On Sunday at 1.30am, when my head torch finally failed descending from Bovine, I still refused to believe that having come this far, the race would beat me. I stumbled and fell in almost the pitch black on the descent down to Trient, desperate to make the next cut off.
A year-and-a-half ago I’d never even heard of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc – the craziest most extreme ultramarathon of the lot. But the moment I discovered it, a little light went on, and it’s stayed on all this time. The UTMB – 100 miles across the Alps with 10,000 metres of elevation – has consumed my waking hours ever since and even a few my dreams.
One of the best things about ultra-marathon running is the people you share the experience with. And when I took part in the 2012 Marathon des Sables (MdS) – a multi-day, 153-mile event across the Sahara desert – I was thrilled to discover I was in the same race as the fantastic Meghan Hicks, albeit at opposite ends of the final result standings.
Never more have I wished I was doing an Artic ultra-marathon than when standing at the start of the inaugural Race to the Stones in Chinnor in Oxfordshire, the temperature already in the 70s at 8 o’clock in the morning.
Is recovery the best bit about training? The lovely downtime when rest is the right thing to do? You can’t beat the exhilaration of running, of competing, of pushing yourself to the limit. But enjoying NOT doing those things? That’s definitely permitted.
BBC Sport’s not all about Wimbledon. To my amazement I spotted on its website a quiz all about – wait for it – ultra marathons. And there was me thinking that ultra-marathoning was safe in its obscurity. Anyway, no complaints. Fabulous that the sport is getting the exposure.
I don’t think of myself as an especially emotional person. I love a show tune, and Barry Manilow gets me every time. You’ll find me screaming at the TV when Manchester City are playing. But generally I’m on an even keel.
A few weeks after being in Majorca for the 70.3 Ironman race, I returned for a sudden opportunity to train in the sun. It turns out that last week also coincided with our British summer, which I missed – all five days of it. Since returning, it’s been grey and overcast here and the tan lines are fading fast.
For me, the road to the Ultra –Trail du Mont Blanc is littered with competitive events. It has to be because – hopefully – they give you an edge which training on its own can’t provide.
When I signed up for the two-day Rat Race Road Trip, London to Edinburgh cycle ride, I thought, how hard can that be? I clearly didn’t think hard enough. This weekend, three months on from that decision, I found out.
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