Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back
Bilbo: You can promise that I’ll come back?”
Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same
Wednesday. The come down of the weekend has finally gone, giving me time to digest what has actually happened over the last few days.
Saturday. Phoenix Running – Band of Runners Xmas run Robs #100
The podcast I host with Rob Cowlin continues to gain traction. Set up in June this year, what was once just considered a laughable and non-committal offering of two drunks chatting about running has started becoming accountable and forever gaining responsibility that neither I or Rob Cowlin ever dreamed of, or really ever wanted. It has listeners now from every continent on the planet! How on earth??!!
The constant stream of emails we receive from the most interesting of people from all around the world with running stories that are truly amazing, we are baffled by what is happening with this.
We will never get all these people on to share their adventures but while we still can we will continue to spread the word with as many as we can.
Beer mats, fridge magnets, shirts and running buffs make up just some of the merchandise / giveaways flying off the shelves at a rate that neither of us can keep up with. I joked with a few on Saturday that if this was a business Rob and I would have sunk this into the ground long ago with our inability to manage supply/demand, constant trips to the post office, stock taking and piss poor financial accounting of it all.
Anyway, Saturday. To my knowledge this came about after a late night session where I believe Rob plucked up the courage to approach the Phoenix Running mob and request his own race. The deal being Phoenix do everything for him and in return Rob would give them nothing apart from scheduling his 100th marathon to coincide with the race and an army of entries behind him! I was to offer my services to the race and run around coordinating race numbers, merchandise sales, race photos and the like. I am now even more grateful to the marshals I see week in week out!
I’ve been present at a few 100 marathons and even though I was on the other side of the race for the day I would say that I have never seen one so electric as this. Quite literally a world that Rob had created. People running in podcast tops showing their respects to this man. All carrying massive smiles as they ran round me (the human cone) after each lap. An amazing day to which we need to thank Rik Vercoe (Phoenix RD), Paul Commons (Speech maker) and Rob Cowlin (Podcast looney and 100 marathon club member) for having the vision.
The evening was just as challenging as the race duties. We booked a local Rugby club, invited the world and the best people in it turned up. Result! Typical Rob style, Karaoke (which is cringe) that I managed to participate in, a spread so diabolical that I picked up the phone to Pizza Hut and outfits that would fit right in at an Elton John NYE bash. I got home exhausted and on 2hrs drunk sleep the alarm went for Sunday.
Sunday, Sussex Trail Events – #200 Mouth 2 Mouth (M2M)
All I needed to do was get in the car, hold onto my stomach and get to the start line. I was lucky enough to be joined by MVR club runners Danielle, Debbie and Lee. We had run the Midnight Marathon with Second Wind Running back in June as a foursome so it was great to get the band back together for such a milestone. My plan was not to race this one. We would start as a four and finish as a four.
For me my 200th had to be done at the M2M. I continually preach about Sussex Trail Events so I’m not going to babble on again. The boys who make up the outfit are some of the best in the business when it comes to Race organisation and directing. Their courses are hard, gritty and provide just that little more of a challenge than most. I remember the first time I met Jay (STE Race director), think it must have been back in 2016. Funnily enough he was running at a Phoenix event where I recognised him and we started talking. I mentioned I loved his races but always found them to be tougher than most. “We aim to please”. Great response. Thanks for my shout out at the briefing chaps and my bottle of rouge at the end. Can’t wait for the next challenge round the race course! I’m not giving up on this last man standing business!
Back to M2M. Running as a group there were stages where we were scattered out as individuals. Never far away from each other but I’d imagine all wanting time alone for whatever reason. I welcomed these moments. The M2M race gave me a lot of time to reflect on my journey thus far.
Someone asked me recently how many miles the medal collection represented. It took me a while to tot up the spreadsheet. Spread sheeting is a “thing” for the 100 Marathon club. Documented evidence for the gate keepers to examine your results and verify you have done what you claimed to of done.
Anyway, the answer just from official races of marathon distance or greater was around 5,600miles. The equivalent distance from my front door to the island of Madagascar deep in the southern hemisphere of the world. Even Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor only clocked 1350 miles so it is therefore without doubt that my exploits thus far from marathon world have weathered my outlook on life.
Subconsciously I think I’m crossing over to the other side of this sport, trying to give back to the community of runners I now know. I started run leading this year. This is essentially leading a group of runners for a run. We don’t care for pace, weight, background, ability – whatever. Its deeply rewarding seeing others achieve things they thought not possible, furthest distances, fastest runs, PB’s. People getting off the couch and giving it a go!
I have delved even deeper and become a run coach. This has scared the hell out of me. Classroom sessions in Southampton and having to produce paperwork and build a coaching portfolio for UK Athletics to examine in order to award me with a licence. Putting myself out there as someone who recons he knows about running! What on earth! But it’s great. Focussing on others and what they want to achieve. Building peoples endurance, experiences and seeing them push the envelope that little harder whilst calling me an arsehole (in a nice way) is awesome. Like the podcast I wish I could get out there and take on the people who have started to request this service! Watch this space. Maybe soon.
The podcast with Rob. A great way to delve deeper into runner’s personalities. I find myself listening back to the edits at night in bed before sleep takes over each week after our chats and it always puts a smile on my face. Getting to know Rob and others whilst hiding behind our microphones, drinking and chatting utter drivel and setting competitions whilst trying to remain “professional” for our guests can only be described as fun. I’m so glad we’ve got it and I will continue to struggle against my fears of technology, recognition from absolute strangers and battles with the Band of runners email inbox and merchandise orders until the world has had enough.
Anyway. After reflecting, the finish line for the M2M dawned. As a four we were spread out along the stunning River Arun, the sun low. Having been battered by a brief hail storm the Mouth 2 Mouth had provided the most epic stage for this show throughout the 6:30hrs it took us! I didn’t care. Soaking it all up, reflecting, building atmosphere to the 200th marathon finish line. We crossed it and were greeted with hot soup, rolls and a live band Jay said was put on for me. Joker. But they did announce my arrival to the bar and I was welcomed in with a round of applause.
Debbie and I sat with a beer whilst the other two for some reason insisted on returning to the car briefly. 5 minutes later a bottle of Tattinger, a picture memory frame and an insanely impressive cake was put down before me. This knocked me back a bit and after a brief trip to the boys room we celebrated before making our way back. The kindness of the running community forever keeps me in its debt. Just as I think I’m on the way out it pulls me back in and sparks the engine back into life.
This year has been amazing. Some of the events have been so monumental mentally and physically. The Samphire 100 miler, the inaugural Phoenix 10 marathons in 10 days, the Guinness World Record with my sons and my 200th on the Mouth 2 Mouth with those other three characters have made my year in running simply unforgettable.
200 marathons, 35 of which are Ultra, 89 podium finishes, 50 1st place finishes and 1 Guinness World Record.
All this means absolutely nothing compared to the people I’ve met along the way, the places I have been, the things I have seen and the friendships forged due to the experiences of long distance running.
It takes its toll on my personal life and for that I am so grateful for my family. Their tolerance, patience and understanding for my need to continue to never give up, push harder and carry on means I will forever be in their debt.
Quite simply I’m so in love with this game. 200 not out.