This year will be different.....

This year was a bit of a mixed one for me. I picked up some great medals over the 12 months and got my name on the finishers list of a couple of events I had to do. However I don't believe I have made as much progress as I did in 2008, when ultra running was still very new to me and I was sailing through it without much resistance. 2008 was a year where I could say I (almost) enjoyed every step I ran and ended the year in much better shape than I started. 2009 just seemed to be a slog throughout. I don't want to make excuses, it was down to me being unhealthy and overweight. I was unlucky for the first part of the year but I had to power to change it and I didn't. 


I ended 2007 in a low place. My first 50 miler was cut short due to illness. Partly my own fault for eating dodgy food while drunk but nonetheless I ended the year on a low. I was supposed to finish the year on high having completed the longest run I'd done and would give me a good start for the GUCR which was 6 months away. 

I responded to it well. I signed up for an ultra every other week and had intended to rest in between. Jan and Feb were basically 50 mile runs every other week with marathons in between. March and April I was only running marathons but was doing 2 or 3 some weekends and high mileage in between. Here I stumbled upon a marathon pb the day after a 24 mile fell race. I was in great shape.

In May I ran the race of my life, completing the GUCR in 30.36 hours, quite fast in comparison to all other attempts. The first real tough challenge of my running life went beautifully. 

June I did nothing but July I got right back into it, running more marathons and then Davos, a 49 mile mountain run. I thought nothing of running a marathon 6 days before and also 2 days before, I knew I could run anything at this point and I did. 

August I ran my first multi-day race, the MOOSE. Despite crunching my ankle on the very first day I still managed to finish and had the time of my life running the long day, completely on my own and out in front. 

I wound down the remaining 4 months with another dozen marathons. Just keeping everything ticking over and finishing the year on a high, completing Rotherham and then the Hastings Marathon the next day. In between those two I drank about 8 pints of Guinness and was in quite a poor state in the morning. Hastings was the hardest run in the world for the first 5 miles but as soon as I sobered up a bit I was off running again and by the end it was just like a nice long run. I had no memory of the 50 miles or 8 pints the day before. 

I finished the year in the best possible way, remembering that it is the thing that will make me feel better in any situation. By the end of Hastings I could have turned round and run it again, but I had a train to catch.

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Total
2009 177 194 155 193 264 123 248 521 211 96 167 123 2473
2008 214 295 155 331 251 137 292 285 133 210 203 180 2688
2007 181 82 46 182 137 142 118 53 114 143 128 121 1446

 Training Miles


Started with a bang. I'd just got over a chest cold that hung around for a couple of weeks but then ran a marathon in Zurich on New years day. I followed this 4 days later with an near pb (it was a bit long and I took a wrong turn) in the 100 marathon club AGM Marathon. Things were looking up and I was looking forward to an intense Jan/Feb of running similar to last year. Then I got another chest cold which put me out of most of Jan. I came back with 2 decent 40 (37.5 really) races and then off to Lanza to train for the MDS. 

I thought Lanza would be ideal training for the MDS, fairly warm (I was going to wear layers) and lots of volcanic trail to run on. Perfect. However the whole week was blighted by rain and cold weather. I didn't see much point running in the rain. Then I caught my third chest cold in as many months, right before flying out to the desert.

As it turns out the rain was perfect training for the MDS, the thing was flooded. A football commentator would call this "ironic" but football commentators are all idiots, it was just a horrible coincidence. My cold did not improve and I suffered the worst week ever plodding through a desert unable to run for coughing and unable to sleep either. I finished just to tick the thing off. Miserable.

I got over the cough just in time to run a pretty shit London Marathon. I didn't like it at all, all those people running and cheering. I then spent the year doing the same races as last year but much slower. The GUCR was a huge 7 hours slower. Things went wrong and some schoolboy errors and complacency made the run much harder. I am still pleased I finished and thought I did very well in the circumstances but the one thing that was on my mind throughout and after that race was that while I was in this shape I was not going to finish the Spartathlon.

3 forts, Davos (despite being rested), Tanners, Picnic, Salisbury 54321 - all slower than last year. These were all entirely my fault, being too unhealthy and overweight. I even attempted veganism for 2 months where I lost a lot of weight but also a lot of energy. I decided halfway round Salisbury that I was going to ditch it and have a hardcore august to train. 

August was the best month of the year, I ran for fun again. I was running 30 miles back to back without even trying, I'd run 30 on a school night. I ran all over London and repeated my Reading run again. In the last few days of the month I ran 153 miles in 5 days and the last mile felt better than the first. I loved every one of them, The Spartathlon was back on..

In September I flew out to Athens and into a very new world. People who run ultras as a way of life, some for longer than I have lived, it was common for someone to say that they had finished the Spartathlon 10 times, Badwater 5 times, run across the States, run across 100s of miles of ice. I felt like a child amongst great men.

Without going into detail the Spartathlon was the best thing I have ever done though I did not appreciate it at them time. I flew through the first 100 then really suffered. I finished but at a cost of nearly destroying myself, I tried to run races over a month afterwards but did not give this race the respect it deserves. I spent the rest of 2009 not doing much running in anticipation for great things in 2010.

2010 - What will be different?

Some changes I am going to make are;

  • Quit drinking for 2 months and try to get below 12 stone by March
  • Make running my commute the norm, 90 miles per week is probably too much but I should at least do half of it
  • Run everywhere, to the shops, to the club, to work. Run more than I get the tube (I will keep a count)
  • Run every day
  • Buy less shit
  • Write more about it and take more photos

And some targets and challenges for 2010

  • Run 4000 miles
  • Finish any big race I start 
  • Run down into Sparta and up to that statue
  • More solo runs along Britain's paths and coastlines

Much of it is out of my hands. I will enter the Badwater lottery system and will run if I am invited. The UTMB is already over-subscribed with more than a week left to register.  

It all starts today (kind of). I am missing the first marathon of the year because I am still suffering from the LE2 plague. Still going out for a run though. 

Where the silliness started

This weekend is the Athens Marathon. I'm not running it, it's not a great race in my opinion but I'll never forget some of the people I spoke to on the way.

I was doing this as a training run for the Tring2Town, my first ultra and 45 miles long. This race was 3 weeks after I ran a marathon pb of 3.12. I still felt it in my legs a bit.

The route runs from Marathon to Athens which is now a motorway. It finishes in the Parthanon stadium and is reasonably hilly. That is all there is to say about the course except that the organisers managed to get the route to loop onto itself, nearly taking out the lead runners.

Before the start I spoke to an American who said that this was his 50th and last marathon. I felt sad that he seemed do determined to call it a day but at the same time I was amazed at the thought of running 50 marathons. Athens was my 8th and I knew that some day I'd hit 50. That didn't sound too silly.

I started right at the back of the few thousand runners as I wanted to start this off slowly. I then got chatting to a couple of guys from the 100 marathon club. I had no idea that this club existed but the name descibed quite simply what was involved. 100 marathons? That did seem a bit crazy. He then went on to tell me that he had done 40 that year and was doing them every week. A marathon every week? That was silly.

After a few miles of the race I was still feeling good and I caught up with some guys dressed in togas and carrying the British flag. I chatted to them and they revealed that they were training for the "Spartathon". What's that? I asked and they gladly explained that it was a 153 mile non-stop run from Athens to Sparta. Again I had no idea such things existed and dismissed it as really really silly.

Towards the end of the race I was feeling quite pleased with myself. I was still running strong and this was despite running a marathon only 3 weeks ago. I then caught up with a chap from Sutton Runners who must have been over 60. He was also looking quite strong and then he mentioned that the weekend before he had done "the triple", ie the 3 marathons of Snowdon, Beachy Head and Dublin in 3 days. I suddenly didn't feel so special about my running when I'd done 1 marathon 3 weeks ago when this guy had done 3 marathons 1 week ago. That was just ludacrous.

So despite it not being a very good marathon I had 4 encounters that were both humbling but awe inspiring. My own sense of achievement in marathon running was dwarved by the efforts of these people I met along the way. I am not sure as to whether I immediately wanted to follow them. At the time all I wanted to do was finish the marathon I was running. Marathons were a big deal back then.

Now, 2 years on

  • I have reached 50 marathons
  • I have pretty much run them weekly this year
  • I have run 145 miles non-stop
  • I have run "the triple" plus 2 other triples (and a Quintuple)

It is great to think back to times where you thought that what you are doing now is impossible. It makes you feel good about now. I often chat now in races and have the same conversations as I did in Athens, only now I'm the one talking silly. It is really great to hold peoples attention by explaining the running that I now do. I don't mean to be patronising at all when I say "you were much like I was 2 years ago". It can be strange when you are giving the "when I were a lad" speech to someone much older than you.

It seems like so much longer than 2 years. It just goes to show how far you can go in a short space of time. I wonder when I'll next meet a runner who tells me he's done something that I find silly?