I think I’m going to need a new vest!

On Sunday 8th January 2023 I completed the North Tyne Trail 12K in a time I was happy with. I was coming back from injury so finishing at all was my main target and I was 3-4 mins quicker than planned. I remember chatting with a few poly friends in the clubhouse and saying well done to a couple of runners coming in as I walked back up the course on the way home.

Then nothing!

Next thing I know, I’ve woken up in hospital … I try to wake myself up and snap myself out of the bad dream but slowly, ever so slowly, it sinks in that this is not a dream. It’s probably several hours until I really accept the reality of the situation.

I’m still dazed and confused at this stage and Claire has to tell me the same thing over and over but the pieces vaguely come together.

Half way between the clubhouse and home I experienced plaque rupture causing a cardiac arrest. My heart stopped completely and I crashed to the floor with my knees and face taking the brunt of it. Time will tell if that results in an improvement or not 😁.

I was, however, incredibly lucky! A passer-by saw me collapse and called 999 immediately and a man that lived close by appeared on scene to provide CPR within minutes … this undoubtedly saved my life and moreover … saved a life worth saving. I still can’t say or even type this last bit without tearing up as the enormity of what could have been hits home.

My recovery has been good and I was released from hospital on Thursday. I have a small stent (3.5mm × 23mm) inserted and I rattle a little when I walk with all the pills I’m on but that is a small price to pay and it also remains to be seen how many of those pills are for life.

Beyond that I have been told that the rest of my arteries are in good condition and my heart pump has a healthy level of efficiency.

At one point a doctor told me I was less likely to have another one because the damaged portion had been removed but later a cardiologist corrected that to say that the stent itself was enough to elevate my risk a fraction higher than average but only by a small amount and indeed my condition was very good considering. All things considered, I’ll take that.

It’s been a trial for us all and it is not lost on me how hard this must have been for my family, especially as I lay oblivious to it all for the first 24 hours. I have suffered no loss of mental capacity, remember everything up to just a few minutes before and my family are especially pleased that my sense of humour remains unchanged 🤣.

I spend much of my time tired and get out of breath easily (it’s still less than 1 week since it happened) but I’m up and about and already started on a sort of exercise “regime” (albeit modest). Moreover I am already feeling noticeably stronger day on day. By all accounts I’m already ahead of any reasonable expectation of recovery and that comes from my prior good level of fitness and apparently healthy lifestyle.

In 2018 I completed the Scafell Sky Race which was just short of marathon distance, then in 2019 I finished the Snowdon Ultra Marathon. Scafell one year then Snowdon the next … there is only one logical thing to do the next year.

Sadly, Covid put paid to the Ben Nevis Ultra in 2020 and lack of fitness ruled out my deferred entry for 2021 and 2022, then injury put 2023 out of reach as well. This is another major setback but I’ve still not given up on the idea although it does seem prohibitively far off right now (but so did the Scafell Sky Race for much of the time). But when I’m walking to the end of the street and back tomorrow I’m not joking when I say that that is what I am training for … that and being able to walk on the beach with my family.

I’m not sure what the moral of all of this is, there weren’t really any warning signs. So my advice is stay fit and marry a dietitian.

The final word however has to be this …

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Mark, the first person on the scene, and Peter who provided CPR. Massive shout out to Simon and Pat from North Shields Poly who also provided assistance on the scene and I especially don’t envy Simon his “job” (I was of course no longer the responsibility of the race organisers by this stage) of informing my wife.

Beyond this others are better qualified than me to know who did what but Great North Air Ambulance were in attendance (although I wasn’t treated to a ride in the helicopter), Mountain Rescue (sic – they were nearby because of the race) and then there are the paramedics/ambulance staff, police and countless staff at initially Cramlington then ultimately the Freeman.

I am aware at least one if not two people that went to get the local defibrillator and I am also aware that Lesley and Helen from The Poly were also present and I have just learned that Peter did not know how to do CPR but was guided through it. That is quite a remarkable feat as the paramedics commented how good a job he had done … maybe he’s a huge Bee Gees fan 🤣.

Lastly to everyone that reached out and gave me their best wishes whilst I was still in hospital and since. You all, every one of you, helped me get through the darkest days of my life .. and mostly with a smile on my face. Simon, I’m so sorry I drove you to drink, you were doing so well!

And if I thought my wife and family were wonderful before … I was a little short of the mark!

If I have forgotten anyone or mangled up some details then please accept my sincerest apologies, but remember … I wasn’t really there!

Thank you all ❤️.

Oh, one last thing, I need to get my priorities right …

… I somehow managed to keep my Wordle streak going (121 and counting) despite losing 24 hours of my life 🤣. Idle time was of course on my side.

Posted in Running | 8 Comments

I Am A Cyclist

I love running, but running doesn’t love me right now!

I’m not really sure what’s going on but I’m struggling … breathing sometimes feels raspy when I up the tempo but that’s getting less frequent and I genuinely believe (hope) that is just lack of fitness but I’m struggling to get fit because I have major issues with my achilles. 10k is about my limit at the moment and an easy run around that distance will still see me limping home. My lay analysis rationalises that as bad form that is a result of ..

… yeah you guessed it … lack of fitness! I’m running on my heels too much – if I could just get fitter my form would improve, I’d be on the balls of feet more, everything would hurt less and much like when I first joined the Poly I’d just get stronger and stronger until before I knew it I’d be running an ultra marathon with an insane ascent going right to the top of Ben Nevis.

I’ve DNS’d that one once … I’m not doing that again … so my challenge is to get to the point I feel confident enough to enter it again. If I enter it then I’m well going to start AND FINISH.

So here I am … today I am on the verge of semi-reinventing myself …

… I’ve bought a road bike.

I’ve always said I run because I enjoy running and I don’t really enjoy cycling but times change… I miss the hills … I miss the countryside … I miss running to Blyth … BLYTH … its only 10km away but right now it is actually beyond me to run there and back. I haven’t run that far in over 2 years!!!

But I’m quite dogged – I know my limits which is why I didn’t start Ben Nevis and I bottled the Hardmoors 55 because I was hating the training for various reasons but other than that I have tackled and achieved the challenges I set myself.

So what does road cycling bring? Well …

… hopefully it will bring a chance to improve my fitness whilst dodging impact heel/achilles problems.

…hopefully it will allow me to get up the coast and enjoy some fab scenery again.

… hopefully it will give me the rush I used to get from pushing hard.

… hopefully it will give me the headspace to think … sometimes nonsense, sometimes work, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always free!

… and hopefully …

… it will present another challenge that I can get my teeth into and enjoy.

If I need to reinvent myself a little to achieve my goals then so be it. I hope it’s a fun journey.

But I’m still a runner! I’m still looking at you Ben Nevis!

Posted in Running | Leave a comment

Snowdon ~ Slaying the Welsh Dragon

It’s the week before the Snowdon Trail Mountain Running Challenge (Ultra) and I’m dreading it. I have been looking forward to this like a kid in a sweet shop for months but the weather gods have decided I should be miserable …

How dare you presume to be fit for such a challenge. You shall suffer heavy rain and 45mph winds for your insolence.

And it wasn’t just the run I was dreading, I had chosen to camp on the Friday night and didn’t really fancy trying to put up a tent in 50mph winds. I even went as far as testing out my car boot space at home and decided if necessary I could sleep there if needed so at least that fear was allayed somewhat.

As the race drew closer though, the outlook started to improve and it looked like we would only have to endure severe winds for the first couple of hours or so then it would drop down to a manageable 25mph.

Following an awful 7 hour car journey (compared to 4 hours on the Sunday), that only just saw me registered in time, Friday night delivered on its promise and I settled down to a night of relentless battering and zero sleep … not exactly ideal preparation!

This did provide the silver lining that I was awake in plenty of time for my pre-race prep so I nonetheless arrived at the start line relaxed and surprisingly energised.

Race direction announced a couple of route changes but we were still going to the summit of Snowdon and that is really the only thing that mattered to me (it was the only reason I chose the ultra distance) and with no further ado we all assembled at the start and awaited our fate for the next 7 to 13 hours depending on ability.

And yes I was again looking forward to this … I learned my lessons from Scafell, I’ve trained well, I’m ready both mentally and physically, bring it on …

… and we’re off!

snowdon trail ultra

Since the Scafell Sky Race I’ve run a couple of marathons and twice run a local route called The McWilliams Round which is perfect training at equal distance and about 2250m ascent. I’m not afraid of the distance – I’ve done it more than once and whilst I know I am likely to have problems with cramp I reckon the increased ascent will slow me down and probably reduce the issue compared to my training runs. But I also know hydration is important and I always struggle with food so energy could be an issue, especially given my lack of sleep.

I used Mountain Fuel at Scafell and several times since and it works for me, I’ll be OK for energy providing I don’t run out of Mountain Fuel so I started loaded with 3 litres of this plus powder to mix another 3 litres. In the end I only filled up with another 1 litre at a checkpoint but I did not run out during my run yet still arrived at the finish line empty … I basically could not have judged it any better. I ate half a banana at CP1 but that made me feel nauseous and at the bottom of Snowdon I tried to eat a sandwich but one bite told me that was a bad idea so I took a gel instead and called it on the food.

What other lessons did I learn from Scafell?

The main one was probably to develop my quads more … I worked hard on climbing but I didn’t really train for steep descents before Scafell and I suffered badly as a result so my modified lunchtime training took in a short but steep descent, I ran it countless times and I ran it at all sorts of different paces and that too paid off. I came off the top of Snowdon straight into a fast run (everything’s relative) down to the Ranger’s Station – my core complained bitterly but my legs did a great job and I kept up with the group I was in at the time and waltzed past a group of marathon distancers that had now rejoined our route. 

Taking an elevation of 70m as a reference point (that’s the elevation of the Ranger’s Station) it took me 1:35 to ascend Snowdon and 49:56 to drop back down – almost 50% quicker. I compared as best I could against a 500m ascent/descent at Scafell and the difference was about 35%. That’s a win in my book.

It wasn’t all great though – I suffered from quite bad cramp climbing Snowdon. Twice I tried to plant my foot and my calf muscle said NO bringing me to an immediate halt balancing precariously on my poles with my weight on one foot trying to ease my other heel down. As the path got steeper this really slowed me down as I had to pick my way carefully, ensuring my foot was flat and well planted before I dared transfer my weight onto it, often having to haul myself up with my hands. Patience paid off though and I reached the top without any further issues.

Which brings me onto poles, the other significant difference between Scafell and Snowdon. I did have my poles before Scafell but didn’t take them because I hadn’t trained effectively with them and wasn’t even convinced I liked them. When I trained for Snowdon though I made sure I gave them a proper go and used them on both McWilliams Rounds plus one other training run and what a benefit I got. Not just on the climbs … they provide stability on rough flat ground and allow marked drops and jumps to be taken in my stride. And on one occasion in the Cheviots I discovered that they are excellent for hurdling startled snakes although apparently they don’t stop me from screaming! It was a very manly scream though 🤣.

I must confess to attracting one “watch your sticks mate” … that’s not acceptable so I need to work on that. That is in fact one thing I whinged about someone else doing at Scafell so I’m really quite embarrassed about that.

What about the race itself?

Well, it is a brutal route and there are some amazing views and even early on you round a corner and a huge vista opens up in front of you of a slate quarry … it’s not natural beauty but it was nonetheless breathtaking. As the route wends round we start taking in some proper elevation and the views are amazing … until you get above the clouds of course … it is late September after all. If you want views from the top you might want to pick a different race. The winds were strong at the top, especially Y Garn and one particularly well equipped runner (mountain rescue perhaps) reported there were 56mph winds.

The route played with my mind a bit – I knew what lay ahead but I personally found it tough that the route takes you right back to near sea level before each climb, Scafell was much more traverse/ridge oriented and I found that easier to reconcile mentally.

The ascent to Snowdon was via the Watkin Path and guess what? That path has the largest height gain!


Watkin Path up Snowdon from Bwlch y Saethau
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Peter S – geograph.org.uk/p/4282004


The top of Snowdon was funny … there were hordes of people and I’ve never been glared at as much as I was when I dared to go near the trig point without queueing. I went close enough for my own satisfaction then rejoined with other runners to tackle the next stage. A fast descent down, we were forced to run by the railway line as it was just too busy to make any progress on the main path but that provided an extremely runnable descent and there was no time for a breather. Someone up ahead seemed to know where they were going and I ran for a long time without seeing a single bit of tape but it fitted with the map route and was definitely in the right direction so I was happy to go with the flow.

And boy did that flow flow … a huge drop in elevation on a path that also seemed to go on forever and oddly seemed longer going down that it did when we had to come right back up the same path. By the time we turned perhaps I’d got it out of my system by accusing the marshal of gratuitous cruelty 🤣 (good-natured of course) and that turn at the last checkpoint also hailed the homeward stretch.

The final climb had three false summits and each one revealed a significant drop in elevation before regrouping. That was mentally hard too, especially so near the end. Summit that one though and it genuinely is downhill all the way, although that run in seemed to go on forever. That’s part of the problem with long routes, what looks like a short distance to the next turn on my running watch is still a couple of kilometres.

Did I say I had no further problems with cramp? Well that may not quite be true! I’m not competitive on runs like this, I have my own time targets but I wouldn’t dig in to pass another runner just for the sake of it … I would however dig in to NOT be passed by another runner, and there was one runner in particular that I had spent most of the race close to. I’d spoken to her early on and several times throughout and she consistently proved faster than me on the flat and downhills but I was stronger on the climbs. We had repeatedly passed each other on the way round and as we crested the final hill she wasn’t far behind me with a long descent to come … hmm!

So with no margin for taking it easy, off I went asking my muscles to just grind it out. We gained an understanding, my muscles knew what to do and they were OK with that …

… run downhill, easy …

… and there it is – the finish line …

… all I have to do is go round that post and a wee stint back up the field …

… the crowd and marshals are clapping me in like they did for everybody else …

… wait …

… what? …

… you want me to run on a flat bit now? …

… NO!

For the third time I simply cannot put my heel down. The crowd stop clapping and there’s an awkward silence. Someone shouts to keep going and “the line is just there” but I don’t move, I know this will clear quickly and once it does, I will be able to run again – that’s the quickest way over that line. Sure enough it clears in seconds and I get going again …

… the crowd start clapping again …

… round the post, just got to do that wee bit up the field …

… WHAT? …

… you want me to run UPHILL now? …

… NO!!!

I stop again … 2m short of the line.  I’ve run 52km and I’m incapacitated 2m short of the line … I could literally fall over it from here.

The crowd has stopped clapping again and this time I am tempted to hobble over but no … after what I have just done I declare to the finish line marshals and photographer that “I am going to run across that bloody line”. I actually back up a bit to take my final run and this time I make it, with the crowd cheering and clapping me over 🤣.

GET IN!!! I’m officially an Ultra Runner now.


When Cramp Bites Back

I must congratulate the photographer on capturing the somewhat unflattering moment that cramp struck.

I finished in 9:27:59. 34th place overall and 5th in the veterans category (all veterans not just V45). 89 runners officially finished out of 169 entries but I’m not sure how many started – I’d guess around 150. Runners were coming in for a very long time after the official cut-off of 6:30. Last one was 7:50 and it was pitch black by then.

Towards the end of the race, lots of the “marathoners” were saying “I don’t know how you ultra guys do it” – well I used to be a half-marathoner thinking exactly the same thing … I originally started this off-road malarkey with a 14km/550m trail run and now look at me … 3 ultras under my belt and none of them exactly flat.

Final thoughts go to the organisers – Trail Events Co

Great race. Loved the route, superbly marked throughout and the marshals were fantastic, they couldn’t do enough for you at each checkpoint. The atmosphere was great too … everyone around was chatting, checking stopped runners were OK and encouraging from start to finish.

EVERY runner that finished got a medal even if they didn’t get an official time and I think that is great – I hate finish line time-outs – the race directors can’t leave till everybody is home safely so unless they actually need to be fetched off the mountain there is no reason to not give them a medal.

One shouldn’t have favourites but CP4, the Welsh Dragons, did a fabulous job getting everyone prepped and buoyed up for Watkins Path and the mighty Snowdon summit. Thanks ladies ;).

Posted in Running | Leave a comment

Scafell ~ My Journey From Average to Average

I used to be an average runner … now I’m an average club runner.

43046342201_fe570cf9d8_hJoining a club has changed my running completely. I do a massive variety of stuff now, I’m faster than I was at half my age and I run up hills, BIG hills, without really thinking about it. Even as I write this on holiday I already have a big run planned for Sunday as the nearby volcano is just crying out to be conquered. It’s only 600m high so no biggie 😁.

Last October though I got a bit carried away and decided to enter the Scafell Sky Race … further and higher than I’ve ever climbed and by quite some margin on both counts. More than double in terms of the climb. Not a problem though, plenty of time to train for it …

… then 9 days later I twisted my ankle at the top of Alwinton. Oh dear!!!

Not the worst injury but it was a continuous nuisance as I mollycoddled it round Wooler Trail HM and Roseberry Topping HM (route, missed the actual race) but gradually it got better. I was continually compensating for it, adjusting my stride so I could land on an obstacle on my dodgy left foot so I could then leap off and land harder on my good right foot. I also tended to run on the right side of narrow paths so my right foot took all the twisting and my left had the easier route down the middle.  Not ideal but at least I was still running. Nonetheless I lost a lot of fitness in that time! Hedgehope was awful and High Cup Nick … well let’s just pretend that didn’t happen.

I started getting fitter though and I was enjoying my running again so bring on High Fells of Thrunton HM … except it got postponed due to bad weather so EMC it was instead …

… and now I get a minor niggle in my groin and end up walking home. Oh FFS!!!

Again it wasn’t that bad and two weeks later it was Brough Law, I made a decent effort there and finally my challenge was properly on again. After an extended period of genuine concern that I wouldn’t make it to the start of Scafell my mood and confidence improved and training resumed in earnest.

Sometime along the way I’d had a chat with a fellow Polyfeller (GLD you know who you are) and he’d suggested 800m as a good weekly average to aim for – I immediately took this to heart and actually averaged slightly over 1000m but 800m became an absolute minimum to me – anything less was failure but not one to stress over. I also penned a poem about the race, not going to win any prizes but to the EMCers out there this started as a Saturday ditty but turned into something a little more meaningful to me and as a result never got posted. I’m no poet and with a degree of embarrassment I include it for your amusement but I read this frequently and the final verse became a mantra for me. When I needed to push myself I would repeat that line over and over (and over …) again. Giving up was not an option … I’m not a quitter!!! I just need to get a little bit fitter.

So I made it … I got myself to the start line, that at least was the first hurdle done! I’d been chatting with a bloke on the bus on the way there, we struck up a decent camaraderie and we both confessed a degree of nervous respect for the challenge. My new found friend had a string of arrows to his bow such as the Ring of Steall Skyrace and the Half Marathon du Mont Blanc and again I had doubts whether I’d bitten off more than I could chew. But I was on the bus now … no going back even if I wanted to. Not that I did – it had been a long journey to get here and I was happy now that what would be, would be!

Having been concerned about failing the 9 hour cut-off I had got as ridiculously optimistic as 7 hours. Then on the Saturday of race weekend I looked at the times of various Polyfellers that had just smashed Wasdale, not a kick in the teeth off either the distance or the elevation so easily extrapolated. Of course I then need to adjust for the fact I am not the runner that those guys are… hmm OK so 7 hours is a bit unrealistic … perhaps 8? But you know what … I had still managed to stick to my original thinking that just finishing would be brilliant, who cares what my time is, if I finish then job done and there was not even the tiniest part of me that didn’t believe that. That’s a pretty healthy attitude for this particular run and quite unlike me 😂.

Pre-race was nicely taken up queueing for stuff not requiring discussion and amusingly spending a ridiculous number of minutes looking for a bin to dispose of a banana skin … it all helped to keep my mind off the inevitable.

A whistle draws us close and nervously we all shuffle forward and start to assemble. I’d lost my bus friend at this point so never got the chance to wish him well but now was not the time to be fretting about that.CGM7Xm2FSQpxAYnoT2GA6XQ22kohT8ckj2ChVa2myCs-1152x2048 Need to get my pack run-ready … oh blimey I don’t even have my heart rate monitor on. It won’t make me run faster but I always wear it – it’s just part of who I am – without it Strava won’t know how hard I’ve worked and it might tell me I’ve lost fitness – that won’t do 😂.

So here we go, last year’s ~38km was back up to the headline 40km for 2018 and as of Saturday’s briefing had earned itself a bonus 2km just for the hell of it. I’d run 40km recently but never 42km and thanks to all my minor injury woes my biggest elevation to date remained around the 1400m mark – only an extra 1600m to do on top of that then. But I have trained hard, I have the utmost respect for the ascent but I don’t fear it. Bring it on …

A final start line selfie and we’re off. Almost immediately I have problems … didn’t see this particular problem coming but some idiot is trying to poke me with sticks – “Ive bought the damn things so I’m damn well going to use them” he says as he runs along on the flat road holding them extended but horizontal. Grrr! I too had bought some poles (or rather requested for my birthday) but didn’t take to them on the wee hill repeats I used for training and having done no big training runs at all in 2018 I felt they would be an encumbrance rather than a help so left them at home.

The masses sorted themselves out though and quite quickly I’m running at roughly the same pace as others around me –g4ncbIm4BiTwLbMzLlg4IQ8kGKw3AxJxBK1SyCQMCzc-1365x2047 we’re on trails, rhythm is good, conditions are fab and there’s a definite sense of togetherness as we all bumble along to the first climb … a KOM stage to some but let’s be honest, not me.

A slight delay as everyone bunches up dibbing themselves into the KOM stage then we’re off again, oh so slowly. It’s a steep climb up a narrow path with rocky climbs so we’re entirely constrained to the pace of those ahead. The odd person takes a more direct line but makes little ground and then they in turn become the pace setter but at this stage nobody cares. The true King of the Mountain is long gone. A drone hovers above and some runners turn and wave, this is symptomatic of the pack I’m running with, we’re all here just to finish and hopefully enjoy ourselves en route.

I see my bus friend ahead, he’s going ever so slowly and already I fear for him. He’s sweating buckets, obviously struggling and we’re barely 3km in. As I pass him I wish him well and offer encouragement but I can already see how this ends, I just need to make sure I’m not joining him on the bus.

Things are going well. The first climb is done, and for a first climb it was a cracker, close to 700m of unrelenting hand on thigh slog with only the briefest of runnable sections before the path turns skyward again then a bit of respite as we descend from the summit. Quite often when I descend during races I’m thinking “what goes down must come up” and today I knew that was true but at this early stage it was irrelevant.

lwGoNR1-cbhlEekSKP9bD0DVGBfgqRF0NQADfZChuSg-2048x1152I even smiled to myself as I confirmed with the marshall that I was indeed at the top of Green Gable. This was a fully marked trail run but as someone starting to do a bit of fell running a faux pas at this stage would have been quite embarrassing … and almost certainly would not have made it into this article!

Next up (or rather down) was the only significant section of scree. As a runner this was novel … I’ve messed about on scree many years ago but never as a serious runner, although I don’t think that’s particularly relevant. Either way it was tentative to start then as I gained more confidence and trusted myself to go with gravity my pace picked up and the smile on my face widened. Then all too soon I was at the bottom. Actually that was kinda fun 😁. Can I go back and do that again? Perhaps that would be a bit foolhardy – I’ve had the utmost respect for this challenge for 8 months, let’s not spoil it now!

As I came off the scree and saw the trail wend in front of me as far as I could see I started to get my first education about technical running – I’ve run on some tough trails and on occasion I’ve run on terrain where rash decisions could cause you serious problems but what I hadn’t expected from this race was how much of the flat and downhill sections I wouldn’t be able to run … the rockiness was unrelenting. I ran when I could but a few hundred metres on the terrain is ankle breaking and I’m gingerly picking my way again. It was impossible to get any sort of rhythm going.

It was going well though, my training had paid off and I wasn’t struggling with the ascent, I didn’t notice when I passed the 1500m mark and transitioned into my biggest climb ever. Instead each ascent became a series of “50m more” sections. That was how I dealt with it – manageable chunks, one at a time, and I was chalking them up with relative ease. A bit like my Wednesday lunchtime reps but without the downhill rests in between.


Scafell itself was almost an anticlimax … seriously England, is that all you’ve got? I chatted to someone “walking” his dog before he said “I’ve held you up enough” and broke into a run up the last wee section. In reality I think he was more concerned with the 3 hour window he’d agreed with his girlfriend at the bottom of the mountain. I joked he was putting us runners to shame but he shouted back that he hadn’t already run 8 miles then disappeared into the clouds. This was a theme and mostly from people with less appreciation than the previous chap who was himself a serious fell/mountain runner. So many people shouted encouragement as we ran or power walked past and many asked how far we’d come. The runner in front of me was unable to speak when posed the question and the woman laughed that he didn’t have a clue but it was all good natured. I put her right and she looked suitably impressed … and even more so when she learned that our final destination was to be Ambleside.

Then came the first truly sobering section … traversing scree and dodging round rocky outcrops.Running along trails barely a foot wide with steep drop offs.r_415vEXn3nDCbgazu0zY9RfShb9JAl0DZb10DJHtAo-1152x2048 I’m pretty sure you’d survive a fall here but you would definitely regret it, possibly forever, and there was always the threat of a bit of bad luck as you bounced down the mountainside.

At this point I was running with a sizeable group, many of whom I think knew each other. I was only just keeping up but I was making a concerted effort to do so – a bit of company on this section was more than a little welcome. As we finally reached safer terrain I commented that that was definitely the quietest slow run/walk I have ever done. Fell and trail runners chat in a way that road runners don’t (at least given where I slot into either group) but there had been no chat for quite some time despite the lack of serious physical effort. Must concentrate!!!

Then came my second education. My training had concentrated on short hill reps … I ran up … I ran down … over and over again. Erm OK? The problem with this is that I RAN down, reasonably quickly. I was training my calves to run up hills but I was not preparing my quads for the bashing they would take coming off Bow Fell, the path was a series of stone staircases and every step I was putting the brakes on, not a familiar motion for me … that section really hurt.

Finally I made it to the bottom of the valley and never before had a flat section of road been so welcome.  Now for some genuine running, albeit quite slow running. Did I mention that my quads were sore?

Next up was the half way checkpoint, we ran down to the checkpoint only to have to climb back up the same path afterwards. One runner declared he wasn’t going back up.DYGwaT3nGaxosa6i7yPklgNwB8Q_f4FUzO00DiPJ23w-1152x2048 It’s not obvious to me why someone would give up at this point when they were well within cut-off and appeared to be going well. At this stage I felt relatively comfortable, fairly strong and was confident of finishing.

Duly rested and water replenished I set off again with just a wee slog up to Harrison Stickle – at close to 600m of ascent this was the second biggest climb but it was by far the hardest … it seemed interminably long and coming so deep into the race was pretty gruelling.

50m at a time …

50m at a time …

… it also involved the only section where I believe that a slip could prove fatal. It certainly focuses the attention running on a narrow path with a long and near vertical drop right beside you. When I get tired it’s not uncommon for me to stumble over obstacles because I haven’t lifted my foot enough – that truly is not an option here. If you don’t feel confident then simply walk it, it’s not a long section. Walking or running, either way …

50m at a time …

50m at a time …

… does the job, and Harrison Stickle rewards with one of many magnificent views, this one looking out across to Stickle Tarn. Plus the prospect of one of the more runnable sections. The back of the run is well and truly broken now and the challenge that remains is more about the miles than the climb.


I take a wrong turn once but only get about 100m before realising. As I get back on track I wonder how I missed the really quite obvious bit of tape that marks the correct route.

Shortly after I pop out onto a road and a rather unexpected checkpoint with a water bowser. I’ve only got about 6km to go and politely decline the water as I think I have enough remaining to last me but the marshall suggests otherwise – “… are you sure, you’ve still got about an hour to go?” – an hour! Oh boy! Of course the big climbs are done but we’re not done climbing altogether yet.

One final climb though and that was it, all that remained was a gentle run down into Ambleside and a final sprint (not really) up the university steps to the finish line, a round of applause, a few goodies and a very welcome hose down. No medal and I like a bit of bling but I’d bought a goat bell for Fraser to support me with so I reclaimed that and called it a medal. It doesn’t say “finisher” on it, but nor does it need to … I’ll never forget I finished this one.

8:50 … job done!FFWu0qSQB10PBunvR3LEIA0ny-TxtHJ9fjHJYFtoL2s-2048x2048

Did I enjoy it? Absolutely! Loved it!

Would I do it again? No! In fact I almost immediately declared that I would never do anything that extreme again. Yet here I am a few weeks later seriously considering Snowdon Ultra … 50km but doesn’t look nearly as technical. I’ll research it properly when the entries open next year. And of course if I do Scafell in 2018 and Snowdon in 2019, then 2020 just has to be …

As for my bus mate … unfortunately my early doors prediction was right and he was timed out at the half way checkpoint. I hope he enjoyed his day anyway, the race was very heavily biased towards the first half so he still ran well over a half marathon taking in the highest peak in England, the short scree section, lots of technical trails, dodged round a huge rocky outcrop, traversed the great slab and ran part of the famous corridor route. Not a bad day out.

A few words on the race organisation … simply brilliant! The route was marked very well and the marshalls were awesome, cheering everyone on and clanging their cow bells throughout. Up in the clouds you could often hear a cow bell long before you actually see anyone but as soon as you came into view you were left in no doubt whatsoever that you are awesome and doing amazingly well.

The final formal cut-off was ditched this year due to the extreme temperature but I still came in just inside the 9 hours and I am delighted with that. Conditions aside that is what I set out to do and it would have tainted the achievement for me if I’d strayed into concessionary territory. But I didn’t … I managed a bona fide finish and the marshalls are right …

… I am awesome and I did do amazingly well … for an average runner!

Posted in Running | 2 Comments

Rule of Thirds ~ Google Chrome Extension ~ UPDATED

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages and I finally got around to it.

My Chrome Extension, Rule of Thirds, has finally been updated to fix the circles so that they are drawn fully again and I also added a fix to ignore images that are styled to be hidden (display: none). This fixes the issue on the new Flickr single page view where two grids were displayed (the offset one was displayed over a low resolution image that is hidden once the high resolution image is loaded).

If you haven’t already installed it then please head over to the Chrome Web Store and check it out:


if you want to look at the source code then that’s on GitHub:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Damn you Flickr !!!

Laura will be the last “stranger” that I routinely blog about as Flickr has decided that sharing via WordPress should not be easy any more :-(.

#113 Laura by haggisandchips
#113 Laura, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

On the plus side I have now discovered that it is possible to embed Flickr slideshows into WordPress pages so future “strangers” will appear automagically on my 100 Strangers page.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Fall of Capitalism …

#112 Leon by haggisandchips
#112 Leon, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

… it will take an apocalypse in my opinion but that is the ultimate hope that Leon has for the future.

Click on his image to read more of his story and learn how he has helped to keep the world in check at least a little bit.

Posted in 100 Strangers: Round 2, Street Photography | Leave a comment


#111 Melissa by haggisandchips
#111 Melissa, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

A short but colourful and stylish encounter today. Click on Melissa’s image to read more …

Posted in 100 Strangers: Round 2 | Leave a comment


#110 Abraham
#110 Abraham, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

A more colourful stranger I have yet to meet. Click through to Flickr to learn more about Abraham.

Posted in 100 Strangers: Round 2 | Leave a comment

An Endangered Species

#109 John by haggisandchips
#109 John, a photo by haggisandchips on Flickr.

He doesn’t look very endangered? Click on the image to read more about John.

Finally I am beginning to settle into the project again – 2 strangers from 2 outings ;).

Posted in 100 Strangers: Round 2 | 1 Comment