Alison Cowling

Alison Cowling

Director | Actor | Musician | Writer

Running and The 10x2x3 Challenge

The eleventh entry of The Running Diaries reflecting on my latest challenge that stretched to sixty miles in three days…

6.04am. 06/04/21.

The streets lay bare. The paths lay empty. There was frost on the grass and the trees stood still as the sun’s rays gently peered through the branches, onto my cheeks. The deserted footpath echoing the sound of my trainers on the pavement, the breath gushing out my lungs, the music leaking from my headphones into the early morning air.

That first run felt like time had gone backwards. I was starting a new running challenge, yet the cold took me back to the New Year’s Eve Marathon and February’s 4x4x48 run. I could feel excitement starting to beat through me as I set out. Though an impending challenge is a feeling I’m getting used to (and enjoying), this time I’d raised the bar, I was pushing my finishing line further…

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Easter break was here and I knew I needed a running goal. If not for anything else but to run off all the chocolate! It was a two week break from work for some much needed time off. And time off to me is running. 10 miles, every 12 hours, for 3 days would build my strength but also test to see how much resilience I’ve built in these tough times.

I’d toyed with this idea for some time, concocting it on my previous 4×4 challenge. That was 48 miles in 48 hours. And once I’d done that, I wanted to push myself to do more. I thought about whether I could do 2 half marathons in a day for 3 days. But there was a voice curtailing this idea, not the voice of self-doubt, but instead my gut this time, telling me those extra three miles on each run might be a little too much and I didn’t want to gain an injury. Setting it as 10 miles, first of all seemed like I was making it easier for myself, but then it actually gave me the confidence that I could do it, before I’d even started. I love learning to trust my gut. She’s a great gal who in the past I’ve chosen to ignore. Yet she knows me best and I love listening to her 🙂

So my week started with food prep, buying up the most of the food aisles and freezing all of our house’s mismatched Tupperware boxes full of kidney beans and veg. Then I spent the evening before with the housemates toasting a glass of red wine (which after one broken corkscrew, came with delicious bitesize cork chunks) to an exciting week of running ahead…

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F i r s t R u n 0 – 1 0 M i l e s

This was definitely the toughest run of all 6. My body was sent into shock with a 5.30am wake up, then downing some porridge and trying to adjust to the cold frosty morning as I set off at 6am. Taking a wrong turn at one point, meant I actually ran an extra half a mile, and lots of map checking in the first half was disrupting my rhythm. And disrupting my positivity. I wasn’t sure I could do this. Maybe this was going to be a challenge too far… But with such a beautiful morning on a stretch along the river that I run often, the sun began to rise. Golden light poured onto the trees, steam was rising off the water as it flowed in the spring sunshine, and several swimmers were bravely plunging in at 7.30am! So although I finished the 10 miles feeling a little worried this was going to be harder than I first thought, the beauty of the day left me keen to get back out in the evening.

S e c o n d R u n 1 0 – 2 0 M i l e s

I changed my route for the evening run, to keep things a bit more interesting for my mind. New sights to see and lots more people to dodge than in the morning. But as I reached the bridge at about mile 17, my body was starting to realise what I was trying to put it through and my brain shifted. I really started to believe I would do this.

T h i r d R u n 2 0 – 3 0 M i l e s

This morning’s run was such a different vibe from the previous day. I loved it. My thoughts were buzzing as I listened to my music. And I realised this is why I love running and this was why I was doing 60 miles in three days. It’s that time in my head and in my body combined. As I run, I revisit memories, reflect on thoughts and can process my feelings alone, whilst listening to great music. As my body gets stronger lifting me up, powering me along, my insides get lighter and my mood lifts. And that all comes from me. No-one else. It’s free and freeing and a little freezing at 6.30am!

F o u r t h R u n 3 0 – 4 0 M i l e s

Heading out for this run I was tired! I reversed my evening loop through the city. Not only was I mixing up the routes to help keep it mentally fresh, I also thought it was safer to be on more roads in the evening. It was slower than my other runs and my body felt generally heavy rather than any particular strains. But I found some fun, doing an insta Q&A on the bridge for my mates, family and the strangers crossing the bridge too 😛 Finishing this run felt great, knowing I was over the half way mark in the challenge!

F i f t h R u n 4 0 – 5 0 M i l e s

This morning I couldn’t quite believe the number of miles I was up to! I loved seeing the patterns of the mornings, savouring in the small moments. Spotting the regular dog walkers, passing the same cyclist on her way to work, seeing the swimmers returning for another morning dip. And as the miles kept ticking over, I kept stepping forwards. I returned home for a freaking cold ice bath to cool my legs which were now starting to really ache.

S i x t h R u n 5 0 – 6 0 M i l e s

The final run. I felt nervous. I was at mile 50. Did I have enough left in my legs for ten more?
I set out on the same route as run 2, a friend had suggested it would be best for my body to stick to the runs my body knew. Don’t change up the way now. I even stuck to the same wild wee spot I had used before. Nice and secluded. At least that’s what I thought, before a pack of 8 dogs (mostly alsatians) spotted me and mistook me for sneaking up behind their owner, when I panicked with my bum out and dived behind a tree 😂 I think the owner realised what was actually happening, but the dogs proving their loyalty and being top guard dogs, started to stalk and growl towards me. As quick as I could I rushed away but the whole woodlands and park was filled with their barking! Another ‘Bridge Q&A’ as I headed over the suspension bridge kept me entertained, and I felt stronger than ever for the last few miles. And these final 10 miles of the challenge, were my fastest of all!

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So I had done it. I felt proud. This was a challenge I created… mainly cause the numbers sounded cool, 10 x 2 = 20 x 3 = 60. Lol math I could follow. 😛 I loved the build up, counting the miles off, and the 10 hours of recovery time in between. Plenty of time to eat everything in my cupboards, have plenty of naps and watch plenty of Parks and Rec!

But part of the challenge I hadn’t given much thought to was the distance and time I would be spending outside alone. Where as with the 4×4 challenge, where I had ran with a different mate on each 4 mile run, this time it was about my solo stamina. We were in the final week before lockdown restrictions would lighten – we could return to the pubs, the shops and the gym (not that you ever find me running on a treadmill) the following week. With this came a sense that distance and solitude were going to become less prevalent after 11th April.

I’ve spent months and months in an isolated pattern… and I used that mentality to help complete this challenge. The 10x2x3 challenge was conquered!

So now as I look forward to my next running target and I start to tackle ultra distances…. my happiness in my solitude that I’ve found this past year, through running and just living, could just be my ultra strength.

(You can watch the whole adventure on my instagram stories. @alisonc93)

Soundtrack to this entry: A few fav tracks seeing as I listened to a lot of music – ‘Glass Animals’ Heat Waves/ ‘Gravity’ DJ Fresh, Ella Eyre/  ‘Nasty Girl’ Inaya Day/ Thunder In My Heart Again’ Meck, Leo Sayer. 

Snack for this entry: Avacado, bacon and egg sarnie – the staple breakfast post the morning runs. First time having bacon in about 6 months (I’m a wannabe vegan lol)