“Fifty kilometres? That’s more than a marathon. Are you mental?”, friend number one said quizzically as we tucked into our Thai dinner on Wednesday night. “Oh come on, she (as in me) told me she ran to Hampton Court via the motorway on Sunday,” friend number two piped up. To clarify, I wanted to get in my long run for the week so I decided to run to the location of Write This Run.
This seemed like a good idea on Saturday night and I’d packed my bag with everything, including a change of clothes and Muc-off dry shower. But when you still have four miles left to go (according to Google Maps) at 9:25am in the morning and the conference starts at 10am, you know you’re in trouble. Thankfully, I got there (huffing and puffing) in just the nick of time and am so glad that I did because every minute of Write this Run was valuable.
Indeed, the day, which incorporated inspirational speakers, health and nutrition experts and a community of bloggers and runners, was the reason I found myself registering for the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon on Sunday evening.
Here’s why Write This Run motivated me to sign up for my first 50km.
1. The importance of goals
One of the common themes to come out of Write This Run was this idea of goal-setting. From the 52 Marathon Man Kevin Betts, who set himself the task of running 52 sub-4 hour marathons in as many weeks to the Paratriathlete Donna DeWick and GB Olympic marathon runner Scott Overall, the speakers were all motivated by a goal. When I first started running many years ago, my goal was to complete a 5km. I quite enjoyed that so I thought why not increase the distance? I just kept going. Now with several marathons under my belt, I have already been toying with the idea of upping the distance. Can I run a little bit further? Perhaps. This um-ing and ah-ing came to a head after hearing all the speakers at Write This Run and I waved goodbye to any indecisiveness. So thank you guys for giving me the impetus to go hell with it and register for my first 50km challenge.
2. Mimi Anderson
Not only does the pint-sized blonde Mimi Anderson hold three World Records, she’s also incredibly funny. Quote from Twitter: “Taking HWMBO shopping to Bluewater, slightly concerned as I tell him everything I buy is free – might get caught out!” Mimi is a lady after my own heart and her steely determination has seen her complete some of the world’s toughest challenges. The Marvellous Mimi has almost run across almost every continent. She has run epic races such as the Double Badwater in South Africa (and been the first British female to do so) and also shown the boys who’s boss. In short, Mimi is exceptional. And when I find that the going gets tough during training, I’m going to think what would Mimi do? Answer: she would never give up.
2. You can train smarter not harder
Finally, after years of plodding the streets, over-training and, quite frankly, wasting far too much energy training inefficiently. Write This Run really brought it home that perhaps I haven’t been training as well as I could. It’s not like I haven’t read up on running techniques but I’m a bit impatient when it comes to putting theory into practice. Let’s just blame the internet and say I have a short attention span and nothing at all to do with the fact that I’m a little bit lazy and stuck in my ways. Thankfully, Karen Weir was at hand to stir things up and offer her tips on how to run better. The words “squeeze and lean” were a moment of clarity and I’m already putting this idea into practice. If you see a crazy blonde lady with a confused look running around the perimeter of Regent’s Park, then that’ll be me concentrating on the following three ideas: three steps per second, picking up my legs at the back to create 90 degree angles (I may have to rope the boyfriend into videoing me) and squeezing the “credit card” between my butt cheeks. Yup, training for the Royal Parks Ultra will be unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
4. Writing this run will change my attitude
One of the funniest questions of the day (well, I thought so anyway) was when someone asked Mimi about the best goody bag she’d ever received but the end reward is only part of the race. I already train (haphazardly) for various 10km and cross-country, so why write about my training for the 50km? This could actually work in my favour as I’m fairly undisciplined when it comes to training programmes. In fact, and this is the crux of the matter, I have never followed a training plan in my life. Call me Forest Gump without the deep South American accent. I’m Miss Plodalong, who runs to work during the week and fits in a long run before buying a coffee and paper for the boyfriend in bed at the weekend. Maybe it’s time to change my attitude and actually find a training plan to stick to and then validate it through words. I don’t want to sound presumptious but I hope you guys will be my checks and balances, my support network and my running buddies on the way.
5. The ready-made running community
I already know what a lovely bunch of people runners are. When we see fellow runners struggling during a race, we offer words of encouragement to spur them on. And yes, I’m feeling quite emotional just thinking about the times that other runners have encouraged me to keep going when I’ve contemplated giving up. We even have a code (well some of us) known as the runners’ nod. Translate this to the World Wide Web and you have runners who tweet each other, share their experiences online and support each other through the good times and the bad. I’ve already experienced this post-London Marathon but just knowing that (to borrow a phrase from the personal trainer Stuart Emory) Twitter can make you fitter and the virtual community are ready to help is a real boost. It feels like Write This Run was just the beginning to what could be an amazing and well-informed running community.
And if you have any tips for running a 50km, please let me know. I really am all ears.