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Every step is a PB

by Robert Britton
Wednesday 2nd April 2014

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team Inov-8 and Team Centurion, is training hard on La Palma, where he is preparing for the Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team Inov-8 and Team Centurion, is training hard on La Palma, where he is preparing for the Transvulcania Ultramarathon

I stopped, bent down and put my hands on my knees. I was shattered. The plan was to run the first 35k of the TransVulcania course and push myself, knowing full well how quickly the likes of Sage Canaday and Kilian Jornet had raced across this terrain. I was less than halfway, shattered and much slower than those chaps. I wanted to sit down and go to sleep on the side of this mountain, in a cloud. What was the point?

It didn't take me long to snap my head back into a good place though. One of the best thing about running is that is a personal journey, often one that is always on the up. Year on year runners look to improve and get better. We're actually shocked each time we're not faster, not matter what other factors are involved. I knew I was 10 times the runner I was 12 months ago whilst shattered on that hill and I'm excited that there is so much to do on this journey still!

Things must be getting a bit rubbish for Kilian Jornet these days? I mean, he has won nearly every race he wants to, he very rarely gets to celebrate a PB, he has to run in Salomon Gear ALL the time and the only way his descending is going to get any quicker is if he takes up BASE jumping.

For the rest of us it is great news! We're not the best....yet. The joy of a PB is the same if you're my mate Mick getting under 25 minutes for the first time at Park Run or someone like Steve Way or Paul Navesey smashing a 100k or 50 mile PB at the front of the field.

One of the great things about ultra marathons is that every time you run a new distance, be it 50km, 56 miles or 168km it's a new personal best! Every time you take a step further than you have run before, it's a new PB for that distance. Now days I have to run over 153 miles to do that but on the way up I enjoyed the fact that from mile 56 to mile 100 of Caesars Camp in 2010 I was setting a PB with every step (except for the couple of side to side swaggers I did in the middle of the night) and even if it took me nearly 28 hours to reach the finish line.

So the first climb in TransVulcania is tough. From sea level up to nearly 2000m in about 20km, on loose volcanic sand like rock, which saps your energy with each step and takes away any momentum. How Sage Canaday made it to Refugio El Pilar in 2:20 last year I have no idea?

The good news is that after that first uphill, which is still staggeringly beautiful, the trail is magnificent. Runnable woodland single track, rocky uphill switchbacks and winding fire road through clouds, it is all lovely to run on and if you can make it through the first 2000m without destroying your legs then you are in for a treat!

Sunday was an important part of my build up for TransVulcania, which, although my first A race of the year, is completely out of my comfort zone. Only once before have I been as high up a mountain and that was in Chamonix and I had definitely not run from sea level. Yet I was disappointed that, after my biggest week of training ever, with more miles, more hours and more vertical kilometres, I was exhausted at the top. I forgot the beauty of a taper and had underestimated the water and food I would need that day. I had overestimated my ability a little.

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team Inov-8 and Team Centurion, is training hard on La Palma, where he is preparing for the Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Monday was a rest day and my God, it felt good to not have to get up and run. For about 6 hours. Then I wanted to go running again. Fight the urge and rest those muscles! Rest makes you stronger, it is when your muscles grow. All this is true and what I say to people on a daily basis but that doesn't mean I don't still find it difficult!

2014 is a year when I'm going to be pushing further and further out of comfortable. It's my first year truly dedicated to running and everything seems to be getting better and better, but I wanted to put across that it isn't all easy street. Everyone has tough days training, no matter how good you are (accept for Paul Navesey, everything is easy for Paul).

Race day is what all this hard work is for, what keeps you honest and keeps me pushing hard in training. Mainly due to race envy with the South Downs Way 50 this weekend I have got myself a little 28km race to do as well. 28km PB here we come!

The Reventon Trail El Paso is another great race on La Palma, attracting a real good level of local and Spanish competitors to race from El Paso, up to the Cumbre (the big ridge in the middle of the island) at Reventon, trot along a little bit and then turn at Refugio El Pilar and smash it back down to El Paso.

The race director invited me for a wee meeting and, with my wonderful hosts/interpreters/agents Connie and Fritz, we talked about the event and they would like me to be part of the press conference before the race with the other top runners. Omar Hernandez told me that the descent was "muy technical" and this is where I could win the race. I told Omar that this is where I would probably lose the race, due to the fact I'm still a bit of a soft Southern Fairy when it comes to descending! Practice, practice, practice!

Plus a hotel is sponsoring the race so I get two nights out of the hut and free breakfast (where I will no doubt fill my pockets full of food for the day as well). I imagine I will prefer the hut, but maybe a bit of time in society will help my escaping mind?

As for the press conference, I have to practice my Spanish as so far I've only got "guappa señorita", "grand cervesa vodka y red bull solo cinqo euros" and "mi llamo Robbie soy de Londres".  Probably best I get a haircut too... Where are those scissors?


About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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