Out of 49 runners, I was the 47th fastest (trying to put a positive spin on it) in my 14.27 mile leg of the Hoka Highland Fling Relay. As predicated in my previous Great Run Blog, it was as tough, if not tougher than the Morrisons Great Edinburgh Run. The hills were steeper and more frequent while for 3 miles I had to climb up and over rocks, ladders and trees. Yes, I did say 3 miles and I did say ladders! And no, I had not taken a wrong turn.
This was trail running in the Highlands of Scotland. It was a run along some of the most stunning scenery that I have ever encountered but it was also a trialling run. After the joy of finishing passed, I realised that I ached all over, that I was badly dehydrated and, worst of all, that my pace had dropped my team down the rankings.
I was the slowest runner in my team and I am the slowest runner in my running group. I am also the slowest runner in my group of friends and if my girlfriend and boys continue to progress, I will soon be the slowest runner in my own home.
And that realisation has given me a huge fright.
I need to stop referring to myself as a plodder. Yes, I mostly run for fun (please check out the fabulous Facebook group of the same name) but I am also a tad competitive. Or, at least, I used to be. It has been a long time since I recorded a PB or felt able to really push myself in a race. For too long, I have doubted my speed and questioned my fitness. I have relished coaching kids and I have revelled in my time as a Great Run Local Event Coordinator. However, I have also relinquished important me time.
Time for me to train, time for me to learn and time for me to rest.
It is now time for me to focus on myself. It is time for me to run faster and it is time to stop accepting that I am the slowest. Come the time of the Morrisons Great North Run, I might not be the fastest runner in my run club, but I will be faster than I have ever been before. In July, I will be signing up for the Morrisons Great Newham London Run 4 x 1/4 Marathon Team Relay and, in October, I hope to be taking part in the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon Relay. In these events, I intend to improve, not impair my teams’ times.
This will not happen overnight or by simply wishing it so. I will have to put in the time (last time I use that word) and I will have to make many small changes to what I eat, how I train and how I look after my body.
I am not a ninja life hacker like Tim Ferriss (his 4hr Body did help me to lose 11st ) but I do intend on using technology, science and the experiences of others to compliment good old fashioned hard work. I am an adviser to the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, so I am hopeful that the good Fellows there will offer some support while I will also have a few toys to experiment with and to report on.
More importantly, though, I will also use the key elements that make the Kenyans and other East Africans such amazing athletes.
No, not altitude training, barefoot running or a strict diet devoid of processed Western food.
Instead, I will heed the words of Dr Andrew Murray, who ran with and studied East African runners when he and champion ultra-runner Donnie Campbell ran up Mount Kilimanjaro (now, that IS a hill). He discovered that the secret to what made Kenyans more successful than others was that they were more determined, more dedicated and more disciplined than most others.
I have to learn to train like a Kenyan.
So, for the next few months, I will be posting regular updates and I am inviting you to join me. Who else wants to go faster and who else want to run further?
My initial goals are getting to a 1hr 50 half marathon and a sub 50 min 10k. What are your goals ? Pledge them below and use #greatrunfaster on social media.