Squirrel Robert Eriksson 'cracks' his 50km challenge!
"As many other men in their late thirties I started running about 4 years ago to keep those infamous extra kilos off my waistline. With small children at home (they're now 3, 6 and 8 years old) running is ideal as you can be very flexible with the time and you don't need much more than a pair of good running shoes.
I had never done a 10km run when I started out so my first runs were not much longer than a couple of kilometres, but it was great fun and I quickly started to increase the distance getting to my first ever 10km after two weeks. Little did I know it would go further very quickly. A good friend of mine was running the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon and persuaded me to run with him. Me? Running a half marathon? 5 weeks after I started running and with only one week to prepare?
I don't know if it was temporary insanity but I decided to pick up the challenge and in October 2010 I ran my first ever half marathon and what an experience!! The organisation and crowds around the route were fantastic and that got me hooked on running. Since then I've run three more Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathons and numerous other halfs and 10K runs in and around London. I even took it a step further and did the London Marathon in 2012 and followed that up with another marathon in Kent in 2013. I finished the Kent marathon in 3 hours 28 min, which isn't too shabby for an "old" man that picked up running 3 years earlier :)
Many of my races have been for various charities, predominantly with a focus on children and health because of my little ones at home. As I often run in the lovely Royal Parks of London that we are so fortunate to have I felt that I wanted to do something different this year. With four previous Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathons the choice to take it a step further and go for the Ultra in support of a great organisation such as the Royal Parks Foundation was an easy choice to make. As it turned out the race day also coincided with my 40th birthday, which made it even more special!
As soon as I had signed up for the race in support of the Royal Parks Foundation the fantastic people behind Team Squirrel got in touch to ensure I had access to everything I needed. Through my months of training the organisers behind Team Squirrel kept in touch with tips, information and events, which made me feel very welcome and truly part of a team. Thanks for a fantastic job!! The organisation on race day was also great and as it was my birthday I was even greeted with a birthday card and a small present when I dropped into the Team Squirrel tent in the morning, talk about a personal touch!
The weather on race day was perfect and I got off to a good start running through the central parts of London. As I live in Wandsworth close to the Thames, parts of the 50 km route are quite familiar to me and form part of my normal training route. When I came running through Wandsworth Park after about 18 km I got a surprise as my biggest fans (my wife and children Emil 8, Nina 6, and Zara 3) were there to cheer me on with balloons and a Happy 40th Birthday banner. Definitely gave me a boost of extra energy!!
Although the weather on the day was great it had been raining quite a lot the days before so when the route changed from tarmac (which I'm used to run on) to the mud and gravel on the tow path along the Thames the running got a little more difficult. At first it wasn't a big deal but at 30-35 km my legs started to feel tired in a way I hadn't really experienced before. Perhaps I didn't get enough long runs in, but I think I tensed up a little more than usual due to the different surface and after 35 km I got cramps in my legs. Nothing major and I simply had to stop to stretch, walk for a few minutes and then take it a bit easy the rest of the race. Despite this setback the run was an amazing experience and the support I got from fellow runners, organisers and the crowd when things got tough was fantastic. I highly recommend the Ultra if you're looking for something special, the route is absolutely fantastic with great organisation and support along the route and I would like to thank the many, many volunteers that make these type of events a possibility!
I did make it to the finish line in just above 5 hours so still a decent time even if I missed my pre-race target time by a good half hour thanks to the cramps I experienced. But the cheers from the crowd and to have my lovely family meeting me at the finish line with a small birthday cake made me forget that very quickly!"
Congratulations to all our other squirrel superstars who 'conkered' their challenges!
Feeling inspired? To register your interest in running for us next year simply email Chester (our friendly squirrel mascot) [email protected].
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