My name is pacepusher and I am a road runner.
I suspect however, that 95% of people reading this are not road runners, and indeed, would probably suffer sleepless nights at the thought of running a city based marathon. If that’s you, thanks for reading past the first sentence!
For those that don’t know me too well, I have spent my time since around the summer of 2007 running on the trails, as often as possible and as far as possible. As things progressed, I would go on to tell you that my greatest achievement in sport was completing the West Highland Way Race (If you don’t know, that’s a 95 mile ultra marathon) in 18 hours and 42 minutes exactly in 2009. I would have happily chatted into the night about different types of kit, different types of fuel and the benefits of being out there in the wilderness as opposed to banging out miles on the less glamorous streets of Glasgow’s surrounding areas. I would have told you the joy was in the journey, not at arriving at the destination, or some similarly pretentious BS!
However, after suffering a pretty substantial set back in my running due to a couple of injuries which still haunt me to this day, I found myself restricted to running a maximum of 5km for a while – on the roads. I embraced this as a bonus – I was at least able to run – and discovered the joy that is parkrun. Although I am now running regularly over longer distances, I still partake in parkruns either as speed work, or as an opportunity for some quality family time – running with my Nephew or pushing my Niece around in her pushchair.
I have built up my mileage over time, and at the turn of this year I started to follow Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathon 70-85 mile 12 week schedule (I did week one twice however, as I’m not very good with dates!). I have almost completed 8 weeks (well 9!) of this now and am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel – The Greater Manchester Marathon.
So what’s the point of all this waffle? Well, and I don’t want to offend anyone, or cause long debates amongst friends – this is after all just my opinion, based on my experience – but it has occurred to me that trail/ultra running is a damn site easier than road/marathon running. There I said it!
On a recent 22 mile training run, I carried a small amount of water and a pack of Clif Shot Bloks. I did not carry my phone, a camera, or a small picnic! I did not take breaks to use my phone, to take photographs, or to eat my picnic – I just ran. I sipped water maybe three times, I choked on the Shot Bloks and they made me feel sick, but I still ran. It hurt, and when it did, I ran harder. It was not ‘about the journey’ it was about splits and getting used to the pain of running fast when you’re broken – even if you do come to a hill!
What started all this contemplating? Well the day before this 22 mile run, I ran on the West Highland Way. I ran from behind the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum to the Bridge of Orchy checkpoint in just under 52 minutes. Not record breaking pace, but it wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to be an easy run. However, the truth is, it’s probably the fastest I have ever run that section, and yes I have done it as an independent run before rather than as part of a 30 plus miler. I am fitter and stronger now than I ever was during my ultra running days.
Further more, after looking at the magnificent snow covered mountains I was running towards, my mind returned to the terrain under foot, my pace, and how my body felt. The view was of no interest. I considered the forthcoming hills and terrain hoping that I wouldn’t be required to walk, rather than looking forward to the walk breaks. I am, as I said at the start, a road runner and my mind set has completely altered.
Most of you reading this will say (as I would have done previously), “but with road running you are just banging out the miles, waiting for it to be over.” I would not argue with this, but, as they say, it takes all sorts.
In the brilliant comedy series Father Ted, the house keeper Mrs Doyle, makes A LOT of tea;
“Will you have a cup of tea Father? – Ah go on.”
In one particular episode they buy her a Teasmaid to make her life easier. Mrs Doyle spends the whole episode trying to break it, before finally declaring in a somewhat demonic state,
“…but I love the misery of making the tea, Father!”
That’s me, only I love the misery of road running.
So now, if asked what my greatest achievement in sport is, I would not say my WHW Race time, nor would I say my 3:05.25 at the Loch Ness marathon last year. For now at least, my greatest achievement is completing the training schedule thus far. I have not missed a single session, I am constantly hungry and tired, early morning foot steps are tentative, and I live on the edge between healthy and injured (I currently await Mrs pacepusher’s arrival home to take me to A&E after collapsing whilst running this afternoon). 87 miles in a week is hard, before you even consider the types of sessions involved and the number of runs in the week, but I am loving it. Mrs pacepusher may argue this point, but despite my ‘occasional’ complaints, I really have been loving it, and feel that the high mileage works well for me.
I’ve sacrificed a few things, no booze, no running club sessions (I now run for Giffnock North incidentally) and a healthier diet – although the latter has proved impossible as I search for extra calories and some small pleasures away from the roads – the lethal combination of coffee & cake have become my drug of choice!
So, thanks trail/ultra running for the memories, for the great and supremely talented people I have met and had the pleasure to run with, for the increased endurance levels and mental toughness you’ve given me, for barefoot running shoes and for the polar opposite, Hoka One Ones. But for now at least, I’ll be sticking to my Bondi(S) and leaving my Stinson Evos to gather dust!
Keep on running friends, wherever and however you choose. As I said, it takes all sorts!