Setting New Goals, Kilimanjaro and 100 KM / Mile Ultras

I’m writing this blog post to put a stake in the ground for a few new goals I want to achieve in the next 1-3 years. Summit Mount Kilimanjaro, breach 100km distance for a single run, and complete a 100 mile ultra marathon. It is my aim that writing this will keep me accountable in setting new goals.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest single free-standing mountain in the world. From sea level, it is 5895 metres (about 19341 ft). From it’s plateau base it towers 4900 metres (about 16100 ft). Mount Kilimanjaro is a special goal for me. Why? Because I was born and raised in Africa. I want to summit the highest mountain in my home continent, Africa.

This one has been on my list for a while now. The first blocker I had was when our first son was born. I couldn’t bring myself to be away from my family longer than a few days for the sake of a personal goal.

The next issue I ran into was covid-19 and the various lockdowns across the world. I’ve put this goal out of mind for the last year and half now because of this.

Photo by Marri Shyam from Pexels

Now that our kids are older this goal has been on my mind with higher frequency. Being away from home for a week or two doesn’t send me on a total guilt trip.

I feel more than ready in terms of general fitness and endurance. Running 200-300km every month I am totally confident in my cardiovascular and aerobic fitness. My feet are caloused from running, so hopefully being up on them all day for a week or so shouldn’t be a problem either. What does worry me is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Hopefully I’ll be able to handle the elevation and low oxygen levels at altitude when it comes time to tackle this one.

100 KM Ultra Marathon

A 100 KM ultra marathon is likely the next item to check off my list. I’ve run a few ‘smaller’ ultra marathon distances now (between 50 and 70km), so this is the next distance goal I have on the cards.

Official events always seem like complete drama and hassle to register for. Either you miss the early registration and end up on waiting lists, or have to pay for ‘charity placements’. In addition to that there is a boat load of administration and hoops to jump through ahead of the event.

For that reason I’m keen on doing my own 100km route. If I’m still here in the South Downs (UK) toward the end of the year, then it’ll likely end up as part of the South Downs Way (or Serpent Trail). All being well health and fitness wise, I’ll hopefully be hitting this goal before the end of 2021.

100 Mile Ultra Marathon

After completing the 100km ultra, my next running goal becomes a 100 miler. My plans are still pretty high-level here. 100 miles, 24-36 hours to complete it in. I’ll most likely be doing it solo but will definitely enlist the help of friends and family for aid along the way.

Why We Should Set Goals

My own personal goal setting aside, I have some thoughts on why we should set our own goals.

The human brain is a mysterious wonder. 5-10 years ago I would never have dreamed I would be in place where running a marathon distance could be done on a whim on a lazy Sunday morning. 5 years ago I was running casually and might have hit a half marathon distance one, maybe twice in a year.

Going from 13km to 21km felt like an almost unsurpassable wall for a long time. I ran two or three times a week, yet always cowered at the idea of 21km. One day I decided to just ‘push past’ that invisible wall in my mind, and did it.

Half marathon runs flowed in after that. However a new mental wall manifested itself in my head once again. I didn’t run further than 22 or 23km for another couple of years. Toward the end of 2019 I suddenly realised that this was another silly block in my mind. I set a goal of marathon distance, and soon enough broke that. In fact I broke it by an extra 10km. Since then I have run some more ultra marathon distances. I feel the mental blockers coming down again. However, this time I have past experiences to help me.

Our brains have a function which is like a set of safety brakes for our bodies. In my opinion these brakes are applied way too soon. Whether in action on a long, tough run, or thinking about performing a seemingly insurmountable activity. In order to defeat these limiters we need to set goals and commit to them. Once we set into action, we need to be mentally strong and do our best to ignore the pain. Push through the discomfort, ignore the broken and bleeding toe nails, focus the mind away from those blisters, and target down the state of completion.

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