In 1997 I cycled 60 miles from Richmond to Oxford. I didn't bother doing any training because a) I didn't have my own bike and b) I was 24 and at that age I had the fearlessness of youth powering me. So, I borrowed a mountain bike, which wasn't ideal, and even though I also borrowed some cycling shorts, my backside was not happy the next day. Or the day after that. Without much planning or preparation I got through it.
Fast forward 18 years and there are 92 days until once again I will attempt to make the journey from Richmond to Oxford. Except this time I'll be running 100 miles along the Thames Path. This will be my first 100-miler and I'm very excited about it. I'm also a bit nervous. Because I've spent the last couple of years running greater and greater distances, it's got to the stage where people who know me don't even consider the 43-mile race I did earlier this month as much of an effort for me (it was) and therefore just assume that me completing the Thames Path 100 is a mere formality (it isn't). Allow me to furnish you with some facts about the TP100.
In 2014, 227 people started the race. For some, this was their first 100-mile race. Everyone who started the race had completed at least one 50-mile race in the previous 12 months and so had a good idea of what running for many hours entails. And yet, despite this knowledge and the many months of training they put in in order to complete this challenge, 80 of these starters didn't make it to the finish. That's more than a third of those who started. I point this out not to highlight failure, merely to indicate that a lot can go wrong in 100 miles.
I've been lucky enough to finish all of the races I've entered in my short running life but reading other people's race reports has been instructive to say the least. Here are a few of the reasons people don't finish:
- stomach issues
- being tripped over by a dog (really)
- stress fracture
- CBA (couldn't be arsed)
This last one is probably not one everyone would admit to, especially if you've told a lot people about your race and it's easier to blame it one one of the other reasons above. (James Adams has written a great piece on why people don't finish - read it here.) But it doesn't make it any less valid. Running this sort of distance does hurt but that's kind of the point. How much discomfort can you handle? How much do you really want to finish this thing that you've started, not just that day (or the previous day) but many months before in training for it?
Last year I ran the Ridgeway Challenge, all 86 miles of it. Originally I'd thought about doing a 100-mile race in 2014 but I'm really glad I waited until I did the Ridgeway first. It showed me what it's like to run through the night (fantastic once the sun comes up); I found out that I actually enjoyed running that far (it's a huge adventure); and it gave me the confidence that I could do another 14 miles at the end, if I wanted to (I know do).
Within days of finishing that race, I signed up for the Thames Path 100. Training has begun.
I'm raising money for the MNDA. Any donations gratefully received: