Trail Running mag reader Chris Unger from London (originally Oz) won a race place on The Coastal Challenge just 6 weeks before the event started! Despite never running more than 19 miles before, and no back to back race experience, I was totally and utterly impressed with Chris’ never say die attitude and quietly dogged determination during the entire 6-day race this Feb. If anyone can give advice about how to succeed in your first multi-stage race, it’s Chris.
With around only 6 weeks of training dissected by two lots of minor surgery on my back and hip I had to make the training that I did effective. My training was exclusively running with a little bit of Yoga. I did have a training plan, though this was built up from a foundation of family and work commitments. i.e. running when I had a gap in my diary. Prior to finding out I was going to the TCC the furthest I had run was 19 miles. In my mind I needed to have a least one marathon distance run in my legs before the race.
I don’t think there is any one thing that enabled me to finish and many of the things that I believe helped me finish may also be the same things that others who didn’t finish also utilised. Though it wasn’t necessary a conscious decision I seemed to have a balanced management of both my physical and mental resources over the 6 days. I had nothing left by the time I finished the race which was a wonderful feeling as I knew I gave it all that I could, a proper 100% effort, which is something we generally don’t do in our daily lives. I slept well, but again this isn’t something we can necessarily control. My motivations in running the race were intrinsic; I wasn’t pushed by anyone and didn’t need to validate myself to anyone. I wasn’t there to compete against other runners but rather to compete with myself. I was there for an experience for which I hoped would have a positive impact on my life in a context beyond just running. Having a head full of things to process that are not necessarily related to the run helped me during the dark periods where I needed not to be thinking about running. I frequently reminded myself to enjoy the experience and visualise what it was going to feel like to finish the race.
The experience has blown my mind. My top tip for other multi-day racers is to listen to those who are more experienced than you, take on board the advice that works for you, but at the end of the day you have to run the race your own way.