The universe says no

Sometimes the universe tells you things. I have got great joy in finishing some ultra marathons in my time and so I guess it's telling me "that's great, carry on doing that".

I write and blog about running and people seem to like that so it must be telling me I should do more of that.

Then I organise a simple race, on my own, spend the entire 12 hours having breathing difficulties and then ending up that night in A&E having a stress induced asthma "incident".

I think here it might be telling me "nah, don't do that again".

It should be the easiest race in the world to organise. I need a table of snacks, a bag of balls and send people running around a loop.

I have just cancelled the third edition, it had only 10 signed up but in all honesty I breathed a huge and non-asthmatic sign of relief when I hit send on the email saying "sorry I have to cancel, full refunds on their way". I didn't want to go and waste the oxygen in Bedford Hospital.

It was something that stressed me every time I woke up, what about the race. Need more sign ups, book the toilets, order the ball bags, get the permit, do the risk assessment. To someone of a more project orientated disposition these would be wonderful tasks to stomp on one by one and give a feeling of satisfaction of progress. For me they were little monsters I was afraid to go near.

I've always had huge respect for race directors and have more so now. The financial and personal risks involved are huge.

When you are organising a race you really are putting yourself out there. It is such high risk and you need to be the sort of person who can fall back on the groundwork you have done. Unfortunately I dont have the care and attention to do that properly.

Oddly I think this is a strength in ultra running, not getting too hung up on worst case scenarios and just getting on with it. There is a duty of care to consider worst case scenarios when organising something for others. What happens if someone collapses, or the weather turns or the kettle breaks.

These things just stress me, enough to end up in hospital!

I doubt I will organise races again. I loved most of my experience of doing it and loved the people who all helped make it happen.  I have so many ideas I would love to see happen and would be willing to "help" on so long as I had no actual responsibility. 

Feel free to steal...


The piece of string

You've probably heard of this. The "World's most pointless race". It's been run 3 times before under the proper directorship of James Elson. It would be great to see this back. 

Race report of first edition

Race report of second edition





Have you ever felt that life is a little unfair? Some people seem to get handed life's pleasures on a plate when others labour and toil for little reward. Did you take up running as a way to escape is injustice? To be able to claim reward based on the effort you put in? Do you think that the world would be a better place if it was all just like a nice long run?

Well bollocks to that, here is a running event that is steeped in reality more than any other race you have ever done. Basically you might run your balls off, run harder and further than anyone else in the whole field and still get nothing to show for it. At the same time some lousy chumper, probably called Rupert, probably educated at Eton, probably been to a Regatta or two in his time will just waltz through (yes he does ballroom dancing too) and finish with little effort.

Makes you sick doesn't it?

Well, inspired by life I have created "Bingo - The World's most Unfair race"

At the start you will be issued with a Bingo card. This bingo card will have 3 numbers on it. Say it has the numbers 13,17,23 on. 

There is a loop of about 2.2 miles. You run a loop and then pick a number out of a bag in a Bingo style. If you pick one of your numbers, say 13, then you can cross that off and do another loop. If you pick another number then you just head back out onto another loop and repeat.

You will each have your own unique ball bag and chosen balls are not replaced. This ball bag will contain 30 something balls. Anyone who makes rude jokes about ball bags will be given more balls.

The 24 hour version will involve a longer loop. And more balls!

You finish the race when you have all 3 of your numbers crossed off. Easy.

So in theory you could finish this race in 6 miles, if you are the luckiest person in the world.

You could run forever and just never pick your numbers out.

There will be a 12 hour cut off. You could run a 100k PB and still DNF. That would be hilariously unfair wouldn't it?

The predator

The predator   Somewhere in africa a gazelle knows he has to outrun the fastest lion to survive. The lion knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle to survive.   You've probably heard this quote before. Doesn't really apply to you does it? But how about you replace the word "africa" with  "hertfordshire" and the replace the word "gazelle"with "you".   Interested?   Could you do a race where you were constantly looking over your shoulder? Where one slip or short break could spell the end of your race? Where you could run till you lungs burn and your heart explodes but still get that tap on the shoulder that says you are not good enough to survive.   Or perhaps you are the lion, eager to pick off the gazelles one by one   Welcome to the Predator race -survival of the fastest.   So what is it?   You will be chasing and being chased. You will be set free into nature on a trail loop at regular intervals and your objective is simple, don't get caught. When you get caught your race is over.   Perhaps you fancy yourself as a lion, running others down and taking them out of the race. Be careful, there may be more than one lion.   So how does it work?   Simple, we mark a loop of about 10 miles, we 12 runners and set them off one by one at 5 minute intervals. If someone catches you then that's it. We just keep going round and around until only one man is standong.   In the unlikely case that more than 12 people want to run this race then we will have more races and call them "heats". One day will be for the heats, the next day will be the grand final.   So who should apply for this race?   A decent 100 mile runner would have a good chance at tiring everyone down, unless of course a super quick marathon runner took him out early. A decent marathon runner would do well, unless of course a super fast 10k runner decided to start out hard and kill him early. Someone may decide on a suicidal 5k sprint at the start just on the off chance of securing an early kill. All runners will benefit from having a good 50m sprint on them.   Will there be a seperate womens race?   Do you think a lion cares whether the carcass it devours has child bearing hips? Short answer, no they can compete in the same race


Tortoise and Hare

I tried organising this last year but due to lack of interest (and to be honest not much pushing on my side either, oooh errrrr missus) it never got off the ground.

What's so great about this race? Well, if you have the race of your life, run better than you ever have done before then you have a really good chance of winning! No matter what your current pace is. I think it will be an incredible experience, those who are often bringing up the rear will spend most of this race in the front pack! And those who are usually racing like whippets at the front will get to experience what it is like being at the back. getting to the checkpoints last and having to make do with horrible green jelly babies covered in sweat and who knows what.

You enter the race and as part of your entry you tell me your recent 12 months worth of marathon and ultra times.

I will then assign you a starting time with the goal of you finishing the race at 7pm for the 50 milers and 6pm for the 50k'ers. 

So whether you are a 12 hour 50 miler or a 6 hour boomer you should in theory be sprinting together at the end of the race.

How cool would that be?

Double or quitter

You are entering a 200 mile race. Some route somewhere, does not need to be too hard. Everyone starts together as in a “standard” 200 mile race – as standard as any 200 mile race could be.

It goes as normal except that at the 26.2 mile checkpoint there is a finish funnel. You now have to decide whether you double or quit. By quitting you go through the finish funnel, collect a marathon medal and an official marathon finish THAT COUNTS and can sit back having completed a (rather expensive) marathon.

Or you can go on, but take one step beyond the threshold and that’s it, you are committed. You can’t go back and claim that marathon finish. If you twist your ankle at 28 miles and pull out that’s it. You get nothing.

At 50 miles you have the same choice. Double or finish. An official 50 mile medal/time etc.

Can you imagine what would go through peoples minds at 99 miles? I can finish and get a buckle/finish and pretend that it was ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT DECISION or I can go on. But take a step beyond that 100 mile line and that’s it, you’ve just stepped into another 24+ hours of hurt.

You could get to 190 miles, drop or miss the cut off and leave with less than the guy who bailed at 26.2 who is probably at home now wearing a marathon finish t shirt and stroking a medal.

Map my run

Teams of two. One person is given a proper map that the other person is not allowed to look at. They then cover the route on the map and get to the end. However while doing so they need to create written instructions for person number 2 to follow. These can be made up of words, drawings etc but no photos and no proper professional maps or grid references.

I doubt many would finish this. I suspect person 2 might be a bit slower than person 1. Or maybe not.

Run until you drop

This was originally an idea from Paul Lewis and has become a fairly popular challenge in February, though I do wonder... How many days could you go for? I reckon I could get to 70. If I had nothing else to do.

The current social edition;

"Run Until You Drop" is an annual running challenge held in February each year where participants attempt to walk, jog or run a number of kilometres OR miles equal to the day of the month (i.e. 1km or 1m on the 1st Feb, 2kms or 2m on the 2nd Feb and so on all the way up to the 29th Feb).


Imagine a chemical explosion at a point. Say in the middle of London. It radiates a deadly gas at exactly 4mph outwards. Every runner starts off with a GPS and has to stay outside of this ever increasing circle from the start point.

The trick is obviously you have to maintain a distance of at least 4 miles each hour as the crow flies, and unless you know a perfectly straight road (I guess the A5 might be a good option) you are going to have to cover more distance than 4 miles in an hour. You’ll be tested on quick decision making about the length of roads as well as your pace.

You can go in any direction you please.

I would imagine some sort of online tracker with the runners spots and this ever increasing poisonous circle. No checkpoints or support or anything, just the trackers and the internet.

The 99 

A proper officially measured exact 99 mile race. Would anyone do that?

Might throw in an officially measured 26.1 mile race too.

The Ultra Tasting Menu

Kind of inspired by having to endure posh restaurants and their tasting menus.

Silly fun one. 100 miles, 48 hours, 10 checkpoints each with a national theme such that you can only have food from that country.

Probably need to think of the order, Italy and China would have to go near the beginning. Maybe leave India and Mexico towards the end.

The Karl Marx Classic

A looped race with a cut off of 30 hours. You are randomly split into two groups.

If you are in group 1 you just run as normal and get a buckle if you complete 100 miles.

If you are in group 2 then your group must average 100 miles and then everyone gets a buckle.

Would be a fun experiment. Would people try harder if other people were relying on them? Would the disconnect between their own performance and reward make them think "fuck it, I'm off home"?

From each according to their ability...