Our amazing client Maxine is embarking on a 100 miles epic event on 2nd September.
She really is an inspiration to us all.
What are you up to?
On Saturday 2 September, I’m setting out on my third attempt at the Ridgeway 86, an
ultramarathon that starts at Ivinghoe Beacon and finishes at the Avebury Stones in Wiltshire. It’s also the British Trail Running Championships Ultra Distance so there are some speedy and talented ultra runners involved, albeit I’m proudly right at the other end of the field! My intention is to complete the race, then re-trace my steps and follow a national cycle route into Swindon’s Coate Water, for a total of 100 miles.
I couldn’t possibly tell the story of the evolution of my participation in this race in a reasonable number of words to fit here, but if anyone is interested I’ve popped it here on my blog. It involves The Last Samurai, a chimp, a huge ‘aha moment’, and a whole lot of grit and determination.
How old are you? Does age and experience matter?
I’m 51 and totally convinced that there’s no way on earth I could have done ultras like this at a
younger age – once you get past marathon distance it’s all a head game and I didn’t have that kind of mental grit when I was younger. It’s about patience and understanding how to sustain your why. Ask most younger people why they run and you won’t get the depth of life experience that drives people to find this kind of self-actualisation. My younger self would laugh at what seemed to be foolishness of a sport where you take on this kind of pain as a passenger for not just miles but for hours. The race I’m doing concludes in 28 hours, my extension goal will take it potentially to 32, maybe even more. That’s a long time to pack away pain and carry it with you.
What do you love the most about ultrarunning?
Ultrarunning brings with it a sort of supreme absolution you just cannot get from a few hours in the
gym or a few miles here and there. This is a challenge not only of physical endurance, but also of
patience, perseverance, problem-solving, resilience. It’s ridiculously scientific. In fact, much of what I know about resilience I learned from ultrarunning.
I’d like to say I’ve also improved my maths skills in calculating timings, but that’s a hefty no!
There is something so magical about moving in the pitch black through total silence, for so long a
period, with such a great sense of purpose. What’s out there? What’s around the next bend?
I’ve been here in the daylight, how does this place feel in the dark? It brings the entire world around you into sharp focus, into this singular place of incremental change and movement. This space of sublime inspiration, to learn who you are inside, to prove to yourself you are greater than what you do in your day to day life. We wake up, we eat, we work, we sleep. Is this all we are? Run an ultra and find out what a miniscule piece of the puzzle is our normal.
We've heard you are a 'Jeffer'. Can you explain this terminology to the general public?
I started ‘Jeffing’ because I was absolutely rubbish at running without getting injured! It’s a well loved means of run-walk, the official way has specific timing ratios but I sort of quasi-jeff according to how I feel. Feel like running? Run. My form is falling apart and I’m feeling rough? Walk for a while. It’s entirely easier on the joints, and uses two different sets of muscles so you find you’re much less
fatigued and injury prone than if you just did one or the other. Run-walk is what C25k is made of, and is a great way to get into the sport of running.
When it comes to ultras, unless you’re elite, you probably walk a lot. I walk up hills and run down them, then do intervals of a sort on the flats. It’s about what feels comfortable to me and this whole ‘I stop to walk’ is a nonsense – if you’re walking you are still moving, you’re not actually stopped! Forward is a pace.
Looking back at your younger self prior to embarking on your first ultra event, what advice
would you give to yourself?
I’m racking my brain trying to think of something that I would have changed, but I really think it was
mostly perfect! I walked with two friends, we nattered a lot, and I managed some ridiculous heat by
keeping lots of wet buffs and bandannas on me, it was absolutely roasting out!
Ah that reminds me, the biggest piece of advice is that Compeed is Satan and will melt. Avoid avoid
avoid! I put it on a blister, it melted into a hard ridge and blistered worse underneath, and I ended up having to take it off manually.
If you’ve ever done this, you are now wincing just reading this!
If someone is reading this who is keen about long distance running or ultrarunning, what
would be your advice to them?
Know your body and give it what it’s asking for. I rarely keep to set workouts on set days but know I
have to do a certain level of effort across what my body needs over a week. This is definitely not
going to be for everyone though!
But for most people I’d say it’s hugely valuable to train your walking pace, work on proprioception by walking or running on rubbish terrain (dried out muddy farm tracks are great), do loads of hill training and strength training. It’s hard to find hills in Essex, although being near Epping Forest there are a few good ones to be had, but skills on hills is essential in ultras. It’s so easy to trash your quads on the downhills, to be dead slow climbing and blow up so it’s important to dull the teeth of those hills.
It’s most important to learn what makes your body work best. I’ve actually done more climbing and
strength work than focus on mileage this go round, because just racking up mileage is more
detrimental to me physically in the training block, but when I race I struggle more with the impact of physical strength breaking down. I’m a mid to back of packer on marathons and am always near the back of ultras, so if you want to go fast the mileage will matter more. It’s all very personal. You learn far more with failure than any victory and I’ve learned that climbing hills is my go to power plan.
After this event, what's next?!
October is my third Chicago Marathon as well as my third Snowdonia Marathon (Marathon Eryri).
Snowdonia is on my birthday this year and after two years on the Ridgeway for the big day I think it
will be a nice change of scenery and much welcome ‘shorter distance’. Did I just say a marathon was a shorter distance?! Ha! This is what we become. Run happy!
You can follow along on Instagram @madmaxruns.
Wow! Such an inspiring read, thanks so much Maxine for sharing this with us, we are so grateful to be able to share your knowledge and advice!
To follow Maxine on her blog click here:
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