Anna’s Month in Running – August ’23
Welcome back to my running blog, where you can find out about everything I’ve been up to in my running life this month.
It feels like August has flashed by in the blink of an eye, but I think that might be because I’m counting down to my big race of the year – and when you start measuring time by the weeks of your training plan, it can often seem that way. More on the race later, but first, I kicked off this month as a guest at the monthly PUMA x The Running Channel Run Club from the PUMA store on Carnaby Street. It was so awesome to get together with a load of runners, run a nice, casual 5k then have a chat afterwards about ultramarathon running and training.
The weather had been typically British that day with loads of heavy showers, so I wasn’t sure whether people would be put off from coming – but you all showed up and we had a brilliant night. The Running Channel team asked me to prepare some drills or exercises to complete in the middle of the run, so I decided to bring along my Dice of Destiny (which some people who go to my exercise classes call the ‘Dice of Doom’!) and dished it out for unsuspecting runners to roll to decide which strength and conditioning bodyweight exercises we’d do and for how long. We ended up doing a lot of lunges and star jumps!
We then headed back to the PUMA store where I talked about ultrarunning, kit and training and got some really good questions from other runners who are considering doing things like this in the future. I always love hearing from people who are toying with the idea of trying something new with their running. Leave a comment here if you’ve got something coming up in your running adventures for the first time!
The day after the Run Club, I headed up north for three full days of running and hiking in the Lake District. I had planned this as a bit of a holiday/recce weekend, as I wanted to suss out some of the trails and the route of the 7 Valleys Ultra. This is my big race of the year, as you’ll know if you’ve read my previous blogs on here.
I’d plotted three separate routes that would cover a good chunk of the full 110km route. For the first day, I had a 10km route from Glenridding to Thirlmere that The Running Channel filmed for a video about my training for this race. (If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s up on YouTube now). It was such a beautiful weekend – with minimal rain – and I was so happy to cover as much of the route as I did. In total, I did 50km of running and hiking with 3,000m of elevation, so I had a big few days on my feet.
I’ve now covered the route from the 64km point to the finish in Keswick (at 110 km), the majority of which I’ll probably be covering in the dark during the 7 Valleys Ultra. That gives me so much confidence going into the race, especially as it won’t be waymarked and I will need to use the GPX route on my watch, a map and a compass. Just a few more weeks of training and I’ll be hitting the start line at Waterhead.
Before I went to the Lakes, I’d been having a few issues with a pain in my leg. For those who have followed The Running Channel for a while, you might remember the issues I had with an injury leading up to the Berlin Marathon. My physio, the wonderful Paul Martin, found that I was having pain in my leg because of a tightness in my lower back. That had been rearing its head in the latter stages of this training cycle as the runs got longer. Now that I live in the Midlands and not in London, it’s more difficult for me to go and see Paul, but I’m very lucky to have found a physiotherapy practice nearby that has been looking after my niggles and injuries. So, I booked in there to have some work done, which seems to have loosened the tight bits for now. I’m keeping an eye on it all over the next four or five weeks as the race gets closer, but – touch wood – it seems to have eased a lot.
I rounded off August with an incredible trip to Chamonix for the Superbowl of trail and ultrarunning: the UTMB. For those who haven’t heard of it, the UTMB is the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. It’s a mountain ultramarathon race, first held in 2003, that follows the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc through France, Italy and Switzerland. There are several races held throughout the week with varying distances, elevations and acronyms. Here’s a breakdown!
- UTMB: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (171km; 10,040m+)
- CCC: Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (101km; 6,100m+)
- TDS: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (145km; 9,100m+)
- OCC: Orsières – Champex – Chamonix (56km; 3,460m+)
- PTL: La Petite Trotte à Léon (approx. 300km; 30,000m+ – completed in teams of two)
- MCC: De Martigny-Combe à Chamonix (40km; 2,300m+)
- YCC: Youth Chamonix Courmayeur (15km; 1,100m+)
- ETC: Experience Trail Courmayeur (15km; 1,200m+)
In 2022, I went to Chamonix to follow the main UTMB race. This year, I was asked by HOKA to head over and try out the entry level mountain race, the ETC, which involves 15km and 1200m of elevation. I went over to Courmayeur earlier this year to recce the course with the HOKA team – and at the end of August, it was race time.
It was absolutely brilliant. The scenery was stunning, the climbs were tough and the descents were runnable. HOKA’s team included Esmee Gummer, Savannah Sachdev, Heidi Rogers and myself and it was so great to have a group of women representing females on the trails. The disparity between the number of male and female runners on the start line of the UTMB, the longest race of the week, is quite stark. In 2022, the race had 2,538 men (90.3%) and 273 women (9.7%).
When you then drill down to female runners who are Black or Brown, that number becomes even less, so there is a lot of work to do to break down the barriers stopping women – especially of colour – from entering these big mountain races. What was amazing to see, though, was the large number of women lining up for the ETC. Hopefully they’ll have loved the race as much as I did and may want to dip their toes into one of the longer races in the future.
So now comes September, which is technically race month! The 7 Valleys Ultra starts on Saturday 30th September and finishes on Sunday 1st October, so there’s only a few more weeks to go.
I hope you’ve all been enjoying your running and that training is going well if you have a race on the horizon. Catch you next month!