Where do you see yourself in 6 years?

This is a classic old school interview question about where you see your life going. For the interviewer to assess if you are ambitious and/or if you are likely to stay at the company if the career path is correct. Progression basically. This is usually gauged over 5 years but doesn’t work for this this situation. 6 years is the definite time frame, as on 5th June 2015, I laced up my shoes again and re started my running. No plans, no thoughts on a journey. I just had that call to go for a run one day. I won’t bore you about it as there is a blog here about how I came back to this glorious and infectious sport. Suffice to say I was instantly hooked…again.

Skill placement of the bib at my first 10km in 2015

A couple of weeks after this first run, I was persuaded to run a 10km race by a work colleague, I thought why not?

Then in early 2016 I was persuaded to try a half marathon, I thought why not?

People began to ask, “how about a marathon”, I said never a marathon, that’s just silly, it’s too far!

Then in April that year, I saw a friend and 1000s of others run a marathon, I thought why not?

After completing my marathon, I said never again. 3 days later, I thought, why not? Signed up for another, then another.

At the same time the trails were calling though. I had done a trail half and then a marathon. 100k you say(2018), in 1 go you say, why not?

Oh, that was kind of fun, horrible at times but fun. Oh there’s this race in the lakes where you get to run from the bottom to the top, called The Cumbria Way (2019). What’s the distance, about 122km/75miles ish, oh why not?

You can see how things escalated. 2015 Jon had never heard of an ultra. So much so, the reason I judge distance in KMs is because I thought I would never get past 10km!

2015 Jon was also someone, like 2021 Jon, who would just get up and do something if it sounded interesting or exciting. So much so that even before I had had my little adventure in the Lakes I started thinking about the next distance, the next leap of faith. 100 Miles.

I will ponder an idea for a bit and weigh up the positives and negatives, then go all in. I guess that how I ended up where I am. I found a race that excited me. Something that wasn’t too scary (UTMB) at the time and I would hopefully be able to rope some friends in to crew/pace.

That race was the South Downs Way 100. Close to home so if the shit did hit the fan I could be rescued but difficult enough to mean I would have to invest.

I decided to volunteer at an aid station to get me closer to the action and because of the points below. 

  1. It would give me a free place in the race, saving £160
  2. To give back by helping the runners and make sure they have the best experience by handing over bags, giving first aid, feeding and watering etc.
  3. To gain an understanding by observing what it’s like to be “in” a race like this. Any extra insight can’t be a bad thing right?

It was an eye opener but also a heart warmer. I was still all in. For 2020 I would run the South Downs Way 100.

Washington Aid Station on the 2019 SDW100

The wonderful race in the lakes opened my eyes to going further. It was hard but I felt I had more in me as I cruised across the finish line. Yeah my legs were in pain but that was because I stopped. Stopping does funny things! On reflection, I could have run further that day.  At the start or 2020 I was excited as always to kick off this training block with Coach Mags. To find out what it would be like, to up the volume.

2020 didn’t happen as the Covid put paid to any trail races until July. Weirdly I spent that race weekend pulling a 28 hour shift on a virtual graduation ceremony for a University in Asia. I know where I would have rather been.

Now in 2021 after 5 months of training, running 1600Kms with 26,000m of vert I find myself about to lace up again, to run/hike/crawl my way from Winchester to Eastbourne.

It’s been a funny training block but then I didn’t know what to expect really, having never been able to train like this. The Lakes race came off the back of a poorly trained mountain 50km (because of injury) then a holiday. I think I had something like 6 weeks to get myself into shape. This time it is different, it feels different.

3.5 months of lock down made it different too. Running locally through, mud, snow and rain. I felt both lucky and also constrained. Constantly editing loops to add distance or vert. Getting to the point where I knew these trails like the back of my hand. The marathon in the snow on my own was a high and low point of this time. 

The freedom that came from the lifting of restrictions brought the ability to train on the course and see friends. I split it up into 3 adventures, which allowed me to run the whole length of the SDW. I know the course pretty well and my pre race logistics are almost dialled in, thanks Lou, Dai and Elisa!

What I don’t know is: What is it like to run a 100 miles?

I’ve listened to my friends Dai, Ally, Paul, Paul, Sarah and Krysia talk about it on the runs we have done. I’ve paced Dai and Ged during 100 miles efforts and see what they are going through. But I don’t know myself.

I am not quick runner (relatively) but I feel that I am good at just digging deep, pushing on. Experience teaches you things and if you don’t take those learnings then you are a fool. We all make mistakes but it’s how you navigate out of them that can mean the difference between failure and finishing. Problem solving on the fly is also key.

During Race to the Stones I was melting away at 30km -50km. I had stomach cramps, felt dehydrated, sick and considered quitting a couple of times but I said “just make it to half way” At halfway you can reset. At halfway I worked out what food I could get down to fuel me to the finish. I took it easy until I started to feel the effects of replenishing my body and kicked on to the finish.

At Berlin Marathon. I knew my mental health was not in a good place and pushing for the goal time wasn’t going to happen. I reset the goal to not walk. I found a steady pace and stuck to it only slowing a bit in the last few KMs. To me this was perfect pacing strategy for me.

During the Cumbria Way, I had two mental wobbles. One was again caused by lack of water. Solved that problem by knocking on the door to a house and begging for some! The 2nd was due to the lack of training I was pretty tired at halfway. I took some time. I sat down, I ate, I chatted with Becca and I reset. Going out of that aid station, I was tired, but my brain was ready for the task ahead and it worked, and I found a true 2nd wind pretty quickly.

Something else I have learned is that we all have wobbles, moments of self-doubt. It’s how you turn those thoughts around that matter the most. Sometimes distractions work but more often than not I just let my brain wonder, let it go where it needs to go. That might be to random pop songs or thoughts about how I am never doing this again lol. More often than not it’s to the “why I am doing this?”. Why, why, why!

But why not?

It’s kind of a joke answer but it has feeling. So much of our western lives are sanitised and safe. To have raw feelings is something rare. I think about the movie “The Game”, where Michael Douglas’s Character is put into the most extreme of life experiences (by his brother lols), because for him, there is nothing else left, he has no extremes. I am not comparing a hundo to being hunted by assassins and having your life ripped apart. It’s more about doing something different and special for you. Something that doesn’t come easy, that you’ve had to sacrifice time, physical and emotional energy for. An adventure if you will, out of the safety of the sofa, like a personal science experiment. This is how a feel about this race. 

I am under no illusions that it will be hard. Entering the unknown should feel scary and raw. You have to respect it.

Yes, I have run far before but this is certainly outside of my comfort zone. I don’t know what I will feel like after 122km but I am ready to find out.

From 10km to 160km in 6 years, Why not!

Hoping to be here at the end of a long, long run!

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