Another fortnight been and gone – with that, another 14 days of stress, pain and the occasional wild horse.
I can at least be comforted in the knowledge that technically, I am a quarter of the way through this year. On the other hand, with 44 events now on my calendar and only 8 officially completed, there’s still a long way to go.
After about 25 updates and changes, I may have finally settled on an absolute plan for this year. It is shockingly understated just how much free time organising consumes, but at least I had the weekends to do…oh. With all of the hours of searching and filling in registration forms, waivers and health certificates at an end, I now only need to run them. Only.
I am proud to say I can finally tick off another bucket list item; completing an ultramarathon. This particular ‘ultra’ was set in the New Forest, a hearty 50km course showcasing a small but beautiful area of the National Park. Living in the South East of England and having grown up in West London, it is an easy but dangerous assumption to make that other places are just flat. What I seem to continually fail to do for lack of time or sense, is research what I have entered – I am certain that at some point, that is really going to come round and bite me in the arse. It is hard enough to run 50km anyway – I was built for speed, not endurance – but if someone were to have told me before I entered that the final elevation stats on my tracker would look like a healthy heart rate, I may have considered the consequences.
I see little difference. The race itself was a cruel mix of hot and cold, climbing and descending, busy and desolate. I have mixed reviews for a course where you have to pass by the finish line more than once: Yes, it is a great way to mentally break down what is a terrifying distance into manageable parts, but on passing by the second time and knowing I had another 17km (10.6 miles) left – as a collection of half marathon runners conveniently sprinted past me to the finish – my soul died a little. I could not advocate more for a good strong music playlist in times like this, to fill the lonely void with some just incredible 80’s and 90’s tunes. Better yet, to offer some unbeatable advice on how to enjoy any ultramarathon – watch someone else running it. Ideally somewhere warm, with a cup of tea and slice of cake. It will never be clear to me how people run these for fun.
I was too recently informed that ‘marathon legs’ need more than a week to recover fully. Most people would see this as common sense, but I have always preferred to stumble straight through problems rather than skirt round them. When I chose to enter a second 10 mile run on the Sunday morning, I remember my thought process being “I should do an event on the second day too, just to make it a challenge”. Shockingly, my thought process following the ultra was “what is wrong with me?”. I decided not to take this race seriously, as I believed if I did I might cry. As I am a strong believer of ‘When in Rome…’, I took the opportunity to selfie with the locals. From a noticeably safe distance, naturally.
Eventually my 40-mile weekend was over to the relief of my aching limbs, and I collapsed in a big heap of person into my infinitely more appreciated bed.
The following Tuesday, I volunteered with Bath Marrow at a university sporting event to help enlist some more young, willing individuals on to the Bone Marrow Register. It is natural that I should know a little about the ‘in’s and out’s’ of Bone Marrow donation by now, but it was enlightening to see how few young people know that:
a) There is even a register for this.
b) Contrary to popular belief, only 1/10 Bone Marrow donations are taken from the hip. Most are taken via a procedure similar to giving blood, with little discomfort and plenty of snacks and entertainment to while away the time.
c) It is not like organ donation, and you aren’t signing to donate your body to science. Being on the register simply means that if you happen to match with someone, then you are presented with an opportunity to donate a collection of cells that the body doesn’t even miss, to someone who could not survive without them.
To find out many more facts you may not know about stem cell donation, you can visit the Anthony Nolan site here!
Due to some thorough training from Bath Marrow veteran Jo Freeborough, I was even lucky enough to officially sign up a new donor myself! I have never been so excited to write my own name. Congratulations where it is due, as Bath Marrow succesfully found 168 students to sign up over two days who had not eaten or drunk in the last 30 minutes, outside a sports ‘village’. Sort of like finding 168 teetotalists at a wine tasting.
This past weekend, my twin and I were due to embark on a flight to Greece, one of my favourite countries and a marathon of massive cultural importance; Greece was the birthplace of both the marathon and the Olympic Games. All the planning in the world does not prepare you for the dreadful scenario of realising you no longer have your passport as you reach for it at the gate, even worse still the nonchalant expression of the staff who have seen this 1000 times before and can only try to look sympathetic. Forty minutes of asking every desk in the airport prevailed, and on the third visit back round to security, I recognised the distinct black leather case of my passport, retrieved from a back office. Devastatingly, a mere three minutes late for my boarding gate, the low-cost airline of which shall not be named directly but rhymes with Schmeezy Schmet, refused to allow us to board. After two hours of frustration, waiting around and sincere consideration to paying for later flights out that, by then, were borderline house deposit territory, we made the painful decision to accept defeat and jump to the possibly more stressful plan B: finding a way to tell my parents that minimises the chance of lifelong ridicule and the serious debate on whether I should be allowed to carry my own passport. For those of you who are a victim to loving but heavily sarcastic parents, you probably guessed that there is no way to avoid it. Ironically, it is enough to ensure I will never misplace my passport again. As for the events, I will now be running Budapest Marathon in my one remaining free weekend of October (cry), and keeping to my 15-marathon year.
This weekend’s challenge remains a mystery. Travelling to Stockbridge, Hampshire, I will be taking on an SAS organised-and-run obstacle event of which no details have been shared of the challenge. Starting at 4am with an expected time of 6-8 hours, it is definitely not my idea of an ideal Sunday. Or any day of any week in fact. Curiosity has me wondering if I have taken it one step too far this time; only time will tell whether it is sleep deprivation or physical inability that gets the better of me first.
To donate to a cause so worthy that it consumes more of my free time than Netflix box sets, you can visit my “Donate” page above, or find my JustGiving here.