Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions


The Wall And The Water

February 14, 2016 by Richard Wright in Journal, Running

3049532451_cdeae51d41_zWell I got that wrong. Which is a relief.

You don’t get to say that very often when you’re training for an event. Getting things wrong during training, while being entirely inevitable, is usually something to face with a grimace as you look at your remaining weeks and try to recalculate for whatever it is you got wrong.

“Ohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuck,” you usually mumble to yourself at such a moment, when the limits of your body and the march of time haven’t married as well as you imagined at the start. Rarely do you have an opportunity to say “Thank god I COMPLETELY misjudged my training effort!”

Later this year, in June, I’ll be running the length of Hadrian’s Wall from Carlisle to Newcastle. It’s fractionally short of being coast to coast, but in practical terms I’ll be crossing the UK across its width. It’s 69 miles, and I’ll have twenty-four hours to do it.

In January, with no idea how to train for something like this, I made stuff up. It’s like a marathon but longer, I said to myself. So I’ll train like it’s a marathon, but do it for longer. 

This was an error, like assuming the best way for a sprinter to train for a marathon is for her to practice sprinting for twenty-six miles. That is an incorrect thing to do, sprinters. That way lies cardiac death of a wholly avoidable sort.

I hadn’t realised that the website for The Wall contains a handy training plan for those doing an ultramarathon for the first time, timed to run from February right up to the event.

To my surprise and delight, the marathon plan was pushing me much too hard, too soon.

Two weeks ago I did a twenty-eight mile week. Then I found the ultra plan and saw that I should have done sixteen instead.

Needless to say, and to my body’s absolute joy, I’ve switched plans and dropped my mileage (don’t worry, it’ll increase again in the coming months).  Who am I to argue with experts? They do that science and stuff. For once I might actually be ahead of the game on this, with a better training base than the plan initially requires. It won’t last, but I’m going to be smug about it for a while anyway.

The other good thing about the plan is that March’s (extremely) off road, night time Mighty Deerstalker race slots neatly in place as just another long training run. Instead of, you know, the ultimate nightmare scenario that I can’t remember why I thought was ever a good idea, which it more closely resembles. Apparently there’s now less than a month to go before that event.



*looks sheepish*

*tries to find a dignified way to exit blog post*

*remembers to beg for money*

Right, money. I’ll come back to this later (probably every payday between now and June, when you are newly replete with funds), so consider this a soft launch. If you come by here often then you already know I do a fair bit of running. What I don’t often do is put my cap out and ask for sponsorship. Lots of reasons for that, including a generic British reticence about asking anybody for anything. I thought that I’d make an exception for The Wall though. When I was tricked into doing my first marathon in India by Steph, it was as part of a team raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. We raised over four grand, with your help. As this is my first time running an ultramarathon distance, it seems appropriate to make this new unknown also count for something.

I wasn’t quite sure what those funds should go towards, so I asked my daughter what she thought was important. She told me that making sure everybody in the world has access to clean water mattered more than anything else she could think of. She went further than that. Nine hundred children die every day because of waterborne bacteria and diseases in drinking water. That’s around one and a half per minute. In the time it took me to write this blog, about fifty kids died.

Twenty-five of them died while I was trying to tell you about a training plan, for god’s sake. They were alive when I started, and dead when I finished. If it took you five minutes to read this blog to this point, seven and a half children died while you were doing it because there was no clean water somewhere.

Which is silly. You can’t kill half a child. That makes no sense at all. I can’t ask you to donate money to save half a child. Hold that thought.

The worst thing about clean water killing children is that there’s no rocket science behind stopping it. We know how to fix this. Simple technologies. A bit of education. A bit of support and investment. This isn’t something difficult to do, like finding a cure for cancer. All it needs is a bit of –

Ah. There goes another one. Eight. Eight kids dead while you were reading. Nice round number, eight. We might even get to watch another die before we’re done here.

My daughter is very smart.

My fundraising goal is to raise £690 for WaterAid. Ten quid for every mile run. If we can make it then that could see sixty-nine wells dug in villages that need them. Sixty-nine whole communities freed from water poverty, from the risk of disease and death, at the snap of a finger. That’s a lot of children.

I’ve just put the online fundraising page together, and will promote it more over the coming months. At the moment it proudly informs me that I have raised £0 of my £690 target. I’m not sure it fully understands how soul-sucking seeing that is…

Feel free to…um…beat the rush? That way, when I start getting desperate and posting the link everywhere in a few months time, over and over again, you can feel satisfied that your part is played and it’s somebody else’s job to get me over the line.

You can find the Justgiving page below, and thank you.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Also, nine.


PS – I don’t yet have any photographs of Hadrian’s Wall. This will change in June, when I will no doubt have several jolly photos of the first third of same before delirium catches up with me and I start photographing my own bleeding feet. In the meantime, I found the stunning photo on this page on Flickr, posted under an appropriate Creative Commons licence by Stu & Sam Marlow. You can click through the photo to see it bigger on their page.

Looking at the photo, and the way it stretches into the distant forever, makes me feel a little bit poorly…

Tagged , , , , ,

Share this post.

Related Posts

Recent Posts