Starting weight / body fat : 100kg / 23%
End Weight / body fat: 98kg / 14%
Starting resting heart rate: 58
End resting heart rate: 49
First January run 2018: 3km / 0 ft. incline – felt awful
Last run 2018: 22km / 2,339 ft. incline – felt easy
Runs over half marathon distance: 22
Runs over marathon distance: 6
Completed Ultramarathons: 4
Uncompleted Ultramarathons: 3
Total runs: 158
Total Elevation: 96,106 feet
Total Distance: 2,063km
It feels a little bit odd looking at the numbers above, truth be told. It’s a bit like they belong to someone else. If you’d told me 12 months ago that by the end of the year, I’d have run the equivalent distance of Leeds to Africa and the equivalent height of 3 and a third Everests, I’d have said “Well, yes, that’s the plan”, because I’m a stubborn bastard – but deep down, I’d have known that you were taking the piss. I can vividly remember how hard 5km at a decent pace felt back in January. I can remember the shin splints, because 20 miles in a week was over-training. I can remember the feeling of suffocation after every single run – before an asthma diagnosis and an inhaler sorted me out. I can remember the exhaustion and sheer physical pain of the first ultra – the Calderdale Way – in June; and how I felt afterwards, knowing that I’d have to negotiate three times the incline to complete Lakes in a Day. I can remember the heartbreaking disappointment of then pulling out of Lakes in a Day thanks to a freak storm, after 12 wet, wind-battered hours, 12,000 feet of incline and nearly 50km of brutal, painful slog. And then the disappointment of ending the final ultra of the year 43 miles early, thanks to a tendon injury.
But most of all, I remember the absolute elation of the ultras I completed. The tears of joy after Calderdale. The fist-pumping roars of delight at the end of the 2-day, 60-mile round trip of the Herriot Way. The pride of managing 50 miles in a day in September. The amazement of waking up after Lakes in a Day and reading the elevation stats. Twelve-bloody-thousand?! The hilarity of barely being able to walk because my calves had seized up so much (this happened at least 5 or 6 times). The camaraderie – through beautiful, picturesque sunshine and severe, dangerous difficulty. The £2000 raised for Yorkshire Cancer Research and the wonderful, warming feeling of knowing that each donation carried a show of support along with it. And the vast improvement that this year has made to my mental and physical health.
Oh, and how quickly you get pissed after a long run, and how much food you can pack away, completely free of consequence.
But what have I learnt here? Well, on at least 200 occasions, I’ve learned a new swear word to describe the sheer fucking agony of running when you’re tired or in pain, or the weather is either horrifically hot or abysmally windy, or the incline is making your lungs, calves and thighs burn and scream at you like a deranged leprechaun with a hammer. I’ve also learned that pretty much anything is doable if you’re slightly unhinged, extremely stubborn and have the support of another person. I ran over a half marathon distance 22 times in 2018, but how many of those times was I alone? Once.
On the technical side – for those of you who are interested, I’ve also learned a few very valuable tips for if you want to train for a marathon, or an ultra.
1) Stretching is supremely important, regardless of whether you’ve actually done any exercise that day.
2) Baths are incredible for stopping muscles seizing up.
3) Eating a massive breakfast that takes in every single part of a pig before a long run is a dreadful idea.
4) Carb loading is disgusting and makes you feel awful…
5) …but is absolutely life-changing once you get above 20 miles.
6) Training programmes off the Internet are often made for mentalists, professional runners and people who don’t actually have lives outside of running.
7) Tapering is overrated – it’s far more about how mentally ready you feel, and if that means doing a long run a week before, then do it.
8) Injuries happen. This cannot be avoided.
9) I can’t lose weight. I can just redistribute it from one place to another.
10) There are few things on earth more painful than chafing – get Runderwear, padded cycling shorts and a handy Buttshield roll-on. There is no shame in the world of running.
11) Speaking of which, running makes you fart. A LOT.
12) It takes a wind speed of over 75mph to lift a 100kg man off his feet.
13) You are a lot faster when it isn’t 35 degrees.
14) GPS is great, but it’s fallible – get a paper map, a pen and a compass.
15) Kit is so important. The right shoes for the terrain, 2 pairs of really good socks, the above-mentioned underwear and seriously good but lightweight wind and waterproofs, an awesome bag, water tube thingy, a camel back gloves, a hat and a LED head torch that can blind a sheep from 100m.
16) Running is addictive, but totally illogical.
It hurts, it’s hard work and if you’re doing serious distance but aren’t superhuman, you’re basically in some sort of physical pain for 90% of your life. So why can’t I stop then? Is it the addiction to the post-run feeling? The being outdoors, surrounded by beautiful scenery? The absolutely mindless drivel that gets spouted when there are only two of you plodding around like idiots for hours and hours?
I don’t really know. But what I do know is that I have a calendar for the year that’s already starting to take shape:
January 13th – Trigger (Marsden to Edale – 24.5 miles, 4000 feet)
April 6th – Kielder Forest Ultra (62 miles, 4000 feet)
April 27th – Yorkshire 3 Peaks Marathon (26.2 miles, 5000 feet)
June 1st – Calderdale Cannonball Ultra (53 miles, 7300 feet)
July 26th / 27th – The Dalesway (83 miles, 8000 feet)
October 12th – Lakes in a Day (52 miles, 11,700 feet)
It’s fair to say that 2019 is already looking suitably idiotic. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about it as much as I’ll enjoy swearing about it. And if you’re interested, I’ll be putting together a training plan for a marathon in the next couple of weeks, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your entire life to running. It even allows for booze. Yeah. Have that, Ryan Hall.