Monday 20 January 2014

The Spine Race - 268 Miles - Jan 2014

Well I'm glad that's over! In short it went something like this... running, snow, ice, running, mud, hills, running, dark, running, mud, hallucinations, cold, running, daylight, sore feet, bogs, pain, running, sore feet, food, running, bogs, bogs, bogs, hills, finish.

The Spine 268 mile run along the Pennine Way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, a 168 hour time limit... 5 checkpoints, about 12000m ascent, lots of friendly support crew. Generally the PW is marked with a few signs and terrain is a mix of stone, bog, mud and field tracks. Generally feet were wet the whole time.
Thanks to David and Laura at for the professional photos and my little camera phone for the others! MASSIVE thanks to 9bar and RunGeek for helping me out with kit and also thanks to everyone who sent a message of support during the race. Thanks so much, you helped to get me to the end! I'm overwhelmed by the amount of support and really happy that I inspired a few people to get out and go for a run!

 Some of the ground got a little muddy this was a particular section around 200 miles in... had to laugh really, it was difficult to move through, glad the shoes were well fastened!

The safety was taken very seriously by the organisers and it was incredibly well organised. Each runner had a gps tracker on them so they could be tracked live online which made great entertainment for spectators and supporters. Also good to keep an eye on weary competitors. My actual pack weight that I ran with was 9kg + water and snacks so about 11kg total. Some competitors looked to be carrying less some perhaps a little more but my main concern was to be comfortable and get to the end of a challenging adventure.

We left Edale at 8.22am on Saturday 11th of Jan and set off with 80 runners in the Spine race and I think about 45 in the Challenger (100 mile option) 30 of the Spine runners would make it to the finish line towards the end of the week. The first few hours passed quite uneventfully, some snow as we crossed Kinder and Snakes Pass looked to be a little tricky for  cars. Continuing on over towards the Torside reservoir and crossing the A628. I'd settled down into what felt a very easy pace and ended up running with a chap called Steve who was having a bit of a change from 24 hour track races. We shared a few hours running on to the 40 mile checkpoint where we had a hot stew meal and some snacks before heading off into the night on the 60 mile section to Hawes. We were joined by Warwick for a few hours and we plodded on through the night. Eventually I dropped back as I was feeling very tired (strange considering I'm usually fine for at least missing one night sleep, in hindsight I didn't sleep all that much the week leading up to the event) It was a bit of a blur the first night and hallucinations started from the early hours and continued through much of the day, I had a real tough time reaching Malham where I stopped in a cafe with a small group of Spiners. Just after dark I headed up to the remote cp next to Malham Tarn. I got my shoes off and had my feet seen to and they were a mess... The seam on the Sealskinz socks had cut into the tops of all my toes. I hadn't had this problem in any training runs (20-40 milers) although they aren't the slightest bit waterproof despite them being sold as that, I found they were warm, doesn't matter how warm they are if they shred your feet up though. So basically I scrapped the sealskinz and reverted back to my usual cheap sport socks that I've never had trouble with, all good but the damage was already done.

I was held in Malham for a few hours by the medics until I rested and there was some quite heavy rain so I was glad to be in the tent, I didn't manage more than a quick nap due to the runners coming in and out of the cp but rested in my sleeping bag and drank lots of tea and ate lots of food before wrapping the feet up and gearing up for a nice run into Hawes. Was quite warm and actually nice weather up over Pen Y Gent and I enjoyed it although my feet were beginning to hurt quite a lot, wasn't too happy with this as it's only Monday and I still had over 150 miles to go!

It was great to catch David and Laura taking a few snaps on the route, they can often be found lurking in the bushes at endurance events around the country! I got to Hawes... 100 mile point and had the feet sorted, got plenty of food down me and went to ly down for an hour, after about 30 mins I gave up due to the noise of other runners rustling about and just not feeling tired at the time... Geared up and headed out into the darkness once more to enjoy a snowy trip up and over to Thwaite. I had recced the section from Pen Y Gent over to Dufton so I knew the next 80 odd miles quite easily. I passed a few runners after leaving the cp and made good progress over the hills although by now the tape on my feet had disintegrated in the wet. 

Below... Looking tremendous after only half a day of running! Looks like I've been out for days haha!

 Descending down to Hawes.

After quite a long slog of a day after Hawes I bumped into Colin who kept me going and we trudged along on what was a hard day for me, all the way over Tan Hill Inn which was followed by a cold boggy mess with the most vague path I've seen in a while and down into Middleton CP for mid afternoon. Here my feet were pretty much destroyed, very painful and thinking that I wasn't quite half way didn't help... The medics had a serious look at my feet and I sat and drank tea and ate lots of food before setting off out into the night. I knew this section and it was quite easy going on the whole compared to other sections, there was a group formed and about 8 of us running together until we drifted apart during the snow heading over High Cup and down into Dufton.

On reaching Dufton runners had to wait until 7am before moving on as the weather was rough on the high parts of the course we were heading onto. We crashed in a stone bus shelter for about 20 minutes until 7am then set off on the long ascent up and over the higher points of the course, Cross Fell and Great Dun Fell. It was a little breezy here (think wind blowing you sideways) and there was ice on the stone slabs that made the path over the moor. We reached the mini support point in a bothy up in the hills having a hot drink and some snacks before a long miserable descent which took forever for me. Feet were excruciating. It was dark again and slogging up to the next cp I had had enough really. I sat down and got some food down before having a quick hours nap in a quiet room. More food and a very slow attempt at getting ready as I didn't really want to do any more. Knowing I had 85 miles still to go and could barely stand up wasn't fun. I set off out of the cp and spent 30 mins fumbling around in fields trying to get out and back onto the PW. I actually got a bit of momentum going and made decent progress on to Hadrians wall where I caught a  group which spread out as the day went on. It was nice to spend time with other runners to break up the boredom, especially when the other runner starts shouting at trees and the mud! Laughing at that was the closest I came to cramping! It was a slow grinding end to the section and getting to Bellingham was a relief although I again had no desire to keep going, my feet were more painful that I could have ever imagined.

Plenty of food here as it was only 40 miles to the end and I was determined to get back in daylight on the last day. I planned to have an hour sleep and leave the cp at 10pm. I woke up but took ages getting ready and left after midnight. I was moving ok after a very slow painful 30 mins to do the first mile out of the cp, it was a nice temperature and the track across the hill tops became reasonable it was a bit strange wandering around in the mist but I came across the friendly face of Andy Hayes and his wolfy looking friend. Nice to chat briefly although I was probably just jabbering nonsense at him.

Next dropping into Kielder Forest I was so tired I kept falling over and just stopping, yet I was having incredible DeJaVu on the course. For at least 8 miles it was as if I'd been on the course before. I then thought I was hallucinating as I saw a big van with Inov8 on the side of it in the track, sure enough it was real and I was greeted with warm custard! That was amazing thanks so much! Then I proceeded to much through that and copious amounts of snacks before sheltering in Flips car with the heater on and getting an hours sleep.

After that... It was time for the last 28 miles back to the finish which I managed in 6 hours 30 mins . I pushed hard over all the terrain and barely stopped other than to change layers and grab some snacks out of the bag. It was painful but I just had had enough and needed to get it over with. I was getting bombarded with messages of support from people watching the tracker and seeing the pace I was moving at I checked a few of the messages and got great energy from them which helped me power on to the finish.

The support from everyone was unbelievable, the crew, competitors and supporters, everyone was in it together and all kept each other going really. I'm glad it's over, I didn't enjoy having to run because of the pain in my feet from the cuts, I didn't really make much effort to speed through cps, had I used normal socks I'd have been in little pain and would have moved quicker as a result probably been much more tired and have fatigued muscles. My legs muscles/ joints have felt pretty much fine since and my feet now have stopped stinging.

If you're after a hard and very long slog then the Spine is for you it broke a lot of very very strong and impressive runners. If you fancy something a bit more leisurely, still tough but a substantially easier distance (or perhaps just want to take your gran with you)  you'd be better with the challenger. Seriously I'd suggest to people to try the challenger first unless they are well experienced and train appropriately.  I imagine it would be a totally different experience in snowy conditions though gambling on British weather correctly is probably harder than doing the race!

If you want to get your entry in for next year jump on here when they open

Friday 10 January 2014

Newton Le Willows '3 Peaks' Run Challenge

Inspired by 'THE' 3 Peaks Challenge I bring you ... drum roll...

The Newton Le Willows 3 Peaks Run Challenge....

Trig Point on Billinge Hill

The straight line distances between the 3 points 

What is it?
A friendly challenge with the aim of getting people exploring new routes and some of the tracks and trails and points of interest in Merseyside. The idea is to visit the 3 points in any order, choosing your own route (or copy someone else if you like, it's up to you) I'd like to put the GPS files of peoples routes into one place and set up a little table comparing route distances and times.

I do things like this to keep me amused on local runs, I'd love to run around mountains every day but living near Warrington that's confined to weekend trips! Hopefully it will inspire others to do something a little bit different and expand their comfort zone.


How far is it?
Depends... It's 15 miles or 24 km between the points AS THE CROW FLIES.
On first recce I ran 35.2 km or 22 miles - I did take a slightly scenic route to complete it predominantly off roads.
I suspect it could be done in 30 km or 18.5 miles or less going on the shortest routes.
EXPECT 20 ISH miles unless your sense of direction is appalling, then take a tent ;)

Any rules?
Use a gps/ phone app etc to measure your route
Complete on foot
Use any shops that you want to
You're entirely self sufficient and participating at your own risk, just as you would be whenever you go out running.
The most important one... HAVE FUN and BE SAFE! Carry a mobile, tell someone when you'll be back, cross roads with care etc.

Is it a race?
No, you do it whenever you like, your entirely responsible for yourself, there will be a 'leader board' for those that would like a little friendly competition.

What are the 3 points?
In any order you like.... you must finish where you started forming a loop.
1. The Dream Sculpture - Located in Sutton Manor Country Park. 20 m high you surely can't miss it, run around it.

2. Billinge Hill - Located North of Billinge, run around the stone tower on the summit

3. The Hill in Lyme and Wood Country Park - Newton, boarders Vista Rd, contains a small hill. Due to landscaping going on in there every now and again the highest point might vary a little bit, just run up to the highest point as best as you can. (photo soon)

How do you plan a route?
I ran with this map to plan a route. Most of the actual route I took I hadn't run on before

OR you can use something like or Map My Run or similar app. also very useful.

First Recce
My actual run - road shoes were not my best decision for the off road (lots of mud)
A much more direct route could be taken from Car Mill Dam just to the north of St Helens, heading straight down towards Clock Face, I took the Sankey Canal and various field paths to stay away from roads. You choose a route, take the roads if you like. I ran around 4.30 per km pace on the whole except through particularly muddy fields and had a nice steady final 5km cool down.

  • 35.3km
  • 2:52:09
    Moving Time
  • 4:53/km

Any questions? Fire away! Let me know when you have made an attempt!

Looking forwards to seeing everyone's different route choices too! Perhaps if you know anyone around the St Helens, Wigan, Warrington area who might fancy this you could share it with them?


Wednesday 8 January 2014

The Spine, 268 miles running along the Pennine Way, the perfect winter holiday?

This weekend at 8am Saturday 11th is the start of The Spine 'Britain's most brutal race' 

You can view the progress LIVE on the following link Click on 'Race Tracking' to see where I am.

Imagining the crisp snow beneath my feet, clear blue skies, cold and still weather for just one week in January, perfect. What could be better? OR maybe it'll be howling winds, 15 hours of darkness, horizontal rain, perishingly cold and wet, the ground boggy and soft, sapping every bit of life out of the legs who knows?
I'm looking forwards to learning a lot and gaining an experience of a lifetime. 
The plan is to move as efficiently as possible with minimal stoppage time, making the most of daylight, weather and energetic spurts! Looking forwards to destroying a carvery towards the back end of next week!

Monday 6 January 2014

3D Gait Analysis Salford University Running Performance Clinic

I had a trip away to Salford one evening in December for a 3D Gait Analysis at the Running Performance Clinic where I met Chris, who was kind enough to make me run really fast on a treadmill and do lots of exercises ;)
.... In their words

''The University of Salford’s new running performance clinic is for runners who are either recovering from running-related injuries or who want to minimize the risk of future injury and improve race times by improving their running style. Our service offers:
  • Full 3-dimensional running gait analysis using state-of-the-art technology
  • Physiotherapy assessment of strength, flexibility and muscle balance
  • Comparison of your running technique with that of an elite athlete
  • A personalized exercise plan, based on our findings, which will help you to minimise running injury risk and develop your running style
  • Follow up gait assessment to understand how you’re getting on and to check you are recovering from any sports injuries.
We are the only service gait analysis service in Manchester which can provide state-of-the-art 3D running gait assessment.
Furthermore, we are the only running injury clinic in the UK which offers a complete 3D motion analysis of the feet, legs, pelvis and spine during running.''

Although I don't suffer with injury I'm pretty keen not to start on that either. I spend quite a bit of time keeping the body balanced and my non running training is based around conditioning the body to similar joint actions and forces that would be experienced whilst running which keeps me strong and moving well. Whilst it's worked well for me in terms of results I wanted a more in-depth look at what was happening as I run. Prevention rather than cure if you like.
The service is another league to that which I've seen in running shops and gyms in the past and after being covered in infra-red sensors and running at different speeds the computer is able to create an image of your skeleton during your run. After that a range of strength, flexibility and endurance tests are performed before a report detailing the findings can be created. From that someone who know's lots about movement and the body can work to improve any imbalances or limitations. Really valuable to know! 
On the report you also get a table like this for the major joints showing any imbalances etc too. You don't need to know what this means yourself but someone who is treating you would hopefully know what to do with it!
My ankles 

My wee bones moving away there, this is a screen shot of one of the videos.
My skeleton, I think I took my head and arms with me that day...

Jump on their website if you'd like to find out more or ask any detailed questions!

Saturday 4 January 2014

Liverbird Marathon Double, Liverpool 2013/2014

What better way to celebrate New years with a marathon on each day for 2 days?
I first did this 3 years ago where my times for both days were in the 3 hour 55 mins range (and that was hard work!) I then went back 1 year later and ran 2.45.13 (that felt easy even 4 days after running 50 miles on a trail race) I missed a year (somehow - not sure what my excuse was?) before going back this year.

Looking totally exhausted after 2.52 marathon or maybe I had a bit of energy left? ;)

It's a simple straightforward course, tarmac and paved with 2 steps, very little camber 5 and a bit km out then turn around and run back, 4x each day. Simple.

I'd had a bit of a heavy week Christmas week (no not on the ale or food, but covered just over 150 miles ) including the Tour de Helvellyn and 40 odd km Xmas day and Boxing day so my original plan was to only enter the New years day marathon and go for a pb attempt, seeing the weather forecast a strong headwind for half of the race, I decided to go for the double and accept a slightly slower pace and enjoyed a 1 day taper where I only ran about 12km (taking this race very seriously, you see) Photos - start day 1

Day 1, just on arrival rain broke out and remained quite persistent for a while though it did dry up during the run and although a little breezy, conditions were otherwise ideal. 2 hours 52 for me
Day 2, well the weather was a bit wild when I woke up and became a bit drizzly as I cruised along the empty roads to Liverpool. The wind was pretty strong (I've heard all sorts of accounts and descriptions , many including F words and many adjectives) At one point I was struggling to maintain 10 min mile pace into the wind yet running back at 7 min miles felt comfortable. Final time 3.12.

Had the weather been similar both days I think the times would've been much closer, most of the times I heard were around 15-30 mins slower the 2nd day. My legs have got pretty well conditioned to the multi day long runs after all this Spine training, so it was a good confidence boost.

Terrific friendly race and great to catch up with so many friends and even make some more! The atmosphere between runners as you pass each other on various laps is brilliant. You could even go on a serious pb mission if you had a still day!

Who knows what will happen next year though I'm sure I'd go back if I'm about ;)