Running from Shadows

My Marathon des Sables . . . and beyond

The Power of Porridge

It’s that difficult time in the final build-up to an extreme event. I remember experiencing exactly the same feelings in the couple of months before heading out for the Marathon des Sables in April 2012.

There are a tad too many days to go, 28 of them, to simply ease off the pedal and coast to the start line of the Sahara Race (Jordan), but it’s the middle of January on a freezing cold, wet Sunday morning . . . and my bed is so nice and warm . . . do I really need to go out and run for 4 hours?! Really?

Yes, you do, because yesterday you should also have gone out for 4 hours but didn’t because Costa was so much more inviting and you promised yourself you’d go out today for a punishment run in compensation, not just for 4 hours, but for 4 hours hard across moorland bog.

So that’s what I did not long after too huge a bowl of sugary porridge.

I picked my second hardest technical route and ploughed through a mud bath of slop, wet and dirt. Within half an hour I’d slipped, slid and fallen all over the place. I wasn’t enjoying this. After an hour I’d had enough and broke the emergency glass to put on my iPod and zone out to The Who.

But then the freezing rain gradually eased off as did the freezing wind. The porridge had kicked in and before I knew it 2 hours had passed. The sun appeared with a very noticeable feeling of warmth and it dawned on me I hadn’t felt the warmth of the sun since November: I’ve seen it on my runs, sitting there bright but with no heat. Spring’s on the way! My unenthusiastic mood melted away: diving in and pulling my legs out of calf-deep boggy fields was great lower leg strength training for the sands I’ll need to cross in a few weeks.

I finished with another 20.25 miles in the tank after 2,000 feet of ascent, still pumping out strength on the inclines towards the end. My time was almost 10 minutes quicker than covering pretty much the same route in a race back in October.

That’s a modest total of 35 miles for the week after a few treadmill interval sessions. As the mileage and intensity of training sessions starts to wind down it’s now time to get those last bits of kit ordered . . .

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