Sunday: I had planned on doing an evening run when I returned from our camping trip, but I ended up slipping in some water that had dripped on our hardwood, falling and hitting my head hard on the wall. My first concussion. I spent the night resting and confused.
Monday: I felt better this morning so went for my morning run down by the river. Happy I did, as always.
Tuesday: Getting a little sad to be leaving Boise–it is such a nice place to run and explore, but also excited for our ever changing life. I always like to spend time on these trails before we ship out.
Wednesday: Running against the wind. It added to the challenge.
Thursday: A run down by the Boise River had my heart aching with the thought of leaving. No doubt I am excited to run down by the river in Sarajevo though. I felt strong and happy to move my legs before a long, long 24 hour flight back home.
Friday: We woke up super early to catch our flight, so I couldn’t run. 😦
Saturday: The flight took 23 hours so was forced to take another day off. On the bright side, we made it back to Sarajevo
Bangkok Runners is this amazing and welcoming running group—that is how I was introduced to Chris. On the weekends, runners would meet to run in the Khao Mai Keow jungle, located outside of Pattaya, Thailand. He rarely missed. Sometimes even when I had made no plans of a group trail blaze, I would bump into Chris in the jungle. There is nothing like running among venomous snakes in the hot and humid jungle that solidifies a bond. It takes a certain kind of person to actively pursue those types of runs.
Chris Bell has competitively run countless races. He has moved from Thailand and is now in the United Kingdom, continuing his impressive running stats. I shot him some questions to hear his perspective on running.
How long have you been running? I started running towards the end of 2011 when I was living in Bangkok. I hadn’t been very active for a few years, and felt that my health was suffering. I had never been a runner before this, as I always found myself out of breath and exhausted within a couple of minutes, and that wasn’t much fun. I figured that because it was so difficult, it would be a great way of getting my fitness and health back on track. With the high temperature and humidity in Thailand, I decided to start out by running inside an air conditioned room on a treadmill. It took a while, but eventually I felt my fitness and endurance improving, and progressed to running outside. Running outside was much more fun than running on a treadmill, and I found myself more motivated able to run for longer and longer distances. In June 2012, I ran my first race. It was the Phuket Half Marathon in the south of Thailand. In training I had only managed to run up to 16km, so I was very nervous about being able to complete the 21.1km. Fortunately, the fantastic atmosphere and adrenaline rush of race day made all the difference, and I was able to make it to the finish in a time of 1hr, 52min. It was one of the proudest moments of my life to have completed a half marathon, knowing that running even 100m was almost an impossibility about 8 months before. I was hooked.
What is the longest distance you have run? Over the years I’ve upped the distance on the races I’ve entered. One of the biggest milestones was my first marathon in Bangkok in November of 2013. It was extremely tough, but after completing a race of this distance, I genuinely believed that any distance was possible with sufficient training, motivation, dedication, and a fair amount of stubbornness. After the marathon, it wasn’t much of a jump to do a 50km ultra-marathon, although since it was a trail race, it took a lot longer to complete than a marathon. 7 hours and 6 min to be precise. That’s a long time to be on your feet in the sun, but it gave me the confidence to go on to even longer challenges. My next major milestone was 100km at the North Face 100 Thailand in January 2016. It was a long and very hot race, but it felt incredible to cross the finish line. After a few more 100km races, I took on my biggest challenge to date – a 100 mile trail race in Sherwood Forest, England in September 2017. Despite a few issues during the race, my stubbornness helped me to make it to the finish in 17 hours 46 minutes, and take the overall win. It feels amazing to think that 6 years before I couldn’t run 100 metres without being completely out of breath, and 128 races and a lot of training later, I was able to win a 100 mile race. It just shows what we can accomplish if we put our minds to it.
How does one train for races that last through the night? I haven’t really given much thought to training for races that last through the night. I suppose it’s just the same as any long race – you just need to focus on keeping moving forward. As long as you keep yourself fed and hydrated and keep going, you’ll make it through to the morning. If you keep upping your distance, over time you become used to running while exhausted, and that prepares you for long races in the dark.
Trail or road? Why? For me, trail is far more enjoyable than road. The variety of surface, the challenging climbs and descents, and the amazing scenery of trail running makes it much more fun than running on flat roads. Every runner should try trail running.
What has been your favorite race so far? My favourite race so far is a difficult one. There have been so many great ones that it’s almost impossible to choose. Transylvania 100k is up there due to the amazing scenery and the difficulty of the course and conditions. The London Marathon was a special race due to the great support from the crowds and the fact that I’d watched it on tv many times when I was growing up, and never thought that I’d be out there running it myself. If I had to choose one race though, it has to be the Ocean to Ocean relay race in Thailand in 2014. This was a 120km road race that started on the west coast of Thailand (the Indian Ocean side), and ended on the East coast (the Pacific Ocean side). What made this race so unforgettable for me was the people that took part in the race with me. The 8 of us knew each other slightly before travelling down together, but by then end of the event we were all great friends who would go on to share many other great adventures together. Running can be a very solitary sport sometimes. A lot of people train on their own, and end up racing alone, even when surrounded by many other runners. I would highly recommend that people try a team relay event if they get the chance. It’s really nice to be able to share the race experience so closely with others, and this can bring a bond and friendship between you that lasts long after the event has ended.
As a fellow traveling runner, what are some travel races you would suggest others to venture to and take on? Although I have completed a lot of races, I’ve not done that many in different countries. Having been based in Thailand for almost 12 years, I’ve done a lot of races there. After relocating back to the UK, I’ve started to tick off a few of the races over here too. Other than that I’ve only done a marathon in Tenerife and the Transylvania 100k in Romania. In my limited experience, I’d have to recommend the Transylania trail race to any experienced trail runners out there. It’s not one to be taken lightly though, and is a serious challenge no matter which of the different race distances you decide to tackle. Although I haven’t done much in the way of long distance travelling to races, it’s something that I hope to increase in the future. It’s a great way to see new countries, and have a fantastic race experience at the same time.
What is a race you would like to forget? If I had to choose a race to forget it has to be the Bangkok Marathon. Amazingly, I did this event twice. The first time was my first ever marathon, so I guess it holds a special place in my memory. However, the course itself was awful. The route went along an elevated 3-lane expressway in a straight line for 13 miles, did a u-turn and then came back the same way. It started at 2am, so everything was dark and the only thing you could see was the white lines on the road and the concrete barriers at the road sides. There was no support, and nothing to take your mind off the long straight road ahead. Mentally, it was extremely tough as it felt like you were not making any forward progress. It stands out above all other races I’ve done as the most boring and tedious race out there. I still don’t really know why I signed up a 2nd time, but I regretted it for pretty much the whole way around and vowed not to sign up a third time.
You are about to leave for a fell race. Could you explain the history of fell races? Fell running is a traditionally British sport, and is sometimes referred to an hill running or mountain running. A fell is classed as a hilly or mountainous area that is usually barren. It is often very rocky and may or may not have clearly defined trails. What makes fell running stand out from trail running is the focus on steep, technical climbs and descents, and the need for navigation skills. Fell races often don’t have a clearly defined route, but instead give out the co-ordinates of a number of different locations that must be passed. It is up to each runner to decide which route to take. You may choose to follow small trails that are easy to follow but can be long and windy, or go the direct route straight up near vertical ascents over even more technical terrain. The best fell runners know the local terrain like the back of their hand, and are strong on the climbs and fearless on the descents.
What are your thoughts on doing this race? It is an intense and exciting form of racing that requires a lot of concentration, fitness, and a touch of madness. I’m always excited and a bit nervous when I head out to fell races as I know that in order to do well you have to push yourself to the limit on the climbs and take big risks on the downhills. I always get a big rush of adrenaline, and a feeling of relief when I get to the finish in one piece.
The classic running question–why do you run? Why do I run? I started running purely for health and fitness, as I mentioned earlier. However, I found that after a short while I began to love it. The feeling of freedom running through forests and jungles, over hills and mountains and along rivers and coastlines under your own power is something that always fills me with joy and makes me feel alive. Knowing that I am getting such a lift whilst also doing a lot to improve my health and energy levels is a huge bonus. I’ve also found myself making some great and long-lasting friendships with people from all around the world through running. No matter the background of the runner, we all share a common bond when we run, and this brings everyone together. Running is fundamentally such a simple thing, but it has the power to change lives. I encourage everyone to get out there and give it a try.
The same week as my race, my mother and mother-in-law had surprised me with a spa day so I could get a deep tissue massage to work out some of the knots that have been hanging around for too long. My massage lady nailed those knots, but it left me seriously wondering if I would be able to run again, much less race on Saturday. It seemed like she had brought back my plantar fasciitis full force and added a knee issue to boot that was nonexistent prior to the massage. I did some self-medicating, I went to the doctor, foam-rolled, iced, rested, and elevated. I had all but written off showing up to the race. I almost didn’t even get the race packet, but the runner in me wouldn’t cave. By Saturday, all of that pain was gone and I was in better shape than when I went in, so all’s well that ends well.
To add insult to injury, I spent the night before the race at a concert, carb-loading via red wine where I had one drink too many. I did not reap the benefits.
I did manage to make it to the race, where I had the usual and awesome support of my family. See below my pom-pomed son.
So, once I got myself there, I drank the coffee and ate the bananas they had set out for us. This was rough on the stomach, but ultimately I had consume calories and caffeine or I wouldn’t be racing.
After I got my bib, I looked around and realized it was going to be a pretty tiny race. Most people had signed up for the half marathon or the 5k. I had decided to do the 10k to try to get a specific time, which I knew between the injury prone week leading up to it and the wine carbs, I was going to fall short of my goal. I figured getting myself there and doing the race at this point was sufficient.
They did a countdown, and we were off. I pretty much stayed at a 5:10 (per kilometer) pace. I felt much better once I started running, but I certainly was not running at peak performance. There were two or three times I had to check to make sure I was on the right course, but it was pretty well marked. The greenbelt system in Boise just has a lot of path and the course did have quite places to turn around, so at times that made it a little confusing. I carried the map with me and worked it out. That didn’t help my time though.
I came across the finish line about 5-10 minutes behind what I had planned months ago, but that is okay. 10k is not my racing distance. I may look for another one to test out how or if I can improve, but I am still focused on the half and full marathons. I did manage to come in first woman overall, and second runner overall, but again, it was a small race.
I was impressed with the race organization. I knew it was going to be a bit of a mom and pop show, but they had a great swag bag, cool tech shirt, coffee and scones for pre-race goods. The race used timing chips, they had plenty of volunteers, music to start us off. The awards were also pretty sweet-better than most races, really.
The week didn’t start off that great in the injury sector. It has ended much better than it started.
Sunday: Took the day after the marathon off to recover. My recovery time has been much shorter in recent years.
Monday: I went slow and easy. B joined me on his bike. It was good to get some good quality time in with my son. He is a good conversationalist.
Tuesday: Felt pretty good considering my legs are still a bit wobbly from Saturday’s race.
Wednesday: Taking it easy but definitely should not have run on this foot. I went to get a deep tissue massage yesterday. My plantar fasciitis is back now. This sucks. Also, California and Oregon are on fire– the smoke has traveled to Idaho making outside sports a little bit less fun.
Thursday: My foot is starting to get back to normal, but it is still hurting and not even close to 100%. The elevation felt good tho.
Friday: This is not my week. My PF seems to have improved but now my knee hurts from that same deep tissue massage.
Saturday: I wrapped my knee yesterday and in the morning, foam rolled, and crossed my fingers. It worked. My knee had no issues and I managed to complete my race as first place woman, second place overall runner.
While that massage caused some serious issues in the short-term, I think my PF may be completely gone now. Things are on the up and up.
Being just far enough away from our home to not warrant turning around into our already long road trip to northern Idaho, I realized I had accidentally went all purist and forgot my headphones and armband at home. I ended up doing this marathon sans music. I always leave the music at home for trail runs, but road running is a different kind of beast so I was a little nervous–pushing myself and going all out just short of four hours without music. It worked out– I enjoyed being in my head without any annoyances, fumbling around with technology. I have two young kids and a husband. Quiet time is golden.
Road tripping to the in-laws and then on to my hometown in northern Idaho was a trip in more than one sense. We traveled around northern Idaho for the week prior to my marathon, seeing loads of people, stirring up old memories and making new ones. The kids took horse riding lessons from their grandma, we hiked around some beautiful places, and I got to see my 96-year-old grandmother. I even got to see some old university buddies. It was pretty awesome. Traveling before the race did lead to some challenges–not the greatest eating, falling a little behind on rest, and generally being slightly less prepared than I knew I could have been for the marathon. Let’s just call it a few days of carb-loading and a solid rest day on Friday–it took 8.5 hours to drive from my hometown to Idaho Falls.
Road tripping while listening to Johnny Cash.
After an extensive amount of time spent in the car, it was good to arrive in Idaho Falls, pick up my packet and swag bag, and figure out a few important locations of the race.
We got to see friends from our Kazakhstan days, too. They have a house in Idaho Falls, so we stayed with them, spending the evening catching up.
For the morning of the race, I set my alarm for 4 am.
I drank some coffee, grabbed a banana, and my husband took to me to the buses. This course required us to be bused out to Bone, Idaho for our start at 5:30 am. I sat next to this cool lady–this was her 48th state that she had run a marathon in. She was 60 years old. I want to be like her.
It ended up being a 15 minutes late start, but no one complained. We ran alongside windmills, a sunrise, fields of wheat, cows, and in some pretty comfortable temperatures. There were also lots of rolling hills. More than I expected. I had set my goal thinking those hills were smaller. For whatever reason, the last few years hills and I have struggled to find a symbiotic relationship. It is more of a parasitic relationship. That elevation gain in the beginning messed with me both physically and mentally. I had moments of doubting myself and my ability.
Thankfully for my goal time, the hills only lasted for around 11 or 12 miles. Then it was a steep downhill for about 5 miles (8 kilometers). This is where I made up some of my lost time. I regained my third place on the descent, which was a little touch-and-go, but ultimately I was able to hold that position.
After the downhill portion, it leveled out and remained flat for the rest of the race. As the course wound through residential areas, I started to feel like I was running a marathon, in the sense of feeling its difficulty. When there was roughly a quarter of the race left, I was up and down with my energy levels. I made sure to take at least two cups of water and a Gatorade at each station, about two miles apart. I had also brought along five energy gels and two electrolyte tablets, making me semi-nauseated for a majority of the race, but a necessary evil. Even with these precautions, I was feeling the push.
I managed to miss one of the arrow stickers, ending up going down a wrong street for a quarter mile. A man more conscious of his surroundings than I at that moment, waved me back onto course. After this, the half marathon runners merged with the full, resulting in plenty of people to follow on the weaving course.
The whole time I was running, I was mentally calculating possible finishing times, readjusting for the times I felt depleted and for the times I was feeling strong. Somewhere in the last 3 miles I knew that if I ran just a little bit tired, I wouldn’t make a sub-4. If I dropped down to a comfortable pace, I wouldn’t make my goal. Testing my mental strength and ability is, in part, why I do this. I went with all I had.
I was really grateful to have my family and friends there at the finish. Mr. G ran with me at the end so he could get pictures of me finishing. Super sweet.
I was beyond stoked to get a 3:54:28 as my finishing time. I did have a better time in mind, but those hills. I need to find a completely flat marathon someday. Still. I was really happy. It was 9 minutes faster than my last PR.
Idaho Falls Marathon was a well-organized race, with lots of support and volunteers. They had a fun theme–Christmas in July. This was a little bit of a selling point for me, if I am being honest.
After the race I waited around for the awards ceremony and had a recovery beer. A hazelnut brown ale. I failed to get a picture of this, but trust me. It was good.
Then we played tourist and went to check out the actual waterfalls of Idaho Falls.