Sub-consciously chasing that DNF by Ian Mulry
Somebody recently asked me why I keep doing all these ‘crazy things’. My usual answer is to challenge myself and become a stronger person from it. But then I thought about it for a while….am I just sub-consciously searching for a DNF?
I began running with LFR around 9 years ago to train to run the London Marathon (The Marathon!!). The club was very different back then and almost unrecognisable. We used to meet in a squash court at Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre and generally run around the town one night a week often being left behind to run alone. I have had a few injuries over the years and have not always been around due to work commitments but I have continued to run with the club when I can.
Fast forward to 2013 and I challenged myself to run my second marathon to celebrate my 40th Year. I chose to run a major and Chicago was the one. I also challenged myself to run a sub 4. I trained quite hard throughout 2013 and managed 3h52m on the day. A few weeks later I took Max Marshalls place on an LDWA event over at Barton Le Clay due to her being injured and unable to take part. I already knew John Kirwan and Glyn Raymen at this point but had no idea the effect they might have on my life… I clearly remember Glyn saying ‘it won’t be long before you are running an ultra’. My immediate answer was ‘no chance’. In June of 2014 I ran my first solo Greensands Relay – 35 miles – my first ultra. Glyn was right.
Fast forward to 2015 and I had entered Lakeland 50 as a team with Verity Allsopp and Karrie Archer. The race had been introduced to us by John Kirwan who had ran it the year before and had entered the 100 mile event for the same year. This race (Lakeland 100) for those that don’t know is talked about as the toughest 100 mile foot race in the UK. The 50 is no walk in the park either and is never described as ‘just the 50’ by anybody that has completed it. The completion rate for Lakeland 100 is just over 50% which gives you an idea how big a challenge it is. As a ‘warm up’ I also entered the South Downs Way 50 the same year which took place a couple of months before. I completed SDW 50 and looked forward to Lakeland knowing that I had already once completed the distance. Unfortunately Karrie dropped out due to a back injury and Verity and I competed as a pair. In the race for pairs we finished second. We were passed by the winners about 6 miles from the end. We had no idea at the time and we could have done no more anyway at that point. We had been running for nearly 12 hours and were feeling broken. To date this is my best ever result in any race. I am proud of what we both achieved that day.
2016 saw yet another new challenge. John had completed Lakeland 100 the previous year and it had lit a fire inside me to take on the longer event. This would mean running in the mountains of the Lake District through two consecutive nights. Again as a ‘warm up’ I entered the South Downs Way 100 to get a feel for the distance. The day of the SDW 100 turned out to be one the hottest days of the year. It taught me things about myself and my body that I could have never imagined. It really is incredible what your body will do if you ask it. So on to Lakeland 100. John had entered again and although we run events together a lot we planned to run our own races. Over this sort of distance you can only do your own thing, you cannot deviate from your plan and run someone else’s, it will only end badly. I completed the race in just over 35 hours. John also completed his second tour of the Lake District.
Fast forward to the present day. I find myself tapping this out on a laptop in an apartment in Estapona, Spain where I am spending a week training in the mountains for this year’s challenge(s). Whilst I was training for the last two years ultras I began to dabble in triathlon. Swim, Bike, Run. Mainly as a way of cross training to give the legs and joints a rest from running so much. I entered a few smaller events to ensure that I had to train for them and thus mix up my normal training. Sounds logical to me anyway. I squeezed in a middle distance triathlon last May which ensured I pushed myself to get into the pool as my swimming is my worst discipline. Two lengths of a pool was my limit two years ago. So in August this year I will be in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada toeing the start line of an Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). Just to add to the challenge I have chosen to take on an Ironman in a ski resort, not exactly know for flat ground and although not strictly a running event it does finish with a marathon. This will be a huge challenge and although I feel that I can complete the individual distances for each discipline, putting them all together on the day in under 17 hours will be a big ask.
Not content with dealing with 2017 I am also looking towards next year already. I am going to be running both the SDW50 and SDW100 again this year, the first being in three weeks’ time. What has this got to do with 2018 you are thinking……
In 2018 I plan to put my name in the ballot for the UTMB (Ultimate Tour du Mont Blanc), a 110 mile foot race around the circumference of Mont Blanc in France. To enter the ballot you have accrue points from qualifying races over 2 years. By completing both these races this year I will have enough points to qualify for the ballot. As with the VLM this will not guarantee me a place in the race so I could find myself running these 2 races every year for the foreseeable future until I get a place…….
Some of us run for fitness others run to race. Whether it is just getting out the door for that evening jog around the block or whether there are PB’s in distance races that you want to achieve, they are all challenges. As runners we are all constantly challenging ourselves. A prime example of this is Kelly Brodie McGall. I am sure she won’t mind me saying that she has challenged herself year on year and is almost unrecognisable due to her effort and commitment. Claire Amos and Max Marshall will completing their 100th Marathons very soon. That is a huge challenge and I am in awe of their achievements. John Kirwan is going back to Lakeland 100 for the third year running and will be completing his 200th Marathon later this year. John is my running inspiration and I am honoured to run alongside him at the events we do together, he really is a local running legend!!
As with everything in life, keep setting yourself goals. Write them down somewhere and make them achievable. With a bit of effort and focus you will realise them no matter how big or small.
So again I ask myself, ‘am I challenging myself or am I sub-consciously searching for that DNF???’
You can make up your own mind.