Boy, I am out of practice. Not only at writing this blog (I think this is my second one so far this year), but also at running in general. I hurt my foot in November 2015 (annoyingly it wasn't running related), and it has never quite been right since. It's not too bad, and I still run on it most days without too many issues, but if I try and run longer than 5 miles I quickly remember that it is not "right". I've tried various different treatments to no avail, so now I'm just going to bite the bullet and pay to get somebody to MRI it and get a good look at what the issue is. I just need to finish selling my house first so that I actually have some money...
But what I am struggling to get my head around at the moment is whether or not I still count as an ultra runner. I don't really care too much about being able to say I run ultras (I actually dislike the phrase anyway and tend to just call myself a "runner"), and my wife will tell you how poor I am at counting. But I do love running longer stuff and making a day (or two) out of it. And this is what I haven't really done for a long time - and I'm really missing it.
Because I wasn't running, and because of moving my whole family across the country to start a new life (which is going marvellously, thanks for asking), I've been away from races and away from social media a lot. And to be honest I am struggling to get back into it all. Who would have thought posting inspirational memes could be so hard. But I really miss the community of ultra running and I'm going to try and ease my way back in.
I even tried to race a few weeks ago, taking part in the Serpent Way 100K from Haslemere to Petersfield. The race ran through various trails around the South Downs that I have never run on before, and due to its winding nature it was never more than about 45 minutes away from where I live. I figured I could give it a go, and if it all went to shit I would be able to find a way back without too much hassle.
It didn't necessarily all go to shit, and it was a lovely day for running, but by 40 miles in it was clear that this sort of distance is going to be tough for me to finish. I decided to stop rather than walking the final marathon, a decision helped by the fact that my drop bag was at this checkpoint and I was able to blag a lift straight back to my car with a nice man who was out crewing his wife.
So I'm not too sure what the heck is going to happen when I toe the line in Chamonix at the end of the month. I have finished 100 milers (Thames Path and South Downs Way) since the injury, so I know that it is doable, but UTMB is a whole different beast. I didn't really mean to get in - I wanted more tickets for subsequent lotteries. I have the worst luck, I tell you. But I'm going to give it my best, as I know plenty of people that would love to be out there but didn't get in. Don't get me wrong, I really do want to do this - ever since finishing the shortened course in 2012 I have wanted to come back and complete the real course - it is just that I am not the runner that I was then. I want to be, believe me, and I am really hoping that somebody can give me some advice that really helps my foot to get better. Because right now it is really pissing me off.
I don't often run more than 10 miles, and the 40 miles I did on the Serpent Trail are the most that I have done for a while. But I kind of have to finish one way or another - I might never get another shot, and if I don't hurry up and finish something soon I am going to struggle to have any finishes to put down when signing up for new races in the future.
In fact, as I only just realised when talking to Tim Lambert (who will kindly be putting me up when we head over to France in a few weeks), if I don't finish this I will lose all of the tickets that I have built up over the years in the Western States draw. Bollocks!
So I think that it is going to be a case of sucking it up and getting on with it. I should be able to get a good chunk of it under my belt running, and then it will just have to be a hike to Chamonix. At least when I'm there I will have nothing better to do than to put one foot in front of the other and make my way to that amazing finish in Chamonix town square. Remembering that experience from last time should be all the encouragement that I need to keep on keeping on.
And maybe then I can actually call myself an ultra runner again?