Polly Farrington, one of Strava’s UK Influencers, has just signed up for the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, a 74-mile (120km) run through the Dolomites, Italy’s most formidable mountain range. But, six months out, how does a normal runner in London think about preparing for such a challenge – especially when she has the flu? Polly takes up the story…
I’m writing this while lying on the sofa in my pajamas, surrounded by half finished mugs of honey and lemon and feeling about as far removed from someone capable of running for 24 hours through the Dolomites as it’s possible to be. That’s the plan, though: on June 24 I’ll be setting off from the Italian mountain village of Cortina to run the 10th edition of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. I’ll need to be ready to run 74 miles of technical trail, and have the strength to power up nearly 6000 metres of elevation. But for now I can’t see myself making it off the sofa.
It’s difficult to put my finger on what worries me the most about this race: the elevation, the distance, running through the night. At the moment I’m mostly just excited. It’s a long way, but then endurance has always been my thing. When other kids were moaning about doing laps of the field I was merrily trotting away. Another lap? Yes please. I function best at either end of two extremes – out for hours on end, or horizontal. I ran a lot as a kid and took it up again seriously a few years ago. Now it’s just what I do. I run.
Running has always been my great love, but as long as I’m outside and moving – long distance, multi day – I’m happy. Cycling, hiking, anywhere from the Scottish Highlands to the South West coast of England to the French Alps. Rucksack, snacks, a long way from A to B, that’s the dream.
When I was looking for a race to run next year, my only real criteria was that the scenery had to be jaw-droppingly stunning. It had to be worth the huge effort and the hours of training. Anton Krupicka (who has done a few of these things) describes Laveredo as ‘the most beautiful race I’ve ever run’. Go on then Anton, you’ve twisted my arm.
Obviously beauty isn’t going to get you round on its own – if only gazing at an Alpine lake bestowed magical running powers. It’s unfortunately going to require a lot of work to just finish a race like this, let alone finish it strongly. Did I mention I love running? That’s going to be very necessary. I ran my first 50 miler last year on the South Downs (where I’m from those are big hills) and it was not a walk in the park. I let myself get really cold and spent 30 minutes in an aid station being fed lemon cake and dressed in warm clothes by kind volunteers. I learnt a lot about what running for 10 hours does to your body, not least that your fingers blow up like sausages. Don’t let this panic you, you can still finish.
I do the majority of my running in Bushy Park and Richmond Park in south-west London, they are both fantastic green spaces, but mountain passes they are not. It’ll be a challenge to train for 6000 metres of elevation given the biggest hill in Bushy is about one metre high. The next few months will involve not only a steady increase in mileage, but a huge focus on replicating conditions. It’s time to go find some hills. Gear, food, clothes everything will need to be tested and ready.
Strava will be great not only for keeping track of miles but also planning out long runs and letting me scope out parts of the route from people who have run the race before.
I honestly have no idea if I’m capable of completing a race like this.
People test boundaries in lots of different ways: it could be trying to break a 30-minute 5km or run a sub three-hour marathon or it could be trying to run 74 miles in the Dolomites. It’s probably harder to hit speed goals, but then I don’t get to run in the mountains and that’s what I really want to do. Something big and scary and beautiful.
One thing I firmly believe is that anything is possible. One day you’ll wake up and the things that once seemed crazy don’t seem so crazy anymore. Anyway, here’s hoping that I can shift this bug and get training again soon. There’s a lot of miles to run between now and June 24th.
We’ll catch up with Polly as her training progresses. Meanwhile, if you fancy a challenge, why not check out the Strava Challenges this month… or set yourself a weekly goal to up your mileage or time pounding the pavement.
Photo credit: Andy Waterman