The more rewarding part is planning the year's objectives. I decided I would do fewer races this year but it's like opening the chocolate box, with such delights available which ones can you possibly not go for? I guess my compromise is to start a bit later and get two or three months solid work in first, so here's the plan:
19 March: Hardmoors 55 (54 miles) After running this one in the rain, wind and fog last year I really wanted to see the view so I'm back. Jon Steele's "Hardmoor" series of races based on the Cleveland Way are well organised yet pretty laid-back affairs and deserve the increasing support they seem to be drawing. About 50 entrants so far so it should be good. It won't be a fast race for me, first of the season, somewhere near the 12 hours I got last year will be fine.
10 April: Rotterdam Marathon. I lived in Rotterdam for over six years and still have a soft spot for the place, this will be my fifth start in the event. I enjoy city marathons and this is in my calendar so I don't neglect to do a bit of speed work in the first quarter of the year. Again it won't be a PB but I should be aiming for somewhere around the three and a half hours.
30 April: Highland Fling (53 miles). Couldn't miss it. This was my first ultra in 2007 and I've run them all since then.It's where I first started to meet all these amazing crazy people who think that turning out for fifty or a hundred miles on a Saturday is somehow a completely normal activity. Irresistible. If I can get to the start in good shape I'll have a good crack at it, 11 minutes faster than last year would get me under 10 hours, must be worth a shot (can't believe I've just owned up to that plan...)
18 June: West Highland Way (95 miles). Why do this one? If you have to ask, the family haven't talked to you yet. I'd like to finish in good shape somewhere around the 24 hour mark, but each year I've set myself a sort of "process goal" on this one rather than the specific time. For the last two years it was to get to Lundavra in daylight which I finally achieved last year. This year I'd like to get to the Lairig Mor in a fit state to run along it - rather than the hobble that I normally do!
29 July: Lakeland 100 (104 miles). If it isn't already, this will surely become the UK's premier ultra. A rugged and very demanding but beautiful course, great organisation and lots of welcoming "village hall" checkpoints. Over two hundred entries into the solo event so far this year, the race director is predicting it will be full within the next month or so, in only the fourth year of running. Goal for me - completing the course is tough enough.
26 August: Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc(104 miles). The race that sooner or later every ultra runner will want to do to complete their CV. Having missed out in last year's ballot I have an automatic entry for this year. The whole Chamonix experience, with over 2000 starters this is not wilderness racing but certainly not to be missed. Just run up and down Snowdon, then Ben Nevis, then jog an undulating 10 miles; repeat 4 times and that's all there is to it. You have 46 hours - 45:59 will do nicely, thanks.
15 October: Round Rotherham (50 miles). I've missed this the past two years because it has clashed with family events, but determined to go back this year because it's such a good course and enjoyable day out. No particular goals for the fourth quarter of the year, just enjoy it.
17 December: Tour de Helvellyn (36 miles). Haven't had confirmation that this will be run again, but after the success of last year I'm sure it will. A bit of a target to keep me in action before the Christmas rest again.
So that's it, seven ultras of various lengths and a marathon. A bit less than last year's plan but still a full year, I'm really looking forward to it.