Monday, 9th December 2019
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by @garyfallsover
Monday 17th August 2015

Gary Dalton faces a problem that most runners will come across at some stage of their running career - on the one hand there is the race, the one that matters the most and that fills our dreams, on the other is an injury (or two or three in Gary's case!) that can only get worse and which means that we are not as fit as we would like to be. Sense and experience say to wait for a better day, but the heart craves the challenge and the experience - the desire to throw caution to the wind and just go for it...

What would you do?

To start or not to start? That is the question!

Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the cramps and shits of outrageous dehydration or to take up poles against a 35 degree gradient and, by hiking, conquer them?

You’ll have to forgive me for starting off in such dramatic fashion but I’m in a dramatic mood. You see I’m at something of an impass. One of the reasons I started this column was because I was scared. I was scared of a challenge ,which in my mind was far greater than anything I had faced before and in my mind, by sharing it, even with the friends and family who I knew would feel obliged to read about it made it feel just that little less scary.

I wrote an article last year, which detailed my fear approaching a race I had no real expectation of finishing (HERE). When I fulfilled that expectation and ended my race in a helicopter, flown seemingly by a frustrated member of the Italian version of the Red Arrows I wrote about that too (HERE).

And so, a month before I’m supposed to toe the start line of the Tor Des Geants, I’m again consumed by doubts and fears. This time however I’m a year older, arguably a year wiser and most certainly not the same runner that I was last year. My left knee is particularly different to the one I started the race with last year.

In the intervening year I’ve had a total of seven weeks of uninjured training and I’m far from uninjured now. I’ve tried to train around the injury, but that never really works does it? You just end up frustrated because you can’t do what you feel you should be doing and the slow loss of fitness is somehow felt more keenly.

So there’s really no getting around the fact that I’m not race fit. I’m more race fat.

My right ankle still hasn’t recovered fully from my tearing its ligaments in May, my left foot seems to have decided that a month before a huge race is an ideal time to develop a case of plantar fasciitis and my troublesome left knee is still missing the cartilage/meniscus I tore high on an Italian col last year.

So as I sit here on my couch, hours after another frustrating run, I have a decision to make. Not necessarily right now, but soon.

In the next couple of weeks I need to decide whether I put aside all my reservations and toe the line, or whether I let sense prevail and cut my losses for the year, admit defeat and try again another time. I’m afraid I’m no better than most at making logical decisions and I think as runners we’re particularly bad and though I swore after the Tor last year I’d never risk my health for a race, it’s not quite as clear cut as I’d like it to be.

In my heart and my head I have no real expectation of finishing. Unlike last year, I know exactly what to expect and a weak ankle is not what I want to be relying on 13,000ft above sea level, on what looks like a moonscape of jagged rocks and scree. This race has a finishers rate that rarely climbs over 60% and, even when you get everything right in your preparation, there’s a lot that the course can throw at you when you’re travelling over 330km in the Italian mountains. I have no desire to be, yet again, a burden on the Italian mountain rescue services and, though I did share out my remaining Haribo last year, I felt even that wasn’t sufficient compensation for making the pilot land on the side of a mountain.

I want to do it though. I want to be on that start line. To test myself and see how far I can get. I had some of the most magical experiences of my life on last years race and I need to see if that was a one-off or if I can experience those highs again. For me this is the race. The race I’ll always come back to if I’m allowed. And that’s worth the risk right?

So my question is this. What would you do?


About The Author

Gary Dalton

Gary Dalton is a rugby loving, crime fighting, white Irish Muslim ultra runner. Despite all this he's not a complete eejit. 

Gary is originally from the west of Ireland and can't actually remember when he moved to London - he blames a heavy diet of being tackled by prop forwards and potatoes for the memory loss. He hates going out for runs, canals and borderline hypothermia and loves ice cream and going out for runs. 


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Post A Comment



by Gary
19:45, Monday 17th August 2015
Kirsty you've pretty managed to hit the nail on the head in line with my thinking. No pressure, just enjoy how I get on for as long as I get on. You're a genius!


by kirsty
13:37, Monday 17th August 2015
Gary, gutted that you're in this position. But, I reckon if you can put together a plan that makes for a good, realistic challenge with a concrete end goal (ie I'm going to get to this point and then stop) then you'll have achieved something and you won't end up really disappointed at DNFing. If the flights are booked then I reckon go for a long run and then a few days of Italian coffee and holiday. And the mental strength it will take to resist the macho, do-or-die, finish-at-all-costs-even-if-my-leg-is-hanging-off-grrrr, will be excellent ultra training! 1 month left to work out where your realistic limit is. Do it!
TereréJordan Blood