I last ran Glenmore 24 in 2017 when I covered about 66.5 miles meaning I slightly surpassed my 100k goal. My heart wasn’t truly in it though, earlier that year my best friend and faithful training companion – Brin (the best dog ever) died suddenly and unexpectedly. I was devastated. Usually, after Glenmore I would stay a few more nights and walk Brin down to paddle in Loch Morlich to ease my sore muscles but without her I didn’t even want to look at the beautiful loch.
I can’t really begin to explain the depth of grief I felt for a wee dog, I went to very dark places – even beginning to plan my own death; if she wasn’t here with me then I might as well not be here either. I don’t believe in an afterlife or anything, there was no fantasy of being reunited.
People might (will) think I am mad, and in a clinical sense that was (is) probably true. I read that it can take four years to deal with the grief of losing a friend. Well, Brin may have been an entirely different species but she was most certainly my friend, a very beloved one at that. Training without her sucked. Being without her hurt. Still hurts.
After Glenmore in 2017 I more or less quit running, at one point I decided I should make it a conscious break and I took up mountain biking, which was a different way to be out on the trails, something Tom and I could do together and another way to try to combat the mental health demons. I also had two new rescue dogs to keep me in check – who rescued whom? You can probably guess.
In 2018, I had a spot at Glenmore 24 again but I still couldn’t face running, so I marshalled and took the younger of my ‘new to me’ rescue dogs with me. I did so much marshalling while not running, and continued to RD Jedburgh with Noanie. It was good for me to stay in touch with the lovely friends I’ve made through ultras, but I still didn’t want to actually run. A year off turned into almost two, but at some point I put my hand up for a free place at Glenmore – a nice benefit of marshalling at the BaM races. I had every intention of training, there was plenty of time…
Anyway, race day came round and I’d done a bit of cycling and run an accidental 10 miler and a couple of intentional 5 mile runs. It would be pretty stupid to run the race.
So I ran the race. Some of it anyway.
Oh yeah, and after two years of only marshalling (not helped by a week of car troubles distracting me in the lead up to the race) I totally forgot what to do as a runner – thank goodness for all the marshalling brownie points I’ve accrued, I was lucky not to get a swift boot up the arse at registration!
I had done soooo much marshalling, I finally did want a shot of being on the other side again and Glenmore is a friendly, safe environment in a beautiful place, with great people… So what if it hurt, there’s nothing wrong with feeling something, even if it’s sore.
This would be an acid test, I convinced myself that this was how I would find out if I still wanted to run.
It was fucking brilliant. I love all the people, and their kids and their dogs, with all their encouraging words, disco tents, unicorn heads, wedges of watermelon, hugs and tears, and I even love the Grim Reaper who met me in the forest in the dark – I gave him a huge hug and told him “Death, I prayed for you to come and here you are!” I know we’ve been talking suicide and stuff – allow me the gallows humour!!
I stopped at eight laps, which is 32 miles. – content that I’d made it to proper ultra distance, sore but not broken, still running at bits, and now just rather happy to get under the covers with my hot water bottle and my fabulous crew, a double act of my friend Emily and Isla her dog (yes, it was really, really cold and it’s definitely crew duty to spoon you if need be, honest!)
It’s less than half what I did last time, but in some ways it was probably the bigger achievement, because there was a time not so long ago when I would rather not have been here at all. I know a couple of the other runners have been struggling with their mental health and also had a watershed run/walk/experience at Glenmore this year. I was so glad to hear that they too are ‘back’!
Never underestimate the value of a (admittedly fairly ridiculous) hobby, eh?!