Onto the next adventure – or why I run (revisited)


A while ago I did a post called ‘why I run‘ where I explored the things that made me want to lace up my shoes and go out. And also the things that went against that, having laced up said shoes. If you’ve not seen that post, it’s well worth a look.

It came off the back of a low-point in my running, one littered with injury lay-offs and a general dissatisfaction with where I’d been going with my running. However, I had recognised this fact and started to address it.

What 2018 taught me was that what running is to another person can often be different to what it is to me. And that meaning can change over time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy getting out racing even though the likelihood of me coming away with a trophy is pretty slim. Sometimes I feel I could go out on a solo training run and finish outside the top 3. But that doesn’t matter. The reality is that if ‘winning was the absolute of everything’ very few people would go out and do anything.

For what it’s worth my philosophy for races is that I go in as prepared as I can be and I give the race everything I’ve got. It doesn’t matter that I come 50th. Or 500th. If I’ve done the best I can on the day then I’m happy. It’s something I impart to those I run with and those I guide and coach; there’s little point beating yourself up about something that’s beyond your control. Sure it’s great to dream and good to push yourself. But keep it real. See the results in the context that they occurred.

The climb to the Bowstones

The climb to the Bowstones – (Bullock Smithy Hike)

Keeping it real

What my shift in focus last year showed me more than anything is that my goals and priorities are just that. MINE! I had lost my focus and became sidetracked into chasing goals and aspirations that, ultimately, weren’t my own. It’s an easy thing to do, especially if you’re training with others who have specific goals that are different. And whilst it’s not always a bad thing (striving for improvement is a good thing!) if you’re focusing all your time on something that doesn’t really fulfil you, it can end up quite empty. Which is where I found myself in 2017 whilst nursing an injury sustained in the pursuit of that non-aim!

The article was published in August 2018 and it’s worth noting a few things that the article ultimately missed. Mainly due to the lack of crystal ball or fortune-cookie expertise.

First and foremost, I really enjoyed nearly all of the running in 2018.

The ‘nearly’ comes into play due to my overall lack of fitness. As I alluded in the article, I’d put on a stone in weight and whilst I enjoyed the ultras, the results themselves weren’t particularly inspiring. To be brutal, they weren’t that good, compared with what I’d been achieving before. Things came to a head when I ran the English Half Marathon in the September where I produced a very lacklustre result (for me) despite giving all I had on the day. In fact it was after that race I stepped on the scales and discovered the weight gain – the result of effectively eating as if I was still training to run marathons, but without the training!!!

This fact highlighted to me the importance (to me) of being able to put in my best performance. Indeed, having slimmed back down following a change of diet, I ran my 3rd fastest road half-marathon, coming within 50 seconds of my 2016 PB and took nearly 75 seconds off my 5k PB. So in that case, results do matter – to me. It’s just a matter of knowing what it is that I really want.

Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon

Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon

Carpe Diem – Life is an adventure!

What I discovered in 2018, and have further investigated in 2019 is the whole ‘adventure’ side of running.

Not in the Bear Grylls sort of adventure – given the choice it’s a hotel with a restaurant every time!

Rather, if I’m going to be out running all day (for example), I like the idea of it being more than just a list of min/mile splits and a note about how fast (or not) I did it.  Going somewhere and experiencing that place, wherever that is becomes the focus, not some scenery that’s ignored as part of an “eyes-out” session.  I know that some would scoff at this as being an acceptance of mediaocracy. But it fundamentally comes down to that individual reason of why I run. Not you. Not them. Me. What need does that exercise meet in my life, because that’s ultimately the motivator without which I wouldn’t be doing it.

2019 has had it’s share of ‘adventures’. From the double-race experience in Cyrpus to all the trips out into the Peak District which culminated in 2 ultras raced and 2 where I helped out with the event.

Start of the 2019 XC season

Start of the 2019 XC season

And this is leading to…….?

The next adventure happens this weekend. And it’s completely bonkers and different to anything I’ve done before. It’s a race I came across 2 years ago whilst on my final assessment weekend for my coaching qualification. A race that could be tracked online so you could see what was going on in realtime even though I was in a B&B in Mytholmroyd at the time. I was intrigued but certain it wasn’t something I’d ever sign up for.

A year ago I followed the race again, and got swept up in all that was going on, whilst telling myself it wasn’t for me.

And a few weeks later my entry was secured for the 2019 edition of ‘Escape from Meriden‘.

I will of course do a race review after the event. but this one can be a bit more interactive so I thought I’d give a bit of advance warning first! Aside from that most of the ‘review’ points I’ve used in the past will be entirely irrelevant in this case. Let me explain.

Escape from Meriden. Not a normal race.

It’s not a race with big yellow directional signs, nor with crowds of spectators cheering on the runners. In fact there isn’t any support at all as such.

It’s essentially based upon the premise of a prison break. The “start-line” is a 500 year old stone cross in the centre of England in the village of Meriden. It starts at midnight and participants have 24 hours to run as far away from Meriden as they can, the distance measured as the crow flies. The ‘Crow’ (aka the race organiser) also being the ever-watching eye on the race being informed of everyone’s distinct location by the GPS device each runner carries. There are awards for getting 30 (Silver), 60 (Gold), and 90 (Black) miles as the crow flies. As most roads, rivers, canals etc aren’t straight (what did the Romans do for us?) that generally means travelling somewhat further to get each award level. Represented on a map, it looks something like this:

Escape from Meriden ATCF boundaries

Escape from Meriden ATCF boundaries

To put it in perspective only 4 of the 2018 runners achieved the Black award as it’s rather a long way…….

Hence preparation is key. Where to run to? How far to go? What route to take? That’s up to the individual. Except for those running in pairs (some of whom choose to be ‘chained’ to each other) as they’ll have to come up with a consensus over where they’re going, otherwise it’ll be a very long night!

A race that YOU can “watch” without leaving the house

As all participants are carrying a GPS tracking device for the Crow to monitor, it also means that you can ‘watch’ the race live too, as a hundred or so people dissipate out from the centre of England into the night in every conceivable direction. Some have shared their routes ahead of time, others have chosen not to do this.

It’s my intention to try* to do a bit of social media during my ‘escape’ and I’ll be running that from my Instagram account.

So do click on that link and follow me on there to see how this particular ‘adventure’ unfolds. I’m going to be heading in a northerly direction; how far north I’ll get we’ll just have to wait and see, especially with flood warnings popping up seemingly at random. Hopefully a few photos and perhaps some video en route may happen if I can manage it.

* Last time I tried to “do social media” I forgot to turn on the microphone on the video. Just so you can keep those expectations realistic!

The tracking link for the event is here although it’ll only be live from 15th November through to 17th when the ‘chained’ category finish (they have 36 hours of conjoined fun!).

The race starts at 0001 hrs on Saturday morning 16th November 2019 (actually 1 minute earlier) and finishes just after 2359 hrs.

Dot-watching races such as ultra-marathons is bizarrely addictive and can be done from the safety of a warm and dry house with food and drink on tap. Although it can come with a slight risk of future participation……!

I’ll let you know what it’s like to be one of the watched-dots!

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