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The long and rocky road to the Lakeland 100… Part 1

By Johnny Parsons | 28, Jul, 2011

Staying tiptop out on the hill

You will rarely hear a runner say that they are in tiptop form, or running really well, especially on the start line of a race. (That is until the gun goes “bang” and everyone sprints off!) Runners are generally one of three types:

About to be injured
Coming back from injury

It is a bit like having a cold, you only moan and feel bad, when you’ve got a cold. You don’t generally notice, nor appreciate, not having a cold! Most running injuries are over-use and/or self-inflicted*. Running is of a very repetitive nature, coupled with even the slightest gait problems, it can lead very quickly to the cycle of injury, then “No RICE” (no rest-not enough ice-next to no compression-not an ounce of elevation). When a runner is injured, they generally think of nothing but when they can start running again (& are generally pretty bad people to live with, I know I’m grumpier that the grumpiest of grumpy bears!) Running injuries aren’t generally life threatening, but as they are stopping the runner from doing what they love doing, it is quite a major issue. (*Impatience often leads to starting running again with the same injury & starting the whole frustrating cycle all over again!)

Of course, it is very important to also note that when one is running well, it is a sweet, sweet feeling. For me, running on the high fells, dropping down below the clouds which give way to an amazing vista (and hopefully the right valley!) is surely one of the best feelings going. On the good days, the miles evaporate, and it feels almost effortless, brilliant.

Battered feet.. but they keep on going!

Although deadly serious, we’re not Olympic athletes, we do it for many (personal) reasons, but at the end of the day the main reason, is for fun!
Whilst an Olympic athlete’s body and performance may be likened to a sports car, maybe a Porsche or a Lamborghini, I prefer to liken myself to a battered old Micra. If topped up with oil (Ibuprofen) and fitted with new tyres (shoes) now and again, it will keep going (just) and can go a fair old distance, before it fails its MOT (DNF) or eventually conks out (gets injured). Running is very labour-intensive, with a very high law-of-diminishing-returns to age ratio. In other words, as one gets older, it is necessary to train harder to get the same results as the last season, or to train even harder, to improve. The good news is that stamina definitely improves with age, that is why I’m now running much further (but also much slower perhaps!) A battered old Micra can go a surprisingly long way!

I’ve personally been crocked on and off, for the last 2 years. A catalogue of back problems, struggling to get fit/keep psyched, along with a multitude of other lame excuses.

It’s not just runners; Alpkit stars Dan Bradley (ankle) and Paul Errington (knee) have both recently suffered some very nasty injuries. Wishing them both a speedy recovery.

After a year of very below average performances, I decided that I needed a new challenge. I went to see an excellent lecture at Ambleside last autumn, with an awesome triple bill: Epic cycling tales from Paul Errington, a sufferfest Patagonian account by climber Ian Almond and stories of chafing and the other joys of long distance running by endurance coach Marc Laithwaite, who spoke at length about the Lakeland 100, aka, the Ultra Tour of the Lake District. Subconsciously, the seed had been planted…

Onwards to part 2

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