And so it begins … training for the Para’s 10 Challenge on 21 October. Who’s stupid idea was it to do this, I ask you (although that wasn’t a question, really)! Yes, I admit the prospect of training for a ten-mile race was rather appealing – a bit of a break from distance running which my head adores but my body not so much. And the prospect of meeting up with some fellow runners from the London to Brighton challenge also sounded like fun. But the button was right there in front of me on the entry form to enter the standard race. It was right there! It really was! So why couldn’t I press it and go and have some fun running a 10-mile course like most other runners who enjoy 10 mile races? I couldn’t, could I? Nope! I had to ignore that button and move my hand slightly to the right and press on the adjacent button – the one that said P Company Entries and hey ho, with one little click I’ve signed myself up to run the 10 miles in military boots and carrying 35lbs/16kg on my back! What an idiot!
And so training begins. Well, it’s different, I can tell you that. Interesting, too. I sought out some expertise before buying any boots (thank you, Bob!) and finally became the proud owner of a pair of Magnums which I can neither eat on a sunny day nor point at anyone and say ‘Make my day!’ Either of those would be preferable, but no, these ones go on my feet. Is there a foot-size restriction in the army? Jeez, you should try finding a size 5 in any of these boots. Almost impossible. They still feel big (to be honest, I think they stuck a size 5 label on size 6 boots just to keep me happy lol) but we’re starting to come to terms with each other. I’ve found a way to stop my feet moving around in them, I’ve sucked it up and dealt with the rubbing and skin off around the back of my heels and we are beginning to get on. I’ve definitely cracked the code for walking/running in them, too. For me, at least, it’s 100% psychological. On my first tentative couple of walks I was aware of the weight and relative discomfort all the time. Then it occurred to me that I was spending too much time thinking about it. I decided to try imagining I was simply wearing my trainers. Absolute bloody magic! No problem at all after that. The ‘walking-in-the-boots’ challenge box is well and truly ticked.
The bergen, however, is a whole other story. Bring on the challenge!! Massive thank you (again) to Bob – for going to the trouble of conjuring up a bergen AND camos for me. The training plan supplied by the Paras (no doubt for us beginners to this lark) suggests a combination of building up running in boots with what I call ‘weighted’ runs in trainers – in other words, either doing sessions with boots on or sessions with the bergen – but not both at once. It also suggests building up from 15 lbs in the bergen to 30 lbs (no sessions with 35 lbs – I wonder why??). Anyway, I’ve sorted my own training plan now – based on the suggested training ideas and knowledge of my own capabilities. Now I’m even more worried about that weight!! I’ve done a 5 km trot with 20lbs in a ‘normal’ rucksack – and an 8-mile walk. 20lbs is not too bad. Today, however, it was my first outing with the bergen – a very different feel altogether. I was also determined to take the worry away about the weight by doing 10k with the full 35 lbs – just to know that it was possible. At least 10k would give me a feel for what it was going to be like. Well, what can I say? I did it! Am I any less worried? Erm …. No! Jesus, that’s HEAVY!! Compared to my 20lb rucksack, the Bergen is also HUGE – much harder to carry on my ‘relatively’ small frame. Packing it is going to be key. Yesterday, I played around with a 10kg sandbag in it – thinking that’d be a good start, but there’s no way to stabilise it and it also means the weight is going from top to bottom, whereas I’d rather have more weight higher up and away from my lower back. I ditched the sandbag. For my 10k walk this morning I settled on a sleeping bag at the bottom with 2 x 6kg dumbells cushioned between sleeping bag ‘layers’. I didn’t have time to weigh it but I figure that it was close enough to 16 kgs with the bergen and the sleeping bag – and by the time the bergen was truly SATURATED with rain I’m sure it weighed more!! This still needs work. The sleeping bag’s too soft and over time the weights found their way further and further down my back.
The bergen weighting game continues …
– what to put at the bottom to keep the heavier weights closer to the top;
– What to use as weights – any alternative to dumbells?
What I’ve learned today
1. It’s f***ing heavy
2. The thought of running with it is a lot worse than the actual act! It’s manageable (just).
3. It’s f***ing heavy
4. My glutes are definitely NOT doing the work they should be. Action required.
Did 2010 (2:03) despite damaged achillies, due to too much hilly running with boots. Was specifically fit but barely able to run in the last 6 weeks.
Did 2011 (1:59) mainly bike training while achillies (crucified by 2010 event) recovered. Event was paced better. So generally fitter but not specifically fit.
What approach did you decide to take? I would love to compare notes.
I was not prepared for the amount of gradual climbing the first time or calf cramp after the wading at the 9th mile.
Hi Tim. Impressed that you did it twice – are you going back for No. 3? I don’t think I’ll ever do this one again – not with boots, anyway. The training left with plantar fasciitis and seriously affected everything for a months afterwards! I would definitely not recommend this challenge to anybody with any kind of injury. In terms of training I took it in stages. I either walked lots in the boots – very gradually progressing to running short distances OR I ran in trainers with gradually increased weight. I only combined the two (boots and weight) in the last couple of weeks. In retrospect I think my training definitely worked. Fitness-wise I felt great. Those damn boots, though ……………. never again lol