Training Update – Four Weeks to Go !

These posts seem to be coming around faster each time, so this one is late late late! With just about three weeks to go before Jason and I take on the Thames Path 100 miler (our third 100 together) , training is still going well and I’m still in a good place physically and mentally. I’ve managed to remain a lot calmer for this training build up over the past few months that I have done in previous years. I’ve been doing a heck of a lot of mileage and have probably done too much as usual but reigned it in where I’ve needed to, unlike other years. I’ve kept to the simple strategy I picked up in Jason Koop’s ultra training book which has been all around building up strength and fitness in the months leading up to an ultra, before then getting a bit more race specific and then training more like you plan to race. This includes training on race specific course profiles too. I’ve done a ton of running around Portsmouth and kept the hills to my shorter recovery runs during the week.

 

So month three kicked off with a race I had booked in with Whistle Events called the Batty Bimble.  It went very well. I’ve already written up a post report about it so no need to repeat myself but I managed to finish in second place with the same mileage as the winning runner, just a bit slower to cross the line. It was a day that had all runners experiencing horrible wind and rain pretty much through out the run. Great training, although I know for a fact I’d absolutely HATE to run a 100 miler in weather like that. It will happen one day I am sure. My feet were absolutely ruined after being wet for six hours straight in my extremely old Hoka ATR3’s which are barely held together with any material. I’m on a mission these days to use less gear, buy less new stuff, and use what I have for longer and so these trainers still have a good 1000 miles or more to go! No more unnecessary purchases or training gear for me unless it is up-cycled or I have no other choice and it’s something I need desperately. In this case, I probably could have suffered less with better trainers and I’d certainly not use them in the 100 miler unless it was definitely going to be dry. This race allowed me to get my training up to the 39 mile mark so extremely pleased that I managed to run most of that with a few short walks towards the end.

 

Alex and I waiting for a runner to come past

 

There was a ton of bad weather over this month which made training interesting. We’ve had some very high winds on the coast and a fair bit of rain. Some of the 30 mile training runs have been a case where I get cold, wet and dry – repeat. Still, I got them in and as mentioned above – all training is good training, whether it’s easy, hard, fun or not. I’ve made more use of my Inov-8 rain jacket which I purchased to meet the minimum kit requirements for my first 100 miler a couple of years back. Since then, apart from the SDW50 and SDW100 last year, it had mostly sat in my wardrobe. I started using it again at the end of last year and I have a whole new appreciation for good quality kit that actually does do the job. This jacket is great protection from much of the wind and rain during runs. Worth forking out some cash for quality products that last long, IF not available as an up-cycled item.

 

I’ve been able to test out nutrition a bit over month three too. To be honest, as I’ve written about before, nutrition is the impossible puzzle. Runners who chase the perfect nutrition plan will forever be chasing. Things change day to day, race to race and person to person. There is no exact configuration of food plan that will definitely get you to the finish line unscathed. Sometimes I’ve been lucky and got it right, but usually that’s just listening to the body and drawing upon the experience and knowledge gained through reading blogs like this, books and watching YouTube videos. This is why I believe that information is powerful, and I think exposing yourself to ALL forms of information is a good thing, so long as you try things out sensibly and find what works best for you. The more options you have through learning from each other, the better equipped you are. I did want to mention these really cool Guava squares another runner told me about last month. They are wrapped in a dried leaf (and initially plastic which you peel off), so you can store them in your bag and not worry about the rubbish. You can discard the leaf wherever. The fruit itself is really tasty however they are very sweet with the added sugar on top.  You can buy other forms of the Guava that come in rolls. I used to eat these in South Africa and they are delicious. I also tried the Naked flavour of Tailwind which is quite nice. It’s slightly less sweet than the flavoured ones I think. Probably going to try and use this during stuff during the Thames Path 100.

 

Two very pleased runners!

One thing that has surprised me this year, and I attribute it to more sleep, is the speed work I’ve managed to maintain. I built up speed in the beginning of my training block in January / February and expected it to drop off at some point as the really long runs started. But it’s all hung together quite nicely. I can’t run super fast for the 30+ miles however it certainly helps with the pace I run those at. I did a tempo run during this month which I hadn’t done for a while managed to get a surprisingly good (for me at least!) overall pace considering the hills in the run. I thought I was nowhere near this pace, but was really pleased. Seems just keeping up the intervals and threshold run sessions twice a week has worked. Not aiming to get faster, but just try to keep what I have worked towards.

 

 

 

Another note worthy update this month which has been really inspiring to see, is the level of improvement made by some of the runners at the work over the past few months, particularly a couple of friends Mat and Rob who have joined in with some of our monthly challenges. This month I had the honours of pacing Mat through to an amazing 5k PB. Rob joined in too and was paced by Bracken to an amazing new 5K PB. This was a tough run, but both Rob and Mat have made huge improvements in their speed and distance training. Such good fun to be a part of. The very best of motivational running!

 

 

 

And now it’s onto the last month of training, and also very excited to be volunteering at the Centurion South Downs Way 50. I plan to write up about my experiences there so hope to publish that some time in April. Best of luck with everyone coming up to their marathon races. I’ve seen so many people working so hard to achieve their goals. It’s been great reading and hearing about your experiences and lessons. So inspiring. Happy miles everyone! xxx

 

Running at Work

I’d like to share my story about running at work. I know many runners are not able to train during office hours due to various work schedules, travel or lack of facilities, but I have been really fortunate to be able to make use of my lunch times to do my regular weekly training (or ‘runching’ as it is sometimes known). Here’s my story about forming a strong running community at work, and how we manage our lunch time runs. There might be something to take away from it and for others to try out….

 

 

Some of the lovely hills we get to run through during lunch

A number of years ago I agreed to take a break away from my computer one lunch time as one of my managers had promised to take a couple of us out for a run. At the time I was barely a casual runner and only really running for a couple of months a year. I remember that run really well. We headed out along a quiet country side road in Winchester for a 5k. I found it utterly exhausting and extremely hilly (I didn’t realise what a real hill was back then). After that run I never ran again at work for quite some time. Not because I was put off by it – I enjoyed it, but I remained at my desk most lunch times, in front of my computer screen as I had done over many years. A comfortable routine. It’s so easy just to do that. I am sure many can relate to large portions of their working career spent doing this during lunch.

 

I don’t know how or why but about about a year later I found myself running another 5k around that same area during my lunch break. I was probably training for the Great South Run which at the time I raced casually each year. During that activity I encountered another runner who worked at the same place. He asked if I’d like to join him and go a bit further and as always, I agreed. That chance encounter has led to the most incredible growth of a healthy and happy running community at work. And here’s the tale of how it all happened and what we get up to each week.

 

Runners Assemble!

 

Russ and I just this year – 2019

My friend Russell was the runner who I met on route that day. It turned out he was a good runner and regular cyclist. Before long I was joining Russell and another runner Andy on some more runs and from there we occasionally were met by other solo runners passing by. It seemed there were other employees at work who were doing the same thing every lunch time. At work we use a number of useful social tools to keep in touch with each other. I reached out to Russell and we discussed forming a non official runners group which would be optional for people to join. We both thought it would be a great idea to have somewhere to advertise daily runs and routes so that people could opt into join in and run together.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from one of our yearly trips up to Farley Monument

We created a social network channel and we ended up having over 100 people join. It was amazing how word quickly spread and people began being able to organise runs together. Each morning someone would put a post up stating an intended start time, route and pace and include any other useful details. Interested runners could receive notifications from these social network channels, and then post comments to ‘opt in’ so that the person who created the original post could see who to expect at the start of the run (and wait a few minutes if needed). If changes were made to any details, those who opted in would know via an update notification. It really helped keep runners motivated to get out and run at lunch. Start times varied depending on everyone’s calendar, and while some could make the advertised start times, later or earlier groups began forming and soon there were more than one option to go running each day. It worked really well and soon we all had a large and friendly network of runners. Good friendships formed from there and soon we were entering races together and training began to evolve and take on all sorts of various forms. Since then we have moved onto other social tools like Slack for example, which provides a real time chat server (similar to old mIRC channels for those ‘young’ enough to remember). Making the most of the social technology we have at work has been instrumental in making this work so well.

 

Structured Training Sessions?

 

Some runs involve a proper rinsing for anyone desiring such pleasures

Much of the running at work is social, meaning we all run together no matter what pace. Well, kind of. If runners want to go faster or want to add a bit more mileage to the run then we loop back or work out extended meeting points in the runs. But over the past years some more structured training weeks have emerged at work mainly because many have entered races or just want to run faster. A few of us in the group tend to keep up quite structured training patterns. These usually include a couple of days of intensity sessions which can take on the form of tempo runs, intervals of varying lengths and also threshold running sessions. The days differ from person to person however most of the time we try to find a small group who want some quality running.

 

We do not have a running track to make use of on site and so we have to rely on the roads. We have some flat portions of road near Winchester that we can go to, however anything over a 800 – 1200m and you need to include some small climbs, or be stepping out over drive ways or even resorting to running around some grassy fields instead. We are not short of hills where we work. If we want to do some of the fast sessions on hills we have a number to select from. Some favourites are infamous for their length and vert! One of the reasons I myself started more structured training was due to one of the social media like tools we all started using. A tool common to most runners and cyclists now, called Strava.

 

Enter Strava – Hello Segments!

 

Strava segments are always quite challenging and tiring

In order to heat things up a bit on some of our standard routes, we began creating a number of Strava segments in the area. For those who don’t know what those are, go and google it. We created so many segments around the area at work and many of those became targets for lunch time runs. I recall when I was still casually running at the time with the groups at work, that I started taking an interest in attempting some of these segment efforts and chasing my times to try and get a segment crown (become the fastest runner on the segment). In effect, what was happening was that our bodies were getting used to almost interval training efforts. We’d run two or three short to long segments in a run and go all out. Doing that for weeks really picked up the running and from there I remember myself becoming a lot more interested in attempting to get faster. Some of our most popular segments are here :

 

  1. See Sign Sprint to It – yep, one of the few I’ve managed to keep hold of ….. for now!
  2. Pig Farm to Crest – a spicy one requiring much speed, going slightly uphill for a fair amount of time.
  3. Climb Towards Farley Mount – an evil climb, end of!

 

Those summer months

We have a number of Strava groups/clubs set up now which include a global group spanning our company worldwide. It’s been really great chatting and following fellow employees and comparing some of the different work site photos and how everyone trains. We’ve also created more of a global Slack channel for runners all over the world to join and chat too. This sport is so social. I don’t think runners exist who don’t like to chat about running Do they?

 

 

 

Some of us runners at a trail marathon in 2017

We’ve since taken the Strava use at work to new heights. Some of the runners came up with an idea which is now called the Monthly Challenge, and here is how it works. Each month a runner will pick a route. This route can be short or long, and include hills, road, trails – whatever. There are only a few loose rules we give in that it can’t be too long, and it needs to start and finish within reasonable distance from work so that everyone can give it a good bash. That month runners head out whenever they want to see how fast they can run the segment. Some are easier than others and many have been really tough routes. The winner at the end of the month gets to pick the next monthly challenge route – that’s it! To keep it fair, if you have picked a route before you cannot pick one again until all runners have had a chance to pick. Naturally, this list is still being worked through and will take a while to come around, however there is also a yearly leader board that starts in January and ends in December. A points system similar to Formula 1 has been developed and it used to keep a table.

 

It’s been a fantastic way to motivate people to get out and improve. We’ve had a number of personal bests hit for runners who have really challenged themselves. This monthly challenge, mixed with the Strava segments and also the structured training is the perfect cooking pot for improvement. Here’s an example of a recent monthly challenge route – December 2018 Challenge

 

The Office Stinker?

 

Not here luckily! All these hard runs at lunch. All that sweat. We are also lucky to have a number of facilities at work to help keep us smelling fresh. We have about four different locations on site with showers, including a new state of the art gym area with great new showers. Some of these showers are in need of some tender loving care but they are functional and also apparently getting revamped very soon too! After some of our summer runs I think everyone else in the office is glad that we get to wash. Like, really glad.

 

Our awesome gym!

The gym I mentioned is another great bonus we get working at our site. It was a project taken on by some of the employees, led by runner Jon Tilt who happens to be a world champion track athlete for his age category. He knows his stuff and managed to get some really good equipment. He worked hard to get this new gym built and installed which also replaced a tired old gym which had been rotting away for years. Most of the equipment in that old gym had been loaned or donated. It was all in terrible condition and had no windows. The equipment and the space we are lucky enough to have now is amazing. We have the option to hit the treadmill if we so wish, or do some rowing or cycling or even strength training. It’s been a godsend for runners who have been injured and off of the running. We are all extremely lucky to have these and other facilities around site! I count my blessings each day.

 

 

A few years back now at the Compton 20 mile race

There have been so many healthy advantages to forming this lovely group at work. Firstly, it’s just so beneficial to escape the office environment for that hour between each of the half days. It really clears your mind, and perhaps not so much the legs and body sometimes! No really – I’ve found that I’m more awake during the day even after a hard session. I might not walk around as quickly but I’m definitely more alert. Another natural formation from these runs is the friendships. I would like to say I’ve made some great new friendships through running and get to speak and share stories with other people I may not necessarily have had the chance to normally. I’ve learned so much from our runs and had some really detailed discussions about everything from office issues and work all the way to alien life in the universe. When I run talking becomes a lot easier and conversation flows so easy. Lots of these friendships go beyond running and I’ve been lucky enough to get some great career advice and help on a number of issues.

 

Mental health is a big discussion topic these days. A lot of it is centred around talking to each other. A lot of the junk we keep inside has come out during running and it has been a great outlet for some of this ugly stuff that sits on your shoulders all day to come out. I think our work runs continue to be a great way to discuss things if ever needed. When you are out in the middle of the peaceful countryside, moving freely on foot and enjoying the air, it’s far simpler to lay a lot of these things on the table and discuss them.

 

One of my favourite summer runs to Shawford – run, swim, run back

Our running group became a bit of a focus when we had our health and well being week at work last year. We ended up putting a lot of the photos you’ve seen on this page onto a board which gave people a chance to see what we got up to each day. A few of us stood at a stall and were there to answer questions and try to encourage people to join in with us. We’re a very welcoming and inclusive group and offer a number of weekly ‘recovery’ runs where new runners can join us. They don’t have to run too far or fast for these and it’s a great way to get into it all. New runners to the area can turn back and easily navigate back to work – it’s not far. I must admit, it can be daunting seeing our discussions on the various social tools we use like Slack. We do get into some discussions at times about intervals and threshold sessions – bla bla bla. People probably shy away at times, but we’re always very welcoming and many of the runners are super supportive and willing to help others start their running journey by offering their time to discuss their own experiences with training, clothing, shoes etc. Such is like most of the running community around.

 

I’m always interested in hearing if others have similar groups at work? Do you work in the same way or have ways of competing with each other? If so, how about a cross-company challenge some time ?

 

Happy running everyone! xxx

Month Two – Half Way to May

 

I wanted to start this monthly update by expressing that I feel so extremely lucky to have found running. I had a ‘moment’ during a recent run and I have to say that it’s great just to be able to head out for a training run and be with the natural elements and my own thoughts. Isn’t it great? There are so many things happening in our busy lives every day that it’s so easy to get completely overwhelmed by it all. Work, family, friends, politics  …. brexit (yep, I wrote that word!).  I feel so fortunate and thankful that I can run and feel like I can realign myself properly. On that note, month two is now done and dusted! It’s been a busy one for sure. Plenty of ……running, yep that’s right. I am now more than half way through my four month training ‘plan’. I’m documenting my journey each month leading up to the TP100 and and GUCR. I believe there is value in writing about these journeys, whether it’s for your own enjoyment to look back on one day, or whether it helps someone else with ideas and things to try for similar adventures. February was a harder month than January as the mileage has started to tax the body quite a bit. But it’s also been so freaking awesome too. So, where to start?

 

I regularly get asked about my training plan and go about preparing to run one hundred mile races. I’ve seen so many different training plans and methods over the years that I’ve now developed my own way of managing my training. Firstly I don’t document any hard plan beyond the current day I am on now. Not much gets written down beyond today. What good is that kind of plan? Well, I keep just an idea of the mileage I want during the current week (and overall month) but I do not write it down. I only write down what I’ve done each day – not what is to come tomorrow. I always feel better being able to look back at what I’ve achieved over the weeks, rather than worrying what is ahead of me tomorrow. It keeps me positive and in a better head space and I’m not constantly worrying. It can have some bad effects too though. I can end up doing too much. But I find that seeing the mountain ahead of me is harder than seeing it appear behind me. If I can be disciplined then for me it works a treat. Most previous plans I’ve tried in the more traditional approach normally get thwarted by life events anyhow. I love running so much it’s hard to keep me off of the roads and trails. I do still track my mileage and various workouts each day in a Google spreadsheet and for example use colours to highlight which have been HARD runs, EASY runs and which are LONG runs. I have a graph for each day through the month and I starting to see spikes and trends in the patterns when I look back. If I see too much RED then I know there are too many tempo or interval sessions. Too much green and I might need to lay into a speed session a bit. I’m always curious how everyone manages their training. Of course, I also track on Strava because I love me a bit of Strava. Strava though is more of a social tool than something I tend to use for training specifics. I do however also get great ideas on training from watching Strava as well though.

 

Running with friends has been a strong theme this month.

Earlier this month I was fortunate to get some words of wisdom from the current male record holder of the Grand Union Canal Race regarding what to expect from Grand Union. He gave me some very useful pointers and it was just nice to chat to someone who has completed the race and understands this strange desire that I have to run it. I’ve also been trying to gain knowledge through reading blogs and watching video journals people have posted on YouTube from previous years. These might just be short videos, or badly recorded or written posts, but they are so very useful. Real life accounts and stories you can read give you weapons you can use when you need them. If you go through a bad patch and you know what others have done to get through it, then you are better equipped to deal with it. February has also come with a week and a half of illness. I still managed three hundred miles for the month. Not huge, but big enough. I’m pleased because I’m still able to also run fast when needed (fast for me!). More significantly, individual runs have gone up from the 20 miles to around 40 mile ability, and mid week long runs have jumped into the twenty to thirty mile mark by running twice in the morning. It’s getting very real now. I need to focus more on strength and core work and stretching in March so will be aiming to log more of those activities. I’ll be easing a bit off the pace this month, with just a couple of speedy sessions a week to keep the leg turnover happening. Must keep my head in a good space too. Admittedly the early morning weekend starts and back to back runs are starting to peel away the positive a bit. Must stay focused! Seven good weeks of training left to go.

 

 

My mum had a bad back so together we did her first parkrun. A very funny morning.

I’ve been writing down a mantra each month with something I feel is related to lessons learned. This month my mantra is something along the lines of “Discomfort now. Treats later”. When I got ill a couple of weeks ago I still managed to get out of bed at 5am and get out of the door for a four hour run. Stupid idea? Maybe, however those runs are valuable. Yes I could have recovered in bed for another day and yes it was terrible running like that, but I came away from it feeling confident that I can push through a lot of discomfort. I would have stopped if things were too bad, and would not recommend doing that. It’s risky. I got very ill after that for two days. It was probably was going to happen that way regardless. The one big thing I’ve learned in February and probably something I started back in January is the importance of sleep. This is something I’ve held in too low a regard over the past years. I’m now realising just how different I feel sleeping more and going to bed earlier. It’s incredible. It doesn’t make me faster but it makes the getting up and actually going out much easier. It’s true what I’ve been hearing on podcasts and reading about sleep – it could be best and easiest thing to fix to get such a huge gain. The only downside is I have less awake time to myself. I’m not watching as many films or playing as many late night video games. I have to be a bit more tidy with my time management. My wife tends to go to bed early on most nights and when she doesn’t she prefers to control the TV so it works box ways.

 

 

 

 

This week I am back at Eastney junior parkrun as run director. I absolutely love junior parkrun and I am proud to be a core team volunteer most weeks. Last year I accepted a role as a parkrun Event Support Ambassador which I was incredibly pleased to get involved with. I got to attend the parkun conference in 2018 and had a great time meeting so many runners. There are so many people with so much knowledge about starting, running and helping manage all the different parkrun events and teams around the world. It was a real eye opener hearing from many of the parkrun staff and understanding why things happen the way they do. Parkrun has become a big part of my week. I usually see the 5k Saturday parkrun as the end point of one of my long weekend runs which I start super early on. It’s a great way to end a big run when I’m ultra training, but also means I don’t get to run the 5k hard at the moment.

From now on I run with Rerun – upcycled clothing. No more new clothes if there is an alternative!

Away from the running side of things, I also saw a really good inspiring running film this month called ‘Race’. It’s about Jesse Owens in the 1939 Olympics in Berlin. A breathtaking film and just incredible. What that athlete went through to get where he did and even once he’d achieved his goals, his treatment afterwards was just shocking. Everyone should see that film. I’ve also starting putting together my playlist for Grand Union for when I fancy some tunes to keep my mind occupied. I’ve got a real mix of stuff on there so far – Whitney Houston’s 80’s stuff *don’t judge me*, some tracks from the Greatest Showman, Alphaville Big in Japan, some Queen and Bon Jovi. A proper real mix of stuff, including a song that captivated me when I first saw the music video a few years back called Witch Doctor by De Staat. Crazy ass tune. I should think there will be a few hours where I’ll want to hear some of the songs that inspires me. My last update for March is that I’m so very excited to be volunteering at this years South Downs Way 50. For those that read my SDW100 blog, one of the experiences I took away from the SDW100 last year was just how well treated we were by the volunteers. I wanted to get involved and give some of that love back to other runners. When I was recovering inside the Eastbourne sports center after the race I remember just going in and out of sleep in strange ways. I was confused a little bit and didn’t know where I was after each short lived few minute shut eye. Really weird. Ian, one of the volunteers kept bringing us coffee and food and he was like a guardian angel. Absolute legend. I was so taken back by the kindness of everyone that it’s now my turn to help. I hope I can be as useful and awesome. In the end, it’s people who help get you through these events, whether it’s volunteers and aid stations or buddy runners or crew. Even just other runners talking and helping each other through. This is why this sport is the number one.

 

Until next month when I hope everything is holding together. Happy running everyone!

The Batty Bimble 6 Hour Timed Race

whistleflagOn Sunday morning I travelled up to Bordon, just north of Petersfield to make a return to Whistle Events and try out their Batty Bimble run which takes place in Hogmoor Enclosure. Hogmoor has been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit recently since they started a parkrun there about a year ago. This was my first chance. For those who don’t know, Whistle Events are a local (to me at least!) running company that host timed events. Most of those are 6 hours and you can finish 1 lap, or 12 laps – it doesn’t matter. Everyone gets a medal. Everyone gets to run. Really friendly, and well looked after events. I was also running in a few items of clothing from ReRun, so feeling good about using some upcycled clothing. Have you heard of ReRun Clothing? If not, do check it out. Without steering off the topic of the Batty Bimble too much, it’s a clothing movement set up to try and reduce waste in running. Running produces so much unnecessary clothing and often as a runner we have these bags and clothing thrust upon us with no choice. Get all these unwanted items of clothing back into circulation and go upcycled! Shoes, shirts, packs …. anything! Hopefully I won’t have to buy or collect another race shirt again. It’s becoming a bit of an obsession too as I’ve started also watching Marie Kondo – Tidying Up on Netflix. WTF is happening to me?

 

delbriefingThe weather on the week leading up to the race was amazing. In fact the two weeks leading up to the race were great I had even done a shirtless run – in February! I’d managed to fit in a decent ten miles the day before the race so the legs had a few miles in them but nothing damaging. I’m loving the back to back runs at the moment and they play a big part in my training for the hundred mile events. Weather was going to be grim for the race as storm Freya arrived with perfect timing. Not just us, but many events and runners were affected over the weekend. We were lucky that the organisers let us go ahead because they had been asked by the rangers of Hogmoor to consider cancelling due to the high winds. Great to know that the welfare of people is considered so highly in this great sport we all participate in. On the day my alarms went off and I was awake at 6:15am. Everything had been nicely laid out and after a nice hot bath I was dressed, fed and ready to rock and roll. I keep all my running gear in two crates and so I just packed the whole lot into my car. These are awesome as I get to store everything neatly and I know where to find anything running related in the house. Otherwise I find I’m digging through wardrobes and drawers looking for things all the time.

 

wetcarThe drive up was atrocious and wet, however I was super impressed that as I passed by Queen Elizabeth Country Park and Butser Hill, that I saw what I think was a runner in orange gear going up the hill. ‘Ok’ I thought, if they can do that then I can go for a run in a park. I arrived within about half an hour and managed to find the rather odd car park, which lead you into some kind of active industrial looking type area. I knew I was in the correct place as soon as I saw the friendly yellow sign posts. I headed up to the registration desk and got my number and after a small chit chat I got back into the car to keep warm, and listen to some more cheesy 80’s tracks. I was just preparing myself for the task ahead. Relaxing and getting into the right head space. Then it was out of the car, vest and jacket on and up to the start for the briefing by Del. Then we were off. It’s really weird starting an event like this. One minute your all there thinking about it – even for for weeks leading up to it, and all of a sudden within one word you are actually in it and running it. It’s like some kind of strange switch that happens. Surreal.

 

 

laponeThe first lap was wet and wild and I had no idea which direction I was facing. The course seemed to be beautiful with tall trees all around us so I could not tell where I was going apart from following the path of the course. We turned at a play park and saw Del there in his dry robe taking photos. I settled into a nice group, with the lead runner George from Denmead Striders gaining a bit of ground on the first couple of laps. He was flying. After the first couple of laps though I think we all settled into some pace and ended up passing familiar groups at similar points. You start to judge paces of groups and it’s a nice way to pass the quiet time. I spoke with the overall winner that day (didn’t get his name!) for some of the time and we both confirmed we were in for the six hours. Even if they closed the event, I would have stayed on as an individual lone runners for the full time if the rangers allowed me to. Fortunately that wasn’t required as we were allowed to run the full time. The winds did not pick up more than they were already blowing. On lap three I got chatting to a runner Chris who was from Salisbury. Nice chap and good marathon runner. He told me all about his trail and road marathons. Isn’t it great on these events how you can talk running – to runners – and not feel guilty like when we’re at parties and bore people to tears. There were so many nice runners on route. I saw a lady Victoria who has the most awesome running style. I’d met her at the first ever Whistle Events run over in Wickham a few years back (write up here). I also bumped into non other than the inspiring and awesome ultra runner Susie Chan. She had reached her target for the day and was walking back down the trail. I had to be cheeky and get a quick photo – thanks Susie! Susie is an excellent ultra runner who most will have heard of. She used to hold the 12 hour record running on a treadmill if I remember correctly?

 

 

dansusieWho else was I to meet on route? Well, later on I got chatting to a runner called Mike. We spoke about – guess what? – running and it turned out Mike is the organiser of the National Running Show. I’ve been meaning to head up there for a couple of years but something has always cropped up. We spoke a bit about running and sustainability and I’d have LOVED to have carried that conversation on however time was pressing on and we were both hoping to get back for another final loop. I pressed ahead as Mike was needing just a few more hill walks at that point. That wasn’t before he kindly offered a couple of VIP tickets to come and see next years show! How kind. Have I said before – I love this sport so damn much. I managed to get back to the start just in time to be given to go ahead for one final lap. This would take my total to about 39 miles, which is near where I wanted. By this time there was one runner ahead who had done the same distance and he went through for the well deserved win. I managed a second place and was really happy with that result. A few runners finished running the full six hours so hats off to everyone who managed that, and also to those who came to conquer their own distances and targets. It’s never easy taking part in events in those conditions but as I’ve said before, there are so many lovely people to meet and stories to share with each other, that is makes the running that much easier.

 

Thank you organisers and volunteers. You were all amazing. These events are brilliant in many ways because it doesn’t matter if you are aiming for a social 5k , a new distance attempt or a speedy marathon or even your first ultra marathon. On the Whistle events ensure that every runner can do that in a friendly and safe environment. From 3 miles to 40 miles, it doesn’t matter what you aim to do and what targets you have. If you have a good day and want to go further, you can. When it’s time for you to finish you can ring the big brass bell and call it a day. It’s up to you …. and the weather of course! [Full Results] [Strava Trace]

**I also am grateful to have found my new favourite sweet – Tuck Shop Planks. Try these damn things they are amazing! Happy running everyone.

 

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