I have been doing a lot of soul searching these last 10 days, since finishing the Thames Path 100. The conclusion I have come to- I simply love running ultras and I need to ensure it stays that way and I am excited, not just doing something for the sake of it.
Everyone who reads this knows that Western States is my dream race, but it is by no means the be all and end all of my running. I think everyone needs a goal if you are to run ultras, be that managing unhealthy lifestyle choices, losing weight, creating friendships or improving ones times. My goal is and always has been to toe the line in Squaw valley, but it is also all of the above.
Quite simply, running a very long way is the healthiest way to fuck myself up that I know. It is my outlet, my way of getting drunk and my way of switching off from real life every now and again. When I look at myself in the mirror now, there is no way I am giving up on something that makes me who I am. Yet, I need to evolve my running.
I have come a long way since I first stumbled over the line at the NDW50 in 2012. I can take that for granted at times. Getting these races done can be something I take for granted, but they really shouldn’t be. Confidence and knowing I am prepared is one thing, taking them for granted is another.
But at the same time, I need to find something now where there is a good chance of failure to make the finish all the more sweet or the come back have a focus if I fail to finish. I believe in fate and it is no coincidence that I feel like this after reading James Adams Running & Stuff where he felt empty after certain finishes and fulfilled after the ones that broke him. My Western States is James’ Spartathlon.
Chatting to Chris Mills yesterday after he sadly dropped at Transvulcania, I honestly said to him that I felt a drop at a race of that level of difficulty was more important than a finish at my Thames Path. I need to find my Transvulcania and put myself out there, stood on a start line, legs shaking with fear.
So with this in mind, I already have my A race lined up for 2016, even before the 2015 season truly gets underway. If I don’t get into Western States in December again, I will be heading to Oregon in September 2016 to run Hal Koerner’s Pine to Palm Race.
In many respects, this is similar to Western States, and possibly more difficult. It is a 100 mile point to point race through the Oregon mountains and forests and looks about as beautiful as trail running gets. Most importantly, a finish is in no way guaranteed, but an epic experience is, in one of the most beautiful parts of the USA.
Already I am excited. I will also do the South Downs Way 100 as my Western States qualifier, as this is the most beautiful of the Centurion 100 milers.
For now, I am dropping the 12 Labours of Hercules in July as I am just not excited about it. Why do a race if you aren’t up for it? Instead, I will run my favourite marathon, the Bath Trail Marathon where I came 20th in 2013 and I will give this my absolute all. I love the course and I love the thought of pushing myself hard for 4 hours on a hilly course, as opposed to 23 hours on a flat course.
Then, in September I can’t wait to return to the 100 mile distance, but at probably the hardest one I have done so far, the Cotswold Way 100 miler.
In-between, I am just excited to run again and run on hills. There has been too much flat recently and as Buff say, Flat is Boring. Bring on the hills. Bring on being free and bring on running for love, not because I must.