What’s one of the first things you do after having a baby? If you’re Jo, the answer is sign up for your first ultra in the shape of the Green Man – a 45 mile, 3000ft run through the countryside…
Vital Race Stats:
The Green Man Ultra
When: Every March
Distance: 45 Miles
Terrain: Undulating and Muddy
Jo Johnson-Taylor, a runner at Bristol’s Southville Running Club, is no stranger to putting herself in challenging situations. For her first foray into the world of triathlon in 2015 she picked The Slateman and Hellvellyn – both well-known for being rugged and challenging courses. Write-ups on these races use terms like ‘rock-hard’ and ‘brutal’. Fitting then, that in a post-baby moment of motivation, she signed up for Bristol’s classic annual 45-mile ultra run – the Green Man.
‘It sounded fun but challenging,’ Jo said. ‘I thought – I’ve had a baby now, so I can take on anything!’
In addition, Jo signed up for Rok the Stones trail marathon (where she won 3rd place) and the Cotswold 113 Triathlon (a half iron) for 2016 – all new territory for her.
The Green Man sounds like the sort of race that started with an age old legend, not least because if you finish it in under 24-hours you become something mysterious called a ‘Woodwose’. For a little bit of history on the race muddled with a massive dose of humour, look no further than the Fat Man to Green Man book, an autobiographical journey from ‘unfit to ultra’ written by Ira Rainey, who has now done the race five times.
His book tells us: “A Woodwose was apparently a savage form of hairy humanoid that links mortals with the dangerous spirits of the woodland – a bit like a crazed David Bellamy… The burning question though was who is the Green Man and why was he organising a race around Bristol?”
Ira did some digging around on this mystery Green Man and found a potential link to mystical life-giving forces, like ‘The Force’, in the surrounding woodland. He then, less excitingly, goes on to tell us the real reason for the name is because of the giant carved stone head in the grounds of Ashton Court in Bristol.
Training for an ultra with a new baby
‘I didn’t put any pressure on myself,’ Jo tells us. ‘I just trained when I felt up to it. I didn’t set myself any schedules as I didn’t want any stress. I treated myself to four sessions with a personal trainer at Body Development in Bath when my baby was four months old, we focused on some exercises for my running and I also benefited from a bit of ‘me’ time. And I went running when I could but didn’t worry about pace or distance – I just wanted to enjoy it. I started HIIT classes and swimming first thing in the morning because I could be home before my partner and the baby were awake!’
‘For the 45 mile race, my plan was to try to stay with people – even though I had all the maps, I didn’t want to have to rely on my navigation skills! I started with a group of fellow club runners but most went on ahead. I stuck with Lee (a fellow SRC runner) for the rest of the day, we even crossed the finish line together.’
‘I was pretty upbeat for the first six miles and then found it really tough going for the next 20 miles. I just kept telling myself that it didn’t matter how far I got. The fact that I had started the race less than nine months after having a baby was pretty cool and I could always try again next time to get further if I didn’t make it. Thankfully I stayed free from injury, it was only my mind I had to battle with.’
‘The camaraderie during the race was amazing. I couldn’t have got through it without the other Southville runners, the checkpoints and Emma, the best support driver ever!’
‘Coming back into Ashton Court and getting a photo at the Green Man was a high, I think we were a bit delirious at that point! After the race I was exhausted but ecstatic – having my friends and family at the end was brilliant. I felt a great sense of achievement and didn’t want to take my medal off.
‘After the race I didn’t feel too bad, but my legs started to ache overnight. The very next day we headed off on a two week ski trip! I actually think it helped though, my legs soon stopped aching. By the end of our first week skiing , the tiredness had caught up with me, but knowing that I was now an ultra runner and a Green Man Woodwose made it all worth it!”
Sign up for Next Year’s Race: The Green Man Ultra – March 2017