Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Getting Fitter

Big Miles, Bare Feet & Backpacks

GearWith the Mighty Deerstalker completed there is now nothing standing between me and The Wall. 69 miles along Hadrian’s Wall, from the East Coast to the West, in 24 hours (hopefully less!). Training is going well. My longest run so far has been 18.5 miles, which means I’m fit enough to handle a marathon right now (in a normal marathon training plan, the longest training run is between 18 and 22 miles). I’m not saying I’d run it fast, but I’d finish and be pleased.

It’s not a bad place to be in with a couple of months to go.

But there are a couple of months to go, and the training ramps up from here. It’s a strange mix – as the long runs get longer, everything else drops down so that the overall mileage per week doesn’t exceed what my body can handle. Apocryphally, I’m not supposed to regularly run more than 40 miles a week without proper supervision. I don’t know what the provenance of that is, but it sounds just dandy to me. No more than forty miles? No problem with that. For the next couple of months, most weeks, I’ll be doing big miles once a week (the longest planned single run is 30 miles) with scattered smaller runs of 3 to 6 miles the rest of the time.

That makes it sound easier than it’s starting to feel. I’m all right just now, having just taken my last ‘rest week’ before the final taper, but with the miles adding up I’m feeling the side effects. General exhaustion is the first – not helped by a lack of routine elsewhere in life (regular early starts while dayjobbering) which makes it hard to fit in the extra sleeping that should go with extra miles. There’s also a low-grade irritability that goes with sharp increases in training that sneaks up on me at odd moments and turns me into a hormonal teenager. My main training ambition is no longer just finding time to do the miles, but also finding time to do the sleeping that helps absorb them.

Naps are my friend. They are my very best thing.

But there are benefits too. Not only am I probably fit enough now to survive for at least a few weeks of the upcoming zombie apocalypse*, but I have no option but to buy ALL THE GEAR.

Well, some of the gear. Most important is my new magic ultrarunning backpack. It carries two litres of water! I can drink the water through a special tube! Just like in the hospital that no doubt awaits me at the end of the run! It has bright colours, so that I can be seen from the moon, and more pockets and storage than I can usefully fill! It has an emergency safety whistle…

Actually, there’s something a bit unnerving about the fact that the manufacturers assume that anybody needing to buy this pack will probably have to call for help at some point. I’m not sure I like that bit. I wonder if the lurid colours are supposed to stop me from thinking about it?

Also, of course, I need new shoes.

What? No, really. I do. I need them. None of the six pairs of running shoes I currently have on rotation are the right shoe for this job. Because reasons.

Actual reasons, which are real.


Over the last few years I’ve transitioned down to minimalist shoes – less support, less cushioning, less things getting in the way of the foot doing its actual job. The idea is to get as close to running barefoot as you can while still wearing something to stop the stones from crippling you.

I have strong feet now. I can lift things with them, probably, like cars and elephants.

For all of that, on a run like this I’m going to want more cushion than I’m used to. The miles are going to destroy me if I try to do them in my fetchingly bright yellow Vivobarefoot Stealths, which have a puncture resistant strip of material between the ground and my flesh and not much more. At the same time, I still want the shoe to have a low ‘drop’ (where the heel is only a millimetre or two higher than the toe), because anything else is going to feel weird.

I don’t own that shoe yet, but it is coming. I’m looking forward to meeting it. We’re going to go through hell together, so I hope we get on.

I love buying gear. Like naps, it is my very best thing.

So the training is actually going okay, and the gear is coming together. Just the fundraising to sort out. As it will be the first time I try to run further than marathon distance, I thought I’d try to raise some money for a good thing while I did so. My daughter asked me to raise the money for Water Aid, so that some people who don’t currently have access to clean water can have their lives changed. That seemed to be a very positive use for what is otherwise the sad manifestation of a mid-life crisis, and so it is happening. With your help I’ve so far raised about a fiver for every mile I’ll be running. I’d like to make it a tenner. What do you think? Have a fiver to spare to change somebody’s whole world?

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

*the signs are everywhere…

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