The Scottish Ultra Marathon Series 2011

New post at The Running Bug, ‘The Scottish Ultra Marathon Series‘.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to read and/or comment on my initial blog posting. It is much appreciated and I hope that my postings will not disappoint! My initial ‘Setting the scene’ post came together quite easily but I have to admit that this, the ‘difficult second post’ was a lot more troublesome. It’s not that I have run out of things to say (already!) – Quite the opposite in fact. So many things have happened since my last post and, on top of that, I wanted to share more of my journey from 10k to ultras.

I decided that the stories can wait for following posts and that I will, instead, mark the completion of the Montane sponsored Scottish Ultra Marathon Series (S.U.M.S.) for 2011 as this has been the main focus of my running efforts this year.

The Series, created in 2010, brought together 9 of Scotland’s ultra marathon races, both old and new, ranging from 33 miles to 96 miles in length.

In 2010, the year in which I ran my first ultras, I completed 2 out of the 3 Series races which I entered.

In 2011, I completed all 6 of the Series races I entered. I came in 39th position overall in the males results table so not exactly troubling the series leaders. 44 males completed the 4 ultras required to participate in the Series. A great many more males and females participated in the Series overall and some 380 runners started the Montane Highland Fling, the largest of the S.U.M.S. ultras – testament to the growing popularity of ultra running in the UK.

Given that I did all of this whilst tipping the scales at just over 15 stones, I regard 2011 as a successful year! At approximately 5 feet 9 inches and with a less than adonis like physique it should be obvious to all that I am far from athletic in terms of build. Indeed, at the start of many of these events, surrounded by typically athletic looking runners, I have looked around and evaluated the possibility that I might just come in last. This has not happened yet but there would certainly be no shame if it did. As far as I am concerned, ‘to finish is to win’ and whilst this may sound like a cliché, I am almost certain that, for the majority of the Series participants, it is completion that they strive for.

Six people, including myself, completed 6 of the 9 races that make up the series, with 1 person each completing 7, 8 & 9 races respectively. When I look back on 2011 it will be in a positive light. Not only did I banish the demons of my 2010 DNF – I completed 6 ultras (albeit slowly), something that I would never have thought possible even a year ago! Along the way, I got to savour some of the finest countryside Scotland has to offer and to meet lots of great people.

Congratulations to all who participated and a huge thank you to all race directors, marshals and helpers, without whom none of the above would have been possible.

I can now turn my attention to 2012 and to attaining goals both old and new. Reading back over this post, it has turned in to another ‘scene setter’ in some respects. From this point on, I will be blogging on my preparation for 2012 and with regard to lessons learned along the way. Hopefully you will join me and, in the meantime, why not check out the Series for yourself and remember to Aim high!

Setting The Scene

I used to hate running with a passion! In fact, for a long time I didn’t even know that I hated running. I was that far removed from it. I was probably one of the most unathletic children in the school and this was a trait that I kept up throughout my years at University.

I started smoking around the age of 15. I then had a somewhat extended foray into academia, spending some seven years accruing an honours degree and a number of postgraduate qualifications. In this time, I smoked and drank unhealthy amounts and a typical breakfast often consisted of a pack of viscounts!

I funded a large part of my studies working the clubs as a DJ and, on days where I was working, my cigarette intake was often in the 40-60 range. The one positive to working as a DJ was that I curtailed and then completely eliminated my alcohol intake.

I don’t recall what it was that led me to the gym that first time but I liked it. To start with, I would work my way around all the machines with the exception of the treadmill and I would emerge an hour later, hugely sweaty and in need of a cigarette! After a few months I realised that I had plateaued, largely thanks to my continued dependence on nicotine.

I had a few abortive attempts at stopping and then, finally, I quit smoking for good. Most people that I have spoken to can tell you the day, the date, the year… even the time when they had their last cigarette. I can’t even recall now how many years it has been (approximately eight or nine) but I can say with certainty that I have never looked back.

My health improved considerably and I even ventured onto the running machine. The treadmill, or for so many people the ‘dreadmill’, became my friend. It let me switch off and run without thinking and as I ran I was always accompanied by my music, usually the kind of trance music that accompanied the exhilaration of running so well.

Thinking back a few years to the midpoint of the local Baker Hughes 10k road race, I can recall that I was absolutely pooped! A work colleague passed me by and offered words of encouragement. It was May and, having just passed the 3 mile mark, it dawned on me that this was the furthest that I had run all year.

This year, having completed six ultramarathons ranging from 33 through to 55 miles and, with my mileage this week likely to hit the 1000 mile mark, I can look back safe in the knowledge that anything is possible. In 2012 I will be looking to achieve six new PB times and to significantly up the ante with a hopeful completion of the 96 mile West Highland Way Race.

I also have a ‘greater goal’ but more on that later. In the meantime, hopefully some of what I have gone through and have yet to go through will be of interest to people, from those considering their first 5k to those who might even be considering an ultramarathon. Whatever your goal, take the advice of one of my friends and always ‘aim high’.