Boredom can lead to odd choices.
All races cancelled.
Training for London was stalled.
The great guys at Centurion Running launched a virtual run of various distances, for the final week of May. Typically I don’t enter virtual races but this one had a great community spirit to it. I entered for the 100 mile. Split over a full week it was achievable but a fair step up from recent mileage.
With this in mind it made sense to suspend training for the rescheduled London and just take May by feel.
So that was fine. I had an ‘event’ planned for end of May, three weeks away so I could just run whatever I fancied in between. Cool.
Then Allie Bailey happened (you might have seen her trying to get celebs into shape to run across the desert for the recent Sport Relief). She posted a link on the Bad Boy Running group about something called The Accumulator. Everything else that happened is her fault and she owes me a pair of shoes. And a toe. And some new loft boards.
The Accumulator is a virtual event set up by Mark Cockbain of Cockbain Events. Normally he arranges the most sadistic UK races such as The Tunnel Ultra (200 miles back and forward through a 1 mile tunnel) and The Hill Ultra (165 miles up and down a massive hill. In winter). In the age of Covid19 he’s taking the pain virtual and after events such as The Garden Isolation Ultra (laps of your garden until your brain runs out your ears) his challenge for May was The Accumulator.
Run 1 mile on 1st May. Easy.
Run 2 miles on 2nd May. Easy.
Run 3 miles on 3rd May. Easy.
In fact the first ten or more days are pretty easy for the average marathon runner. Then it starts to bite and you have to really make a decision if you’re in or out. Complete the whole thing and it’s a minimum 496 miles for the month, or 798 km.
The rules state the runs must be done in a single go. No double days allowed, so a pre-work 13 mile on a Wednesday morning was probably the point I committed to the delightfully pointless endeavour. How far could I get?
The early days were largely uneventful. I run very long on the 3rd as I complete my own Milton Keynes marathon. Other than that mileage fits easily before work and months of structured training, core class by Katie and attention from Rudi the sports masseuse means my legs are in great shape and the miles are no issue.
Day 17. Saw a cool old car and mis planned my route to end up over 18 miles. Upside was a perfect 100 mile week which I couldn’t have done if I’d planned it. Also got some new Altra shoes as my favourite Hoka Rincon were close to failure from all the miles. These were from the lovely people at ReRun who find new homes for unwanted running gear.
It was all going pretty well up until around day 21. I was keeping to around 9 min miles so just leaving home 10 minutes earlier each day to allow for the extra distance. The weather was glorious but getting hotter each day which wasn’t ideal. Two weeks of blast furnace were forecast for the finish. Ideal weather for all the outside events that have been cancelled.
Whilst idly scratching my leg I noticed an insect bite on my ankle. Being a man I of course ignored it. It got big and inflamed quickly. It pretty much set my ankle in place and made movement hard. If it hadn’t have been for the bite I might have assumed I’d twisted it. This was becoming an issue with a long Bank Holiday on the horizon the plan was to take these days far more gently and do some sections with the family as fast hikes whilst they cycled.
Day 22. Friday. 17/18degC at even 5am. And muggy. My ankle is stiff. This is not ideal. I’m mentally wondering how many more days I can go rather than thinking about finishing it.
Day 23. Saturday. I get out of bed accompanied by a scraping sound. My ankle is so inflamed that every step makes a sickening noise. Bum. I work it off with some stretches and try not to think about it. Ignoring stuff is always a good idea. The wife and kids join me on bikes for an escort for first 6 miles and then I round up in the woods. I’ve got a definite limp from the insect bite. The final couples of miles I’m met by the wife who brings me a beer and I limp it in.
Day 24. Sunday. Again the wife and kids join me on bikes for an escort for first few miles. I take a quick break at the new BMX track to do a lap on the daughters pink BMX under guise of freeing off my ankle. It may even have helped. We stop for doughnuts later at an impromptu aid station before a long solo loop and a final few with wife (no beer today).
Day 25. Bank Holiday. Also hot. It was also way too close to marathon distance not to round up. I seldom run much more than 20 in training as anything further is pointless. Running an unofficial marathon distance is even more pointless but so is this whole endeavour. I start the run with Jen for first loop and then meet the family on the lake for a picnic aid station and revisited it a few times as I continued to round up, then headed back home with family on bikes to hit the 26.2. The three days of ‘fast hiking’ was definitely helping and my ankle was slowly less sore but still took a fair few steps to agree to bending after stopping for roads or gates. I’ve felt worse on ultras but knew the event would be over in hours, not days. It’s also the first day of the Centurion One Community challenge so I get a solid 26 knocked off the 100 miler.
Day 26. Needed a marathon. Needed to be in Somerset for 8am to meet contractors on site. Left home at 5am. Unfortunately they were working to a different timescale so rocked up at 1pm. Would have been ample time for a morning marathon after all. I debated a dry slap but that doesn’t go down well at work. Instead it was back to hotel for just before 6pm and out for a marathon. Being Covid19 times it was for essential workers only at the hotel and room service only. The kitchen closed at 9pm so I ordered some cold food to await my return and set out. The hotel owner was a little confused “But the kitchen is open for 3 more hours sir, how long are you running for?”
Gentle half marathon down to Burnham-on-Sea for an aid station of sodium infused carbohydrates and fruit based sports drink (chips and cider on the beach) before heading back to cold sandwiches and a hot bath.
I stayed in the bath a long time. I struggled to get back out with my ankle. When I did it was too cold so I got back in.
Day 27. Ideally should have run before going to site, but that would have been a 4am start after finishing the previous marathon 6 hours previously. Too much for me so instead a day on site, with a couple of people questioning my odd limp. Then a drive home for dinner with family before heading out with mate Gary for some miles (including a cute horse), and finishing up just after 11pm; time for bed. This was definitely a day I wondered what I was doing…
Day 28. The problem with pushing the runs later and later is it kills any prospect of a morning run. Fortunately I had a half day so ran in the afternoon. Unfortunately it was hot as feck. Again. A three Calippo and two beer run. Passing all the closed pubs is disappointing but I did see some deer so balances out. The dodgy running form is giving me a blister on top of my big toe. I ignore it.
Day 29. The previous day had convinced me to go early. So I got up at 5am and remembered my race vest was still on the washing line from the day before. It wasn’t. It was in the middle of the garden with a hole ripped in it where some wildlife had pulled it down and helped themselves to the biscuits and the Caffeine Bullets. Somewhere in Milton Keynes is a fox tripping out on caffeine. Fortunately I had time to grab my spare race vest and head out with the dog for a 14 mile loop in the woods, then home to drop dog, change a sweaty top and out to run the most shaded route I could find, a mixture of railway walk, canals and tree lined streets. In the woods I bumped into a mate SJ with her three dogs and it was great to chat to someone who wasn’t a podcast or voice in my head.
I finished a sweaty mess but my blistered toe was getting more and more painful, rubbing the top a little more with each step as the friction lead to more swelling and more friction. I was consciously having to stiffen my toe with each step and run even more oddly. My dodgy ankle had led to a dodgy blister which was leading to a dodgy leg and now my calf was playing up as well. It would be really rubbish to DNF this event ultimately due to an insect bite.
That evening in desperation I took a knife to an old pair of Adidas and cut the toe section off. I couldn’t manage a further two days of rubbing. The pair I massacred were a worn pair, well used but with just enough life to manage a further 61 slow miles.
Day 30. Repeat. Out at 5am with dog, and accompanied over the first 16 miles with a changeover of mates who also get up too early. Then solo for final 14 miles with more Calippo stops. The shoe is amazing. I almost forget the toe completely and can run so much freer, hitting marathon distance in 4h45, a full 30 minutes faster than the day before. Given the escalating temps this was much needed. Took a final three mile hike in with the wife to finish off and get to stroke a cow.
Day 31. The final day. Out at 5am again for recreation of the day before, using my custom Adidas open toe again. Nobody else daft enough to join me at this time on a Sunday so just me and the dog seems more interesting in chasing squirrels and looking for left over picnic in the bushes (if you’re going to a park for a picnic, take your rubbish home with you, you lazy arse) so it’s a slower 14 miles than planned and I get home to swap the dog for a Gary who’s waiting to join me. Out for the usual loop to Newport Pagnall and Railway Walk loop, with two Calippo stops, passing marathon distance in a shade over 5hrs.
I hit home to enjoy the final couple of miles with the wife and kids and an impromptu finish line. The enthusiasm of the kids is off the charts….
Legs feel so much better than around days 20-25. An ankle that bends is so handy. I’d recommend it to anyone.
My blister whilst allowing running has still grown. It is not pretty. On Monday in the loft I kick a box. It explodes. The release although painful is very welcome. Like a toe orgasm. The loft boards may never recover.
I finish the Accumulator and finish May on around 540 miles. It’s a big number but feel fresh enough to carry on. I don’t. I’m not THAT obsessed. Yet.
Tips and advice for pointless multi-day challenges –
- Sort the admin the night before. Waking at stupid o’clock is hard and you’ll have plenty of excuses to stay in bed. If your trainers are misplaced and your race vest not packed it’s probably one too many reasons to stay in bed.
- If able allow time to take the first mile really slowly, maybe use it to eat, drink and sort your podcasts out. I was up and out the house in about 15 minutes, eating on the way.
- Timing is critical. Given the runs have to be done in one go then a 10 minute delay to leaving can leave you with three miles left of the days target and needing to leave for work in 15 minutes. Either you’re going to be late for work or you’re going to be abandoning this run and doing it all over again after work. Both would suck.
- Check the clock. A further rule was the runs needed to be done within the 24 hour period. Head out at 9pm on the 20th and you best be running less than 3 hours.
- Shoes. With a minimum mileage of 496 for the month you’re going to be putting a lot of miles into them. Probably enough to turn a box fresh pair into a set of dabs only suitable for dog walks. Best to have a couple in rotation. In my case a pair best described as ‘fucked’ saved the day.
- Podcasts. You’re going to be running a lot. In current climate it was mostly solo or towards the end of the month with one other person. Get some decent entertainment to take your mind off. I ran out of running podcasts and started some true crimes one. Bad idea. Running at 5am, alone, in the woods, listening to the detailed account of a dismembered body found in the woods is not ideal.
- Charge stuff. You need proof of your runs so keeping on top of Garmin/phone charging is vital. If you’re forgetful it may be worth sticking a battery pack and Garmin lead in your running pack for an emergency mid-run charge.
- Plan your routes. Up to about 16/17 miles I did them as a single loop, carrying enough to get me through. After that I would drop into home at mile 14 (a convenient single loop and suitable for the dog to accompany me) to replenish supplies, pick up a hat etc.
- Aid stations. It’s a virtual race so plan your route to pass shops that will be open at the time you’re expecting to go past. Particularly in the age of Covid, pay contactless to minimise time in shops.
- Calippo. It was hot in May. Ice lollies were needed. Calippo is the only suitable option. Buying one at 9am on a Friday gets you odd looks.