I crept gingerly into 2018 with my first run of this new revolution around the sun on a cold, mist covered night. It also happens to coincide with the end of my 33rd rotation on this bright blue orb and, in the month named for the Roman god of beginnings and endings, it is as good a time as any to reflect on the tumults and triumphs of the year gone by.
2017 was a year of highs and lows, namely the decision to undertake my first ultramarathon and to have seen it through. To have had the chance to reconnect with close family and spend Christmas once more among the rain slick streets of Dublin. This, unfortunately, came as a consequence of a broken relationship and a parting with good friends on foreign shores. But that, alas, is how the wheel has turned.
As 2017 drove towards its inevitable end I experienced my first ever setback through running. With age comes experience and as I stubbornly ignored a shin splint as it developed, into something altogether more substantial, I was forced to confront the limits of mind over matter.
Having returned home to Ireland, and in the weeks before my new job started, I was putting in some consistent mileage. Alas, too much and as such I was forced to sit out November, December and the first weeks of January. It was the longest period in my adult life where I wasn’t running regularly and I had to take some time to really listen to my body.
So now, fingers crossed, I am back. The offending ankle is rusty but pain free and we’ll see how things go.
For the last few days I have been spending as much time as possible with my feet up and not getting any long, or short for that matter, runs in. This is because, as I mentioned previously, I have been fighting a niggling injury that I am sorry to say seems to have beaten me.
For a while now I have been alternating my runs between the roads of Portlaoise (and the oddities one sees on country roads) and the treadmill and trying to determine what exactly was causing my ankle pain. The pain would be there when I woke, dissipate while I ran, only to return again shortly after. I’d stop running for a few days and just when I would feel confident that I could, once more, hit to road I would find myself battling shooting pains up the interior of my calves.
A little shot of country living from the road
I have sought out the advice of some friends of mine with medical experience who have advised that the most likely culprit is tendonitis. For those of you unaware tendonitis usually occurs when there is inflammation or irritation of the tendons, usually due to overuse (Ultra-Marathon training??) or injury and can take between two and three months to recover (though much longer without the proper treatment).
So that’s me benched for the foreseeable future.
Right now i’m sitting on a sofa with my feet up on the coffee table watching Kill Bill Vol. 2 and feeling a little more than guilty at having not run for several days.
Truth is, and I hate to admit it, but I think I might be injured.
Now I recently relocated to my native Ireland and have tried to get a few good runs in, a quicker than usual 12k with my good friend David and even a nice half marathon in Dublin (which had its own organisational issues which we don’t need to visit here), but ive begun to notice a prolonged soreness in my right ankle. I hate to give an inch to injury or age but if there is one thing i’ve learned from my ultra adventures it is how important it is to listen to your body.
So, a few more days with my feet up, so to speak, and I’m sure i’ll be back out on the road.
Everyone needs to do something to unwind, something to relax, at the end of a long, hard day. For some it’s yoga. For others it’s binge watching Netflix. For me, it’s 20 kilometres along a dark, rain-slicked road in North Karelia.
Now I can usually convince myself that, come the end of the day, I deserve to put my feet up. I deserve that glass of wine, that hot meal and those back to back episodes of AMC’s Preacher (some damn fine television). And why not? I’m usually up at 5am and knee deep in dirt by 7:30, laying electrical cables in nearby Viinijärvi.
So what stops me? That little voice that nags from the back of the mind. The dull, unyielding drumbeat of the beckoning road. The unforgiving cold and rain and the rewards gained for venturing out and trying to outrun the downpour home.
So, im left with a choice, sit back, unplug and try to relax, try to tune out the calling road or, lace up and head out. It’s really no contest.
So it has been a month since I completed my first ultra and since then I have moved house and started a new job. As a result I haven’t spent much time on the road but I have had time to consider some of the gaines from the Ultra experience. Namely the greater strength that comes from endurance running.
Now I’m not just talking about the physical strength, though there are serious gaines there to be sure. It is the mental strength and self-awareness that is fostered when you head out on long runs along lonely country roads with only your inner voice and the locomotive staccato of your breath for company. As you find yourself pushing your body further and further, quietening the voice that tells you ‘You’ve gone far enough. You can stop. Why are you still out here?’
What I’ve learned from the experience, other than the levels of physical pain I can endure, is that running, like most things, is an act of will and it can prepare you for whatever life throws your way. Endurance running makes you physically and mentally strong and constant.
So I am once again out on those lonely North Karelian roads in the ever fading light of a Finnish August steeling myself with every step. Preparing. For what? Who knows: maybe another ultra; maybe the long Finnish Winter readying to set in; maybe a challenge yet to come. It doesn’t really matter, so long as i’m running.
So it’s been over a week since the Ultra-marathon and I have had ample time to reflect on the hard slog that it was. The long hours of training, the hard graft of the race. The local newspaper called it a battle against oneself and I am in full agreement with that idea. After the initial excitement and enthusiasm waned it became a battle to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep a steady rhythm going.
Happy faces at the start of the race
The race itself was excellently organised and even though I was one of the only non-Finns taking part I was greeted warmly and looked after as if I was a member of the tribe.
Before the madness
There are two observations that I need to make about the race. Firstly, I can’t say enough about the importance of having support when undertaking an endurance race. There were plenty of supporters on hand for the competitors and the organizers were dotted throughout the course checking on everyone’s well being and keeping us motivated.
Though I had a small contingent track-side for my endeavor I was also buoyed by the knowledge that I had spiritual support coming from across the globe from family and friends. During the harder sections of the race, as the sun had set, the rain was falling, the wind had turned icy cold, I reminded myself of all those who were kind and generous and gave to my race-fund and it was enough to spur me on. So to all of you, especially my wife, THANK YOU. I couldn’t have done this without you.
Secondly, I noticed that, but for one other participant, I was the youngest runner in either the 60km or 100km races.
Throughout my preparation I had heard from countless folk that they couldn’t run 5km let alone 60km and usually this was because they felt that they were too old. Well to this I say the winner of the 60km was Urpo Naumanen and he was born in 1948 – and I can attest to his fitness as he lapped me three times. So even if an ultra-marathon isn’t a goal you might set for yourself you may still want to ask, What is my excuse? Everyone can run, so why aren’t I?
For me, I am now looking about for my next challenge which will almost certainly be either a marathon or another 60km before the year’s end. No matter what I decide I will be running almost everyday because once you start it’s almost impossible to stop.
Always time for Jazz hands
More information and official results can be found by clicking here.
I just wanted to write a short post about Crowdfunding, or to be precise, my first experience with crowdfunding.
I am now just 3 days out from my very first Ultramarathon and as part of my preparation, aside from the hours and hours spent on the roads and trails nearby, I decided to set up a crowdfunding page to help cover the costs of fees and nutrition. As many of you know Marathon and Ultramarathon events are not cheap to enter and equipment etc. can get pricey.
I Googled, as one does, a number of different websites offering crowdfunding sources and settled on makeachamp.com as it is tailored to athletes specifically (and was p*ss easy to use). Full disclosure here, I didn’t really expect to get any contributions let alone hit my stated target of 300 euro and I may not have dedicated as much time to the page set up as it probably warranted.
I added the necessary pics of me in full battle regalia charging down some bleak North Karelian roads, tied the account to a hastily set-up Paypal account and added a bio and motivation blurb that I shocked myself with by being more candid than I usually am. I linked to both Facebook and Twitter and posted.
Things started slow, as they often do, and I quietly resigned myself to what I assumed would be a failed experiment. However, before long friends were asking for details about my running adventure and my blog posts were getting good feedback and a trickle of contributions began to come in. I was overjoyed by these small acts of kindness but did not expect the sudden flood that greeted me this week. In less than seven days I have gone from just enough donations to cover the entrance fees to the near full amount (or as MAKE A CHAMP reliable tells me 87% of target). The encouraging messages from family and friends has been amazing and the donations genuinely heartwarming.
So this post is mainly to thank everyone who has donated and to encourage others to start Crowdfunding for that special little project you want to get off of the ground. It really is quite simple and you might just be surprised by the kindness of friends and family.
If anyone still wants to contribute please visit www.makeachamp.com/barryreddin
With about two weeks to go before race day I found myself pulling on my running shorts and lacing up my shoes in an unfamiliar city. I say unfamiliar only in the sense of never having hit the pavement for a run in Rome but I have walked the eternal streets before.
As I stepped out the door of the quaintly named ‘The Sweets’ of the Beehive hostel and took in the pastel blue shades of the Roman morning I was hit immediately by the heavy, wet blanket of the morning air. The humidity promised a test of endurance. Whereas I have been training in the cool dry climes of Finland the uneven city streets and oppressive atmosphere of Rome provided a strangely welcoming change-up for training.
The route I made took in the Forum, Capitoline hill, Palatine hill and the Circus Maximus and two things immediately struck me: firstly every runner I passed flashed me a co-conspiratorial smile and a ‘ciao’ for good measure, secondly, there was no traffic: no defeating car horns, incessant buzzing of Vespas or angry shouts from fuming motorists. This is Rome! Something must be wrong. I know it’s 6:30 on a Saturday but still. I let the thought pass and continued back to the hostel thankful for the relatively clean air and quiet streets.
The rest of the day was spent wandering the city between one plate of pasta and another with occasional stops for a glass of wine or some gelato; the latter case a combo of black garlic and white chocolate from Fatamorgana.
It wasn’t until the following morning when my alarm sounded beckoning us to Termini for our train to Florence that the mystery of Rome’s missing traffic was solved. It seems that in all the excitement of the trip I neglected to change my phone’s time to Rome and as a result my alarm, instead of waking me at the appropriate 6am, had me scrambling from my bed an hour early. Therefore, my 6:30 am run through Rome’s streets was actually 5:30 am. Oh la dolce vita.
For the next ten days I will be living out of a single bag. It is amazing how you can condense all of life’s essentials into one 10kg over night bag.
All the necessities are included: running shoes, shorts, Suunto watch…and passport of course.
I’ll be getting in some good runs along the banks of the Tiber and Arno and fuelling up on carb rich Italian cuisine and though this is a holiday from the day to day, there is no break in training.
Today was the first day back covering the dirt roads of Liperi in my quest to become Ultra. It has been a pretty hectic week between overseeing the chaos of the organic farm in Sotkamo (and all the porcine adventures that went with) as well as the return home followed by a long cross country drive.
Despite the sun drenched scenery of crystal clear lakes, rolling hills and verdant forests, a lot of travelling, namely sitting, for long hours can really take a toll on the body, not to mention the mind. After several hours behind the wheel and despite requisite coffee pit stops – or as I like to call them ‘Adult Energy Drinks’ – I was exhausted. That’s why it was so important to get back out there but luckily for motivation I was joined by my friend Antoine.
Together we took in an easy 10K to shake off the rust and amid meandering, dirt packed roads our wandering conversation took in such topics as the princely nature of Irish sports fans, the dysmorphia inherent in professional bodybuilding, the penchant of the French toward Judo and our mutual appreciation of the movies of Wes Anderson.
Needless to say the kilometers disappeared under foot and before we knew it we had been out enjoying the rain kissed summer air for an hour.
I spend so much of my time running by myself that I had forgotten the joy of having a running partner. Must do it again soon.
Post run smiles with ‘The Frenchman’
Now’s as good a time as any to mention my crowdfunding page to help me achieve my goal of ‘Going Ultra’.
As many of you know an Ultramarathon is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi) and for my first (that’s right, first) I have chosen the SUOMI-JUOKSU 60km in Joensuu, Finland on 8th July.
My main goal is simple – Finish. To be able to reach this goal however I need your support. I’m asking for your help to raise money towards competition fees, equipment and nutrition.
By contributing you will help me reach my goals but also take part in the journey as I try to prove that anyone can run any distance – if they set their mind to it.
My journey of being a runner has taught me so much about myself, such as my strengths and weaknesses, and how hard I can push myself physically and mentally, but also the importance of having a team and supporters behind me, ready with encouragement, water bottles and the determination to not let me quit.
So if you’d like to contribute please click this link here.
I hope to have you on my team in July.