The focus of 2019 for me was all about getting faster and trying to bag that Good For Age for London 2020. As well as changing the qualification times, the organisers changed the procedure so it is now based on the age you run the qualifier, not the age you would be on the date of the London Marathon. Sounds minor, but for me turning 40 in March, with the application deadline in August it means I need to run a very ambitious sub 3h00 before March (when 39), or ‘just’ sub 3h05 between March and August (when 40), to allow me to run the April 2020 London Marathon when I would be 41.
Given there aren’t many fast courses in the later part of the window it mostly left March, April and possibly early May to qualify. With that in mind I spent the last few months of 2018 concentrating on speed work, got my 5k back down to (almost, missed by 1 second) sub20 and finally broke 90 minutes for the Half. It all seemed a good base for a spring attempt.
Then Christmas happened. No I didn’t get fatter. Well I did but that’s not the issue. Instead I got distracted on the internet. The ever-supportive wife was indulging in her favourite hobby of looking for holidays and noted that for once the February half term coincided with the Transgrancanaria (TGC) race event in Gran Canaria. I’d had this on my bucket list for a while ever since clubmate Chris ran it a few years back. The event has several races from 17km up to the full 360 degree loop of the island staged over several days. The main event is the 128km single run the length of the island.
I love the Canary Islands and love racing in Spain so it always appealed but the timing never worked out. This year it did so I sort of slipped on the keyboard and entered the 128km distance event with a mere 7500 metres of ascent to celebrate my impending big birthday. The advantage of metric races is these figures all mean nothing to me other than being shorter than the 145 mile Grand Union Canal Race I’ve done, although I suspect a bit hillier.
Given it was a longish race (about 80 miles when I reluctantly googled it) I figured I should probably do some training in the intervening 6 weeks, especially in light of how much the December marathon took out of me (I was so tired I took rest days) and how monumentally awful I’ve become at anything not flat. This coincided with the Country To Capital (C2C) event posting on Facebook that they had places left. I didn’t know how long this was, only that it was a baby ultra and also on my list of races I’d like to do one day. So I slipped again and signed up. Two ultras booked for the first two months of 2019 means the GFA may have to wait a while.
Knowing I needed to get more miles in and getting invited to a local Garmin Connect January Mileage competition caused the competitive element to kick in and the mileage to creep up. With exception of one run at 18 miles and the C2C at 45 miles all the rest were shorter runs due to work and family commitments, and basically not enjoying long runs (I never have). I ran when able, pushed myself to round up shorter runs and did a few double run days. I passed 200 miles by around the 20th with a goal of 300 for the month.
Clubmate Tim was hot on my heels which added some competition and the pair of us crept up to the 300 with gaps as close as 2 miles and as large as 26 miles. By the morning of the 29th I was sitting ahead on 294 miles with three days left. As I went to bed on the penultimate night the gap was down to just 4 miles in my favour. It comes to something when 320+ isn’t a guaranteed win. Other than May last year when I ran Grand Union Canal Race 145, Thames Path 100 and Milton Keynes Marathon in the same month I’ve never got close to that.
Going into the final day I reasoned that whatever happened I’d scored a solid block of training for TGC and hopefully guaranteed a finish barring any unforeseen issues. That was the sensible side of me. The competitive side saw me out the house at 5am with an excited dog, running in -4degC weather to bag a nice little half marathon before breakfast. Gulp! Goal was to get at least 26 in for the day. That would give Tim 30 to draw even. For a marathon runner that would hopefully be intimidating.
In the end he smashed out 30 miles for the day and it was only by adding a warmup to the run leading I amassed enough to finish 6 miles ahead of him. Nervously uploading at 11pm, I just hoped we were both done. 356 is a big month!
Never planning to attempt such a stupid distance again, but interesting to note you can run big numbers without losing every weekend to 20-30 mile training runs and make up from multiple short runs. Also managed to shift 4kg of Xmas weight.