Following on from the previous entry by Jane I thought I would blog about my later in life developed love of trail running fresh back from the TDS this year. My running career stuttered into life following a drunken conversation in a pub just before Christmas 2006. Prior to this I could probably count on my fingers the number of runs I have done since leaving school. I have always been active but generally hill walking and cycling have been my outings of choice.
Anyway at the pub, a group of fathers of Wilmington Primary School year 1 children, started to discuss challenges they fancied taking on. One explained he had always wanted to do the 3 peaks challenge. That was the start as several others showed great interest and a cunning plan started to hatch. We were all 36-38 years old, in various states of fitness, and needed to find a way of fitting a training programme around our work and family lives. The group developed to five of us who would all complete the challenge. Of the five one was an established marathon runner and two would run together each Sunday morning for fitness around a 10km course. So one Sunday at the start of 2007 I dug out my trainers and joined them fearing the worst. From this point I have run more regularly but even now don’t consider myself a runner.
I have run in five organised events since 2007, (one was a local 4.2 mile fun run which probably does not count even though I finished 19/491in 27.32) the most recent being the TDS.
I realised that I had some natural running ability and started to train more with the marathon runner in the group, Mel Reynolds, who had a fantastic 3.13 in this year’s London Marathon. Mel and I have a very compatible running speed and probably the main thing to develop my running is having someone to run with, who just happens to live in the same village with a son in the same year of school as our eldest daughter.
That’s the running explained and now for the mountains. I have always loved the mountains and grew up in West Yorkshire within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District. I have completed the Yorkshire 3 Peaks seven times between the age of 9 and 40 and this is my favourite walk of all time. At secondary school I met Alex Batchelor who entered and completed the TDS and is mentioned in Jane’s blog. The two of us have a mutual love of the mountains and regularly walk, cycle and ski together.
My love of the mountains has developed to a love of winter and summer activities and after starting work Alex and I with our girlfriends at the time decided to have a punt at skiing. We became regular visitors to the French Alps and eventually found we were spending so much time and money here both invested in property. Alex bought in Montalbert and soon after Jane and I bought Barrats A .
I had previously walked the area and had a rain interrupted holiday with a heavily pregnant Jane and Imogen in summer 2002. But since then, having bought an apartment, Chamonix has become an even larger part of my life. – Just as well, as now being an owner in one of the most expensive parts of France, we have no option as to where our summer and winter holidays would be. Fortunately for us the regular visits have only enhanced our love of the town and the area.
Any way, back to the 3 peaks challenge which led to my next challenge with the group; Mont Blanc ascent of 4810m. We had just bought the flat and the boys and I started May and September visits to the area to hone our mountaineering skills. The 3 peaks group dropped to 4 and Alex filled the gap. We enlisted local guide Seb Montaz Rosset and had a great wet Chamonix weekend of crevasse rescuing, crampon techniques and ice axes on the Mer de Glace.
Mont Blanc came and went on the 7th and 8th June 2010. This was the most difficult and exhilarating experience of my mountaineering life. I can honestly say the view of Chamonix from the top will stay with me for life. I now need to find another Mountain to conquer (Sorry Jane). The problem is that they start to become more difficult to find and much further away. Aconcagua and Denali have been mentioned but reading up on them shows the logistics and duration of trips are limiting. So it looks like the challenges will remain running ones.
A combination of Chamonix, Mountains and my discovery that I can run has led to trail running and ultra marathons. (Jane regularly reminds me that I used to be convinced fell runners were all nutters). As a newly qualified nutter I was present in Chamonix for our summer holiday in August 2009. Quite by chance we were present when the UTMB set off from town. What an atmosphere and what a buzz in Chamonix all weekend. That was it. I would enter the race! How hard could 104 miles and 9500m of climbing really be? Midlife crisis – maybe (but better than hair dye, sports cars and nightclubbing surely?).
I came home and researched the event. You have to qualify by completing races of at least 50 miles from a list on the website. I shared my new knowledge with the Mont Blanc boys. Two looked at me as if I needed sectioning and declared themselves out. So that leaves Mel and Alex as members of the smallest running club in Kent, The Wilmington Runners. We only exist by name as Garmin was giving out freebies to running clubs so I invented one. Thanks Garmin but in my defence the supplied Craft running top has been worn on all three of my ultra marathons.
So race 1 – The Lakeland 50 in July 2010. I must say that the organisation and commitment of Marc Laithwaite and his team are fantastic. This led us to enter the Lake Land 100 this year as a point taker for a crack at the UTMB. The 100 was a lot tougher than we expected and we dropped out at Howtown after 67 miles and 24hrs. The conditions underfoot are much harder than the Chamonix valley and my feet suffered incredibly. I will be back to complete the 100 one day and have used the failure as a positive experience. I am as you recall a virgin runner and each race teaches me new things about my body and how to succeed in these events. I have never run a marathon but now have done 50 miles, 56 miles (London to Brighton training run with Mel) 67 miles (UTLD) and 75 miles (TDS 2011 119kms).
So next year Alex and I will enter the UTMB and I hope Mel will do the TDS. (Unfortunately the 67 Lakeland does not count as we did not complete and Mel had other family commitments this summer.)
So training has to be planned for next years crack. I fancy the Fellsman in its 50th year if they can sort the date. Please let it be April / May and then hopefully one other (to be determined). The UTLD and UTMB 4 weeks apart are too much of an ask for sure.
Then I have a few Chamonix races I would like to do. Chamonix is clearly the centre of trail running in Europe with many world class events. Early in the year is the Chamonix Marathon.One day I will do this but its too short to qualify for the UTMB. There are several variants including a 1000m ascent to Brevent. Also next weekend is the Trail of the Aiguille Rouges.. I really like the sound of this. The area from Vallorcine to Servoz is one of my favourite places. The wilderness of Le Buet to Mont Buet as well as Brevent to Servoz are very different to the Mont Blanc massif opposite and remind me more of the Yorkshire Dales and Lakes than you can imagine. I would thoroughly recommend Mont Buet via the Emossion dams as a long demanding and exhilarating walk.
Other than these there is a duathlon of cross country skiing and running in February . I haven’t done any cross country but how hard can it be!!!