I’ve started trying to write this blog a ridiculous amount of times, how on earth do I sum up my full ultra-training and ultra-running experience in one post?
The whole thing currently feels like this amazing, surreal and emotional bubble. I’m almost too scared to believe it’s all true in case it pops.
On 31st October 2017, I signed up for my first ultra-marathon a 31 mile run through the hills of Arran.
Unknown to a lot of people, at this time I was in the midst of suffering from some quite bad anxiety issues.
I’ve struggled with whether to share these on here or not, but for me, my ultra and recovery from anxiety have been so intertwined that I couldn’t speak about one without the other.
Anxiety is such a complex thing, and I am only now starting to get my head round it.
Light in the dark
But putting it simply, my ultra training, my running friends, and Jamie have helped me in my darkest moments.
And for that I will always be grateful. It has been one of my best and most rewarding experience to date.
I really believe running a big race without doing a good chunk of the training is like cheating yourself out of half the fun.
Some of the fondest memories I’ll have of this race will be from my training runs up the Pentland Hills, along the Speyside way or taking daft running photos with friends.
So how does this all relate to how my race actually went on the day?
Start line feelings
I suppose what I am trying to say, is a race is about so much more than turning up on the start line and simply running.
BUT on Saturday morning, surrounded by mist there I was. Feeling mentally strong and ready for whatever the race had to throw at me.
And wowza, did it throw a lot at me!
After a couple of chatty miles with fellow runners we met our first challenge, the beach.
One by one we scrambled, climbed and slipped along about two miles of rocks. Wooden built pathways gave us occasional reprieves from the scrambling, but this set the tone for the future trails.
The was not going to be a straight forward race.
Jelly babies and smiles
Coming up to mile 10 I met Jamie at our first planned meeting point. And as will become apparent, my theme for the day was running and smiling.
I wasn’t going to have trained so hard not to enjoy the experience! So I fuelled up on some jelly babies and water and off I went.
The next miles went by in a blur of climbing, chatting and taking in the scenery, before we were met with challenge two.
Praying for solid trails
The never-ending, knee deep, energy zapping 3 miles of marsh. What began as funny sliding around quickly turned into prayers for solid trails beneath our feet.
Strangely enough my training in the snow over winter actually came in handy as I have become used to running on soft move-able ground!
I was however extremely grateful when we finally popped out on a proper trail, especially as I was greeted by Jamie at our second meeting point with more snacks!
After a quick waterfall selfie it was time to get back to business. My legs and feet ached, but as with my training, the plan was to just keep moving forward.
The turning point
And before I knew it, I was at mile 27. Some of you may know that prior to the event Rat Race sent out the route map, which was going to be 3 miles short of the advertised 31 miles.
For me, I signed up to finish the full 31 miles and was going to run 31 miles that day, no matter what.
Back up hill
So at mile 27, with Jamie, I turned around and headed back up the hill to add on the extra miles.
It’s safe to say we got a few strange looks running the wrong way up the course!
However, those 3 miles I ran with Jamie will stay with me for a long time, I’m damn lucky to have a husband who is with me every step of the way with all our adventures.
And before I knew it, I had done it. I had run 31 miles with 4000 ft of elevation through the hills of Arran.
And still now, even looking back on the photos it all feels very surreal.
Maybe it will take a while to all sink and believe that the same Abby who only found running 3 years ago had completed this challenge.
What I do know, is that I don’t want to go back to the Abby of the past. Training for my ultra has helped me fall in love with life again.
So, to my ultra training and everyone who has been a part of the journey, a big thank you. As for the next adventure, who knows where it will take us.
Currently: Feeling totes emosh
Training today: Rest, rest and more rest.
Adventure this week: Going to London to cheer Jamie on at the Marathon.