Monday 7 March 2011

50 miles down, many more to go... 28.02.11 - 06.03.11

So it has been a relatively relaxed week this week - but for good reason. First of all, I was on holiday at the start of the week and was busy with postering, interviews, and writing a paper. Secondly, this week was my last really long run before the actual event. The plan was to head out in the middle of the night and get half the distance under my belt to practice night-time running with no sleep and covering much longer distances than I am used to. Up until now, my longest run has been about 33 miles which I did last year. This was the run that was responsible for my knee problems that put me out of the game for 4 months, but my recent training has seen me running this once or twice a week with no issues. This is mostly due to the stretching and strengthening advice of my physio, Chelsea (thanks Chelsea!).

It's funny, but I never really prepare for things anymore. I probably should have shoveling pasta into my body all day Saturday, but instead I started the day with a fry up at a greasy spoon cafe with my fiance Jen, and had beef stew for dinner. And that was it really - I just didn't really think! For the main run I think that I will be a bit more careful to plan my food for the few days leading up to it, but I do like the fact that I don't need to think too much to do these things - my brain just can't think that far ahead!

We finally went to bed Saturday night - only to be woken up 3 hours later to begin my ordeal. I was surprisingly wide awake when my alarm went off. I wonder if it's a throwback from my PhD days, when 3 hours sleep was a weekend lie in! I snuck out of the bedroom, past a rather confused looking dog, and began to get ready. I was testing some new gear today - a new set of trainers, new socks, and some nice tight base layers to reduce chafing. It's a bit unpleasant to talk about, but if you have ever suffered from this problem you will know exactly what I am talking about. Now imagine that over a 50 mile run... My Salamon hydration pack is fantastic in that regard, and I have yet to suffer any problems unlike my Camelbak, which I often get issues from over long distances. I filled up the 1.5 L water bladder and a couple of bottles of carb drinks, stuck on my headtorch, pulled on the brand new trainers, and headed out into the night.

As you may imagine, it was pretty quiet out there. It was lovely! 50 miles is a bit difficult to plan out for a new run, so I had decided to just do my usual route down the guided busway. It may not be terribly interesting after the hundredth time (don't get me wrong, it's very pretty down there), but it's a nice clear 28 mile round trip that I know very well, has nice clear points to judge distances, and I have no chance of getting lost down it. So the plan was to run the full distance, stop off to change into a new set of clothes (practicing for the main run) and replenish my supplies, then head out for a further 23 miles.

I had originally planned to do this in a walk/run fashion, walking for 25 minutes, walking for 5 minutes, to make sure that my legs didn't die on me. But I changed my mind and decided to run the first section in one go (but at a slightly slower pace than normal) to get used to my plan on the day to run the marathon properly before the more tactical run home. This actually went very well, and I made it back to the house in about four and a half hours with no issues. It was very strange to see the sun rise as I finished running almost 30 miles... A quick stretch, a refill of my carb drinks, a change of socks and base layers, and I was out of the door again for the next leg.

So this was it. I was in unfamiliar territory at this stage. I was a bit stiff getting going, but actually once I picked up momentum things felt good. I am using a different gait for these long runs than I have done previously for half marathons and the like. I don't pick my knees up quite so much, and it's more of a high cadence/low impact run. This works nicely and protects the knees from all of the jostling that might otherwise occur. Once I was going, I was pretty happy at a fairly speedy pace (~ 9.5 mins/mile). I was a bit more careful this time out to walk some sections, so at every road along the pathway (about every 2 miles) I took a short walk before getting going again. As before, there was a definite stiffness to shifting from walking to running, but once the momentum was there it felt absolutely fine. I found it very hard to hold back my natural competitive nature (which I know is stupid...) when I was overtaken by another runner on the track. It's pathetic of me, I know, but I have always had that streak in me. I blame my father! Instead I merely enjoyed the lovely sunny weather (although it was bitterly cold and I regretted leaving my hat and gloves at the house), and saying hello to the myriad friendly runners and dog walkers that populate the path on a weekend morning.

I made it into St. Ives at about 11:30 to meet up with Jen and our dog Max, and we walked back home together as a warm day (although, given the temperature, I use the term loosely!). The whole distance (~51 miles) took a total of less than 8.5 hours (not counting the half hour change over half way). So pretty much bang on 10 mins/mile, which I am very happy with! I did my usual stretch, making sure to stretch out my IT band to avoid any knee problems, and had a nice manly lavender scented bath.

And I felt surprisingly good! No blisters, no chafing, no niggles, my legs felt good to go again. I even had a run with the dog the following morning and cycled to work. Given that in 6 weeks I need to do the same again... twice... plus a bit... it's maybe lucky that I feel like I could keep going! I'm really happy to have found a forte like this. I never would have considered long distance running to be something Now let's see how I feel after 112 miles...

And things look good with the new gear, which is great! I think that I have sorted out my equipment for the day now. Although, as Jen pointed out, I have now put the new trainers through an eighth of their lives... It's an expensive hobby running!



Cycle 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to work)
Cycle 16.5 miles (work to home)

Run 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to work)
Run 16.5 miles (work to home)

Cycle 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to work)
Cycle 16.5 miles (work to home)

Rest day

Running 51 miles

Cycling 38 miles
Running 70 miles


  1. Dear Sam, I really hope you survive this and all keeps going to plan. Every time I read about this venture the distance seems to get longer, 112 currently. Stay strong and stop chasing light-weight Sunday joggers Cx

  2. Thanks LushBird! I think that's the final distance now - unless I end up horribly lost and take a detour in the wrong direction... Roll on April!


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