Monday, 21 December 2009

Snow, Modena and Christmas

Well Christmas is upon us and my training since the Doyen of the Downs has been abysmal to say the least. The week after the run and all i managed was a slow 5k, and the last week was an effort to say the least, having done only 14 miles in total by Friday. With the snow, that usually grinds the country to a halt arriving on Friday the planned trip to see Alex had to be postponed so no run on Saturday morning with him and with more snow overnight on Saturday covering the ice on the roads, my 16 miler on Sunday morning was cancelled too. Looks like my runs over the next few days will be spent on a treadmill, so an early start on Tuesday should see a 10 miler possible before work, once the car has been scrapped free of ice.

Hopefully, atrocious weather permitting, i can get back in the rhythm of things and get ready for the Country to Capital run on Jan 16th, as well as get a proper core and weights programme going too.

Over that last few weeks Alex and i have been pondering future runs and plans. We have already drawn up ideas to run John O'Groats to Lands End in 2011, and possibly LA to NY in 2012, although the latter has been hit by an issue with a chance in an already planned run, which is now a year earlier - so we will have to review that.

Once i found this out i quickly hatched another idea, that sounds more suitable to do in early 2011, with JOGLE at the end of the year - London to Modena - unusual end venue, but this is where X-Bionic's factory is based in Italy, and the hope is that we can persuade them to give us a massive support package, that will help us do the run and help fund accommodation and support crew for the 850 mile run. The route can take us passed the X-Technology department in Schwyz in Switzerland too, and we have to cross the Alps somewhere, which after 2 weeks of running 45 mile days should certainly tax our determination and energy reserves. This idea needs to be discussed with X-Bionic in the New Year and see what they can do to help.

Not a great deal happening anywhere else at the moment on the sponsorship front. The press release in America has been hit with renewal problems, which we hope will be resolved soon. The newsletter from Ardblair has yet to have a response, although with Christmas approaching fast other things occupy peoples minds, so hopefully the new year will prove fruitful.

Planning to meet up with Alex between Christmas and New Year to check all is going to plan and formulating plans for the months ahead.

Hoping everyone has a great Christmas and Happy New Year - Here's to 2010.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Doyen of the Downs

This race must break trade description laws, as the amount of Downs were far exceeded by the amount of ups.

The photos from last years race showed a crisp, sunny and frosty race - this year however was the exact opposite......... heavy rain, 30mph wind and very soggy underfoot. The race was a circular route starting at the foot of Arundel Castle (although it was so gloomy and dull it was hard to see). ½ after the start and having run though the town we were onto towpaths along the side of the River Arun until we hit the roads in pouring rain after 2 miles. a further mile down the road and it was trail - well when i say trail - mud and lots of it, that went on and on.

This was to be the format for the rest of the race, and being further down the field than i would have liked the ground in places was a slop of sticky glutinous mud and dirty pools. The footwear (The North Face Hedgehogs) worked superbly as others slipped and slid around - although the hill at 19 miles that went up for 100 metres in ¼ mile across a ploughed field made life very difficult for even my trainers.
After another decent into the the town of Storrington we faced the 1 mile climb up to the top of Kithurst Hill - 213mtres climb, although most of this was hardened trail and the sun had come out (shame about the very strong winds in you face on the rapid descent). With hamstrings and quads refusing to move properly and energy at an all time low thankfully the last 4 miles were flat as we followed the river back to the finish, which looked close but with the meanders took even longer than i wanted.

It was nice to be greeted my the race director at the end and with an engraved shot glass (as well as t-shirt) the memento was nice, however the facilities at the end were poorly planned. No drinks or food available for us at all. It would have been nice to have tea/coffee and some cakes, especially after all those miles. The check points had limited items, namely water and banana' but for an entry fee of £36 i expected at least a hot drink to be available.

I had been struggling with stomach pains from about 8 miles which at time almost forced me to pull out, but this was an important run for me too do, and the physical and mental strength i gain from it will be dragged up at future events. I must put in more training after this weeks rest ahead of the next race on 16th January - Country to Capital 45 miles and loose a bit of weight too i think.

99th from 170 finishers (300 had registered) in 5:35:11
Winners time 3:36 - 15 mins ahead of 2nd place who was a further 10 mins ahead of 3rd
39th place in 5hrs dead, which indicates how tough it was.
Last placed runner (cut off time was 7hrs) at 6:56 but results don't show DNF

Next year??? - I think not, but one lesson i have learnt is that the hills in Essex will not be any help in the SkyRace in May.

My Kit consisted of
X-Bionic Spykers
Ron Hill Jacket

Hedgehogs with Attitude

I have to say that i can only find one thing that i would complain about with the North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR, and that's only a personal preference - more later, but first the shoes.....

The Hedgehogs are made ostensibly for what the North Face call "Fast-paced outdoor activities" - at first this worried me that they were aiming the shoes at hikers and ramblers (in a hurry), but not at runners, however after my first outing i have to say that these will suit whatever your speed. The shoes are light enough for trail running, whilst being stable and rigid enough for climbing and scrambling across rocks. The sole is peppered with a very rugged and spiky Vibram outsole (hence the nick-name), which seems to grip in even the boggiest of trails and with the bonus of a waterproof Gore-tex upper and padded tongue makes the ride easier and more pleasant than other off-road shoes i have used.

I ran in a 30 mile trail race this weekend in them (Doyen of the Downs) and due to a combination of the recent weather we have had and heavy rain the night before they were thoroughly tested, handling very well in the churned ploughed fields as they did on the compact trails (not that there were many of those) and roads. The sole being as hard wearing and rugged as it is doesn't seem to have a much cushioning as some heavier runners would like and is definitely more of an off-road shoe than a road/off-road shoe, but handles very well on all surfaces. The Gore-tex uppers are brilliant and the only time that water actually got into the shoe was after my foot had been totally immersed over the ankle in a nice deep dirty puddle. Still finished the race without sore feet or any new blisters from the race and better still dry feet (well... foot).

My only complaint (albeit my own preference) is that i would have liked lace-locks with the shoes as the laces supplied are very thin and not easy to tie tightly to prevent the shoes coming off in very sticky conditions, and needed re-tying several times on the run, but baring that i am very happy with what The North Face have created and looking forward to getting them even muddier (if possible) in the winter weather.

Muddy Marvellous

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

In a Glass of their own

Ahead of this weeks Doyen of the Downs race, on Sunday 6th December i have had the chance to use a new pair of sunglasses, generously supplied by Ardblair Sports, of which i can already sing the praises of.

Polaroid Eyewear are world leaders in optics and lens technology and the inventor of polarizing lens technology and their sports range of eyewear demonstrates this perfectly. Both Alex and i have been given 2 pairs of the 7007 range, with 3 interchangeable lenses (Clear, Amber and dark), Now the winter may not be the sunniest time of year (especially in the UK), but the choice of lenses is ideal for someone like me who wears contact lenses. Friday last week i had my first run out in the glasses with amber lenses in late afternoon and i was amazed by how light and comfortable the glasses were. No fogging whilst running, even with a Buff over my nose in heavy traffic, forcing air upwards, no bouncing either and more importantly a clear field of vision, with the amber lenses lightening the gloomy afternoon.

These have made a very pleasant change from the heavier denser framed sports glasses on the market, and will now be a a regular item in my kit bag and more importantly on my nose.

Marks out of 10 - it can only be 10.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Half a Double Act

This lunchtime I discovered our fate regarding the Grand Union Canal Race. Entry forms were emailed out last Monday, with instructions to return them by Thursday 5th, the 260 names would then go into a hat and 115 drawn out. Our biggest worry would be that we miss out and have to find another event to use as qualification for Spartathlon, which we would need to do before the end of May. Not easy considering the lack of races and Alex's trip to Morocco for the MdS.
However the draw threw up the worst result possible - Draw - only I have managed to gain entry, good for me, (although 145 mile run, without Alex for support and for me to nag at, does not initially fill me with a huge amount of enthusiasm) bad for Alex, as he now needs to find that 100km race and do that under 10½ hours, or another one of over 200km (single stage, non-stop). With the MdS at the end of March it only really leaves him May and to-date the races seem scarce. I will be contacting Ian Corless in Paris to see what he can find for him, so all we can do is cross our fingers.

On a positive note, the press release from Ardblair Sports went out - Read it Here - to about 40 different magazine, both retail and trade and Nikki at Ardblair is hoping for a good response and more publicity. On a similar front we now have someone in the US doing some advertising for us. Lee Hart of Brand Amp Wire runs the Buff Facebook and twitter sites is planning press release in the US, which may also bring in some interest and with Denis Wischniewski, of German Trail Magazine also doing an article it looks like we are covering half the globe.

Will see what results all this gets and post them on here.

Need to get some more training in tomorrow morning, before work and more on here in a week.
Auf Wiedersehen (As denis would say)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Brentwood 10k (not ½ as planned)

This wasn't a race that I was planning to do, but being a bit slow on my application I missed out on the ½ Marathon so settled for the 10k. Thankfully it was the right decision as I struggled big time with just the 10k. Last weeks cold was still here and energy levels, although feeling high at the start, with me even toeing the start line at the front of the field, disappeared within the first mile and I found myself struggling for any form or fitness, and, with hindsight after suffering last night, should had dropped out. However this was "only 10k" I told myself I could do this and be aright (this boy's a fool).

Anyway....... Dressed in Buffwear top, shorts and headgear I headed off on the undulating course which was 6 loops of a 1 mile course, in brilliant sunshine and breezy conditions. Each loop started with a 25m climb over 50m which sapped the legs on a wet field, but lead to a straight and then a sharp downhill section through woods to a final climb of about 25m over ¼ mile. This meant that there was a total climb of 275m in the race offset by the same in descents, but when you head is swimming and you can only breathe through your ears it might as well have been in Snowdonia.

After the third lap I was going backwards and taking over 8 mins to do a lap and looking forward to the end of the race, which i duly completed in 48:06. I was later surprised to find I was in 13th place, with the winner posting a time of 40:19, which indicates how hard the race was and makes me think that if I had been fully fit I would have been vying for one of the prizes (next year I will be back).

The rest of this week will be a mixture of small (easy) 4 mile runs with a couple of early starts (8 miler Wednesday) and a nice long 20 miler next Sunday, but only if I can shake this cold off. There is only 6 weeks now until the Doyen of the Downs (30 miles) and this is one of the races I must be fit for and ready to take on, if I am to succeed with the Challenge. I don't want to be making up for large lost distances in the last month especially as until Nov 5th we wont know if we will be able to do the GUCR (Although Ian Corless has a list of 100km qualifying races that could help if we miss out).

Right time for a Lemsip, Chocolate biscuit, oh and work (I guess) - Til next time - Healthy running all.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Sponsors, German Trails and Canal worries

Another eventful week on the running front, apart from a good weeks training after the Henley ½ Marathon, of which we received a little press (minus our Just-Giving web-site addresses, despite promises of featuring it). We also had a very good interview with Sarah Walker on BBC Berkshire - 40 minutes of chat, mainly with Alex, but covering all aspects of the illness and racing plans for the next 12 months. Sadly we were unable to air our choices of music (Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix and Proud - Heather Small), but what we ended up with was fine.

We also received an email from Karen King at 1000mile, who have generously given us both 4 pairs of 1000mile socks to help with our training over the next year, and which will get a good workout. I used 1000mile all-terrain socks on the MdS and found them perfect and only suffered minor blisters, due to my own stupidity rather than the design of the socks.

I also received a message from Patrick Lambertz of X-Bionic who, through the X-Bionic network has been in touch with journalist Denis Wischniewski, of Das Trail Magazin in Germany, who himself took part in this years MdS and who is interested in doing a feature on us. We have now sent over a copy of our official press release and will hopefully be able to fly out to Germany for an interview and photos in due course (we are due to be featured in the next issue of Runners World Magazine, due out end of October too)

However after all the positives there had to be a negative. Due to the current bout of postal strikes in the UK the organisers of the Grand Union Canal Race have decided to change their entry approach from being "first come-first serve" to a lottery system of names in a hat and first 120 pulled out are in. This could be disastrous for us if one or both of us fail to get in. No GUCR means no Spartathlon as the GUCR is a qualifying race. The only other way to get in would be to find a 100km race in early 2010 and do that in under 10hrs 30min, or find another 200km race in Feb or May and complete that (cant find any suitable yet). All we can do is hope that we are successful in our ballot and if not go from there. I have drawn up a list of alternatives should we fail, but I don't want to consider them until after the Ballot in Nov 5th.

Finally, for now, this weekend coming sees the Go Beyond Ultra 10km race (Ultra??) at Brentwood in Essex and I will be running in ¾ length running tights, top and head-gear that BuffWear have supplied, and its going to be wet. Hopefully I will get some decent pics to send them after the race.

More next week- until then - run with your heart as well as your feet.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Henley Half Marathon

The first race in my 1 Million Metre challenge with Alex Flynn, went rather well. Weather for that day was ideal for running, slightly overcast, with a threat of rain, that arrived in the last 5 miles of the race.

Both Alex and I were in X-Bionic gear, which despite the rather chilly start and damp, yet warm finish, played its part well and seemed to keep my body tempertaure nice and even thoughout the race. X-Socks on my feet also kept them dry and thankfully odour free.

The pace of the race was dictated not only by a 2 mile long hill, of increasing gradient, but also by Alex due to a niggling knee problem, but with me constantly talking  and pushing him, onwards we completed in just over our target time of 2 hours. The race was, as before, well organised, with plenty of support, and hopefully photos will be comng soon showing me resplendant in my new birght buff and X-Bionic gear.

Next up for me is a quick (ish) 10k at Brentwood, as the half was sold out. Thankfully i have enough metres planned to allow for the odd change in plans, but i plan to use this race as a speed session, rather than just adding to the distance. After that in 8 weeks is the Doyen of the Downs, which starting at 8am in the beautiful town of Arundel, in the first weekend of December, will be decidedly colder, and will probably need longer leg wear, as well as compression socks (already supplied by X-Bionic).

Alex will need to be prepared for hours of nagging to get him round (as instructed by him), but its a race i am looking forward to.


Additional entry - Have discovered today (13th Oct) that i have been rejected by the London Marathon Ballot for next year. Double blow because apart from the fact that it is a great event to run, it has also reduced my meterage total. This will now be replaced with the Halstead Marathon in May (slightly smaller field by about 34,000 but still the same distance)

Flynn & Merry after the race

Monday, 5 October 2009

Another great Sponsor

I have received a call from BuffWear in the UK, who have offered to help us out with t-shirts, shorts and Buffs, of varying colours and types. Again a very generous offer, and I usually wear Buffs on my runs and bike rides and always take them in my kit bag. Am looking forward to running with the Polar Buff in the depths of winter, as some caps aren't warm enough and some beanies are too warm, so this should be a great compromise.
They have also offered to add us to their website with a link to a Justgiving page and also a link to the Buff news at their HQ in Spain, as well as covering us in Twitter and Facebook, so need to get our contract signed and then get a few pics of Alex and myself kitted up and put them on here as well as pass them on to Buff.
Next up is the Henley ½ at the end of this week and the start of the Challenge. Monday October 12th We have an interview with BBC Berkshire and a chance to sit down and sort out our tactics.
Not too bad a week just gone on the running front, half-hearted taper and missed Sundays run, but this week will be easy, with a couple of longer runs in the morning, without pushing too hard. Still hope to hear over the next few days about London Marathon entry. Alex and Mandy have both been unsuccessful, and I don't want to make it 5 in a row, having been turned down 4 times already by the Ballot system. Still to apply for Brentwood and the 2 Ultra's in January/Feb, but plenty of time for those and will apply for Brentwood this week.

Finally i have joined Dailymile, a new website that allows you to log your runs and compare and chat with runners all over the world, alomst like a specialist facebook site for runners. Nice way to meet other like minded people with a common interest.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Anglia News

Weekly update time
Still more progress being made on the sponsorship front. We are expecting a handful of North Face clothing as part of our sponsosrship, from Fitness Footwear, as well as a pair of North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR running shoes for trialing and testing.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed yesterday by Martin Stew of Anglia News, who took a fair bit of footage of me running and at work, as well as a good interview (i hope). Still no date for transmission on the TV, but hopefully within the next week.

Alex and i have been trying to sort our a Marketing Company who will help us "gratis" and may have found one (to be confirmed next time), and we are also now looking ot see if Cure Parkinsons Trust has a contact who can supply us with corporate sponsors clothing for TV appearances to advertise or sponsors.

Plans are being drawn up for 2011 as well to run Lands End to John O'Groats (or the other way), but its early days and just in the planning stage.

All for now - 1 Million Metres starts with one small step (of 25,000) on October 11th so keep following.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Pocket Power

Have just taken delivery today of an enormous amount of Sports Beans, thanks to a generous offer from the company. I personally love these sweets, as the make a very enjoyable change to the standard Jelly Babies and skittles and the flavours are tangy, without being too sour.

Well worth their weight in gold, easily carried and very resilient
They can be bought on line, direct from Sports Beans on the following link once the on-line facility is up and running (sorry for the pun)

Thanks to them for their support and keeping me running for longer

Thursday, 17 September 2009

New Clothing Sponsorship

A good bit of news on the sponsorship front, as this week Alex and I were offered clothing by X-Bionic, to aid us in our races and training, and in return we have agreed to post reviews on both our sites as well as theirs.

We are hoping to get together with their press officer to plan a proper release that will benefit all parties and give us both pubility and raise the Charity's profile.

As well as this we have also been told that we will be featured in the December Issue of Runners World Magazine as well, under "Real Runners" (obviously refering to Alex there not me!!!).

Hopefully we can tie down a deal was well wth X-Bionic and get everything on the road (sorry about the pun).

The kit we will be testing is:
Fennec Running Top
Running Shorts
Run Energizer Socks
Speed Metal Socks

Watch this space for reviews and more news.

Monday, 14 September 2009

One week ends, and another begins.

Last week was quite an eventful one, although not much running was done (3½ hours in total) although I had a good Sunday run doing a ½ marathon distance run in 1:40. Didn't feel like I was pushing at all, which is good for the Brentwood ½ in late October as I want to race that full out.

Challenge-wise I have put out a number if requests to companies for help with either money or clothing. So far only 2 have come back both with No's, but I will keep plugging away. I have a meeting with Alex next Sunday, so we can sit down and plan our approach better and be more uniformed in our tactics and story, rather than just dropping in sound-bites here and there.

Advertising was a different matter. My interview with BBC Essex went well and now BBC Berkshire want to do a joint interview with Alex and myself on 12th October, the day after the Henley ½, which will be good. Have already discussed with him about getting a set of publicity photos done for media and local press and I will again chase Anglia News this week for an interview.

Finally and very importantly was an offer from Fitness Footwear. I can almost confirm that they are my official sponsors for the Challenge and just need to get the final bits of advertising kit together. I have been offered a nice selection of North Face kit from them, suitable endorsing the company logo and another offer of trainers to try and test and review from them. I hope to get most of this over the next few weeks and will make it all official then.

This weeks training is about 45 miles, although a few early starts will be needed due to weekend commitments, but its all part of the game.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

BBC Essex Radio Interview

Finally a BBC interview and the first of many i hope, as Alex has arranged another one with BBC Berkshire in October. Very pleased with the interview, although having checked later that day no money had been donated.

Still plenty of time and more publicity on the way with Anglia TV, if they ever decide to arrange a date.

Link is

Next planned update on 14th September unless something else crops up

Au Revoir

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Mission Update

Following on from the shoe review, this week could prove to be interesting regarding the press involvement with the Challenge.

Already on Monday i have had a feature in the local Gazette, Although they have got the title wrong, as i said to them it was a distance equal to 24 marathons, not running the marathons themselves.

Also Anglia News are still interested in doing a feature, after an earlier cancellation, due to another story taking priority. Once all this has been arranged i will post a link to the video footage and embarrass myself accordingly.

Running this week has been good and although i am still only getting back into it after my calf strain i should post about 40 miles this week, and start increasing Sundays runs so that i am back on target for the "Doyen" in December, without over training.

Night Vision Relay is due in 3 weeks and last year my brother managed to do almost 40 miles on the day, although with me running this year we reckon it will be about a marathon each.

Next post i will confirm what, where and when regarding the press - until then safe running

Friday, 28 August 2009

Shoe Review - Asics Gel 3010

Once again, I have been swayed back to Asics, after my time of running with the Saucony Triumph 6, by the asics Gel 3010, the latest addition to Asics stability range.

Being a mild forefoot overpronator I found that the shoe worked superbly for me, being both very stabile, yet flexible and well cushioned enough to make the ride feel great, even on hard roads. The weight of the shoe, whilst being quiet high (360g) feels a lot lighter on the feet, and my first run of 12 miles in them went well, and they didn't need breaking in at all.

The Gel heel, as with all asics trainers, combined with the double density Sockliner, gives that great cushioning effect, without feeling spongy, and a nice cool breathable upper meant that even on the hottest days (not that we have had many) made the run even more enjoyable.

Once again Asics have once me back, and this shoe is a must for anyone who wants a firm ride, without feeling that their feet are in a strait jacket. Well worth the money and with all asics gel trainers get my vote as being the best on the market.

These, and many others can be bought on-line at Fitness Footwear, my first choice for running shoes.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Press Interest

Having sent out a message last week to our local press and radio stations i have now got 3 interested in interviews. Essex Chronicle, Evening Standard and Anglia News (local TV). Sadly the interview planned for the TV was cancelled due to another story taking precedence, but will be rescheduled for another date.

The press have both taken relevant information and have now booked up for a photo shoot for the 5th September, just need to get Alex here and then confirm that date. If i could get the TV crew here as well that date we can get a good story and push the challenge even more.

No sign of any corporate help yet, despite asking, although now i can use the press interest as leverage and offer a bit of advertising for their money.

On another note, it looks like i will be accepted to study with Lincoln University, on distance learning, for a Foundation Degree in Food Manufacturing, leading to Bsc, although that is a long way off as the course is over about 4 years.

More about the Press when i know it.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

New Home

At last i have moved home after weeks of not knowing what, where and when (Conveyancing solicitors - what can i say!!). Anyway all moved in and most of the boxes now emptied. I managed 35 last week and there's only 9 left for Mandy to do, but i can't say how long those may take!.

Anyway, I've also sorted out a few running routes already, and as we are in the countryside its nice to get away from the traffic and feel free. The bike comes out finally this weekend as i need to work out how long it will take me to cycle to work and sort out a few safer routes than the busy roads. Who knows i may even enter a few duathlons in the course of things and hopefully a few of the Rat Races as well, if i can persuade a few to join me.

Calf is holding up well, although a bit sore after a hard training session, but its not stopping me from training or running.

Hoping to get some sponsorship soon for the 1 million metres soon as the first race is only 2 months away, although a good immediate response from Cure Parkinson's Trust has us already on the way (

All for now, hopefully next report will be a book review as i am currently reading Kate Percy's Go Faster Food book, and there are some very nice recipes that i will be recommending, so watch this space.


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Change to Title and why

Just a quick update, as i have quite a few new followers on this site and i want to plug a mates site and just giving page.

Alex Flynn, friend of mine since Henley 2007, has been diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease and i have the pleasure of running with him at both the Henley Half Marathon and the Doyen of the Downs race in December. He is running in the Ridgeway 85 miler in 5 weeks and together we will hopefully be doing the Spartathon or the UTMB in 2010.

Yesterday he talked me into doing the Grand Union Canal run in May next year (145 miles - thanks mate!!!), and hopefully we will do other events as well.

He is looking to raise £1,000,000 for Parkinsons, and I am now looking at slight modifications to my events next year as i aim to race 1,000,000 metres in a year, starting with the Henley Half on October 11th this year. I need to organise a new blog page, with links to his sites and also with a totaliser for the year.

His web-sites are, and

Will update progress soon.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Proper plans for the future

I have finally set out my running plans for the next 12(ish) months today, although the final race will be uncertain until December this year.

Plans so far are:
Sept 26th - Night Vision Relay - Colchester - 12hr track run for St Helena Hospice -
Oct 11th - Henley Half Marathon -
Oct 25th - Go beyond ½ Marathon -
Dec 6th - Doyen of the Downs -

Jan 24th - Gloucester 50km - TBC -
Jan 31st - Kent Midnight Challenge -

Apr 2010 - London Marathon - Pending ballot acceptance and wife’s acceptance into race (will do both Day/Night and London if she is as I will run at her pace – not belittling her in any way, but she has only done a 5k to date, and she is expecting to take about 5hrs)

Jun 2010 - South Downs Marathon -

July 2010 - Downland Challenge -

Aug/Sept - 2010 - UTMB -
or (if unsuccessful in ballot entry)
Spartathon -
or (if unsuccessful in that ballot entry)
Aug 2010 - Ridgeway 85 -
Sept 2010 - Eagle Isle Ultra -

A fair list of races, which if I am lucky (!!) and do the ones I want will total 350 miles (560km), so I had better get training, and will be using shoes from Fitness Footwear of course (See attached banner).

Calf strain starting to improve, although still not ready to push it, so currently cross training, which is frustrating, but keeps me fit.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Planning for the Future

Plans for next years running are taking shape, with 5 ultra's planned so far, and hopefully a chance to run in the 50km trials and get into a national team for the Anglo Celtic Cup next year (have a choice of 3 England - Place of Birth, Scotland/Ireland - ancestry). The Anglo Celtic cup is a 100km race, so training for all this will take a bit of time and also more commitment.

Having trained for 18 months to do the Marathon Des Sables this year ( and enjoy the running and getting up at 4am sometimes to run, i should be able to do something similar for the champs next year.

Long term, i am still looking for another multi-stage race, somewhere (i.e. Gobi or Trans Aq'), but with no corporate sponsorship on board costs for these races are getting harder to raise.

Have ordered a copy of Go Faster Food, by Kate Percy, so expect a review of that soon

All for now

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Shoe Review - Saucony Pro Grid Triumph 6

After a few weeks of testing these shoes i can happily report that my love for Asics running shoes is being challenged, by the new Saucony ProGrid Triumph 6, although it only took the first run to be swayed.

The shoe, which boasts cushioning in both the heel and forefoot is very responsive and lightweight and truly delivers in all areas. Whilst the fit is perfect from the first time you run in them, the toe box is roomy, as well as a good fit on the heel.

The cushioning is perfect. Substantial enough, without feeling that you are running with a mattress on your feet, and the responsiveness gives the feeling that you could almost be running barefoot. The shoe weight (324g) is heavier than racing shoes, but lends itself to both fast short workouts as well as being sturdy enough for LSD runs on a Sunday morning. More suited to the road, however not a stranger to the harder trails and gives a very good ride whatever the terrain.

In summary - Saucony Triumph is a perfect shoe for the neutral runner, good fitting and well worth the asking price - Asics beware!!.

Saucony trainers

These, and many others can be bought on-line at Fitness Footwear, my first choice for running shoes.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Back to the real world

Its about time that i updated whats been happening since my last post, over two months ago.

Running has only recently re-started, due to a combination of recovery and nasty illness (not picked up in Morocco). This has reduced me to only a handful of miles per week since late May, but hopefully i can now start to push out more each wee.

I have already applied for another race, albeit only ½ marathon distance, the Henley ½ in October, with Alex Flynn, who has also been recovering from the MdS, and plans for next year are being drawn up.

These include:
London Marathon or failing entry (should be a guaranteed place) Day/Night double Marathon in Stratford - April, with Ambition events (might run both if my wife is also accepted into the London Marathon as I would run with her at her pace).
South Downs and Faversham marathons in June & July
Ridgeway 85 in August
Eagle Isle Ultra in September (40km each day for 3 days)

Best laid plans rarely go without a hitch, but that's the aim.

On other fronts, i have today passed my BBA degree exam (Business and Administration), after 2 years of study, so very pleased with that, and....

Fitness Footwear ( have asked me to test and review some more shoes for them, and have also expressed an interest in making me their athlete of the month (obviously everyone else said no).

Will post my reviews on both the Asics GT3010 and Saucony ProGrid Triumph 6 hopefully in the next few weeks once i have given them a good work out, until then....

Keep on Waddling (as the Penguin says)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Home at Last

A bit of a post script to the weeks events, now that i am home.
Although the distance of the race was reduced due to the intervention of mother nature, albeit by only 25 miles, the race itself lived up to my expectations. The long stage of 91 km, was not only a record for the MdS, but also the longest stage ever in a multi-day event, and it was long.
The nights were very cold and the humidity in the day was increased due to the rain, all making it very hard on the not so "dry river beds".
I feel that the event tested my resolve both physically as well as mentally, and that the friends i made there will stay with me, for a very long time. It was never meant to be easy and although, as i said above, the event was shortened a bit i don't feel cheated in anyway, far from it. The Marathon Des Sables is classed as the "Toughest Footrace on Earth", and I believe that it lived up to that, for both the usual reasons and also the unusual.
Thanks for all the messages of support, from all over country as well as Australia and New Zealand, and i hope that i have earned every penny for GOSHCC.
My feet hurt and my shoulders ache, but there is a sense of satisfaction in that pain.
As for the future, i have a few ideas, but for the moment i want to bask in my success and take a few months off.
Thanks again
Rich "Desertram" Merry

Fw: 695--FIN

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Richard MERRY <>
Sent: Friday, 3 April, 2009 9:58:20 PM
Subject: 695--FIN

Finally the Marathon Des Sables is over and i have a medal round my neck and very sore feet (trip to docs after this e-mail).
Today was the hotest yet and with areas of hard rocky ground and salt flats radiating the heat it was almost as hard as the long stage.
Still finding it hard to drink water, like yesterday, but i just need to take it easy. race organisers have a classical concert planned for this evening and beer to accompany it.
Glad its over, but what an experience (never to be repetaed).
Thanks for all the messgaes again, you have all kept me going.

Mandy & Freya
Cant wiat until monday, and will ring you as soon as i get back to the hotel.
I love you both very, very much, and promise i wont do anything stupid like this again (or for a while).
Love you loads
"Always and Forever"
Hubby & Daddy

N'utilisez pas la fonction "REPONDRE", l'envoi de message se fait uniquement par le Site Web !!! MERCI
Don't use "REPLY TO", mails are only sent via the Website !!!THANKS

Friday, 3 April 2009

Fw: 695--Back for More

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Richard MERRY <>
Sent: Wednesday, 1 April, 2009 9:33:05 AM
Subject: 695--Back for More

Hi all

Day 2 of the race now and today was 36km of a mixture of soft sand, dunes, and more hard volcanic rock. Mix that with 6km of flat, dry valley and the sun coming down, this was almost as hard as yesterday.
All of us had a bad nights sleep in very cold and windy conditions in the 2 sided tents and woke up hungry and ready to go. Managed to strap up my feet as the blood blister on the right heel was treated and injected with iodine (ouch!!!!!!!!). Run went well, teaming up with Alan from opur tent and doing most of the distance together..

Shoulders are ready taking the strain now and with no phsyio its a case of strapping my back up ahead of tomorrows 80km (50mile) run.

Mandy & Freya
Hope you are ok and not missing me too much. Bearing uip ok and spirits up due to others in tent 79. Feet are killing me, but legs ok and i will finish this as promised.
Missing you both very much, still have your pics on my pack.
Love you both
"Always and Forever"
Hubby & Daddy

N'utilisez pas la fonction "REPONDRE", l'envoi de message se fait uniquement par le Site Web !!! MERCI
Don't use "REPLY TO", mails are only sent via the Website !!!THANKS

Fw: 695--Ow!, Ow!, OWWWW!!

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Richard MERRY <>
Sent: Thursday, 2 April, 2009 9:22:47 PM
Subject: 695--Ow!, Ow!, OWWWW!!

If it moves it hurst and that goes for my eyelids too. In an atempt to make up for lost time the race organisers decided to make the 80km stage into 91km (57 Miles).
Salt flats, dunes , serious rock climbing and gales, whipping the sand up. It took me about 21 hours, with 6 Cp stops, and my stomach started rejecting all fluids too.
Still the next stage (marathon) will soon be over and i can say i have completed the MDS.
Thanks for all the messages, they have really pciked me up, and i will return to sunny Britain on Monday.

Short chat this morning left me in tears and i cannot wait to hold you both again.
You both mean the world to me and i love you both.
"Always & Forever"
Hubby & Daddy

N'utilisez pas la fonction "REPONDRE", l'envoi de message se fait uniquement par le Site Web !!! MERCI
Don't use "REPLY TO", mails are only sent via the Website !!!THANKS

Fw: 695--Finally we run - day 1 (or day2)

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Richard MERRY <>
Sent: Monday, 30 March, 2009 10:41:32 PM
Subject: 695--Finally we run - day 1 (or day2)

We finally got going today. 33km of a mixture of the biggest dunes i have ever seen (12km), 6 miles of broken volcanic rock and then more dunes.
Finished finally in 6hrs, a distance like this would usually take 2 hours. Camped now and just had a lovely boil in bag meal ?.
bedding down soon and just a quick trip to docs for blister treatment.

Mandy & Freya
Everything going ok, finding the wait hard, the course very hard and missing you impossibly hard. JKeep each other happy and have a cuddle from me. Will see you in one week and write again tomorrow evening.
Love you both
"Always and Forever"
Hubby & daddy

N'utilisez pas la fonction "REPONDRE", l'envoi de message se fait uniquement par le Site Web !!! MERCI
Don't use "REPLY TO", mails are only sent via the Website !!!THANKS

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Fw: Final goodbyes

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Richard Merry <>
To: Mandy Merry <>
Sent: Wednesday, 25 March, 2009 10:26:25 AM
Subject: Final goodbyes

Hi All

My final e-mail from the UK, as Thursday I fly out to Morocco, for the MDS. Timings for the event are as follows;

26 March - Gatwick to Ouarzazate; transfer to Hotel
27 March - Transfer to Desert
28 March - Registration and administration day
29 March - 4 April - The event - Self sufficiency 4 April is the final stage
5 April - Hotel
6 April - Ouarzazate to Gatwick arrive in UK about 12:30.
As before, all the race can be followed at, although you may need to check other pages to get updated progress and contact me by return (No 695), and Mandy will be circulating emails to all, including 3 radio stations, Heart, Dream 100 and BBC Essex, for hopeful daily updates.

Finally to say - Thanks for everyone's support and constant interest, and I will make sure that I earn every penny for GOSHCC, and come back in one piece (possibly minus a few toenails, and a few stones less, but what the heck)

Thanks again

Final Thoughts

Final thoughts for the week, before jetting out on Thursday. Extracts from the book i have been writing, which i hope will be published in one form or another for future runners to use as reference, and so my family can see what i have been doing at 5am whilst they slept in their beds.

Monday 23rd March
Nerves have started to really kick in and, as I have only a short run planned for Tuesday, I need to do something else, so a light gym session, followed by the sauna to relax, will suffice. I had a quick chat with John this morning about kit, etc and what to pack in which case and I think I will repack my cases to make sure I have only the kit I need for the first day in the hand luggage and the “must had survival gear” as well as all paperwork. Food for me now is going to be higher calorie and good carbs so Jacket potatoes for tea with veggies, a coupe of good sandwiches at lunch and trail mix to snack on during the day. Managed to secure another radio interview with Heart FM, although like the Dream 100 interview due on Wednesday, I wont hear it on the radio, as it will be aired on Sunday, whilst I am running, sweating my bits off, but if it raises money for GOSHCC then its worth doing.

Tuesday 24th March
A quick 2 mile run and sauna at lunchtime, this time with sweatshirt, t-shirt and shorts, which caused a huge amount of sweating and water intake, and strange looks. Heart interview at 11 went well, and was easy to do, being pre-recorded and I am getting used to these now, which makes it easier. Getting plenty of well wishes from work and friends too now and with everything packed and re-packed I can wait to get going.

Wednesday 25th March
Nothing more than a session in the sauna, again with clothes on, although the boredom of sitting there and the desire to get going tomorrow caused lunch to be cut short. Everything at work is up to date. All e-mail addresses have been set up so that Mandy can forward my messages to all and sundry each night. The aim there is to drop her an e-mail, with an update of what happened during the day and then she will forward it on to the group I have set up, which includes all the radio stations as well as family, work etc.
Good English weather today, to see me off, windy, raining and blustery, not nice, but I will be glad of some rain and cool breezes in a week’s time. Once Freya was is in bed tonight I will sort out all my gear for one last time, having decided to change my evening top to a Helly Hansen one instead of the thin Dublin Marathon one. This will serve as a sleeping top as well as one for the night stage of the race (I will be past caring about the smell by that time and light weight is paramount).
Email from John yesterday saying he had been sent to Scotland on a works errand, not what he needs 2 days before the off, thankfully not something I have to worry about and will be glad to go home tonight. Having strange emotion swings with all the wishes, but that is probably the nerves setting in further. The rest of the journey will have to be recorded in a note book and re-typed when I get back, as well as uploading photo’s, of which I intend to take a lot.

Monday, 16 March 2009

A big Step backwards

This will be my last Blog report before I disappear to Morocco, and not the best way to end.

The last few weeks have not been good as I picked up a calf strain when out with Mark Syred from BBC Essex, doing another interview. This strain also pulled on the inside of my hamstring making any running extremely painful, so I stopped.

Resting it now is the only option, although I will go out for a short trot later this week, just to make sure it is healing, but nothing too much. The MDS is now less than two weeks away and I want to be at the start line, knowing I can run and be ok.

On another note Anglia News has finally shown an interest and although they cancelled last minute this morning I am hoping they will be back for a feature before I go and raise some more money for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Only a short report this time and nerves are getting more frayed as we get closer to the big off, but everything is packed and ready for the off (after re-packing for the umpteenth time, but it all fits (ish).

Will try to do daily reports from the run, once it starts and keep the Blog updated, but it will depend on whether Mandy has problems with the home PC.

Ciao for Now

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Fw: Marathon Des Sables Updates

Hi All

With the Marathon Des Sables on a few weeks away, I thought it best to let you know about a few bits.

The organisers, as in previous years, will provide a communications tent (i.e. an old laptop on a table). This gives competitors a chance to send and receive messages during the week. My intention is to send a message to Mandy every night, that she can forward on to you select few(ish) and the message will also update my own Blog ( at the same time.

This will serve three purposes; Firstly - to re-assure Mandy & Freya that all is well (the reality may be changed to protect the young). Secondly - to let everyone know what is going on and how the day went, and thirdly - to stop Mandy cashing in my life policy. There will probably be no communication on the 4th day (Wednesday 1st April - there is a joke about fools there somewhere) as it is the 55 mile stage and I will probably not be back before nightfall (or possibly before sun-rise the following morning)

I can't guarantee that my spelling will be great (nothing new) and that it won't get too mushy, but as my sponsors it gives you a chance to see that I am earning your money.

Replying to me (and it would be extremely appreciated) is via a different route. The organisers web-site has a message page, where you enter the runners race number (695 in my case) and it will then allow you to send a message that way. The link to this is, and look for the section entitled "write to competitors". The site also has a results page and daily updates by the race director, regarding temps and distances. You cannot reply directly to the e-mail from Mandy or the address from morocco, as it will not be delivered. The above details will probably come up in French, but the English version is available.

If you don't want to know any of this then let me know and I will ignore your request take you off the mailing list.

Hope this all makes sense (!!!)


Monday, 2 March 2009

Grantham Canal Run – 29.3 Miles – Tale of two halves

This was meant to be a back-to-back race, with 29.3 miles on the Saturday, from Cotgrave to Grantham and then back again on the Sunday. The route was the canal path, which, apart from the odd lock was flat and easy under foot. The race was organised and started by Rory Coleman, an MDS vet and ultra runner of note, and very nice guy too. Starting from the sports centre in Cotgrave, and after a minor loss of way, we got to the canal path after 1½ miles. The initial pathway was gravel on hard trails, with no give and this would cause problems later combined with low bridges. Checkpoints were at about 5, 10, 15 and 21 miles and supplied water and sweets, and a chance to stop.

Most runners were training for the MDs and there was a plethora of Raidlight back-packs and M1100MDS trainers, although expecting it to be very wet underfoot I ran in my Asics Gel Cumulus trainers, and glad I did. As after about 16 miles the trail turned to grass and mud and the trainers started sinking in and letting in the water and mud. This would have been bad news for the MDS trainers and I wanted to train in those in the next few weeks with a full pack.

On this race I was carrying very little, only about 4kgs, and only in the 10 litre pack as well.

However disaster struck after 14 miles on a very low bridge, who you had to go under on your haunches and I felt my right calf stretch and within a few hundred yards I was reduced to a trot and by the next checkpoint at 15 miles my target time of 4hrs 30 was gone. I could only run/walk to the finish and took 3 hours to complete the rest of the distance. Still happy to have done the race distance and finished 28th from 70, but concerned about the damage I may have done and that there was a run back the next day. Once I had finished it was off to my room and grabbed a bag of ice for the calf. A quick shower and some food and then an hour on the bed with ice on my leg.

I couldn’t stay too long as Rory had organised a Doctor for Medical certificate signing and ECG taking, thankfully I was recovered in time to pass both, and then stay for a seminar on the MDS by Andy Mcmenemy, who had completed the 2007 MDs and 2008 Namibia desert race as well, and who passed on some very good tips on foot care and other ideas too.

After that I shuffled off to the room, hoping for a good nights sleep (no chance), and being ok for the Sunday run.

Sunday came and I went home. No running at all. The calf had stiffened in the night and was pulling on the upper Achilles tendon and I was not prepared to risk all for the sake of not having a DNS against my name on the race. I wasn’t the only one as others had seen sense and were resting niggles in anticipation of the bigger days to come.

The damage wasn’t long lasting and I was out running, albeit for 3 miles, on Monday and although stiff in the thighs and energy not up to peak, the calf felt better, if not perfect.

So next is the Marathon Des Sables. I have another 3 weeks of training, and tapering and 100 miles total left on my training plan. Time is still on my side to stretch the calf and take it easy on the longer runs.

I have another meeting with Mark Syred of BBC Essex on Sunday, I still need to get my gaiters attached to the shoes and, although I have all my kit, I need to get my backpack packed properly so that everything fits in (too much food!)

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Race Numbers are here!!!!!!!!!

My race number has been confirmed as 695, for this years event and all can contact me during the race as long as the race number is quoted. The organisers at darbaroud ( say that you need the number and names etc to send messages, but in the past i have found runners with justa number.

I hope to get a few messages during the race, and have sent a list of details to family, Freinds and sponsors, on how to follwo the race and my progress.

Back to the joys of sunny Britain

As you can probably guess from the title, i have been away and enjoying the sunshine in Florida. Not a training holiday or one paid for by supporters, but a family break at Disney in Orlando. Weather, however, was at times very British (cold, damp and grey) but with daytime hitting 28C on one occasion, it was a welcome break.

No training at all during the break, although miles were walked everyday and often with a 4-year-old on my shoulders (my daughter that is, not someone elses'), and now i am back to the reality of the MDS being only 43 days away.

Training this week will be hard to get back into, and even though i have a target of 55 miles for the week, i am expecting to fall short, mainly due to very stiff hamstrings from the return flight on Sunday. BUT, the target is set and my aim is to get there, so we will have to wait and see.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Thames Towpath 54 miles - Race Report

I originally applied for this event in April 2008, as I was keen to add it to my scheduled races in the lead up to the MDS.

But this was not going to be easy. Just getting there was a nightmare. The first train of the day, from Colchester to Reading left at 4.45am, and with a change for the London Tube and then other main line change I was due to get to Reading at 7.24am, 6 min before the registration desk closed. I had already warned the organisers that there may be an issue, regarding my possible late arrival and I had to cross fingers etc to hope that there would be no delays.

The race itself followed the Thames Towpath from Reading to Shepperton in London, so would be fairly flat (apart from the lock gates and bridges), although I wasn't expecting it to be on paths all the way. This race also had a mandatory kit list, with 'essentials' similar to the MDs, and was therefore touted as a good trial for the MDS itself. However the thought of carrying a 9kg pack for the whole race was a bit off putting, not that I was worried about the weight, or finishing the run, but more about the extra strain that it would put on my body ahead of the MDS and I didn't want to risk the chance of injury. So I took a lighter pack weight, which was still 4kg and took a basic change of clothing as well as a compass, map bag, space blanket and head torch and hopefully enough food to get me through, including an expedition Foods Chocolate Mousse (which I didn't use in the end).

Water would be available at 4 checkpoints so I needed to managed my intake between points, and therefore took an extra water bottle as well as having a camelbak bladder in my back-pack and as the weather was forecasting light rain I also took a lightweight jacket and hat.
Saturday came and, apart from a minor panic when they changed the platform that the train at Paddington was leaving from , which made me charge across to the other side of the station that was the only incident. I was up on time, although had only slept a few hours, as is my normal pattern of sleep the night before a race, and everything else fell into place and I arrived to join the back of the queue and registered safely. I had decided to take my camera with me on this run, to test it out before the MDS, so started with a few snaps of the Thames and our point of departure, although none of this could be seen due to heavy cloud and a sudden very heavy downpour that drenched everyone. Thankfully the rain only lasted 10 minutes and that was the last we would see of it for the day.

After a quiet race briefing (which was heard by only the front few runners - why won't race directors realise that mega-phones are there for a reason), we made our way to the start and were off. The field, of about 150, soon thinned out and the sun was up and already I was starting to over heat. I had my light rain jacket, a thin reflective top and an Under Armour Long sleeve shirt on, so within 2 miles I had to stop and remove the jacket. Then I could try to fall back into my rhythm and get a constant pace going. However the footing was very poor and the towpath disappeared to give way to sloppy mud. We stuck with this for few miles before returning to a proper footpath, giving time to admire the very expensive houses we passed in the area.

The first checkpoint (and I use that word loosely) was in Henley-on-Thames where I was born 41 years ago, so it was a return to home. It had taken 1 hour 36 min to get to the first checkpoint at 10 miles, which is slow for me but this wasn't a race that I was trying to win, just finish.

The second checkpoint at Marlow was under a main road flyover (who said Ultra running wasn't glamorous) and was at eighteen miles, which in total had taken me 2hrs 56 mins to do, but after a few more miles the scenery led to a gorgeous stretch of Thames

and so off to the next checkpoint. By this time I was starting to feel uncomfortable. My right thigh was throbbing and once I got to the 3rd Checkpoint at Bray, near Maidenhead, it was time for a good break and some nurofen tablets. A restock on fluids and a few bites to eat and in 10 mins I was feeling a lot better. I had started with a run 15 mins and walk 5 min strategy, but it now dropped to run walk as felt comfortable. This seemed to work most and would be my strategy for the MDS.

We now approached Windsor and Eton and the Queen was in today and the tourists in the town were treated to a procession of mud covered, sweaty and tired looking runners from across the world (French, S African, German and even as far as Scotland) traipsing through the town. It was here that I met up with Mark David, another MDS runner for this year and between us we covered the last 20 miles helping and talking to each other, and in the last 10 miles picking start and stop points for jogs. His policy was the same as my own, having spent a weekend with Rory Coleman on one of his seminars and learning the best way to do the MDS.

Checkpoint four (at Runnymede) saw us hitting the final leg and with the temperatures dropping I had to stick my jacket back on and warm up a little. We headed for home and in the fading light had to resort to head-torches for the final hour. Apart from getting lost in the last mile (due to a poor map description, we finally made it to Shepperton, coming in at 17:47pm and taking a total of 9hrs 41 mins (8hrs 59 min running and the rest stopping at the checkpoints). 20 mins inside my target time, and very pleased to finish.
3 hours later I arrived home having made my way back into London and then out, smelling not too sweetly, but I did get a seat on the train to myself, and within 10 mins of getting in I was in a bath and in bed by 10pm. Only sleeping for 3 hours when cramp set in and I had to get up. Cereal and a cup of tea at 3am never tasted so nice.

Would I do it again?, without doubt and would recommend it to anyone who wanted to do an Ultra, I wouldn't change anything about my kit or food I took and learnt one good thing from it and that was I was running right and sensibly, setting my targets correctly and timing things at the right pace.

Next up, a trip to Great Ormond Street Hospital on the 21st Jan and then 2 weeks in Florida on a much needed family break. Won't be doing much running (if at all) but will probably be carrying Freya on my shoulders and walking a lot so the exercise will still be coming.

Once back I have the Grantham Canal run to plan for, which is a 30 mile run from Nottingham to Grantham on a Saturday and the back again on the Sunday.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Stansted Stagger 26 miles (Dec 08) – Race Report

The last LDWA event I plan to do before the MDS, and one with a local group. After missing out on the Gatliff run, this was the first real test since the start of November, and following on from weeks of low level training and then the interruption of Christmas I didn’t know how it would turn out.Thankfully very well! The weather had been very cold and frosty, which was a good thing at the start of the race, as the ground was hard enough to stop the mud sticking to my trainers. The route was again laid out as a description on paper, and walkers had already left an hour before I started, along with 20 runners. Once into my stride and after an unplanned detour (lost in first mile) I found the going very easy. Out of the village of Stansted Mountfitchet, and into the fields and nearby lanes. This run had only one checkpoint so I decided to take my 10 litre back-pack and carry a few extra goodies, than I normally would on a marathon, spare jacket and socks, spare hat, gel, mint cake and a cliff bar, was well as a full camelbak bladder.
Once out in the countryside I found myself alone quite quickly, having left a lot of other runners behind, and despite not taking a MP3 player, so I could concentrate on the directions, was enjoying the run. As I went I passed other runners who had started before me, and reached the 13 mile checkpoint in 1hr 51 min, and was the first to arrive. Stopping for a drink and snacks provided at the checkpoint, I changed hat and long sleeve top and headed off, just as the next runner arrived.

The route now became a bit obscure in its description and at a number of turns I took a gamble, which thankfully were the right decision, and with the ground now giving in the winter sunshine the mud stared piling up on my feet, slowing me down and adding to the effort. I was eventually passed by another runner, but managed to trail him all the way to the finish, and although we were passed by another runner in the last mile I was happy to finish in 3rd place in a time of 4hr 9min. A lot of the second half of the run was very much a run/walk stage mainly due to my lost fitness, but I finished with no injuries or pain, and the time was very pleasing as the winner (in 3hrs 42), was the reigning UK Montrail Ultra champion, so no shame there.

Next up is the Thames Towpath, which despite being longer at 50 miles won’t have the off-road hindrance that the Stagger had. Not that that will make it any easier.