Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Running bucket lists

Although I'm obviously focused on the next race coming up (UROC 100k, in this case), I get a bit restless when I haven't got plenty of interesting challenges coming up. I learned after my first Marathon des Sables that it's good to have stuff to look forward to after a large challenge that occupies your mind and training for a long period of time. Otherwise, you (or I, at least) get back post-race and feel on a bit of a downer after such a great high.

Anyway, the reason for this post is I was just offered a spot in the largest ultra in South America (so they say - I haven't checked and am not very familiar with the choices down there), the North Face Ultramaraton de los Andes in Chile. Generally it's a good day when someone sends me an email to offer me a spot in a race, but this one sounds particularly cool for several reasons.

Firstly, Hal Koerner and Sean Meissner both ran it last year and seem to have very high opinions of it. Secondly, it's a very hard course what what I can see. But it's the third fact that has a slightly absurd appeal to me - that it's in a country and continent I've not been to and, importantly, not raced in.

There's something about racing on all seven continents that appeals to me, and to many others, although for the sake of a bucket list I don't feel the need to just waste tens of thousands of dollars on a trip to the Antarctic to do a race that may not even happen (sometimes the weather's too bad and the races end up being laps of the ship they travel on). However, if someone else paid for it...

Europe and North America are places where I've run plenty of marathons and ultras and covered many of the countries on both continents. In Africa I've raced one marathon and several ultras. Asia has been just one marathon (Fukuoka, Japan) and two adventure races (2x Kinabalu Challenge in Malaysian Borneo).

For years I've had Australasia and South America on my running to do list and I've never even traveled to anywhere in South America. I should probably point out that I'm almost as addicted to traveling as to racing so when I get to combine both it's especially fun. And I've made a point of doing so.

So it got me thinking about bucket lists and other arbitrary lists. I know plenty of runners (more likely than your average person to be a type A personality) who obsess about seeming pointless targets and lists and I have some of my own too. Here are a few examples from others I can think of then I'll list my own targets.

1. Running a marathon in every US State (surely after half of the States it just becomes list-focused rather than picking events that are genuinely interesting).

2. Running a marathon in every UK county (ditto).

3. Running a marathon on every continent (I'm happy to leave off Antarctica, but otherwise a good excuse to see the world).

4. Most sub 3:15 marathons in the world.

I think you get the point. There's an element of wanting to 'collect' these achievements and it can add fun and an additional challenge to the races.

My own lists are as follows and may seem unusual but add fun to my races but I'm not referring to targets like 'win this' or 'qualify for that', just additional stuff that helps me to select my races.

1. Sub 2:45 marathon on the six continents excluding Antarctica (currently only NA, Europe and Asia done) - odd time to choose but it's the London marathon Championship start qualification time. Look, it made sense when I started doing it, ok?

2. Run 100 sub 2:45 marathons (related to the last one). Currently I'm on 16, plus one 50k at that pace. I think that's rough half a year of Mike Wardian's schedule, except his target could be 2:30 :)

3. Hit every marathon minute under the Boston qualifying time (currently 3:10:59 but changing to five minutes quicker from 2013). I've hit every minute down to 2:35 so far, plus 2:33 and 2:32 and justify this as training myself to run at a variety of paces very evenly, plus it's generally more fun in a training marathon to have a specific target instead of just jogging off at sub-race pace. However, a pet peeve for me is any course where the final 0.2 miles is out (surprisingly many) as this had led to some ridiculous sprints to hit a time when I thought I was spot on for pacing. Not missed one yet, though.

4. Race in as many countries as possible (currently about 29 but I haven't added a new country since 2009).

5. Run the classic global ultras, which I define for this as the most prominent and historic ultras of each type in my subjective opinion: Marathon des Sables (multi-day, desert), Transalpine Race (multiday, mountains), Western States 100 (100 miler), Comrades (road), London to Brighton (road), Two Oceans (road), Spartathlon (road, extra long) and UTMB (100 miler new boy). Maybe Badwater is part of that list, but if so, I'm happy to tick it off having crewed there. And the only other two left for me are the Spartathlon and UTMB. However, I have a to-do list of countless other races, like anyone else, but these are the big daddies to me.

My lists aren't any 'better' than anyone else's but the thought of running in South America next month just got me thinking about them. Some of those targets are more from when I mainly did road marathons, but I still love those and still aim to keep doing them.

What unusual (weird?) targets do you have? If I like the sound of them I'll probably adopt them for myself too.


  1. That's an impressive bucket list Ian. It's good to have goals listed somewhere, we get something to look forward to. Good luck and wish you nothing but the best for your upcoming 100K.

  2. Super lists, Ian. Personally, I don't have a big list but a couple things would be:
    Double crossing of Zion Traverse (or "train" as some call it)
    Run across the US
    Run the Continental Divide Trail

    PS, that S. American race sounds terrific. Good for getting invited to it!

  3. Run around all of the volcanoes in the Pacific NW.

  4. I just moved to Chile about 5 weeks ago. Immediately after booking my flight, I also register for the TNF race in Santiago. I scoped out part of the course two weeks ago and it looks fun. The city is smoggy, but it should be much better by mid-October as we'll just about into summer (inversion effect is less). The 2 a.m. start is what has me most intrigued. Bucket list is down one.

  5. Chile sounds fun! I would worry less about those numbers - go anywhere the pics and stories are good. It's all about the blog, after all. ;-)

  6. Come to Australia for the Glasshouse 100 mile next September, it's the oldest in the country.

  7. Scott - the lists just add an extra challenge and give me an excuse to look up races in other places. For example, when I decided it'd be fun to see all the Scandinavian countries, I looked up when their capital city marathons are and off I went. Reykjavik and Stockholm were particularly cool finds - I liked those races a lot and even had 4 trips to Iceland and 4 marathon PBs!

  8. Surely a bob Graham round? There's a nice 5 day run the spine of wales race Joe grant face booked recently too

  9. After running a race as Batman this weekend, I definitely plan on doing some more costumed races. As someone just getting into ultra's this year, for now just the big U.S. 100's in due time. As an avid superhero and costumed runner, I though you might get a kick out of my Batman get-up from this past weekend. http://takemetothetrail.blogspot.com/2011/09/asheville-half-marathon-race-report.html

  10. not ultra running related, but as a "fun" triathlete my bucketlist would have to include
    1. Kona Ironman world champs
    2. Norseman triathlon
    3. alpe d'huez triathlon
    4. an 100KM ultra - one here in biel, switzerland each year
    5. marathon under 3 hours (currently PB this year of 3:40)

    love the post, thanks!
    still plenty of time to knock these off...maybe

  11. I think you should put a really long distance race on there such as across the USA, Europe, Appalachian trail etc. Maybe for when you are 72 though as it takes a lot out of you.

    What's wrong with Antarctica?

    How about the Grand Slam US 100 milers though not in the same year? Hardrock and Leadville surely must be done.

    And nothing in Australia or NZ? I know it's a long way to go for barren wasteland and funny talking simpletons but I am compelled to go there for something one day.

    And Rotherham? You forgot Rotherham :)

    But glad to see the Spartathlon is on there. You could smash that one.

  12. The Grand Slam does sound like it needs to be done...