I must be mad.

Why else would I choose to run a 100km ultra marathon? And especially when 10km was the furthest I had ever run before… and that was about seven years ago.

Let me try to explain…

I used to run. A little. I had quit smoking after about ten years on the habit, and the natural replacement (after the initial pleasing yet deadly combination of snacks, burgers and cake) was to start exercising; replace the bad with something good and actually try and get my body back into shape somehow.

So, with the help of a friend, I got into running. Slowly but surely spending more time on the treadmill, increasing the distance, increasing the duration until it felt comfortable and a quick 5km run was nothing to worry about. Although I was also active with circuits, body combat classes and swimming, running was the one thing I seemed to enjoy more than the rest.

Being able to switch off and zone out to an extent and just run. Tune everything and everyone else out (warning, treadmills only) and feel the rhythm of my breathing as my feet hit the running surface.

Then I started working in London, commuting took over, the desk job took over once more and I ended up smoking again.

The running stopped. For too long. A lot of things happen in seven years. Family, work, friends.. I also got older (not surprisingly) but I realised that I needed to do something again.

My body shape is not what I’d like it to be, I had succumbed to a life of sitting behind the desk and typing (developers don’t need to be fit, active and healthy to write awesome code, right?), coffee and energy drinks, smoking and very little movement.

Roll on December 2014. I quit smoking completely. I had been on nicotine replacement products for about eight months prior to this but quit completely before Christmas. I had decided that I would replace it, once again, with something healthy, positive and relatively easy to manage.

So here I am. Picking up my running shoes again and getting back into action, only this time I have a very clear, rather real goal to work towards. 100km.

Back in business

I’m not jumping straight into it with absolutely zero experience; after all, I have the runs from seven years ago in my memory (brain if not muscle) and over the Christmas period I grabbed a running app to help me get back into the swing of running again, almost starting from the beginning once more.

I managed to get myself back into 5km runs with relative ease which was a welcome surprise. Joining my local Park Run really helped me too. No longer was I simply running in the dark over winter on my own with only my synthesized voice coach to keep me company as I panted, wheezed and sniffed my way around.

Running with other people (100s of other people) at Park Run felt great and helped me beat my personal best over the 5km distance and pushed me to slightly faster average paces.

Using my training app I slowly got up to 7.5km, then 8, then 9, before finally hitting the goal of 10km. That target felt good. It was a milestone, an achievement. I had, in some way, told my body I could still do this. And even better than that, it felt great.

This is when the madness kicked in.

100 km

I had started to think about pushing myself a little further and to manage a larger distance; a marathon. Imagine that, old smoker me! And then I discovered ultra marathons and I found one that was running next year in May 2016. It was 100km. That’s roughly 2 ½ marathons. Most of it is trail too.

I booked a place.

I am now a registered runner for the London to Brighton challenge for 2016 and am proudly running on behalf of the Alzheimers Society to raise money for their great cause and work.

I have from now until then to train, to overcome obstacles and prepare myself for what I’m sure will be a physically and mentally demanding challenge. I’m even setting myself an ideal goal of completing the challenge in 15 hours.

Memo to self; no more grandiose or spur-of-the-moment ideas like this please? Thanks.

I will be doing my best to update you all on my progress, training plans, the goods, the bads (I hope there aren’t too many of those) and everything in between as I embark on this rather bumpy journey of self-discovery and fun.

Stay tuned for updates and please consider skipping today’s coffee or chocolate-based treat and donate those few pounds you would have spent to my JustGiving page: http://justgiving.com/monkeh

You’ll not only be helping me along with your support but more importantly you will be donating to help a great cause.

Thank you.

Matt Gifford will be competing in the London to Brighton Challenge on the weekend of 28 May. You can follow his journey in Running Fitness’ Blog Section.