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Silver Fox Rambles on His First Place at the Sussex Ultra 30 Miler

A great day at the office...

Having spent the first 3 months of this year enjoying the inclement British winter weather and striving to get some solid base training in the legs I was somewhat nervous about how far down the path I had come. The winter months have all been about enjoying running slowly and preparing for a year that will hopefully see me partake in some longer endurance events of one type or another for the first time.

January was the start of a new year and hopefully one which will see me complete a 100 mile race, so there it is staring at you on paper! Now what? Oh yeah... time to go running.

With no set training plan or regime in place January saw me log my first ever 200+ mile month. Back to back longer runs of 15+ miles and the odd 20+ miles outing helped the milestone tumble. February by comparison was far more relaxed tallying 115 miles or so (far more like a typical month for me), and better still a week of Snowboarding in the French Alps. A change is as good as a rest and I returned from the mountains feeling invigorated.

March brought about the annual Ferret gathering at the Grizzly, a laid back non-competitive affair which sees the participants pit themselves against a challenging course in what is usually appalling weather and predictably unfavourable underfoot conditions. This year was little different but the 21+ miles course was still a good day at the office and another challenging training run in the bag, a bag which finished March containing 250+ miles.

So why all the high mileage? Apparently it's all about running on tired legs, building endurance, stamina and perhaps most importantly ability confidence. Spring's early goal is the Centurion Running SDW50, a 50 mile outing along a section of the South Downs Way on 13th April. Oh bugger me It's just around the corner time for a 2 week taper!!

OK so 2 weeks of no alcohol, reduced caffeine and low weekly mileage and by this I mean cutting 80-100 mile weeks down to 30 or less. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Net result no sleep for 3 nights, massive anxiety attacks and new found ability to find fault with everyone and everything. Tetchy nowhere near close to how agitated I had become. And that's after only 7 days of the taper!!!

Sunday 7th March Sussex Marathon - an event close to my home and organised by associates of my running club, a day for me to marshal and enjoy the event atmosphere and continue tapering. Or not as it turned out!

After another pitiful attempt at a night of sleep I threw caution to the wind and decided to run the event. It would after all calm my nerves, tire me out, and appease my burning desire to keep running, but at what cost? Would it affect my performance at the SDW50 6 days later? Who cares?

The sun is shining and I want to run, more than that I need to run.

The event is made up of 3 distances: half marathon; marathon; 30 mile ultra. The course is a 13.1 mile loop round hilly leafy lanes in East Sussex. The sun was out, I was smiling and I was off running. It felt great - my life rhythm was returning, I had a spring in my step and Spring was in the air.

Starting at the back of the pack and gently easing in to a comfortable rhythm I coasted through the first half marathon. Against my better judgement and starting intention I was off heading towards a marathon. The running felt easy and the pace natural but I was catching and passing runners on a continuous basis. Not because I was running any quicker but because many of those runners were slowing with distance or tiring with the repeated hills.

By the time I crossed the marathon finish line there could not have been many people l had not passed. More surprisingly it appeared nobody had looped out for the additional 4 miles to complete the 30. A quick question fired at the race day MC confirmed my suspicions. Despite feeling adequately tired and more than ready to lie down and take a massage I had no option but to head out on a 2 mile out and back that would see me complete the Ultra distance. Why??? Not just because I could but also because...

In all my years of participating in running events as a senior, I have never been placed age group, team or otherwise. It was the pure childlike excitement of thinking I was possibly about to finish an event in first place.

The sun didn't stop shining and no one passed me. I finished 11th overall in the marathon and 1st for the 30. What's better still for the best part of the year I will be course record holder as it was the inaugural running of the 30 mile event.

So where does that leave me in terms of taper? Well with less than 3 days to go and only 30 miles run this week - bang on track. As far as sleeping goes, I have been, and as far as drinking goes - I celebrated my victory...

Roll on SDW50.
Silver Strider aka Silver Fox aka Pappa Possom.