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Rocky road to Race to the Stones

by Reborn Runner
Friday 30th June 2017
 
 
On initial receipt of a Currys PC World/Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones media place my excitement levels were off the scales. I instantly started planning training sessions and race goals.  Voted as ‘the best Endurance Event in the UK, Running Awards 2016’ it was certainly a challenge to embrace.  This prehistoric trail steeped in myths and legends was one I’d had a strong connection with from a young age; Whitehorse Hill and Dragons Hill, Uffington Castle, the Legends of King Alfred.  Since starting trail running the appeal of running the Ridgeway has grown even more due to the changing landscape and varied terrain, teamed with the sheer beauty and pure escapism provided by some sections.  Entering Race to the Stones offered opportunity to explore this trail in all its glory.  Holding no surprises for those who know me, my crazy head persuaded me to opt for the 100km non-stop.  The organisers however cater for everyone by also offering a two day challenge with camping in-between or chance to tackle a different distance by participating in 50km on one of the days.  

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The beautiful route of Race to the Stones

I enthusiastically began to tackle the training programme with high hopes of aiming for a good time on race day.  Sadly, due to an injury, this was very short lived!  As one injury led to another (torn left ankle ligament, right Achilles tendonitis, compartment syndrome, runners knee, IT band issues) further disaster struck as my immune system became low and resorted to plaguing me with a seemingly endless bout of tonsillitis accompanied with decreasing iron levels.  The fear factor kicked in; how was I going to cope with the training?  How was I going to make the start line let alone complete a distance further than I’d previously run?  After the initial despair I discovered some inner strength and dealt with the issues in a predominantly positive manner by stamping my feet at least slightly less than before and throwing myself into planning coping strategies, I’m a teacher, we work by plans!
 
Some of my methods in dealing with and overcoming the rocks in my way to Race to the Stones have been extremely constructive, whilst others not quite so.  In no particular order here’s how I have spent the past weeks and months preparing for Race to the Stones.  Cross-training; hitting the Ridgeway on my mountain bike to discover riding it was much harder than running it, though this may have been linked to it being the worst weather we’d seen this year, it hurt during the ride and the next day, plus my off-road biking ability had clearly deteriorated somewhat over the past few years; walking when I was able to walk instead of hobble, this provided useful time on my feet but failed to raise my heart rate enough to sustain let alone improve my stamina; using the outdoor gym at the local park, epic error when my teenage students hang out at said local park; going to the actual gym with fitness benefits a plenty on offer but absolutely no appeal to an outdoors lover lacking the motivation or discipline to exercise indoors; yoga, this at least restored and maintained my inner calm, to some degree at least, and helped me focus on developing muscular endurance through some of the strength postures; circuit training outside has definitely kept me exercising and helped keep me going when I couldn’t run, most of all because it meant Friday evenings were spent socialising with some lovely ladies and running buddies; completing the 200 squat challenge was also useful in helping maintain leg strength; turning my classroom into a mini gym so I could perform physio exercises during my lunch break, the gym ball and wobble board provided particular amusement for the students when I’d forgotten to hide them away.  
 
Coaching; this helped keep me mentally positive by still being involved in running and staying in contact with running friends.  Changing my goals; by far the best strategy for looking after my mental health, I took the advice of the very wise Sports Psychologist Gemma Bragg, and benefitted from simply changing my original goals.  This was accompanied by finding some mental toughness and maintaining a growth mindset to hold on to the hope that I could still do this!  Supports and professionals; I tested out every ankle and Achilles support available in the hope of them miraculously making me able to run, clearly this wasn’t the case; in addition I attended appointments with a sports physiotherapist and osteopath expecting them to be miracle workers.  Heel drops and toe raises, a much too large percentage of my day was spent on these in the hope they were the answer.  Foam rolling until my legs were bruised evidently I’d reached the stage of desperation at this point! 
 

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The Uffington White Horse, one of many incredible sights along the route

Having previously completed 60 miles at a 12 hour ultra endure event I’d entered Race to the Stones with high expectations of being able to go that bit further during at least the same but ideally a quicker time.  Due to training taking a total battering for a few months I’ve learnt to accept this isn’t going to be my year for achieving this, maybe a future one will but for now 2017 is simply about finishing.  This is a realistic not a pessimistic approach to the situation, needless self-pressure is definitely not constructive at this late stage.  
 
Not pulling out has been touch and go at times but despite things still being a little stony on the injury healing front I continue to hold onto the determination that I can complete the event, even if it does take me twice my initial target time with more walking and crawling than originally anticipated!    Struggles aside my excitement remains and I still plan to give this ‘unforgettable 100km along Britain’s oldest path’ my best shot.  More picnic and plod style than racing but if I can make the finish line it will be the furthest I’ve ever gone on foot and the medal will hold greater meaning from overcoming the battles of the past few months.  Hopefully some other entrants will be up for joining me for some walking or picnic breaks.  The whole of the event is fully supported, with the route marked and feed stations aplenty along the way.  
 
Entries still remain open so if you’re tempted by the challenge or would like to find out more about the Currys PC World/Dixons Carphone Race To The Stones have a look here www.racetothestones.com/enter-now/.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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