12 Things I’ve Learned About Myself As A Runner After Completing My First 50K Ultra Marathon Race

Well it’s been a week since but I’ve had time to reflect on the experience and here are 12 things that I’ve learnt about myself as a runner.

  1. I have a very poor fuelling strategy – Sometimes I treat my body like it’s a machine. I just pump myself full of Eric the Elephants and Percy Pigs and expect my legs to carry me home in record-time like I’m filling up a Fiesta with Premium Shit. Then I have the audacity to wonder why I’m experiencing traumatic shit attacks. My stomach is not a machine. It will retaliate my expelling anything it does not like right out of my holio.
  2. I am resilient as a runner – Run-walking for 8 hours without giving up, shows that I am tougher than I originally thought. I think that the more you keep battling the more patience and resilience you’re graced with.
  3. I’ve learned that I no longer care what other people think – I broke down in tears in front of a picnicking family, my face was encrusted with gels for around fucking 15 miles and I had to ask the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland if it was OK to use a Country Park as a public toilet. Who gives a fuck if I run like a woman?
  4. I have learnt that I have a lot in common with other runners – Especially ultra runners. The guys I met out in the field had the same doubts and same grievances but they ultimately pulled through! It’s easy to retreat into your own mind and internalise your doubts. You start to feel alone and the running field seems hostile. This isn’t the reality of the situation and the ultra marathon taught me that everyone out there is essentially the same. It’s too easy to see the running pack as one big group that you don’t belong to. This is not the case.
  5. I can continue on and complete a race even when I think my race is over – I wanted to quit the race after I got lost, but quickly came to the conclusion that there’s no peace in surrender. Your race doesn’t stop if you just quit for a break. You can and will complete it if you keep putting one foot in front of the other. It might take 2 hours or 8 hours but you will get there.
  6. I can complete a race that I haven’t trained properly for – It may have hurt like hell, but I got through it. As with any race distance you have to respect the challenge ahead and train appropriately to make the most out of it. But you are capable of more than you think, if you just try. Sometimes have you to try for the self-belief to arrive. It won’t come on its own.
  7. Finishing last isn’t as bad as I thought it would be – I’m someone who experiences a lot of anxiety dreams where I flunk all of my old school exams and end up being sold by the Queen of England to Thailand as a cock-eyed ladyboy. Finishing last in a race was the worst thing that I thought could happen to me as a runner. Halfway through the 50k I thought a DNF would be better than an 8 hour finish because at least then I could make excuses for myself ‘yeah I’m capable of a sub 5 finish it’s just that I accidentally sprayed Deep Heat onto my balls on race morning!’. Finishing at all was 1,000,000 times better than not finishing.
  8. The mileage limits I’ve been placing upon myself are arbitrary – Before entering the 50k I was really struggling with hitting 15-16 mile long runs. The week after I entered it, I ran my first ever 20 miler in training and then completed the race itself the week after. By smashing through the barriers in the 50k I’m no longer willing to place mental limits on how far can run.
  9. I’ve realised that I am an ultra runner – OK, I might be a really new ultra runner who hasn’t a clue what he’s doing, but that doesn’t stop being a finisher in an ultra marathon. When I first started running I didn’t feel like a runner after completing my first race. This belief didn’t help me any. I ran less. I tried less. I cared less.  Then it dawned on me that sometimes you have to at least pretend that you are a runner to actually become one. Fake it until you make it and all of that hippy bullshit.
  10. I capitulate far too easily – And make bad decisions off the back of fear of collapse. My intake of 6 isotonic gels in Bangor and the subsequent toileting afterwards is a good example of me freaking out a little too quickly. Sometimes it pays to relax, breathe a little and carry on with your race. When you’re out on your own and scared out of your mind, it’s harder to do. But your ability to handle crises comes with experience.
  11. I’m too unwilling to buy new footwear – OK I’ll admit that I was wrong and that it’s sensible to change your shoes every 500 miles. By the time I’d finished the 50k the soles on my shoes had one key similarity to a pharmacy in the Vatican. No rubber anywhere.
  12. Sometimes it’s better to run with music – As you may well know, I don’t run with tunes. I’m thinking twice about this now after Angry Jogger FM played the single “This Race Is Fucking Shit And I’m Never Running Again” on repeat for 8 fucking hours. Music can act as a great distraction from your own bullshit thoughts and help you establish a rhythm.