Mark Spitz once said "if you fail to prepare, you're prepared to fail." My first instinct when reading that quote is to find Mark Spitz and give him a slap for being cocky, smart and successful but he's right because he's cocky, smart and successful.
As I wandered past a depressing Pontins migrant camp which once used to be entertaining the nations families, all I saw was stag and hen parties arriving for a long weekend of drinking and debauchery. They may have saw me and imagined that I was judging them by my slow walk and squinty eyes and I was...on the inside. On the outside, I looked that way only because of the nightmare I had just gone through on what was supposed to be a return to form 20 mile run and what will now be transcribed into this blog.
I had recently found the nerdy magic of Strava routes, for those not in the know, you can make your own running route on the popular app and the app tells you the best route to take to get there. Rather than my usual 10 miles one way and turn around to go back routine, I wanted a change and that change was mistake no.1 (Don't run into the unknown when there's a lot at stake). The stake is that I have my second ever marathon in 3 weeks and this was to be my final long run. I routed a plan to take me to nearby coastal town Southport. I knew I could get there easily by road but I needed more distance so I routed coastal paths and dirt roads. The problem came when the route planning came to Ainsdale. Two thirds into the route is a complex array of forestry and sand duneyness. The route showed a trail going though and along it so my fear of trapsing through sand was eased by my confidence in the app. Mistake no.2 - Don't believe in magic roads in between sand dunes.
So yesterday I began my 20 mile run. Through litherland, into Waterloo, Crosby, and Freshfield. All was fine, I was Facebooking, taking pictures, speed wasn't an issue just the distance. I got a slight discomfort on my foot so I pulled out a plaster, I thought I was the tits. I was prepared for anything. I passed a military base, well it looked like one but maybe it's just an elaborate military base showroom. I then start to find problems...
The route wanted me to cut through a golf course using a public path but I could see a better clearer route but a few heavies (rail workers) wouldn't let me go onto it so I U-turned and went through the golf course and into the forest. The trails were confusing and mucky. I mean, there was like old branches and grass and shrubs, like proper ewww and I looked at my map to see that it was proving tough to predict where to go. I stayed the course and eventually my actual feet met the route the app wanted me to take and so began the entry into the desert that would be my tomb...
The forest gave way to Fury Road and I was Mad Max. The trail was not as I had hoped a asphalt covered delight but instead was a 2 foot wide gully with weeds and nature partially blocking its intended path. My legs started to feel the thorns and prickles, the sand reached areas on my body that I didn't know exist. Middle aged ramblers passed me as if that this was their Mecca and I was a stubborn tourist attempting the impossible. My energy began to wane and the sand captured my feet but also my hopes of 20 miles. I stopped.
I walked, I worried, I looked for a way out. I could go backwards and run back. After all, I was barely half way through the run so logic dictates I could run home and do 20 miles. But to be honest, that thought didn't cross my mind. I had said I wanted to get to Southport and anything less was a failure. But I kept on walking and the further I walked the more I journeyed into the middle of the dunes. A man passed me along the trail which in itself isn't news except that he was wearing speedos...just speedos. He smiled as if I was the stupid one wearing human clothes and he waddled along out of sight. I began to worry. My battery was low (damn you Facebook live from 1 hour ago when I was happy), my drink had become dreg-city and i was still only halfway though the obstacle. I knew at this point my efforts were dead. Mentally, I have a hard time running if I have stopped at some point which is why nearly all my runs don't include walk intervals. This was the mother of intervals and the mission changed from Southport to simply getting out and telling my story.
I recorded more video which was shoddy and cut out between signal loss but really i did it to make myself feel better and to distract me. It was whilst recording this that I saw the roof of a house, I was finally coming to the end. I left the dunes and stupidly imagined that I could continue my run. I ran 100 metres and gave up.
Around the corner I heard shouting and thug like behaviour. There was a line of cars with scallies enjoying the May sunshine with beers and music. A police car arrived no doubt to put an end to this Britain First nonsense but the car rolled into the next road and I ran again to cover up my weakness and project strength, after all, this seemed to be a place where the law has no control. I made it to a nearby train station and hopped on. On the journey home I could see glimpses of the route I had took, I saw the military showroom, the dunes and the forest. I also saw the trail where I had aimed to get to. There was runners and walkers galore on it, bypassing the forest and dunes in delight. They clearly knew how to use it effectively and I had not.
I got home and showered off my disgusting body and the creatures I had adopted on it. I had ran 11 miles before I got in trouble, hardly 20. It was a harsh lesson but despite it all, one that I'm glad I was present for.