Sunday, 18 November 2012

Beacons Ultra: The Race that Never Was!

It had always been my plan since this time last year to run the Beacons Ultra 2012. I had such a good time running it last year and the minute I finished it I was adamant I was coming back. This was my first ever ultra and such a great atmosphere. It's easy to see why so many people love this event. It's a true testament to Martin and Sue Like of LIKEYS

I have been training with this race in mind all year and since the birth of the 365 challenge on 1st September have been training hard. With a week to go and my tapering being consistent I was excited to see what I could achieve at this race.

In the race build up I've lost 16llbs and set a half marathon pb by some 13mins. It remained to be seen how much of my 11hr 29min from the 2011 race I could drop in 2012.

I had a set back this year in not finishing NDW100, but as highlighted in my blog "How not to finish an Ultra" and my Review of NDW100 this was not overly surprising. Lessons were learnt and training since August has been great and left me fit and raring to go. The title of this post, however, should serve to note this story does not finish well.

On Thursday 15th November the excitement was building. I was seeing the anticipation growing on Facebook and Twitter. People were packing their kits and several of us were talking about meeting up for food on the Friday. It seemed a distant memory thinking back to my 2011 race where I knew very little of the course or any of the runners. This year by the way of social media I knew about 10-15 runners.

With the excitement and anticipation I was very cautious on Thursday when my little 21week old baby started having a nasty cough. I told myself it was just a cold and he'd be fine in the morning. Not wanting to risk it my wife and I took him to the doctors on Friday. The news that's he had croup was a huge blow to us. It meant little man was in for a rough time of it over the next few days and smack bang on the weekend I was due to race.

Looking at the options I had before me I let Sam Robson know the situation. We were suppose to be going down together at 2pm on the Friday and collecting Neil Bryant along the way. This was now clearly not plausible. Sam was really supportive and made arrangements to take his car. It was hoped I would be able to join them later.

The indecision dance back and forth began. Should I stay or should I head to Wales. I decided to see how my little boy went throughout the day. My wife was understandably cautious about being left on her own. It's known that croup is much worse at night time. Jen (Sam's wife) had offered to come over and support Zoe. This was lovely but that little Jiminy Cricket was sitting on my shoulder singing "always let your conscience be your guide." In a lot of scenarios I would ignore him or he wouldn't be singing. This was different and my dad instinct came out to its fullest. Wanting to go, but also wanting to stay I tried to deny the looming truth and even packed all my kit and had it ready to go. I said to the wife I'd just leave it a bit and see how Finley was and then proceeded to change my mind multiple times. By 6pm it was obvious I couldn't really go. I had looked at various situations in my head even the possibility of driving down at 2am on Saturday and then drive back after the race. Such is the quality of the race I was prepared to do this. I am grateful my wife has more sense than I and put her foot down and said I couldn't do that as I would be going and not giving my best. She was of course absolutely right.

My decision was sealed when Finley was screaming and wanting a cuddle from his daddy. Some things in life are just too important. I was glad I made the decision as Finley had a rough night including needing cuddles downstairs from 4am-6am. This could be considered training for sleep deprivation on future 100 mile races :)

Upon making the tough decision not to run I was pretty emotional this had been a big race for me and a chance to get together with the running family for what was planned to be an amazing day. 12months in the making over just like that.

What was fantastic was the amazing response from the running community. Even swamped with directing the race Martin found time to comment on my Facebook note. The entire running community was supportive of my decision and it affirmed to me why I love ultra runners and suddenly I felt better about the whole situation.

So there we have it. For me the race that never was. Even from this race I have learnt so much and so much that is going to make me a better runner, father and husband. Running Ultra's can be such a liberating thing and at times a very selfish thing. Training involves a lot of time spent running a events often a weekend away. This weekend has made me realise the impact that this has on my family. This is not me saying I will not do ultra's but rather that if I am I have an obligation, as my wife said about beacons, to do them to the best of my ability. This also includes the effort in training. It is almost disrespectful to my family not to try my best. I can't think of a greater motivator than that.

Running is my passion and Ultras provide me with a sense of freedom. I hope that as Finley grows up he will see the importance of running. Regardless of his thoughts on running I hope through it I can show him the importance of determination and passion. I don't care what he wants to do in life as long as he finds a passion. To this end it is crucial I utilise training and races fully and show him that the impossible can be achieved.

This weekend has highlighted to me my responsibilities as a father and I am sure all fathers out there running ultras can relate to my experiences.

Whilst I did not race at the Beacons Ultra I have still gained so much from it and the turmoil of my decision making processes. I love to run and enter ultras, but if my little boy needs me (regardless of how tall he gets) I shall be there. I read recently a quote on Facebook "do what's right not what's easy." this confirms very nicely the approach I need to take to my running, but also to being a husband and father. Maybe running isn't such a selfish act after all.

Pulling out of Beacons has of course left me disappointed but not angry or bitter. It was the right, not easy, decision. It has left me with a burning determination to be there next year and with a goal of running sub 10hrs. This determination and duty to my family shall fuel the quality of my training.

So even from the race that never was I have learnt a lot about myself and will achieve more as a runner because of this weekend. Thanks for everyones support and concern. See you on the start line of a race soon.

Happy Running!



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