As the rain bounces off the ground outside my window I’m reflecting on what has been a race weekend of epic proportions. The Lakeland 50/100 doesn’t do things by halves and this year was no different.
My main focus was the 50 as my husband was running that, and I am so over the moon to be able to say the race was a complete success for him. After months of rehab, training, stress and worry, the stars aligned and the boy done good!! What a comeback! I’m so proud.
And I had friends running in both the 50 and the 100. It wasn’t to be for some of them, and for others, the were able to make it to Coniston and collect their finishers medal and t-shirt. And what a fantastic welcome awaits all those who make it there. It’s a joyous and hugely emotional moment for most of the runners. It’s an amazing achievement joining the Lakeland 50/100 family.
The races are tough: the terrain, the weather, the underfoot conditions and the ascent/descent, and in the 100 than incredibly tight cut-offs and lack of sleep. We all enter these races knowing, at some level, that they are going to test us. They are meant to be tough. That’s why we do them. But until race day we just don’t know how much we are going to be challenged. We just know that we want to be part of it.
So what is it about these races that draws us in? Why are we out in the wind and rain, soaked to our skin, running along rocky paths through the depths of the Lake District?
We all have our own reasons for being there. Some are seeking victory, positions, trophies and prizes- pitting themselves against fellow athletes, battling for the glory. Others are competing against themselves, battling the inner demons that say ‘you can’t do this’ and proving to themselves that actually they can. Others are there because they love the adventure, being outside in the beautiful countryside and going on a journey. And others just love a day or days out in the Lakes with fellow ultra-runners enjoying the running and camaraderie.
Ultra running is a funny thing. Unless you are running round a track (or short tarmac route) you are all facing slightly different versions of the same course. [Extreme example; in the Spine Challenger by the time I got to approximately 100 miles a ‘river’ had burst its banks and I waded through hip- deep flood water - those further ahead of me didn’t experience this.] And the longer it takes you to complete a race, the likelihood is that you will experience far more weather problems than those who finish in half the time. Conversely those at the front may go so fast that they run into weather issues which may have disappeared by the time later runners get to the same point.
Our races experience is affected by so many factors. We all come into the races with different levels of fitness and different levels of capability. Come race day we may have acquired a few niggly injuries or picked up a bug. Our backgrounds, home lives, work lives, stresses and strains away from running are all different. So while we all stand on the same start line, we are all starting from different places, both physically and mentally. And that’s one of the wonderful things about ultra runners, we are an eclectic bunch of people of all kinds of backgrounds and abilities but we are all heading out on a crazy and wonderful and inspiring journey together. I mean, how many of us feel like we are actually good runners? How many of us feel that we are at our peak, primed, fit, injury-free and ready to nail it? How many of us have not left a pile of stresses and worries behind, feeling pulled in every direction by life, to focus on this one single purpose of getting from A to B as fast or as enjoyably as we can? We have done what training we could, physical and mental, and we face the race. By the end we have learn new things about ourselves, about our capabilities, and hopefully we have learned new things to try in our training for next time. Yes! Next time! You know you want to!! Or at least, you will in a week or so. Trust me.
There are 1001 different race stories from these events because we have 1001 different race experiences, but we are bonded together by sharing in the event, sharing our stories, licking our wounds and inspiring each other. And you know what, I bloody love race stories! The good, the bad, but especially the ugly! Ha ha.
Go make some stories!!!