Normally as I approach March, with my traditional Spring marathon coming up, the miles are stacking up and the weeks are getting bigger and bigger. So when I heard about Challenge 31 by Ashmei, one of my favourite running kit companies, I immediately decided to take part. The challenge was clear – to run a mile every day for the month of March, or to run 131 miles during March, with the reward up for grabs of up to 31% off their great kit. Although as the Ashmei website points out, 131 miles would be the equivalent of five marathons, at this stage of my training I’m running the equivalent of three a week – so part of my challenge would to try and be the first participant to finish the 131 challenge.
Running every day seems like a tough challenge but with the looming marathon at the very start of April my motivation to train as been very high. With the challenge, I think that is key – having a goal that you are building for helps you to get out every day. So the start of my challenge started with some tough sessions building to the marathon – a full 10 mile 12 by 800m interval session on day one, an eight mile session at sub 2:45 marathon pace, and then on Friday (my normal rest day) a quick, wet, mile to do the minimum for the day.
To be the first to complete the 131 part of the challenge, the backbone of the effort had to be big miles. With the first two weeks of March being the end of my big mile weeks for Manchester, this meant my final long runs were booked in over the first two weekends of the challenge. There are a lot of key things about running long, but the main ones are consistency and running a pace that you know that you can maintain – although you also want that to be a pace that will give you some training benefit. So with a nice early 7am start, I had ticked off 41 miles of the challenge by half nine on day four, clipping the miles off at around 40 seconds above goal pace.
My next long run was on the following Saturday, after keeping up my training schedule during the week. Compared to my normal long runs this one was going to be a bit different. My local Parkrun is one of the oldest in the world – in fact, Woodhouse Moor was the first Parkrun outside of London, and on Saturday it was celebrating it’s 500th event. I wanted to take part but still get my long run in, so I set off at 7am again to try and fit in 17 miles out away from home and then back straight to Parkrun. Despite cutting it very fine with my pacing to make it there for the start, I made it and lined up as one of a record breaking 718 participants.
I was lined up a few rows back so had to carefully weave my way through around the first lap, and as I was on tired legs I ran a little short of a flat out effort. But with my training since November and the work over the past two weeks, I was surprised to still finish 13th in 18:22.
That left me on 127 miles for the month, and so I spent the entirety of Monday, normally the glummest day of the week, at work looking forward to getting out for a five miler to complete the challenge.
I believe I’m the first to have completed the distance part of the challenge. Now with just a little over a week of the challenge left, the days are also ticking down to the marathon. Keeping up Challenge 31 and pushing through running every day is also a great ethos for the marathon taper – pulling the mileage down but not stopping completely, and hoping that the body stays light and springy for race day.
Once I’ve completed the challenge all through March I’ll be straight on over to the Ashmei shop to have a look at what to get my hands on. Having just got back from a very wet Spring run, I’d definitely recommend the Ashmei rain jacket!