So far all the hills and mountains we’ve seen looked nice. They looked like mountains you want to run up. The mountains here…. Well, they look … let’s say less friendly. Steep. Maybe even a bit scary.
‘One of our boldest’
The organisation describes the Three Mealls Trail race as: ‘One of our boldest. If you want big hills, wide views and the most memorable single-track running, then choose this one.’
I did. Why? Because I want to see what I am still capable of.
I’ve told you my story. I used to run. Got injured, more than 25 years ago and had to give up running. About 14 months ago I started running again. The way you do when you start from zero. Walk, run for half a minute, walk again, run for half a minute, walk and do one last half a minute run, before walking home.
Sara and I started together. Thanks to her, I started out slow. I’ve never been good at running slow, but because of her – she’s not the fastest runner – I had to.
When the distances increased, she stopped running and joined me on her bike. My ankle protested one more time. December last year, after I ran my first 15 kilometers. I took a month of running, bought better shoes, swapped the road for the trails and I have been running ever since.
I do what old runners should do. I run every other day. Even less. I run three times a week. The other days I do yoga, some strength training and I work on my core.
Having a little ankle injury scared me, I admit. For a couple of days I thought that I would have to stop again. I think only runners know how hard that is.
- Not being able to do something you love so much.
- Not having that feeling of freedom when you run.
- Not having that feeling of being stronger than you think you are.
- That feeling of happiness, when you get into a flow.
- That runners’ high
- That feeling of complete satisfaction, when the warm water of the shower hits your back and legs, after running through the cold.
I can go on forever, but you probably get the point.
Looking for my limit
I just didn’t want to give up again. Or having to give up. So I tried one more time with the idea of: ‘What if I don’t run further than 15 kilometers, and never two days in a row? Would I be able to keep on running then?’
At the same moment I switched how I was running. Instead of just running whenever I went for a run, I started to do 80/20 training. If you haven’t heard of it: it simply means you run 80 percent of your training sessions slow, and only 20 percent of them fast.
For me this worked. Not only could I increase the amount of kilometers, I also could do it without the nerves in my ankle protesting. Ten kilometers became 12. Twelve kilometers became 15. Fifteen kilometers became 17. All on trails. The uneven surfaces make me put down my foot constantly in another angle. It’s less repetitive and in that way better for me.
Suddenly I started to think about a half marathon. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could run half a marathon again?
When all of this was playing in my head, we planned our summer holiday to Scotland. Or at least, we booked a ferry to get from IJmuiden in the Netherlands to Newcastle upon Tyne in Great-Britain. So I started to look for a trail race in Scotland. That’s when I found Skyline Scotland and the Three Mealls Trail race in Kinlochleven.
Okay, this one is 18 kilometers, not 21. But it has 660 meters of altitude. The first 400 within the first 2,5 kilometers. That’s pretty tough for me.
For the last 5 months, this race has been on my mind. I ran up mountains in Italy to be able to run here. I ran up hills and mountains in Belgium to be able to run here. I increased my distance to test my ankle, to be able to run here. I’ve done 5 trail races over 21 kilometers, to be able to run here.
I worked on my core, I worked on my leg strength, I worked on my flexibility. And now, now I am here in Kinlochleven. I can’t wait to race, but I also admit, I am a bit nervous. Just 36 hours to go to the start.
Photo: a quick stop at Urquhart Castle on our way down from Kirkhill to Kinlochlven