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14Aug

More than the extra mile… an insight into running marathons and more…

I feel there are a lot of similarities between my work and running. I like pressure, a challenge, and the goals are the same. Namely, when I start a job or a run, my aim is to finish to the best of my ability. Subsequently, I put everything into the task ahead with the ultimate goal of finishing and doing a good job with no regrets. I enjoy pushing myself to see what I can achieve. I love running, the freedom it gives, the fresh air, and how much ground and miles I can cover on the long events, whether it is a marathon, a triathlon or an ultra-marathon, all raising as much money for charity as I can. The combination of knowing what I can achieve, together with raising funds for charity, means there is absolutely nothing that will stop me crossing the finishing line! The icing on the cake is seeing my family at the finish line, my loyal supporters - my longsuffering wife and both daughters.

Believe it or not, I used to struggle with a lack of confidence and running has provided a means of improving this as I have often surprised myself with what I can achieve. Losing two colleagues to cancer has also been a source of drive and inspiration. Another colleague of mine, who has recently retired, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and last year I was also tested for cancer. So, in comparison, running an ultra-marathon is a piece of cake compared to what my colleagues went through. A young lady at the company is also battling cancer at the moment so our thoughts and prayers are with her. Raising money for charity through my running gives me so much pleasure.

During training, I will take a bottle of energy drink with me, and my preferred choice is called Zero. I will have one before I go and I take energy gels and two Trek bars. During the race, I will take two bottles, one with Zero in it and the other with just water. I also carry four torque gels and two pouches of baby food because they are easy to digest. Typically, there are four pitstops on the course and they usually offer water, flat Coke, energy powder, Jaffa cakes, salted nuts, bananas, gels and flapjacks. You can help yourself and stock up as required.

Mental preparation is also a major part of running, especially when you are out there on your own. You find your mind plays tricks on you, and you have to stay focused on the goals you have; whether that be completing the current stage of the course or finishing the whole distance. Personally, I never run with headphones, instead I set myself targets on the run and keep focusing on them. I don’t think about the total distance but rather break it down into 15-mile sections. I also find thinking about what I’m going to have to eat at the end is another motivation... But my end goal is to finish without injury, even if I have to crawl! I know I can’t keep up with those in their 20s or 30s but for my age I’m not bad. If anyone asks me what time I’m going for, I always answer ‘just to finish’ but secretly I want to win my age category - the veteran 50 age group.

I would say to people if you have a dream, no matter what it is, just go for it! Book yourself on a race, or whatever it may be in 6 to 12 months, and start training slowly in small chunks. You’ll soon be impressed with what you can do and your confidence will help you push that little bit more each time. Don’t try and do too much too soon, if you fail and struggle at the beginning it may well put you off, so instead keep it slow and easy to begin with. Also ask for and take advice from other runners and try to find yourself a running buddy. They are a good source of motivation and you can encourage and challenge each other as you progress.

When I was younger, I used to run and represent my County, and I played football regularly too. As my five children came along, they dominated my time and were my focus. As my sons got older, I started training a football team, which helped me regain a little bit of fitness. As my kids grew up and the football team came to an end I started running once more and fell in love with the sport all over again. I also enjoy cycling which is where the triathlons came in.

Results to date, in my first ultra, which is any distance greater than a marathon (26.2 miles), was 50km and I finished 6th overall and first in my age category. Most recently I completed a 100km course and came in 4th overall and first in my age group, veteran 50s.

Over weekends, training consisted of back to back marathons, so about 20 miles on Saturday and the same again on Sunday. Or 2 to 3 hours running on both days just to get the legs used to long runs and in order to overcome muscle pain. It is a matter of thinking about the distance you will be running and adjusting your pace accordingly.

I’m not getting any younger and one day my body may let me down but until such a time I will carry on pushing myself.

Kevin Northam

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