It’s hard to believe that it is over a year ago that I posted Why Enter the Original Everest Marathon? and with the event looming large, I thought it was time to take stock.
It has been an incredibly quick year for me and the time has flown by. My training has been excellent and although no-one has ever stood on the start line of a race and felt happy that they had done enough, in truth I’ve done what I aimed for and hopefully it will be enough. My mileage is very slightly up but my height gain has increased and my mantra of “hills are your friend” has continued to ring true and has been regularly hashtagged in my facebook posts.
And talking of races, I have not ran a single race in the last year. Technically I ran Glen Ogle 33 in November 2018. When entries came out for Glen Ogle and friends were getting excited, I said “no, I’ve ran it two years in a row, I’ll marshall”. Well I did but ended up with sweeping duties and ran the whole route and thoroughly enjoyed it.
It was hardly racing pace and at the beginning I was cold because the back runners were going so slow. Eventually though Gail and I ran partly through the field as there were too many sweepers and we thought we would give some supervision to folk slightly further ahead. That warmed us up and I hugely enjoyed Gail’s company and getting to know her and we had a good laugh.
So although I have not run any races I re-discovered ‘fastpacking’ and combined my love of running, trekking and camping into one activity ideally suited to building endurance. In a post about fastpacking the Cowal Way, I suggested that fastpacking was “the point where ultra light backpacking meets long distance trail running and gives the ability to run long distances across any kind of of terrain carrying everything needed for the run and an overnight stay.”
I had some great adventures and fastpacked amongst other things the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way and the Affric Kintail Way utilising my new free bus pass to great effect.
I also ran the Ring of Steall route. But this just intensified the feelings that were building that I did not want to race. The day I ran it I had a perfect bright but cool late winter/early spring day and never met a single person the whole day on the hill. Contrast that to running it during the Skyline Scotland event where around 900 people run the race. No, not for me, I’m quite happy to work at it, which I did again.
The only other race that I have entered is the Spine Challenger in January 2020 a month or so after the Original Everest Marathon. It might not come as a surprise that although I have entered and paid, I have had agonising doubts about whether I want to go and the pendulum has been swinging wildly. I have never DNS’d a race I’ve entered except once through injury and my feelings about this are very confusing and most peculiar.
I’m just not feeling the love for running races with lots of people but have been loving my self-imposed wilderness challenges and relishing the peace, quiet and tranquility of my beautiful surroundings. I’m running better than ever, am fitter than I’ve ever been, without feeling the need to be motivated by races. I seem to have achieved a state of self motivation and I’m really enjoying my running.
I’m not saying there will be no more races but they will be fewer and carefully chosen.
📷 Colin Harding
But for Everest, this has never felt like a race but simply an expedition with a run at the end. For me racing does not even come into it and although some will be racing, I’ll be happy to toddle along and finish. I am so motivated and looking forward to going and cannot wait.
I have already made friends, via the particpants facebook group, with other folk taking part and particularly Geoff and Julie from Wales and Australia respectively and I know there will be many more friendships made, as well as cementing these ones.
I have steadfastly refused all the #runeveryday type things and given my aging body plenty of rest and recovery. I have taken up yoga and although I’m the class dunce, I’m really enjoying it and it is benefiting my running.
Tight ankles, hips and calfs as seen in your average ultra runner do not translate into successful yogi but it does what I need and Diane my teacher at Loch Lomond Yoga is very patient and understanding.
My fortnightly massage routine is still there. I wish I could say it was deeply relaxing and soothing ….. instead of excruciatingly painful with pathetic yelping but again it is doing what it is meant to. Ailie at The Haven is ferocious but lovely!
This has all meant that my recovery is something near miraculous and I am training longer and harder than ever but recovering quicker and easier. How long can this last? I have not even had to visit Shona my physio at Just4physiotherapy but will be proudly wearing my ambassador t shirt.
Interestingly I have had far less need to buy new kit for Everest than for the Spine. Probably because in some ways the weather is a bit more predictable. At one point I thought about buying the commemorative down jacket proposed by Ali the Race Director but I didn’t need it and not enough people wanted to buy it, so its back to my trusty and venerable RAB. Old and a bit heavy but still serviceable and well proven.
I did invest in a OR down hat as a wee treat as the RAB has no hood and it looks the business even if I look stupid in it. Should be toasty. It weighs 31g. I looked at expensive gloves and finally plumped for standard issue German Army waterproof insulated mitts at £20 from Amazon. A reviewer said he tried them in Baffin Island in 60mph winds and -30°C … sold ! A quick home improvement with some wrist loops and hey presto, ready to go
There really has not been much more kit than that bought and certainly nothing that is out and out for Everest. From a shop-a-holics point of view not the most exciting prospect but when you already have the gear why waste money.
I did have to buy a new camera after yet again breaking my Sony RX100 while running. It just wasn’t tough enough to keep up with me and suffered from damp twice and was resurrected before succumbing to shock after falling gently from my racevest. I’ve replaced it with the new Olympus TG-6 which is allegedly shock and waterproof. But is it Matt proof ? Only time will tell. Again not an Everest expense although I may buy a spare battery which probably is but still hardly breaking the bank. Photographs are going to be a big part of this adventure for me and an excuse to stop and catch a breather as I (hopefully) acclimatise.
So apart from some toiletries and medications like paracetamol and tons of throat lozenges I’m just about ready and although my bag is not packed, it is all stacked in a corner of my study virtually ready to go.
A slight complication is that I have chosen to take part in the WEMSI week long first aid course at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore to hopefully become a Wilderness First Responder.
It will really benefit my race marshalling and I am being supported by the three West Highland Way Races; namely the West Highland Way Race, the Highland Fling and the Devil of the Highlands Footrace. It should be really good and who knows what else it will lead to. The only problem is that it finishes three days before I leave for Nepal. Oh well I suppose I can have a rest on the plane !
There is a bit of gear juggling too with my stuff packed for Everest and trying to find stuff for WEMSI that is not going to Everest but I’ll manage. I’d much prefer that than taking something to WEMSI and them either losing it, breaking it or forgetting to take it to Everest. It’s just the way I am.
Fundraising has started too and it is virtually a condition of entering the OEM that you fundraise for Community Action Nepal (CAN) the charity started by Everest mountaineer Doug Scott and which is now inextricably linked to the OEM and it’s raison d’etre.
I get the train from Balloch to Manchester Airport on the 14th of November where I’ll meet up with organisers and participants. We initially fly to Oman and join up with a London flight with more participants and then on to Kathmandu.
I will possibly maintain radio silence whilst there but lookout for posts and photos when I come back.
A couple of days ago I read an interesting article talking about the teahouses on the trails in Nepal. It talked about trekkers and the first thing they did was whip out their phones and get on to social media via wifi. All very well but sitting next to you could be Sherpas or others who have climbed Everest multiple times and who have fascinating stories to tell. That moment will only happen once, so social media can wait.
The only concern, which has been there all along, is how will I react to altitude and will I successfully acclimatise?
There really is only one way to find out and I’ll do everything I’m advised to and will take things very easily and hopefully I’ll be fine.
“The Man in the Arena” is ready to enter the arena again, wish me luck !