We are just over 40 days into 2018 and tomorrow will mark 40 days until I set off to run 400k to Czech Republic. The third European country with Netherlands and Germany completed and I cross the border with Czech Republic to Karlovy Vary. Visualization helps keep me focused on Run the World, and this image is on my phone and ingrained in my mind – when I see it for real it will signify the end of 400k run. I will stop and smile to myself but right now I’m nervous and feel unfit….
The realization has literally just sunk in that this will be longer than the last 2 runs put together. Run to Work from Schiphol, Amsterdam across the Netherlands to Essen, Germany was 233k in October 2017. Two months later in December, Run for Christmas Dinner in sub zero conditions from Essen, crossing Sauerland snow covered forest trails for 150k until I stopped in Eversberg. Both of those runs challenged me to my limits for different reasons. I learnt a lot and modified my plans as I went, adapting to the conditions and realizing what I was and wasn’t capable of. They were extremely tough, tougher than anything I’ve done before.
This time last year I completed my first ultra marathon, Pilgrims, 66miles over 2 days – I came last and took over 11 hours to complete the second day!! That was a terrible but brilliant experience. I’d never come last in anything and it took amazing mental will power to keep going for 30miles knowing I was going to be last, as I could barely walk never mind run. It was stupid really as I hadn’t fully recovered from my foot surgery and my body was imbalanced. But I learnt from it, most importantly that it really doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. Running is so personal and particularly ultra marathons and multi day running is on a whole different level of personal. We all have our demons and every one of them confronts you on these epic runs.
12 months later and fully recovered I have 40 days left to prepare to run 400k in 10 days. Relatively speaking, in terms of distance, its like adding another 4 days on to the Marathon des Sables which I completed last year. Clearly its not in the desert with the challenges that entails, but running solo across country borders, self navigating and unsupported does test you mentally and physically. One of the hardest bits is finding the evening accommodation at the end of a long day running, that next to leaving it the next morning to run again!
The first 40 days of 2018 have been busy work with a lot of travel and I’ve struggled to find the right balance. I let my body recover over Christmas then focused on flexibility, form, breathing and ultimately efficiency, over miles so far this year. It’s been a big change though and I’m missing the satisfaction of completing long, long runs, thriving on adrenalin and endorphins. Instead I’ve slowed to walking pace to keep my breath rate calm and heart rate low. It’s a slow process as I train my heart to get stronger whilst breathing through my nose for the duration of the runs. I haven’t seen many benefits yet and its really frustrating sometimes, but I persist as I am 100% convinced it is the right way for me to go. Every day is a learning day, I’m no elite runner, I just have big dreams and I’m learning as I go.
So far this year I’ve already travelled to Finland, Denmark and Germany with work and managed training runs in each country. Over the next 40 days I will be traveling to Sweden, Norway and Germany again and will enjoy fitting in a few runs in Oslo, Gothenburg, Stockholm and Essen. However challenging it is fitting training in, it is kind of cool to be fitting in so many European countries in my Run Europe Year.
So focused mind, strong heart, calm breath, efficient form and flexibility continue for the next 40 days! Oh and I’d better plan the route and logistics too!