You’d think there was absolutely nothing similar between running 100 miles and working in the finance industry. But you’d be wrong.
Firstly both rely on a clear SMART goal, a common sense of purpose and unwavering support from your team. Then there’s the project management, ever-evolving strategies and organisation skills needed to juggle multiple unexpected challenges while keeping the normal routine going and finally, the determination to do whatever it takes.
South Downs Way 100
I’ve run just over 800 miles in 2018 before lining up on the start line in Winchester to run the SDW to Eastbourne in under 24 hours.
Last year I’d only managed to get to 67 miles and this gave me added incentive to claim a coveted “100 miles, one day” belt buckle (the prize for running further than sensible is a buckle that nobody would ever wear).
Legs felt good, head felt good and weather seemed cooler than last year which lifted spirits as 300 people crowded to hear the starter’s gun and took off on to the trails. Only 213 would finish.
The early miles melted away into the hazy morning which was slowly being burnt off by a rising sun. As temperatures rose, so did we. Over 12,500ft across the total course with power-hikes on the way up to minimise the amount of time lost and then downhills as quickly as you can without busting your quads.
At each aid station, the Centurion Running teams had put on a feast of fruit, sweets and savouries for us to tuck into, eating everything you are normally told to avoid.
Most people can only really absorb 300-350 calories while exercising so chocolate, crisps and in my case Veggie Percy Pigs were the weapons of choice to keep me going.
Over 100 miles, the chances are that your stomach will play tricks on you at least once so it is important to be comfortable with your food. I’ve done a lot of practice over the past 6 months!
As the first marathon ticked over, my crew did an impeccable job of refilling bottles and stocking supplies for the next leg, minimising time stood still which is time wasted.
They asked the hard questions: “Have you eaten” and “how much water have you drunk”, even though I wasn’t really in the mood to answer or mental state to remember.
My instructions were to make me eat when I wouldn’t, make me drink when I couldn’t and keep me moving if I wanted to stop. They kept to these perfectly. Team work makes the dream work.
Half way there
Change of shirt, restock and out of the 54 mile checkpoint. There was a blister beginning to form on my right foot and although it was annoying to stop to fix it, as soon as you are aware of a problem, that’s the time to sort it out. Much like any project, leaving issues to get worse is going to be detrimental to your goals.
The unplanned pitstop meant that I was now running on my own with nothing but Spotify for company but I was determined to keep on going and David Bowie proved to be good companion as the sun set and darkness descended.
Night time hid the true height and gradient of the hills which was in some ways a blessing while also making distances seem interminable. The summits just wouldn’t come, no matter how many inclines I went up or corners I turned.
It was just me, the bright white circle in front of me and my tunes for a long, long way.
My legs were tired, my eyes stung with lack of sleep and my feet felt like they had been tenderised with a hammer.
But one step in front of the other, inch by inch, I was not only keeping a good pace, I was going faster than anticipated. At the last major checkpoint, I was 20 minutes up on my “A” target so only needed to keep going to get the magic buckle.
The sky began to go grey, then pink, as a red crescent moon appeared from behind the clouds. There below me, after countless training miles and 98 miles that day, was Eastbourne.
A short couple of miles, a victory lap and I was done. 22 hours, 49 minutes and 42 seconds of determination and team work had got me over the line.
Reflecting and refocussing
12 months of training through all sorts of Jersey weather including sun, snow and storms was all worth it. The Downs Double (North and South Downs Way), the sub 24 buckle and crucial ballot points for progressing in my ultramarathon journey to Western States, UTMB and maybe one day Badwater.
Completing a 100 mile race in under 24 hours has been my goal since 2013. Now, to recover, focus on the Jersey Triathlon and begin to plan future goals. International expansion, increased efficiencies and building on success.
I told you it was just like business!
Sam also blogs at SamStaggersOn.com