I felt calm, relaxed and excited! Somewhere in my mind alarm bells were ringing a voice shouting: “CALM?! Why are you calm? You should be panicking! No running for six weeks and tomorrow morning at 6am you want to run 80 to 90km in the Conti Lightning Run?”
I ignored the voices and stayed calm but focussed! I badly needed a good run. I knew I was well prepared and that my knee was almost fully recovered from a fall on a training run. I often teach my runners that you should reach your race fitness six weeks before a race. Then all you need to do is maintain it and stay injury free. But running is not just about getting miles under the belt. On long races your mental strategy and nutrition are very important. Throughout the winter I’ve was very strict and trained myself to eat and drink every twenty to thirty minutes. I knew that if I wanted to reach eight or nine laps I’ll had to get the mental and nutritional side 100% correct.
It was a frosty start but the sun was out and the scenery amazing. Golden sunbeams lit the sea of bluebells in the forest sections. Frost melting and runners warming up. It was the perfect day for running! The sun was out but the cool breeze kept us cool. I love the idea of running laps for 12-hours. On every lap you meet new people you can chat to. Everyone from the race leader to the person who has only started running a few months ago and is now running in a team. It’s amazing to see a new runner feels proud if you say to them that “I hope you don’t mind if I use you as my pacer”. Never in their wildest dreams have they seen themselves as pacer. Using them to help me I always try to repay the favour sometimes just talking and encouraging them helps, other times I give out training, recovery and nutritional advice. It’s a trade off. Part of my race strategy is to talk and have fun. I think if you forget to have fun you’ve already lost the race. This is where the Continental race directing team does an amazing job with their inter race competitions. Every year there’s a time trial set up somewhere along the course, normally where there’s an up hill but for the solo runners just moving at this point is a bonus. So this year they came up with a new challenge. Count how many hidden Continental tyres there are on course. One, two, three, four…. Hang on was that four or five? Come on brain think. Am I counting the tyres or am I counting my lap or am I only counting for the sake of counting? So clearly I can’t count and run at the same time I need a new plan. Let’s get another runner to help me count. But it soon turned out that non of us can count or even remember where we saw the tyres but at lease we’ve done a few more laps.
Lap after lap I was on target with my race plan. To keep my daughter involved I gave her a list of my predicted lap times and told her to write down the clock time after every lap. On lap five I struggled a bit and came in one minute over my predicted time only to be welcomed by the words: “you’re one minute late”. Luckily my new coach let me off an I was allowed to enjoy my jacket potato before heading out again. I must admit I struggled on lap seven and there was a lot more walking than running. Knowing that I was falling behind on my time I knew I still had enough time to reach my target of eight to nine laps. As I approached the end of the lap my new coach shouted: “you’re walking, run”! Followed by “you’re late”! Children is so funny. She made me smile and started running again. I completed eight laps in 11 hours 12 minutes and was in fifth position. Running an extra lap wouldn’t changed my ranking so I decided to stop. 80km done,I still felt good and my knee wasn’t hurting! Thank you Conti Lightning run for giving me my running mojo back. My goal of reaching 160km in the Continental Thunder Run and hopefully podium position for my fortieth birthday is one step closer.
A winning formula:
The Conti Lightning Run is a 12- hour race which is normal held on the first May bank holiday. The route is a 10km undulated off road trail in Catton Park. The race starts at 6am and finishes at 6pm. You can enter in teams, pairs or as a solo runner and the team or person with the most laps wins. Although it might sound daunting to some it is a great race for beginners to gain experience and a great race for ultra runners to test their winter training. The camping onsite is free with amazingly hot showers, flushing toilets and a wonderful food tent that caters for every runners needs. This race is a must for everyones bucket list but remember to book early as it fills up very quickly. Hope to see you at the Thunder Run!