Jan 2018

Plans for 2018

I don’t usually put all my running eggs in one basket. But 2018 is all about one race: the Monarch’s Way. 614 miles, and no finishers (from 6 starters) in the 2 years it’s been running.

I’ve got a sabbatical from the teaching and admin bit of my job in the Spring semester. And no, `sabbatical’ isn’t a fancy name for a holiday. I’ll be spending my working hours trying to solve all of the problems of the Universe, literally. But it does mean I can take annual leave during term time, which is an opportunity to enter races I can’t usually do. My plan had always been to do one of the long Arctic races. However I’d like to do a shorter ‘snow’ race, like the Rovaniemi 150 first, and, thanks to my lecturing schedule the last few years, I haven’t managed to. Plus my ‘wonky finger’, while otherwise well recovered, doesn’t like the cold. So wet and muddy England it is.

45 miles a day for a fortnight doesn’t sound that hard. But some pretty serious, experienced ultra-runners have tried to finish the Monarch’s Way and failed. I found out why on my first recce weekend back in May. There are some sections of nice, runnable canal tow-paths. But the majority of it is fiddly to navigate, over-grown, muddy field paths. I stopped and went home early, legs slashed to bits from thrashing my way through crops and thoroughly demoralised by quite how hard it was to even average 3mph. A few more reces and I’ve come to terms with the reality of the MW. And will even admit to enjoying some stretches of it.

Normally I try and do a shorter, but still long, race in the run up to my main races. But it’s not clear that a 100 mile race would be particularly good preparation for the MW (although I do definitely want to maintain running fitness, running the runnable bits will be necessary to build a buffer on the cut-offs). Plus I’d like to recce some more of the route, and I haven’t got many free weekends. I got a bit gung-ho about saying yes to work invitations and have ended up with 3 trips to the US and 2 to Europe (and 1 to Swindon...) in the first 5 months of the year.

Post MW, unless I drop out early on, I’ll probably need a couple of months to recover. And then it’s Autumn, and I’ve learnt my lesson about big races and structured training from 2017. So I might go back to my roots and run shorter, low-key ultras (like the High Peak 40 and Round Rotherham 50) for fun, before turning my thoughts to another go at a 24 hour track race in early 2019.