Posted on: 23 Sep 2019

Whilst some of the folks on this site I have come to count amongst my friends, and equally amongst my heroes, are stepping out there doing battle with ultra-marathon distances the likes of which I cannot (as yet at least) contemplate taking on myself; I’m just trying my best to arrive at the start line in Llanberis on October 26th in a reasonable state.

I say reasonable state, because “fit”, as a word (perhaps because of the way we generally perceive it rather than any issue with the word itself) doesn’t quite seem to cover it.

2013. Rocked up at Marathon Eryri minimally trained, met Oggie, got blistered, got the job done, but it was not a run where I got the best out of myself, and ever since, that marathon has remained unfinished business.

Yes I’ve been back there, I’ve been back every year since, starting out with good intentions, but as things have turned out, it has been injuries that have dictated how my marathon is going to be.

2014. Undertrained, again. Even worse if anything than last time. But the 'Buzzers came to town, and it was wonderful. New tradition was born.

2015, and Realbuzz themselves came to Llanberis, with T-shirts specially made for us all. So significant had this event now become. That start line was incredible. One of the best running moments I've had. Then I had to drag myself round the route with a broken bone in my foot.

2016, for me, the worst of them all, gritted my teeth as far as Beddgelert on a smashed up knee knowing I would not get beyond there, but boy oh boy does the company make this race, and Kathy, and her wonderful cakes.

(that's quite a happy look for a man who knows he is retiring from the race)

2017, no let up on the injury front. I always knew I wanted to go round this one with HD, what with him saying it would be his last challenge of a monster of a year for him. I never knew how much it would hurt. Ankle completely mangled after an unexpected run out at the British Fell Relay Championships a couple of weeks before with Charles.

And last year, 2018, hurting again, but a promise had been made. Last year was not about me. It was so much not about me I didn't even write a blog. It was all about this fine lady here:

Since that first taste of it 6 years ago now, it has always been unfinished business for me, this wee jolly round the mountain.

It's time to put it to bed.

Not once, not yet, have I stood on that start line “fit”, or even in a reasonable state. In fact I’ve been totally unreasonable, with myself, demanding that my ill prepared body carry me round.

So this year I’m trying, really trying, not to do too much, there’s only more / other / worsening injuries down that road, and trying to do enough to make sure I’m “fit”.

There’s only 2 more long run weekends to go, and then taper time will be upon us. That’s how close this marathon now is. 

This weekend’s long run was tough. Real tough. For that reason, I’m blogging it. I want to remember it. I want to be able to remind myself during those moments of self doubt that I AM capable of more than I often believe.

See, normal me, when the body is complaining and telling me it doesn’t want to play, is quite happy to write it (the run) off for today, try again tomorrow. Normal me sticks to the runs I might actually enjoy. Normal me, who will happily tell all who will listen that “a bad run is a run that builds you mentally, whilst the good runs build you physically”, doesn’t really do training runs.

The body really was complaining. Nice day, but bad weather coming. I can feel it. I feel it so reliably that this weekend my left knee has been re-labelled the “Bertometer” - it’s a barometer, but it’s internal, it was fitted as one of the optional extras like when you buy a new car. Don’t get jealous, the downsides are not counterbalanced by this forecasting system.

Normal me has had a tough enough life not to need that mental building. Normal me is ok with just the good runs. There’s enough hurt in my locker that I can already draw on.

Yesterday was unusual for me. Yesterday, I gritted my teeth and persisted, when I’d have much rather been doing something else.

I had company, great company, for the first 10 miles of the 18 to 20 that were planned. It was a beautiful day, I was in a beautiful place, with a tour guide who is interesting, and stimulating, a real pleasure to be with, and even has a sexy bum that’s a pleasure to follow; and yet I struggled. I struggled as the stiffness in my joints just never loosened up.

After those 10 miles, it was me vs Pontesbury hill. Nelly the elephant.

My head weren’t right. My navigation of a clearly marked path was totally off, and it wasn’t long before I found myself sat half way up the hill, nowhere in particular, just looking out at the view. In that moment, it seemed like it wouldn’t be a bad place to die, and I can honestly say that I’d not have minded if that had happened. 

But then I noticed the church bells, the hope and joy within their tone. I remembered everything, and everybody else important in my life. I saw the beautiful colours in the sky and in the fields, and felt, really felt the warmth of the sun upon my back, and it started to rejuvenate me. I had given up on my run, but I went to the top of the hill, talked to a buzzard soaring beneath my feet on the thermals rising off the cliffs. 

I restarted my watch, and gave it another go. Started off downhill, but  I struggled. I struggled a lot. Every little rise in the ground beat me back down to a walk. I didn’t want to cut it short, because it would mean running again on Sunday. Risk of doing too much. Risk of getting injured yet again. Plus I want to see my son, and have a lie in with Mol. Life in balance. It can’t be all about running.

My 18 mile target seemed to be getting further away rather than closer. For a second time, the day’s run defeated me. 

But I wasn’t in the mood for losing. Not like that. So I dropped off my bag, it was weighing heavy on my shoulders. I thought about how to claim that “one little win” that I try to take out of every run, and the answer was clear:

If I could make it round the lower path of the hill, just once, without stopping, running all the way, that would do the trick. It had been feeling so hard. 18 miles no longer mattered. Nothing else mattered. Just this one lap would be enough. It would mean I’d picked myself up, it would mean I hadn’t let the battle beat me. 

Bagless, I could suddenly move more freely, and though the legs were heavy, I made it round. I found the answer to the question “how far is it round the hill?” And now I felt alive again.

Can I do a second lap, even faster? From this painful **** of a run, can I really pull out a victory? Well yes, as it happened, I could. I charged around that final lap, and yes it was hard, but suddenly I was coming home with not just one little win out of the day, but 3!

19 miles done. Full lap run when the legs had not felt capable. And a faster lap when even trying it had seemed ridiculous.

Rarely have I come up against a run as hard as this, but now it’s done, only disaster will stop me having my best Snowdonia yet.  

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