March 2015

I ran until I dropped...

The Run Until You Drop Challenge (RUYD) was to run/walk a minimum of 1 mile on Feb 1st, 2 miles on Feb until the end of the month. (Or, in mathematical terms, to run an arithmetic progress with a=d=1 and n=28...). A total of 406 miles.

When I first heard about RUYD back in the Autumn, I though it sounded fun and do-able. A motivation to get some milage in through the tail end of Winter. So I decided that I’d give it a shot.

Come the end of January it was seeming less do-able and even less appealing. Thanks to a cold and miscellaneous life stuff I’d ran a grand total of 65 miles that month. And as February got closer, it was dawning on me that squeezing 4 or 5 hours a day of running in around work and commuting was going to be the biggest challenge.

Week 1
Given my low recent milage I decided to just run the minimum amount of miles each day. On Sun 1st I was flying to Helsinki for a meeting. So I headed out and got my first mile in just after mid-night and stuffed Winter running gear into my hand-luggage for a 2 mile run through slush the next day. The rest of the week passed off fairly smoothly, although the 7 and 8 mile back-to-back runs on Sat and Sun felt harder than they should have done.

Week 2
This is where the fun and games of fitting running around work began. On Monday I had to get the train to work and got the miles in by running to and from the station at both ends of both journeys. I did Tuesday’s miles in one go before driving home. But after that I broke the weekday milage in two, either a lunchtime run & a pre-drive home run or a pre-drive home run
& a pre-bed run.

Come the weekend my legs were beginning to feel decidedly achey so I decided to give them a ‘rest’ (or a change at least) and walk. Unfortunately on Saturday the change of gait (and a cushioned insole which changed the fit of my running shoes) led to the dead-skin from an old blister on my heel rubbing and creating a huge blood blister. And I didn’t have my blister repair kit with me because I didn’t think I’d need it for a 14 mile walk... I managed to patch it up sufficiently for Sunday’s walk though. In a bid to combine RUYD with normal life we had lunch in the Peak District and then the OH drove home while I walked. The bit through the Peak District was nice enough, but I’ve never found a good off-road route back from Baslow to Chesterfield. So I ended up walking along the rubbish strewn, pot-holed grass verge along-side a busy road. The low-light was tripping over a hidden cable and knee-planting. My route plotting hadn’t been particularly accurate and when I clocked up the required 15 miles I was still a couple of miles from home. So I called the other half and he kindly came and got me.

Week 3
Perversely this felt easier than week 2. I had various niggles but they came and went on a day to day (or even run to run) basis. On Monday I ran to and from the station as in week 2, but got off the train half way through the return journey and ran the rest of the way. The other runs I split into either two (lunchtime and pre-drive home) or three (lunchtime, pre-drive home and pre-bed). This took a bit of willpower, but was easier than I was expecting. After work, running and eating (including doughnuts and crisps in the bath...) I didn’t have much time for anything else this week. I was spending a large fraction of every day in lycra pre or post run (thankfully I’ve got a job where eccentricity is tolerated...) and lugging a huge rucksack full of running gear and food to work.

I walked the weekend miles again, with the idea that it would give my legs a change. However in retrospect I think I’d have been better sticking with my usual weekend long runs with regular walk breaks. The main downside of walking is that it’s slow. Saturday and Sunday’s 21 and 22 miles took six and six & a half hours respectively. And the Sunday was grim. The weather was horrific and the battery on my iPod ran out half-way through. Half-way through the return journey (I did most of my run/walks as out-and-backs to avoid doing any excess milage) I HTFU. I told myself I’d finished the Spine Race, so surely I could manage a short walk through Derbyshire fields.

Week 4
I added a lunchtime run to last Monday’s ‘to and from the station + half way home’ runs. A total of 5 runs, which was insane, but the best way of combining the milage with getting to and from work without a car. Tuesday & Wednesday’s milage was divided (fairly evenly and very slowly) into lunchtime, pre-drive home and pre-bed runs.

Come mid-week I thought I had it in the bag. I’d managed to arrange to work from home on Thursday, which would make getting in the milage easy, or easier at least. Friday would be a squeeze, but it then just left a ‘normal’ Saturday long run. Thursday lunchtime I set out aiming to bag the bulk of the days 26 miles. My achilles tendon/calf was sore and tight. Previously niggles like this had come and go. But this one got worse and I went from running, through run-walking to walking before heading home with 14 and a bit miles done. I spend the afternoon icing it, hoping that I could grind out the remaining miles later. I headed out in the evening, hobbled a mile painfully and slowly, and pulled the plug. I’m not sure that I could have hobbled out the remaining miles even if I’d wanted to. And I certainly didn’t want to screw up the rest of the year, and in particular the Thames Ring 250.

Lessons learnt
It’s possible to squeeze far more miles in around work than I would have thought possible (although I did push the boundaries of acceptable lycra wearing on occasions...). I also discovered some good new routes. However come week 4 those miles were ridiculously slow, (11-11.30 min miling, rather than my usual 9.30-10) and probably not particularly good training.

Am I going to try again next year?
Never say never, but probably not. It was tough and probably not particularly good training. I’m already good at running long distances very slowly. For me the hardest thing was the logistics, and I’ve convinced myself that if it wasn’t for the random injury (which cleared up within a couple of days) I could have done it. Plus I was lucky with work. Usually there’s a couple of days a month where fitting in 4 or 5 hours of running would be completely impossible (unless I ditched sleeping...)