Since the North Downs Way 100, I have been enjoying running for me, not to a training schedule. The miles haven’t been quite as many, but have been infinitely more enjoyable knowing I was running because I wanted to, not because I felt I should be.
However, I am now raring to up the miles again and build up to my last ultra of 2013, the Likeys Brecon Beacons Ultra in November. Whilst this is the shortest ultra I will have done this year, I am under no illusion that it will be the easiest. This is where the SAS are put through their paces in Selection and where three soldiers lost their lives this summer in the heatwave. It’s not going to be warm in November but it could be a beautiful winter sunny day (like last year) or gale force winds, driving rain or heavy snow. On top of that, the mandatory kit list is vast which means a big race pack.
The course is a mixture of hills, canal and fields and apparently has sections that meet all runners strengths (and therefore weaknesses). I have never been to the Brecon Beacons so am excited for this race, more so than any in a while. I think with the disappointment of my first DNF last month, I am entering with a goal to finishing my year on a high. And aside from the DNF it has been a great year of running.
The first two weeks of September we spent in Gran Canaria on a fantastic family holiday. The less said about the resort, the better, but 100 yards from the front door and we were in rolling volcanic hills with no one but a few goats, lizards and crickets. My wife (who has been training hard for the Ealing half this coming weekend) and I would take it in turns to head into the hills and enjoy some solitude and heat away from the children and hustle and bustle of a resort town. Without a doubt this was the highlight of my holiday and daily I climbed a small mountain to the weather station at the top and then ran the switchbacks down to the reservoir and resort in an increasingly fast time. The view from the top was stunning and has made me realise how much I want to come back and run Trans Gran Canaria in the next few years, as well as the sister race in La Palma, Transvulcania.
This past weekend, once back home, I volunteered at the penultimate aid station on the inaugural Cotswold Way 100 mile run. I train a lot on the last 17 miles of this national trail and it is as beautiful as it is hilly. The runners were certainly suffering as they came through our checkpoint, but there is something special seeing the determination in someone’s eyes when they have less than three miles to the finish and have been running for over a whole day and night. Only around 24 runners finished the race of more than double who started which even in perfect conditions, bar some night time fog, shows how unforgiving this route is. But I have a feeling that, just like Centurion Running races, this will grow in popularity over the next few years and I can’t think of many more UK ultras I would rather do than this.
I have also been fortunate enough to have a growing audience to this blog and as such I am going to be writing a few reviews of autumn and winter running gear. I always enjoy reading the elite runners blogs, but often pick my gear based on reviews of more average runners such as myself. What works for someone who runs a 6 hour 50 miler may not work for me, but someone who runs the same race in 9-10 hours is likely to feel similar to me and so I hope my reviews will be of use to mid-pack to top third runners such as me.
As I build up to the Beacons Ultra I will be starting with a review of two Salomon products which have kindly landed on my desk this morning. These are the S-Lab Fellcross 1 shoes and the Salomon Trail Tight M. As the weather gets colder and muddier, these will be put through their paces, but for now I am going to enjoy as many runs as possible in shorts and t-shirt before the darkness and cold descends for the next few months. And on that note, the following review will be running headlamps.