Pre-race thoughts: 130 miles! And a challenge made tougher.
When Gareth Kilshaw laces up his shoes this Saturday morning, it will be with the words of his ‘chief ass-kicker’ ringing in his ears.
Nicola’s sage advice might be just what he needs during the long, lonely sections of his 130-mile jaunt.
Heightened lockdown restrictions that came into force on Thursday have forced Gareth to change his plan significantly. He can no longer run with a crew, nor follow his original route.
Now, rather than running 127 miles directly from Liverpool to Leeds, Gareth will run three out-and-backs. And much of it will be solo.
Gareth admits that it’s not ideal, and probably not as much fun.
“Everyone thinks it’s horrendous. Every step you take on your way out, you know you’re going to have to take back,” he says.
Lockdown restrictions have also limited the amount of time the crew can be out on the course. Originally, Gareth was to have a support crew for the entire length of the run.
The new restrictions mean that he’ll mostly be on his own, with only members of his household bubble crewing him.
A few “socially-distanced” runners will, safely, join him for support and encouragement at certain sections of the race.
The changes have obviously made a tough challenge even tougher. Along with the new route, the course will be the furthest and flattest he’s ever run. Gareth also admits that the psychological element of retracing his steps might get particularly tough at some points – especially the 77-mile turnaround which will be at night and yards from his front door and bed!
But after nine months of cancelled races, he’s looking forward to a good long jog with his favourite people – even if they’re just waving from the sidelines or from the race tracker screen.
“I really feel excited for the first time this year about going and having a run. I’ve had some lovely runs in the hills, but I genuinely feel like I’m going out for a race this time,” he says.
In previous events, the standard routine is to arrive at the start line an hour or two beforehand, pick up your tracker and chat a bit with other competitors.
This one will be slightly different.
“I’m literally going to roll out of bed and run out the front door,” he says. “It’s quite amazing to think that I’ll be going away from the house and I won’t be back for another 130 miles.”
And, in true Gareth style, with the route change, he’s decided to add a few miles on.
“I always like a round number. And if you get to choose your own race you might as well finish on a round number!”
Along with Nicola’s candid advice, the ultra-running community has overwhelmed him with messages of support, with some even offering to pick him up at the end.
He also has the entire RNLI and his fellow dockers behind him – in spirit, at least. He says he’ll be propelled by the knowledge that the RNLI are in need of help more than ever. With more people spending time outdoors now, rescues have increased dramatically – but donations to the organisation have plunged.
The lads from work are still shaking their heads at what he plans to do – especially fellow dock worker Tommy, who originally inspired him to do the run.
Gareth has hinted, however, there might have been an ulterior motive to reaching the finish line.
“When we came up with this idea, I did have an inkling that this would allow me to talk about running in work for three months,” he laughs. “So when I finish, I’m gonna have to think of something else to fill that void!”
With just hours to go before he sets off, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that he’ll get the job done and it will be a birthday to remember.
“I’m feeling good. The training’s gone as well as could possibly be expected, and I feel really strong coming into it,” he says. “I’m excited. I hope to win!”
Training Plan: Gareth Kilshaw’s preparations for 127-miles (make that 130!)
Kit: Check out his companions on the canal
Crew: The best in the business = Team Carole Adventures
Team Gareth: The skills assembled for the challenge