There are plenty of fit, accomplished runners who think that ultra-marathons (races beyond marathon distance) are something ‘other people’ do. Thirty-nine-year-old Jane Riley was one such runner, until the beginning of 2005, when she read an article in Runner’s World about ultra-running, and decided to give it a try.
“I followed the RW training programme exactly,” she says. Six months later, she successfully completed the Compton Downland Challenge, a 40-mile race in Berkshire. Almost inevitably, she found herself looking for an even bigger task. There was only one UK event that fitted the her needs: the Marathon of Britain.
In preparation for the six-day, 175-mile event, Jane did the MoBlite – back to back off-road marathons – in mid-June. She’s now teamed up with coach Andy Mouncey – who finished third in last year’s MoB – for the main race this September.
Andy will be coaching Jane for the 12 weeks up to the MoB, advising her on training, nutrition, and anything else that comes up as she pushes herself to her limit.
“The initial stage is very much about experimenting with the programme,” says Andy. “There’s a lot of emphasis on keeping detailed training logs – if it’s just another source of stress in a busy lifestyle there’s no point.”
It’s the ambience of ultra-running that has got Jane hooked. “They couldn’t be friendlier, it’s almost like a big family,” she says. “It’s not about beating someone else, it’s about doing what you need to do.”
Jane is making sure that she still has time for going out with friends, pottering in the garden and entertaining her young nephew and niece over the summer – she’s not letting it take over her life. Several of her work colleagues at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham have been inspired to take up running after hearing about her exploits, and she is keen to point out that she started from exactly the same point that they did.
“I couldn’t even do a mile when I started running,” she recalls. “I only did it because someone said ‘I bet you can’t’.”
As part of the coaching programme, Andy and Jane have their own thread on the Marathon of Britain website forum, where you can follow Jane’s progress and see how a runner with a full-time job and a life outside training prepares for such a gruelling event. You can add comments and questions of your own - who knows, you might find yourself lining up alongside her in the 2006 race...