Woo hoo! After struggling for the last couple of months (pretty much since the WHW race), I've finally managed to put together 4 decent runs in the last 4 days. Not the faffing about, stopping for a snack, and walking up the hills type of run, but 4 proper runs - runs where I can feel my heart pounding throughout, where my top is drenched with sweat after a couple of miles, and where I have to spend around 5 minutes barfing at the end (or occasionally during) the run because I have worked so hard. And it feels great, I can tell you. The niggle at the bottom of my hamstring even seems to have cleared up all by itself - although taking allybea's advice I still went along to my appointment at the physio in Stirling this morning, a decision that cost me a whopping £58. That was a lot more painful than the injury.
This weekend I have a couple more runs planned. I'm taking part in a relay race tomorrow round the Tour of Strathearn route, which is part of our club's 25th anniversary celebrations. I have the pleasure of being selected for the 'challenging' leg 3, which goes from the park in Comrie up to the dam at Loch Turret. Should be fun; probably a lot more fun than the tug o'war competition or the rounders at night, which are also included in the celebrations. On Sunday morning I'm meeting a few guys from Kirkintilloch Olympians for a 20 miler on the roads around Kirkintilloch. I expect this to be a good test of whether I really am starting to run better.
Good luck to those doing the John Lucas Memorial Race at Strathaven on Sunday. It's 50 miles, all on road, and would have been a great training run for the 24 hour race. Unfortunately it's a couple of weeks too early for me, particularly after the Devil O, so I'll just have to make do with the reports from El Presidente Mrs Mac and the Subversive Pirate. Good luck guys.
Finally, a few words from me on the 'Great Blog Debate' which has been raging on various blogs about approaches to training and motivation for running. First point: I am as competitive a person as anyone I know. Running (or more specifically racing) helps satisfy my need to be competitive. Whatever condition or state of fitness I am in, I am always keen to beat whatever target I have set, and is the main reason I race so much - I've averaged around 25 races a year for the last 20 years, covering a range of distances from 2 miles (which hurt like hell because it was so short and fast) to 106 miles in the 24 hour race (which hurt like hell because it was so long).
However I also enjoy a lot more about running than just getting the chance to be competitive. I love going out with some great friends and enjoying their chat and company. I love going away to places like Islay, Stornoway, Coll, Inverness, the WHW, and so on, just so I can run. I can think of many fantastic days where I have left the house at some ridiculous time on a Saturday or Sunday morning, with friends like George or Phil, so that we can take part in some obscure race that we have seen in the fixture list. To me that is what it is all about: travelling away to Arran, Islay or Coll on the first ferry; going up to Inverness and back in a day for the half marathon; driving up towards Fort William to do the 10.8 mile Two Ferries race, simply because we had been told about the quality of hospitality and friendly welcome given by the race organiser; or going away for a day in Stonehaven to see how hard the half marathon could actually be (quite hard we discovered but not impossible, and yet another first class day out).
When we started arranging group runs on the WHW a number of years ago, the purpose was not to get from A to B in a certain time, but to go out as a group, enjoy the day, and almost as a side benefit get some quality training on the WHW course. We carried our own kit and didn't ever think about having support - why bother when it wasn't really necessary and it would just make things more complicated? For the same reason the runs were almost always out-and-back, as that was a lot less hassle than doing a point to point. We often stopped at the half way point for a coffee, had something to eat, and for a chance for everyone to regroup. Those taking part were of differing standards but I think we all took a lot from the runs.
One good example of those runs was the first time I met Ellen, Mags, and Russell. The four of us had arranged through the WHW forum to meet at Tyndrum and run to Fort William. None of us had ever met before but that didn't matter - we stayed closely together all the way to Kinlochleven, stopped for a bowl of soup in the pub, then ran together up the Lairig Mor. The chat was great throughout. It was only over the last 6 miles or so that we split into 2 groups and finished in FW a few minutes apart. Then we travelled back down together by train and shared our stories of the day. It was a great day out and I know that we all took a lot from it, as well as becoming good friends.
Over the years I have been on many other brilliant runs like the one I've just described, and I have no doubt that there will be many others in the years ahead. I'm already looking forward to running with many old and familar faces, as well as meeting new people who have heard all about ultra running and want to experience the fantastic camaraderie.
So when are we all meeting for the next run?