Stretch your limits

#Run1000Miles ambassador Hailey Fletcher on the need to push yourself further than you think possible

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Maybe it's this time of year - the days are shorter in a practical sense, challenges stack up, the post-Christmas glow means that we feel that pull towards loved ones more acutely and so all other things seem to be a wall between us and them. It's still dark. It's still grey. It's still wet. We're all stretched.

And yet, somehow we find that motivation within us and get out for a run. The #Run1000Miles challenge gives us parameters, goals and targets - just the sort of thing that we start looking for in January. Now, how do we maintain motivation and also ensure that running is not a means to an end but an end in itself?

In 1991 one of the juggernauts of the Christmas shopping lists (first released mid-1970s, we had it in the 1990s and making yet another comeback for 2018!) was Stretch Armstrong. My childhood friend had one and we'd devise ways of stretching this guy to infinity, the fascination of course being, would he return to his previous unstretched form? He always did.

It was reassuring that whatever torture we'd inflict on Mr Armstrong, he'd always have the resilience to bounce back.

When we stretch ourselves on the track, road or trail, we do it, safe in the knowledge that we will bounce back. We'll be ready to hit the next rep, tomorrow's training, this weekend's race. We might even bounce back even better, stronger, more resilient than before.

One day, I finally got hold of my own Stretch Armstrong. I wanted to know how he always bounced back so I made a small incision, to find out. He was never the same again.

I guess we can all be stretched and it can be a really positive thing - inertia is boring right? You can't fulfil your potential if you don't stretch yourself. And I think that's what #Run1000Miles is all about - keeping some spring in your stretch!

I brought in the new year with 8 miles of renewal - 4 miles up, 4 miles down at the Nine Standards - an old-school fell race. And man, it hurt after a Christmas of good food and drink.

So instead of reinventing brand new resolutions this year,  I'm going to focus on keeping standards in 2018, building on my 2017 achievements and learning from mistakes.

My nine standards to maintain for 2018 (in no particular order) are:

1. Stay injury free: in so far as it's in my control. That means stretching. Not racing every week. Give myself time to recover.

2. Keep things exciting. Buy myself a road bike - I'm riding the 74km Tour of Flanders in April! Run and bike.

3. Maintain 20 miles a week (ish) to represent for Trail Running magazine's #Run1000Miles!

4. Consistently update the blog. Stay up to date and make the effort to review races in detail.

5. Continue to make healthy eating choices (most of the time!).

6. Build on results so far by challenging myself to commit to more structured training and building self confidence by running as part of a group.

7. Be honest with myself: I couldn't come up with any more standards so there we go!