Earlier in the year I'd tentatively planned for the Liverbird on New Year's Eve to be my 100th, but when it looked like I'd be done well before that, this one was the only real target to aim for. I knew the course well having done it a few times before (and twice in a day last year), and having done a few of Denzil’s races over the years I thought it would be great to finally get my 100 club shirt from him at one of his events. The main reason though, was that I knew a lot the people I've shared the last 99 races with would be there.
I’ll be honest, it was a really fucking weird day. On the one hand it was all totally familiar. I’d done the race before, knew how to get there, where to park etc. and when I arrived it was to see a load of familiar faces (apart from Gill, Adam and Jason who all turned up an hour late!). I was never going to be having a go at it for a time, I had three marathons in the last week in my legs, and a lot of the people there were also doing the evening race and/or the next six days of the November Nightmare so I was in no mood to go haring off.
As it was I ran a couple of laps with Rich, Nick and Tony, before me and Rich edged ahead of them. Then it was just the two of us running around in circles, catching people up now and again, and getting lapped by the faster runners on the 0.8mile loop. From that perspective it was pretty cool, as I got to see loads of people throughout the race that I wouldn’t have if it was a single loop.
I remembered from the last time I’d done it there was about 1800’ of ascent for the 32 laps, and although it didn’t feel that tough, we were clocking some pretty slow laps towards the end. To be fair though we were faffing around quite a bit, stopping most laps at the checkpoint for sweets and coke, chatting and walking up the main hill for the latter laps, and generally not pushing things too hard.
Then there were three laps left, then two, and then it was all over. I came in to a round of applause from Denzil and the runners that had finished, and after waiting for most of the other runners to come in, was presented with my 100 Club shirt and got stuck into the awesome cake that Gill, Adam and Jason had brought with them.
It was a strange feeling to finally reach 100. There was no massive sense of relief because it had been coming for ages and I was never not going to finish on the day. And there was no sense of being “finished”, because I’m still going to run marathons and ultras (although I’ll have a few more weekends off now for sure). I was happy that so many people I’ve run with the last year in particular were there, especially Nick, Rich, Steve, Gill and Adam, and I’m so glad I got to run my 100th with them rather than sneaking off to do it somewhere nobody knew me (which I’d thought about).
And without getting all self-indulgent and wanky about it, this whole “getting in the 100 Club” thing hasn’t really been about the numbers at all for me. I thought it might get a bit soul-destroying towards the end, just knocking them out to get another one ticked off, but it’s not been like that at all. I’ve met so many awesome people over the last year that I’d never have gotten to know otherwise, and had so many adventures it’s been brilliant. Even on a few of the 4am starts when I wondered what the hell I was doing, by the time it came to run, it was all for more than “just another marathon”. For me it was always about getting into the club rather than hitting 100, just being part of something with people who enjoy doing the same stuff as me, sharing the same adventures, and trading stories of the different places we’ve run, walked, got lost, laughed, cried and occasionally soiled ourselves.
And I think that’s one of the reasons I felt a bit flat after Saturday. I’ve run so many of the last months’ races with Nick and Rich, and they’ve still got a few to go. I think it’ll all feel much more complete once they’ve hit their 100s in a couple of weeks, and probably even more so in a few months when Gill and Adam hit theirs. I think the fact I’ve also not really decided on my next challenge is making me feel a bit at a loose end. At various stages over the last weeks I’ve said I’m going to go back to running ultras, focus on one big race (London), run some shorter races because I don’t need everything I do to “count” now, do more random unorganised runs, or just sit around eating pies in my 100 Club vest and get fat like Maradonna. But as it stands, my provisional race list for 2016 already has 27 races in it, so I’m sure I’ll work something out.