Three weeks to go...

 British Spartathlon Team


Apart from the 75 checkpoints well stocked with food, drink and human encouragement,

The police who hold back the rush hour traffic to let us run through,

The screaming kids outside schools and their homes,

The medical support, the massage, the helping hands,

The beautiful sunset on the olive scented roads,

The hot cup of coffee atop a cold harsh mountain,

That sweeping vista of miles behind you and miles in front,

The depth of the shared experience with your fellow competitor,

The camaraderie that transcends national boundaries,

The 100s of selfless volunteers who want nothing but to see you succeed,

The deafening sound of car horns and cheers as you enter the warrior city,

The street strewn with flags of all those who tried,

The foot that awaits all those who succeed,

The sip of the water, the weight of that trophy, the gentle placement of that wreath

And the greatest race on Earth.

What have the Spartans ever done for us?



Is ultra running "Crazy"?

"You're crazy", "that's mental", "There must be something wrong with you". These are a few responses I get when I mention to some people that I might be running 20/30/50/100 miles at the weekend. I actually avoid situations now where I might have to explain this to someone who does not know.

My avoidance of these situations is mostly driven by a sense of awkwardness. What do I say in this conversation? My stock response is that it's not crazy at all, it's normal. This is why.

There are certain things that humans have had to do over the past million or so years to still be here today. Three that spring to mind are eating, having sex and covering distance on foot.

Eating, we have to put calories into our body to satisfy that which is demanded by the second law of thermodynamics which states that we will not be able to function without them. This means we have to invest a bit of time and effort to eat food. Bit inconvenient isn't it? My time would be much better spent doing something awesome like blogging. But evolution selected a neat trick, it made eating pleasurable. It gave us taste buds, a sense of smell and a feeling of satisfaction when we have a belly full of food. Searching for these pleasures stops us starving.

Sex. I got told where babies come from when I was about 5. My reaction was "eeeewwwwwwww, that is disgusting. I am never doing that' . Let's face it, if you take pleasure out of the equation that 5 year old was spot on. Without the pleasure bit sex is at best an inconvenience and at worst an awkward sticky mess (maybe I am doing it wrong). However thanks to that trick of evolution I find myself wanting to have sex quite a bit.

Running. Over the years we have had to run for numerous reasons. We ran fast to get away from predators. We run longer distances to hunt and we run/walk very long distances to migrate from place to place. These abilities have all been key in human development and yet again natural selection has come up trumps. Running is a pain isn't it? It makes your feet hurt, your legs hurt, your balls chafe(or boobs for some, or in my case both) and your eyes sting. However to sweeten the deal we have been given rewards, such as adrenaline, endorphins, the glow of satisfaction from finishing hard work or the flow from coordinated effort under your own power. Yes running a long way is pleasurable.

So how can doing something pleasurable be "crazy"? I would say doing something you know will be miserable is crazy, like listening to Coldplay or supporting Liverpool Football Club.

I am not crazy.

So next time I am stuck in such a conversation I am going to turn it around on them.

Me - "So what are you up to this weekend?"
Them -"I am going out for a nice meal with my wife and after that I will have sex with her"
Me -"That's MENTAL. What kind of dumbass would do that?"

What is an ultra?

How long is a piece of string?

Actually don't go there.

I see this question come up time and time again on Facebook and ultra running forums. Mostly I see answers of two types.

An ultra marathon is anything over 26.195 miles

An ultra marathon is a bit more than that.

There is hardly a water-tight definition as to what an ultra is. It does seem like it is a piece of string type of question. For example is 26.197 miles an ultra? If you ran a marathon but at some point diverted from the blue line and went for a wee or to get a drink and ended up running an extra 20 metres would you say that you ran an ultra?

No? Why not? Is the reason because it is not officially measured as an ultra and therefore you can not say you ran an ultra? Does the category of your run depend entirely upon "official" measurement of the distance?

If I were to organise a race that was officially recorded as 26.3 miles would I be able to say that it was an ultra marathon?

No? Why not?

For me the definition of what exactly is an "ultra marathon" is as ridiculous as the whole idea of a marathon in the first place. Let's remember that a "marathon" is allegedly based on a distance run by a greek messenger 2500 years ago where he ran 24 miles and died at the end. He certainly didn't die at the end of the run and it is unlikely that this 24 mile run happened in the first place. It was only made to be 26.2 miles because of the laziness of the King of England in 1908. Let's face it, 26.2 miles has no relevence in terms of human capability or even historic significance. It is just a made up number. A 26.3 mile run is only the distance between 2 lamp posts in a street more than a 26.1 mile run, yet one run "counts" as an ultra marathon and the other "counts" for nothing. At least according to some clubs in the UK.

For me, I would categorise runs according to human (not contrived) limits. These categories would be something like the following.

Sprinting - How far can you run where the only thing limiting you is your maximal power. This is sprinting. Probably tops out at around 200m. This is Usain Bolt territory.

Lactate running - This is running at a really fast pace such that the limiting factor will be your ability to flush lactate out of your body and also to take enough oxygen. Here we are talking about 800m running.

I think there is a type of running which is 3k-10k running here which I don't have a name for but is Mo Farah type running. It might be called middle distance running.

Endurance running - The limiting factor here is running out of glucose and converting to fat burning. Typically we hit "the wall" at around 15-20 miles of running. I would say that endurance running is anything up to this human threshold of 15-20 miles.

Day Running - One you are burning fat, you are pretty much in the same mode of running for hours and hours. At this point it's basically running and eating from 15+ however many miles. At some point during this run you will pass the "marathon" distance which is as significant as a unicorn is in Darwin's theory of evolution.

However I think there comes another type of running. One that takes into account the human limit of the Circadian Cycle. Humans have evolved with/because of the 24 hour day and running outside of this is a different type of running. Say running for 18 hours or more where humans are normally expected to sleep, that is a different type of running, one where we are fighting sleep deprivation.

So, what is "ultra" running? It is whatever... let the bean counting accountants decide it. For me, running becomes a different thing after 15-20 miles, or 2-3 hours and then different again after 18 hours.

Do you want to join my club? Just answer one question. Do you give a shit?


Welcome :)



North Downs Way 100

"Even if you win you are still a loser". I believe Sam Robson is still patiently waiting for the phonecall for the job as a motivation consultant for the UK athletics team. He was right though, the previous night I failed the burger challenge. Four very large burgers, a load of chips and some unesseccary hash browns. I got just over half way in before it just got too much.

Premier Inn reception at 5am: this is a familiar scene. I'm not sure Lenny Henry would find it funny how we use his hotels but the Farnham Premier Inn were really really nice, giving each of the runners a goody bag in the morning of an energy drink and a cereal bar. I drove to the start with Sam and Dan Park and complained that all I got was 5 hours of "broken sleep". Dan said "Do you realise you are talking to two fathers of young kids about broken sleep?" Woe is me woe is me.

The biggest point James Elson wanted to make at the race briefing was to all the garmin chumpers (my words not his) that the overall distance was slightly more than 100 miles (but there would be no extra charge for this) and that the checkpoint distances might vary from what your garmin says. I can't believe that people have complained in the past that the race was a bit long, extra free miles?? Ungrateful bastards.

We sauntered to the start where I saw most of the Centurion Team: James, Drew Sheffield, Robbie Britton and Paul Navesey. They look like a bunch of guys who are about to go off surfing or joy riding or something but in actual fact they will be spending the next 30 hours running the most efficient ultra race machine I have ever known.

Robbie asked me why I was at the front with all these thin people and so I scuttled to the back.

I vaguely remember most of the first few miles from the times I have run the Pilgrims Challenge, a fantastic XNRG two day event in Feburary. The usual melee of people I have not seen for a while shuttled alongside me for the first few hours. It was great to catch up with Tim Lambert after a while and then Martin Illott and Peter Johnson where obviously the conversation turned to the Spartathlon. There was plenty of nice running to be had here.

The first CP was about 7 miles in and James and the gang were all there cheering and mocking. The food was perfect; coke, sausage rolls, sweets and ham wraps. While seeing another runner try to explain "running 100 miles" to someone else I interrupted to say that it's basically just one long moving picnic.

I found myself on my own after not too long, around 22 miles was the infamous steps of Box Hill, I've done these many times before but I swear they have added some more steps, it seemed to take a lot longer to get up them. I am never sure whether it is easier to take the steps or just slowly shuffle up the slopey bit at the side. If the slopey bit was easier then why did they install the steps? Was it just for slinkys?

At the top of those I bumped into Gemma Carter who looked to be limping a bit. She seemed in really great spirits and chatted for a while about her training and stuff. She was going to drop out at the next CP and seemed really pleased to have a chat. I don't recall getting that many words into the conversation :)

When I arrived at the CP at around 24 miles I saw Sam Robson sat on a chair. Clearly his race had not gone so well which was a shame as he had amended his #11 to be a pair of side burns which was brilliant. Not sure what I could have done with my 174. Perhaps it is because he only had one burger last night and as we all know one burger is only good for about 25 miles. I only had about 2.5 burgers so was in danger myself.

I jogged on out of the checkpoint and had some really nice easy running, said hello to all the dog walkers and other runners coming in the opposite direction. One of them even said to me "nice blog". At least I think that's what he said. I actually got quite a few compliments about the blog today which obviously make me feel really pleased and glowy but I often struggle to find the right thing to say in response. I seem to feel more comfortable being called a fat slow bastard. So in future just say that. But buy the book. When it's out.

Gemma was texting me asking where I was and I said I reckon I had done about 30 miles and so was not too far to the next CP which I believed was at 31 miles. The other day while running Gemma commented that I was quite good at guessing the distance that I have run without a Garmin or even a watch. Guessing? I said. Guessing??? This is actually a skill I have been able to develop by not spending the last 3 years fucktarding myself with GPS devices. I actually reckon my accuracy would be comparable to these devices (about 5% out isn't it?). Plus I have an estimated 870,000 hour battery life, I don't break when I get wet, I don't have to stand outside like a spaz for ages to figure out that I am at zero miles and I think you'll agree I look way more stylish. Probably the hat.


I arrived at the 31 mile point in really good spirits and could have spent the afternoon enjoying the picnic as I had never seen such a spread of food available at a checkpoint. There was everything there and I gorged and moved on. Was told off for going to the food before giving Gemma a kiss though. The next CP had jelly and ice cream. Never had jelly and ice cream at a checkpoint before.

The terrain started to get a bit tougher (or you might say "technical" if you were some luvvie) which slowed progress. A beautiful combination of open fields and enclosed woods was keeping my attention. It's easy to forget the humidity though, slowly sapping your energy. I was actually testing some kit for the Spartathlon here, I plan on wearing these clothes in the race and wanted to make sure they didn't shred my nipples or balls. The wool works well in humidity, keeping the moisture on. A tip for running in humidity is to wear non-technical tops. And by technical I don't mean a top that has a few stones on it.

I tripped over on the same stone twice. That was annoying.

Anyhoo there were more big hills and on one long hill I got passed quite easily by a lady who I later discovered was Leila Rose who I knew of through forums. She was on her way to smashing her time from last year by over six hours and getting under 24 as a result. She was making it look easy, I however was not.

I only really entered this at the last minute as I was bored of not having a race for so long and I needed something to blog about. I helped out at at the South Downs Way 100 and decided to run this one instead of crewing and while I am crewing I get an itch to run but now I am running I was getting an itch to crew.

I got the the halfway point in about 10:30, making a 24 hour finish unlikely but I was determined to press on. The CP at 50 had Karen Webber written all over it. Loud rock music, hot food and people running around everywhere. It's only a matter of time before her checkpoints have dancing girls on roller skates. One for the suggestion box. Foxy Davy was there too in one of the rare weekends where he is not organising a marathon. Lindley and Sue were there crewing Leila and Gemma was getting me food and refilling. I spent a while in there before heading back out.

It had cooled a bit and now was a 10 mile section to the next CP. It occurred to me that this was just hurting much more than a race should do at 50 miles. I came here with the hope of having a "comfortable" 100 mile run but it certainly was not turning out like that. I have not run long distance for a while, not since the ill-fated GUCR double attempt where I only made 40 miles. With a couple of blisters and sore legs I just seemed to decide in an instant "fuck this, I am dropping out". I called Gemma and said I was going to bail at the next CP. Sixty miles is not a bad run. I'd love to say that I somehow performed heroics to get as far as I did, valiantly battling huge obstacles but in actual fact it was too hurty and I pussied out. The video clip below pretty much describes it.

Gemma came out to meet me to get some running done herself. I was happy to walk in but she was having none of it and making me run faster. "I've dropped out of the race, why are you making me overtake people?" Gemma delighted in the number of kissing gates, I said there had been loads and there was never anyone around to kiss, not even a badger. I went for a wee and Gemma was looking at me for some reason. I said "stop looking at me, I can't go" and her rather unexpected response was "well at least it's bigger than your balls this time". What the hell was that for?

With about two miles to go to the 60 mile point Gemma declared "there are no more kissing gates so I am going to leave you now". Excellent I can walk again. I rolled into the 60 mile point and met Chris Ette who returned the favour of checking me out of the race as I had done to him in the Piece of String race last year. I also saw Kris Duffy who was waiting for Kelly who went on to smash the race in 26 hours, her first 100 miler. This was after having a pretty horrific meal experience the night before when the pub told her (a vegan) that there may be dairy in her hummous. How the hell do cows get involved in the smulching of chick peas?

I am a little bit disappointed I did not finish but at the same time I have to preserve myself for the Spartathlon. Hopefully James Elson understands that there is only one race I will die trying in. The first thing I thought of on pulling out though was that I need to call Fiona at mile 90 to tell her that I was not going to make it there to eat her Pringles and as I picked up my phone she was calling me to ask what had happened. I felt bad but the phone call got cut short as she had to tend to Anthony Forsyth who was already at 90 miles and in contention for the win. In the end the winning time was an astonishing 15:44. Anthony did 16:03 - well done mate, sorry I didn't get much of a chance to chat beforehand.

Can't say enough about how good these events are though. If you are looking for your first 50 or 100 (or 2nd or 3rd or 27th), then Centurion Events are perfect.

Oh, and is it normal to generate huge amounts of ear wax while running? I felt like I made enough to cover the unlikely event of Prince Phillip's next birthday.

Oh and don't forget to LIKE MY BOOK


Surviving the Sausage Fest

OK the temperature cranked up to above 20C in the UK. This is bad news for the regular exercisers who run/cycle to work in any weather condition. Now we have to compete with the fair weather for showers and changing room space at our works, in our running clubs and gyms. It's going to be a stinky tight squeeze but if everyone followed a few simple rules we can get through this and just hope that summer is short lived and the snow returns by August.

Do your stretching outside the changing room.

If you must stretch after your session ro commute then please find a spot outdoors to do it. Doing it indoors not only uses valuable space but can lead to more "collision" incidents. You know what I'm talking about, you bend down, he bends down, there is cheek to cheek contact or worse, Newtons Cradle starts swinging.

Leave the noises outside too.

If you are prone to gasps and groans when you have just completed a run or workout then please wait until you are silent before joining the room full of naked flesh. People get suspicious when they hear a satisfying aaaaaarrrrrrrrhhhhhhhh from behind frosted glass.

Don't be ashamed of your thingy, but dont wave it around like Leonard Bernstien.

So you have this thing that dangles awkwardly in sport and in showers. It is a wonderful thing in some circumstances but not here. Neither is it a horrible thing. Find the right balance between being confortable with your own body and not looking weird. Don't be that guy who showers in his pants, or the one who gets changed so close to a wall that he looks like he is f****g the hand dryer.

You are responsible for your own declothing and cleaning.

Yes we all know how it happens with girls (at least according to the films I have seen). They help each other undress, lather each other and really go for those hard to reach places. This is not acceptable for a man. Even if he is your boss.

Towel Flossing is illegal.

Well it should be anyway. If you catch someone doing this then you have every right to give the towel a very quick tug on his behalf.

Weeing in the shower.

Absolutely fine. Unless it is a communal shower, then you need to do the "dashed line" to make it look less obvious. Don't pretend you don't know what that is.

Locker room "reports".

Giving ladies the details about the stature of men in the shower is strictly forbidden. Whether these are long reports or short ones. The amount of times I see girls winking at me is quite frankly irritating.

Stuff you leave in the changing rooms for 24 hours is fair game for anyone else to use

So if you leave your shower gel then expect it to be used. You can't complain when another man smells like you. Same applies for towels. It's not ideal using someone elses towel but in the case that someone forgets (and this will happen at least every day) then it is acceptable to use the towel that has just been left there. Lucky you if you return 5 days later and find your towel is still there but rest assured that it has been wrapped around more balls than Katie Price in the last 7 days.

Oh and if you leave your shower gel in a cubicle and someone else is now in there you have to wait. It is not acceptable to just "pop in and grab it".

Hand dryers are for HANDS only

Despite the convenient height and shape of those new Dyson air blade things.

Secure the low hanging fruit first

It is inevitable in these situations that you will have to spend an amount of time hanging out in the showers. It's nothing to be ashamed of but it is something you should try to minimise. Think of it as driving in the left hand lane of the motorway, that is what you are supposed to do unlss you need to pass someone. Pants-on is the default position. Those bastards who drive in the middle lane are the ones who wave their cocks in your face in the changing rooms.

Queueing rules.

This is siimple, your place in the shower queue is determined by when you entered the changing room, NOT by how nude you are. Most people like to leave on at least their pants or a towel while waiting for a cubicle and then quickly disrobe as they enter. Standing completely stark bollock naked with your hands on your hips does not allow you to push in.

So that's about it.

Someone should write a girls version of this. With pictures preferably...



Neil Bryant says something or other about running - EXCLUSIVE

UK ultra runner Neil Bryant has said some stuff about running. I have written about it here.

My Mountainous 2013 and the Larger Challenges Ahead

Posted on 12/11/2013 by

Last year was a big year for me with wins in the Viking Way and Hardmoors 110, and possibly bigger was my 10th place in Trans-Europe. My best year results wise for sure. My recovery from Trans-Europe took just under six months. It made a real mess of me and the prolonged break was frustrating but I was relatively disciplined about it and once I had realised the extent of the damage, I waited patiently until I felt I was truly recovered.

I had already picked out a few races for the year, but then a major life change was about to happen. While I was away from work on Trans Europe for a couple of months, I realised that not only did I dislike my job, but I hated it. I felt it had nothing positive to offer me. I gained no satisfaction from it, but felt deeply trapped. I think I already knew, but the fact that I needed very much to escape now became even more prominent. A change was needed and it may as well be something extreme (for me at least).

On May the 13th, Lou and I found ourselves driving South in Doggo (My car still stinks of dogs from the previous owner!). We had both left our jobs, the house we had rented together, and had got rid of the vast majority of our belongings. Our final destination – Chamonix. Well actually the apartment that was waiting for us is a few miles up the road in the smaller and quieter town of Argentiere.

We had no future plan and even now don’t have too much of one. Mountain life is good. Almost everyone here has the common desire to be in or around the mountains. It is of course incredibly beautiful, and the same view looks different every single day. The seasons are more pronounced which is one of the most beautiful things I have seen. Winter to Spring to Summer and now into Winter. The changes are utterly spellbinding.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, life is different now. Running is still a massive passion for me, but I am very fussy now. I don’t want to run on the flat or the road. I still like it but I can not even compare the two. I am running for fun still but the mountains on my doorstep make thing infinitely better. It truly adds something very positive to my life being here.

So how do I view my year in running in comparison to last year? Well I think it has been more rewarding and exciting. Results wise I don’t think I have much to shout about, but then again the races are so incredibly hard here I wouldn’t expect to make a splash when the locals I have been racing against have not known any different. I have been learning to travel fast in the mountains. Not to worry if you need to walk an up (can often be faster than running), and occasionally accepting the fact that sticks are a good idea for certain conditions.

My big race for the year has to have been UTMB. I had set a target of sub 30 hours which I thought was rather ambitious but managed to come in around a half an hour under that. It was an incredible experience and I was overjoyed to have beaten my target, but knew that I could go plenty faster seeing how slow it felt.

So where do I go from here? What can my next challenges be? What excites me? Well, my next two races are close enough together that I will be treating them as one. One expedition. I will not favour one over the other as I want them both. First up will be the Spine in mid January. For those that don’t know, this is a full traverse of the Pennine Way over a week in one hit. It is over 260 miles and being in midwinter is the real factor here. I need to get myself around this thing without totally destroying myself as a couple of weeks later I will be flying to Norway to take part in the inaugural Frostskade 500. This is a 500 mile trek through Norway, Sweden and Finland dragging a pulk and being self sufficient. Again the main factor will probably be the fact that this will be held in midwinter. Being so far North means that the hours of daylight will be very few and the temperature will be as low as -40. This will be a whole new experience for me and for this fact alone I am incredibly excited. I may adapt well but there is also the chance that it just may not be my cup of tea. At least I will know for sure!

How hard do I think this will be? Well, I’ve had a few comments stating that this will be harder than anything I have ever done and that what I have done simply doesn’t compare to the expedition. “It will be harder than I expect”. Well, actually I am expecting a completely new experience here. A new level of suffering which I will not have known yet. A mental test beyond what I have ever had to deal with. I am not saying that I know what is coming, but the scale of the challenge will not overwhelm me. I can’t let it. I will need to develop new skills and adapt fast to the new and harsh environment. I am not going to say I will definitely finish this as that is not my style. I like to genuinely feel humbled and respectful about the challenge ahead. I will give it my best shot as always and whatever happens, as long as I feel I gave it my all I will be content.

I nearly had to pull out of both races as my lifestyle change has meant a drastic cut in my income. I have been very fortunate with the magnificent Likeys supporting me and supplying a load of kit. There has been a seemingly everlasting list of needed items beyond this though which has been giving the poor credit card a good hammering. It has certainly been a challenge trying to gather everything together on a shoestring. Ebay has been my friend! Many people have shown much generosity though by lending me expensive kit. What a beautiful community the ultrarunning one is!

I was also planning to race Tor Des Geants and Ronda del cims next year, but the finances have meant that my expedition will be my only real outings of the year. No pressure to finish then!

Do I think that the cost of living somewhere so amazing is worth it then? Without a doubt! I don’t even need to think about it. Racing is secondary to running. I do love to race, but having such inspiring trails on my doorstep is worth its weight in gold for me.

So that’s my little end of year round up and a little glimpse ahead at the challenges that lay waiting. Where will these challenges lead me in the future? Well I guess if I get on with the challenge that the Arctic offers maybe something else there. I would love to go to the Himalayas for a run/expedition/adventure. Other than that I don’t really think about it. I just follow the path that presents itself that attracts me most.

I hope you enjoy the end of your year and have exciting challenges of your own ahead.

Happy running.


Full details are on his blog

Which Facebook runner are you?

Running and Facebook go together like peas and carrots, as a famous ultra runner once said. It's true but there are many different types. Which one are you?

Digits of PI

Nice 8.263 mile run in the breeze today

Fearful that you could take a step in a run and it will not be communticated you detail the length of your run to so many decimal places that every single footstep counts. Reporting a run to three decimal places in KM means that every single meter is recorded, as if it matters to others whether you started running from your front door, your gate (+0.005km), the first lamp post (+0.010km) or the corner where you can get better signal (0.015km). Crucial information I'm sure you'll agree.

The Ponzi Chump

Share this picture of an energy gel for a chance to win an energy gel.

Seems legit. All you have to do is recruit 100 friends to "like and share" the picture and as soon as they do you get a gel. As soon as they get 100 friends to like and share they get a gel too, except they have all the same friends as you. Somehow it all falls over and the total energy expended creates a rush for energy products.

The Inspirational Quoter

The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to put it on facebook.

Putting on some shoes and going out for a jog around the block hardly makes us comparable to Yuri Gagarin or those workers in the Japanese Nuclear Reactor a few years back, however you'd think so looking at these status updates. Apparently even if you are not saving lives while running you are still slapping everyone else sat on the couch.

My worst is better than your best

Ran a marathon today. Got through half way in 1.15 but blew up competely and walked and finished in 2.43. I think I might just give up running. I am shit. Really fucking shit.

When we make statements we have two levels of communication, a semantic level and a psychological level. Here the semantic level is "I'm not very happy with how my race went". The Psychological "ulterior" level is "even at my worst I am still better than most of the people who will be reading this update

Enema of the State

Logged a run on [] with link to everywhere I have been at the exact time

You have seen the film where Will Smith and Gene Hackman are fighting desperately to evade capture from Government agents who are employing all kinds of surveilance technology (obviously that doesn't really happen). But can you imagine how easy this will be if the person they were chasing was a runner? "We've checked their house, their work, their mistress and their pub and can see no si..... oh no wait he is out for a run, he'll be running past this tree in about 8 seconds... 7...6...5...4...3...2... BANG."

Paris Can't wait to wear these. Look at the 68mm drop.

Check out my new Smashcross GTX47 Turbos. Looking forward to taking these babies out on the technicalised river path later

Running has become a cat walk, where the most important thing is the looks of the things on your feet. Obviously you are unlikely to be featured on that little 60 seconds of chavvy news that interupts a film where the main item is Victoria Beckham buying a new hat. The next best thing is to post a photo of shoes onto facebook.

Des Lynam

Bob has had a good season so far, but Bill smashed the CR in the Hill Race last month and Ralph is coming back from injury and looked good on the Road Race recently

No sport is interesting enough for it to need hours and hours of pre-match analysis. I'd rather watch the Simpsons until the game actually starts and then watch that. Leave all the wanking on about what might happen and just focus on what does happen.

Contractual Boredom

Great to place 4th in the Evergreen Trail Marathon today. Would never have even finished if it weren't for my CodgerTM Duplex Eyeball inserts.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. If you get something "for free" you are bound forever to blab on about it until you are defriended sufficiently so that you are no longer "viable" as a representative of the brand.

The Schizoprenic

Great run today in the Ealingshire 10k. Got a bit warm but really pleased with my time

And also

James destroyed the start studdied Ealingshire 10k Ultimate Challenge today, finishing 17th in a field over over 100 competitors in brutal heat

Some of us have two facebook personas. One is harking back to the days where every facebook update had to sat with "is" and hence we all got used to talking about ourselves in the third person and as a natural consequence we bigged ourselves up completely.

The Hypocrite

I wish people would stop wanking on about how far they have run, in what conditions they ran in or what they ate. I DON'T CARE!!

Worst of all is the person who moans about all of the above yet they do the same  themselves. Those are awful.

The worst of them all

How to screw up your Spartathlon in the next 16 weeks

I think about it every day, every run, every niggle and every time I log in to my stuff (Yes my password is Spartathlon based but you'll never guess it).   As it stands I am winning 3-0. That's actually a pretty good score if I can have a moment of self congratulation. Not many people finish three in a row or have a 100% record of finishing this race. I'd like to think I've done some things right in getting this score.

That is what this post is about.

Mind and Matter - Last minute tips for running 100 miles

This is not a training guide, just a collection of things I've found useful over the years and a shortened version of this general advice thing that I wrote a long time ago.


I think the first two words to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy are probably the best ultra running advice you will ever get. This was written with someone thrust into the depths of the universe in mind. You may feel the same. Keep saying it to yourself.

Don't compare your insides to someone else's outside's. You might toe the start line looking around at all the other runners and think things like "those guys are so much better prepared than I am", "They don't look worried at all". You are wrong. I think everyone feels a bit daunted at the start of a 100 mile race, be it their first or fiftieth. People do a great job of keeping things looking good on the outside while fallilng apart on the inside. Don't stress about everyone else appearing to have it all under control. They are feeling it too.

And don't start comparing training that has been done before. There will be someone here who has run more training miles who will finsih behind you. There will be someone who has run less and will finish ahead of you. What's done is done. I've found that these kind of events are less about what someone puts into the training and more about what they are prepared to do in the next day (or two).

Afraid? Good. You should be. 100 miles over some really tough terrain is a really really tough challenge that is going to take a lot out of you and is going to require all that you have to finish, maybe even more than you think you have. Fear canbe a good thing, it is an emotion that keeps us from getting outselves into bad situations but also overcoming such fear is a thoroughly exhilirating experience. I always like to remember a Mark Twain quote "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, NOT absence of fear". If you are afraid it means that you are about to do something emotionally significant. Something that you'll never forget or regret.

Matter - Don't overdrink or ignore early thirst/hunger

Bit of a tricky one here. My view of hydration has changed since last year where I thought that you couldn't really get into much trouble by drinking too much. You can. Despite what the drinks manufacturers will have you believe about needing to be constantly drinking this is not the case.

Drinking to thirst is the order of the day and this includes if you are thirsty early. I know sometimes we get carried away and not drink for a few hours because our bottles are really hard to reach or you are running at 12 miles an hour.

Similarly don't drink to a schedule, drink to how you feel. I take electrolytes as do most runners I know (evidence is still inconclusive) and so consider taking those.

Same applies to hunger. You may have heard of some elite runners who can smash 15 mountains in a day fuelled on three prunes and Werther's Original. This isn't you though is it? In ultras I've found that eating is the solution to many problems. A friend once said "If you are grumpy that means you are hungry, so eat". So remember if you are grumpy it's because you need food. Or perhaps in really bad company.

Matter - How fast should you set out?

Ha ha. How long is a piece of string? Actually best not go there. This is one of the great hitherto unanswered questions in ultra running. With anything up to a marathon it's easy. Take the time you want to do, divide that by 26.2 and that is the pace you should set out. Experienced runners can keep the same pace going for 26 miles however even at the top end of 100 mile running even pacing is rare. Everyone slows down, even in some of the worlds best performances. And read here on Stu Mills' excellent blog about the fallacy of the negative split for distance running.

This is not a license to set out like a whippet though. You don't want to run yourself into the ground early and have an 80 mile death march. You should run at a pace that isn't lung busting. The hills, the food stops, toilet stops and navigation will mess with your average pace. The point is that no one yet has found this "ideal pace" solution and therefore you should not stress about exactly what it is for you.

Also, I find that I hit the wall at around 16-20 miles in every run I do, whether it's a Marathon or a Spartathlon. It's just that uncomfortable time when your body starts burning it's fat reserves. Nothing to worry about. Remember those first two words.

Mind- Thing big and think small

100 miles is a bloody long way. There, I said it. You already knew this. There are times when it all just feels too big, when the size of the task feels so huge that you end up thinking that you can not do it. When the size of the job feels too big then this is the time to switch to small thinking mode. Think about every step, if you can put one foot in front of the other you are doing fine. Don't think about how many you have to do, just do them, one by one. Think of the next few meters, of every sip of drink, every signpost. All of them are progress. Think small, think boring, think detail.

Sometimes the here and now is too painful, or too dull. You legs hurt, you feel tired or hungry and the present is not a very nice place. Now is the time to flip the switch and think big. Think of the finish, think of the joy and satisfaction of completing a 100 miler, think of the stories you will tell to your friends and family, think of the glow of satisfaction when you lay down to sleep after such an incredible feat. Feels pretty good doesn't it? Well worth the pain right now.

Matter - Dress for the hot and cold

Your body is an incredible machine for disipating heat when you are hot. It is also an incredible maching for holding into heat when it is cold. The problem is that during this race you'll be requiring both and the body might not change modes quick enough. Starting at 6 am, you'll be running a bit faster and generating some heat but the air will be cool and it will quickly disappear as the body then shunts this away. Then when the sun starts to glare this equilibrium will be challenged, you may get hotter with no increase in effort and become uncomfortable.

This is the easy part, it's when it gets cooler (as the sun goes down, as you slow or if the weather turns). This can happen quickly. It only takes a few minutes of breeze to zap all the heat out of your body (and your body will still be pumping blood and losing even more heat). Be careful about getting cold. Be aware and wear the right stuff.

The key to keeping warm in the cold is layers. Wearing two or three tops gives you extra air between the layers to insulate you. If it's going to be cold then I suggest taking an extra layer. Keep moving if possible, swing your arms to generate more heat if needed. Think about what to put in your drop bag. Perhaps a change of clothes if you get wet early on and a chance of socks.

But then don't forget the Sun. It is going to get light from about 4am and you'll spend most of the race exposed to the sunlight. Even if it's not hot you should not underestimate the slow sapping power the Sun has. Protect your head particularly the back of the neck. Even in Britain you can get sun stroke and heat exhaustion.

Mind - Plan your funeral

OK so you are not actually going to die but this is one of the most effective ways I have ever used of getting away from negative and depressing thoughts. When you've been running for a long time your brain lets in lots of negative and destructive paranoid thoughts. Like your friends mocking you, sneering at your awful efforts to try and finish 100 miles. You'll believe that the whole world is conspiring against you, that every wobbly stile or rusty gate is there to impede you personally. That a loose rock or an exposed tree route has been placed there by some devine for intent of ending your race. This is normal. And funny.

In these times celebrate every little victory you can. Every person who lets you past, every dog that does not bite you, every child that yells "well done" or "keep going". Every time the sun comes out, every time you see a route marker that lets you know you are on the right track. All of these little things help.

And if you really are struggling mentally start planning your own funeral. Imagine a scene when you are in a box about to be buried and everyone close to you in your life is there. Imagine the things that they will say, the ways you touched their lives. It will obviously only be great things they will say. You can be as egotistical as you'd like, no one needs to know. Every word spoken will be about how awesome you are. If they have nothing good to day then don't invite them to your funeral.


I know you might be thinking that the race organisers take some sadistic pleasure in making you carry stuff around and that you can shave a precious 10 seconds off your 100 mile time if you weren't burdened with the crippling weight of some spare batteries. You'll find kits lists like this in events like this all over the world for two very good reasons, your own personal saftey and the saftey of others.

It goes without saying how some of these items can save you if you did get into trouble. Instead think about how the safety of others would be compromised by your own failure to take responsibilty. If the organisers or rescue services are dealing with someone getting hypothermia due to not packing the mandatory clothing it means they are stretched if another incident occurs, such as a bad fall. I've seen this happen and it's often the more experienced runners who take these risks. Don't do it, it's not just your own saftey that you'll be compromising but that of your fellow runners and of the existence of the race.

Race directors talk to each other. They exchange notes on the chumpers who get hypothermia due to not taking the correct kit, or those who disappear from a race without telling anyone. You don't want to go on the list of chumpers do you?

Oh and while I'm here just a reminder to LEAVE NO TRACE on the paths. A great thing I've heard at races before is a call for runners to pick up at least one piece of litter on the trail. If you drop nothing and pick up one thing then the trail is cleaner foer your presence, much cleaner for the race and therefore no one can complain.

 If your Saturday nights involve this man you are wasting your life

Mind - Enjoy the suffering

After 24 hours of running, you'll exhausted, you didn't sleep the previous night and you might not sleep tonight. You legs hurt with every step, your feet are on fire. You feel hungry but unable to eat, you may feel cold but burnt. You still have a long way to go and fear not getting there. You mind is tormented with the scenrios of failure. You start asking yourself "What if I don't finish?", "what will people say"?  "What the hell am I doing out here?"

Times like this I think of the people back at home, on a Saturday night in their living rooms waiting for a long line of musical wanabees get cut down by a sneering record exec to make good TV. I think about those who don't really know what it's like to be outdoors in the cold and dark wondering what the limits of their physical being are. I think about those who are going to sleep in a nice warm comfy bed to wake up the next morning and have nothing to do and all the time to do it. Perhaps watching more TV, having another breakfast or reading the same old stories in the newpapers. Those who will stay indoors if it's raining. Those who might drive to the gym later but probably won't.

I think about how these people are suffering so much more than I am. They just don't know.  

See you there :)

GUCR - Crewing

I was just stood there, staring down at the moon's perfect reflection in the canal. It was a clear night and getting colder. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and no noise other than the shuffling of boxes between vans. There is a pub just opposite us but it's closed. It's 1am now and its patrons and owners have retired for the night. As have the people who live in the nearby boats. They are all in bed now. I don't even know where I am sleeping tonight. I don't even know if I am sleeping tonight.

We have to be quiet, a little noise is generated when a team of four supporters bearing baked beans arrive. They are the Ferrari pit stop crew of James Elson who we are expecting to emerge from the darkness soon. Robbie, Paul, Claire and Graham talk as if they are torn between pampering James or torturing him. "Let's give him the beans, He'll eat those. If he doesn't then make him. Perhaps he'd like the sauages too? Make him have a sausage. No that's cruel".

At the same time I help out Allan, Pat and Paul by moving things from one van to another. Water, coke, bin bags, chairs, a toilet. We are being directed by Dick, the inventor and orchestrator of this whole scene. Soon we will drive off to another part of the canal and recreate the same scene, act 7 of this long long play. In the meantime we have a chance to relax, stand shivering in the dark and enjoy a luke warm cup of instant coffee, hoping it will reduce the nodding motion I am already suffering.

I break away from the chatter and get distracted by my own thoughts, or thought rather, it's hard to have more than one at a time at this stage. I tried to sum up what it feels like on a Saturday night to be on a canal towpath just outside of Tring, cold and tired, not knowing when or where or if sleep is coming, eyes hurting from being blinded by headtorches, wet feet and a mouth that feels like a badger's arse. I am surrounded by others who are here just like I am, for the same reasons I am and I try to pick a word that describes all of this.

The word I go for is normal.

That then starts off another sequence in my head. Why is this normal? When did this become normal? Why would being wrapped up in bed at home with my wife in West London feel abnormal tonight? What happened in my life that made this normal?

But I have to put that on hold for a moment because James has just arrived. He is the race leader at this 100 mile point and looking pretty fresh. He grabs some cherry tomatoes and eats a cup of beans. He then turns around and starts fiddling around in his shorts as the crew make calculations about his next movements.

This is still normal.

I have been where James is a couple of times now, stood in the dark having run 100 miles and knowing that I have 45 miles left to go. When I say I've been "there" I don't mean this bit of canal but in his head. We are different people with different ways of doing and thinking but it is very likely that I have felt many of the things he is feeling right now.

So you might think that I could empathise with him right now, that I know how he feels and can relate to his predicament. You'd be wrong. I can't. Though I have been there many times before I can't just go back right now. What I have are memories of when I was there, I can only remember what it felt like, I can't feel like it. Every time I access the memory it changes, distorts slightly every time, contaminates even. It feels great to recall them but in doing so they are moving further away from the original. The only way to know truly what it's like is to go back in there, to run those 100 miles, to feel the sleep deprivation, the sore legs, the paranoia and sickness. Every experience has a half life, some longer than others. The only way to retain the joy of reliving memories is to constantly be creating new ones.

So this becomes normal.

James thanked his crew and then he and Drew marched off under a bridge as the rest of his crew packed up the stove and boxes and made an exit. It was time for me to leave too, heading on to the next main stop 20 miles along the canal.

Allan, Paul and I head out in the van and I get an opportunity to ponder on how I got here. I understand the addiction to the sport but why the Grand Union Canal Race? It could have been any race. Well actually no, not every race holds you like this one. For the last 6 years, except one I have been at the side of the canal either running, crewing or supporting. You could say this was my first ultra love, I never imagined you could go through the kind of things that are gone through in 30+ hours of physical effort and then feel better for it. Few other races do this, that's why I'm here. Now near Watford trying to drift asleep in the van but hurting my neck to do so. I get out, shivering and wait for the sun to come up. Opposite a car park full of doggers, I watch them leave one by one including a guy on a bicycle. It's really cold now, I have all my layers on and I am still shivering, still tired, still hungry, still aching, still enjoying my normal bank holiday weekend.

Rolling out of a hotel at 5am on a Saturday morning and strolling down to Gas Street Basin seems about as normal now as getting up for work. I head down the stairs, say good morning to the guy on reception who know the drill by now and head out on the busy streets of Birmingham. There are still people around from the night before, young girls staggering around in heels and not much else, guys looking for another place to drink. I recall a few years ago at 5.30am a car of men pull up beside us and ask "do you know where there are any strip clubs around here? Sadly we didn't.  

Some of these runners have what it takes to complete 145 miles of non-stop motion. Some of them do not. However there is a subset of these "do nots" who will pick up whatever it takes along the towpath somewhere and finish. For those this will be the greatest day(s) of their running lives.   I run out to a bridge about 100 meters from the start, just past a really small tunnel that many of the runners will have to stoop under. In 24 hours they will all look like that, hunched over like old men. It's hard to know what to say to runners who are 100m into a race that is 230,000 meters long. Well done? Keep going? You are doing really well? I want to say something to everyone I know but I know about half of the field here and just can't spread my encouragement that far. I am hoping later I will get more of a chance to talk to them one to one.  

I go back to bed to get a few hours sleep before we set out on a long weekend. The early parts of the race are wonderful to be involved in but at this point extras are not really necessary. Right now the runners are elated to be in the early stages of the best ultra marathon in the UK. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and no doubt this ultra family reunion is getting into full swing.   The first place I go to is the Weedon checkpoint at 53 miles into the race. We unload the dropbags onto a narrow slope at the exit of the path, trying to put them in some sort of order so that we can grab them quickly for the runners to access them.

This is a really interesting point of the race. Runners will have fanned out into a natural order according to their own expactations. The first runner through will be expecting to win, those near the front will be expecting to get this finished by tomorrow lunchtime, those in the middle will have their own times in their heads and those at the back are here to finish around sundown tomorrow.

In the runners heads projections are being made. 53 miles in X means 145 miles in Y. Most support crews are juggling a combination of drinks, snacks and excel spreadsheets. These sheets detail whether the runner is hitherto having a good race or a bad one. Having run through here a couple of times before and on hearing accounts of hundreds of runners over the years I try to imagine how probable these estimations of Y are. I know that in 50% of cases they are quite wrong and in 49% of cases they are way out.  8 hours elapse and no runner yet, either that means that no one has set out on a suicidal pace (rare) or that the course record will be safe for another year.

We hear reports that there was an early exit from the race made by Brendan Mason, a runner I met in Badwater, an Australian living in Beijing. That is a long way to come for a race, well worth it unless of course you stack it after 3 miles, fall on your water bottle and puncture a lung. Brendan did a great impression of the black knight in Monty Python, it's just a flesh would. It wasn't, it was an organ wound and when he arrived into hospital via a disjointed route of a pub and Henk's hearse he had to have two litres of blood removed from the bag he is supposed to breathe with. Most people will fall over at some point in the race, that however was astonishing bad luck. Dick has rolled over Brendan's place for next year, I really hope that is more successful that when he rolled over this year.

The first runner Craig is in around 8:10, he looks worn. James and Cliff arrive together about 10 minutes later, James looks less worn, Cliff also does however he drops out soon after. Most of the runners at the front try to go through with the minimum of fuss, not listening to the chairs that call out like Sirens. These tests will be issued all over the race, right now it's an easy test to pass, the chairs look like Lady Gaga and sing like Geri Halliwell. Later on they will look like Kylie and sing like Aretha Franklin. It will be hard to run away from.

The spread of food on the table teetering on the edge of the tow path looks amazing. Crisps, nuts, pinapple and cheese on sticks and all sorts of drinks. I should have asked Dick to do our wedding catering. Gemma frowns at my attempted humour. As the runners arrive we yell their number, decide whether it is less than 350 and if so march up the path and find their bag. It's warm an they are getting through plenty of water. We take bottles and pouches and re-fill with not quite the same speed as a F1 pit stop. There are not a lot of similarities between formula 1 racing and ultra running. I find this much more exciting to watch. Though many of the runners look like they have enough kit to go into space, special shoes, compression gear, wicking fabrics, effervesing nutrition, zips and straps, satellite naviagation and bio-statistical feedback these things will not finish the race for them or even make much of a difference. Brain and Balls, those are the things that will finish the race.

The hardest part is keeping the brain on your side. It is designed to keep your body alive 24 hours at a time. It is programmed to stop you suffering without a point. It doesn't really care for long term benefits. Anyone who has finished this race or similar will know just how good the long term benefits are but the brain will not be interesting in this. All it cares about is getting you through the day so that you can sleep safely at night, with no fear of attack or hunger. It really doesn't like it when you start running into the night. For many of the runners this starts at Navigation Bridge, 70 miles into the race.

I got to Navigation Bridge around 6pm. James Elson was now leading by quite some margin and had already gone through. We were waiting for the rest of the runners to come in. Stood on the bridge we could see into the distance and get early warning of all the runners. We automatically make judgements on the runners style, like some reality TV show panel scoring runners as they gave us a two minute demonstration of their form. Some passed with flying colours, they might go on to great things, they would certainly be invited back to running boot camp. Others we were not so sure about, they looked tortured, messed up, awkward, tired. We have no place judging these people though and no one has the inclination to mock their efforts like they would do on TV. " Are you sure that running is your thing? Doesn't look like it. My Grandma could run better than that after her hip replacement" Speaking of Grandmas....

A couple of days ago I set out on quite an ambitious run, to run to Birmingham along this canal and then back again along with the race. The dream was to get up to Birmingham in around 36 hours, having left Paddington at 9am on Thursday morning. This was an idea that seemed so sensible 15 months ago when I first had the thought. A few weeks before I took a little knock and hurt my ribs, risking starting the attempt. In the end that was not an issue except that in those three weeks of not running I got stiff and fat(ter).

But in those few weeks where I'd normally go through the usual excitement and then panic about the race I felt very different. Actually I did not feel much at all. I was putting off thinking about it much more than I have ever done with anything. I completely missed the "Event Horizon", the time beyond which you have fewer hours between now and the start that you do between the start and the finish. I should have hit this sometime Monday but it passed without a whimper. I didn't really talk about it much. My Facebooking was minimal. I wrote a blog out of obligation almost. I didn't really want to do this.

So we set off from Little Venice at 9am on Thursday with little fanfare. I think I had already decided that I was not going to make this. I was not in shape to complete a double, nor was I in shape to really have a go at racing one way. Just to be sure I decided to screw both options up.

Mimi Anderson and I were putting in a decent pace for the first miles. Reaching the marathon stage in 3.55 (which a few years ago would have been a marathon PB for me, now it was one down, ten to go) we had an ambitious target to get to Tring in 7 hours. My PB for running that is about 6.45. We were making good time but my groin was tightening and I was finding it harder to keep up the pace. As it got harder my mind started to think of the other things I could be doing instead of running and when these sound better it's hard not to quit. In fact as soon as you start thinking of the alternatives it's as good as decided. I thought about a relaxing night tonight with Gemma, pottering around some town tomorrow, seeing all of the GUCR runners at the pub on Friday night and then helping them all get to Little Venice on the Saturday and Sunday. This seemed like a wonderful alternative to doing what I was doing right now and so I quit. I could have gone on but I didn't really want to.

I felt bad for Mimi as we said we'd do this together and I was now leaving her. She however had no issues with her desire to finish this and I had no doubts about her ability to finish it. She got up to Birmingham in 32 hours, well ahead of the schedule and looking pretty good at the end. Except that it wasn't the end, Birmingham was half way.

Navigation Bridge is a low point of the race for many runners. It starts to get dark, the head torch decision has to be made and the runners are not even half way yet. It's only another two miles but with the long stop most runners take at this bridge it could be another hour until they reach half way. I recommend runners ignore this place.

Still it is OK for the supporters, there is a nice pub with beer and burgers. In fact Rudi the Belgian runner has a stash of beer that he takes a sip of on the way. He leaves the rest of the Trappist 9.3% beer for anyone else who fancies it. I do.

Jen Bradley arrives, I hear from her support that she is having a tough time but she is looking really well. Jany comes though and is joined by Rob who would go on to run 57 miles of canal with her. He may as well run the race and get the medal, the best piece of metal I have ever recieved in a race. Mimi is still looking ludicrously strong. Paul Ali comes and goes pretty quickly with his runner. Others come and slump in the chairs.

While at the pub we talk to those who have no idea what is going on and are keen to discover. Their line of questioning is very predictable and understandable. "Is this some kind of race? Where are they running to? Where do they sleep? Surely they are allowed to stop an eat?"

The reactions are understandable and I am very careful not to patronise since I remember when I thought the same. Some might be tempted to subscribe to the multitude of stories and articles declaring that ultra runners are "different" from normal people along some dimensions such as motivation, resolve, resilience, fearlessness or mental strength. We like to talk about how "we" are somehow more suitable for this kind of endeavor. We like the awkward dumbfounded responses of others who don't understand and use this to validate our theory that "we" are different, either through genes or upbringing, like we are doing this because of some childhood trauma. I have come to realise over the years that this is complete bullshit. We are not different at all. There is no "we". Certainly not beforehand anyway.

The people running here are absolutely normal, they are the teachers, doctors, dentists, plumbers, journalists, self-employed, unemployed, students and data geeks. Mothers, fathers, grandparents and grandchildren. Most are very nice people you'd love to get to know, some are dickheads. Perfectly normal mix of everything. All that is happening here is the mastery of a hobby, it could be playing the piano, pantomime or painting. This is the result of a few years skill acquisition, nothing more complicated than that.

It takes time and practice to get good at this, to be comfortable with this and yes you do change in the process. I imagine like becoming a parent (I wouldn't know).

So to anyone watching, anyone - this could be you. Perhaps not tomorrow or soon but certainly one day. You just need to know the secret. Which is this.

As the runners came though I told them how much daylight they had left. Two hours became one hour and by then the sun was behind the trees and struggling to help the runners anymore. This is where it gets really hard. This is where the Sirens start to find their tune.

After seeing most runners though, some now have support runners to guide them along the path we head off to the next station at 85 miles. There is nothing to it, just a gazebo in a little cutting in the canal. We ditch a load of bags there, discover that James is the only runner through and then head on to Tring, 100 miles.

After waiting for hours at Tring we then hop on to Springwell Locks, 120 miles, less than a marathon to go. Most runners see this in daylight and are perplexed by just how little ground they covered in the night. I see James again who looks only slightly more tired than he did 5 hours ago in Tring. I have not slept either but I can't complain. I have potentially another 18 hours of this.

I follow James' crew 2 miles at a time to the final checkpoint of the race, Hamborough Tavern. The canal sure has its rough sections, some of the industrial parks outside Birmingham, the underpasses in Milton Keynes and abandoned warehouses closer to London. This 50 metre section is by far the worst in the whole race, covered in litter and Swan shit, opposite a building with "Quality Food" plastered on it, this stinks.

But the runners are usually overjoyed to see it, mainly because they don't have to stay too long. This point comes just after one of the best parts of any race I have ever done, the left turn. The instructions for the race are quite simple, navigation-wise anyway. Run 132 miles and turn left. Now they had turned left, there is nothing left to remember. There are two remaining landmarks to complete this race, the Alperton Sainsbury's and the Ladbrooke Grove Sainsbury's.

The next through is Kevin McMillan. I met him three years ago on a winding road in Greece. It was great to see him right up there in second place and by the speed he was going it looked like he could take first. It was not to be in the end though he did that section 45 minutes ahead of James. I was really pleased for James though, he has done so much for the sport in the UK.

It goes quite quickly though and I get to see all of the runners in the race from James through to last place though I do miss some while eating a curry with Gemma and I miss one while in McDonalds getting coffee. We are having bets on who will run through the wall of Swans. I don't see any of the leading men doing so. Jany Tsai ran through without even noticing them, so excited was she to finish. It was great to see so many people that I had not seen for more than a day, even though I was following them.

Everyone is pretty happy so long as they get here in the daylight. We have a great team of people here, George takes the runners number, Fiona gets the food, Paul wears the Yellow jacket to make it all official and I tell them they are doing really well. I hear updates from Springwell Locks about when runners are leaving there and when they are likely to be here. We are talking many hours now. Lindley comes through, practically crawling. He has been in a bad way since early on but unlike most in his predicament he carries on.

Others come and go, no one really likes to hang around. I hope it's not my company. Peter Johnson seems up for a picnic though.

I am most concerned about Rajeev, he was pushing the cut offs at all stages but I am amazined and pleased to see that he arrives here well ahead of the cut-off and ready for the 12 mile slog into Paddington. He has done this before, he knows what to do but like I said earlier he won't remember exactly what it's like. He gets to do it again now though and I am a little envious. I speak to him a little as I walk with him along the path.

This checkpoint should close at midnight. At around 11.45 I run out to try and see the two remaining runners in the race. Pretty quickly I do see Spencer who sounds tired, I can't see his face, it is obscured by a head light. I go on, past the left turn and up the canal into Hayes. It is actually pretty scary, industrial units let out a menacing hum. I run further and faster up the path and see no one until a cyclist says there is no one out there anymore. I return to report his absence and a little counting shows that there actually was no one else. I spent 20 minutes looking for a phantom. I've been awake now for almost 40 hours, I am tired but I want to head to the finish, just to see.

I get a lift with a couple of guys who made the mistake of being in Dick's family and hence will always be spending their bank holiday weekends doing this. His family get extended every year.

I go to the finish and get to see just a few of those magical moments when a normal person feels like they are awesome in its purest form. Carl Miles makes it across at the third time of asking. I see Liz Tunna, thinking I was being blinded by her torch when that was her hair. When 2am came I decided to leave and walk down the canal to home, hopefully seeing those who were about to finish.

I saw almost everyone. Lindley had spend 6 hours on that 12 mile section. Rajeev was quicker. There was a back spasm around 4 miles to go from John but he made it in, even if he was walking sideways.

I turn off at my bridge and there is only one runner left to come in. I stand there for a while amongst the drunks. They are normal too, just like the runners. I don't see any sign except Pat Robbins, the king of this race comes down and says he is out looking for him. He'll be down that path for sure but just how far is anyones guess.

I have blathered on for far too long now. Thank you Dick and everyone for putting on such an amazing event. I'll be back next year, hopefully running. Normally.


GUCR - 4 days to go

So I have been putting this out of my mind for two reasons:

1 - That's the way I normally do things like this. Pretend they are not going to happen and then just worry about it once I am doing it.

2 - I've had an annoying rib injury which has me thinking this might not even start.

The first one is a normal coping mechanism. Why worry about what I can't control? There is no point stressing and planning, especially when I am not a stresser or a planner.

The second is more worrying though not unfamiliar. I've had a rib injury before that cut short a promising triathlon career. Only joking, it was not promising at all. Around 5 years ago I signed up for an Ironman. Actually no, I signed up for something of the same distance but for half the price of the Ironman and without the branding.

Anyhoo, a week before at a wedding I was a little drunk and saw a fantastic opportunity to retrieve a helium balloon from a tall ceiling by gracefully using a space hopper as a trampoline. It looked so good in my head. It didn't quite turn out like I imagined. I rolled straight forward and smashed my front on the deck. It hurt, A LOT. Fortunately I was drunk enough such that the pain was masked but the next week was pretty grim. I could not even put on a wet suit let alone attempt the race. I had to pull out.

Silly me.

Well it did not happen quite like that this time, it was playing dodgeball at a stag do (see, marriage seems to kill ultra running somehow). I don't recall a specific incident where I hit them and on going to the doctors he pointed out why. I had drUnk a lot before even starting and would not know. That did not occur to me at all for some reason.

Anyhoo the last two weeks I have been in moderate discomfort with this rib. It is not unbearable but it is nagging. I'd rather start a 290 mile run feeling perfect. How I feel is sore and fat. I have not run for 2 weeks until yesterday where I ran a little and it was OK, perhaps I can do this.

There is not much else to say really other than I am spending the next few days cobbling together the things that I need to run this distance. I feel like I am rushing at the last minute. Planning and organisation - my nemesis. I am running this with Mimi Anderson who is all about planning and organisation, I can't do it at all and am thankful that she is putting more thought into it than I am. I hope not to become a burden as I shrug at any of the "what if?" questions.

I get asked sometimes about how to go about planning these things. I usually say if you have used the word "planning" in your question then you have asked the wrong person. I find planning stressful to the extent that I think it makes things worse overall. You can't pick up a running book, article, coach advice or anything without being told that planning is key, goals are crucial, failure is guaranteed without something to objectively measure your performance against. I think this is bullshit. For some people.

I would say when going about these things is the first thing you should ask yourself is "Are you David Gilmour or Jimmy Page?"

Let me tell you about how two of the best guitar solos of all time were created.

In 1979 while at the height of their power Pink Floyd were imploding with the pressure of performing and ego battles within the band. Amongst all this chaos (in my opinion) the greatest album of all time was written and within that possibly the best song and best guitar solo ever too. David Gilmour took himself away from this mess and did what he did best, great great guitar music. While writing Comfortably Numb he sat in the studio and played and played, solo after solo, charting them out of graphs, recording and re recording, picking out what was best and discarding what was not perfect. This laborious method of cuting and splicing led to the greatest two minutes of sound ever recorded; the main guitar solo. I've never quite heard a guitar just sound like this. David was definitely the planner.

Sometime in 1970 on the back of three amazing albums Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppellin were writing their fourth album. They often did this wandering around the outdoors in Wales, Robert, taken in by the writing of Tolkien had some words written that he wanted to put into a song. He started to sing and Jimmy picked up the guitar and just played to what he heard, what felt good at the time. No thought went into it at all, no planning, no editing, nothing was known until the moment it was played. The end result was a song called "Stairway to Heaven". You may have heard of it.

Two of the greatest pieces of guitar music were produced in completely different ways. My point here is that if you were to have asked David to just wing it and play "whatever" while stood at the top of that wall he would not have been able to do it, that's not his style. Forcing that kind of sponteneity on him would have meant the world would not have ever heard comfortably numb. Similarly if you were to ask Jimmy to plan what he was going to do, to record and re-record and edit and organise we would never have heard Stairway to Heaven. He probably would have quit playing if that was the only way to do it.

Imagine how dull the world would be if we forced to all think in the same way?

Mimi is definitely Dave. I might even call her that on the run :) I am Jimmy (similar name and quite dissimilar levels of guitar skill). It will be interesting to see how we get along next week.

I am looking forward to it.

Grand Union Canal Run - Ramblings

This is the elevation - in reverse

This started a few years ago as a short "Canal Survival Tips" article. That then became a general Ultra Running Tips article which has since been updated a few times. I think this race is still worthy of something itself and I want to share what I have picked up about it over the years.

This stuff is based on me running it quite well in 2008 when supported, running it a bit less well in 2009 without support and then helping with the race organisation in 2010. This year I am going to crew for a friend and looking forward to seeing it from yet another angle. I am really really looking forward to being there and meeting everyone.

Firstly I'd like to say that I consider this event the UK's premier long distance ultra. There are now lots and lots of great races in the UK and next year there is going to be an impressive 100 miler choice but I still regard this as the classic race to do. If you have been selected to race then you are very lucky and should remember this when you are competing.

Only a few weeks to go you should be getting really excited about doing this event. No doubt you'll constantly be asking yourself "have I done enough?" and "Am I ready?". Sure it helps to be a veteran of dozen of 100+ milers and to have run this race before as many of the field would have done, however you should not panic at all if you are not in this category. Any veteran of these distances will tell you at the start line that it's not so much about what you have done in the months and years beforehand but more about what you are prepared to do in the next 30-45 hours.

And if you have never run for a day and a half before then I really envy you. There is something quite magical about doing such a thing for the first time that you never forget. Enjoy it.

And I also suggest that you emerse yourself in videos and race reports of previous participants. Mat Dowles Video from 2006 was brilliant (with his own band doing the music, how cool is that?). Ryan Spencer put together a great vid of his 2008 finish. My video from 2009 are in 3 parts here.

My race reports from 2008 (where I ran quite well and supported) and 2009 (not so well and unsupported) are on the left hand side of this blog. A fantastic write up from John Tyszkiewicz is well worth reading too. Anna Finn finished in 2010 despite walking most of it due to injury. 

Paul Ali has written quite detailed reports of his 2010 and 2011 races. Here is a great video too of the 2010 race and another on the 2011.

Check out Mimi Andersons race report and video of her breaking the female course record in 2010.

Brian New has written in great depth about his preparation and finish in 2010.

Jeremy Smallwood attempted the race in 2012 and writes it up here

The World's most colourful runner Rajeev Patel has run the race three times now and written about it on his blog here.

And in 2012 Debbie Martin-Consani won the race outright, breaking the female record along the way. She also holds the record for being the fastest finisher for anyone falling into the canal.

I've split this up into "How to run" and "How to crew", even though I have not crewed properly before there are a few things I think worth mentioning from a runners point of view.

How to Run

  • By now it's a bit late to panic about how many miles you have or have not done. I have known people to finish this on 30 mile training weeks whereas others will be on 100. There will be people who will finish who have run less miles in training than you. There will be people who DNF who have run more. Don't panic.
  • The first 10 people through Checkpoint 2 (22 miles) are rarely the first 10 to finish. In fact many of them don't finish at all. You can bet your life that a good dozen people will smash it from the start and end up in a bad way quite early. I was at the 22 mile point last year and some people looked wrecked already. It would have been fine if they were 22 miles into a marathon, thats how you should look with about half an hour of a race left. Not 22 miles into a 145 mile race though. The course is flat and fast and it's too easy to get carried away at the start. Avoid.
  • It's going to be a fast year this year. Without mentioning names there are a lot of runners capable of under 30 hours. 
  • Learn your pitch. If it's a good day there will be lots of life on the canal which is wonderful to see (though people may get in your way). People will ask you what you are doing and you have about 5 seconds to reply to them. Keep it brief. "I'm running from Birmingham to London because I'm an idiot" usually gets the point across.
  • It's a tough call as to whether road shoes or trail shoes are best here. I would suggest ignoring what type of shoes you have and picking the ones that are most comfortable.
  • Don't ignore early thirst. If you are thirsty just 2 miles in then drink. Don't wait 4 hours or for the sun to come up properly. I made this mistake in 2009.
  • If you really want mile markers then from Braunstone Lockes there are mile markers. Braunsone Locks is 44 miles in and then they start counting up from 0. So if you see a marker that says 39 miles then you are 39+44=83 miles in. Easy. Try performing those calculations after 100 miles, I guarantee you will at some point panic because you think you have just lost 10 miles.
  • Avoid sitting anywhere confortable. If you need to sit down or stretch then do it on the floor or ona wall rather than a comfy chair or in a car. 
  • Canal boats travel at 5mph, if you are overtaking them then you are going too fast :) Dunno why I put this picture in. Just seems to fit
  • Navigation Bridge is a notorious low point of the race. A combination of 70 miles in the legs, impending darkness, a comfy checkpoint and the reminder that you are not quite half way yet add to those nagging voices in your head that you should drop out. Those voices win here more than anywhere else in the race, lots of people drop here. Try not to stay here too long (or at all). If you have a support crew maybe get them to pitch up 3 miles further on and at least then you can say that you are over half way. UPDATE - Dick has said that support crews are not allowed here unless they are picking up a retiring runner. That is a blessing in disguise for the crewed runners.
  • There will be only around 6 hours of proper darkness where you need the head light. I try to avoid putting it on till the last minute and take it off as soon as the sky starts to light up. Consider one of the hand torches.
  • This race has been won by someone walking throughout the whole night. It has also been won by a run/walk strategy. You will inevitably slow down in the night so don't worry about it
  • Be NICE to your crew. Oddly it's not everyones dream to spend their bank holiday next to a canal. If you have people supporting you then you are very lucky to have such great friends. 
  • A non-exhaustive list of things you might want to take are; Bottles and spare bottles, sweet food, savoury food, painkillers and gel (I try not to use these anymore but it's good to have them as an option), spare shoes, spare socks, hats, buffs, lights (a flashing red light is useful if if you are running in front of your buddy - remember buddy runners should run behind and not act as pacers), toilet roll (carry at ALL times), food bags, pins, bin bags, roll mat (for stretch or lie down if required), flask (to carry hot water), British Waterways Key, Phone, maps, money and cards (there is not an awful lot to spend money on in this race though there is a Canal boat selling canal trinkets at around 40 miles and then there is the Canal Museum at around 63 miles in Stoke Bruerne, if you have time :)), suncream, lube, handwash (you'll forget which hand is your eating hand and which hand is your lube applying hand quite a lot), toothbrush/paste/flannel (your mouth will taste like a badgers arse after 100 miles of eating crap and this can be quite a morale boost), milkshakes and sources of protien, caffeine, 
  • Sometimes the miles will just go by slowly, or seem to not go by at all. In this case just focus on moving forward. Make each step count. The approach to Tring is mentally tough, you see signs of Tring quite a way out but then you have to ascend the locks and it seems to take an age to get to the checkpoint. Don't worry about it, just keep on moving forward.
  • The left turn after 132 miles at Bulls Bridge Junction is one of the most wonderful things you'll ever do
  • The pub at the end serves nice Guinness
  • And remember, no matter how bad it is just think about people you know who are at home watching TV. While you are stumbling your way through Milton Keynes, wanting to be sick and lie down to rest your burning legs. Think of those at home watching Eurovision or Pop Idols or similar drivel. Think of them as they stare at their screens, cosy in their living rooms at their idols "Jedward" and similar trash from our celebrity culture. Take comfort in the fact that they are suffering so much more than you are, they just don't know.

When you are at your lowest just think how much worse it could be?

How to Crew/be crewed

  • Firstly, look after yourself. Many races like this end up with more crew members visiting the medics than runners. Keep warm, get some sleep, don't go hungry. You need to be on top form for your friend.
  • Let your runner tell you what they need NOT how to do it. The "how to do it" part is for the crew to sort out. The runner should be saying "I need drinks every X miles and change of clothes at Y miles and a buddy runner at Z miles". It's the crews job to translate that into road navigation and who drives etc.
  • The best instructions I have ever seed for a support crew were from Tim Welsh when he did Badwater last year. He wrote a list of instructions and reasurances to his crew to guide them through what was going to be an exhausting 2 days. Have a look at this on Tim's blog (scroll down a bit bit read the great race report) and consider drawing up your own "contract".
  • Remember firstly that at many stages the runner will not be like their usual selves. 
  • Try not to ask questions. Sounds silly but in a state of exhaustion being asked questions is torture. Seriously that's what they do in Guantanimo Bay, deprive inmates of sleep then batter them with questions. Even something as innocent as "how are you doing" can feel like an Emu pecking at your brain. Be careful with your language, say things like "Looking good, there is some coke or jaffa cakes here if you need", or " making really good time, let us know if you need anything", rather that "what do you want?", "How are you feeling" and "What is the capital of Assyria".
  • Expect the occasional silly request. Like a medium skinny latte at 2am in Leighton Buzzard, with soya milk. You may not be able to get exactly what they want but do the best to humour them, or lie.
  • Have an easy to carry box where all the food can be put and brought out to the canal at any time. My crew had a Sainsburys basket (I didn't ask how they got it) which worked well to bring me a selection of everything.
  • Carry a supply of hot water with you all the time in case they need a coffee/tea/pot noodle.These are the blisters to beat
  • Don't lie about how far they have gone/have to go. Try to avoid talking about it at all but if pressed then make sure you are accurate. 
  • Be generous to other runners if they need it. Things like water, sun-cream, coke, sweets, lube, bin bags, ice, coffee, batteries or anything like that.
  • Buddy running - You should know what type of runner you are crewing for. They may be the suffer in silence type, the vocal and frumpy type or perhaps they run like a suicidal lemming. I know people of all types (and good luck crewing for the last type). Each will need different approaches. Just let them do their own thing
  • Buddy runners are not allowed to "pace" ie run in front. They should be behind just making sure the runner is OK. Try to keep them moving, it's easy to find excuses to stop. Maybe carry a whip.

 Thats all I can think of for now and there is a load more stuff on the GUCR website. With less than 3 weeks to go all of your long running should have been done by now. You may have more spare time now that you are not running so much so I suggest you spend it reading about this awesome race and getting really really excited.

See you on the 28th

Win a copy of Feet in the Clouds

What running book has inspired you the most?

It's a question I would have difficulty answering. My answers would be somewhere on this list.

I ber if you asked people then this book will appear at the top of many lists, and for good reason.

I read this a few years ago and fell in love with the Lake District and returned there many times. I actually met Richard at an Endurance Life talk about his experiences of the Bob Graham Round. Oddly enough just after he finished talking a couple of friends of mine were just finishing their own Bob Graham Round, inspired by the book he was just talking about.

I have read this book and loved it and am definitely going to retrace his steps one day and attempt the BGR. Many others have done so.

Anyhoo, I write this post to draw your attention to the fact that this book is being re-released after 10 years. Not very old and not many books can claim to have got so many people into ultra running. I have been sent three copies by the publishers to give away in a competition.

To be in with a chance just answer the following questions in this survey. I will write a summary of the results later.

Entries in by May 12th and you must be UK based. I will pick the completed answers at random. You have more chance of winning this book that you do of finishing this race.

Good Luck :)



Jack Wolfskin Flyweight Running Jacket - Product Review

Temperature management can be a tricky thing, particularly in the British weather. Sometimes it looks warm outside but it is actually cold, sometimes it looks cold but is actually warm. More often than not it looks cold, is cold but then warms up just as you start sweating and then tips it down with freezing rain just as you de-layer and makes you cold and wet.

Yeah the weather is annoying isn't it?

When rating a running jacket there are two things to consider. How good is it to run in and how easy is it to carry when you are not running? The latter is important as you want something you can take off and forget about if the sun ever does return to the UK.

I think this jacket performs very well on both counts. It is incredibly light, lighter than similar products I own from North Face and Gore. When wearing it it does a great job of protecting against wind as well as fending off light showers. It has snug wrist bands and a draw string to pull it close so you do not end up been blown about the place like a windsail.

I had no idea Jock Wolfskin produced running kit and was keen to try it. The Flyweight Jacket is certainly the most useful running soft shell I have used so far (and I seem to collect them). At 125 grams it weighs about as much as a small flapjack. The material is something that is built for mountain climbing and so is perfect for running when you get up high and need an extra layer.

I have hammered this top running over mountains and have found it very comfortable. The wind does not bite, showers will bounce off and it is breathable enough so that when you do finally pick up some speed coming back down the hills you do not spontaneously combust.

It also zips into the pocket making it perfectly transportable. Like I said before how these feel when you are not wearing them is just as important as when you are. I can put this away and it can tag easily onto a bum bag or even fit nicely into a pocket which is really handy.

I really like this jacket and will be wearing it/carrying it for commuting running as well as any general long distance trail running when the weather may turn. It is good for 90% of weather conditions, lets hope that other 10% is behind us.

Ultra room 101

OK here is an idea for a new game. You may be familiar with the TV show "Room 101" (based on Orwells room 101) where you get to consign the things you don't like to history. It's a chance to have a rant about things you hate. I hope other bloggers do the same and post them.


Northburn 100 - Part 3 - The last loop

This is a race report in three parts. Part one is here. Part two is here.

I don't think I slept at all. I nodded off a few times but I was not warm enough and there was always something making a noise. I got up about 20 minutes later and started to get my things together to head out again. I drank some coffee that Gemma had put in a thermos for me 15 hours earlier. It was still warm. I got up and was waiting to get directions onto the third loop but was held up slightly as she had to wait and record the winner coming in. Now I had not heard of this guy before and I assumed that all of the "elite" runners would have been at a more pedestrian 100k race in the north island the week before but 22 hours on that course is an astonishing time. Not sure how much he has raced outside New Zealand but he could be one to look out for.

When I first arrived here on Friday for registration I saw this sign that said "loop 3 60km". It was going to be a significant moment of the race getting past that bit. I was really pleased that at no point yet I considered quitting, even at the warm cosy end of loop tent. This bodes well for another looped run I would like to complete one day. It was just gone 4am, I was back out on the track again where I was promised the biggest climb so far.

It started with steep switchbacks similar to what I had just come down and then joined the uphill bit of the loop of despair. I thought this would take 5 hours and that would include a sunrise.

I was tired in many ways and stopped a few times to regain myself, usually after stumbling on something. The clouds in the sky were keeping us warmer in the night and cooler in the day but I wished they would leave so I could see the stars and the milky way. I had looked forward to spending a few minutes lying down and looking up at how utterly insignificant I and everything I have ever done or will do is. This always comforts me.

It was still dark as I approached TW for the third time. The only thing concerning me at this point was the location of those cows. They were not in the same place as before, I hesitantly scanned my light around but was careful not to focus it too much. I did see them, behind me. They had moved and were way down the field, still staring at me. Quite glad I did not have that burger now.

I got to TW in around 5 hours and was pleased with that progress. I didn't think there was much up and down left and the wind had died down a bit. The next section was a short 4k to the leaning rock, heading back down then up again. This was into a headwind again and quite difficult but ok. On getting there I was told to head back down another path where I would see another marshal after about 3k.

I could jog some of it but most of it was too steep for me and I had to do a power stumble instead. I was still going faster than I had been for a while, looking out for a car that signified that 3k was done, doing that retarded thing where you look at the time and try to work out how fast you are going and extrapolate how long it would take to get to the end. More than an hour passed and I knew it could not be 5k, it just couldn't. Every switchback I expected a car and a smiling face but it would not come. For the first time in the race I thought I might have gone the wrong way, I stopped and looked back and saw far into the distance at two runners following me, much much higher up.

The car and marshal finally appeared and directed me on an 8k out and back along the side of a mountain. The trail was a bit easier but the wind was still harsh. I got to see the people just ahead of me and just behind too and was surprised that I was close to many. With all these switchbacks and corners and darkness I had not seen many people in the last 24 hours.

The 8k came and went fairly quickly, now it was time to head down a little further and then back up to TW, the last big climb of the race. I wasn't quite prepared for the "water race" though.

I am not a farmer and have no reason to what a water race is. Its a horizontal irrigation system that works its way around mountains. Instead of going back up and down we ran right through this thing. There was no trail at all, I saw the posts marking the way but there was no path. It was like Barkley, in fact no it was worse than that, there was no ground. With every step I was taken by a paranoia of my feet falling through the earth. Its was not obvious what was ground and what was air. Some of the grass looked like it was suspended. I am sure it was not as bad as I make out, maybe I was tired but I quickly lost my sense of humour at this bit, it was horrible. There was about a mile of this and then a walk on a ridge that required a rope to stay on it. Who would do this 80 odd miles into a mountain race? I was not amused.

I was having difficulty with my temperature, very cold when I just wore a t shirt but roasting when I put the jacket on. My neck was warm and my head was fuzzy. I was falling asleep on my feet. After the rope ridge there was the small matter of the climb back up to TW. I debated with myself as to whether to tell the medic I felt both hot and cold. I had not quite felt like this before, not that I can remember everything. Dr Goolgle afterwards says it could be Pregnancy, menopause, diabetes, poor diet. I reckon the last one. I fueled for this race on soup, coke, bombay mix, cashews and jet planes. Kiwi's will know what jet planes are. They are awesome.

The wind was at it's worst now, pushing us all back. I swear they moved this checkpoint to a different place each time, no amount of climbing seemed to get us up there. I could not remember exactly which mountain it was I was heading to the top of and inevitably it was the furthest one again. The whole climb was on an exposed mountain side with vicious wind.

I was going so slow I was ready to quit. It was going to be 3pm before I got to the top of this, there was about 25k of downhill after that and if that was going to be as slow as previous downhills I thought I'd be finishing in the early hours of the morning, perhaps nor even making the 48 hour cut off. I was very despondent at this stage and not really looking past just collapsing in a horsebox and being asked to be carted home.

As we got onto the last climbing straight there were about 4 of us getting battered by the wind. A marshal Andy ran down handing out walking poles. I laughed as he offered them to me, no thanks I said. My dignity already took a hit with the tights.

Lisa then came down, taking photos and walked beside me a little. "come on James, you've done tougher than this".

If I were able to get out some breath just to respond I would have said "I don't think I have".

Of all the big hard climbs I have done in the big hard races this would certainly be up there. Sangas pass, Townes pass, Bovine, Rat Jaw. This one really broke me and made me think that finishing was impossible. I gave myself a maximum of 15 minutes at the top before I was going to descent again and called Gemma to say that I may be some time.

There is a lesson here. If you estimate your finishing times by using a "bottom up" approach of taking how long you have done certain sections and then multiplying you are going to get it wrong. I was here. Not only was I doing the wrong calculations but I was also doing the calculations wrong. I was running with a few others who all seemed in a good state and moving at the same speed as me and with the intention of getting finished before dark. Surely that meant that I was going to too? Instead of trying to work out how fast I was going I should just be able to look outside and see that others around me seemed to be moving OK and they intended to make it.

I spoke to a marshall at the checkpoint who said I only had 23k left and that it was about 3 hours to the next station "Brewery". I set out at around 3pm and hoped to get there in the 6 hours that they said. I was in good spirits again but falling asleep on my feet. I texted Gemma to say I was on my way back down and hopefully back before sunset. She said she was going to meet me at Brewery. I was looking forward to this. The Northburn Station produces the merino wool that makes icebreaker clothes you might wear. There should be a barcode on them so if you can scan it you can see whether the wool came from Northburn Station. Recently they branched out into producing wine (which Gemma tells me is very very good). I didn't however know that they were also making beer. I was looking forward to this Brewery.

I jogged a bit down the windy winding path. It was getting cooler. The noises of the evening piped up, the birds and the crickets. I really should be on a patio in Wanaka drinking a beer and waiting on a BBQ. Instead I was trying to force my eyes open to get to this brewery. I escaped a sheep stampede as they got scared by me and tried to run into another field. We were told that sheep sometimes try to run away and run into you but not to worry because they are very soft. I still didn't fancy getting put out of the race by a sheep though. That gave me a kick that lasted about 10 minutes. I tried sodcasting on my phone too, blaring out a tinny version of Kashmir but that was not doing it for me. I figured I would have to go to sleep at some stage but wanted to get as much as I could do in the daylight as possible.

My mind was playing tricks on me with the rocks. I was looking out now for a building and every single rock seemed to look like a nice building with a welcoming door and smoke coming out of the chimney. This was like the ascent up the Whitney Portal in Badwater where all the rocks were coming alive and threatening to eat me, only these rocks looked like welcoming homes, except when I got right up close and they just looked like rocks.

About 2.30 later I thought that the Brewery must be just aroung the next corner. I then saw Gemma walking the other way with what looked like a large bottle of coke. She then walked behind another rock and took ages to come back out which made me wonder whether I had actually seen her in the first place. Indeed she did appear back around the rock with lots of coke. I necked a load of it and was informed that "Brewery" was just around the corner and somewhat heartbreakingly that "Brewery" was just the name of a creek and there was no beer making place at all.

I got over it though. I felt more awake as soon as the Coke hit my insides. The chap in the car told me that it was 10k to go and this was the 10k he and many others around that weekend do as an "easy 10". He pointed out a penninsula in the distance as said that is the point I am aiming for. It didn't look far at all and I was quite pleased. Unfortunately I forgot that the Romans never made it as far as New Zealand. Bloody Romans.

If you want to know what Kiwis mean by an "easy 10" there is a race in the UK that is quite similar, it's called the Knacker Cracker. Though there were no more mountains it was still up and down and side to side. I kept that penninsula in my sight apart from times when I seemed to be moving in the opposite direction to it. These farm tracks winded in and out and all about. I kept the two guys ahead in sight (one was a pacer which I didn't find out till later). Gemma came out to see me again just before it got dark. I didn't manage to finish before the sun came down but I was close.

This was the first race I had run into two sun rises and two sun sets. That was pretty awesome. After 97 miles I saw a familiar thing for the first time, a stile. Here we could not open the gates we had to climb over them, they are about a meter high. After climbing over about 50 of these and worrying about whether I'd get cramp while wedged on one and having to go through the embarassement of getting rescued while straddling a gate I wondered why there were not more of these. It seems that the race organisers have an evil sense of humour putting one of these after 97 miles.

I walked at the end, my feet were mashed. I felt blisters everywhere. Gemma told me about a sandwich that my new mother in law had made me. It's got steak, butter, mayo, mustard and onions. I salivated at the thought as was looking forward to getting in down my neck at the end. I was just looking forward to the end now. It was almost the longest I have ever spend on my feet in a race, finishing in just over 39 hours it was only 20 minutes short of what I did at Badwater. I ran though the line and lay down, describing the race as "wonderfully horrible".

It was not over though, as soon as I entered the tent I was told by the medic that I had to stay on my feet for another 15 minutes to reduce the risk of post exercise exhaustion. I felt pretty good by that point but did what he said and after 100 miles of mountains I was doing a few laps of the gazebo. Tom my father in law came up with a beer and the medic frowned, "not until you have drank at least twice that in water or electrolytes). In the end I only had one sip shortly before crashin in bed.

We were told that this was going to be the hardest thing we had done. It was not far off. I am not good at going up or down, particularly down. I think the finishing time of 22 hours was remarkable (he is a 7h 100k runner). I know I could have gone hours faster if I was able to run down hill, and carried about 10kg less belly.

If this race were a 4 hour flight from the UK I'd be here every year, it was incredible. The support was amazing, there was never any chance of getting lost, the organisers push so hard for a safe but really tough race and that is what they got. The people who helped out were amazing. Rachel and Emma manned the comms for 40 hours without sleep. A chap went up for a 4 hour shift at TW and came back 28 hours later. Virginia Winstone finished in just under the cut off, showing a level of determination that most don't have. I really really loved this race and hope to be back in NZ soon to do this again.

Thank you everyone for putting on this gruesome race. Hope to see you next year...


How this compares to others in terms of time.

Badwater 2010 - 153 miles -  39.5 hours

Northburn 2013 - 100 miles - 39 hours

GUCR 2009 - 145 miles - 37.5 hours

Spartathlon 2009 - 153 miles - 35 hours

Spartathlon 2012 - 153 miles - 34 hours

Spartathlon 2010 - 153 miles - 33.5 hours

GUCR 2008 - 145 miles - 30.5 hours

Trans Gran Canaria 2011 - 80 miles - 23.5 hours




Northburn 100 part 2

The heat of the day kicked in as we marched up the long climb. We were quite lucky with having some cloud cover for most of the day, protecting us from the 30c glare that we have been having here over the summer. I thought about the many friends I had who will be starting the Thames Path 100 in the UK soon. The UK has been hit by snow and blizzards and all involved were going to have a hard time. I felt a little guilt as I splashed my face in a nice cold creek, wet my hat and looked out on the ground for little lizards basking in the sun.  

On the way up I spoke to Campbell who I met at the start and had been reading my blog. He said I should have no problem doing this though he and others easily cruised past me on the ascents. The path was much better than in the first loop but it was still hard work. The first climb here was to get to the top of "TW", the mountain top that was the major aid station for the whole race. On the way we were introduced to gale, a furious high speed wind that would be a permanent obstacle in the race. I don't think the video does it justice. I have not felt air rushing at my face this fast since, well erm yesterday. That was when I was in freefall, dropping out of the sky at 200km per hour.  

I cowered behind a huge rock, sheltering from the wind to put my jacket back on. I felt a bit silly taking such a big windproof and waterproof jacket with me but now I was very pleased with the choice. The jacket stopped the wind from sucking the heat right out of me but my ability to stay on my feet was rather like Gareth Bale's. I stopped (or was stopped) a few times to regain my balance, looked back and saw other runners behind the same rock putting more clothes on.    

It took about 4 hours to finally reach this place and it was a very welcome sight. There were two vans and 4 horse carts. My drop bag was in one of the carts and we were encouraged to spend some time in there getting warm before heading out on the "loop of dispair".   I ate some soup and got out of there fairly quicky To try to get as much of the loop done in daylight. The loop of despair was only 13k but it involved a gnarly descent off the mountain and then coming right back up the other side.  

The down felt ok. The blisters that I got two days ago from climbing a couple of mountains were starting to burn. Every rock kicked felt like my foot was bleeding. After an hour of descent it leveled out but started to get dark. I tried as best I could to hold out without putting on my torch but with clouds in the sky and the sun quickly disappearing behind the mountains it gets dark suddenly. And it gets proper dark too. I was on my own for this whole loop and with no other torches around if I turned mine off I was in pitch black darkness. Exhilirating but also quite scary.  

At the bottom I saw a marshall who reasurred me that I was only 5k from being back at the top. I knew he meant 5k horizontally and that pythagoras would have something to say about it. Realistically I knew I was 2 hours from getting back up there.   I slowly wound up the valleys to the top. I had no idea now how to idenfify the top as it was dark. The course was marked with posts and reflective tape, every 50 meters there was another glowing marker to aim for. It was impossible to get lost, they had marked it so well. I was zooming my light in to see further ahead to try and get the shape of the land. Sometimes I thought I saw another headtorch and would get excited that there were others in the race but it never was, just a reflection. I had not seen another runner for hours.  

As I crested the mountain I flashed my torch near some rocks and saw a flurry of activity, lots of torches lit and moving side to side. I felt great as the checkpoint had come sooner that I expected. I walked up the switchbacks and headed around to the light but something felt odd. There was no sound. Now I was close to the lights but could not hear anything. I shone the torch at full beam directly at the area and it took a few seconds for me to realise that I was stood about 5 meters from about 12 cows all just staring at me.  

We were told in the briefing that we might get freaked out by cows, these big white eyes lighting up randomly in the dark. I have seen how fast cows can run and was very careful about my sheepish exit. Apparently cows magnify things with their eyes and so they think we are bigger than them. That did not enter my mind at the time. I carried on, up a few more switchbacks and looked back, the cows were in the same spot, still watching me climb the hill.   I looked up, unable to seperate the mountains from the clouds and sky. Every reflective flash in the distance was another place I had to get to and it looked so high. I saw a dim light way up. It did not disappear wheni took my light off it so it must be a runner. It was so high though and only after many turns and this light not moving did I finally twig, thats Venus.  I don't have to go that far.  

I was exposed to the wind again near the top as I tried to remember where this checkpoint was. It might be just behind the next rock I kept telling myself. Finally it came and by that time the wind was furious. Blasting me to standstill at regular intervals. As soon as I stopped I froze and had to duck into a horsebox where my drop bag was. I was shivering in three layers. I added my fleece to my layers, put on the thermal tights that I thought were a silly thing to carry. Put on a balaclava that I only put in the drop bag as a joke. I was now wearing all the clothes I had and I was still cold.   I had as much hot food as I could manage as I sat in this little wooden box that was rocking in the wind. It was hard to leave but it had to be done. It was only about 11pm and it was only going to get colder.

I headed out of the horsebox and onto the ridge where the wind battered me further.   There were 8 types of wind. Headwind, tailwind, side wind (into mountain) and sidewind (down mountain). Each of these can happen when you are heading uphill or downhill. Headwind is the worst, it slows the descents and makes uphill impossible, I was contorting myself into all sorts of shapes to try to get up some of those. Sidewinds are rubbish whether up or down too, most dangerous when pushing you into a ravine.   The tailwind going down hill is the worst though, I had to lean back to stop myself getting blown away. The ground is rocky and I could not see very well. I thought I might take off.   So 7 of the 8 winds are bad, the wind was 87.5% evil, there was that sweet 12.5% that was glorious, gerting blown up a hill by a gale. Sometimes it was perfect, I could just spread my arms out and use my jacket as a windsail and glide up the hill. Did not happen that often though.  

I remained high and exposed for quite a while. After about an hour I came to a junction with a marshall who asked me "have you been here before?"   I was not sure how to respond. How does he mean? I think emotionally I have been here before, paranoid that I am never going to get this finished. Metaphorically I have definitely been here before, getting bashed around in all directions by a random force while I try to achieve some goal that I am no longer sure is worth bothering with. Existentially I am only "here" in the sense that you are seeing me here. I could well be over there, or anywhere.   But in actual fact he was asking as to whether I have physically been "here", stood by these rocks and looking at this car in the dark. I had not and so had to turn left down another craggy ridge where the wind was 100% evil.  

I was a bit confused as to why I had to go in a different direction. I later discovered that we hit the same point on the third loop. He was not 100% certain that I wasn't winning. Awwwww, people almost think the nicest things.  

Gemma was in bed now in Wanaka and had put a call out on facebook for people back at home to send me messages. Most of the messages said "I hear you are wearing tights like a girl". I got a lot of positive messages that brought a smile to my face, well the wind didnt let me do that.   I did a big circle in the sky and then it was time for the descent, the same one as in loop one though much harder in the dark. I was tired and looking forward to a little sleep once I got to the end of the second loop. I started rattling through the calculations in my head. If I get back at 3, stay till 4 then I have 26 hours to do 60k, that should be easy. However there were sections that I was going slower than that pace.   But I was still up high. I figured that it is net downhill from here to the end and though I am only about half way I could say I have already done the hardest bit. I have used this logic many times before and it has always been wrong. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, thats the definition of insanity isn't it?  

It seemed harder the second time even without the additional loop with the other hill.On the way a quad bike passed me and said it's only about 2k to the end. I thought that there was no way this was true, I have not covered that distance. Then there was a car with a marshall who said "you'll be pleased to know it's only 6k to the end". Well I would have been pleased for it to be only 2k but I was even more pleased that my brain was still working and could guess distances.  

 I finally saw the lights of the camp and staggered in at about 330am. I saw Campbell again who said he had called it a day. 100k over that terrain is pretty good going but I was determined to do the whole lot, after a little nap though. The medic team sat me down and asked a few questions before weighing me. I had dropped 3kg since the start and they suggested I ate and drank if I was heading back out.  I lay down on the nice soft warm grass and closed my eyes.

Northburn 100 - part 1

Gemma and I were about to go sky diving.

I said to Gemma "we should... You know... Before we jump out of a plane. Just in case we die".  

"Nah, don't be silly" she reassured. "We are not going to die skydiving. We'll definitely do it before your race though".  


It was Gemma who told me about this race. Only an hours drive from where we will be staying. Perfect, I signed up without looking at the details. I mean, how hard can it be if I have never heard of it?   The details were quite sobering though, 100 miles and over 8000m of climbing. I had accidentally signed up to the UTMB, and I discovered this about 3 weeks beforehand.  

I didn't know many things about New Zealand before I went.

I knew;  

It has two main islands
Lord of the Rings was filmed there
There are 17 sheep for every person
They don't like getting confused with Australians
Rolf Harris is their most famous person  

Some things I wish I had known before going out there.  

New Zealand has more mountains than London has bus stops
Kiwis love mountains
All sport in NZ involves mountains
The mountains are much bigger than any in the UK  

The Northburn 100 is the first 100 mile race in NZ and is hardly a gentle introduction to 100 mile running, unless of course you are a Kiwi and your breakfast includes a mountain.   I was expecting a hard race.  

The registration the day before was an event in itself. There was a huge camp of runners and organisers at Northburn station. I rolled in after my skydive (where I didn't die), picked up my number, got weighed (marriage adds 5kg at least). I then heard the presentations.   The race director was Terry Davis. He was clear that we were taking on a massive challenge and also warned us about "fraternising with the herbage". He retold his one running of the course and said he will never do it again. "don't think that when you are 10k from the end that you are close, you are still hours from the finish".  

You may have heard of Lisa Tamati. She is the major sponsor of the race and was helping to register us. She has done a lots of crazy races in her time including Badwater, running across the Lybian Sahara unsupported and the length of New Zealand. She told us to expect the hardest thing we have ever attempted.  

We then heard from the owner of the station; Tom. Unlike any landowner in the UK he seemed thrilled to have 100 people destroying themselves on his land. He gave us some advice on how to deal with the animals. This guy has more mountains than we have dinner mats. Can you imagine how popular he would be. "fancy coming round mine to play with my mountains?". Though  apparently some girls from Invacargil use the same line with similar success.  

And for good measure the medic came to talk to us about the dangers we would face. Hypothermia and Hyponytremia being the biggest risks. I had never had to carry so many layers as compulsary kit before and thought it was a bit over the top. Then he said last year 6 people got lost in an unforecast blizzard. We should be ok this year though as no blizzards were forecasted.  

I woke up at 4am on saturday having slept little. However with these kind of things it is the night becore the night before that is most important and that went well. I was very sleepy though as I sat in the car to the start. I woke up a bit  when Jon flattened a rabbit that was dazzled by the headlights. I think here I  terms of erradicating pests you get 1 point for a rabbit, two for a possum and 5 for a kitten.  

The start was sedate. 100 or so runners assembled ina tent, most running the 100 miles, some 100k and some 50k. Lisa was with the camera crew doing interviews. Gemma and I explained that this was my honeymoon race. In fact I just shut up and let Gemma do all the talking.  

It was not a crowded start, the 100 runners set off on an easy 5k loop of some farm tracks before getting stick into some of the climbing. This race consists of three loops, a 50k followed by another 50k and then a 60k. It was going to be nice to break it down like that but I imagined it would be hard to set out on that last 60k loop knowing you could call it a day at a nice round 100k.  

The loop was in the dark. There was no unnatural light around other than our torches. It didn't really get light until 730 by which time we were out of the vineyards and starting on the first climbs. The first climb was tough, up to the top of Mount Kinaki at about 1000m having started at 200m. This was in the first 20k. There were more climbs on rugged path littered with tussocks (a minor inconvenience) and Spaniards (a plant with leaves like shards of glass, very painful to brush upon).

As we got higher more and more clothes went on. I put a long sleeved top on but in an exposed area I was told by a medic near the top to put more clothes on as I was showing early signs of hypothermia, slurring speech and staggering. I was about to enter into a John Cleese tirade with something like "well of course I am staggering, I've just climbed 1000m through a minefield of pointy spaniards, what do you expect? Me to come strutting up here like Kate Moss? And if I could do this without slurring my speech I'll be winning".   But I refrained, put on the clothes and then headed up further.

It was a good job I did put the clothes on as the wind set in and blew all the heat off my body in seconds. This was quite different from any mountain races I have done before such as the UTMB, The Lakes 10 peaks, Trans Gran Canaria. In those you go up and then down, spending little time up high and exposed. Here you get up high and then spend hours up there exposed to the elements.   It took about 5 hours to get to 24k where a marshall directed us onto a path. This was the first bit of path we had seen for a while and we all started running along. I think I even managed to bang out some ten minute mileing. Sonic boooom.

Now my layers were an annoyance and took them off.   The descent on the first loop was quite manageable and also quite beautiful, I felt like I was running in valleys in Arizona again. It got warm and the summer gear came out. I can see why there was a requirement for so much kit now, I was having more wardrobe changes than Lady Gaga.  

I enjoyed the heat and the prospect of finishing a loop but not long before the end we were diverted onto another climb right before the end of the lap. I was hoping to get the first one done in about 8 hours but it worked out at around 830 which was not a big deal, still plenty to go.   Gemma and my new in laws were there helping me with a Ferrari style pit stop. Bottles refilled, noodles cooked, sweets and nuts refilled and lots of "you are doing really well". I did not hang around too long and got up and left for the second loop. I despaired as I left at the sight of a burger van right outside the tent.

Why did Gemma not get me a burger? Lousy wife.

More from New Zealand

There are many ways in which I thought I might screw up my wedding day. Forgetting the rings perhaps? Forgetting my suit?   Luckily all things I could possibly forget were arranged for me. The suit, the rings, clean socks and pants were all waiting for me at the venue, all I had to do was to run there, get changed and say I do.  

It was Gemma's idea that i run to the start of the wedding. What could go wrong? 4 of us set out for a nice little jog along lake Wanaka and then onto the river Clutha. It was a gloriously warm and sunny day, surrounded by trees, water and hills. I thought about how amazing it would be to live out here. I didn't see the tree root. I went right over, at least managing to avoid landing on my face but catching my hand and knee quite badly.I was a bloody mess as I staggered to my own wedding.  

The wedding was awesome though. Gemma forgot to bring the music so that made us even. It was an amazing reception with only a few people. It was a blazing hot day and after the I dos Gemma and I went on a helicopter ride into the mountains.   In my speech I mentioned some of the reasons why I married Gemma. Obviously not all of them, no speech or blog is big enough to list all that. I did mention the time when I finally admitted to myself and to her that I needed her. It should not have taken a hospitalisation in New Mexico for that to happen.  

This week I took in yet more breathtaking sites of this country. There are trails everywhere. I think the hardest job in the world would be a treadmill salesman in New Zealand. Why on earth would you exercise indoors when there is all this around? In fact I don't think I have seen a gym since I have been here, perhaps they don't exist here.   I stayed a night in Te Anau and ran a short section of the Kepler trail. This is famous for the Kepler challenge, a 64k ultra which sells out in minutes each time and now I really want to do it.

From the 10k section I ran I can see why this is a popular trail. I call this Goldilocks trail, not to hard, not to soft but juuuust right.   It felt like carpet, there were some short sharp hills that were the perfect attack slant. Even when I stacked it I just rolled onto this carpet and hardly cut myself at all. This was wonderful. When I got to the end of where I was running I let out aa awwww sound of a kid who had an ice cream taken off him.   I will definitely sign up to the Kepler challenge one day. Its easy enough to do solo.  

Today I ran, well walked mostly thenWanaka skyline with Gemma. This was amazing too but my head was hurting from caffiene withdrawal. I try to not drink coffee for at least a few days before a 24 hour or more race. I probably should be less addicted in the first place.   We climbed two mountains, mount alpha and mount roy. Both around 1600 meters and both are the kind of mountains i'll be climbing in the Northburn 100. They were bloody hard to say the least. The tracks are quite good but it is hard climbing 1200m at a time. We didnt take enough water and didn't find a stream until after we had climed both.  

The views were amazing though, you could see hundreds of other mountains from the top. Lake Wanaka looked so small. Photos to follow.   Anyhoo tomorrow I will be relaxing before the big race. Well first thing in the morning i'll be jumping out of a plane. Then i'll relax.

Motatapu Marathon

Another dreadful day in paradise.

It was an early start, at 530 we were up before sunrise and getting our stuff together for the short drive to the middle of nowhere a few miles out of Wanaka. The start of the race was at Motatapu Station, well actually most of the race was within the same huge sheep farm. There was a delay in the start as one of the buses was late so we got an extra hour to enjoy the crisp warm morning and the insect bites.

Amongst the anouncements before the start were the call outs to the runners who had run all 8 previous Motatapu marathons as well as a mention of Gemma Greenwood who is getting married next week. He mentioned her website runningandstuff. It's not hers, yet. I guess she will get half of it next weekend. This is probably the most valuable thing I own and am a bit worried about handing half of it over. Will probably be made up by getting half her house.

Anyhoo, they also told the story of when Gemma was out here 3 years ago, not long after we started going out. She was running along the Wanaka skyline in her Serpie vest and a guy came up to her and said "Serpies, Serpentine from London right? Do you know James Adams?" One to tell the grandkids.

I was going to run with Gemma for this who has been having some ankle problems since a long run she did (and I did half off due to terrible man flu). Ben Cope was here to run the marathon really fast and Amy Cope was starting later in another race, the miners trail which was about 15k. The path was narrow at the start and we were run-walking the first few kilometers in the crowds. This was good as the terrain was hard going, tussocks and grass. Soon we spilled onto a dirt path and all started to seperate.

I really needed a wee early on and was not sure about the etiquette of doing so here. I know in the uk you just head off the track a little, in the USA you have to head miles off the track to avoid being seen. I know in Paris you stand at the side and piss in towards the crowd of runners. I just found an isolated bush.

The weather was kind, it was well over 30c yesterday and I stayed out in it too long and was feeling it today. It was cloudy to start but still warm and the sun came out eventually. We kept up a reasonable jogging pace throughout and Gemmas ankle was holding up well. There were at least 20 creek laughed at those who tried to tip toe over the early ones without getting wet, the later ones were knee deep however you went. In the heat they were really refreshing.

Around half way we started to get pased by the bikes, there was a mountian bike race too starting after us and they came flying past at great speed. We had to be careful about overtaking other runners as these guys were coming up behind us fast. They looked like they were working much harder going up the hills and through the rivers. We saw one biker fall over properly in the water, that was quite funny.

The secenery was amazing, not the rocky mountains that I have run inview of so far but really deep valleys. It could be somewhere in England or Ireland except all these peaks were twice as high. The sun came out and started to do its work and luckily I found a hat on the floor that I could use. We slowed to a walk later on and I suggested to Gemma we had a game of "pants, thong or commando". She wasn't up for it suprisingly. We got chatting to an old acquaintance of Gemma's who asked us whether this was our first marathon. Gemma said it was her 26th and that I had done over 100. He said wow, not the kind of "wow thats amazing" but more a "wow you look too fat to be even just doing this one".

The last 12k were pretty much all downhill which was great except that the bikes were coming thick and fast. We eventually crossed the line in around 520 which was great considering we feared we'd be walking most of it. Ben came 10th in 340 and Amy came 5th in her race.

The goody bag was quite good. A t shirt, water bottle, aftershave sample (wedding smell sorted) and a token for a free beer. Gemma could not drink hers so I had it for her. Thats the kind of awesome husband to be I am.

So that is my last race as a single man. My next race in 2 weeks I'll be carrying a ring around 100 miles of mountains. The Northburn 100 gets harder every time I look at it. It has a 48 hour cut off. The only 100 miler I know with that long is Hardrock. Shit.