What could be better than a long day in the mountains!
I don't really identify as a runner, let alone an ultra-runner, I'm more of a 'jack-of-all' kind of girl.
So how come on Tuesday, I found myself running for 30 miles around the rugged north-west fells.
The Abrahams tea round has been on my list for some time now. The route starts at George Fisher in Keswick, and winds around all the peaks you can see from the window in the Abrahams Cafe on the top floor. The route is 30 miles long and packs in over 3000m of ascent.
So why have I not been chomping at the bit to tick this one off the list?
Because I didn't think I was fit enough, and when Fishers' first introduced the round I probably wasn't.
Back then I was working full time as an outdoors instructor, so workouts and runs were fit in sporadically around long days, early starts and going weeks without a day off in the height of summer.
And when I did get a day off a long run wasn't always my first choice, because when the weather is good you'll usually find my tied into a rope climbing or scrambling.
So when I finally did get out running, I'd often get knee pain or ankle pain if I tried to push the distance, despite being able to guide clients around long days in the fells or epic challenge events no problem.
I lacked the biggest thing that stops people making progress towards their fitness goals. Consistency.
For me, it was getting constant miles in each week to build up the connective tissue strength to handle long distances running on rough ground. And after doing that, plus some strength training to correct weaknesses and imbalances and develop even stronger joints, soon the ATR seemed a reasonable goal.
The thing is I still wasn't doing massive miles each week, and I was getting out climbing and hillwalking regularly. I always try to stress to my friends and clients, hillwalking is good for your fell running and visa versa.
Being a jack-of-all isn't a bad thing you know!
So when my partner and I decided to do the round, I was quietly confident. I now have ultra-distance runs under my belt, but not on the high fells which is what makes rounds like this a different beast. So I didn't put any time pressures on myself. My goal was to get through it without acute pain or feeling completely wiped out, as it's always there should I want a faster time at some point.
The day came and while the weather wasn't stellar, a spot of rain and low cloud was nothing we couldn't handle with the right kit and some good decision-making skills.
We finished the tea round in 12 hours, not a fast time by any means, but I achieved what I set out to do, no knee pain and still had a fair bit of energy left in the tank. The conditions slowed us down (who doesn't love running downhill on wet, polished slate!), we took it steady, we took photos, and we chatted the whole way round.
Just to be clear, I'm not saying you should go run an ultra in the high fells tomorrow having never run one before.
The message I want to get across is that these big rounds may not be as out of reach for the casual runner as you may think if having a good day out is more important to you than fast times.
All it takes is the right training, good attitude and that magic ingredient, consistency.
Ultimately I aim to keep challenging myself with new goals and above all, spend long days exploring the mountains.
At Rise Fitness, we support the jack-of-all-trade-ers. You don't have to put your self in a box, we like coaching people with multiple outdoor interests!
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