Bacon and Age.

Posted on: 17 May 2021

My head, when writing about running, has been as blank as the race calendar I'd planned in 2020. What an odd place to be, where I've done more mileage, more training, than I'd ever done in my life, for no reason other than to not wither up and die of boredom? Some 1200 miles on the Strava clock last year, and the start of this one containing over 600 miles and 60,000 feet of elevation already. The only way is up, indeed.

But dear God, tell me I'll use it. I'm seeing the sparkle of an imminent race, but like that magic trick that goes wrong where they pull the carpet away and the tower comes tumbling down, this time, this madness, jumps up and nips us in the achilles right as we're readying for the starting gun. I am expecting the worst. Tell me I'm wrong. Just do it.

That joy of digging out the box of race ****! The hustle and bustle of a registration tent, teeming with adrenaline, big dreams and lurking nightmares. Broken personal records, and racks soon to sink under the weight of new bling. 

It all went the way of the dodo didn't it? Please let it not anymore. Please. 

Please.

Good lord, what a long and arduous year, that 2020.

I bid it farewell with a load of training on my legs and an elevation challenge taking the place of the regular December Marcothon. Unfortunately what I'm calling 'not-Covid' struck me down for a month (I think it was but the test/s didn't, so there ya go) and after a stint in A&E and some emergency tablets to get asthma under control in December, I re-commenced the training plan in January. 

Now this has gone the greatest of guns up until a couple weeks ago when ye olde peroneal seems to have contributed to a new foot injury after I found some glorious new hills in Epping Forest to call a playground. Sure, maybe it's not clever to go belting up and down 18-20 miles of hills more than once a week but I've now morphed into something of an an ultrarunner so this has become the new normal.

The only part of the new normal I like, mind, yet still, running long is the blood and breath that keeps me vertical. While all of life is falling down like a toppled tower of cards, mine is in a tumble dryer and I'm spinning, spinning, trying hard to rescue that mad sock before it disappears into wherever those mad socks go. Without these miles, my mind would have broken long ago.

Now. 2021.

I'll start with 'at present, my shortest race is 50 miles'. 

That's mental. I really must book in a few shorties, but that's where I'm at. My time has suddenly become severely limited and when time is limited I go long and long and long.

But in that 2021 is a continuation of what didn't manage to happen in 2020, that's where we make up the lost races.

This is also the year I turn 50.

Good lord. Did I just write that?

Of course, this, being me, means I have to now go out and do some mental things because that is what I do to feel alive nowadays.

This also being me means I'm doing it for a cause, and this would be for the most important other human in my world and that is my gorgeous boy Rukai. So I'll be waving the fifty flag to raise awareness of the new All-Party Parliamentary Group for Down Syndrome and raising a few bob here and there for the Down Syndrome Policy Group, which consists of grassroots campaigners representing those agencies who are doing all the legwork to ensure policy is in place to support people like my son into adulthood. 

Because you see, his journey to 50 should not be fraught with exclusion and poor health care. It shouldn't be met with societal disregard and inequality. The DSPG will go the extra mile to make it happen and so will I.

I thought I'd get a bit creative in naming the challenges I'm going after, because - me. So herein lies the plan:

1. The Hills Are A Lie

With a chapeau to Instagram's Ultra Running Memes and the known known that 'vert's not real', I am attempting my second ever 100k in Ultra Challenge's Lake District Challenge on the weekend of 12-13 June. I keep reminding myself that 100k is 62 miles in new money, because 62 is smaller than 100 and I don't think so much that I will die. In the midst of the 'Great Big Lockdown Running Spree of 2020' I did go out and undertake an unsupported 50 miler I lovingly named 'Sadistic Saturday' so I'm one longo closer to that 62. But still. First and last one was in July 2019, which feels like a hundred years ago. See? No escaping that hundred. Bloody three digit number.

My gauntlet going down now: goals are gold: sub 18, silver sub 20, bronze, finish in the face of some random catastrophe. 8600 feet of elevation in the books. Bring. It. On. (FWIW, my 100k PB is 22 hours and change. I thought I was dead but I didn't die. And Em was there! Magic.)

Oh and I'm camping. Ha! That's another thing I've only done once in my life. Because you only live through the year you turn 50 once so why not make everything you do totally unfamiliar and uncomfortable?! Why not, indeed.

2. Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Not only because I like Guinness, but this really is a good thing that I've waited for. And waited, and waited and...well, you get the idea. The Shropshire Way 80k was meant to happen last year in April. Then it was happening last year in September. Now it is happening on August 14-15 (are you sensing a trend with the two day thing, here?) I expect to be reunited with a Buzzer or two on that weekend which is why I haven't postponed as a 50 mile / 8200 feet event two weeks before 'TheBigOne' is not as totally insane as it sounds. (Ok, it is, but Sir Bolty said he thought I could do it, so I'm doing it.)

3. Operation 86

Provided I don't die in the Shropshire Hills, I will toe the line for the longest.event.of.my.life. the Ridgeway 86, on Bank Holiday weekend, 28-29 August. This was meant to be the be all, end all event of last year, and has a special double meaning.

In the US, 'to 86' something is to get rid of it. What my intention is/was for this race is to get rid of my own fear of going such a massive distance, but to also encourage other people to get rid of their own fears and undertake an activity they're afraid of to challenge themselves. 

The other intention is/was to raise awareness of the fears people have around Down Syndrome, the condition my son has, and to offer public conversation with honest answers about real lived experience so that people don't go through their lives perpetuating myths and stereotypes. I have been surprised for the past 9 years at how easily those have been proven wrong in my own life and I want to help others see how much potential kids like my son have. To give them a chance. To 86 their own fears. 

I expect that finish line will be grinning and teasing me. I don't know if my legs will have the right stuff on the day but I'll deliver what I always deliver. And if I don't get to the finish line in the cutoff, I'll get to the finish line outside the cutoff. Provided there aren't any bones sticking out of my leg. You know, as per.

Now it must be noted that I'm debating pushing the envelope and trying to stagger to 100 miles (you know, once again if I'm not dead at this point), but I'd need a 14 mile route and some crew. All goers welcome if you think I'm nuts and strong enough to pull it off! Failing that, the final challenge of the year is the Great Big Birthday Run and I'm calling it...

4. Bacon and Age.

This is the Joker of the diary and it is most certainly wild and will most certainly be a bit of a pig for reasons of duration. Wild in that I've no real idea of what it's going to look like yet, aside from I'm going to start running at 6:58 pm on October 27th and conclude running at 6:58 pm on October 28th, which is the precise moment I was born and so turn the calendar over to officially old geeze. Why not run in the new decade?

I'm not sure where I'll go, other than I want to do some varied loops in a beautiful place in the UK, going back to the same start point in between so I have a base camp and lots of food. Hopefully some bacon as that is the nectar of life (aside from Guinness). If I don't swing the 100 mile thing in August I may try in October. Or I may say hell with it and run a mile an hour. Jury's out. All I know is when I leave this decade and enter the next, it's going to be at pace. Because, me.

After all, relentless forward progress is the name of the game. 

In between all this, it must be said that my actual personal life is in a huge amount of chaos but it is because of all this that I know I will come out a winner there, too. I will reach the finish line, because that is what I do. Stopping just gets you stiff and cold and short of your destination.

To all you Buzzers old and new (but not the CBD spammers, you can collectively go do one) I wish you miles and miles of joyous running. May we all meet again soon enough.

There's nothing like a Buzzer hug and my well's run dry.

Go forth and...

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