A week ago I was running through fields & woodland, up & down hills, across stepping stones & up some steps. Smelling the scent of the wild garlic lining the paths, basking in the late afternoon sunshine.
A week ago I was running 50 miles.
All day my thoughts have been consumed with “this time a week ago we were just starting in Farnham”, “this time a week ago I was climbing the Box Hill steps”, “this time a week ago I was crossing the finishing line”.
I’m still in awe of what my body achieved. I can still barely believe that after months of doubting my abilities I did it. I keep looking at my medal to make sure it was real, my finishers t-shirt is hanging up where I can see it.
Physically my recovery has been swift. The following day I was walking, stairs were climbed & descended without drama. My legs felt better than they had after running a marathon earlier in the year. My feet however were a painful haven of blisters & black toenails.
As great as I felt, I’ve been sensible. From the onset, this first week post ultra was going to be all about recovery.
I have not run.
I have not swum.
I have not lifted weights or cycled.
I have slept (well as much as insomnia allowed me to), eaten well & rested. I even indulged in afternoon naps when time allowed! I did some yoga & when the urge to move became too great I had a couple of easy sessions on the elliptical. I’m itching to get back out there in the sunshine but know that allowing my body time to heel & recover properly will make it stronger in the long term.
I’m almost as proud of myself for not running as I am for running 50 miles. Rest does not come easy or naturally to me & I’ve had to talk down some anxiety demons this week. I will not loose fitness in seven days, I will not forget how to run in a week.
All week I have been on a post-race high & I wish I could turn back time & do it all again.
When I said this to a friend she asked if I would do anything differently.
Simply, no. I wouldn’t change a thing. Every moment, every step, every decision I made, made my race what it was & I don’t think I would want any other ending to my story.
It was, & still is, a story that isn’t just about running. It’s a story about believing. About believing in myself. About believing I can do things, I am capable & I am stronger than I ever thought possible.
So what now? Is this the end of the story?
I’d prefer to think of it as the end of a chapter. As one chapter in a book ends there’s the excitement & anticipation that comes as you turn the page to start the next adventure.
The NDW50 was always going to be an adventure & now I’ve been bitten by the ultra bug. I want more.
It gave me opportunity to reflect on how & why I run. I think it’s changed my approach & attitude to running. It reiterated my love of trails, of hills, of woods & trees & rural spaces. It strengthened my dislike of roads, concrete & pavements.
I enjoyed running at a slower pace, of being able to appreciate where I was running, of taking the time to pause, look, admire & photograph.
I’ve learnt that I’m a better person when I run. Running is my time. It’s where I think, I plan, I dream. I leave frustrations, anger & disappointments on the roads & trails. I start a run feeling low & come back on a high.
It made me want to do another.
At the moment I’m looking at the South Downs Way 50 for 2018, the sister race to the NDW50. It’s tempting to run the NDW50 again but I want to explore more, to see more, to experience more. I’d love to do another ultra this year but I also have to be realistic.
There’s a fine line to balancing running & life. I’m self-employed & run a business, summer is my busy period & I have a husband who said he’s missed me over the last few months whilst I’ve been training.
So for now, after my recovery period, I’m going to ease back into running. I don’t have an agenda or a training plan. I want to hit the trails, to explore more of ‘rural’ Croydon. Maybe venture further along the NDW (I mean there is still over 100 miles of it that I have yet to touch!). And maybe if time allows jump on a train for a few miles on the SDW.
I may do a little speed work to try & bring my 5km time down, I think I still have some potential there & when time is tight a fast couple of miles can be a good endorphins release!
I will look for a few races to enter. The criteria being trail, off-road, something different & fun. Being local & knowing the route, I already have my eye on the Vanguard Way Marathon in August.
So if chapter one of my story was the NDW50 it looks like chapter two is about to start.
I’ve enjoyed writing over the past six months, will I carry on? I honestly don’t know. Maybe. I guess we’ll have to wait & see how the story evolves.