- 315km run
- 50 ‘Cultural London RunCommute’ photographs shot
- 44 sculptures/statues discovered
- 43km longest run
- 24 days of running
- 13km daily average
- 12 Classic, handwritten blogs
- 9 Blog posts
- 8 Buffs used
- 6 ThunderPad Runs
- 5 UltraBaby Runs
- 4 days of the galloping trots
- 4 rest days
- 3 running events
- 3 medals
- 2 pairs of trainers
- 2 events entered (Green Man, Skye Ultra Trail)
- 1 Beard grown
- 1 round of Tonsilitis
It’s been a great couple of years with Virtual Runner UK. I (the GingaNinja, UltraBaby, ThunderPad and even Pops accompanied by Jimmy) have done quite a few events with them with the highlight definitely being the Poppy Challenge – a little over 300km in 24 running days. It’s actually going to be a little bit sad for me not to be doing them for a while but I try not to repeat myself too much in my running and so I’m off to concentrate on the build up to my 2016 ultra events – BUT I WILL BE BACK
I’d like to say a gigantic thank you to the lovely and dedicated Susan who has provided some excellent events since she set up VRUK and I’ve been incredibly grateful that they’ve kept me going during injury rehabilitation, the GingaNinjas pregnancy, tough working situations and a whole load of other things that, had it not been VRUK, might have stopped me running. So thank you.
And now to the the Poppy Challenge which has given me the opportunity to go on a creative tour of London as I have racked up the miles. Below are a selection of the images taken during the month as I sought to find both culture and fitness in the name of rememberance.
But what of the final full week of the Poppy Challenge. I was left with just 37km to go. By Monday I had dropped this to just 25km and by the time I was drifting to sleep on Tuesday I had less than 15km to go. But what to do? I wanted to finish at exactly 300km, this meant reaching 290km by Friday and doing my Movember Greenwich 10km on Saturday and concluding the event. I decided bugger it, I’d just have to pass through the 300km mark and forget about the numbers.
The good news was that I reached and passed the 290km on Wednesday and relaxed a bit with some gentle and short jogs too and from my office. And so I strode up to the start line on Saturday – moustache and other facial hair adorning my chiseled good looks and set off around the hilly Greenwich Park pushing UltraBaby in the UltraMobile.
As I crossed the line, 55 minutes later, I was elated but not as much as my legs were ‘Time for a rest UltraBoy’ they chimed in unison. 315km done, my Poppy Challenge complete. A great event and I feel properly ready for Saintelyon and I have few days rest ahead of me before the final and main event of 2016 kicks off – so thank you Susan, it’s been a blast.
Several months ago I signed up to The Soldier On Challenge and ran a reasonable distance in my June Virtual Challenge. At the time there was an opportunity to do a similar event for the month of November in honour of those who have lost their lives during conflict.
What Virtual Runner UK say is: this challenge is different from our usual races and is live between 1st – 30th November. In the month, run, swim, walk and cycle as far as you can to add to our collective km total. Our aim is to complete 88,824.6km. 888,246 is a significant number, as represents the number of poppies displayed at the Tower of London last year to remember the fallen soldiers in World War One.
With 2,000 runners, cyclists, swimmers and walkers this shouldn’t be a difficult number to achieve – it amounts to a little over a kilometre and a half per day being required by everyone to reach the total set. However, in honour of those who lost their lives and in an effort to prepare for my assault on the Saintelyon I will be looking to run (no cycling or swimming for me in this challenge) somewhere in the region of between 300-350km. I should be being helped by running the Hugin 6hr timed event this weekend but my logistical transport nightmare means that’s a no go but the Thames Meander Marathon will give me a decent hit and then I’ll be doing a couple of long, slow, back to back runs during November. Add to this I’m hoping that I can build in a few miles here and there during my RunCommute efforts and actually my target looks mostly achievable.
But why would I do this given I have no real military connection? The answer to that is pretty simple. Those who have died during war, regardless of the side they served, whether they were soldier, civilian or even animal should never be forgotten.
And as a final thought a huge congratulations should be passed to those who have entered and helped raise so much money for the British Legion but especially the number one virtual runner, Susan who organises these rather special events. Good luck everyone and give it some welly – I know I will be!
Ed Catmur you say? was my reply to the tenacious Sasha…Well I’ll be honest at that point I shit myself but it wasn’t the first time that had happened across a series of recent events.
But let’s roll back a little bit. July 19th and there’s a rap on the door, it’s 8.30am – ‘stick the kettle on son’. It was Pops arriving in sunny Kent to do a bit of babysitting while UltraBoy dusted off the wetsuit and swam the Great London Swim. After a bit of a catch up we headed off to the train station and meandered towards the ‘swim village’. Getting to the Millwall docks was no easy feat with all the improvement work going on there and with a buggy it was remarkably slow progress but we finally cracked the nut and in font of us we saw a succession of Great Swim signage.
We ambled around the start line for a while watching a couple of waves hitting the water and saw that the waves of people entering the dock were rather smaller than I remembered from 2013. I spoke to a chap who had clearly just finished and he confirmed that the earlier waves had been much fuller but that the afternoon had been rather quiet. ‘Bugger’ I decided to head up to the finishing area and see if is was any busier and thankfully there was more happening and swimmers were bimbling about in their wetsuits or stripping themselves out of wetsuits. I sat down on one of the public benches outside the main arena and already having my swimming shorts on simply stripped off and jumped into my wetsuit (using my newly acquired knowledge of putting a carrier bag over my hands and feet to make getting into the wetsuit so much easier).
At this point my dad, UltraBaby and I headed to the start line but here my family rather than aiding me with my nerves got rather over-excited by the appearance of Brendan Foster, former champion middle distance runner! My dad became giddy with joy and started discussing running and swimming with him – he was a warm and genuine gentleman though and it was lovely to meet him – I just wish it hadn’t been while I was sweating in a wetsuit. I left my dad to his hero worship and entered the acclimatisation area in the water, the water was warm and pleasant and nothing like the last time I had done open water swimming, the concern was that the field of swimmers numbered about 20 and I was going to be slow as I had completed about 20 lengths of a pool since UltraBaby arrived. This mile of open water swimming was looking like an increasingly stupid idea.
Still I did the warm up, abandoned all ideas of pulling out and when the klaxon fired I ran to the water – leaping in and I put on my best ‘freestyle’ swim stroke – that lasted all of 50 metres and I began breast stroking my way to the finish line. Here it got both brilliant and crappy – the water was pleasant, the view was interesting and I’d picked up ‘Bridget’ on the safety boat as my conversational aid. This was the best and worst bit of my day – I was at the back and didn’t have the resources to catch the swimmers in front of me. Less than 200 metres I made the sensible call to adjust my targets. ‘So Bridget, success today is a) finishing and b) not needing to hold onto your kayak’ and then we chatted all the way round and thankfully she was a brilliant and lovely woman.
Without her and that awesome sense of humour I doubt I’d have made it but with the safety boat always within earshot I was able to push on even when the waters were against me. I was now about 1000metres in and I spotted my dad and UltraBaby on the dockside, they both waved enthusiastically and while my dad was more interested in chatting to the ‘lovely ladies’ he did get me a cheering parade all the way back and I could hear my name being called from far and wide.
With 50 metres to go Bridget and I parted ways – she had seen me safely home and all that remained was for me to haul myself up on to the ramp. I ran up to the chip timing station, waving at ‘my adoring crowd’, as quickly as my weary legs would carry me and thanked the lovely volunteers for their efforts.
There was little more to do now other than collect my medal and shower and as ever the guys at the Great Series had a nice medal and a decent T-shirt. What was missing was my own personal sense of elation, I was tired, I was sore and I’d been last in my wave – but with no training and bad prep what more could I have expected. Thankfully the Great Series of events really is well suited to the novice/under trained as it is to the elite athlete and the amount of safety crew about was s testament to the care they show to their entrants. I’ll be back for a fourth Great Swim next year because it’s a great event and I might even add in the Great Newham 10km which is where we are headed next…
Pops hadn’t just come down to the South East for a bit of gentle babysitting, no, he’d also come down to run the Great Newham 10km. To add a bit of history to this my dad raced at the Olympic Stadium at one of their 2012 pre games test events and to this day says he beat Usain Bolt by three months (the old ones are the best ones). Now it was 2015 and three years later – a lot has happened in that time, some good things, some bad but Pops wanted to run this one in sight of his granddaughter – UltraBaby. We set off nice and early and arrived at the Olympic Park with both time to spare and time to take some souvenir pictures, especially as both of us were proudly wearing our Virtual Runner UK shirts. As we meandered down to the starting area a voice called out to my dad ‘what are you doing here?’ In typical fashion my dad saw someone he knew – another runner and we all ambled down together to the main thrust of the event, chatting merrily about the run.
‘Tea?’ I offered ‘sun cream?’
‘Both’ was the reply.
It was a hot, sunny day and the start was still an hour away, we mooched around the Start Fitness store, bought a few bits and grabbed as much free lucozade, water and other goodies as our little hands could carry (it was a warm day after all). As the clock ticked down my dad headed to his wave (as he described it ‘the slow wave’). Thousands of runners lined up waiting for their final instructions, words of wisdom from my dads new best pal Brendan Foster rang out over the PA system and Paula Radcliffe offered some encouragement to those about to race BackToTheStadium. UltraBaby and I ran up and down the crowds in the buggy grabbing photographs and eventually waved a cheery goodbye to Pops as we stationed ourselves about 200metres beyond the start line.
And then it all went off – runners flying towards us – thousands of them in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium. I stood with my camera poised to grab the snapshot of my dad coming through but there was no sign, more runners came through and then more – still no sign. Suddenly in the distance I could see him wandering through – running gently behind a very attractive young lady and his eyes firmly cemented around her bum – it seems he’d found his inspiration to complete the distance. With Pops having passed us by we headed straight to the stadium to soak in the atmosphere. We were politely if inefficiently sent to the ‘buggy park’ were UltraBaby and I deposited the UltraMobile Mk II and then we went off to find our seat. We were housed near the runners entrance into the stadium and either side of us were the big screens displaying the runners names. Pops have indicated that he’d like a photograph of his name in lights – as the chaps back home would never believe him.
With baby on one knee and DSLR and giant zoom lense on the other we waited patiently. To fill our time UltraBaby and I tweeted several photographs under the hashtag #BackToTheStadium and sure even the dinosaur clad child appeared giant size on the screens around the stadium but with the race reaching the hour mark we needed to concentrate and wait for Pops. The problem now was that despite all the noise and the general hoopla – El Babio had fallen asleep on my arm and was resting like a dead weight on me.
Bugger. Still she wasn’t going to miss her Pops arrival into the stadium and when he came thundering around the corner I pulled up the camera – grabbed the shot of the big screen, woke up UltraBaby to join in with cheering and then photographed him ambling round the track to the adulation bring thrust upon all the awesome runners. UltraBaby went straight back to sleep. My dad collected his medal and joined me for a little bit atmosphere soaking and he described it as a fun and enjoyable race. It was well organised and well supported and he felt this was a good bookend to his ‘Olympic Park’ running career. I know there was some criticism (especially from long distance runners) that the course was a bit boring but it seemed that mostly people enjoyed it and especially the spectacle of coming into the Olympic Stadium – as Pops said ‘what a feeling, what a roar!’
He may well be back.
Thankfully this was not the end of July running – far from it – there was the little matter of the inaugural Twilight Ultra. The GingaNinja had already advised that I’d be out on my own for this one (especially in terms of getting there) but given the track nature of the event I felt this was a decent final event as I wait for the start of the CCC and so I signed up.
I headed out to Hainault nice and early with the intention of grabbing some supplies and breakfast and then meandering to the start line. However, a succession of train delays and a lack of suitable shops meant I arrived at the Redbridge Cycle Track having not eaten and with only a Cadburys fudge for company. I grabbed a cuppa from the track reception and then signed in. Martin from Nice Work (the organisers) greeted is warmly and advised there was a starting line of 12. Not a great number but substantial enough to make it a bit competitive. We were walked out to the start line of the course as 10am closed in on us and advised that the aid station at the start of each of our 31.5 laps would do there very best to get us whatever we required to finish the race and simply let them know and they’d arrange it for your next lap (a nice little extra I thought).
As the horn was fired to denote the start I saw the blazing sun rising higher and higher and wished I’d been more sensible and used sun cream but I hadn’t and by Sunday I was looking like a well cooked Lobster. I was running with Toby at the beginning and we got to know lots of stuff about each other – we’d never met at any race and had very differing experiences but he was a great runner and we powered well around the course together. At this point we were jostling between third and fourth place behind Ed Catmur who managed to lap us before our third running of the track (what a runner)!
The course itself was basically 0.8km downhill 0.5km flat and 0.8km bitchy uphill with some horrid switchbacks thrown in for good measure – if you followed the running line – I wasn’t quite so good at following the run line and managed to add a couple of extra miles but nothing significant. The real challenge for this was going to be securing your knees on the fast downhill and getting up the hill as fast as you could. Some of the runners described the surroundings as a bit dull but actually I found it an engaging, interesting and pleasantly difficult course with the added bonus of being able to see your fellow runners doing their thing. By lap 10 I was speed walking the top half of the hill and it was proving a mental drain knowing you would have to face it again. But interestingly by lap 10 the marathon runners were ready to join us and this made for a greater degree of enjoyment, it was also an opportunity to final meet the truly awesome Karen Summerville who was taking part in a weekend marathon double. At about lap 3 I was feeling a little queasy from a combination of heat and a lack of food and I decided that I need to solve my problem quickly. The food selection was decent and I chowed down on a couple of oranges for the juice and kept pouring water over my head and soaking my new ‘Anton’ buff but I needed something else ‘Tea please’ As of lap 4 I drank a cup of tea every lap – much to amusement of the awesome volunteers and spectators but this kept my race alive as I simply couldn’t eat anything solid.
The real problems came mid race though, I turned my ankle at lap 14 and this was quite unpleasant to run on, slowing me much more than I had hoped it would. There was also the added distraction of the queasiness I had felt earlier in the race which, upon returning, made me feel incredibly sick for a few laps near the 30 mile point but thankfully I shot through both of these with some deep breathing, clear thinking and bloody mindedness. As I was entering the final few laps we were joined by throngs of half marathoners, who all looked fresh and fast, but they soon slowed in sight of that bloody ascent! The arrival of fresh legs gave both the ultra runners and marathoners a bit of a lift and we all pressed that little bit harder for a while. I caught Toby up a bit and we ran together again for a while as he’d had a few rough and ready laps but was looking composed and in good shape.
At lap 26 I called for a change of liquid and requested a chicken cupasoup – which may well have been the stomach settler I needed because I hit the next lap faster and better than I’d run much of the previous few and from here I knew the finish line was infront of me. Soon I would witness Jools and Toby both finish and I wasn’t a million miles behind but as I entered the final lap I gave it some proper welly – even running the final ascent and offering up a sprint finish to cross the line. I quickly grabbed my medal and technical t-shirt (both of which were pretty good) and offered my unending thanks to most of the marshalling and medical team – all of whom had made my finish possible. I even got a little wave from UltraBaby as she had arrived just in time to see me complete the last few laps.
Now a few days later – the ankle is slowly healing and I’m feeling more prepared for the CCC and although I’m underprepared and still not quite right in the glutes I’ll arrive in France with decent self belief. These three races (and Bewl) have fuelled my desire to do well in my first attempt at an ultra on foreign soil. And thanks to a series of well organised events with lovely atmospheres I go in with a big dollop of positivity. If you get a chance do look up Nice Work they run races all over the UK and they are beautifully low key, local and fun races and of course if you fancy dipping your toe into swimming I can’t recommend the Great Swim series highly enough.
As part of my Juneathon experience I’ve also completed the running in the Soldier On Challenge with Virtual Runner UK. All the people entered are helping to raise funds for charity simply by signing up and by going as far as they can with an assault on the distance round the UK. The aim is that we all run, walk or cycle 26km (or as far as we can mange).
For me I would only be including my running efforts because this is the thing I do as my exercise and it can often be a challenge to find the time to run. The great thing is that I found ways of adding in extra kilometres all over the place – my journey to and from the train station became 1km sprint tests, I took the slightly crocked super spaniel on hill runs, UltraBaby and I not only buggy PB’d at Parkrun but also did only 20 odd kilometres together, I adored finding nooks and crannies to fill with running. There were lots of highs and very few lows during a fun week of running which has kept me well on target for a decent #Juneathon total and a reasonable return on mileage investment for Virtual Runner UKs Soldier on Challenge.
As I final point I’d like to thank Susan who organises such great virtual events and I would always urge you to look her events up and maybe even take part www.virtualrunneruk.com or find her on Facebook.
Please note: The picture above was made possible in part by the runner I am about to blog about.
‘You useless article’ I think that’s what I called her shortly after we met and we’ve never looked back but for the purpose of this post I am going to look back a little and explain what this is about.
As readers will know I’ve just been badly injured for the last few months caused by a near unknown level of stoopidity, but during that time UltraBaby came along, I DNFd the Winter100 and I started a new job. It’s at the new job that I found a very inspiring character – @marathonwoman52. In this fellow tweeter and creative I’ve been able to keep my spirits surprisingly positive despite not being able to run – and it’s time to say thank you.
Now it’s true that awesome runners like @Susie__Chan and @Cat_Simpson_ are really the dogs doo-dars when it comes to being inspired to push harder, faster and further or @UltraDHC and @UltraRunnerDan when you want to know what ball churning tenacity is but I have an equally huge respect for those at the other end of the run spectrum that get up and pound the pavement for hour after hour in the pursuit of a better run time, a new challenge or simply to keep fit.
@marathonwoman52 falls very much at the heart of this final category and whenever I have the pleasure of speaking to her I find that my own challenges in running terms seem insignificant. Her chirpy, northern charm never fails to see the positive optimistic side and while she’s never going to break any speed records what she will do is go on to achieve truly great things in her own inimitable style.
And that starts here: in just a few short weeks she is going to tackle the mighty Brighton Marathon. Listening to the pride in her training is fantastic and I’m so thrilled to be able to get first hand accounts of how it’s all going. Sadly I won’t be in Brighton on race day as I’ll be running elsewhere but I know a lot of you will be heading down to Brighton so if you happen to see her or know her then make sure you cheer her in and if you follow her on Twitter (and do follow her on Twitter, I know my favourite community will only inspire her further) don’t forget to remind her to set up her justgiving page 🙂 – very interestingly she’s got herself involved in a Duathlon too, plus her run time at her first virtualrunneruk 5km was something to be very proud of. So she’s really gunning for a life fantastic, clad in lycra and lit in neon. She, to me, is living proof of why we do what we do – to be fabulous and prove that not just that this girl can but that everyone can.
Anyway to conclude, because I’ve gone on long enough. @marathonwoman52 I offer my most sincere thanks for you being incredibly supportive, whether you knew it or not, during my rehabilitation. And this is what this post is about, telling the world and my fellow tweeters that you’ve been one of the four amazing ladies (and my dog) that’s gotten me back on the roads and pounding the trails (the others being The GingaNinja, UltraBaby and ThumbMistress Rosie, my physiotherapist).
So thank you … oh and no bloody slacking.
What better way to mark the arrival of being 37 with a couple of little races, I’d just take it pretty easy but try out my hamstring in preparation for the W100 but then several things happened including a very weird dream and reacquainting myself with my running arch nemesis.
On Friday night before I’d intended to set out for my VirtualRunnerUK 10km I had a dream which was basically a conversation with my vibrating hamstring but in my dream the hamstring had taken the form of Carole Plowmans (my ex partners, sadly, now deceased mother) banana yellow vibrator which once assaulted me while leaping out of a bathroom cupboard and hitting me on the forehead. Further it kept calling me ‘Dave, you’re my bitch now’ in the style of Papa Lazarou from ‘The League of Gentlemen’ – I think my hamstring was sending a message from beyond the ether.
However, after waking up from the craziness of my own dreaming and opening some excellent birthday presents – including my awesome new Buff – I set off. With having a ten mile race the day after I decided I’d take it nice and slow around the Kentish hills and trail and this is exactly what I did, nothing too speedy either and the hamstring that has given me so many problems stayed quiet and only my groin and pelvis had a minor flare up. This was a result, even if my time was a stodgy 56 minutes. It was also the first time out for the Pearl Izumi Trail N1 and they were pretty damn fine (a full review will take place once I’ve put some bigger mileage on them).
Les Witton 10
The Les Witton 10 is supposed to be one of the year openers – normally taking place early January but the last couple have seen it cancelled due to extremely poor weather conditions. These cancellations seem to have forced the hand of the organisers and they’ve called time on the event but there was still time for one last hurrah and at the fourth time of asking I was going to be running it.
With an 8.30 start I needed to be up nice and early so that UltraBaby could have some food and get suited up to watch UltraBoy do his thing.
We arrived at the sports ground in Dartford at around 7.30 as instructed and headed into a rather plush sports/changing facility, I ran upstairs to grab my number and quickly headed back down to the GingaNinja and UltraBaby. Despite there being hundreds of runners milling around I had everything sorted incredibly quickly and even my pre race toiletry movement was a rather pleasant affair because there wasn’t a queue, there was shit roll and the toilet didn’t look or smell like a cesspit.
The start line was set up just outside the swanky facility and in front of me were several hundred runners and supporters, I turned my back on them and headed to the astro turf playing field and did a few warm up laps followed by a lot of stretching. The warm up proved to me that my injuries were still very much there but in truth is known this all along and so I prepared as best I could, took some paracetamol and ibuprofen and marched purposefully to the start line or rather the back of the crowd at the start line.
It was a wonderfully bright and autumnal morning punctuated by hints of late summer warmth and you really couldn’t have asked for a better day and with the notices given out the race began with the runners gently moved forward.
My aim was anything under 2hrs with 1hr 45mins being considered a good finish (to put it into context a hilly trail ten miles will normally take about 70mins). I’d run much of the route before as part of my training for the White Cliffs 50 but I’d never run this exact route and from the off it proved to be nothing but hills – both up and down.
I was going nice and slowly and pacing myself pretty well, even on the downhills and then it all went wrong – I saw my running nemesis in the distance. He’d started a little bit ahead of me and for a while I sat back wondering if I should just drift behind him but then the old body reminded me that going too slowly was bad for me and not running the pace I felt comfortable with was going to be a bad idea.
Go on feet!
I passed the old nemesis and chugged on through the crowd – gently passing runners as I bounded down one of the few flat sections on the course. As I came up to the hills I decided that it would be best to attack them with all the speed I could muster and so with each incline I found an extra gear and stretched out my legs (only nominally paying the price when I hit the top of a section).
The great thing about the back of Dartford is that it’s actually rather pretty and so the views went from the town through to something more akin to the popular view of rural Kent. In the glorious morning this made my running all the more fun.
It was now an hour in and I’d made it beyond the 10km point, which I thought was something of a miracle given that my hamstring, groin and hips had all at various points been on fire. My genius plan of wearing Skins compression leggings had helped I believe but not really enough to stop the injuries bring a constant reminder that running wasn’t a good idea! However, I was well within sight of my goal and that 1hr 45 seemed a little generous and so I recalculated and aimed for 1hr 30 – I had however forgotten the final brutal hill back to the finish.
I pressed down on all my courage and threw myself up the hill, not only did I now have a target for time but I was sure my nemesis and his acolytes weren’t far behind. I reached the top of the hill and have renewed vigour to my efforts but for all my efforts there was no sprint finish in me (which would have given me my 1hr 30 – instead I ended up at 1hr 31 and I can live with that.
I crossed the line several minutes ahead of the chap I was looking to beat but that was bettered by the delightful medal I received, which was bettered only by the sight of the GingaNinja and UltraBaby at the finish cheering towards me (although I think one of them was asleep).
The Les Witton 10 miles is a great race and I really enjoyed it and hope that it returns in some form or other. As for me I’m back running but it’s hard going and I’m struggling with the hamstring particularly but with the Winter100 just around the corner I need to keep on moving.
Have fun runners!