Just over three years ago, with a single (very badly executed) marathon under my belt, I read a Juneathon blog about South Downs Way 100. Being a curious soul, I went to the Centurion website to read more about it, and stumbled onto the Grand Slam page.
Hmmm. I wonder if I could do that? Don’t be daft. Not in a month of Sundays*. Oooh! They also do coaching. I wonder if they’d coach me or if they only coach serious, speedy people.
A week later, when I found myself thinking about the slam for the umpteenth time, I filled in a coaching enquiry form and waited for a polite “thanks, but no thanks” email. Instead, I was quizzed about my current achievements and my future aspirations** and welcomed aboard.
At the time, the idea of “enjoying” a run never crossed my mind. I saw running as a convenient way to fit exercise into the week and also as a way to test my boundaries. Could I, the person who had used any and all means to avoid sports at school, learn to be a competent runner?
It turns out that the answer is yes. It took me over two years to bag my first 100 mile finish, and another four 100 mile races before I managed to go sub-24. My progress hasn’t been meteoric and I suspect that I will never care enough about speed to make it my primary training aim, but by following the magic training plan*** and placing my trust in James****, I’ve discovered that running in general is fun, that trail running is a blast, that the ultra-running community is fabulous and that I can complete the grandslam.
If social media is to be believed, I’m an awesome, inspirational and amazing running hero who is the stuff of legend. I’m flattered beyond belief, but what I really am is a rather ordinary couch potato who signed up on impulse with an extraordinary coach.
* 30 weeks, give or take. It actually took a month of months to get to the start line of this year’s slam.
** I didn’t mention the slam for another 18 months, instead testing the water with “Um, Comrades Marathon?” because that seemed less outrageous.
*** It adapts itself to my time commitments, indulges my parkrun obsession, prompts me to explore new trails and knows when to ease off to prevent injuries. It also occasionally tells me to rest HARD!
**** A100 course record holder. 14:35:40. Looked as fresh as a daisy two and a half hours later as he pushed me out the door to start my final leg.