Why am I running? It’s a question I asked myself today as I plodded for 10km.

(Apologies for the maudlin tone and boring content of today’s blog. Back to fun and japes tomorrow, I promise).

Last year I had a clear goal – to run a marathon. I quite enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I could really see myself becoming addicted to. I prefer distances between 10k and 21k, and this year I’d set myself a nebulous target of “getting faster” rather than “going further”.

What this means practically is probably running a 10k in under 40 minutes (current PB 43 minutes 47 seconds) and a half marathon in 90 minutes (current PB 107 minutes 13 seconds). Both are within my grasp, assuming I can return to my marathon fitness (and Janathon is doing a good job of that). I also pondered joining a running club, for a bit of motivation, camaraderie and an opportunity to speak French about more general things than cropping and animal husbandry.

So, there are some goals, but there isn’t a GOAL.

Over at rosshendry.com my evil rival for Janathon (for 4 or 5 days until he gave up/got distracted buying socks) revealed this week he was planning an 80km ultra marathon in August. I have to admit I had a slight twinge of jealousy. I’ve always been attracted to wild feats of endurance and you can’t argue that the marathon has lost its lustre somewhat since an unfit Eddie Izzard did 150 of them back to back while eating only ice-cream.

The ultra is the new marathon.

My problem with truly long-distance running is the fact you can’t really fudge the training. Even marathon distance you can muddle through as long as you’re fit – ultimately it’s only going to be 3 or 4 hours of hell, which as long as you’re a reasonable runner is bearable for most people. But beyond that you’re into the realms of serious endurance. I have a lot of admiration for people who can run 50km+, not only as a one off, but day after day after day. While I found the marathon itself fairly “easy” (relatively speaking) the recovery afterwards was painful, and protracted. Admittedly I had pushed fairly hard for the first 30k, but I was amazed at how much it wiped me out. I can only imagine how sore I’d feel if I tried double the distance or more.

I think the biggest sticking point for me is the training. To train for an ultra I think I’d need to be turning 150km a week or more. Last week I did 90km, and that was quite time consuming. 150km+ turns running into a job, not a recreational pursuit. The strain on my ageing body would also be pretty high. I’m not even sure I’m physiologically the right shape to even consider it. To be an ultra runner you need to be a skeleton with muscles attached and not a lot else. I’d fear for my knees and calf muscles.

I’m also worried about the type of people who enter ultras. By and large you’re going to be ranged against hardcore athletes. A marathon usually attracts a contingent of people wearing tutus or running the distance dressed as Bugs Bunny. There’s always going to be someone behind you in a marathon. In an ultra the slowest person is still going to be a force to be reckoned with. While I don’t have an issue with being last, I think I’d rather take part in an event where I was at least finishing among mid-table mediocrity.

So I guess I need to be realistic and put an ultra down as something I’ll try one day, but not this year. I’m not sure if this is cowardice, or realism. Or a mix of the two.

Best of luck to Ross though, and I’m sure he’ll acquit himself admirably.

One thought on “Ultraman!

  1. swimcyclerun says:

    Glad Janathon is helping you train for some PBs. Before committing to a distance goal one could assess the hours of commitment needed, to check they have enough life to do it… but where’s the fun in that?!

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