A Book Review – of sorts

I have not run since 23 December. This is due to a number of factors, one of them being that I am taking longer than I expected to recover from my heart attack.

I decided to read a few endurance running books to help keep me interested over the summer, and want to share my thoughts on “Running Crazy” by Helen Summer

The book is a series of interviews with members of the UK 100 marathon club, with a chapter for each runner interviewed.

Running 100 marathons in your lifetime! I found it hard to get my mind around it.

There are some amazing stories in the book, from some truly impressive and inspirational runners. From the bloke who didn’t start running until after he had a heart attack , to the young woman who ran 100 marathons before she turned 30, the achievements are staggering.

Because the interviews all followed a similar template, the stories do get a bit repetitive. There are only so many answers to “why did you start running?” and “Does your partner run?”. And I personally found the author’s propensity to make each interview about herself (“I couldn’t run to the end of the street”, “I would rather stay in bed”, “I like to eat ….”) a bit irritating.

But the runners themselves are fascinating – Oldest, youngest, slowest, fastest average times, shortest number of months, longest number of years are all there.

Along with the average runners who just decided to run a lot of marathons. Respect to all of them.

I first became aware of the concept of running 100 marathons (and recording/celebrating the achievement) before I ran my first ultra. At that time I thought it was incredible – not only the running, but the commitment. I thought I could probably do a marathon every 3 months, and at that rate it would take 25 years to clock up 100. I have trouble committing to the next 25 weeks. It was mind numbing. Then there are the logistics. I live in a provincial New Zealand town, with a 2 hour drive to the nearest marathon. The time and cost required to travel to 4 marathons a year would be significant. Multiply that by 25!

Having read “Running Crazy” I started to think about it from an ultra runner’s perspective. There are a few chapters in the book where admiration was expressed for people who managed the astonishing act of running marathons on consecutive weekends (referred to as “a back-to-back”). A few super humans had even done marathons on consecutive days!

This made me reflect that most ultra marathon training plans will recommend back-to back long runs – meaning Saturday and Sunday, not one long run on two consecutive weekends. When I was training for my 5×50 at 50, I would routinely run a hilly marathon distance on Saturday, followed by a similar run on Sunday. Then repeat the next weekend. I think I ran 5 marathon distance training runs in 6 weeks. With this as my frame of reference, the concept of running 100 marathons has shrunk to only a handful of years (apart from the logistical problem of there not actually being any marathons where I live).

Now that I am over the mental hurdle, I just have to recover from the heart attack. Watch this space…..

I went for a run this weekend . . . .

I managed a very tentative 3km on the treadmill.

Which doesn’t seem much, considering that this is a blog about running ultra-marathons.

A quick recap for those of you who came in late – in May 2012 I turned 50 and marked the occasion by running 50km per day for 5 consecutive days.

In July this year, aged 51, I had a heart attack.

This weekend was my first run since the heart attack, which was exactly 3 months ago. And I hadn’t run for 3 weeks before the heart attack, so it has been nearly 4 months since I was able to run (that was only 3km, my last significant run was 6km late in March. No wonder I have been so grumpy!)

I dislike running on the treadmill, but I was too nervous to go and run in the real world.

Everything hurt –and I loved it.

It reaffirmed that I run simply because I love to run.

Most of the aches were simply from having my first run after doing very little for several months. All the usual suspects were felt, with my knees hurting the most.

My chest got a little tight/uncomfortable, although it was nothing worse than I have put up with over the last 3 months, and nothing that felt like a pending heart attack. I think (hope) it was just from being unfit.

It has probably been 10 years since I was this unfit, and it is quite unfamiliar.

Apart from the fantastic fact that I ran for 22 minutes and my heart didn’t explode, I am delighted that I can just go and jog 3k after months of inactivity.

I am also delighted that it was the first time that I felt I had the energy to try and run. I don’t really care whether this was because I stopped taking  the beta-blockers, or just because I am almost recovered.

 I just enjoyed having the energy  to run.