In late September two things were happening: Ben Smith was close to completing his incredible 401 marathons in 401 days challenge (he finished on October 5th) and a friend of mine, Raj, was close to notching up his 300th day of consecutive runs (he’s still going strong). Earlier this year I blogged about Raj and his (successful) 2nd attempt at the Bob Graham round, yet even with epic running efforts like this he didn’t allow himself a day off. I had finished my last triathlon of the season (Weymouth Ironman 70.3) and was wondering what to do next.
I have never tried one of these long term challenges before as I always worry about the lack of recovery time and the danger of over training, but, for no other reason than it sounded like a good idea at the time, I decided to test myself by going for a run for everyday for the calendar month of October. I kept the rules simple: a minimum of 30 minutes or 5km, whichever came first.
I started off with a longish run of 14km which was a bit of a mistake, as by day 3 I had the tightest calves I’ve ever known. But by adding some cross country into the equation it had the effect of slowing my pace and making my ankles and feet work in different directions, easing the tightness. By the end of the first week I was happily trotting 15km across the fields of the Lune Valley. The next challenge was the Lancaster Trail Half Marathon on Sunday 16th. Normally I would rest completely for a couple of days before hand so this time I did two runs at just over 5km in length at a very steady pace. I pushed the pace in the half marathon as hard as I could but wasn’t quite as quick as previous years, probably down to accumulated fatigue. The day after I felt very sore and this was the one day where due to work and other commitments I only just squeezed in a short run below the time I’d set. By the middle of the week, though, I was feeling really strong and started to throw some hard speed efforts into my running.
By the end of week 3 I felt really good. my body seemed to adapt to the training every day really well and as long as I took a steady pace the day after hard sessions, my recovery seemed good. Disaster struck on the Monday of the last week. On a run across the fields I went over on my ankle straining my ankle ligaments on the outside of my foot. It’s an injury I’ve had before and I was worried about completing my challenge. The next day I went for a very gentle 5km on the local cycle path and found that as long as I was on a flat hard surface I could run reasonably comfortably in a straight line – corners and uneven surfaces were an absolute no go. Incredibly, the next day after that, feeling really strong, I pushed the pace along the cycle track and did a 15km run at almost 5:00 minutes per km pace. That really tired me out, but I finished the week strongly with another 16km run and, appropriately enough, finished the challenge on a atmospheric?and misty Halloween run with the leaves on the floor and light beams from lamp posts streaming through the trees.
Over the course of the month I notched up 272km running, much further than my previous monthly mileage record, and instead of finishing up on my knees and desperate for a break, I felt very healthy, fresh and strong. I have decided I’m going to try to keep things moving but instead of just running, I’m going to mix it up with cycling and swimming. I am pretending to be a triathlete after all!