My aspirations beyond my 100km ultra-marathon

March 22, 2024

It's important that I know what running will look like after my event before I even take to the start line.

It is undeniable I am a goal-driven person. I need that end goal, that peak to summit in order to really ignite my fire. I enjoy being fit and operating at a high level in whatever I do however if you give me an event, a challenge or a date to aim for then I turn ravenous. It is with this awareness that I know that I need to always have the next goal in hand before completing the current one.

Something that is all too common and something that I want to stay away from is building towards an end goal and then after achieving it immediately falling off the wagon and losing everything I had spent so much time on building. It is very typical of recreational runners who decide to take on a marathon, after the event they might not run for a few months because there is no carrot to chase anymore dragging them out of bed on a Sunday morning or when the rain is creating a symphony of demotivation on your window.

With this in mind, I am already looking towards the next goal after my ultra-marathon in May.

As I have mentioned in a previous post my ultimate goal for running is to head to Chamonix and take on the full 171km of UTMB. I am also under no illusions that this is a goal that resembles more of a dream than it does a reality right now however, given time I will build my own path to the start line. Before this, I have some equally lofty goals that I want to take on. With my buildup to the ultra pace is largely irrelevant and instead, time moving is all that really matters and I am able to take on enough calories to run for 12 hours. With one of my passions of running pushing the limits of my pace, I will be immediately happy to begin picking the pace up again post ultra.

Goal number 1 - 10k PB

I have never given a lot of time specifically for training my 10k PB, as convenient a distance as the 10k is I have never built up a specific plan to see just what I am capable of. My current 10k pb sits at a respectable but far from groundbreaking 36:58. On my way to one of my other goals for 2024 I would like to give the 10k some love and see if I can break the 35-minute barrier.

Goal number 2 - Sub 3-hour marathon

This is quite possibly the most enticing goal for any recreational club runner and it has firmly got is gasp on me. The idea alone of crossing a marathon finish line with a finishing time starting with 2… is enough to give me goosebumps. Having never run a road marathon yet this will be a journey into the unknown however with a current half-marathon PB of just under 1:24 I don’t think it is beyond the realms of possibility.

Goal number 3 - Run the UTS course

I didn’t want to write too many cheques before I knew just how many my body would be able to cash and with my Jurassic Coast ultra taking place a week after UTS (Ultra Trail Snowdonia) I thought it would be best to pick only one of them to get stuck in to for my first season on ultra-distance trail running. This does not mean that I will not be putting my feet on the UTS course this year as I plan to make running the 50k route a late-season goal for around September time.

Goal number 4 - Run in whichever way makes me feel good

As a goal-driven person, it is very easy to become ultra-focussed and have tunnel vision only for the ultimate goal at hand. This means that it becomes all too easy to lose track of exactly what I am doing and how it is making me feel. As good as a solid and challenging goal is there is no point in consistently doing something that makes you miserable. As liberating as ultra running can be, it can also shackle you to an all-consuming routine that quickly loses its appeal.

I want my running to be sustainable and enjoyable for years to come, there I absolutely no way that I will get to the start line in Chamonix for UTMB if I do not do everything I need to in order to keep my running fun and exciting. As much as I am goal-driven I also thrive off variety so mixing things up and keeping it fresh is just as important as a well-built training plan.

Goal number 5 - Strength and conditioning

A goal I think we can all agree is a worthwhile one is to spend some time finding a strength and conditioning routine that fits in my lifestyle that is easy to do on the go and will help stave off a large portion of preventable injuries. For the most part all serious runners know the importance and the obvious benefits of strength and resistance training but yet most of us, most certainly including myself do not do it regularly and when we do it is normally only during periods of rehab to get us back out running again.

When I find a strength and conditioning programme that works for me I will be sure to share it with you so make sure to check back in with my posts over the coming year to see what I settle on.

A note to conclude

Contradicting a large portion of my short to medium-term goals is my longer-term aspiration to become a runner far less focused on paces and PBs. I feel like moving away from a largely data-driven training scheme to one built more on feel is where I will find solace and where motivation is always found in the joy of interacting with the landscape around me rather than by trying to hit arbitrary numbers and paces.

If you are a goal-driven athlete much like myself make sure to spend some time setting and planning a path to some meaningful goals for you. The biggest thing I have learnt from goal setting this year is that sometimes the necessary goals are not the ones you always want to set. The UTMB’s or the marathon times are easy, they are almost self-motivating but to get there you need the less obvious goals of running in a way that is fun or building a strength and conditioning programme that will facilitate your journey to the headline events.

If you want to find out more about how I go about setting and (mostly) subsequently achieving my goals make sure to check back in a few weeks when I will have an article all about the topic of goal setting and how setting them in the right way can make them considerably more achievable.