Training for the Alónnisos Challenge

Since my return to running fitness in 2014 I have concentrated on keeping my food intake down and mileage up. In the 1980s I would regularly run between 2000 and 2400 miles in a year, but dropped below 1000 in 1990. Living on banked fitness carried me through a decade, but ultimately there is a level beneath which a true runner should not dip. In my case 1000 miles keeps me at the stage of being a ‘runner.’

I reached most recent peak in 2015, topping 1300 miles and completing an experimental 28 miler at 10 minute mile pace. As I’ve written elsewhere, my intense focus on work started a gentle decline, ending in illness, but not a return to portliness. After my illness this year I was simply out of condition and fighting to recover too quickly. My initial idea of perhaps completing an ultramarathon was lost due to an inability to maintain the mileage. I would complete a 20 miler in a 50+ mile week only to become tired and sluggish. Finally my GP informed me that a full physical recovery from my illness was going to take quite a while. So, what to do?

Salvation and motivation came in the shape of a Greek island. Whilst spending two weeks on Alónnisos in May with my Passepartout, I met a lovely chap called Panagiotis Karamalis who helps organise the Alónnisos Challenge – a series of races held in late spring over the undulating roads and trails of that fine island. There is a 30km event – the big one – and the more we talked the more it appealed to me. 18.6 miles is well within my training scope. I love trails rather than roads. And finishing is considered to be the main goal. A seed was sown.

Back in England I still floundered with my running. Nothing was coming easily, and I became ill again for a week in September – work was getting on top of me again. An emergency rest was followed by a birthday break back on Alónnisos. I turned 61 and my Passepartout reached 50 with a youthfulness I will always appreciate. As the sun and peacefulness caused me to rest, I began to see things clearly. Where better to philosophise than Greece? I was doing the same thing and getting the same results. Thus I had to change things. Not quite a flash of inspiration, but rather something that was patently obvious once able to reflect.

Panagiotis and Paul
An evening’s debate with Panagiotis led to my committing myself to run in the Alónnisos Challenge 30km (‘It’s really 31!!’ messaged my mentor later) on 27th May 2018. I felt rejuvenated and remotivated.

Paul and Panagiotis

October has been a good month. I’m recovered again, but this time am starting to run gently. I have resumed my own version of the 5:2 diet and intend to reach year’s end lean and ready to start my 30km training from a high level of fitness. I’m adding Pilates to my training to give me more flexibility and core strength, and will be following a regime which is less brutal, but more refined.

I have discovered being kind to myself will bring consistency. This will even out the gap between me and the Reaper Man, but he’s still there so keeping on keeping on is the only option…