a way to travel from East Finchley to Hyde Park on public transport for around 7:30am. Yes, it’s an early start for a Sunday but believe me, the starting line is way more preferable than some races I’ve competed in.
11. It’s an early start
I know there’s always this debate going on about the best time of day to run but I’m pretty thankful that this race does begin at 8:30am. This means that (hopefully) I’ll be finished around lunchtime and then be able to go for a well-deserved slap-up pub meal in the glorious surroundings of Teddington. Well, that’s the plan at this moment in time.
12. My friends will be there
All together now, ahhhh. But seriously, having your friends at cheer points and seeing people you know at certain stages of the race really can help motivate you. I’ve lost count of the amount of times during races I’ve wished that my boyfriend had been there, cheering me on, (he’s never seen me win anything) but this time he will be alongside my mum, dad and friends. So thank you guys in advance for your support over the last few months and for putting up with this endless running malarkey. I am truly grateful for all your support.
13. Mimi will be there too
But running not watching. I will be running alongside (yeah right) well behind the awe-inspiring Mimi Anderson who was one of the reasons I signed up for the Royal Parks Ultra in the first place. Mimi is besides other things, a World Record holder. She is also extremely personable and just comes across as totally sound. I’m super excited about running in her footsteps.
14. As well as Team Write This Run
Some of my fellow Write This Run team will be running the Royal Parks Half, which starts at 9am. This looks like it will be an equally beautiful race and I’m sure I’ll see some familiar faces supporting them along the course as the Royal Parks Ultra follows a similar route. Good luck everyone and a special thanks to Liz from Write This Run for all her sound advice and encouragement.
15. In fact, it feels like a bunch of my running friends will be at The Royal Parks’ races
I’m not sure if I’ll see Leah, Jess, Sian, Charlie and all the rest of the Team Naturally cheering crew but just knowing you’re there makes this race all the more fun. I’ll be wearing pretty much what is in the photo – my Great Ormond Street vest, adidas shorts, granny compression socks (flight socks) under my sole socks, blue New Balance trainers and (I can’t promise but I’ll try) a huge grin.
16. I get to show off my Great Ormond Street vest
It’s purple, which in the olden days was the royal colour because only royalty could afford the very expensive purple-dyed cloth. How times have changed but it seems quite apt to wear my purple GOSH vest when running the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon.
17. Not to mention run for charity
I don’t know what other runners think about this but there comes a point when you stop running for charity because you have already done those distances. For me, it always feels a bit ingenious asking my friends and family to sponsor a marathon, for example, when I’m only really in it to get my PB. Of course, I’m not against supporting charities but I’m not going to mix charity with running anymore, unless it is a real challenge that I’ve never tried before. The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon definitely falls into this category.
18. And a charity after my own heart
I’m supporting GOSH because I wanted to give something back. As a former patient, I know how vital the specialist care and research that GOSH are involved is and as pretty a colour the vest is, it’s more important that I can be a part of their fundraising efforts. You can read the story about my birthmark, operation and how they monitored my leg lengths from being a child through to my teenage years here. Without GOSH help, I may not have been able to walk let alone run today.
19. I’ve raised a bit of money so far
And with your help, I’d like to raise some more.,. Joking aside, thanks to all those who have sponsored me. It’s a real driver for the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon and I do not want to let you or GOSH down. Of course, I’m nervous but the thought of the money that I’ve raised and all the people who have supported me will be spurring me on.
20. I can put my training to work
Despite my cold last week, I have been training hard. I’ve not exactly stuck to a training plan per say but it has been one of my main priorities of the last few months. It will be great to know that all the early mornings and long runs on a Sunday have been worth it.
21. Especially splitting runs up during the week
I’m not going to say that I spend every hour that I’m not at work running but at times it has felt like it. I run to work (5k), run at lunch (5k) and run home from work (5k). By splitting up my runs like this, I have managed to get the distance in but also managed to kind of have a life (although my boyfriend would probably argue on this one). The downside of splitting runs is the amount of shower gel and towels I get through in a week, not to mention the growing pile of kit in the corner of my room.
22. Talking of kit…
As well as wearing my fancy new GOSH vest, I get to wear my new adidas running shorts with their barely there feel, my Sole socks, which are super comfy and my Freya Active Sports Bra. Of course, I’ve trialed them already and am really pleased with the way they make me look and feel but the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon really is the ultimate test.
23. Coming back to the Freya Active Sports Bra
Now I’m not going to bang on about this too much but this piece of under armour is just that. When it comes to designing these wonderful pieces of equipment, I’m sure the team got the memo about a strict no bounce policy. I feel totally secure in my mine with no worries about jiggling about, which means I can concentrate on the race.
24. I’ve been doing the hydration maths
According to my calculations, I’m going to need a 500ml bottle of electrolyte Nuun-infused water (will take a litre to be sure) plus a bottle of plain water. I don’t really go in for gels but will probably have a sports drink beforehand to give me an initial boost of energy. Cross-fingers that my A in GCSE maths will not let me down.
25. Food, glorious food
Then there’s the eating that I’ve tried to incorporate into my training regime. Admittedly, I’m not the best at sticking to this as I’m out of habit of eating before races. But honestly (mum) I have nibbled on energy bars here and there while training and am sticking to the minimum amount of alcohol in the run up to the race. Let’s see if undoing years of going without will make a difference at the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon.
26. They’ll be food at the end
Even if I don’t feel like a pint and a pie after plodding for 50k , there’s always the option of FREE hot food at the end of the race. How many races have offered you that, eh? The perks of running The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon.
27. Did I read that correctly – AND hot showers?
I love running and racing but the aftermath of a marathon or even a 10k is always, well, a bit messy. In fact, I buy passes off PayAsYouGym so I can use their facilities close by. Who wants to travel back on the tube smelling like old socks? It was like music to my ears when I heard that Ultra runners can have a hot shower for FREE after the race. It’s the simple things that make all the difference.
28. Plus FREE massages
It seems odd to look forward to be looking forward to a massage and not some relaxing candle-lit job but a hardcore knead-your-muscles-like-dough experience but I think my legs are going to need it after a 50k race.
29. I’ve been prepping my legs with monthly sports massages
Unlike other races, where I’ve not taken the care to look after my legs, I’ve been making regular visits to the lovely Gareth of A2Z Elite Health and boy has it made a difference to my training. I hope my visit last Friday will also make a difference to my performance.
30. Gareth says I’m ready
My sports masseur Gareth is also a specialist sports and performance physio and was the lead physiotherapist for the British diving team. He is an expert in his field, passionate about his field ans always happy to share his advice. From adaptations and why I need to vary my routine to inactive injuries, I always learn something new about athletes and performance every time I pay him a visit. And if someone who has worked with the likes of Tom Daley tells you you’re ready, it’s a real boost to your confidence.
31. I’m running 31 miles aged 31
And I ran my first marathon that’s 26 miles at age 26 back in 2009. Maybe this is just by chance and I’m not in the least bit spiritual but I kind of like this pattern. What next? Well, we’ll have to wait and see what happens at the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon.
You can read my story and pledge your pounds here – it is an awesome cause and I’m really looking forward to wearing my vest with pride. Who will be running with me?