This Saturday at 10am I will be setting off with another 300-400 fellow lunatics from Richmond on Thames on a 100 mile non stop foot race, following the River Thames, finishing in Oxford sometime on Sunday.
This is my third and ultimate endurance challenge over the last 2 years, having completed the 100 kilometre Race to the Stones along the Ridgeway two years ago and an ironman distance triathlon called the Outlaw in Nottingham last Summer. This is way harder than either of these I know – at least half as hard again I’d say. After this, I don’t intend to go any further distance wise – this is the final frontier for me and I will be able to say I’ve achieved all my endurance goals when this is done.
People usually just stare at me in disbelief when I say I’m doing a 100 mile run and I must admit I do question my own sanity at times. However, I just cannot resist a challenge and it has to be always harder than the one before. I’m curious to find out also just how much the body can take, although, in truth, this is a battle that is mostly won or lost in the mind, not the body. Sure a certain level of physical fitness is required, but it’s mostly the ability to shut out everything from the mind and just keep focusing on moving the body forward. If there’s one thing that endurance sport has taught me it is that the mind is totally the boss of the body.
One of the most important mental tricks to learn is not to look too far ahead. 100 miles is not 100 miles but 1 mile repeated 100 times. Just complete each one and tick it off in your mind, never think about how far it is to go. Remain in the present moment and focus on managing every small sensation in your body – every tiny niggle, your posture and gait and try to stay relaxed at all times – cool and calculating at all times.
If you’re going to look ahead, let it be to visualising yourself crossing the finishing line triumphantly and thinking of the achievement – let that drive you forward. Or you might just visualise the next feed station 5 miles ahead or your next scheduled drink or feed. Never ever start thinking that 100 miles is a long way, you’re not going to do a 100 miles, you’re just going to get as far as the next feed station and then see.
Inevitably, towards the end, if not long before, all the leg muscles will have cramped up and it will be impossible to run at all, or even walk with any comfort. An agonising shuffle is all that will be left at your disposal in a race of this length, no matter how good your training and your nutrition. This is when you learn to block out the pain or maybe learn to embrace it even and just focus on the next small goal. In this way, you will get to the end eventually.
If any of my readers is interested in learning more about ultra endurance sport and its masochistic pleasures, how to train the body and mind for it, the nutritional aspects (a critical issue), how you can also add gym work to your training programme etc., then please get in touch.
You can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or request a free consultation at the White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre where I work as a personal trainer, specialising in running, cycling, triathlon, weight management and postural assessment and correction.