Barring mishap or the unexpected, by around 7.30pm on Tuesday, midway through an undoubtedly frantic 8 x 600m session on the track at Tooting Bec, I will have run 1000 miles in 2014. It has taken four days and nine hours. It doesn’t sound very long, does it? The venue is fitting, for my metamorphosis from ultra-runner (I had a good innings: the Fellsman, a Bob Graham Round, the Vanguard Way and a South Downs Way 50 DNS that still rankles) to track athlete is nearly complete. The first 1000 miles of 2014 have brought a plethora of personal bests, with times for the mile, 3000m, 5k and 10k tumbling. Nonetheless, the lure of ultra-running is immense. I follow the Centurion Running events of the south avidly; I am jealous of friends preparing for the West Highland Way Race; I want to be the sort of person who even has the gumption to consider the Spine Race.
But I am not an evangelical I’ve-just-discovered-running-and-I-insist-on-telling-everyone-how-amazing-it-is-runner. I have been running since school, for close to 20 years now. I am a running realist. Over the years, running has been dictated by circumstance. When I lived in Inverness, I ran in the hills and mountains. When I lived in Peterborough, I raced on the road. When I lived in Cheltenham, I dragged myself up and down the marvellous Cleeve Common.
The first 1000 miles of 2014 have again been dictated by circumstance. Like being the father of a one-year-old daughter and the tiredness (and transformation in lifestyle) that brings. I vowed that in 2014 I would not travel unnecessarily to race. I vowed that I would not spend lavishly on running. I vowed to do the best I could with what was at my immediate disposal: a superb, high-quality group of athletes to train with, first-class coaching, the undulations and parks of south London, the tracks of Battersea, Tooting Bec and Wimbledon. I have stuck to those vows, venturing only as far as Eastleigh for what was a breakthrough 34-minute 10k.
The next 1000 miles will bring more of the same. More battering of London pavements. More running in circles. More, admittedly, boredom. But, as I said, I am a realist. I live in south London. Where is the sense in calling myself a fell runner or a trail runner or an ultra-runner? Each run will bring me closer to the Holy Grail: the sub-16 minute 5k. The ultra scene can wait…