Friday, 17 March 2017

My Headology during ultras

Headology is a term I first encountered in books by the brilliant author Terry Pratchett.    "Like psychology, but many witches think "psychology" is a bad word, or that it means "having a psychological problem". The practice of headology relies on the principle that what people believe is what is real. This is used by witches to earn respect or at least fear, and also to cure patients."

Running is hard, let's not pretend it isn't.  Getting out regularly when it's dark, cold, wet or even too hot takes some doing.  Running ultras is taking things to the extreme, if it's going to rain you'll get very wet, if it's hot you'll get very warm if it's cold you wear layers for longer and often running in the dark is the only choice.  Finishing a race in the failing light with no hot showers or even a changing room is not uncommon.  It's character building!

The equipment required for ultras is not cheap and the more races you do the more "kit" you accumulate, the shopping list becomes more exclusive and shoes wear out a lot faster.  Many races have a minimum kit list and the cost soon mounts. The local races are often a few hours drive and you then require accommodation on top.

You sometimes stand on the start line surrounded by faces you'll probably never see again.  On rare occasions, you'll meet someone and you click, you're able to talk, you quickly learn each other's limits and know when the other person needs a walk break (and vice versa).   Even knowing when not call the mileage becomes a factor.  The second day of Pilgrim's Challenge was less of a challenge running with Mina for the duration and during the Gordano Round Marathon, I ran with Dean for the second half.  But learn to run solo, don't rely on the energy and strength of anyone else, it's your race.

The training runs are regularly distances marathon runners peak at during their long runs, albeit a bit slower and often with more hills just for the fun of it, and the training can be a very solitary activity as friends often think you're mad and don't get too close in case it's catching.

Ultrarunning is not an easy option.

As mentioned, often during the ultra races you find someone your own pace and chat, it's a social sport and along with eating the entire route it's encouraged, and then there are times when you run alone - often for many miles.  Running those miles alone gives you time to think through things, sometimes over think.

A few close friends know I have bouts of depression, partially a hangover from my days in green.  On some days running 30+ miles are a total release, a way to drive out the demons and other times it can focus the issues and make each step harder.

I use a system called Live Tracker with my Garmin watch and phone which sends out my progress to a few select friends.  My watch also shows me messages sent to me and these can really lift your spirits.  Running Imber became a battle this year, at 20 miles I was ready to sit down but a few messages came through giving me the support that kept me going, thank-you.  Getting around these long races can be hard enough without extra baggage.

I'm not a fast runner and will never be a podium finisher so to get around I try to focus on a few things.  I focus on things that are amazing in my life and then draw energy from it.  Sometimes that focus gets foggy and the race gets harder but with the support of friends, I keep plodding, even if I can't entice them into the race.

Don't give up, keep believing in your ability and support your true friends 110% - you'll never know when you'll need that support back.

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