And everyday is the right day… It was just before 8am on the steep upward slope of Calle de Volcanes in the small town of Los Canarios, a young girl was ushered forward by her mother. She stood there shyly half holding out a clenched hand unsure of what to do. Her face lit up with excitement, as ‘Todmorden’ reached down to gently tap her hand with a grinning “Gracias”. Her mother squealed with delight then joined in with the shouts of ’”Animo” and “Vamos” as the girl ran back to her arms.

After the water station, the crowd funnelled in towards the top of the climb, Tour de France mountain style, with just enough space for one runner to squeeze through the deafening yells. The pavement plaques commemorating every male & female winner of the Transvulcania Ultramarathon hidden under hundreds of feet.

Surging forward up a quieter path, still climbing, a beautiful woman picked out his name from his race number with her dark sultry eyes. Her lips glistened in the early morning sun, as she quietly urged him on “An-i-mo Ri-shad An-i-mo” barely louder than a whisper but firmly penetrating through the noise of the crowd below. He breathlessly hesitated as their eyes briefly locked, but then pressed on, remembering this was the race report for the Transvulcania Media Maratón not the opening lines of a new romantic novel, 50 shades of volcanic black! IMG_8084After following the spectacular Transvulcania race on the Canary Island of La Palma since it started in 2009, I finally dared to enter the fun run version. At 24.1km (or 26.8 pre-remeasurement) it was longer than I had ever raced before, but 2014 had been a good year… up to 10 miles (16k).

A winter of viruses did little to help preparations in upping mileage but 2015 would be the year of half marathons, with 5 completed in the lead up, including 3 in 3 weeks in April. In March I’d also notched up only my 2nd ever long fell race at Heptonstall, a confidence boosting well-paced effort over 24 km, but with less than 1000m of height gain, the Mediamaraton had more than double the up.

Arriving on the Thursday evening before the race was a shock from the cold British spring, only a week since I’d last touched snow and now straight into 80′ near tropical sun. To make things worse the chest infection that I had for a couple of weeks morphed into a cold just days before. Apparently flying with a cold is a bad idea as it makes landing very painful and affects hearing & balance, I googled queasily later.

Friday was a busy day, hiring the last spare car on the island, crossing the mountains (more ear problems) to Los Llanos to collect my race number and pick up some souvenirs at the runner’s fair. Down to the southern tip of the island for a 5k acclimatisation run, then check out the hairpin roads to find the finish, so that Myra knew where to pick me up after the race, hopefully. WP_20150508_014 WP_20150508_074 I laid out every item of race kit ready, checked, double checked, and went to sleep. Maybe not, too excited. Browsed Transvulcania tweets for a bit, and finally got to sleep just after midnight. The alarm went off at 3am. The hotel had kindly laid on a ‘runners breakfast’ between 2-3am but I wisely decided an extra hours sleep to be preferable.

At just after 4am we were on the road south, which was in the midst of major roadworks and regularly involved driving off the now non-existent road. By 5am we were parked on a windy volcanic cliff just 700 metres from the start. Having heard tales of freezing winds I was pleased to find it was actually relatively mild, to me, nice for now but meant it would only be hotter later.

At 6am the Ultra marathon was underway and the river of ~1500 lights made its way around the Faro de Fuencaliente lighthouse and up along the path like a reverse pyroclastic flow. The speed of the frontrunners was incredible, only 73km to go for them. WP_20150509_004 I then made my way down to the starting pen for the Mediamaratón, loud rock music & a manic PA guy battled the crashing waves a few feet below. A giant green countdown clock was projected on the rock face. I resisted joining the extremely athletic looking crowd toeing the line with 30 minutes still to go and attempted a warmup jog between the back of the crowd and the 3 portaloos at the other end of the pen. So glad I had skipped breakfast and had no need for them!

The others warming up looked like serious athletes, all matching kit, poles & everything Salomon. At least I looked the part with my matching Lafuma shoes, shorts and bag teamed up with a cheeky glimpse of a Tod vest peeking out from under my Transvulcania gilet – this was no fell race in a farmer’s field, this was a proper continental fashion race!

With 10 minutes to go, everyone was bouncing to Rage Against the Machine and Metallica. I reflected that 20 years ago I was actually probably doing the same thing to the same songs in the early hours of a Saturday morning in May, but with a day in bed with a hangover rather than 24 dusty kilometres & a hot sun to look forward to. As Thunderstruck literally shook the foundations of the island, this was it DIEZ-NUEVE-OCHO 413 starters SIETE-SEIS 24.1 dry and dusty kilometres CINCO-QUATRO over 100 volcanoes to run past or over TRES-DOS-UNO… VAMOS… this was Transvulcania bebe!!! DCIM100MEDIA I resisted the urge to sprint the first hill but still rocketed off as though it was a 5k near the back. After a crowd pleasing loop around the lighthouse it was onto a narrow volcanic sandy path and up. 1800 metres up in the first 18km to be precise. There wasn’t too much queueing to scramble up the rocks with only a quarter the runners of the main race and within a km I was settled. It was hard going but I was getting the hang of picking out the bumps in the volcanic sand. I grew up playing on Formby beach and dunes, so instinctively knew the secret was always to place your foot on sand sloping away to gain a bit of extra purchase.

The sun hadn’t yet risen but there was enough dawn light to see, I left my torch on as the light spot on the ground made overtaking easier by alerting those ahead. After the noise at the start, it was quiet, eerily quiet, very little talking just breathing. Thirty minutes in and I was still gaining places. I used a steeper slope to walk, drink and swop headtorch and the freebie gilet for a cap. The sun was still hidden behind a volcano but it was already warming noticeably.

After a decent section of dusty track, the approach to the town of Los Canarios and the first water station was up a steep winding path. For the first time it felt like I was working flat out as I struggled for meaningful traction in the deep loose sand. Onto the road by the visitor centre and around a corner the sun came into view, as did a steep climb. I ran it. I didn’t mean to but there were lots of people encouraging us on and I felt guilty to walk. Most others obviously didn’t, as they walked. Then I went round the next corner and saw the real crowd! The whole town was up and had been cheering for nearly 2 hours. I kept running and smiling. [6.1k Split 98th – 1:01:55]

Arrived at the first of two water stations in good shape, for some inexplicable reason I ignored my planned hydration strategy. (i.e. drink lots). I had two 0.5l bottles for the race but one had leaked so I ditched it before the start. I’d started well hydrated and had drunk a third of it but forgot to top it up. I drank just 1 cup at the water station, and 1 poured over head. I only had 11km ish to the next water station so should be fine. I often have run longer with no food/ water in a morning. But not usually under a sub tropical sun, up big mountains, on tough sandy terrain, in a big race, oops! DCIM100MEDIA The next 3-4km was still difficult running, much harder than the first section, and harder than I had expected here. Despite the addition of pine trees to the landscape the soft deep sand continued but I was still progressing up the field, probably now into the low 80’s position wise and on for a sub 4 hour time. Sometime around 10k I started feeling different and had stopped picking off places. DCIM100MEDIA On a particularly steep climb I had eaten a cake bar and had to wash it down with water but was now down to about two mouthfuls left. The uphill was relentless with only brief flats or even downs, the only other relief when the deep sand occasionally alternated with more rocky sections. The relatively new volcanic rock (less than 400 years, with the last eruption in 1971) being very sharp and grippy demanded 100% concentration every step, a fall would not be pretty.

After a big climb past the impressive San Martin volcano we reached a hellish hot open section of black sand that seemed to drain every drop of liquid in my body straight out of my feet. Surely it wasn’t far to the next drinks station? It was. I’d switched from race mode to survival mode, the two mouthfuls of water reserved for if things got serious. It was five or so of the longest hottest hardest kilometres ever, down to over 20 minutes for 1km on the steeper sections, struggling for grip, sand slipping backwards, sun getting higher and hotter. One of the hardest mental battles I’ve had to stay positive and focused on just keeping going.

Finally, after a few false hopes, what I thought was the final climb before the water station came into sight and I decided I had to drink half my water as I was overheating and losing my head. Still saving a mouthful in case of real emergency. A slight down allowed a rare bit of easier running and as I rounded a corner a big white tent thingy full of drinks appeared before the climb like a magic oasis. Orange, water, energy drink, water over head, repeat. Oh! go on, then just another cup. 2 litres later and I think I was rehydrated enough to know I wasn’t hallucinating! [16.5k Split 131st – 3:09:29] DCIM100MEDIA Despite the refreshment and the knowledge this was the last climb, it didn’t make it any less steep or easier and more places were lost before I reached the top as I was struck with cramps at the back of my knees. As long as I didn’t lift them it was bearable, not easy on a big hill. For the first time I could also detect the effects of the altitude, subtle but definitely less oxygen, about 20% less. DCIM100MEDIA Finally, it was all downhill now, almost, there were still 3 climbs within the down. At least the paths were getting rockier in places, although I did delight in a long sandy/ loose rock descent taken at full effort. More and more places gained and also catching back markers of the Ultra who still had over 50km to go.

Increasing amounts of trees and I knew the finish couldn’t be too far. The question was how far, as there seemed to be conflicting race information as to whether it was 24.1 or 26.8km that I didn’t resolve until afterwards. The excellently marked GR131 trail signs didn’t help either as it appeared there was some kind of re-measuring exercise going on and the two sets of marker posts gave different distances as well. DCIM100MEDIA It didn’t matter, I was running again, I was racing again, and I was really enjoying it so the more the better. At that point I’d have kept running the whole island if I could have. Music started filtering through the trees, then shouts and cheers so I knew I was getting close. Hit my fastest km of the race. Managed one last overtake on the final twists and turns and then there were people, lots of people and a huge orange banner appeared. Completely forgot about my planned triathlon style hi-5 weave finish as I saw the clock and sprinted straight across the line in 4:14:21 and 124th place (16th male vet). IMG_0110 My first overseas race was an amazing experience, I expected hard and it was so much harder. Good lessons learnt. 90% of me would do it again tomorrow, but 10% remembers the hell in the middle and thinks never again. It’s probably that 10% that will see me back on La Isla Bonita with its wonderful people and scenery sometime soon though! IMG_8195 IMG_8305 IMG_8071


Can’t wait for tomorrow,
I might not have that long

A bit of welcome warmer weather for Wednesday’s 10.25k club packrun, followed up with an easy 13.1k to the Rain Stone on Thursday.

After Run Directing at Watergrove, another easy 6.2km run on Saturday led nicely into Sunday’s Huddersfield Half Marathon. Billed as the hilliest Half in the UK, not sure about that but a definite tough course with around 4 significant climbs.

Simultaneously there was a marathon which consisted of 2 laps of the same loop. Didn’t feel 100% in the warmup and had a hint of a sore throat all week.

Set off a bit quick at sub 4 min/km pace and went through the mainly flat/downhill 1st km in just over 4 minutes. Annoyingly watch then reset itself, so had to restart. Wasn’t 100% sure of exactly how much I’d missed by the time it got going but got a time check from another runner at a mile, deducted where I was at to get about 4:30 missing to add on.

After a big downhill it was onto the first climb which went well followed by a big steep down into Stainland Dean – which I ran a bit too fast so early, quads were sure to pay later – and then a tough long climb up the cobbles.

Felt like I was generally pacing well with good cadence and on for a good time despite the hills. I expected the 3rd climb up to the highest part of the course after Scammonden to be the hardest but actually turned out to be the easiest of the four.

Got a good pace going on the long downhill and managed to reign in a big gap to the next runner who I’d briefly passed earlier but again on the final climb he got away and legs were now tiring. A brief bit of down allowed a bit of pace over the line for 9th overall. I got 1:32:15 GPS  + an estimated 4:30 for around 1:36:45, the initial results matched this with 1:36:44… but were then amended and about 35 seconds was added to everyone’s time – which was very disappointing for chip timing.  Presumably a clock issue.

Finished 2nd v40 but was aged a couple of weeks in the results to be attributed 1st v45 based on year rather than date of birth, but no sign of any results or prize giving on the day, seemed it was hours later when the marathon had finished.


The weather continued warming for a few moorland runs, 14.3k on Tuesday, a quick 11.3k packrun on Wednesday and an easy 12.6k on Thursday despite sore throat persisting. Finally felt like I was getting in the miles I should have been all winter.


Decided to rest up ahead of Sunday’s Blackpool Half to try to ease throat, and after a stressful Saturday night with car written off, I nearly jacked in race as had no transport options but just before midnight managed to grab a chauffeur for an early start on a short sleep. Ion the positive side, I needed a bit of practice racing after not much sleep!

Arrived in time for about 4k of warm ups, in a strong icy northerly wind, not good considering the course went south – north – south and a final 800m north, at least it was sunny. Similar scenario to the previous week, with a parallel 2 lap marathon, plus a 10k setting off just after.

I was undecided on how I would do due to throat and everything but decided that 91 to 94 mins was possible and I’d set off steady and see how it went, with a view to putting in the effort if it looked like a sub 90 was on.

Paced reasonably well for first 4k, trying to keep it between 4:15 and 4:30. This felt very comfortable but I was conscious that we would soon turn back into the wind so made the decision to up effort a little early. Passed Michael and immediately put in a fast km.

After turning into wind it was tough going and worked hard to try and find shelter but struggled, so kept picking up the odd place. Wasn’t really thinking of time, just kept going, with the odd glance at watch to check pace not too high or low.

No-one had made an overtake stick since the first km, so was surprised at Bispham when a runner came by that I’d exchanged places mid race. Had a brief conversation and wondered if I could keep up with him but then the downhill before the turn allowed me to pull back ahead.

Realised I was actually faster than I thought and with 5 or 6k to go it was clear I would comfortably go under 1:30 even if I slowed a little.

IMG_5463As soon as we turned back southwards, it felt so much warmer and with the wind behind I put my foot down and went to sub 4 min pace, blasted through to the end with an easing off for the slope up before the turn back into the wind for the run in.

17th overall from over 900 and 2nd v40 but again no prize (as advertised for first 3 in age cats).  Otherwise well organised but yet another cock up with the chip timing again, eventually sorted-ish (appears to be clock time rather than chip time!) after a bit of social media pressure from runners, for a new official PB of 87:37 – 8.5 minutes knocked off… which is going to make July’s PB attempt a lot harder and will need to set a tougher target time. GPSIMG_5467

Happy with strength and speed at the end, felt like I could easily have gone faster, a good confidence booster ahead of Transvulcania Mediamarathon.

White Rabbit

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall…

More missed running as I shook off latest virus and then plunged straight into an easy hilly 10 miles on Thursday evening, followed by 10k on Friday.

An unexpected surplus of helpers on Saturday meant an unplanned run at Watergrove parkrun and clocked a comfortable 21:51.

Sunday was another GP race at the Guiseley Gallop 10k trail race, again no desire to put a significant effort in as still not over cold. Ran reasonably well moving up through the field but suffered breathing issues near end and really struggled on final climb, dropping a chunk of time. GPS

Monday felt much better and put in a decent run at the Hollingworth 5k, after a comfortable start moved on well, in part due to some good pacemaking rabbits to chase, to hit a surprising 19:13. GPS

After a 9.8km packrun on Weds, headed up to the Lakes to recce the middle section of Duddon Fell Race, with a view to deciding on whether to enter. Easier to navigate (in good air) than I expected but deferring a decision until as late as I dare. GPS

Another unexpected Watergrove parkrun as we had plenty of volunteers but paced it steady as had Wardle Skyline in the afternoon. With a couple of old school friends present and just ahead heading up to the reservoir I switched my planned steady tactics to a more aggressive early attack and even caught Dave C up on the way up. Nice bit of sun but too much wind and steadied effort over the tops but a slightly tentative downhill lost me a shedload of places as foot tendon struggled.

A slight easing off left enough in the tank for the sting in the tale climb and made some good ground at the end for a pleasing 56:56 and 56th place. GPS

Sunday was the first of three halves in three weeks, starting with the tricky to pace Baildon Boundary Half. It overlapped with last week’s Guiseley Gallop route and then a long flat canal section before a tough climb into the moor after about 8 miles. It was all going well until then, when breathing issues struck again, same as last week. Switched off and lost ground needlessly, before a stronger run in to the finish but every uphill was poor, just squeezed inside 1:45 target with 1:44:53. GPS

Burn Baby Burn

You walk like you’re in a daze
Unresponsive eyes in a distant gaze
Like all the good times have flown away
And their memory leaves a bitter taste

Woke up on Wednesday with yet another cold virus starting to make itself know, so plodded round Brownhouse Wham in the evening in 20:20. Owing to a slight confusion nearly all the runners set off on time, but without the timer in place, so helped out with a bit of ad-hoc timing when I finished!

Snaffled the v40 prize – more down to the midweek 6pm start and small field than running ability, but a bottle of wine is a bottle of wine!

Deteriorated daily and felt like ringing in sick for the very wet and windy Watergrove parkrun, but as I was Run Director and had all the stuff dragged myself down and actually felt better for it. Despite spending most of the time hiding under the gazeebo I was soaked. The wettest parkrun we have had so far.

After the hassle of getting an entry in for the Ron Hill Accrington 10k, felt I had to run on Sunday and the weather wasn’t as bad either but was still wet and windy! Fortunately, despite a terrible night’s sleep, actually wasn’t feeling quite as bad on Sunday, but had the mental alertness of a zombie.

Arrived to find the advised car park was closed, so had to drive round for another, fortunately lots of free parking and positioned myself underneath an overflowing drain.

Warming up, legs felt speedy but low energy and breathing was clearly going to be a problem.

After a slightly too quick start, I settled and set about overtaking some of the 200 or so runners who swallowed me up in the first few hundred metres… felt like screaming it’s 10000 not 1000 metres. Still shouldn’t complain about all those lovely pacemakers sacrificing their races just for me!

Resisted looking ahead much with 3 Toddies likely to be in sight, as I wanted to avoid the temptation to chase. All things considered I was optimistic about being able to manage in the region of 42-43 mins. After a couple of km was making good progress up the long hill but breathing was close to max even at reduced speed so had no alternative but to ease slightly.

I could see Michael 400m ahead and dismissed the option of catching, Darren and Pauline were nowhere to be seen ahead. Concentrated on bridging a gap to a couple who were overtaking and settled behind them, gradually reeling in the lovely scouse girl from the car parked next to us. Considered having another chat to see where she was from but a bit further on was Autumn, running strongly so reluctantly moved on to chase her down.

Gradually eased alongside and after a brief exchange, decided to push on towards a Rochdale vest using a downhill to up cadence and carry up next rise. This almost felt like real racing as I briefly forgot I was ill. The next climb rudely reminded me, as breathing maxed out and I slipped back a bit.

Eased effort down a notch and settled in behind a few until the turn about halfway. Michael now only about 200m ahead, maybe catchable? The problem being much of the return was down and I doubted I could get the speed differential required. Also had doubts as to whether legs had recovered from Heptonstall and whether I could keep going to the end with no energy.

As we hit the greenway I upped pace and somehow kept it going as breathing eased slightly. Whilst the distance to Michael had reduced it was only slight and I settled for sustaining effort to end. A final push up the last slope and cruised the downhill before a slight push for the line for 41:15.

Crap time, would have loved to have joined in the battle ahead, but really happy as it was well under what I thought I could achieve on the day. Last 3km all sub 3:45 bodes well for a possible 10k PB attempt late this year.

Home to a fry up, a hot bath and the remainder of the bottle of wine – nice recovery.

Don’t Give Up

Don’t give up
You’re not beaten yet
Don’t give up
I know you can make it good

Toe worsened after Haweswater so I reluctantly took a few days off in the hope it would turn out be be something minor like a sprain, rather than a more serious bruising or stress fracture.

Things were not looking good for Transvulcania in May, with all the missed runs due to viruses over the past 3 months the last thing I needed was more rest, particularly one that gave me time to reflect on my inability to run a long race. If I couldn’t cope with 13 on the road, then 17 miles in the mountains was not looking promising. In fact I had never run any race over 10 miles well in my life.

Saturday was a good distraction, doing the results for the English Fell Championships at Flower Scar Fell Race. Managed a bit of scamper watching the women’s race so set off on a hilly 12km run on Sunday, with toe not perfect but much better. With all the tweeting that went on, I was surprised my fingers didn’t end up on the sick list. A great event to be part of.

Tentatively back out with a packrun on Wednesday and then over to the inaugural Croxteth Hall parkrun on Saturday. I hadn’t really examined the single lap course but after a steady start I’d tucked in behind a couple of quickish runners and upped effort.

After sharp bend we passed runners coming other way but then hall came into sight about halfway, didn’t seem correct but had no option but to follow. We looped round and rejoined a stream of runners, with a marshal telling us we had come the wrong way. Considered dropping pace but decided to keep going.

Realised where we had gone wrong as we returned towards the finish, hitting the 5km point in 20:03 and the finish in 22:26 after a bonus 600m.

The next day was the Sweatshop 10 at a new venue in Blackpool. I was expecting a similarly flat course and despite it being a club GP race the plan was not to go all out.

It turned out that Bispham was not completely flat as the route was two loops of the higher and lower promenades with long gradual climbs and short steeper downs, so not to my preference.

Was caught in a much too fast start, so switched race plan to speed and survive, deciding to go hard on first lap and then see what happened.   After going through 5k in a crazy 19:20 this was going to be some survival test!

Calmed down a little but the knowledge of the chasing Tod vests saw me through halfway in 31:36, and the 2nd 5k in 20:20. Tiredness was creeping in but still kept pushing on for the next 5k in 20:42.

There was a noticeable slope up to the finish and lost a little ground going through 10 miles on my watch in 64:35 (would have just been a PB) but the finish line was 181 metres later at 65:14 for my second fastest 10 miler.

Not my preferred tactic but worth throwing in now and again as a test, felt boosted by my positive handling of the fade and even managed 3rd v40 in the Lancs Champs! GPS

Toe seemed almost but not quite right, so took a couple of days off before the packrun on Wednesday.

Friday was a partial solar eclipse.

I was still undecided about Heptonstall so went for a 10k run on the Saturday to help decide. That plus the good weather forecast persuaded me to go for it. At 15ish miles, it would be my longest race ever, and would be a significant marker post for which direction the rest of the year would take after the big one in May.

Whilst in a long queue for the loo realised I had the wrong insole in my right shoe, 3 sizes too small the wrong insole. Reluctantly gave up place in queue and ran up the road back to the car. Didn’t have the right ones but borrowed one from my road shoes. Considered swapping them both for evenness but time was tight and I still needed the loo.

Stood on the start line it became apparent that the other insole was also 3 sizes too small. 1 minute to go, 4 minutes needed to get back to the car and swap it. No choice but to try to ignore it. Shifted it round with my toes and hoped the pre-race blessing would pad out the gap!

Despite positioning myself near the back my steady start still saw me lose a few places and end up almost last as everyone hared off up the hill. Pace – this was all about the right pace at the right time. 5 miles easy, 5 miles steady then hopefully 5 miles still running would probably bring me in 10-15 minutes behind my potential best pace but more importantly give me the belief that I could actually manage to run more than 10 miles.







The ‘navigation section’ went by without incident, I couldn’t really spot any alternatives so kept in line with those ahead, taking the odd place. As we approached CP2 at Standing Stone Hill, it was time to move up a gear into steady, made all the more easy by a nice bit of downhill to come.

A steep section of Widdup Road gained me a few more places and as we headed off over the moors, it felt like this was more like race pace, carried on picking off the odd place but didn’t rush. Crossing Walshaw Dean a deliberate moorland burn caused a few breathing difficulties and struggled for a little while but ran well round the Walshaw loop ditching both Tim, an old school friend, and Simon from Tod.

After leaving Walshaw for the second time there was a long steady grassy drag and I took the opportunity to refuel and take on some water as I walked some sections. Legs were definitely feeling the distance now that I was into the last third but the blue skies and sunshine made for a wonderful day.

I found myself alone in no man’s land, unable to escape some pursuers and unable to catch those ahead. Felt like I was losing ground but after taking an unusual but effective line after CP7 found myself with a couple of runners in sight and worked hard to close them down on the rocky lane.

Kept at it and caught one then the other, entering the woods I was just behind Rachel from Barlick, before she took a wrong turn by a few paces and I ended up ahead (I did call her back!). As it felt like an illegal overtake, I went steady up the next climb to allow her time to catch back up. After being passed by a guy I got back up to speed and really enjoyed the section through Crimsworth Dean despite the impending black wall of death that was getting closer and higher with every step.

With just the notorious final climb to go, 165m in 1k, runners compressed up the slope and suddenly there were lots seemingly catchable and lots catching up as we fought to lift legs upwards. At the top the pain didn’t end as there was still a couple of fields of gentle up to go before the final field of down.

I did my best to keep running, it being less painful than walking, but probably no faster and crossed the line exactly 1 hour behind the winner in 2:47:15, the proud owner of my first successful long race. GPS


With this tainted soul
In this weak young heart
Am I too much for you…

Seemed to be recovering well from Liversedge until walking up some cobbles on Wednesday morning and big toe suddenly cracked and I couldn’t put weight on it. Not good, and foolishly risked a packrun that night. It wasn’t too bad whilst running but walking was a definite problem with no push off.

To make it worse the default workaround was to transfer my weight off it and onto my tendon – aggravating that to the worse it has been for months.

A week later and I was still hobbling, with the prospect of Haweswater Half Marathon on the Sunday now a doubt. I’ve never DNF’d a race in my life, so it would be crazy to risk it cold.

I used a gentle Fell Foot parkrun on the Saturday as a fitness test. A warm up seemed promising and I lined up at the start with the intention of a very gentle run. Got carried away with overtaking and recorded 22:07, Oops.

Toe felt great until walking back to the car when it clicked and started hurting again. Inconclusive test, race on! GPS


Sunday was cold, very cold and there were even a few little hail showers before the race. I was still undecided on how to run as we walked to the start, exchanging excuses with Daz. Once we set off, no pain, so toe was soon forgotten and I was swept along by the crowd as I fought to get onto target pace.

The only problem was I had no target pace. A couple of km later I’d settled on trying to sneak a PB. If toe held out, it should be manageable as course was no hillier than Liversedge. I worked out required km pace and ran it well to about 5 miles when ITB knee pain hit. Managed to relieve it by running through the often deep puddles, cooling it down. Had eased by halfway, turned and went steady up a long drag. As I approached the 8 mile marker, things didn’t seem quite right and I realised my mental maths hadn’t been up to it in a crowded country lane at the start and I had run too fast. Oh well, not feeling too bad, ease off and keep going, PB easily bagged.

A mile later I was struggling, another mile and I was in trouble. I was drowning in the negativity and another hill was not helping. Went the logic route and ignored the voices whilst I recalculated again, mistake, should have gone on feel. Even at a slower pace by 11 miles I was gone, but it was nearly all downhill from here, so all I had to do was keep going and a PB was still achievable. I slowed even more. Briefly rallied every few overtakers but struggled to hold on to anyone for more than a few seconds. Nothing was working, every trick I had failed to lift my mood and my body was in meltdown, tendon, knees, legs, arms, back, even my toe joined in the pain.

Being caught by Rachel from Stainland coincided with a nice bit of down and I finally managed to up my pace to keep up with a small group. Even started thinking maybe I could keep going and then someone turned the power off and they were all gone. More and more came past, and around 12 miles I allowed myself a feeble walk, on a downhill. Bit of a talking to and I was up and running, losing more places but at least making a token effort to look like a runner as I finally crossed the line in 1:37:31 and 125th place, 50 places dropped in last few miles, ouch. http://www.ukresults.net/2015/hawes.html . GPS 

Still in shock, stumbled around for a bit eating and drinking, and talking nonsense! Eventually I managed a run-walk back to the car. Got changed and put every dry layer on I had, even with 6 winter layers on I couldn’t stop shivering and shaking. Jogged back to the finish to generate some heat, thanks legs, bit late now, head finally coming round.

Set off driving back as snow started to fall, feeling a bit demoralised at another long run had gone wrong but had enjoyed the first 9 miles at least. A great well organised race that I will be back for, in one of my favourite Lakeland valleys. Mood picked up as the snow kept falling and the M6 was soon covered by a few inches, brilliant drive home!

Don’t Speak

Our memories
Well, they can be inviting
But some are altogether
Mighty frightening

Another week, another cold virus – 5th of the winter so far. As many as I have had in the last 5 years, can only put it down to trains and hot desking as I’ve never been healthier!

Felt better on Friday but unsure about the weekend planned double as energy very low. After helping out at Watergrove parkrun, I decided to risk a trot round Windy Hill Fell Race. Thought sub 1:20 was possible but needing to save legs, was happy with anything under 1:30. I couldn’t take it too slow though as I needed to get back and changed to do the results.

Set off up the track at a nice steady pace gently rising to a short steep climb when I gained a few places without really much effort. Onto the bridleway settled into a good comfortable pace if a little quick and reached the main climb up the Roman Road in good shape.

Immediately struggled with breathing and got effort all wrong seesawing places before finally fading in the upper parts of the climb, lungs unable to cope and no energy in legs. As soon as we were through the gate I picked up and had hoped to gain with a better line through the mist but it was too well flagged.

Upped pace once on to the downhill, revelling in being able to actually run so well on the rocky surface with no real issues with ankle for first time in years. Managed to gain more ground before getting some recovery in on the flagged section. Over the motorway bridge and as soon as I hit the small climb up to Windy Hill breathing was struggling again and legs went. Lost a few places but with just the long downhill finish was confident I would get them back.

However passing the transmitter the ground started to deteriorate, and the mix of soft mud and loose rocks played havoc with ankle and I was forced to back off. Even then was still going over every few steps and slowed even more until slightly better ground allowed a bit more speed but head had gone and had to force myself on.

Finally stopped losing places and held position. On to former ground I was able to start getting a few places back but still a bit tentative and struggled with camber on final run down to field.

Misjudged the finish line thinking we had a bit more to go, so missed out on a couple of places but more than happy with 1:15:31 considering. GPS

No time for a warm down, quick change and a pint whilst sorting results.


Sunday was the Liversedge Half Marathon, a race I had done 5 years previously. One of the only two halves I have ever done, and where I set my PB of 1:36:01 (the other was the slightly hillier Langdale Half). Recent Meltham result suggested 1:33 was possible but didn’t feel fully fit for the distance so closer to 1:35 was probably more realistic at a reasonably comfortable effort.

Despite being a GP race my target was much lower and an improvement of 1 second would do, or maybe 2!

The plan was to get to the mid way steep hill very comfortable, take it steady on the two big climbs and then make any adjustments in the last 3 miles, hopefully coping with the last mile better than last time.

Arrived early and had a light warmup just to get rid of yesterdays aches and stiffness. Lined up and we off, settled into a comfortable pace and went through the first few miles of undulation easily despite being much hillier than I’d recalled.

Deviated from the plan slightly by going a little quicker down the steep hill into Bailiff Bridge, and then knew I was going too quick along the bottom road but was feeling comfortable. Decided to keep going and then ease off on the climb. Tackled the steep climb at my own easy pace, not bothered at a few lost places, surprisingly only lost about 20 secs and arrived at the top in good shape.

On the way up had contemplated pace and options. I was probably on 1:33 pace so could afford to back off in the second half, but then things started going a little not to plan. Just couldn’t seem to get my legs going on the flat, head stated going a little so took a dex tab and briefly felt good again but legs still wouldn’t work.

Didn’t worry too much as had plenty in hand to get a pb and adjusted pace to a lower level in the belief it would see me to the end but more up and legs were shot, head fuzzy and getting slower.

The final hill came into sight – where I had died 5 years earlier – and set an easier pace to come out the top feeling good. The long run in was all sloping and suddenly I was fading again, battled positive thoughts against tired legs. Decided that if I reached the final corner within a minute of a PB I’d go for a fast finish, and just as I was preparing Mel caught up and went past. I tried to respond as we caught a suffering Branny but didn’t think I could, until a glance at the watch showed a PB was maybe still possible, just maybe, if I could speed up.

I immediately hared off slowly declining and crossed the line in 1:36.01.4 seconds to equal my previous time, until UK Athletics unkindly rounded the o.4 up to 1:36:02 – spoiling my brief happiness that I could run the same race 5 years apart in exactly the same time. GPS