The art of the ultra-shuffle

You have to be an ultra-runner to appreciate the qualities of the ultra-shuffle. To the non-initiated (and count yourself lucky), to ultra-shuffle is to occupy the hazy middle-ground between running and walking. It occurs when the athlete is fatigued to the extent that fluent, hamstring-extending motion is no longer possible – but, while the will…

The night before the night before running an ultramarathon

Tonight is the night before the night before running 66 miles on the Vanguard Way. What happens on the night before the night before running 66 miles? Not a lot, really. Eat. Rest. Prevaricate. Half-heartedly stretch. Devise excuses. Think, ooh, my ankle/foot/calf/knee/hip hurts. I have fielded a plethora of questions today. They have a common…

Running – why time matters (a lot)

When I was training for a sub three-hour marathon, the numbers of consequence were 6.52. Run each mile of 26.2 in six minutes, 52 seconds, and you will run a marathon in under the magical three-hour barrier. I have new numbers of consequence: 8.57. Let’s call them nine-minute miles: that would be a 5k in…

A runner’s worst nightmare? A field of cows

What is my biggest fear about running the Vanguard Way? Completing the full 66 miles? Eating and drinking enough to sustain myself for 10 hours? Conquering 1800 metres of thigh-shredding ascent and descent? I can prepare for those eventualities. A far more unpredictable proposition awaits: the fauna of Sussex and Surrey. My first encounter with…

A runner’s plea to his fellow runners

Do you want to help a runner in need? On Sunday, June 16, I am running the 66-mile Vanguard Way linking Newhaven to Croydon. Leaving Newhaven at around 4am, I will attempt to reach the finish line some 10 hours later. The route follows the coast over Seaford Head to Cuckmere Haven before running north…

The madness of the ultra distance runner Part II

A few days ago on this blog I reflected on the perception that those who spend a long time running long distances are touched by a unique kind of psychological madness. Not true, of course, I concluded. Madness is everything the ultra distance is not. Amid various responses, a post from Rich Cranswick stood out….

Can running ever be ‘fun’?

In Charlie Spedding’s very good First to Last he observes for years how he’d rated many of his training sessions as ‘not bad’. His conclusion was that to use a negative adjective to describe something that was ultimately a positive and an enormous part of his life and living was psychologically counter-productive. This realisation helped…

The madness of the ultra distance runner

‘Busy weekend?’ the Friday conversation goes. ‘I’m going to Jurassic Encounter Adventure Golf at New Malden on Saturday, then, on Sunday, I’ll run…’ ‘How far?’ Sharp intake of breath. ‘Forty…’ ‘Miles?’ ‘Yes.’ I’ve had this conversation many times over the years. Or certainly words to this effect, as this will be my first visit to Jurassic Encounter…

Running the 66-mile Vanguard Way: 24 days to go

I’ve been a lazy runner this week. Lazy in updating this blog: there was no 26 or 25 days to go. Lazy in running: three days, two runs, 14 miles, all easy, nothing taxing. Lazy in eating: I’ve been consuming too freely and too much junk (biscuits, chocolate and so on) – a notion (when…

Running the 66-mile Vanguard Way: 27 days to go

Following yesterday’s 30 miles, I had run 60 miles for the week. I had planned to run a few loosening, slow miles to claim a 100km week – before thinking better of it. Up to three weeks ago, I was unwell and running haphazardly. I’m lucky to have survived 60 miles and I’m well aware…

Running the 66-mile Vanguard Way: 28 days to go

The following contemplations emerged today as I ran 30 miles. I should note that I am writing this while crammed on a train feeling nauseous. My judgement is impaired. Firstly, running along the North Downs Way is hard. My only previous experience of the route was the relatively flat and fast Guildford to Westhumble stretch….

Running the 66-mile Vanguard Way: 31 days to go

Tomorrow is May 16. In one month’s time, on June 16, I will – injury and illness-depending – equal the furthest distance I have ever run. That previous run was the 66-mile Bob Graham Round, completed in 19 hours and 32 minutes in 2012. This year’s run is the Vanguard Way footpath, another, coincidental 66…