It’s Saturday morning and I should be out on the trails. I’m sitting on a comfy armchair watching videos and reading articles. With only 28 days until I line up for my first Fling these should be peak training weeks, which, for me, means 55-65 miles – including a good 25-miler.

I came down with a cold 4 days ago. I’ve had worse but it was bad enough to make a 6 mile run feel as sore as the last 6 miles of race. My legs were stiff and uncoordinated my trainers felt like clogs, my head ached and there was much more snotters than usual. I’ve not ran since then so my peak week has consisted of…6 miles.

While far from ideal I’m not getting too worked up about it. I’ve put in pretty consistent miles since November and I still have time to put in a couple of very heavy weeks before a short taper (7-10 days works best).

Running an ultra is a mental challenge as much as physical and, while I’ve never struggled with getting my head around the challenge, I do think I have room to push harder and go a bit deeper into the cave.

I’ve read about the Barkley Marathons. I’ve been aware of the race for a while but only really delved into it this week with the Netflix documentary and following this years race. It included some familiar names in Eion Keith, Ally Beaven and Kaz Williams who I’m aware of through their celtic connections.

The race isn’t something I imagine I’ll ever take part in but I can mentally put myself there through race reports and drawing on my experience of being at the edge of my capabilities. I try to imagine what it would take to finish a single loop of the Barkley, and what it would take to then say, “I would like to go out for loop 2 now please”.

When normies ask me about running and training and I tell them my next race is 53 miles with some hills they usually remark at how hard or mental that sounds.

I must be careful not to start believing them.

If I bumped into Gary Robbins and he asked me what I was training for I’d be embarrassed to tell him. A 53-miler on marked trails is essentially a park run for a lot of people. When I compare what I do to the 1500 mile thru-hikes, the mountain ultras and the 100 milers you find on the CV of even the least experienced Barkley entrants I get a better perspective.

When I think about the challenge I face, I also think about the challenges I wont. In the Hoka Highland Fling, for example, there are no rivers to ford, there is no orienteering required, there is no night-time bushwhacking required, there will be no sleep deprivation, my legs wont be shredded by whatever ‘briars’ are. There course is sign posted, with aid stations, good trail for the most part. When put like this, it actually sounds easy.

So while my training hasn’t been ideal I remember that it doesn’t have to be. Ultra running is about dealing with things going wrong. It’s better to be able to adapt and overcome than be thrown off by something as minor as a cold 4 weeks out from the race.

John Fegyveresi’s Race Report is a lesson in how much more a person can have when they feel like they’ve nothing left. If John was at the limit of his endurance then I’ve never been past halfway of mine. I’ve never even thrown-up, cried, or lost toe-nails.

My plan is to ‘rest’ until Monday, maybe with a couple of easy 6-8 milers and of course some stretching and rolling, then hit it hard for 15-17 days. I feel like my training has built a huge bonfire and now I need to light it with some hard interval and hill sessions.

I’m going to read more reports from Barkley and other races to try to create a mental totem that I’ll use to wring a bit more out of my body on the 28th April.