Team Camino really fell in love with Caroline during the 2021 Lea Valley 50KM. All her correspondence was joyful and inquisitive. She really personified everything about what we do and the type of person (as well as athlete) that we are looking to encourage to do their "first ultramarathon".
Caroline kindly put together a journey of what took her from those early pandemic worry days, to seeking the support of friends and colleagues and doing all the great things that can lead up to a successful first ultra run.
We have no doubt that this will be a helpful resource for anyone questioning whether they are "good enough" to complete a 50KM. The answer as Caroline beautifully shares - is almost always YES x.
Please do contact us if you would like to have a 15-30 minute chat about your running and our ultramarathons.
MERCI Sweet Caroline x
Feeling reborn after my first Ultra-marathon– a message that transcends life – fitness for all
Previously, I was only able to run a maximum of 5 miles. However, during lockdown, I became more curious about running and its benefits both physically and mentally. I was inspired by runners on social media, where they shared their experiences and challenges. Some stories really inspired me like those who do a couch-to-5km or those who do trail runs and long distances in awesome places all over the world! After my first HM in March 2020, I decided to run one in April, then another one in May, until I realised that I should try to run 1 half marathon every month until the end of the year.
Photo Credits: Camino Legend Gigi - https://www.instagram.com/gigigiannella_photo/
I joined my company Strava group, where we were able to motivate ourselves through the App on running, walking or cycling activities. Up to December 2020, I did numerous virtual HMs and 10kms for various causes, such as the Virtual Pride Run, for Month Pride in June. These challenges were so motivating that I decided to sign up for the Berlin Marathon and raise money for Rethink Mental Illness charity, a charity that is close to my heart.
In January 2021, I started my training for the marathon. I practiced more and more meditation until this became a routine. I had to reorganise myself and search for potential races between April and June which would allow me to train for Berlin. I continued to add mileage to my long runs. As soon as I reached 24km, I felt more confident and empowered until the 33km, on the Lunar New Year in February.
In March of this year, my company created a new challenge. We teamed up with other colleagues to challenge ourselves on physical and mental health activities. It was both an inspirational and motivational month as we all pushed ourselves to move and to feel great. During this time, I did the 4x4x48 challenge initiated by David Goggins. The challenge consists of running 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours. It sounds crazy and it was - but I did it! I hope that I inspired others.
At the end of March 2021, I received the heart-breaking news that my father died in Vietnam. I did not have the chance to say goodbye, as I was not allowed to travel due to restrictions and I could not grieve with my family in France. I felt lost and I had to survive. I started running, hiking, walking, practicing more yoga, and adding more challenges to my life. I knew that running would help me to ignore the pain but this was a huge mistake!
As the company challenge finished, a group of UK colleagues created the Get Fit or Die Trying (GFODT) group. This group welcomes anyone and motivates others who find it difficult to motivate themselves by blocking out two lunchtime sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays (1200-1255) – all are welcome. As I train alone, it was a great opportunity to discuss and be in contact with them. Having this time blocked out in my calendar reminds me that I must take care of myself, by moving and reminding me on why I am running. We all share our challenges and successes on this group but also it is an opportunity to create contacts and to link in with each other in good and difficult moments.
Early April 2021, I saw an opportunity to run my first ultra: Camino Ultra-Lea Valley 50k from Herefordshire down to Hackney. For my training, I signed up for with a group in the Chiltern Hills to learn new skills on running up hills and on trails. I signed up to guided runs: 32 and 18km. I ran a half marathon distance (or more) almost every weekend. Ihiked alone the Edale Skyline at Peak District National Park (32Km). On my birthday, I set a new challenge (among other ones), and I did a recce of the ultra. I ran my new age: 37Km for 37 Years Old! I shared these to the GFODT group, and this is where I received a lot of motivation and encouragement.
During three exhausting months, I start my TOD at Strategy and Operation, and I was studying at the same time at evening university classes. I was constantly trying to occupy myself mentally. I ignored as much as I could any negative thoughts that I was experiencing.
19 June 2021: Camino Ultra- Lea Valley 50K – Start Line
I arrived with Emanuela C, a Health Economist at my company. She recognised my name thanks to the company challenges. I could feel the stress coming. Without her comforting support, I would have been home already. I saw people taking pictures at the start line and running. I was looking at all these confident runners and I was panicking. After being asked 4 times if I was okay, I took a picture and I left. Voila! 49.97km to go!
At the beginning, the run was easy until I ended up in a natural pool designed by the force of nature, due to the heavy rain the previous days. No choice, we all had to swim/walk through it. During this journey, I did not stop at the 2 first aid stations (Big Mistake!). My goal was to finish it in less than 7 hours, I ran and power-walked this Ultra! I really hated myself during the time alone. I was telling my friends, WHY DID I DO THAT TO MYSELF???
Until I see this beautiful board saying: FINISH LINE 200M!
I arrived at the finish line and suddenly, I felt energised by the great Camino Ultra team and by other runners. Emanuela was also here!! I let go of all the emotions I could feel; deliverance, anger, happiness (to finally finish this run!), determination, anger and resilience.
I carried so much pain and anger during these months. I was denying the loss of my father. It was challenging as I tend to internalise everything. I did not know what to expect as I have never run a marathon. This 50km drained me but in all challenges, there are always positive outcomes.
This ultra-marathon was physically and mentally hard, as always, I pretended I was OKAY. This ultra was beneficial to start my journey to grieve. I went to the Scottish Highlands for hikes and “to relax”. I slowly started meditation again; I decided to spent time with myself, to find myself.
I felt reborn after this ultra-marathon.
I am grateful to receive the support of all my family, my friends, my colleagues and all those ‘strangers’ on social media. They have been here since the beginning of my journey until today. This ultra-marathon forced me to slow down and to rethink the importance of good mental health and rest.
Lesson learnt: It is okay not to be okay, it takes time for yourself and to recover. Embrace the difficulties in life to come back stronger. Anything is possible, don’t compare to yourself with others. Believe in yourself!