Well that came around fast! Tomorrow morning I embark once again to try and find the length of a Piece of String. The brain child of Messrs. Adams and Elson, the Piece of String Fun Run - The Most Pointless Race in the World (TM) - is an odd little race. There are 5 potential routes of differing length - anywhere from 1000 meters to 1000 miles. Nobody but the race organisers (and I guess some of the volunteers) know the exact route, and runners basically run until they either die, or are told they have finished.
The idea is to make it kind of a mind-fuck; if you don't know how far you've got to go, how do you pace it? How do you cope mentally when you can't say, "Only 50 miles left"? Depending on how you look at it, it may be the most fiendishly demonic race ever created (mwa ha ha etc), or the most pure form of racing imaginable.
No pacing charts, no nutrition plans, no worrying about other competitors - just run.
Last year, I was one of only two people who successfully completed the inaugural event. The second person was Wouter Hamelinck, who I think everybody would agree was the winner - mainly due to his amazing navigational skills (mine; not so great!). Some people claimed it was clear proof of the benefit of ultra beards over ultra sideburns, but I will just point out that I believe our tally is currently 3-1 wins in my favour. Not that I'm counting of course...
Nobody is quite sure how far we ran last year. Not even the RDs. With heavy rain in the weeks preceding the event, the River Thames burst it's banks and much of the Thames Path became impassable. Well, if you're particularly precious about getting your feet wet. And knees. And thighs. And bollocks. It's health and safety gone mad I tell ya! But I was running for about 36 hours or so. Estimates of 120ish miles are probably not far off, although don't take into account all of the dicking about going the wrong way.
So having survived once, why in the name of Satan's gonads would I come back again?! Glutton for punishment?!
Honestly no. I thoroughly enjoyed the race last year. I have genuinely fond memories of the event, and I'm really looking forward to hopefully seeing some of the same trails again. It was just so simple. I stuck my headphones on, looked at the map, and was off. The psychology of it wasn't too bad because I was doing what I call "running stupid"; not thinking about goals, and not worrying about what was going on. Just enjoying a good audiobook (Game of Thrones) and seeing some new areas if the UK.
Okay, there were a couple of things that I didn't enjoy.
First of all I was absolutely shattered. I hadn't slept well the night before, and the race didn't start until midnight. I was knackered before we started. By the time I got towards my third sunrise in a row, I was a bit of a zombie. Luckily, a quick nap in a car on the middle of the Ridgeway at Paul Rowlinson and Luke Carmichael's checkpoint saw me to the end (which annoyingly was only about 10 miles later). This year though, the race starts at a nice leisurely 9:45am. With a baby that doesn't sleep and having not sleep more than a couple of hours at a time for the last 9 months, I plan on sleeping like a baby tonight!
Well, not my baby, but you get the idea.
The second thing that I didn't enjoy was the conditions. It rained a lot! I actually don't mind rain at all. Running in the rain is one of my favourite pastimes. What I don't love is when the mud is so thick and sloppy that you literally can't run. Trudging through the rain in November after 30 hours of running is far less fun than running through it at a snails pace, just getting colder and wetter. That was the closest I came to dropping last year, as my map had turned into papier mâché (I had one suggestion for James this year - buy a laminator!) and I couldn't move fast enough to get my core temperature up. But James gave me a good talking to and I stuck it out - and actually really enjoyed the next section.
This year, however, the weather appears to be far more conducive to running. I'm not sure what deal with the Devil James Elson has done to cause this new trend in perfect conditions at his races, but it should be a very different beast this year. Frankly I think this year's batch has it easy!
And then there's the distance. How far will it be? We won't know until later this weekend. I've either come woefully underprepared for a 300 miler, or this is going to be the most well-stocked 5K of my life! It may even be a completely different format to last year. I wouldn't be surprised to be bundled in the back of a van and driven out to the wilderness!
I'm just not thinking about it. I'm going to turn up, run and have fun. Of course this year hasn't been the best, training-wise, what with my gorgeous daughter being born, and various injuries along the way, so it will likely be a very different run to last year. So if you see me crying in a ditch somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, you have my permission to tell me "I told you so"!
So how long is a piece of string? I dunno - let's find out!