Eat pies, drink beer, run far

#Run1000Miles ambassador Neil Shoesmith on his motivations for completing the challenge

 Neil Shoesmith and Spud (pic credit: Endurancelife Pembrokeshire)

Neil Shoesmith and Spud (pic credit: Endurancelife Pembrokeshire)

My #Run1000Miles this year is a challenge within a challenge within a challenge.
 
A few years ago I decided after seeing and hearing of all these people running marathons that I wanted a piece of the action - except I had never run more than a half distance and don’t like the idea of a head-down charge around a town-centre staring at a Garmin. A quick search online, however, and I discovered there was a whole world of trail races and I set myself the challenge of 12 trail marathons in 12 months.
 
There’s no point in hiding the elephant in the room - I’m fat and slow. I race in a shirt emblazoned with "Eat Pies" and in my first ever trail marathon I finished last. With a few miles to go I wanted to curl up in a ball and sob my heart out, but three miles later and crossing the finish line I was hooked.
 
Fast-forward a few years and I’m closing in on 100 trail marathons. I have also been doing a lot of 'what ifs' around distance: Exactly how far can I push myself, what is my limit and if I don’t give it a go then how will I know? 

Last year, as part of #Run1000Miles I ran my furthest ever distance: 110km in the beautiful scenery of the Lake District. Yes it hurt at times, but it was an immense experience and by chance I met and spent time with some fellow 1000-milers along the way, sharing some of the 'crazy’, hearing their inspiring tales of what spurs them to aim for 1000 miles. So wear your ruff with pride when you are out running as you never know whom you will bump in to!
 
This year I’ve upped the ante again. I managed to scrape a qualifier time for the Lakeland 100, so I’ve decided it's time to put on my big-boy pants and try for my first 100-mile race: 10% of the challenge in one go in around a day and a half! I may fail to reach the finish, but in doing so I will have traveled over some of the finest trails on offer in the country, seen some stunning views and shared some more time with fascinating characters I would otherwise never have met. Five years ago I would never have thought entering such an event would be achievable, especially for a FLAB (Fat Lad At the Back) like me. It's amazing where a bit of time on your feet on trails will take you, even if like me you live somewhere without a real hill for miles around.
 
To push myself onward towards the 1000 miles last year I made the step of taking a commitment that ensures I get out for at least one long run a week, regardless of weather. I volunteered to lead a group trail run for my village running club, Hook Runners, on Sunday mornings. This sees me in advance poring over OS Maps to plan a 10-12-mile route, trying new and different paths around my village in the middle of Hampshire. Shaking the route up each week has ensured it is never repetitive or tedious and it has also been a great way for Spud, my faithful trailhound, and I to share the miles with other people.
 
Exploring my local surroundings has helped me find some absolute gems I would never have discovered, from historic buildings, tunnels, beautiful views, a plethora of WWII pillboxes. Being out on trails you see an amazing amount of flora and fauna as the seasons change, including some close encounters with notoriously secretive Muntjac deer.
 
Finally, as well as improving on times over distances, my running 1000 miles this year is about keeping the pounds from piling on and allowing me to keep to my mantra: Eat pies, drink beer, run far.