We've been pretty quiet on the challenge front so far this year - not because we haven't been doing anything (RED January; Charles Darwin half; I've done a virtual run to/up Everest and Mike's part way to the South Pole!) – but just because, like everyone else, we've been ticking over and waiting to see what 2021 will bring.
But last month, we decided to join in a Spring Equinox accumulator challenge set up by one of Mike's mates. That meant starting on 1st March by running 1km, then 2km on 2nd March, 3km on 3rd March etc. You get the picture. It finished on 21st March with a half marathon distance. We would each cover, potentially, 231km or 144 miles in the space of three weeks.
The first week was a delight!! 28km/17.4 miles in total. Even though it was strange to be running for such short periods of time to begin with, it gave our legs a rest after a relatively high-mileage February and enabled us to gain extra 'points' in the challenge by running late (post-10pm earned you a virtual 'Night Owl' badge) or early (pre-7am and you were awarded a 'Lark'). Anyone who knows me knows I'm DEFINITELY no lark, so I wanted to do this one while the runs were still short!!
A particularly challenging day was 4th March, the day after my Covid-19 vaccination: when I got the shivers and sweats overnight, then woke up with a huge headache and feeling nauseous (just like a bad hangover without the wine!), I wondered how on earth I'd run 4km. I didn't want to fall at such an early hurdle, so ended up walking the mileage that day – much to the dogs' delight.
In the middle week we jumped to 77km or 48 miles, and those miles certainly started to make themselves felt. Even though the distances themselves weren't too long (longest this week was 8.7 miles), the back-to-back nature of them together with knowing there was no let-up and no rest day was tiring. Every day we would get updates from Alex who set up this challenge, letting us know how many people were still going, and – despite his name being mud on more than one occasion – it was great to be spurred on hearing others' tales and seeing your own points build up on the accumulator leaderboard. Throughout the challenge, I also ran with Ruth a few times and with Mike on occasion – running with others makes it so much easier, as you tend not to focus on your niggles but enjoy the company and chat instead. The miles seem to go by far faster!
The final week was brutal; I can't think of a better way to describe it. 78.3 miles, with no run shorter than 9 miles. It took its physical toll on Mike, who got an ankle injury part way through the week and had to rest for a couple of days before joining in again with the final half marathon distance on 21st March. That meant he had to finish the 144 miles when I was happily resting. Ouch! We'd signed up for another challenge at the same time – a virtual run from Delhi to the Taj Mahal in Agra – so Mike needed to bag the miles before the end of the month, come what may.
After a long run or a hard session, I usually incentivise myself with a rest day or a short, easy run the following day. With an accumulator, that doesn't work – and knowing that your reward for a tough run is to have to run even further the next day is psychologically exhausting. But once you're in the mindset of getting up and going out there to run, stretching off as best you can and doing plenty of active recovery (for that, read dog walks)/resting, the final day eventually comes around. 'Just' a half marathon to go. We ran together along a relatively new route, which was a great way to end the challenge.
My reward was a very pleasing-looking Garmin graph, a huge pizza and wine ...
Why did we do it? To challenge ourselves, to raise awareness of two devastating, heartbreaking diseases, and to raise funds to support research into MND and Alzheimers in the hope that one day, there will be a world free of both.
Until there's a cure, there is no finish line.