Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wellington Monument & Stoke Stampede 10ks

Wellington Monument 10k isn't the most exciting event but we keep doing it every year anyway - mainly because it can easily be combined with a pre Christmas visit to my parents. And this year we scored a double whammy - lunch at Richard and Lesley's as well as a family dinner.

We set off slightly later than we intended in a dangerous format - me behind the wheel and Martin with the map. This is not a slur on my driving, which compared to Martin's is boringly safe, as opposed to fast, reckless, nerve wracking, suicidal.............. Martin's map reading is also distinctive, his philosophy being, why drive 4 miles along a main road when you could take a short cut, i.e 3 and a half miles, along a lane with grass growing up the middle and various farm animals running free? Anyway, I digress ( as usual) - we arrived (eventually), safely (slightly stressed) and so back to the race report.

We had been worried about how slippery condition would be due to icy roads, but our fears proved ill founded. We gathered outside the Catherine Wheel pub, the race organiser gave a mercifully short speech which no one could hear anyway and then we were off on the mad dash down the hill out of the village. Martin was on a mission to try and retain his male vet 50 title from last year so he soon disappeared from my view. I knew as soon as I hit the hill that it was going to be another hard slog for me. Richard passed me soon after this making some strange clicking noises and gestures (which he explained afterwards was something to do with Harry Enfield - completely lost on a non TV viewer like me). Anyway he soon disappeared from view too, as did most other people.

As I turned off the road and onto the Monument track I was treated to the rare sight of seeing the front runners - having completed their loop of the Monument they were already on their way back. The first lady (an International we had been told pre race, although I must confess to not recognising either her face or her name) was in 6th place overall - although she was clearly working very hard. (She eventually knocked a massive 40 seconds off the course record - fantastic effort).

I counted the runners and in 18th place was one Martin Lascelles looking like he was out for a stroll in the park. And with a potential threat for his vet trophy - Phil Baylis from Axe Valley Runners - firmly behind him. Marvellous!

I completed my loop and started back down the track - meeting Lesley on her way up - and now it was my chance to feel smug that I was returning and that all those I met were still on their way out. It's mostly downhill on the way back except for the final climb up through the village, past the start and on to the race HQ at the primary school. I had hoped to beat last year's time, but it just wasn't my day and I recorded a personal worst for the course (46.06) and may just have scraped into 10th place. It was a very strong field this year - even last year when I still didn't have a brilliant run I was fourth overall.

Martin did fantastically well - he was only 10 seconds outside of last year's time, despite having done 32 miles the previous weekend and the lack of solid training. We waited for what seemd about 3 hours for the presentation to finally take place, only to discover that John Shapland from North Devon Road Runners had beaten him into 2nd MV50! What a disappointment. Due to the fact that he only weighs about 6 and a half stones neither of us had spotted him. As there are still no results to be found we don't know what the winning margin was and I also can't report on Richard and Lesley's results, but I'm sure they will tell you themselves.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch, and were treated (?) to Richard modelling his Everest/Father Christmas-keep-everything, including nearby mountains, dry poncho. I don't think they'll catch on in the running world..............

And so getting Christmas over with (spent the morning keeping to the age old tradition - no, not getting up at 6am to put the turkey in the oven and make the stuffing - the famous Xmas day run at big Phils' house - good turnout this year - about 14 of us although it was difficult to count because no one stood still for long enough). And the newer tradition of stopping at the Greyhound on the way back, at least this year we didn't have to abandon the car for later collection........

Boxing Day - another age old tradition, the Stoke Stampede. An interesting figure of 8 10k and another place that there is just no easy way to get to. Amazingly we were early, but that gave us plenty of time to eye up the competition before the half mile jog up to the start. Martin is so fired up at the moment that he had decided once again to forego the pleasure of plodding round with me and to race it instead.

Richard and Lesley were also on the start line (Lesley having remembered to pin her number on this time - luckily, given the distance from the car to the start!) and there was a large YTRRC turnout. I had my own agenda - to beat Pete Jakeman and get my revenge for his victory at the recent Street 5k.

Another downhill start - a real cavalry charge along a narrow lane down into the village and for the first couple of km I could see the green and white of Martin's vest ahead of me. Pete was on my shoulder and I was working hard to keep him there. The first loop is clockwise and includes quite a sharp climb, both Pete and another Yeovil runner, Mark, overtook me, but neither of them pulled far ahead and once we reached the top I was able to pass them as we headed back to the start and the village to complete the first loop. I didn't see Pete again, but Mark also overtook me on the climb at the start of the second, anti clockwise loop. Once again I pulled him back at the top and managed to open up a bit of a gap which he never managed to close again.

At about 8km I became aware of someone else catching me, caught a glimpse of bright yellow out of the corner of my eye and to my surprise discovered that Richard was behind me. I thought he was so far ahead that I hadn't even seen him! We ran the rest of the race side by side until the very end where Richard sprinted ahead to try and hold off the challenge of a Mexican bandit complete with Poncho, Sombrero and guns. Unfortunately, as Richard was not sporting his own go faster, bright red Poncho he didn't win the contest!

I was quite pleased with my time of 42.06 which was half a minute or so faster than last year despite having done another 10k only 3 days earlier....until I saw Martin's smiling face and he smugly told me that he had done 38.29! We have a contest which is who has the record time for each race that we do - and Stoke was one of the dwindling number of races that still counted as mine - until today when Martin had smashed my 2003 time of 39.09. Despite being a bit put out, I was also very proud, he is running so well at the moment and if there had been a MV50 prize today he would surely have won it. Lesley finished in around 52 minutes, a little slower than last year, but understandable in view of the stress she had endured over the past 2 days.

So that's Christmas run and dusted. Now we have the New Year to look forward to and the Brown Willy, a 6 mile race over Bodmin moor on New Year's Day. At least I don't have to worry about retaining the course record since neither of us have done it before!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bushy Park Time Trial & Ambition Life Lee Valley run

Well it couldn't last - 5 weekends at home with no races and Martin and I were both getting fidgety. My injury was steadily improving and the miles were starting to build up again, so a weekend away with not one, but two events sounded like just what we needed.

Friday evening saw us travelling up to London to camp overnight at Chertsey ready for the Bushy Park Time Trial on Saturday morning. This really is a fantastic event - it's free to enter, you register on line and once you've done it you never have to register again. It's held every Saturday throughout the year and the website is brilliant - up to date results appear soon after the event which not only tell you your position and time but whether it's your first event, and if not, what your PB is and if you've beaten it.

Martin & I did it in April 2005, so all we had to do was show up at 9am....and run. Despite being so far from home we weren't the only enthusiasts sporting Yeovil vests. Ex Maiden Newton Runner, Brian Mountjoy Row was staying with his daughter (17 minutes away at a warm up jog!) and joined us on the start line.

The route crosses the park to the southern boundary and then follows an anti clockwise loop around the perimeter before turning south along an avenue of trees to the finish. The paths are mainly quite smooth, easy running and it's almost completely flat. After his excellent run at the Street 5k on Wednesday evening, Martin decided to take it easy and jog round with me. I was hoping to beat my Street time but I had my excuses ready, lack of fitness, lack of racing, legs still tired etc. etc. to recite when I finished - in 21.26, 23 seconds outside of Wednesday's time. From there it was an easy drive to the Sweatshop, specialist running shop in nearby Teddington, where as BPTT runners we received a 10% discount and consequently were quite a bit poorer by the time we left the premises....................

Next day we arrived at Cheshunt station at 6.55am expecting the Ambition Life 7am start to resemble a YTRRC 7am start, i.e most people don't turn up till 7.10am and then you might start at 7.30 if you're lucky. This was after all billed as a 32 mile training run, NOT a race. Needless to say, I was struggling into my shoes and Martin was searching for change for the car park when the other runners set off into the darkness. Fortunately we managed to catch up the stragglers before they disappeared to find out where we were going!

The run followed the Lee River south towards London and was quite simply described as "follow the water"! As it was an out and back course the option was to run whatever distance you chose, some people were planning marathon distance, others were going "all the way". We set off without any clear idea of how far we were going to do. We ran a mile or so with Ambition Life Managing Director, Rory Coleman, with Martin quizzing him enthusiastically about the prices for various events and why they've gone up so much! I think Rory was probably quite pleased when we pushed on ahead and left him in peace!

The route was not quite as scenic as we expected, but it was flat, easy running and being completely new to us, we enjoyed it. We reached the promised cafe at 10 miles which was one of the options for turning back....and decided to go on. We reached the 13.1 mile point at a lock (the name of which I have deleted from my memory).....and decided to go on. And then we were so close to the turning point it would have seemed like wimping out so we ran right on to the Commercial Road Bridge, which according to my GPS was just over 16 miles.

The first few miles of the return route flew past as we ran with Graham, a Benfleet runner, who was carrying a pack weighing about 6kg as he is in training for Marathon des Sables. We listened in awe to his description of doing 80 - 90 miles a week, cross training, working and all fitting around his young family. Apparently there's this thing you can do called "getting your arse out of bed early". I'm not sure it'll catch on in the Lascelles/Cummins household, but it was interesting to hear about it. (Graham had completed the Ironman at Sherborne in 11.15). It was quite a relief when he decided to push on and we could drop back to a more comfortable pace!

By now the sun had come out and although still chilly, it was a beautiful morning. We kept going at a steady pace and the miles flew past as we ticked off various landmarks from the run out. We both "hit the wall" at about the same time - with 10 miles to go. From then on it was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other and telling ourselves what an excellent training session we were putting ourselves through.

Finally we crossed the last road and knew we had less than 2 miles to go, one final problem: As it was dark when we set out we didn't recognise the final stretch and we weren't sure at which point to exit the towpath! We made the right choice and as we headed towards the level crossing which stood between us and the station I remarked to Martin that I just KNEW the barrier was going to come down before we reached it......and sure enought it did, so we had to crawl up the steps and over the bridge to reach our destination!

We took about 5 hours 20 in total and although it had been really tough at the end we were extremely chuffed with that. We haven't even been running 30 miles per week for the past 2 months, and even better my Achilles was absolutely fine and still is today. Might even be able to fit in another race or two before the end of the year......................

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dope test called for after Lesley gets another first

Sunday 25th November saw the Westgates having fun at the Brent Knoll race. This was the final race in this years Somerset Series, where your best eight from sixteen count towards a prize table. I say having fun because her good results during the year meant Lesley was guaranteed a place in the ladies table and there was no pressure on me because my poor results meant I was outside the men’s prizes. Yet again the weather was perfect, and I’ve never seen the conditions so good at Brent Knoll. Honestly there was no mud to speak of on the hill, certainly nothing to slide on. I set off with the intention of staying with Paul Chadwick, a fairly close rival from other Somerset Series races. This was in vain and he easily stayed ahead finishing 51 seconds in front. My time was my second best for Brent Knoll but then the conditions were good. As usual the leading men came charging down the hill having completed their circuit of the top while the rest of us struggled upward. I had a few great moments on the steep downhills; I just knew I wouldn’t fall over, didn’t really care if I did, and then flew down as fast as I could.

Back in the clubhouse bar the Somerset Series ladies prizes were awarded first. Lesley picked up 1st LV45 in preference to 4th in the series. Yours truly had a pleasant surprise as I picked up 2nd MV50 but would love to have been good enough for a table position. Once again Lesley did me on the ‘better result’ although we both got good chunky engraved glasses and a bottle of 18% Kingston Black apple aperitif. Plus everyone who did eight races received running bear socks!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Venice Marathon

The decision to do Venice as our Autumn marathon was taken way before my various injury problems caused a total lack of training or proper preparation, but the entries had gone in, the flights were booked and the hotel paid for. What could we do? We had to give it a go.

We didn’t even get out of Bristol Airport before we bumped into 40 Teignbridge Trotters on their way to sample an Italian marathon and shortly after them we came across Heather Hawker from Honiton RC, who was going just for the weekend since an ankle injury was preventing her from running.

Despite firm intentions not to spend too much time on our feet the day before the race, we found ourselves spending a lot of time on our feet – firstly at the Expo where we picked up some pretty impressive goody bags and freebies, then in the quest for public transport and then wandering around Venice for the rest of the day.
It was a beautiful sunny day and Venice was everything we had expected it to be. The only sensible thing we did was to imbibe huge quantities of carbohydrates – just as well we did that during the day because we managed to pick the only bad restaurant in the whole of Italy for our evening meal.

The defective preparations continued – a largely sleepless night due to the Italian couple in the room next to ours who conversed at the tops of their very considerable voices way into the early hours, no proper breakfast as we had to leave at 7.10am for the bus and breakfast didn’t start until 7.30am (I still can’t believe that I ran 26 miles without any caffeine given that most days I can’t get out the front door and into the car without a gallon or so in my system) and then a lot of time spent on our feet in the longest, slowest queue for the loo which I have ever been in (and I’ve been in a few in my time!) for the most disgusting, revolting, stomach turning porta loos in the history of the world. It was not an auspicious start!

The marathon started at Stra, a small town just east of Padova and followed the river Brenta back towards the coast. The river was quite pretty in parts and the trees, but basically it was a long, straight road which went on for what seemed like ever, punctuated by passing through a few small villages en route for the coast. We ran through the Marghara industrial area (which was as scenic as it sounds) and Mestre, which involved boring streets and a weird plunge into a tunnel which took us to the other side of the railway. Eventually we reached Park San Guiliano – where the Expo was based – which was more pleasant and the loud speaker and bands gave us a boost.

The race was strangely quiet – there were spectators, but for a nation which is normally so noisy, they just stood watching the runners passing by. No cheering or clapping. Put an Italian in a bar or restaurant (or in the room next to yours when you’re trying to get some sleep) and they’ll make an incredible amount of noise. Stand them on a marathon route and they have nothing to say for themselves. The runners didn’t talk either. In England you’d be able to eavesdrop on (or join in) a dozen conversations going on around you. Maybe Italians take their running a bit more seriously. Mind you Martin and I didn’t exactly engage in any earnest conversation or sparkling repartee. Typical conversation was “I can’t go on” (me) “Stop whining” (Martin).

After leaving Park San Guiliano we finally reached the Ponte della Liberta – the 4km bridge leading onto Venice. At least it says it’s 4km – longest 4km I’ve ever run, it just went on for ever. At this point we had a bit of a surge, thinking we may just dip under 3.30. However, sadly, it didn’t last for long and we soon slowed down again.

At last we reached Venice and the home stretch – the pretty bit which we had been looking forward to. First we had to run through an industrial area, where I managed to fall over a road stud, landing right on my left hip and breaking my GPS. It was one of those surreal moments – I saw the road stud coming, I knew I was going to fall over it, but I was so tired I just couldn’t do anything about it. Fortunately we were running so slowly it didn’t hurt much!

We reached the Guidecca Canal and began crossing the 14 bridges that now stood between us and the finish – including a 170 foot pontoon bridge across the Grand Canal built especially for the marathon. This was the part of the course we had really been looking forward to – absolutely stunning and even some shouts of encouragement from spectators here – but we were way too tired to enjoy it now.

Eventually we crossed the last bridge and a final push to the finish at the centre of the Riva dei Sette Martiri, crossing the line in 3 hours 35 minutes and 25 seconds, a huge personal worst for both of us on a road marathon, especially one which is essentially a flat, fast course. If we had done our London 2007 times I would have been easily 1st in my age category, but the lack of training really showed and we both struggled for most of the route. However after the disappointment of my recent French DNF it was a relief to reach the finish line at all, and fortunately my Achilles held out despite protesting the whole way.

No more races now (no honestly) – cross training is our fate. But we’ll be back!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dartmoor Vale Marathon Race Report by Dave Webb

My book on Running does not recommend spending the night before the marathon watching your country in the Rugby World Cup Final, getting over-excited, struggling to sleep, then getting up at 5.30 to drive to the race. But I am a free spirit, and decided to do all that anyway.

I got to the course in good time, and was able to drive round the route dropping off energy drinks. Reports of the route being fairly flat and dominated by housing estates seemed alarmingly mistaken, hills and countryside being a better description. The race starts and finishes at Newton Abbot race course, which means there is handy parking and plenty of space.

The Marathon and Half-Marathon races start at the same time, but at different places. As we lined up I heard the race director telling someone that she had decided to include some steeper hills so as to give the race a bit more character. How thoughtful of her. The Marathon begins with a mile around the racetrack (on tarmac) before heading out of the arena, so after a couple of miles we began to overhaul the slower Half-Marathoners. The route is fairly flat until 6 miles, when you go up a hill into Chudleigh, which is comparable, but longer, to the main hill on the Taunton route. Around this time there was a slightly tricky combination of more traffic and more runners to overtake. After a brief downhill there is then a much bigger climb up to Ugbrooke Park, followed by some nice countryside until you re-enter the built-up area and run up and down a number of slopes in the housing estates that so irritated Lesley.

As we approached halfway I found myself behind a curious, peroxide blond character whom I had noticed before the race, when he strode bare-chested into the toilets and put his running vest down on the floor by the urinals. Not someone who gives hygiene a high priority, and nor would you describe him as quiet and shy. As I drew closer to him I realised that he was intermittently grunting and shouting. I passed him at halfway, in about 1.34, and he announced that he normally did the first half in 1.25, and he couldn’t understand why he was so slow. He then proceeded to speed up, repeatedly shouting ‘Come On!’ to himself, and I found myself just in front or just behind him for the next 4 miles. At this point I went past him fairly easily, and I heard him shouting after me that his knees had gone.

I now faced the 2 main hills again. I got up the first one OK, but struggled with the second and had to walk part of it, as I passed the 20 mile mark in 2.26. I still felt fairly strong, and reached 22 miles in 2.40, but the climbing had taken its toll and miles 24 and 25 were particularly hard, before I managed to dig in and get a fairly good pace going again for the last mile. I had hoped to get under 3.13, though on seeing the course I realised that might be optimistic. In the event I managed 3.15.35, for 19th place, which was a decent effort for the course and probably a better performance than my Taunton time of 3.13 in April. My peroxide friend came in at 3.21, very cheerful and full of what a good race it was. It’s very friendly and well-organised, but I don’t think I’ll be going back, when there are so many other marathons to consider, and this is neither especially scenic nor very fast.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Kamikaze Adventure Run

The Kamikaze is the toughest, but most fun 8 miles I have ever run!

Go here to read more about it, and let me tell you that it lived up to its billing:

Despite a dodgy ankle and still-sore calf muscle, Lin led the women through half of the first lap before being overtaken by the eventual ladies winner. She stayed well ahead of all the other women though, collecting a shirt and an interesting trophy. But the real prize was the hour and a quarter of sheer fun (and a lot of hard work) on the many and varied hills comprising the course.

We started with a mad charge down the first hill to a bog at the bottom, then on up a long grassy slope. This basic pattern was repeated at least 10 times with a selection of hills of differing degrees of steepness, interspersed with all the fun stuff like rope swing, water slide,
bogs, streams, logs, and finally after the second lap, a haystack, scramble net, and the piece de resistance, the dreaded wall.

By the time we reached the wall, we were obviously tired, and so what would have merely difficult when we were fresh was now going to be extremely challenging. My plan was to get up first, and sit on top to help Lin if necessary, but just as I was about to offer her a hand up, she lost her footing and slid to the bottom, resulting in an impressive set of scrape marks on her stomach. She succeeded on the second atempt, and we finished together and then enjoyed an entertaining few minutes watching the next 30 or 40 finishers tackling the wall. Most needed a leg up, or at least a lot of encouragement. Quite a few literally "hit the wall".

It was all a lot of fun, and although it was tough, and we collected more than the usual amount of mud on our shirts, its definitely one we'll do next year.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Parrett Trail Relay - 1st Anniversary of the Blog!!!

Sorry Phil, Eric has beaten you to it!! Here is his excellent race report. Well done for another great Maiden Newton Running Club team effort...........Martin & I will save details of the Kamikaze adventure until you have all recovered from your exertions....................

Race Report
Parrett Trail Relay 2007 (<--- Click for results)
Leg 2 – Bridgwater Docks to Burrow Mump
7.9 Miles
Leg Start 10.00am

Tales From The Back Of The Grid
With a little help from Jimi Hendrix…

Well, Dan & I actually had four races today: our own respective legs plus the car journey to the start line of each our legs! We got to Bridgewater Docks with 5 minutes to spare – enough time for me to register and inadvertently insult Jackie!! (Oops!)
After having three Weetabix for breakfast and a can of Redbull in the car on the way I went to the start line feeling good. As I followed the small crowd to the start line I surveyed the runners looking for any old dodderers that I could potentially finish in front of. Sadly, the old dodderers that I did see were lithe and fit looking. Bummer! So feeling resigned to the prospect of being the “Tail-end Charlie” we set off.
Now, as I don’t use a watch or fancy GPS device that is so common amongst the running fraternity, I tend to time my races with my iPod! Today I raced with the esteemed company of Jimi Hendrix and this is how it went:

1. Foxy Lady 3.19
Started off at a sensible pace, ducking under bridges along the canal and quickly found a comfortable rhythm. It was a little misty, quite warm and humid with very little breeze. There were a few runners behind me so I was feeling good.

2. Purple Haze 2.57
I felt a pain in my chest and quickly realised that it was one of the safety pins! My left knee beginning to throb a little. (All those beers and weight-gain due to a running drought over the summer clouds my thoughts!) A purple haze began to brew in my head but as my pace settled down and I took in more oxygen I began to see again. I was still ahead of some runners and feeling good.

3. Wild Thing (Live) 3.31
Things went wild for the first time! Instead of going under one of the canal bridges, I went over the top, crossed the road and ended up on the wrong side of the canal! One runner followed me, so after establishing that neither of us had reckied the route, we doubled back and found the concealed path under the bridge. I am now the tail-end Charlie, so new target is to keep runner ahead in sight at all times-even though she knows as much as I do about the route!!! I’ll pay for that later on!

4. You Got Me Floating 2.47
Wish I was floating but sadly my bladder is beginning to shout at me – the RedBull coming into diuretic effect!

Wait Until Tomorrow 3.01
This is where I passed under the motorway. The two runners in front of me had organised their spouses to meet them there for a drinks break. The Yeovil runner is cunning and her partner runs beside her while she drinks, the other runner (who followed me into the wrong turn earlier) stops for refreshment – yippee!!! The race is back on! I could win this now! So I up my pace a little and feel a bounce in my step and my knee has stopped throbbing, although my bladder really starts to yell at me. Sadly before the song is over I am overtaken again!

Fire 3.43
But alas, all is not lost! I pull over to call time on my burning bladder and continue and try to narrow the huge gap that has been created

Little Wing 2.27
May This Be Love 3.11
Red House (Live) 11.07
Purple Haze (Live) 6.56
By the end of this selection of songs I have reduced the gap to the runner in front down to about 20 yards. Its still misty and there is no breeze at all. My legs feel good and the terrain here by the canal is fairly flat and dry. It is about halfway and I now try to navigate the road section knowing that the runner ahead hasn’t a clue. The Yeovil runner in front of her has disappeared completely from view – my heart sinks, all is not quite right!

Castles Made of Sand 2.47
All gong well I think – even if the Yeovil runner – my only navigational hope – has vanished. She couldn’t have picked up the pace that much? Could she? Anyway, I kept on going regardless trying to work out where I was on the map.

Hey Joe (Live) 4.49
I get carried away with this song as Jimi is so obviously bored of playing this hit that he decides to guitar acrobatics and treat the listener to lots of wailing feedback. Then I am jolted out of my skin by the rather loud horn of car wanting to pass me on this single track road. God knows how long they were behind me! There was a bit of a queue behind them though!!! So after being hassled by this motorist, I use the 30 or so seconds at standstill to check out the map. It’s not looking good.

Love Or Confusion 3.13
No, it was definitely confusion! Up ahead there is a woman on a bike checking out her own map. She beckons me over to tell me that I should have crossed a field back at the last left turn! But she points me right and seems to think that the distance is the same either way. It turns out in retrospect that the Yeovil runner had shouted to me when she noticed I had gone wrong but due to Hendrix blasting through my head it was in vain! By the end of this song I had rejoined the official route and could now understand the map!

Red House 3.44
I still had the runner in front pegged to about 15 yards and was weighing up how much I could push harder now or push when we got to the dreaded Mump – which according to the terrain printout given to me By Phil, looked like Everest! (I’m sure Richard & Lesley will put me right about this assumption!!!)
Red House had a good beat and I was able to pick up my pace a little and close the gap even more on the runner in front.

EXP 1.55
Foxy Lady (Live) 5.19
Back on the canal path and scanning the horizon for the Mump. Dan had said that Leg 2 is good, you just locate the Mump on the horizon and head straight for it. (???!!!!) You can’t see the Mump from Bridgwater Docks!!! However, my spirits were high, pace was good, I hadn’t stopped for a rest yet and had no intention of doing so – which surprised me as my last 2 runs had been lousy! There was a tractor mowing the canal bank and the grass was quite slippery under foot. Still no breeze and the mist was beginning to lift a little.

Hey Joe 3.30
Starting to get bored of the canal now, it seems to go on for ages!

51st Anniversary 3.16
This is a song about marriage. Marriage is beginning to seem a lot easier to deal with than running at this point! I began to build up a lot of body heat and there was no breeze at all to cool me down. The mist was quite oppressive with the warm ambient air temperature. Still looking/hoping for the Mump – no sign yet!

Remember 2.48
I see the Mump, I see the Mump! It’s bloody tiny!! And I had been expecting something like Glastonbury Tor combined with St Katherine’s Chapel in Abbotsbury!!! Instead it was this small mound – I can’t even remember what was on the top of it save for a group of people.

Tax Free 9.24
Back onto the road, there are traffic lights ahead, a horse and rider on my right and need to cross the road. If I time it right I can get ahead of the horse and across before the oncoming traffic – bingo!!! The horse felt a little too close though! Now where the hell do I go now?! The runner ahead has vanished!! Oh no!! No, wait, what’s this gate? A signpost for the Mump took me up some steps – there’s the runner – come on tail-end Charlie we can do it. At this point I thought of Richard and his Fell Running on the Isle of Wight – now the Himalayas – as I began my ascent. The runner ahead was walking – a gift, come on. It was no good, I had to walk too. “Come on Maiden Newton Runners!!” I heard someone shout, “Christ!” I thought, I had better start running. I got to the top, saw Di, I said something to her and her to me but what it was I’ve no idea! I over take the runner at the top and start the descent – it’s slippery, steep and full of potential embarrassment should I tumble. The runner overtakes me again and I have start bounding to avoid falling over near the bottom but it isn’t enough, I’m just pipped to the post and all is over! How nice it was to see Di, Phil, Jackie and Dan at the finish!! Thanks guys!

Parrett Trail Relay 13/10/07

Saturday saw the fifth running of the Crewkerne runners Parrett Relay. 53 miles 6 legs & 2 Counties (that's what is says on the Tee shirt). this is a great day out starting at Steart where the river Parrett meets the sea on the west coast of somerset and finishing at Cheddington (right out side the wynyards gap pub) now you see why its a good day out. This was the third year MNR had entered the event, this year saw a male only team of all first name club members how did we manage that.
Oh well I can't put this off any longer, I did the first leg mainly because no one else would get up at a silly time on a Saturday morning to get to the start for 8.30 at Steart. Having done this leg last year you would have thought it would be easy, I started well managing to keep up with Fred from Yeovil RC in fourth place but after about four miles he started to leave me behind. This was OK while we were running a long side the river, but when the trial started heading across fields I soon fond my memory of the route was not as good as I thought. not wanting to get lost I slowed to let a Crewkerne runner catch up, we ran together for some time but feeling confident I had remembered the route I set off on my own again(big mistake). I soon found my self coming out in the middle of a housing estate with no idea where I was let alone which way the finish was. more by luck than judgment I found my way back to the finish at the docks in Bridgewater, unfortunately I was approaching the finish line from completely the wrong direction. so not only having to join the hall of shame for getting lost the team could be looking at a time penalty for me crossing the line in the wrong direction. fortunately as I had lost 3 places and about 5 minutes we did not get a time penalty. But I did spend the rest of the day paying for my mistake, the only saying was even tho I got lost I still came in a head of Martin Chaffy (that I would never of lived down) Ironman to lost man in a few short weeks

Leg 2 saw Eric take over, traveling to the start with Dan had its own entertainment value. having spent some valuable time driving around and around Bridgewater they finial found the start with about 10 mins spare and Dan having to deal with a bit of road rage(whats wrong with stopping in the middle of the road to let a runner get out). Eric had a great run finishing at the Bottom of Burrow Mump, having climbed up it first looking like he could carry on to leg 3

Leg 3 was Ian's turn, he had run this 2 years ago but unlike me had not forgotten the route. he seemed to have escaped most of the mud on this section and finished in a very good time

Leg 4 and it was over to Dave C to do his best, Having spent the day before on some sort of pub craw around Exeter I was pleased he had even turned up, but again it was another quick finish.
the confusion only came trying to find where he had parked is car!!

Leg 5 over to you Dan, again there was little time to spare at the start with there combine navigating skills not quite up to the challenge (I know I am not in any position to make that sort comment) Dan not only manged to navigate the hole route, he managed to keep talking all the way as well (good job Martin was not with him)

Leg 6 What can I say Dave W took over what is probably the toughest leg of the route, but it does finish at the pub. He ran this last year and again had no problems finding his way to the finish to complete the route for MNR
The overall finish time has still to be confirmed (come on Crewkerne get the results up) By my time keeping we have an overall time of about 7hrs 30mins putting us in about 8th or 9 place out of the 21 teams.
the overall winners were Yeovil A in 6hrs 44mins first mixed team Chard RC in 6hrs 49mins and first ladies team Exmouth in 7hrs 39mins. all the above times may very to the official results, as there did seem to be some confusion prior to the winners being announced.
For the more observant of you you will have noticed there is no photo of me finishing, it wasn't only the time keeper that did not see me coming (the wrong way)
A great team effort.
Thanks Phil

Monday, October 01, 2007

Clarendon Marathon Relay

On Sunday the team of Richard, Lin, Martin and Lesley, AKA "Three Hares and a Tortoise" represented MNRC at the 10th Clarendon Marathon Relay. The route was from Salisbury to Winchester via Broughton along the Clarendon Way. I had a really funny bit about the use of the word eponymous here, but Lin advised me to remove it, so instead here are some of the pictures we took along the way.

The results are here
Individual race reports to follow:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


As soon as Lesley emailed Lin the link to the Sleepwalker Midnight Marathon we knew that navigating 20 miles of steep rocky trails in the Brecon Beacon National Park at night was the perfect way to spend the first Saturday evening of the Autumn.
After an afternoon carbo-loading we started at 9:00pm, near the front of a field of 53. The pace seemed very fast, and a group of 3 or 4 runners pulled away, leaving us in a group of 5 or 6. Running at night is not something completely new to us, but we usually keep to the better paths or roads, and this was really rocky and uneven, and most of all, fast.

At first we were able to follow the lights up ahead, but after 2 or 3 miles they were no longer in sight and we were forced to do some navigation. I think we may have gone a bit off track in places, but we must have been more or less right because after 6 miles we came out on a brief road section where the first checkpoint was set up. We gave our numbers and pressed on behind a group of (Axe Valley) Runners who had opened up a gap of 100 yards on us, but kept stopping to check their maps allowing us to almost catch up.

This continued for while until they slowed a bit and we joined them. Although technically a race, this felt more like a long night-time training run, and apart from a mile or two in the middle we were always running with at least three others.

Nearing the halfway mark we still had the steepest climb ahead of us to 2000 feet. This was made more interesting and difficult by taking the wrong path (not my fault!) and having to negotiate hundreds of feet of boggy hillside including barbed wire fences and a stream or three.

The descent off the mountain involved a very tricky section where we dropped a thousand feet and a couple of the AVR team, and having reached the second checkpoint , and unaware of my well-deserved reputation for getting lost, the 3 remaining with us seemed to be quite happy to let me do the navigation. Luckily in most places the trail was fairly obvious and visibility was OK with our high-powered head-torches.

The main problem was maintaining a good pace without tripping or slipping on the steep rocky paths. Fortunately by the time we started to get really tired we were down off the mountain and the final 3 miles was on roads and finally the (seemingly interminable) towpath to the finish. By the time we finished at 12:39am (in joint 4th place, thanks to a sporting gesture by the two AV runners who waited for us at the end) we were on a real high.

What a great event, I highly recommend it! Maybe next year we can send an MNR team? It was an exciting adventure, and not exactly a walk in the park, but it was so well planned and marshalled that it was not dangerously difficult and would be achievable by most with a bit of preparation, common sense and plenty of determination. If it had been held a day later in the storm that blew in on Sunday it would have been a lot more challenging, maybe next year...

Monday, August 20, 2007


Ironman 2007

Congratulations to Phil for an excellent performance at Sunday's Ironman. He completed the swim in 1.20.01, the cycle in 6.51.39 and the run in an amazing 4.08.25 to finish well under his 13 hour target in 12.41.42.

About to embark on a little Sunday morning cycle ride - 112 miles of Dorset hills on a windy day!

Just starting the marathon and still smiling!

About 10 miles to go.

Phil's own race report to appear here shortly (when he has got enough energy to switch his computer on!)

21st August 2007 - Phil obviously made a quick recovery and here is his report!

Ironman 2007
I am temped to make this the shortest report ever for MNR, I did it, got the T shirt to prove it.
But after all the support I was given by you all, right from the 6.00am start in the lake. I will try and string a few words together.
After the constant rain on Saturday it was good to find it stopped on Sunday morning, the thought of having to spend 13 + hours in the rain and wind was not good. To my surprise the usual pre race nerves were not there (this could have been due to it being 4.00am and I wasn’t awake enough to notice). All the kit and bike had been handed in the day before so all I had to do was turn up and prepare for the swim which was the one bit of the event that concerned me, 1500 people all trying to swim around the lake as quickly as possible. The start of the swim was delayed for 20 minutes to make sure every one made it into the water after some parking problems (they needed Dave Webb’s expertise). But again this still did not bring on the pre race nerves and once we actually got under way it was nowhere near as difficult as I was expecting, in no time, well 1hr 20 mins, I was climbing out of the lake heading to transition for the bike ride. This was not the fastest transition of the day by any means, but when you are going to spend the best part of seven hours on a bike it’s worth preparing for it (that’s my excuse any way). By the time I came out the large group of supporters that had taken over the grounds of Sherborne Castle to see me take part in this event were thinking I had given up. But a full 13 minuets after climbing out of the lake I was on the bike heading to Dorchester for the first time. At this point I was on such a high the cycling felt effortless, this continued right though the first and second laps of the route, and as the photos prove, smiling all the way, even at the top of Lyon’s Gate where cameras were waiting to capture the pain. The final turn from Dorchester back towards Sherborne knowing I had 8 miles of hills ahead of me was tough but not enough to take that now fixed smile off my face. As I was approaching Sherborne Castle to go into transition again to prepare for the run, there were thoughts of "how am I now going to run 26.2 miles?" The swim and the bike had gone perfectly and I had enjoyed it, but could I, or would I be able to run 26.2 miles? Eight minutes later to cry’s of “what the hell have you been doing in there?” from Lin I was starting on the run and yes the smile was still there. All the advice of don’t run too quickly, start slowly, went out the window and I had soon completed the two laps in the Castle grounds at a pace I knew could not last. The pace continued though the town, if only to try and out run Martin with his camera. The footbridge with all its steps at Sherborne Hotel brought the pace right down; heading out along the A30 for the first time knowing I had to do it again was the only low point of the day. 11 miles down and 15 to go - I knew I could finish it but it was going to be hard. Having eaten and drunk enough so called energy drinks and bars to last me a life time there was only one thing left to try to boost the now depleting energy reserves, flat Coke. Not to make things worse I only tried a small amount, it went down OK but did not seem to make much difference. By the time I had reached the turn around point for the second time, about 19 miles, I had got a taste for it and was drinking it at every aid station, and by the time I got back to the dreaded foot bridge heading back to the Castle I had a complete new lease of energy - running up the steps two at a time. I don’t know if this was all down to the Coke or the fact I had worked out that I could finish in less than 13 hours, whatever it was it kept me going right to the finish line to collect the T shirt in a time of 12hr 41m under the dream time I had hoped for of 13 hrs.
I know this report is pushing towards one of the longest ever, but it would not be complete with out a big thank you from me. First of all to my family who have supported me 110%, putting up with me training up to six days a week, coming home from work and then disappearing again running, cycling or swimming, and the occasional pub run. Secondly to all of you who came out to watch the event. I was overwhelmed to see so many face right from the start of the swim to the finish line - as some of you know a friendly face and a shout of encouragement can really lift you and I got more than my fair share of that all the way round - thank you.
Will I do it again?
Jackie say’s not if it takes this long to write the report afterwards!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


The third running of the Madness took place on a lovely sunny evening which encouraged 120 runners to toe the start line. Phil England, Club Chairman, and the force behind the race, did the pre race briefing and count down and his daughter (who much to the delight of Phil's family had been practicing enthusiastically all day) got the runners underway with a blast on the hunting horn.

Maiden Newton Runners being a very small club, it was great to see such whole hearted support from all it's members, especially the non-running members of the Club who don't often get caught on (our) camera. Stuart Hargreaves and John Arscott, ex Chairman of the Club, formed part of the scarily efficient result recording team, together with another former Chairman, Guy Smith, the man with many watches, not to mention Charles Le Vay who supervised procedings with military precision.

Ian Habgood, from Egdon Heath Harriers was first across the line in 36.38, followed less than a minute later by Paul Rose of Yeovil Town Road Running Club who was the first vet 40. Third place went to Mark Pittaway from Royal Manor of Portland, also a vet 40.

Previous winner, Dave Caddy, another Egdon Heath Harrier finished in 5th place and 2nd senior man and
Egdon Heath's winning streak continued with Stephanie Slade storming across the line as first senior lady in 44.01.

It was the night for local Clubs with Yeovil Town also taking the first male super vet - Nick Brooke, closely followed by Richard Orme of Egdon to claim second prize. Yeovil's Donna Elliott took the first female vet trophy home, and a special mention for Joyce Rendell of Axe Valley Runners, who not only broke the Yeovil/Egdon stranglehold on prizes but as first female super vet finished in an excellent 3rd place overall.

As well as local runners (many will recognise ex Club member Brian Mountjoy-Row pictured above) there were entrants from further afield and the competitor who travelled furthest to start the race was Henry Vales from Germany of Schwarzbier Schwarzbach. Hopefully his excellent time of 43 minutes and 17th place made it worth the trip!

On an evening when Phil had found chores for most Club members, Dan Cantrell and Jackie Webb managed to escape his notice and fly the flag for Maiden Newton both having excellent runs.

Feedback so far has been positive and hopefully the Madness will become firmly entrenched in the local racing calendar. Although there were many people roped in to help on the night, the race wouldn't take place without the organisational skills and enthusiasm of Phil any complaints, send them to him!

Special thanks to everyone who helped on the night, all the marshals, entry takers, tea and cake providers, John Stark Architects who provided sponsorship, Phil's family and many friends, St John's Ambulance and if I've forgotten to mention anyone it's due to my forgetfulness and not because of lack of appreciation!

Results have been despatched to and will be published there shortly. If anyone really can't wait to see how they did feel free to e-mail me ( ) and I'll send a copy in rtf format.

If anyone has anything (preferably good!) to say about the race then please log on and leave a comment on the blog. We can take constructive criticism too. (Phil has broad shoulders - specially after all the swimming he's been doing lately!).

And if you're a local runner, join the club and become part of the MADNESS!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Exmoor Seaview 17

The Exmoor Seaview presented an ideal opportunity for a weekend away......unfortunately the weather was not so ideal and spending a Saturday evening in Minehead in heavy rain is not an experience I'm keen to repeat any time soon. We did eventually find a pub which served something other than burgers, and then spent the evening trying to avoid eye contact with the hard cases who were drinking there, including one who we were convinced had an electronic tag on his wrist.

We had not booked a campsite but elected instead to drive up onto North Hill and park the van off road. By this time it was getting dark, misty and still, of course, pouring with rain. Due to the large quantity of beer that Martin had managed to consume I was driving so it was lucky that we managed to avoid the potholes and find a reasonable parking spot. It was quite spooky not being in a camp site and we were a bit anxious about being moved on by a National Park ranger, but we spent a peaceful night - apart from the rain and wind and it was worth it in the morning when we opened the van door to a beautiful sunny morning, an uninterrupted view of the sea and no-one in sight for miles around.

We had to be at Race HQ for 9.15 to get the bus across to Countisbury where the race starts. The bus trip up Porlock Hill is always a bit nerve wracking but at least we had a competent bus driver. The runners in the second bus were not so lucky and we were all kept entertained when he got the bus stuck in the car park at Countisbury. Good job Steve Eliott was there to sort him out!!!

We gathered for the obligatory group photo and the pre race speech from organiser Fred Hagan - and then we were off, a charge across the grass jostling for position on the narrow coastal path where running in single file is unavoidable. Martin and I had planned to run together but this first section is definitely a case of every man (or woman) for himself, so it wasn't until we turned inland up the first of many steep hills that we settled into a comfortable pace together. The sun had come out again now and it was beginning to get quite hot - my favourite kind of running weather but Martin (precious little flower) was already beginning to suffer from the heat and began whining quite early on about slowing down a bit now or a lot later. I did my best to ignore him and keep a reasonable pace going......

This is a beautiful section of coast - much more scenic and definitely easier going than the South Devon coast we recently experienced. I was feeling quite strong and enjoying myself, especially when we got to the first checkpoint and the marshall used my favoutire expression "Well done, you're first lady". Not what Martin wanted to hear, he knew there was far less chance of me slowing down if I was in with a chance of winning!

We turned inland to avoid a landslide - the diversion to last year's route added an extra 2 miles to the route and also threw in another very challenging hill. Martin and I ran together until we reached Porlock Weir but at this point I gradually started pulling ahead, despite Martin taking a very cheeky shortcut - and in full view of some other runners! By the time I reached the checkpoint at Bossington I could no longer see him behind me and I knew that I had now reached the toughest part of the course - the long climb up Hurlstone Point where you rise from about 90 feet above sea level to well over 900 feet in the course of a mile. I was very impressed by the two runners in front of me who managed to keep up a conversation almost the whole way. I was far too busy trying to drag some oxygen into my lungs to even think about talking!

Once you finally reach the top you know you have done all the hard work and just have 3 or 4 miles of fairly easy running to get back into Minehead. However, life is never that simple, and having overtaken one of the "talkers" in front of me, I couldn't stay with the other one and therefore had no-one to follow. The route isn't marked - you merely follow the acorns on the coastal path. What no-one told us was that as you approach Minehead you don't follow the coastal path - you keep straight on. I turned to follow a track clearly signposted "coastal path" and it wasn't long before I realised that this definitely wasn't the way I had come last year! I reached Minehead via the harbour - a detour which added some extra distance - but I wasn't the only person by any means to make the same mistake. (Martin did exactly the same thing as did many other runners)

I was tired now and also disappointed that I clearly wasn't going to beat last year's time. The worst part of the run was still ahead of me - along Minehead seafront, trying to dodge holiday makers who kept wandering across in front of me - and having made it safely across the moors and cliff path I managed to fall off the pavement at the only road crossing due to watching the traffic instead of where I was going. It was a relief to turn into the school and as there wasn't a cricket match on this year we got to short cut across the field instead of running all the way round it. I finished in 3.12.52, almost exactly 4 minutes slower than last year, but the GPS revealed that the new route was over 2 miles longer at just under 21 miles.

Martin came in soon after me in 3.22.45, followed by Richard, who was running with a 17lb back pack (ultra training - yes we've managed to convince him of the joys of the ultra event!) and Lesley finished in 4.04, looking as fresh as a daisy........and to think what a short time ago it was that she could regularly be heard saying "I DON'T do running".............

This is the best value race around - the £5 entry fee gets you the bus to the start, a fantastic run, excellent Race HQ, including showers, and last but certainly not least a fantastic spread of free sandwiches, cakes and drinks at the end. And they still make money out of the event for charity!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

MOB Coast

For Maiden Newton Madness entry form and info, click here:

What an amazing experience the MOB Coast event proved to be. We realise now that we were completely unprepared for it, despite the fact that we have been training and planning towards it obsessively for the last 4 – 5 months.

Day One
After Camping overnight near Paignton, we started at Haytor on Dartmoor at 8.30am on Thursday morning – a small field of 20 runners - with 105 miles ahead of us, shivering on a cold, foggy morning.

The first 18 miles followed the Templar Way down to the coast at Teignmouth and was mostly fairly easy running. The only problem we encountered on this section was a recurrence of my calf injury which caused us to do some walking breaks even as early as 4 miles in. Eventually I managed to develop a rolling gait which made the pain bearable – or maybe it was just that the huge quantities of pain killers began to take effect!

We had to get to Teignmouth by 1pm to beat the tide as the last few miles were along the river estuary, where there was no real path, just slimy green pebbles which made the footing treacherous.
We made it without getting our feet wet, but by now the sun had come out and Martin, who had foolishly not picked up water at the previous checkpoint, had become slightly dehydrated and was starting to struggle. It was made worse because he was finding it really hard to force any food down (not a normal state for him!) and I was seriously worried that he was not going to be able to continue.

Once we picked up the South West coast path the hills were brutal and the sun was really beating down. Luckily, I was feeling really strong and I was able to help Martin, pushing him up the hills, carrying his pack at times, bullying and cajoling him to keep going when all he really wanted to do was lie down and die.

The last check point was on the front at Torquay and we knew what lay ahead of us from this point as we had walked the last few miles of the course the previous day to get to the campsite from the station. Martin began to feel slightly better and I even managed to coax him into a jog a few times. As we entered Paignton we were overtaken by two other runners, but our desire for an ice cream break overcame any competitive urges we may have been feeling.
However the ice cream must have had restorative qualities because we actually caught them up again about 500 yards from the finish and in a sprint for the campsite (or what passes for a sprint when you have competed 36 miles with a 14lb back pack) we managed to pass them and finished the first day in 8 and a half hours and joint 5th place.

Day Two

A largely sleepless night and it was actually a relief to get up at 4.10am, pack our gear, put on our damp gear and sodden running shoes, eat our instant porridge and prepare for departure.

A brief argument with the Race Director – the start was split into two stages with the “speedy” group leaving at 7am and the rest at 5am. We had been classified as “speedy” due to our high finishing position, but we wanted to leave at 5am as we felt that we would be walking most of the route. Rory was basing our progress on yesterday and thought we would be reaching the checkpoints too early. NB: Don’t argue with me at 5am when I’m wet, cold, tired and in pain. Told him if we didn’t go now we wouldn’t be going at all. He realised it was an argument which he was NOT going to win and we left at 5.10am. We were joined by Tracey who’s partner had dropped out due to his feet being “shredded”.

We started off by walking, continued by walking and very occasionally on flat or downhill bits broke into a shuffle – to describe it as a run would be misleading. Once the nerve ends in my feet went numb and my blisters no longer pained me it became a bit easier. The first checkpoint was at the ferry crossing at Kingswear and we had been told it was about 10 miles. If you ever do an Ambition Life event do NOT believe them when they tell you how far you have to go. Day 1 was supposed to be 33 miles but was 36; Day 2 was supposed to be 40 miles but we had been told the previous evening it was 44.

We eventually struggled into Kingwear with 13 miles on the GPS and already feeling like we had had enough. We were lucky that the ferry was waiting and left almost immediately. Much to the bemusement of our fellow passengers I immediately removed my left shoe and sock for Martin (he’s a lucky man!!) to perform first aid to my new blisters. Good job no one was having their breakfast as we crossed! When we got to the other side Tracey decided that she didn’t want to continue – we did our best to persuade her otherwise but she got back on the ferry to return to the check point and the soft option.

We are made of sterner stuff so we headed for the refuelling centre, i.e. Dartmouth town centre and stocked up on sandwiches, muffins and coffee, essential supplies to enable us to summon up the will to continue.

At this point two of the real “speedy” group passed us – a bit demoralizing as they had started almost 2 hours after us and had caught us up in the space of 13 miles and a ferry crossing. I guess if you’re a serious ultra runner you don’t stop to buy food and drink along the way.

The next part of the course was quite enjoyable (comparatively). The path leaves the beach at Blackpool Sands and wends across fields and lanes through the villages of Stoke Flemming and Strete – stunning though the coastline was it does begin to get tedious after 50 miles or so and this section made a welcome change.

We also enjoyed the flat section of Slapton Sands, Torcross (checkpoint) and Beesands – we were onto familiar territory now as we had run this stretch during the Endurance Life marathon in February. We had managed to average 3 miles an hour up until this point, mainly because we had run quite a lot of the flat section and we kept this pace up until we reached the next checkpoint half way between Beesands and Salcombe. After that I really started to struggle – the path is very rough and rugged and my right knee was really giving me grief.

The next checkpoint was at the ferry crossing to Salcombe and we didn’t know what time they stopped sailing so we kept pressing on, safe in the knowledge that once we got across the river we could get something to eat and then we only had 7 miles to go. At about 5pm we reached the estuary and turned in land – at this point it also started to rain and we had been on our feet for 12 hours. It was a real low point but it was about to get worse.

We reached the checkpoint at 5.45, the ferry was waiting, all we had to do was climb on, but the person at the checkpoint then told us that we had not 7 but 13 miles to go! The stage was supposed to be 44 miles and I had 37.5 miles on the GPS at this point. It was clear that the organiser’s had been economical with the truth about the real distance. I threw a bit of a tantrum – I felt sure that I wouldn’t be able to do those extra miles to reach the end. To cap our misery it was now chucking it down with rain, we were soaked, we were cold, we were exhausted and we were miserable.

We found a fish and chip shop in Salcombe and guzzled some really high quality fish and chips – lurking in the shop doorway trying to stay out of the rain. We then started walking out of the village with me desperately trying to persuade Martin that we should just book into the nearest bed and breakfast – hot shower, dry towels, soft bed – I even offered to pay - but he wasn’t having any of it and blocked my whining out by concentrating on the map.

Due to the foul weather it was already starting to get dark despite the early hour so we decided to take some liberties with the route and stay on the road, which cut off some of the mileage and made the going easier. I’m not sure at what point I managed to convince myself that I could get to the end of the stage, but as we plodded through the rain, I suddenly became determined that I would not be beaten and that we would make it to Bigbury come what may.

When we rejoined the coast path it was on a high, exposed section and the wind coming off the coast was ferocious and I was soon shivering, I don’t do cold at the best of times and this was far from that. The next few hours are somewhat of a blur, but eventually at 9.21pm we reached the finish line, which had been moved to the Sloop Inn across the river from Bigbury – the ferry stopped at 7pm and only one of the field had arrived in time to catch it across to the campsite. It had taken us over 16 hours to cover what we estimated to be about 48 miles – the battery on the GPS gave up at 42.5 miles several hours earlier.

Day 3

Long before Martin opened my tent at 4.15am I had decided that there was no way I was starting the last day. I think I had mild hypothermia – I had on a t shirt, long sleeve shirt, leggings, socks, had wrapped myself in a borrowed blanket and still I had not stopped shivering all night inside my sleeping bag. My feet were in shreds and I could hardly bend my right knee. I had had no sleep at all.

Martin could have gone on, but he immediately accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to. However we had reckoned without the persuasive powers of the race organiser…… After he had seen the early starters off at 5am, Rory decided that it was his mission in life to get us to the end. I was lifted bodily from my tent, carried to one of the support vehicles with engine running and heater on, wrapped in a blanket and fed porridge and coffee. I started to think, well maybe I could go a bit further………….My blisters were examined – infected but not so bad that I couldn’t continue, I was given some dry socks and Martin fetched my sodden running gear. Another low point when I tried to remove my T shirt and found that it had stuck to my back where it was chaffed from the ruck sack – ouch, or words to that effect.

Somehow in the space of two hours I had gone from crying on Martin’s shoulder to being ready to leave and at 6am we set off, just the two of us, to try and cover another 25 miles. The coastline continued to throw steep hills at us and to begin with we managed to jog the flat bits – mainly in an attempt to keep warm, but by the time we reached the first checkpoint at Mothercombe we were already down to a walk. We were supposed to wade a river crossing here but the tide was too high and so we got taken inland and across the river by car – a round trip of about 9 miles for the sake of 400m!

Unfortunately the 20 minutes squashed in the back of the car had given us just long enough to seize up and it was very hard to get going again. One by one the three race leaders who had left at 7am caught us up and passed us, making it look absurdly easy although even they were walking the hills.
The sun came out and we were covering about 3 miles an hour and thinking that we could make it to Plymouth by about 3 – 4pm if nothing else went wrong.

At about 10.30am my left hip suddenly went into a spasm and after that I had a pain which felt as though it was right on the point of my old fracture. It was ironic that through all the preceding miles the one thing that hadn’t given me any trouble was my hip, but this was worrying and it was getting worse. I think I could have kept going but the warning signs that I had ignored in the build up to London 2005 (resulting in a stress fracture) were flashing before my eyes…..and so we decided that enough was enough and it was time to stop. We limped to the nearest village and a lift to the finish was organised for us.

We’ve looked at results of other long distance races in the past and I’ve never understood beforehand why someone would pull out with 10 miles to go after they had already covered 95 miles – but now I do, and although we were disappointed not to finish we were also enormously proud of the distance that we managed to cover. Of the 20 starters only 8 managed to finish the course and we were the last to drop out.

The conclusion? We’ll be back to finish what we started next year – but this time we WILL be prepared!

Rescue crew at finish. Thanks, Richard and Lesley.