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7 ultra marathons I said, that’ll do for 2014 I said – 460 ultra race miles, that’s enough I argued to myself but in the back of my tiny little mind there was another challenge gnawing at my being. There shouldn’t be of course – the races I’ve already got planned and the races I’ve run would be enough for anyone, add to that we have UltraBaby due later this year and there are the long running variety of ongoing issues with my hips, knees ankle and back.

But, talking to my dad has inspired me to one final push.

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough football tragedy, I’m not going into the details of this as other people can do it infinitely better than I. But in the last year nearly a quarter of a century after the event, great strides have been made by the families in getting the one thing they all want, the truth about what happened that day.

It is important to note that the hard work that people like my dad and the other families have put in to getting to the truth has been enormous and it is vital to remember the support of so many people has been required to get to this point. My dad felt at this landmark juncture in the story that there needed to be something positive done – to say thank you to all those that had walked even the smallest part of this very long journey.

And so came to life the WNWA96 – or to give it a fuller title the We Never Walked Alone 96 mile walk.

96 miles of walking between Hillborough to Anfield in around 36hrs. I’d like to say that it’s a team of crack commando walkers who are ready to complete this task but it’s not, it is simply dedicated walkers, dedicated supporters and everyday people who want to help say ‘thanks’ but also do something special to ensure at this time we really don’t forget.

It was originally planned that the walk would be done as a group of individuals all completing the 96miles but given the enormity of the task at hand, the actual terrain and the time limit, it was decided to turn into more of a relay. Therefore, most of the walkers will complete as much of the 96miles as possible and then use the sweeper bus to rest and then rejoin at later points.

And this is where I come in…

I have such huge admiration for my dad, yes he’s a campaigner and all round good egg but he is also one of the reasons I run, he was a runner, he was competitive, he helped inspire me to my first marathon and most of all he is my dad and as I launch into fatherhood myself soon I finally realise what a difficult job that has been.

The thing is he’s not as young as the man who has run all those marathons – like London and Bolton Hill – he’s not as quick as he used to be and when I heard all about his trialling of the route from Sheffield to Huddersfield and his description of it as a challenge of champions I knew that I should probably be involved. Given that my dad is also set to become a grandfather for the first time shortly I was keen that he make it through the distance as safely as possible and what better way to ensure that by going along.

I figure that by donning cape and tights once more I’ll not only give myself some excellent preparation for the NDW100 / Winter100 but I’ll also be supporting my dad, the campaign and everyone who has ever dedicated a moment to helping the families. My part is tiny and in truth a bit selfish but my dad is a hero to me and I’d want to support him in something this special and ensure he gets through it to. Funnily though I expect it’ll be a two way street and it’ll be his experience as much as anything that will help me get through this challenge.

So dad, if you are ready for 96 miles so am I and I’ll see you on the start line and I expect to see you on the finish line.

On a final note …

This is not a charitable event, it is not raising funds, it is maintaining awareness. The guys who are doing this are all involved for very different reasons but are all united by their desire to maintain the legacy of the 96 who died in 1989 and the need for the truth to come out. They would I am sure welcome your vocal support via Facebook and Twitter and I know that as I am clambering across the hills between Sheffield and Liverpool I will need that vocal support too.

Find out more on Twitter at @25yearsWNWA or at facebook.com/WNWA25years

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There is nothing like an old friend and the Shorne Woods in north west Kent between Gravesend and Rochester are a bit of a love of mine. I tend to visit more when it’s winter as the ground is cut up, usually flooded and full of crap to give yourself a good going over with. But now with my new found love of cycling I decided that I’d grab my road bike (my beloved Decathlon Triban 3) and cycle up to the  wood. It was a delightfully hilly ride and with the wind whipping in my hair and around my knuckles I hadn’t felt so good in ages. I drifted down to excellent cycle rack, locked up the iron horse, tweeted a few pictures and strapped my pack onto my back – I was going trail running.

I always forget how much I love trail running until I’m doing it. Hills, mud, wet,  slipping and sliding – there is nothing like it, well not unless you’re a pig I guess. I raced up Cardiac Hill, I raced down it and then around it, I kept getting lost and following signs taking me round in circles, what fun I cried. I growled provocatively at passing walkers and dogs and threw myself with gay abandon into every inch of water I could find.

Oh the glory!

After an hour of fooling round in the mud I descended on the cafe, stood at the door not wanting to make the floor dirty and requested one of their delicious bacon sandwiches and a cup of steamingly delightful coffees.

My feet, legs, arms, back and head were wet with sweat, mud and tears but with a bacon sandwich in my tummy and a ABBA in my head I grabbed my bike and hurtled home – downhill almost all the way to the cries of WEEEEHEEEEEWOOHOOOOOOO.

Oh what fun!

It has been my pleasure for much of the last few years to be running on a very regular basis but the addition of cycling just adds a great new dynamic and I highly recommend it to anybody. Additionally I will also recommend the Shorne Wood to any trail runner who fancies a few hills and guaranteed mouthful of crap (you will  fall over 🙂 ).

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It’s Christmas I hear you cry, it’s that time of year when the whole world kicks back and takes a bit of a break – well not if you are a runner. For me Christmas Day itself is being moved to Boxing Day because of the logistics involved and because my other half is on call that day and I see no sense in trying to have the traditional quiet day when I could be out running. So my festive morning will be spent motoring through the back roads of Kent before taking my new puppy on her first walk outside – exciting times, but enough about my festive plans there are a couple of more exciting things to talk about.

The first is a brief point, as some of you are aware I used to blog under a different name but gave up the blogging after I’d had some unpleasant experiences, in that time one of my very excellent running friends set up the UltraBoyRuns twitter account and also the UltraBoyRuns WordPress blog and for the first few posts he was blogging as me but after a little nudge and a promise that I would maintain a much lower profile I started contributing again, I’ve now taken over both accounts full time now as my very good friend tells me that he’s had enough of pretending to be me (all the superhero business was a bit much). I am in the process of setting up an archive of the older material as I hopefully made some useful points and interesting posts. Anyway basically I just wanted to say thanks for continuing to read my general witterings and it shall be full steam ahead into 2014 as I look to further improve on my race tally.

The second thing is my overview of 2013.

It’s been a really weird year of running – firstly because it didn’t properly get going until my first race of the year which was the White Cliffs 50 in March and finished rather suddenly at the Snowdonia Marathon in October and while there was a huge amount of training involved during the year it felt like a bit of a failure. I failed to run 3000miles, I failed to qualify for the UTMB, I failed to complete the TG100, I failed to put in a sub40 10k this year, I failed to get into the London Marathon. I felt like a year of failure if I look at it like that. However, there is a flip side. I did complete The Wall and the WC50 both in UTMB qualifying times, I did become an outdoor swimmer and complete both the Great North and Great London Swims, I did record another 3 marathon races and added more than 20 medals to my ever growing collection and I did earn enough qualifying points to make an attempt at qualifying for the CCC, the little sister of the UTMB.

It has also been a year of injuries, there was a broken foot, there have been general feet problems, plantar fasciitis, ITB problems of epic proportions and now an ongoing hip and lower back problem – some of which has been caused by over training and continuing to train while I have been injured.

My favourite medal of the year was the Kent Roadrunner Marathon and my favourite race was probably too difficult to choose but The Great North Swim was amazing and so was Rat Races Trailblazer but for sheer determination it would have been the White Cliffs 50. There is something about crossing the line after 54 official miles and nearly 60 not so official miles with a broken foot  having just sprinted the last kilometre in your Vibram FiveFingers

Next year is a year of ultra marathoning and very little else (well maybe a triathlon and a few other smaller bits) but I’m hoping that I’ve learnt from my 2013 experiences and will use these to power myself forward. My new found love of cycling and swimming will surely only enhance my prospects of keeping middle age at bay and there is a positive feeling in the air that next year might be my year.

Good luck for 2014 runners and keep running, keep blogging.

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