Ok, so I run but I wouldn’t call myself a “runner” if you catch my drift. I rarely train but always compete. I started running at school in the cross country events, then used it to compliment my squash training and then moved onto parkrun and trail events. I love a challenge and as an athlete I covered all bases to ensure that I was at my best to compete against the best. As a “runner” I turn up and hope for the best. This is partly due to my busy lifestyle, mainly work where I’m either with clients, driving or sitting at the computer with admin. Running has become a path for me to relax, do something for me without worrying about work.
I used this “preparation” when I tackled an Ultra Marathon recently. For those that don’t know, an Ultra as they are known, is an event that requires runners to travel anything over marathon distance (42.2km). This event was a 58km event that took on some of the biggest hills in my hometown of Adelaide. I’d taken part the year before and thought there was a fair bit of room to improve, but of course with no training, what could I have possibly expected?
I hopped in a car with complete strangers who were also both nervous and excited about the challenge that lay ahead that day. Plenty of questions were coming my way on the drive in and I felt quietly confident that I’d be finishing the event in front of at least these guys (no disrespect of course) but how wrong was I!
The early morning start and much clearer conditions than the year before made for great day. All that I needed to do was get my nutrition right until I reached the 26km mark and run strong.
I started much more conservatively than the year before a mistake I’d learnt from the year before where I slipped from 16th to 102nd in the space of 15km! I held my spot near the front of the group for the first 10-15km, letting people go through rather than worrying about keeping up with them. At roughly the 10km mark there’s a huge hill! I’d go as far as calling it a mountain (slightly exaggerated) and something I didn’t want to encounter so early in the day. I made it to the top, but my energy sources were taking a hit and I was looking forward to the 4-6km of downhill. The downhill sections aren’t as fun as they sound! You’re knees and quads take a hammering as they try to take the load of slowing you down on the steep descents! By the time you get to the bottom you know you’re in fight!
At the previous event I’d been going well up to this point, skipped the aid station because I’m a fussy eater, and hit a wall at the 22km mark. I put it down to the big hill, long descent and my eagerness to keep up with others who were a little out of my league. This year I was much smarter but not quite as fit and at the 18km mark I went into cramp. Not to mention I’d already been overtaken by one of the guys from the car ride (who looked quite strong) and even at that point I knew he wasn’t coming back.
I continued to hobble my way along, getting passed by everyone (including the early starters) until I was met by a couple of mates at the 25km mark. These guys kept me moving at a solid pace until we made it to the top of Mt Lofty (32km). It was there that I could no longer keep up a good downhill pace due to the ever present threat of a cramp should I slightly over stride. After having a little vomit (sorry if you’re eating) and taking a couple of pain killers, I was on my again. The 35km-50km was potentially my strongest patch as I ran past many other competitors and even passed one of the two mates who was in the process of taking salt tablets for cramp.
The entire time I was going through doubts, “should I quit?” “Is there anyone else left to pass me?” and “ the finish line is so far away!”. This funny enough is what I enjoy about events like these. It’s a challenge mentally and just as much of a challenge physically just to finish. I was simply aiming to beat my time of 7 hours 20 minutes from the previous year but that was before I’d encountered any of the dramas. At this point I just wanted to finish and finish knowing I’d given it my all.
As I made it to the 50km mark I had another drop off. Whereas the previous year it was the point that I knew I was going to finish, this year was where I slowed down dramatically. So much so, that when I started attempting to climb one of the last hills (not small but nothing special) I simply didn’t have the strength in my legs to even walk the rest of the hill, instead I side stepped my way up.
I was desperate for a drink, something with sugar in it, a nice big burger would’ve gone down a treat but I was still required to complete another 3-4km before any of those were a possibility. At this rate I was looking at at least 30-40min instead of the usual 15-20. I knew that I was going to make it but didn’t have the ability to stride out on the flats, in fact I was better on the small inclines. At one point I was about to break into a run when my mate that I’d overtaken earlier stopped next to me. “You’re not about to run are you?” he asked, “I just ran the entire hill to catch up to you!” It was then that I put my PT cap on and told him to finish strong. He’d had a goal of completing in under 8 hours and whilst I wasn’t certain how long we’d been going, I knew he’d be close. I used this to motivate him and even with a strong finish by myself, he finished 3 minutes ahead of me, not bad considering we only had 2.5km to run when he left me.
Approaching the line can bring on so many emotions. Firstly you realise that you WILL make it. All of my team, my wife and fellow competitors are there cheering me on. Everything that I’d gone through to get to this point is forgotten as they place the medal around my neck. I stumbled a few steps to the left then a few to the right before my wife came over to make sure firstly that I was ok and secondly if she could get me anything to eat of drink.
These are the moments I live for, the sheer pride of completing a challenging task makes me tick like nothing else. I’m forever challenging myself at work to be the best that I can be to my clients and as of this year (if my body agrees) I’ve decided to train to compete, not be happy with just a finish but finish in a strong position!
This is just one of many challenging running stories that I have. No doubt you’ll hear more about them in the future, for now though that’s it from me.
If you have any questions regarding running, training or even nutrition, feel free to touch base with us as we’ll be happy to help with anything you require.
Justin Beard Pn1