Blog: Couch to Ultra Marathon – tapering
Blog: Couch to Ultra Marathon – tapering

It’s now less than three weeks to Race to the Stones, I have finished all my long runs and I’m now meant to be tapering, a process where my body is supposed to recover from the strains of training for a long distance but still keep running to keep my fitness levels up.

I’ll be honest, my last three long runs have not been terribly successful. I haven’t run as far as I was supposed to. Three weeks ago I was supposed to do a 35km run.

My preparation was poor, I spent the evening before the run drinking in a Central London pub. Luckily, I was joined for the run by three friends who encouraged me and helped me keep going.

For this run I had plotted a 35k route on the North Downs Way, thinking that I would save myself a lot of hassle following a waymarked long distance path.

Sadly, to the east of Maidstone the path was often poorly signposted and overgrown which made it very hard to walk, let alone run. I struggled through to about 30km, when it was raining horizontally and due to my poor choice of fuel for the run I was completely empty. 

The following week I was due to run 45km. For this run I decided to enter a challenge event at Samphire Hoe between Dover and Folkestone on the coast. These challenge events are a timed race where the idea is to run as many laps as possible in a time limit, in this case just over 5km laps in 6 hours.

The lap was partially off road and about 2km out and back on the sea wall. I don’t do well at these events, I find laps difficult to deal with on a mental level, and having run at Samphire Hoe before, I find the sea wall section demoralising. I intended to do 9 laps which would have been about 47km.

Everything was going well until about lap 7, when the wind picked up and made the exposed sea wall section very hard. I struggled through to 8 laps, about 42km, marathon distance, before I ran out of time. I was relatively happy – I had followed my strategy for Race to the Stones by walking the hills, but due to the wind and my tiredness, I walked most of the last lap. I was disappointed not to have got to 9 laps, but it was still a good distance to do for my training. 

Four days later I had to do another long run. I have to walk shifts and I was working at the weekend so this run needed to be midweek. Despite desperately trying to find someone to run with me I was unable to so I would be flying solo. It’s difficult to find people off from work midweek to run stupidly long distances, especially when there’s no medal or t shirt at the end.

Again, I optimistically opted to follow a long distance path hoping that it would be easier to navigate and the path would be well cared for. My intention was to start from Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve near Cuxton, go into Rochester, join the Saxon Shore Way to Gravesend, then join the Wealden Way south until just past Sole Street before joining the Saxon Shore Way back to Ranscombe. 

It was hard. My legs were heavy before I started due to the marathon I had run four days previously. Yet again, the long distance path was overgrown in places and poorly signposted, however it did run through some beautiful places in Medway that I have never seen before.

Unfortunately, due to the standard of the path I did a lot more walking than I would have liked and going across a ploughed field on the path, I turned an ankle which was painful. It took me much longer than I had anticipated, and by the time I finally got to Gravesend I was severely annoyed, tired and in pain so I got the train home. I managed about 39km. I was very disappointed with myself. 

It’s now very close to my event. I am suffering from a runner’s affliction called ‘maranoia’ where, due to the proximity of a major event, every niggle transforms itself into a broken leg or snapped ligaments, every sore throat turns into a major bout of influenza. I’m hoping to get to the start line unscathed and then my stubbornness will see me through to the finish. It won’t be fast, it won’t be pretty, but hopefully I’ll get to the finish. 

I’d be incredibly grateful if you could sponsor me. I’m raising funds for the Oliver Fisher Special Care Unit at Medway Hospital who look after sick and premature babies. You can donate using the link below. 

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-allen35

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