The 2019 Great South Run – Fun in the Sun!

This year I took part in another Great South Run. After last years success with a 1:03:00, I was up for giving it another go, but this time with the aim to have fun and enjoy the day out! For those who don’t know of it (really?), it is a 10 mile race around our beautiful city of Portsmouth. It takes you along the entire stretch of the Portsmouth seafront and also around a lot of the city including the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. You get to run past the HMS Warrior and Victory ships which is always a treat. For the second year running we were treated to great conditions. This year saw the race happen a week earlier than it normally does. Great choice that was because the weekend after was scheduled for rain and the weekend before was a windy one. Excellent placement!



My mate Heather who has taken so well to the running and is now running amazing ultra marathon distances, including taking on her first 100 miler next year! Woah!


It has been a year of extremes for my own running. The long distances and training over the past year have left their mark in the form of a number of ongoing injuries that do not seem to be shifting at all. They don’t stop me running, but they are holding me back quite a bit. Still, I get to enjoy my running most of the time and I believe they will eventually go. I’ve been working with a physio called George from Up and Running at Roko, and learning how to incorporate stretching into my routine. I must say, George has been great. He gets absolutely mad at me for not listening to his advice on rest. I get that. I annoy myself with it. But we’ve come to a mutual understanding that my running is my daily medicine does. I need it to balance everything going on in my busy life. So, the Great South Run finally arrived. Training since the UTMB CCC has been slow going and hard. Trying to get faster and fitter and getting the legs to turn quickly has been difficult but also interesting. It’s not helped by the injuries but the whole entire process has been a learning one as always.



My mate Eric who is also a core team run director on our junior parkrun team. Eric had a great run on the day enjoying the good conditions.


Earlier this year I was offered to join the Hoka One One (remember, pronounced o-nay o-nay yep?) family as a Hoka Racer, which was just a dream come true. I did wonder for a while if they had the right runner!? I am not the fastest runner out there by any means, but I guess if passion and love for running was measured in speed, I’d surely be up there. Like many others, running has become such a major part of my life. It is never far from my thoughts, challenging me, helping me develop new ideas and solving issues in every aspect of my life, and also introducing me to new amazing people and places. To now be racing for a brand I love so much and representing them in races is just a dream come true. Hoka One One running shoes that have been so kind to my legs and body ove the years and I’m extremely pleased and proud to be running for them. So the Great South Run was going to be my first time running in my gear! Awesome!

Fountain of running knowledge Scott from Alton Sports. If you want anything running related, go and see these guys at Alton Sports. They’ll always sort you out. Especially with a nice pair of Hokas ….. 😉


This year IBM had been great in refunding us half of the entry fee to run as part of a corporate team. I ran alongside a few other runners from IBM and we all met up before the run to get some group photos. It was awesome to have support from IBM too who have invested a lot of time and money over the past year to help support a healthy work life balance. At the site we work on during the week, we have access to plenty of great facilities to keep in shape. We have a load of different sports activities available and a brand new state of the art gym with a ton of equipment in it. There are some lovely routes around the area and a large group of us run each lunch time during the week. Back to the race day though. After our photos were taken, we headed down to the warm up area at the back of the D-Day museum and did a few laps hoping to see some of the elites, however they all been taken in to the starting area by then. Before long we were down there in amongst the crowds. Not too near the front, but far enough forward. Someone mentioned that a certain Jimmy Mallet(?) was at the start with his gigantic hammer and I just looked blankly as I’d no idea who in hell he was. I had to explain that I grew up in South Africa. All was forgiven. Soon we were off. I starred strangely at the man with the hammer and decided not to get hit. Lots of people were heading towards him however.


Definitely more Hokas around than any other shoe on that day! 🙂


Dave – aka, Metal Boy. The metalist of metal runners around. Dave has had some very good success this year, including the 145 mile distance!

The race itself was pretty standard. Kicked off at about 6:30 pace and pretty much stayed about there all the way around as best as possible. I saw a few people I knew during the race and had some nice chats. I saw David Poole sporting his Bad Boy Running kit and another runner I know who was aiming for his ten mile PB. I really got into the crowds this year and decided to run through the Rose and Thistle Pipe Band who always play under the bridge near Gunwarf. For those who know me well, I am a member of this band and have been for years now. Of course I don’t play with them during this parade as I’m usually running. I ran through their circle this year and got to high five them all which was fantastic. They were on a short break between tunes when I got there so perfectly timed. I also did a lot of high fiving all the children who support the event so well. Lots of them put their little arms out hoping to get some back from the runners so it’s really good fun to line up and wind up a really big high five for them all. These are potentially our future runners! At mile seven I was going strong and well and relatively comfortable as was planned and so this year I decided to stop for my family and friends and get a photo with them all. It was great fun to see them all. Usually it’s quite high fives going through but I took my time this year. I then saw some more friends at the Eastney end of the run as we know a lot of people who live that end of the front. Was awesome to see them all. Ben, one of my core team of run directors at junior parkrun was handing out jelly babies along Henderson road which was great. The final couple of miles was quite funny. I still had some breath in me to talk and tried to get some conversation out of a large group of us who had bundled up together. It was so quiet. “The weather has been good to us this year again hey?” —– met by complete serious silence. Saying that, a guy next to me eventually replied and we chatted a bit. I guess it’s not the ideal place in a race to be striking up conversation, but at times it’s nice to take the edge off of the pain.


Pete and I before the start. Pete is my co event director at Eastney junior parkrun and has been such a great support over the years! Smashed it this year.


I came through the finish in 1:06:15 this year, which was pleasing. I’d wanted anything under 1:10 and expected to be no faster than 1:05. Target achieved. Like last year I peeled through a gap to my left after the finish to take a sit down and bumped into some of the elites who had finished and were all changed and probably ready to go home. Was great to meet Chris Thompson again with another lady who may have finshed the race but I didn’t recognise her as she had big sunglasses on. My friend Dave Harvey who had come over to see me, and I got to meet Eilish McColgan who had absolutely obliterated the competition in the ladies race. She’d also broken her mums record time in what was a very incredible run. She looked fresh as a daisy though! Not to hang around too much around there making a nuiscance of ourselves, we headed towards the finish funnel and collected our goody bags. To my annoyance, the bag contained a bloody technical shirt! Argh, not another one! When are the race organisers of these huge events going to give us the option to take a shirt or not? It’s got to be so easy to do surely? Anyhow, we collected our stuff and then ended up meeting a ton of finishers and friends at the exit of the finish funnel which was getting majorly congested. I started to get a bit cold after a while and so decided to head off home for a jog. On the way back I saw one of the IBM team finishers who was making his way through the final mile. Some shouts of encouragement were fired his way. I was surprised just how many runners there were still making their way around. It goes to show just how big this run is.


GSR legend Chris Thompson and unknown athlete? I did not recognise her with the glasses – how rude of me. Both such awesome people and always happy to chat.


On the results side of things, we had an added bonus. Our team won the entire corporate team events category! In other words – a first place in the Great South Run! Ok, so it’s not quite that good, but it’s a great result for us. Extremely cool. A couple of our team members ran 1:04.xx times and another ran a similar time to myself. Lovely result!


Awesome all round dude Pickled Jhon! Both Hoka Racers although he was running as a Vegan runner that day.


The Great South Run is where running races started for me. It’s on my doorstep and is still an awesome event that attracts so many people. Everyone is running for their own goals to be reached and you hear and see so many fantastic stories. Well done everyone! As always, happy miles to you all and enjoy the winter running…xxx

PS – if you got this far through my post well done. I can hear you wondering what shoes I wore for this race. I wore the Hoka One One CarbonX. This shoe has grown on me the more I use it. The first time I ran in them they felt quite different than anything else I had used before. They feel a bit like they are missing pieces of sole at first but it’s not off putting, just different. A super fast yet very cushioned shoe. Really comfy. Check here for more information. I also raced for the second time with my new Coros Apex watch. If you haven’t yet tried the Coros watches, do check them out. The battery life is immense if you want a watch that can last a month in full GPS mode with heart rate too, and is simple enough to be really easy to use without any of those added features you just don’t want or need. Coros are definitley growing in popularity.


Famy family and extended family all getting in on the action at mile 7 !

Blog – Are my pipes clean enough inside?



To test a few areas in my pipes for any fungus/mould/bacteria to help identify whether or not I should change the way I clean and maintain my instrument based on the results.


My Pipes

I am an average parade piper in a parade band down in the South of England. My pipes are blown regularly during each week. I sometimes use pipe brushes inside my drones to dry them out and I regularly air my bag and drones after long, cold practices to get rid of unwanted moisture. I also regularly dry my canister gels out to keep them in good condition.

I use a synthetic Bannatyne bag with bottom zip and have a Bannatyne canister water trap with normal tubes running from the canister to my three drones and my chanter stock. I also have a moose valve.



Most reading this blog post would have already heard or read the story about the piper who apparently got ill from his bagpipes which had a fungus growing inside. I only go by what I read on the internet and that was enough to get my attention and interest seeing as though I am a piper too. So I got in touch with a company who offered to run some tests using damp swabs. I decided to take swabs from the following areas : blowstick, moose valve, tenor drone, pipe chanter reed, and inside the bag itself. I felt those were the best areas to test.


Swabs all ready to be sent back!


The Results

The results came back after roughly five days. As I am not too knowledgeable in the biology area, so the results posted have been written here as they were sent to me. I spoke with person responsible for the tests and will add what he said about it all too. Firstly, they were shocked at the levels of mould, yeast and bacteria growing in the instrument. The cleanest area, as you will be able to tell below, was around the chanter reed. I can only attribute that at a guess to the fact that with my water trap tied in the way it is, moisture has the least chance of getting there. The bad points were the fact that the samples taken grew greater than 10,000 bacterial colonies each, apart from the reed area. To put that into perspective as my contact put it – in a normal water system in a building, they would expect to find less than about 1000 colonies in lower temperatures, and about 200 or so in higher temperatures. Wow! I am pretty sure he also said something about ‘evacuation’ of a building if those levels were found in water, however that’s water and this is bagpipes *shrugs* ? Anyhow – here are the results in blue, and I’ve highlighted the headings to show the areas :



 Interesting results……not very nice ! These are the colonies per swab.

All of the counts were extremely high with the exception of the Reed Chanter Area for some reason. I was not expecting such high results (I guess we had no idea what would grow), so in the future we would probably dilute the swabs further to try to get more accurate results. But needless to say the bagpipes are “alive”.


Moose Valve Area:
6,000 Yeast colonies
240 Mucor species

Total count at 22°C: >10,000 colonies
Total count at 37°C: >10,000 colonies

Coliforms & E.Coli: NIL


My grown sample from the moose valve area.


Reed Chanter Area:


Total count at 22°C: 170 colonies
Total count at 37°C: 120 colonies

Coliforms & E.Coli: NIL


Sample from around the base of the pipe reed.



Approx 20,000 Yeast colonies

Total count at 22°C: >10,000 colonies
Total count at 37°C: >10,000 colonies

Coliforms & E.Coli: NIL


Sample from just inside the blowstick.

Tenor Drone:

2,600 Yeast colonies
840 Penicillium species

Total count at 22°C: >10,000 colonies
Total count at 37°C: >10,000 colonies

Coliforms & E.Coli: NIL


Sample from the tenor drone.



Inside Bag:

Yeast – Overgrown

Total count at 22°C: >10,000 colonies
Total count at 37°C: >10,000 colonies

Coliforms & E.Coli: NIL


Swab taken and grown from inside the Bannatyne bag.


So there you have it – with visuals! That was it. So what does it all mean for me as a piper? I’m not entirely sure really because I found it difficult to understand what if anything is harmful. Further tests in more detail become very expensive so I am not going down that route, but I guess the conclusion is that there are extremely high levels of activity in my pipes. More than the lab ever expected and enough for them to highly suggest cleaning immediately. They suggested immediate further cleaning and better maintenance because none of it is going to be beneficial. Those results, with the recent story and other previous stories of people getting ill is probably a good enough kick up the backside.

The lab would like to run some tests in a months time, once I’ve cleaned the pipes better to see if that reduces the colony count. I suspect it will so I’m not sure I’ll go ahead with any further tests. It was most interesting to do this though, and I hope someone gets something out of it.

The Performance Game Plan

When performing solo for any type of events, do you ever have a musical game plan? Do you know what tunes you are going to plan and in which order? Do you play it safe and go with tunes you have performed for years or would you play new, slightly more complex tunes? Do you always stick to the game plan?


When your musical game plan feels like that on the spot – time to panic?


Last night I performed for a posh dinner function on a military base. I’ve played there before. I’m comfortable performing although I was slightly nervous as it’s been a while. I was asked to play a solo piece after the dinner, as it had been two pipers and a side drummer at the beginning of the night to pipe for guests. I had in my mind that I’d play a medley of tunes in my solo piece, and I had originally intended to begin with Castle Dangerous and break into Old Adam, and then from there pick something that came to mind – most likely a few Hornpipes or Jigs. Did I stick to the game plan this time around ? No.


I went in and picked a completely different set and what happened was, I ended up going into a Hornpipe I hadn’t played for a little while and that I was less confident playing. It all went pretty downhill from there. Mistakes happening and then a total breakdown (with a bit of grace I might add!) in the third part. Terrible. Luckily, I have no real worry here so I struck back up and played another set of jigs which my band play so I was more comfortable with them. That ended well which I guess made up for it. Pipes were sounding good anyhow so I’m hoping there was not really much bad to remember by the guests. This got me thinking and inspired my blog.




How do pipers out there handle each gig they do solo? Do they prepare music before hand or pick from tunes on the spot? Do you learn new music specifically to perform for these nights or do you play it safe? After last night it made me start questioning my very easy going approach to these things. Perhaps it’s time I got a list of tunes together and practiced those very tunes the week or so before and stuck to the plan. I wouldn’t be the first. I’ve been to a few recitals and seen some fantastic players reading and playing from a pre-selected list. I myself enjoy being relaxed about the whole thing. I enjoy being able to just read a situation on the spot and pick tunes accordingly. To be honest, I am probably going to stick to my guns and carry on using my approach as we all have bad nights, but perhaps I just need to tighten up a bit and at least know which tunes I’m picking from.


One of the points I touched on above was that we all have bad days/nights. I can usually feel when either the nerves are up or whether my pipes are not precisely how I want them to sound and what  I might do from now on, is play the safe card when this happens. Safe tunes is not necessarily a bad thing. You can still demonstrate a great sound and effect playing standard parade tunes. Ok, so you don’t get the whole WOW factor like you’d get letting people hear the Clumsy Lover for the first time, but a great performance of tunes that people probably recognize and enjoy is just as fulfilling.

The top 5 piping tracks to run to


I listen to quite a bit of piping music each day. Wait. That’s a lie. I listen to a crap load of it. Like a lot of pipers out there my car is full of piping CD’s. I do occasionally feel there’s a conspiracy against me with my wife getting the kids to slowly scratch them to the point of resembling an ice rink surface, or Edward Scissor hands is manhandling my collection. Anyhow, apart from the car I don’t get much time to listen to piping apart from the office, the house, when I’m walking about and when I’m falling asleep. Ok, so that’s a lot, but what about running ? I run a lot during the week and I’ve been itching to put together a play list with just pipe band stuff on it. So here my chosen top five tracks that I would use :


Edward, have you been playing with my SFU CD’s again?



1. The 78th Fraser Highlanders – Live in Ireland (Track 15 : Slow Air, Jig and Hornpipe)


The track that pipers so love. For me, it’s iconic. I listened to this so many times as a teenager and it still gets me to this day. The slow air (Fair Maid of Barra) is a very melodic tune which would make a great start for a run. The jig and hornpipe would provide punch enough to get into a good steady pace. I reckon the track could be best served as a finale to a run too leaving you with a mega fast finish and a raging heart rate.


2. St Laurence O’Toole – Dawning of the Day (Track 1 : Air and March)


My second choice on my play list would be this track. Absolutely awesome. I’d put this track either first or second on my playlist in all honesty. The track begins with a soloist and then a duet followed closely by the band (I think?). Perfect for the first part of a run. Like the tune name, it definitely leaves you with a ‘wake up’ feel. Just what you need for those first few hundred footsteps.

3. Field Marshall Montgomery – Re:Charged (Track 6 : Fiddlers Rally Medley)


The best medley ever. No, don’t try and disagree – not even in your heads. It’s the best hands down medley yet. Brilliantly chosen tunes and so masterfully played. Ok, so FMMPB are my favourite band so I’m a bit biased about it but still. For a run, the medley starts out powerful and bright and pretty much continues that trend until the Unknown Air which brings it all back until the punch with the Fiddlers Rally setting that just knocks your socks off. If you’re not charged up about running after hearing this track, you’re most likely closely related to a sloth.


The last thing I remembered was the Fiddlers Rally starting. The next thing I’m waking up hungry.


4. Simon Fraser University – Down Under (Track 7 : Traditional Set)


I’m not sure what draws me to this track but hell, you can’t deny it’s an ass kicker. I still rate this track as one that shows off drumming and piping complimenting each other in the finest way possible. This should provide a great tempo for the middle of a short run. The set ends with the brilliant Thompson’s Dirk reel with just the pipers playing the first part and the drummers coming in on the second part with strength. It’s pretty much solid from beginning to end which is just what you need mid run.


5. Field Marshall Montgomery – Unplugged (Track 10 : Medley)


Another of my favourite medleys! It’s fantastic and full of energy, but has a slow intro solo piece to begin with (Kilt Rock), which is perfect as it picks up pretty quickly into the Shepherds Crook. The set ends in spectacular fashion with an aggressive sounding Cabar Feidh and Christopher’s Birthday and those two tunes just melt so well together and end with such a solid tempo and melody. I can’t think of another track that would top it for a finish. Not even Eminem can touch it.


Dum da bree da da dadum da bree….. yeah, yeah man that’s pretty solid.



I reckon I’d need a load more to fill an entire run,  so what would your tracks be ?