In his final blog for the Fast 10 of 2018 James Stewart reflected on the highs and lows and the calendar year and juts how strange those 12 months can be.

There you go. That’s the year done. A whole year. 365 days. 52.14 weeks. A year in which I have personally had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in running terms.

It’s funny how we use the concept of a calendar that was brought together to account for equinox drift to underpin our construct of achievement versus time. As humans we kinda need some boundaries and framing to make sense of time so I guess that’s ok. Right?

And with that preamble I have lost 96% of the readers I was likely to have today. There is a point.

It tends to be that at this time of year plans for the next year are forming. Aims and targets are drawn up with the best intentions, races are entered and new gear is gifted, all against the backdrop of party nights and calorific excess. Who doesn’t love a contradiction after all?

Time off at the end of the year

One thing I always do in the early part of the winter is have some time off. The importance of allowing for muscle recovery and mental recuperation is one of the most overlooked parts of training in my experience, yet arguably the most critical. Taking a break is essential to allow for longevity, especially when you are training for ultras. You can only go to the well so many times before you find the bucket comes back dry.

For my part, I timed the rest with getting a wee procedure that means the risk of hearing the patter of tiny feet is now eradicated until grandparent days. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined but when you imagine something akin to being in the middle of a Road Runner and Wile E Coyote, ACME fuelled battleground as the level of pain you might go through everything else is better than that. And phew, it was. I was laid up for just over a week. Which was perfect on the back of a little rest in the weeks leading up to it.

All of which has me entering the festive period in the freshest state I have felt in a long time. And that is super important. Never scrimp on your rest and recovery is the message. It’s the foundation on which your fitness will be built.

A man with a plan

Looking ahead and planning for a new running year in that lovely 12 month window that Pope Gregory XVIII devised for us is mega-exciting. On a personal level I tend not to have any more than three focus races. Last year I only had two big races and I felt I lost a bit of sharpness as a result. A common mistake I see from runners is that they race and race and race. Which is fine if that is what they want.

However, I want to perform in races, not participate. Hence the focus on a few races. Quality over quantity. That doesn’t mean I won’t do more than three races but anything outside of a focus race is simply a training run. It will be used to practice race conditions, build fitness and glean information that will be useful for one of my “A” races. If you find yourself racing every week or so and are frustrated that you are not improving, the old idiom about less being more absolutely applies here!

Thank you and good night

It’s been an honour and pleasure to write for Fast Running these past 12 months. When I first got the call to be part of the Class of 2018 I thought that perhaps they’d dialled the wrong number. Getting to share my thoughts and take the readers on my journey has been great. It has helped me reflect on myself in an odd sort of way too. From being part of a silver medal winning GB team at the Euros, to DNF’ing at the Autumn 100 and of course the outstanding experience that was the Pyllon Endeavour, 2018 has been tumultuous and life affirming period.

The #1 highlight for me though was seeing how Louise set about kicking cancer’s ass. Yeah, she’s not beat it all yet – the all-clear takes a few years – but she is standing over it like Ali to Foreman in that most famous of sporting pictures. For me, everything I do now in running and life is with a sense of gratitude and happiness. I am inspired every day by those around me and especially those close to me. And will be using that to fuel the best 2019 I can have. I hope you do too.

Thanks for reading and all the best.