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By Oliver on

Running high, running low! – new team member Sarah Tunstall reflects on 2015

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Having had the luxury of training in the Alps over the summer, not only was I running very well but I was also enjoying EVERY run! The blue skies and 4000m peaks surrounding the French town of Chamonix did help! They seemed to provide endless motivation and somehow eliminated any aches, pains and lethargy a runner normally feels on a daily basis. As you can imagine this led to great performances and results and I enjoyed my most successful Mountain season ever. I explored new races, areas and upped my distance a bit to challenge the half marathon…albeit with 1800m of height gain but who wants a flat boring one when you can run along the side of a Glacier in an UNESCO protected World Heritage site!?

After cancelling a couple of ferries we eventually made it back to the UK in August. I had been intently focussed (obsessed!!?) on the World Mountain Championships, to be held on home soil for the first time since 1995. This goal made for good tunnel vision and I enjoyed running back on familiar routes, flying around them a tad faster than when we had left in April! I spent time between the course to be used in Betws Y Coed, North Wales and our base in Tameside preparing to a tee. The trial was great, I won feeling easy and maintained the same training and focus for the next four weeks until I could try and do it all over again.

The Championships were a little disappointing from an individual point of view. I had really targeted an individual medal and felt I was in the form to achieve that. So to finish 4th I was initially “gutted” however, this disappointment couldn’t last too long as we had emphatically won team Gold with 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions. We celebrated and I enjoyed sharing the podium with my team mates that evening. Although the main goal was over, I had a final mountain race two weeks later in Slovenia, tthe final of the 2015 World Cup Series.

I knew I had a shot of winning the overall series, which counts your best 4 results from 6 races staged over the summer, as I had posted a 1st, 2nd and 4th place in the previous races. I was delighted to win the race, and capped off a fantastic 2015 season as World Cup Champion. I was ready and hungrier than ever to convert these results in to the upcoming Cross-Country season, my favourite time of the year!

After a couple of quiet weeks to recuperate I started the build-up; faster sessions, tempo runs and muddy grass repetitions. I felt good, October flew by then November hit!

It’s the same every year so why does the darkness still seem so unnatural!!? Maybe it’s combined with the overly spectacular summer but jeez things seemed to get hard!! Every run became a bit of a chore, forcing myself out to get another soaking morning and night…I have Hilly to thank that I never run out of dry socks!

I started thinking, which is always a bad sign for runners…maybe I’ve got something  similar to Marathon runners when you aim for something so big then come out the other side without that goal and need to seemingly start finding something new to excite and motivate you. Then I thought…don’t be stupid, it was a 8km Mountain race, not an epic 26.2 miles!! Having been the World Championships and not quite the result I had hoped for potentially make it similar to a Marathon runners “low” but it actually turned out to be nothing that lots of Winter layers and a good self-talking too couldn’t fix!

So for everybody else who is maybe coming off the back of October’s  #RunEveryDay challenge or an Autumn marathon and you’re struggling to re-group, try to find some new goals; find different races to those you’ve done before, maybe try some off-road events if you’re used to marathon running or road races if you’re an off-roader. Embrace finding a new challenge to work towards and embrace the less than perfect conditions, because although it’s only two weeks until he shortest day… the unfortunate thing is that it will all happen again next year!!


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