It’s December. How did we get here again? How did all those, hours, days, and months fly by so quickly? It feels like a whirlwind on one hand and a slog on the other. So much has happened, for the good and the sad. So many moments, experiences, and feelings. It’s tough to reflect sometimes on what has been when there has been so much. That might sound odd or like a brag but to pinpoint a thing, drag those memories out of your mind is hard when you don’t know where to start and where to end. I guess I’ll just let the mind wonder and see where it ends up.
Since its inception, I had been asked if I wanted to get involved with Maverick Run Project (MRP). I am very much a community person when it comes to running. Having been involved with groups like London Burger Run & Wild Trail Runners, to long runs with mates and random people I have met through IG. I never saw how I could do a weekly MRP run though (which is what it seemed to be for the most part), with all my weekday runs taking place at 5am in my local area. I was contacted again at the start of 2022, with a proposal of doing long runs only to help those club members discover new routes in the safety of a group. I was intrigued by this idea and quickly figured out that I could fit this within my training. I have to say, it’s been a lovely edition to my year. I have met some truly lovely and inspiring people on the trails, leading runs in Kent, Sussex and Surrey. If you don’t know about MRP, then you can find out more information here, but basically, it’s a free run club, with leaders taking people out all over the place on trail runs from 6-30km. There is an app (which does have its flaws), where you can see the runs by date and check out the route. You can message the run leaders to ask questions and also just ask about what’s going on. I have found a real sense of community amongst the leaders and runners, which has bled over into the Maverick races too. I have taken part in two races and volunteered at 3 this year as well. Getting to know the event team and see a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes to pull off well run events has been both Enlightening and rewarding in equal measure. They show up some other less reputable race companies in so much that they do, which makes me proud to be a part of and I am looking forward to more of the same in 2023!
Community is such a powerful thing. I feel very privileged to know so many lovely people in running. Whether it’s at a race, on a WhatsApp chat, or going for an adventure. There is something that binds us all and it’s the desire for adventure and helping one another. The week I spent in Chamonix this year sums all of that up. So many people that I love (in running) and hold dear to me were there. We cheered each other, we supported when down, we helped though the suffering, we ate gelato, we drank beers and we hugged. I wondered what it would be like to go to a full on race week, it didn’t disappoint as it came at time when the heart was heavy.
There have also been adventures in the lakes, the peaks and even a spot of pacing on the flat lands of the Thames Path. Meeting new people, pushing ourselves into scary new experiences and celebrating our wins, big and small.
I think, taking on some more scrambles in the lakes must be a major win for me. As many of you know, I have a fear of heights. This often confuses people as I like to go up mountains. Why would someone who feels this way want to do this? I guess it’s part adrenaline, part to face the fears and mostly because of the views. Nothing beats them! Sometimes to get there you must do some hands-on rock climbing. Luckily, I know some people who are pretty good at it and helped me a lot over a weekend in the lakes in May. We did some basic scrambling, they helped me find the lines up and felt pretty damn proud of myself. I still have the fear, but it’s been tamed a little more. The more you try these things, the easier they become.
Of course, there have been races, well in fact 5 pretty big ones. I won’t go into detail here as you can read all about them in the race write ups, but it’s been an interesting journey. Not something I would recommend as a coach, especially as an amateur athlete but the covid situation and some ballot luck caused this fixture congestion. I have enjoyed each event for its unique experience, and they have reaffirmed my passion for UK races, that I first felt in 2019. Ticking off two more national parks in my little “do a race in every national park” challenge, was a big deal. The North York Moors for Hardmoors 55 and Northumberland National Park for The Cheviot Goat. Completing the Lakeland 50 with ease and feeling comfortable in the Lakeland fells is a big thing. The sense of feeling truly at ease in the rocky rugged terrain, is an awesome thing. It’s taken a lot of practice and I am still no Lakeland goat, but it doesn’t phase me anymore. The trip to Madeira was a really interesting one. What a beautiful race, amazing support, and tough route, which still makes me smile with pride at getting out and doing it on my own. Then of course there was CCC, the dream race finally in the bag, having an ace day out in the big mountains. Finishing with Jay, seeing Rebecca, Dani, Jules, Giff and Jess at the finish was truly special. I don’t think my legs have hurt so much but it was worth it. A 3.5-year journey with coach Mags, helping me become more confident in myself, learning so much as a runner and a coach along the way. We may not be working together now but I will never, ever forget that time.
2022 hasn’t all be good things though. I mentioned the cloud over the Chamonix trip. Just a few days before I left, my Mother in-law passed away. Gillian had spent a week living in the hospital with her brothers at her bedside. I anxiously waited for updates with Poppy, I can only imagine what that experience was like for her as they lost their father pretty much a year and a couple of days before. To put it bluntly it’s shit. Dementia and covid (her father) are crappy. Cancer (her mother) is crappy as well. I first met them in the summer of 2000 at Gillian’s birthday party, along with the rest of her family and since then we have been very close. I can’t say anything more, without bursting into tears as I write this, apart from I will miss them dearly and they will always be in my heart when things get tough, I will smile with the fond memories when they pop into my head. My first run (after failing in 2012) back in 2015 was from their house (3km) to the CCC, 7 years later was for them. Thank you Sue and Geoff x
In 2022, coaching stepped up a level. To be better at a job, you must continually improve. I have always been inquisitive on this subject, reading books and talking to other coaches but I stepped it up a notch this year by finally taking the plunge and doing my UESCA Ultra Running Coach course and exam. This was tough, lots of reading, lots of science and lots or learning. Expanding on things I knew but also some eye-opening moments too. Not that I had been doing things necessarily wrong but that I could do better. I was super please to pass the exam first time. This was about investing in myself to help others, which is what I strongly believe a good coach will do. I also completed an Outdoor First aid course as well. A brilliant 2 days with like-minded people talking about injuries and again helping others. I have continued to enjoy the coaching side of my life. There have been ups and downs. Amazing race results and tough moments of reflection for the athletes I work with. I am super proud of every single one of them for what they have achieved in 2022 and am pumped to help with the big goals of 2023.
It’s now the end of the year. How do I feel? To be honest, pretty tired. I’ve done less KM’s than other years but way more vert and bigger days out. It all adds up to cumulative fatigue, both mentally and physically. Training for this much over the year doesn’t work for me and my body. I knew this would be the case as soon as the Cheviot Goat was rescheduled for this year after the storm. Why did I do it you ask? Well, I needed some experience of doing something way out of my comfort zone for the year ahead. I needed to be in a wild place with less support, less access to water, with no course markings and stupid weather. This will help towards new long-range goal.
With the races all done, I took 2 whole weeks off. Doing zero, no Gym, no running and barely any walking tbh. And it felt great. I had no desire to run at all and it felt normal. I have punished my body a lot this year, it deserved this time. I put my mind through all kinds of emotions and dark places, it deserves this time. So, when I finally popped out for a run, it was a joy. Nothing special but just a good feeling of moving slowly. Then I spent the next 2 weeks doing whatever I wanted. Still no gym but the occasional run, whenever I felt like it. That’s the awesome thing about this time of year, when there is no plan, you can just stop! I feel every runner should do this. You can build the desire for what’s next and bring you mind back into focus.
What is next you ask? Ok, well this is a year long plan really. Starting Jan 2023 and ending Mid Jan 2024.
I have one race booked for next year and that the Laverado Ultra trail. 120km in the Dolomites in Italy. A race I have wanted to do for a while but one I feel I can give a good crack at now that I have done MIUT and CCC. It’s near the end of June, so I will have the perfect amount of time to get fit for this adventure. If I do a shorter 50km ish warm up race it will be a UK one but that will depend on what happens with the plan. There will be no silly 50 mile warm up races this year!
Then post-race I plan to take my volume right down and enjoy a family summer with some holidays. This last year we had to plan our holiday around me and my races. I won’t let that happen in 2023.
Then post-holiday fun, the buildup starts again. This time for the Montane Spine Challenger, a 108 mile adventure on the Pennine way in Jan 2024. Most of you will know this race. It’s the first part of the main race, The Spine, which covers all 268miles from Edale in the peak District to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. Right now, I don’t have the mental capacity or skills for such a distance, which is whys its great they offer some shorter (lols) racs. After finishing the SDW100 in 2021 I said I would never do a regular 100 miler again (I prefer the 100km distance), the Challenger is not a regular 100 miler though, with you having to be way more self sufficient (hence the goat). The plan is to train for that from Late august all the way to race day, which will be something completely different to me as it will mean peak weeks in November and December! More on this next year though as its going to take me in a very different direction bother scary and exciting.
That’s it, that’s 2022 done. A weird and wonderful ride of emotions. A year of memories to last a lifetime, friends made, friends who support and races raced. It’s been brill, now to look ahead to the future and make new memories.