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The story of my struggle to keep my weight down and keep fit.

Updated: 2018-03-02T16:58:46.290+00:00




Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon

July 02nd 2011

(image) This is a linear race from Wolverhampton to Birmingham and the route is the tow path along-side some of the many canals in the area. It starts early for a race. This is due to the tow path only being a few feet wide. So, to avoid overcrowding the trail we are released in groups of around thirty at a time. Because of the numbers this results in runners coming in at the finish line over several hours. It makes for a great atmosphere. Visitors, shoppers and supporters in the city centre get to see the spectacle of sweaty and shattered people running or staggering past them while they sit at the canal side pubs having a cool and refreshing drink. This year as last year was very hot. Much of the route cuts through industrial areas with factories and warehouses built right up to the tow path edge. This increases the temperature by radiating the heat off the brick walls. Also this year there was no breeze which didn't help either. You would think that, because the route is so flat, that it would be good for a PB. But, either because of the heat, lack of a breeze or maybe because of the monotonous 'flat-ness' of the path, I never get a Half Marathon Personal Best. I'll keep trying.

Finish time 02:20:00ish.

Stratford Upon Avon and 10K


November 2010.
Julie arranged for us to have a weekend break to Stratford and of course to entice me there it incorporated a 10K.
We arrived at Long Marsden Airfield where the race was to take place. You couldn’t get any flatter than an airfield I suppose. Because it was so flat and open the icy cold wind was cutting. I can’t remember running a race that felt so cold but apparently it was only 3°C. My finishing time wasn't all that impressive for a flat race 52:48.
After the race we headed into Stratford to our hotel where I thawed out in the spa and steam room.
The next morning I was up early for a 4.5 mile 'Tourist' run and of course, I took my little indestructible Olympus camera with me to photograph the empty town before the crowds arrive.  It’s been a few years since we’ve visited Stratford and it’s nice to see that the restaurants have improved even if their prices haven’t.
All in all, a really nice weekend in a town oozing history.
Click my ugly mug to see the rest of our visit.

Birmingham Half Marathon 2010


My pal Graham entered the Birmingham Half Marathon but couldn't make it so I took on his number. This was the first time running this race and the atmosphere was fantastic. There were approximately 15,000 runners and somewhere in the region of 50,000 spectators. It was freezing cold so it was nice to see there was a DJ getting everybody moving to warm-up. Along the course were various supporters playing and singing different styles of music and songs. This is now a must for me to enter each year.
Finishing time 01:58:39

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Lanzarote September 2010


We had a real nice couple of weeks break on the lovely island of Lanzarote. We took a couple of tours around the island which mainly involved volcanoes and lava flows.I did get to run while there but I had to time it right. The heat was a little overpowering at times so it meant running early in the morning or late in the afternoon. About a mile behind where we were staying was a small, extinct volcano which I ran to and up a couple of times. The view was great if not a little barren as far as greenery is concerned. A little like my niece’s dinner plate.Click to see the rest of our visit[...]

Woodstock 12


Blenheim Palace Saturday 18th September 2010.

In June, some of my brothers and sisters bought Julie and I vouchers for a massage and spa day as a part of my 50th birthday present. Julie was looking at all the places where we could use the vouchers and one of them was in Banbury, Oxfordshire. With a little more researching she found that there is a twelve mile race held in nearby Woodstock in the grounds of the beautiful Blen(image) heim Palace. She entered me for the race and booked the hotel and spa day for the two of us. We had taken a tour of the house and grounds earlier in the year. I looked at the grounds and gardens on that visit and thought it might make a nice venue for the Euro-Runners to run the 1911 World Wide Festival Of Races. The race for me on this day was three laps of four miles all within the grounds which avoided roads and traffic. We couldn’t have chosen better weather. It was warm when the race started at 2:00pm and cooled down by the last lap. With it being three loops we passed water stations five times so I just took a gulp of water at each (image) stop. I found the undulations quite difficult and with each lap I was dreading the uphill climbs more and more. On my third lap I was struggling for almost all of it and had to slow down. The winners flew past me at a great lick which gave me a little inspiration to speed up but not for long. I finished at 1:51:47 satisfied that I could not put any more energy into the finish because I had no energy left. I don’t know about the other runners out there. But, when I have enough left in me to put on a spurt at the finish I’m left feeling that maybe I didn’t run hard enough earlier in the race. Anyway, I really enjoyed the day and looked forward to the following day where I would get my massage and laze around for the rest of the day in the Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool, Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool, Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool, Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool. You get the idea.

We did It!


Saturday 29th May Graham and I successfully ran the fifty miles from Stone to Kinver in 10:57 and a bit to celebrate my 50th birthday at the end of June. Four of us started at Stone at 07:11 a.m. Mark, Stewart Graham and myself. John, my brother-in-law came with us to take our video starting the run and then drive the car back to Kinver for Julie my wife to use it as the support vehicle. The plan was to run the first ten miles at around 9:30 minute miles and use these miles as a leveller to get us all to run as a group. From mile ten we would run at 9:30 minute miles for five minutes and walk for one minute all the way home stopping only to replenish our gels and water and for a little junk food  at mile 28. The temperature was cool and at first just a light rain. Our first stop was at The Boat Inn in Penkeridge at mile 20. This was just to be a quick refuel stop but Stewart who had been running with a long term Achilles Tendon injury had to drop out. We were wet through and hung around a little too long at this point and got cold. It took quite some time to get warmed up again. Our next break was to be a food stop at mile 28 at the Fox & Anchor pub in Coven. I phoned ahead to Julie and we ordered chips for Mark and Graham and a burger for me. We would wash these down with cups of tea. We were also joined by Jill, Marks better half and his mom Kath. Mark would leave us here and travel back with Jill. Graham and I then ran on through Wolverhampton. When we got to the Mermaid pub we realised that we were going to finish over a mile short of fifty. The Mermaid is a pub I’ve run to in the past on my long training days. So, we ran past the pub for .75 miles, turned around and ran back to it, then turned again and headed for home in the hope we would make the miles up. We carried on to Lower Penn where we were joined by my 61 year old brother-in-law Malcolm. He would stay with us to the end and clocked up over thirteen miles. This was twice the distance he had ever run before. At Bratch Locks we met with Jacqui, Grahams wife and his son Jack along with my wife Julie. Julie unloaded our supplies from her car into Jacquis and headed back to Kinver. Once we got to Stewpony bridge, Jacqui was in her running gear along with young Jack and they both joined us for the last 1.65 miles. Mark re-joined us at this point too and stayed with us to the finish. The finish was brilliant. Many of our friends and family were waiting in the car park of the Vine pub. Like many others, Julie was tracking my GPS signal on my phone through Endomondo using a laptop in the car. She was able to tell everyone where we were at any moment and that we were approaching the end. The Vine pub lies on the canal with the tow path on the opposite bank. As we came through a gate on the path we could hear shouts and cheers from the opposite bank. There we could see a hoard of mad people waving and screaming and holding up banners. As Graham and I ran into the car park to the finish we were met by a zillion kids, most of them my nephews and nieces and great nephews and nieces holding up a banner they made. We had a great time at the pub. I do remember being very hungry but for some reason I couldn’t eat for over an hour. I did manage a couple or three pints of local beer though. My little brother Richard asked why we didn’t do it for charity. I said it would have been difficult to raise sponsorship money for the other events I run for specific charities. So, without my knowing, he went around the pub with a glass and got people to donate money without yet knowing what charity I would choose. He came back with £82.56 which I thought was a tidy sum for spontaneous money parting. I donated it to the NSPCC which when I ticked the gift-aid button, it came to £105.00. Well done Richie. Although my watch gave up the ghost just before the finish, Grahams didn’t. We started at 07:11 and finished at 18:06. We had a[...]

50 at 50


Well it’s the night before the big one. I’m only going to make this a short one before going to bed. I will be joined by three pals tomorrow at the start. Graham and Stewart my two running pals that regularly feature in this blog and Mark who decided quite late that he will run the whole fifty with me. Mark ran the London Marathon this year and is the youngest in the group. Others will be joining me after mile 25. I will take as many photos and video as I can and put together a full blog page once I’ve recovered.

Cycling With Ben & His Bros


At six foot I’ve always felt I’m a pretty decent height for a bloke but my pal Ben is a twenty five year old fella two or three inches taller which gives me a little crick in the neck. Well, yesterday I met up with Ben and his two younger brothers Mike and Sam for a cycle trip from Kinver to Stourport, a distance of ten miles. These geezers were taller still. To avoid any neck strain I stood or sat several feet away from both of them. They rode to Kinver alo ng the canal which was around four miles. I met them at the Vine pub and we cycled to Stourport from there. The canal and the river Stour run more or less parallel with each other for all of the journey. We cycled the canal tow path at a leisurely pace so we could take in the landscape and chat along the way. At mile nine we needed a pint and stopped off at a canal side pub just on the outskirts of Stourport. The beer was good but I was hungry – the young guys with me were starving. We rode on into the small town and looked for a suitable eating venue. We dropped into a nearby pub and I ordered a burger. These guys ordered the same but, for an extra quid they had an extra burger each. I remember those days – when I could eat a cow between two bread vans and have room for a pudding after. I struggled with my lonely burger, chips and token offering of salad. We didn’t hang around too long at the pub. We got straight back on the bikes and rod bake to Kinver. This time we didn’t hang around. We made it back in an hour and five. Ben & co. went straight into the village to the local butchers while I prepared the BBQ, sauces and home made beer. When they arrived they brought locally made chorizo sausages, traditional sausages, spicy burgers and traditional burgers. Not one green thing in site! I flame grilled everything and they had no problem demolishing the lot. They even put Buffalo Wing sauce and Reggae sauce on their chorizo sausage hot dogs – phew! These guys could eat for England. I think we had a great time which took my mind off my 50 at 50 run less than two weeks away now. I’m a little apprehensive about it at the moment. My plantar faciitis  hasn’t completely cleared up and training hasn’t gone as best it could. I ran to work and back today in temperatures hotter than I’m comfortable with. I hope it’s not too hot on the day. I can cope with cold, snow, wind and rain but the heat will make it that much harder. Ben will be joining me at around mile eight from the end (mile forty two-ish) I tried to get Mike and Sam involved but I still don’t know how successful I was in recruiting them. It’s the White Peak, Matlock Swift Half Marathon this weekend. I’ll be meeting up with Nigel (Running From The Reaper (the second podcast I started to listen to after Pheddippidations)) Drusy and Billy (geezer), Petra and hubby (first HM), Mark (who laughs at hills and spits at mountains) Iain (DevonIain) who puts more tri-miles on the clock than my car (you think I’m joking), Paul Abrale (AKA Run Yank Run) a soft speaking podcaster that’s easy on the ear on the longer runs.  A person that I’ve run with a couple of times now and is an absolute diamond – Steve Chopper, I’m hoping he’s ditched the pink tent he had last year (I need to introduce him to Decathlon). [...]

50 Mile Reccy


I’ve been trying to get this reconnoitre done for a few weeks now. But, with one thing and another it’s not been possible until now. What I wanted to do was check out the route and terrain for my 50 mile for my 50th birthday run along the canals to my home village in Kinver. My pal Graham and I got the same day off work so at short notice we went for it. We were driven to Wolverhampton train station by the missus where we took our bikes on the train to Stoke-On-Trent. This was the nearest station to where the run would start from. We cycled the canal to Trentham where I thought the run would start (wrong – see later) then pressed start on the GPS to start counting the miles. The next town was Stone. Along the route the hedge cutters had been trimming down the bramble bushes that border the tow paths. I remember Nigel from the Running From The Reaper podcast mentioning he pierced one of his running shoes with one of these inch long thorns. At Stone, only five miles in, Graham discovers that he has two punctures, one in each tyre. We repair each puncture easily. But, when I came to inflate one of the tyres, I snapped the end of one of the valves off. No problem. We have spare inner tubes. Unfortunately, the inner tubes we had have the wrong type valves for Grahams bike. A chap we got talking to at the time said there was a bike shop just down the road. Graham ran to the shop only to find that it was shut. The owner was in Iceland and couldn’t get back to the UK because of the volcano eruption. Very kindly the bloke we met (Dave) gave Graham a lift into the next town where Gray was able to buy more inner tubes. We fitted them and got back on our way 2.5 hours later! After we passed the ten mile mark we were hungry and stopped off at a pub for a pint and some food at Weston Bridge. When we left the pub I found a huge thorn sticking out of my brand new Kevlar front tyre.I decided not to risk it and changed the inner tube for a new gel filled tube. With a belly full of food it gave us the energy to get a wiggle on. We made several stops to photograph, video and make note of the various pubs and places for people to join or leave us on the day of the run. The tow path was terrible in parts to cycle. Even with Grahams suspended mountain bike and our padded cycle shorts, the bumpy path gave us both sore backsides. The rain then started and we had to get into wet gear. This was making things uncomfortable. It rained all the way to the half way village of Penkeridge where we stopped at The Boat pub for a cup of tea. For the last five miles I had been very uncomfortable around the ‘Family Jewels’ and feared the worse that I might have a blister down there from the saddle. Here at the pub I had the opportunity to fully investigate my nether regions only to find I had a tiny beetle down my shorts. I liberated him into a near by planter box. I was only too glad that it wasn’t a blister to be bothered about how he got down there. The next stop was at Cross Green near Coven. I knew now that we were just outside Wolverhampton and didn’t have far to go. The rain came down quite hard from here on so I didn’t get the camera out again until I reached home when the missus got a hold of it and videoed me in the garage. The whole trip of 58 miles took ten hours. That was three hours longer than we accounted for. We knew we were going to make plenty of stops along the way and even expected that one of us may have a puncture. We didn’t expect three punctures or contemplate that to repair them would take nearly three hours. It was a great day out despite the punctures, sore bottoms and the fact that we were soaked to the skin. It’s given us an insight of what we’re about to undertake. My training isn’t at the stage it should be. My plantar faciitis hasn’t all gone but I think I can suffer it. My [...]



A few weeks ago my wife and I were wondering where to go for a city break for a few days. There were many places suggested but nothing decided on. Then one night out of complete boredom, I watched the film xXx with Vin Diesel. It was filmed mostly in Prague and had some serious architecture and scenery. So, that’s were I talked my wife in to going. We flew out on Sunday evening and arrived just in time to have a drink in the bar, collect some leaflets and then get some sleep. My intention was to get up early and have a run around the city. I regularly do this when staying somewhere for the first time. This way I get to know where the buses, trams and trains stop, where the shops are and I get to see some sights too. I was out of bed and on the streets for around 06:30 and headed for the city. I thought that if I keep the river near by I wouldn’t get lost. That would probably have been a good idea if I kept to it. But I wondered off into the city and shopping areas and when I decided I should head back I had found myself lost. Just like a bloke though, I would not ask for directions. I kept running hoping to find the river. When I eventually did find it I was none the wiser. I still didn’t know where my hotel was. At mile 14.5 I flagged down a taxi and got a lift back much to my wife’s amusement. I quickly got showered and we went for breakfast then we hit the streets for an eight mile walk around shops and restaurants. The streets are mostly cobbled and uneven and proved to be quite hard to run on. My right heel and ankle were giving me some grief all day. I did have a plan to do a short run in the park the next day but I decided to rest my foot, from running anyway. Over the week we visited Prague Castle and the Zoo. We took the tram and then a coach to a beautiful town, Karlovy Vary, a spa town around 35 miles from the German border. I did manage to get another run in though. I ran through he park opposite the hotel. This was softer on the feet in parts even though the same cobbles were used to pave some of the paths through the park. Still it was a very nice run with great views of the city from up high on the hill. Here’s the route I took from the hotel to the palace and castle Now back in the UK I ran a ten miler along the canal to avoid hard surfaces then ran a 5.5 miler today. I can still feel a little pain in my heel and the ache in my ankle seems to have subsided. Will keep an eye on the both of them. Good news on the Ten In Ten challenge. I managed to shift 9lbs. Not the ten in ten weeks but I’m OK with that. Even though the challenge is over I’m still concentrating on losing more weight. If I can do the same again over the next ten weeks that will be eighteen less pounds I’ll have to carry on my 50 mile birthday run. [...]

Vyrnwy to Bala


Another great days running in the bag. Stewart, Graham and I drove into Wales Friday morning to the village of Bala on the shore of Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid). We parked in the hotel car park, got a bite to eat in the cafe in the High Street before catching a taxi to Vyrnwy. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The sun was out the skies were clear and there was a chill in the air. Perfect running conditions. We started the day by running across the dam to the far side of Vyrnwy reservoir. It was quite a contrast to our last visit in November when the water was overflowing the dam giving us the spectacle of a huge white waterfall with the river below flooding the fields. Once we had run the length of the lake the road soon started to climb. We ran through the valley between Foel y Geifr and Pen y Boncyn Trefeilw. When I say ran, it was a steep climb in parts which meant frequent walk breaks. Once we broke the back of the climb it was a nice long downhill trot with magnificent views down the length of the valley. The downhill run was a little hard on the calves and the occasional photo stop was welcomed. We followed the river Hirnant to Rhos-y-gwaliau where we left it and made our way to the shores of Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) then into the village of Bala. We clocked up around 15.25 miles by the time we got to the hotel and after a freshen up and a cup of tea in the lounge we hit the high street for a few beers and something to eat. Next morning we were up early for breakfast. I had to get back for a late shift so couldn’t hang around. The village meanwhile was filling up with off roaders on some sort of rally and cars with 2,3 & 4 canoes strapped to their roofs. I must admit that when I got home I did have a little power-nap before getting ready for work. I was on call too so it could have been a long night. Luckily they left me alone and I got a good nights sleep after work. [...]

Back From My Course (But Off Course)


I’ve just completed a two week residential course in Durham and I’m back home. My training went well the first week even though I missed my long run at the weekend. I ran 17.38 miles over the week with two great new pals Paul and Gihan. I met some really great people while I was away and I hope that we keep in touch. It’s not that often that a bunch of complete strangers can come together like that and hit it off in such a positive way. I didn’t need to do any sit-ups with all the laughing I did.

The food there was good and mainly healthy. Unfortunately the booze and late nights counteracted the healthy eating. I was most surprised though that when I got on the scales at the end of the week that I didn’t put on any weight. The second week I Only managed to clock up 6.3 miles and still no long run and still didn’t lose or gain weight (or did I lose muscle and gain fat). This puts me behind on my training and on my Ten In Ten weight loss challenge. I need to get my mojo back starting with a club run on Monday. I will be mixing it up with running and cycling to and from work for the rest of the week which will give me twelve miles a day. On Friday I’ll be making my way to Wales with Stewart and Graham for a fifteen mile mountain run from Lake Vyrnwy to Bala which I’m looking forward to.

I’ll update this page after that run with photos and possibly some video.

Here’s the screen capture from Endomondo where I’ve been using my telephone to track my routes. I ran this one with Paul and Gihan.


Going Great


So far this year and with the demise of the snow and ice my training has picked up. I’m slightly behind where I should be but not by much. I’m running into work and back regularly and using my new bicycle on running rest days as cross training. On Friday I thought I might have a change of scenery and took myself off to The Long Mynd in Shropshire. I parked in the National Trust car park part way up the hill. From here it’s a steep climb to the top. For half of the climb I had to walk, either because the rock wet path was too dangerous to run on but mainly because it was bloody hard work! At the top was still a fair bit of snow on the path and road. In fact the road was closed due to the snow and ice. This is where I found that the battery was flat in my camera – or so I thought. I didn’t find out until I got home that I had put the battery in the wrong way around. I had my phone with me though so I took a couple of photographs and some video footage. On the subject of phones. I found a really good, free application for GPS phones. Endomondo is a sports tracker. You choose the sport and press start. It simply records your speed, mileage and time. You can also be tracked from a remote computer so people can see where you are along your route. When you’ve finished, press stop and it will update the information to the Endomondo web site where you can access the data it stored and see the route you took as a road map or aerial view. I’m still trialling it but it does seem to be a great little app and another gadget for us gizmo freaks. This morning I ran to work. I had two cans of soup in my back pack and as a last thought I put a large Gala apple too. When I got to work and opened my pack I realised I had found a new way to make apple sauce. Got any cinnamon anyone? [...]

10 In 10 In 10 Challenge


Here we go. The Christmas season is over and all we have left to show are a few pounds short in the bank extra pounds around the waist. I have definitely put some timber on over the festive period even though I’ve not overindulged too much this year. I was working a 2pm ‘till 10pm shift and on-call Christmas Day then 10am ‘till 6pm on Boxing Day so I didn’t have the traditional Christmas meal and left-overs as I normally would. My running has taken a nose dive for the most of December with colds a sore throat and I’m now just getting over a hacking cough. On the plus side. I received my voucher from the Cycle To Work scheme last week and ordered my new bike. I chose a hybrid bike which will enable me to use it on cycle trails and the tow-paths of the canals as well as on the six mile journey to work. My plan is to use the car as little as possible. I will have to drive in now and again when I’m on call but I should be able to run and cycle most working days. Between illness’s I did manage to cycle to work and go for a run on the same day which is an aim. I’ll be doing that a lot more often this new year. To help me improve my running speed and distance, I’ve decided to shed a few pounds. I joined Nigel Runners 10 In 10 In 10 Challenge. This is a challenge to lose 10lbs in 10 weeks in 2010. I could do with losing a little more than 10lbs though. I’m 203lbs at the moment which at six foot puts me around 10lb over my ideal weight. I would like to get down to 13 stone (182lbs)(82.5Kilos) but that ain’t gonna happen – soon anyway! So I set my goal to something a little more realistic. I will aim to get rid of the 10lbs within the ten weeks then concentrate on losing what I can by the end of May. This is when I need to be my lightest. I have at least two races before the end of March. A 10K and the Stafford Half Marathon. I should have lost most if not all of the 10lbs. In May though, I have the Matlock Swift Half and one week later I have my 50 at 50 run. I would like to be the lightest I’ve been since I was in my thirties. Somewhere between 185lbs and 190lbs. This will be difficult even with the large amount of miles I’ll be running and cycling when training. Losing it though will make things a great deal easier for the fifty mile trek. I won’t need to worry about speed or hill training for this run though. It’s purely an endurance thing. It will take as long as it takes. It’s also a celebration of running and of being on the planet for the past fifty years. Meanwhile. I’ve found the bugger that keeps eating my fish. So, while I’m training, while I’m running, cycling and working to scrape a living. I’m having to keep an eye out on the garden for this cheeky git!   [...]

Just A Word


I thought I might post something while I’m off running for a while. This year I have had more colds than any I can remember! I have just got over one that took me out of work for a few days and now I have a sore throat that makes my breathing feel like I’m trying to suck air through a drinking straw. This is not a good start to my training. Last week I got some good quality miles in which made me feel like I was back on track after my last cold. I won’t run again until I know for sure this time that it’s completely gone. I don’t want to take any chances. I will spend my time now preparing for Christmas and planning the route I’ll take along the canals for my fifty mile run. The software I’ve used to mark out the route is Anquet’s excellent mapping software. I downloaded the Ordnance Survey map covering the area from Stoke On Trent to Kinver and plotted out the route along Trent & Mersey Canal to join the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Great Haywood. This canal will take me to my home village of Kinver finishing at the Vine pub at mile fifty. I’ve saved the route as a GPX file so that anyone can import the route into Bing/Google/Anquet maps and study the route themselves. My next task is to reccy the route by bike. My two best running mates Stewart and Graham will be joining me after Christmas when we will cycle the whole route. I will be noting suitable joining/drop-off points for friends to splice in and out of the journey along the way. Most of those points I’m assuming will be pubs. The amount of people that have said will join me is really appreciated and of course has put a little bit of pressure on me too to make sure everything is planned out correctly. I was going to name and thank everyone via this blog but I thought better I think. It’s still six months away and people may get themselves tied up with other commitments or have an opportunity to do something much more interesting than to plod along a canal on their bank holiday weekend with me. I have a new follower/s to the blog. . This is put together by Paul and Jo who I first met at the Kinver 10K race. This was their first race and what do you know? They get themselves in the local newspaper! I next met Paul and Jo at their excellent Halloween party which they arranged to raise money for a great charity Well Child. Well Child is a UK national charity for children. They help sick children and their families throughout the UK to manage the consequences of serious illness and complex health conditions through their programme of care, support and research. Paul and Jo are training for the 2010 London Marathon and will do a grand job of raising more money for this worthy cause. Please visit their blog or the Well Child site to find out more about what these selfless people are trying to achieve. A highlight to last week was my interview on the Runner’s Round Table with Steve runner from the Pheddippidations podcast along with two others: Lisa a nurse that works horrendous hours and L.J. a Wild land Fire-fighter who is on constant stand-by and can be called away to work from home at the drop of a hat for weeks. You can listen to the podcast at The Runners Round Table episode 59. Since I’m not running at the moment I don’t have any running related photographs. So, here’s some I took at the Christmas Market in Birmingham on Saturday.   [...]

A Late Post


This is a very late post. I can’t believe I didn’t post a blog for this very special day. In May this year I met and made some very special friends. Through podcasts, blogs, twitter and Facebook a group of us got together here in England to run a half marathon across the picturesque landscape of the Peak District. I think for me it really started with reading Drusy’s blog or watching her video on Runcast TV about running the Swift Half marathon the previous year. All I said was that it is one of my favourite parts of the country and Drusy suggested I come up for the next race this year. It snowballed slightly from there. I think Drusy’s invite to us all was what led to the birth of the Euro Run-Net Striders. Of course we didn’t get that title until after we ran the fantastic World Wide Festival Of Races put together by Steve Chopper in Oxford and Nigel came up with the great name and the Euro Run-Net Striders blog site.

Anyway. I was just reminiscing when I found a video on Runcast TV that I’ve not watched (sorry Phil). So, here it is. It might not mean anything to some of you but it was filmed in May on a nice day which you might appreciate if you’re going through some Brass Monkey weather like we are in the UK at the moment.

Thanks to a real diamond geezer Phil Moneypenny for putting this video together along with some excellent footage from Billy and a great soundtrack too.

Date Set


I’ve decided on the date that I will run my fifty miles for my 50th birthday. Saturday 29th May. This is a Bank Holiday weekend. My birthday is not until the end of June but between then I have a summer break and the missus doesn’t want me to be training when I should be doing an impression of a tourist. What she doesn’t know is that I only do an impression of a runner (and James Mason but with a Midlands accent). I’ve had a great response from friends, colleagues and family wanting to join me. They range from people wanting to run just a couple of miles to one or two wanting to join me for the whole fifty. I’m as mad as a bucket of fish. What’s their excuse? I’ve added a mile on to the start by the way. The start is now just on the border of Stoke On Trent but I’ve taken a mile off the end to finish at the Vine pub. Here we can all meet, runners and non runners and have a pint or two and bite to eat. Well that’s the plan so far. My cold is almost at it’s end. I was going to go into more detail about phlegm and snot but I don’t think most of you would like me to (but one or two would, I have strange friends). I managed to run to work this morning in 58:52 and back again this evening in 56:23. I was a little sluggish and the whole distance is hill after hill so all considered I’m pleased with my time. Tomorrow I’m going down to the running club. I’ve decided I like the company and that I’m going to pay my fee to join. I’ve also applied for Cycle to Work vouchers. For those who don’t know. The Cycle to Work scheme is set up by the UK Government to give incentive to get to work by bike instead of car. So I understand, this will increase my Tax Code, which means I will pay less tax and will end up paying around two thirds of the total for the bike. You can claim for any accessories too like a helmet, lights and clothing too. I have the rest of the gear because I already own a MTB which I rarely use. The bike I’m going for is a hybrid rather than a full-on road bike. I want something I can ride the canal paths with as well as ride to work. Plus, the distance isn’t that great and I only want it for cross training for my running. So, I don’t think I can justify a road bike or paying any vast sums for the hybrid. At the moment, I will cycle one day and run another. I now realise after cycling to and from work on my MTB a few times, that use definitely use different muscles to running! I dread to think what state I would be in if I didn’t run though. But, when I’ve become a little more used to it, I will mix it up and run on the same days as when I’ve cycled to and from work – I think. I will be keeping in mind the over-training and will be careful. I don’t want the injuries I’ve had earlier this year training for Hadrian’s Wall all over again. So, there’s my update. I welcome any comments and advice. If, as I suspect, I’m only writing this blog for one reader. Could you please make several comments and make up different names to make it look like I have more than one reader (which I suspect is my niece). [...]

Bala & Vyrnwy


Stewart and I had this great idea to drive to Wales and run the circumference of Lake Vyrnwy then drive to Bala Lake and run that one too on the same day. Unfortunately we were heavily delayed getting to Vyrnwy so we headed straight to Bala. We had booked our B&B (magic Bala) in Bala village and was met by a very friendly couple Mary and Mike who made us most welcome. Stewart and I got into character and headed straight for the lake. The weather was atrocious. Britain had been hit by major storms and there were several areas under water. When we got to the lake side we could see it was almost up to the barrier wall to the village. The footpath that follows much of the edge of the lake was also under water. We settled for running along the road that skirts the lake but with the bad weather and failing light we turned back at mile five. We headed back to the B&B to thaw out, have a shower and change of clothes then had a short pub crawl in the village before settling down for some pub food. The next morning we ate at eight. We had a full English breakfast and while we were saying our good byes to Mike and Mary they pointed out that the photographs on the stairway of the chap completing an Ironman Challenge is their son. Looking around the Bala area I can see he had the ideal training ground. Stewart and I drove the fifteen miles to Lake Vyrnwy (Efyrnwy in Welsh). Along the way we passed some great scenery. We stopped high up in a valley to take photographs and I think we both had the same idea at the same time when we saw the view. We'll come back for another pleasure run from Vyrnwy to Bala. We parked the car at the visitors centre, got back into character and started the run by crossing the dam. With the amount of water entering the reservoir over the last few days the lake had risen enough to give us a view of a spectacular water cascade over-flowing the top of the dam. The weather was now a mixture of light showers and occasional sunshine which made for several rainbows across the lake. We made several stops along the way to take in the views and to take photographs. On the return trip along the other side of the lake we passed several waterfalls which I can only imagine would probably be only half their size if it wasn't for the all the rain. We made it back to the visitor centre in good time where we washed and changed out of our soaking wet clothing then settled down for a cup of tea in the cafeteria. I think someone was looking out for us over these two days. If our trip went to plan and we ran both lakes on the same day then we wouldn't have seen Vyrnwy in the light that we did. Maybe we wouldn't have the same memories and possibly, we wouldn't be planning a return trip. I, by the way, came down with a terrifically bad cold and sore throat. So bad that I didn't turn up for work this weekend. My first days off sick in six years! I don't know what it is about 2009. I have had more colds and more injuries this year than any other I care to remember. Next year will be better. There are more photographs to be found here: My Flickr Photos Find more videos like this on RuncastTV [...]

I've Made A Decision - Sort Of


It's the big half century birthday for me in June next year and I've been toying with the idea of running a fifty miler. I was looking at various places to run it and I think I've decided on a route where friends and family can best join me. I thought I might drive up towards Stoke-On-Trent in North Staffordshire and join the canal between there and Stone. I will start from there with anyone who wants to join me and run South along the canals through Stone, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Stourbridge and home to Kinver. Various people have agreed to join me either for five, ten or fifteen miles and some are playing with the idea of running the full fifty with me. I will map the route with stops at pubs and locks where people can join me or leave me. We can get a top-up with food, gels and drinks at the stops too. I learned from the last ultra that I will need some junk food too. I had a craving for stew with salt, chips with salt, crisps with salt and... well, something salty. I also underestimated how much water we needed. There were three of us running Hadrian's Wall in two days. That worked out to forty one and forty three miles on each day. We put six two litre bottles in the support vehicle for the two days but at the end of day one we only had two bottles left. I will triple the amount of water this time - allowing for guest appearances along the route. I plan to update the blog with more specifics and my training from here on (not that anyone reads it) so keep dropping in for a read now and again.
Or should I just have a party?

The Dream Inspires World Wide Festival Of Races


What a great weekend. It started for me when I arrived in Oxford Saturday morning the day before the run. I parked the car up and went for a walk around the city with camera in hand. This was my first visit to Oxford but after studying Steve Choppers (A Mile With Me) map of the route a few days previously I found my way around quite easily. It was a glorious day with the sun popping in and out enabling me to get some great photographs. After a pint and a light bite I went to my hotel, freshened up then got a taxi back into the city where I met up with Steve. We then went on to The Head Of The River pub to meet up with Krister (Running The Narrow Path), Mark (My Time To Run), Nigel (Running From The Reaper), Sheila, Harry with his lovely wife and daughters. A couple of drinks later and some of us made our way to an Italian restaurant to carb up on pasta. We had a great night but didn't stay up too late. We had a run to do in the morning. Next day I met Paul (@xjr4buddha), Richard, Nigel, Mark and Steve and Tineke (@tinebeest) also arrived. She was to join us on the run but had a dreadful cold so couldn't run. So, she said she would cycle parts of the course with us a give us all support which was really sweet of her. I drove them all to the start of the run at Culham Lock. Here we met up with Harry and another Paul from the excellent podcast Run Yank Run (Run Yank Run ). We made our way to the start, had a photo shoot and started the run at 10:00 am. We were going great guns keeping the river Thames to our left. The scenery was nice, the villages we passed were chocolate box picturesque and I hardly noticed that it was raining the whole way. After just a couple of miles we reached Abingdon where we found that the riverside path had been detoured. This put an extra couple of miles on the journey and would also mean that we would be delayed meeting the 10K group with an original ETA of 11:00. It was around Abingdon where another runner caught up with us. His name was Phillipe, a French chap working in the UK just out for his Sunday constitutional run. He joined us for another couple of miles before having to turn back. A little further on another chap joined us. He asked if we were running the Cambridge to Oxford route. I said no and, showing him my tee shirt with the WWFOR logo on I said we're all running the half marathon and are about to meet the 10K group. He said he has heard of the WWFOR through a podcast called Pheddippidations. I then pointed out to him the other podcasters: Nigel, Steve and Paul and said we are about to meet Krister. Phil Moneypenny and Drusy. He explained that he listened to Steve and Nigel's podcasts and would have liked to have joined us. But, he had other commitments. He will look us up though when he gets back. When we met Drusy (Toni) (Drusy), her son Nick and husband Billy, Phil Moneypenny (Runcast TV) and his sister Nicky, Sheila and Joe. Joe read about the WWFOR in a free running magazine and decided to join us at the 10K mark with the others. The poor blighters were freezing waiting for us in the cold and rain. Sheila and Drusy did a great job of replenishing us with liquids, gels and bars. Phil and Nicky started filming us from here and what a great job they did too. We then headed into Oxford. I was starting to flag a little from this point. I hadn't quite got over a cold from the previous week and also had a little bit of a knee issue in my left leg. The nice thing was that we more or less stayed together and had a great time. Running through the streets of O[...]

Day Two


06:53 am: Donnie dropped us off where we finished the day before, near Milecastle 42. From here there are quite a few hills to cross, many of them involving a steep climb. The day before, our Garmin watches ran out of power well short of the finish. So, this time, we only switched my watch on saving the other one for when mine dies. Because we knew there would be a fair amount of walking in places, we had downloaded some 'pub-quiz' general knowledge questions and answers to pass the time. They did the trick early on in day two but as the day went on we couldn't think straight. We were also getting a little grumpy with each other as fatigue set in. One good thing about day two, it was cooler. Especially on the hills. We still doubled the amount of stops though. It was proving much harder than we anticipated. We still had our own personal pains, Graham's back and now left knee, Stewart still having a problem going down hill and and both of them had blisters. As for me, the pain in my groin had not eased up and now I developed a new pain and swelling in my right shin. But, besides these we all shared one common pain - our feet. They hurt. Each time we made a stop at the van starting off again got harder. We would have to walk a good few feet before we could break out into a slow trot and then start running again. Our nutritional requirements changed too. Listening to our bodies, they were crying out for salted crisps and hot food. Donnie prepared us some tinned stew on one stop which we covered with salt and pepper. Another stop he heated up some minestrone and tinned new potatoes which we also added salt and pepper to. These meals we ate as well as the pasta and fish dishes we had pre-prepared. Another craving we had was for chips. The only problem was that the nearest Fish & Chip shop was on the outskirts of Newcastle. They were worth the wait though. Running through the streets of Newcastle proved to be the biggest challenge. The pavement was just too hard on the feet. We ran on as much grass verge as we could find. There was nothing to look at either to distract us and I can see why most walkers start from Newcastle and walk to the west coast. The path meanders along the river Tyne but we tried to follow the path of the original wall. This was pretty much impossible. The city was built on top of the wall and there was nothing left of it to follow or see. My camera had ran out of power too which was just as well because of the lack of scenery and now the light was fading too.   We finished at Wallsend in the dark. It was on an industrial estate. Donnie had us walk to the next bridge so he could get a better video of us coming in. We held out the Help for Heroes flag and hobbled towards him and the finish. We had no time to hang around though. We had a photo shot then, while talking to our loved one's on our mobile phones we made our way back to the van and to the hotel. We had to then quickly get showered and changed and down into the restaurant for something substantial to eat. We were all back in our rooms and in bed by 11:30pm knowing this time we would have a little bit of a longer sleep. [...]

Day One


We started in the picturesque village of Bowness On Solway where we stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast called Maia Lodge. There Gillian the landlady got up with us at 05:00 am and prepared a breakfast of our request consisting mainly brown toast and jam, cereals, fruit, fruit juice and a pot of tea of course.The start or finish for some people, is an oak framed shelter with a Roman tiled floor. When we looked out to our left we looked across the Solway Firth to Scotland on the opposite banks.We kicked off at 06:15 am with the aim to complete 43 miles that day. We planned for three stops along the way to top up our gel and water supplies and to rest while we ate our pre-prepared food. This turned out to be OK for the first two stops. But, as the heat rose and the sun got higher in the sky we realised we needed to double the amount of stops. We were getting through double the amount of water than we planned. Around 1.5 litres an hour. I was taking GoGels every six miles and adding a Nuun tablet to a 500ml bottle on my hip and 1 litre of water in my back-pack.Once we got to mile 24 the altitude started climbing and by mile 35 the hills and terrain climbed steeply and our Garmin 305's ran out of power. Also by this point our feet were aching and we started to develop our individual aches and pains. Stewart was suffering with cramps which made it very difficult for him to run down hill. Graham had back pain which made climbing hills harder and I had a pain in both groins and inner thighs. This had no bearing on whether I ran up or down hill - it all hurt the same.We were heavily delayed mainly because of the heat and with the light failing we had to call day one to a close a couple of miles short of the 43 mile mark. We radioed ahead to Donnie who picked us up and took us to the nearest pub at Haltwhistle. There we had a well deserved pint and some pub grub. We also met Brenda while we were being served at the bar. We explained what we were aiming to achieve and how far we had come so far. I gave her our card with the blog address on. Low and behold, when we got home Friday I found she had made a generous donation and left a comment on this blog. Thank you Brenda.From the pub we were supposed to drive some distance to the T.A. Centre to sleep but we decided we couldn't wait or even make the journey so Donnie had booked us into a family chalet just ten minutes away at a place called Glendale Lodge where we met Peter the owner who put us up at short notice.By 10:00 pm we were all in our beds tired and aching. Shortly after our heads hit the pillows we were away in the land of Nod, our alarm clocks set for another 05:00 am wake up.[...]

Yes, We Made It


We did make it. At the moment I'm putting together the photographs and editing all the expletives and blasphemy from the videos. I also want to give thanks for all the people who helped us, sponsored us and people who supported us along the way.

I was back at work this morning but will get it together after watching the London half marathon highlights when I get home tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience


Nerves Kicking In


It's only four days to go and I think the nerves are kicking in. The emails and phone conversations between us have increased. Checking we have everything we need, making lists and we've even got Graham making soups.
So, this is our itinerary:
We will be driven to Bowness on Solway by our volunteer support Donny in a vehicle on loan from the Territorial Army. We will stay in a bed and breakfast for the first night. The landlady kindly said she will get up at silly o'clock and feed us what we need then get us out of the door for 6a.m.
We will then run around 9.5 miles to Beaumont for one short break where we might want to use the 'facilities' and take a bite to eat. We have energy bars and gels we can carry in our small back-packs that we can snack on or we can radio ahead for Donny to meet us with fresh supplies. Because of the distance and the difficult hilly terrain, we will be making frequent stops for refreshments.
Our next stop will be our main meal break at Crosby On Eden. Here we will have something hot to eat and have a stretch before tackling the next ten miles to Roman fort remains at Birdoswald. This will be our last break before climbing a 345m hill then dropping down to our final stop on day one at Twice Brewed after completing the first 43 miles. Here, Donny will pick us up in the van. Depending on what shape we're in at this stage we may stop for a well deserved beer or drive on to the nearest barracks for a shower and rest.
Day two we'll be up with the Lark's and Donny will drive us back to Twice Brewed where we will tackle the hilliest miles to the first stop of the day at mile 52. This is another Roman fort near Walwick where we'll meet Donny. Here we have to detour from the wall slightly to cross a river. The old Roman bridge that crossed the river here has long disappeared.
At around mile 62 we have our main stop of the day for some more hot food. This is near to a pub where we hope we may be able use the rest room.
Once reaching the outskirts of Newcastle Upon Tyne we will take our last break which should be somewhere in the region of seventy miles. It's then non-stop to Wallsend (I wonder why it's called that) on the banks of the river Tyne completing our 84 mile journey.
I'm sad to say that there will only be three of us taking the challenge. Nolan has had to drop out for personal reasons. I know how much he has trained for this event and it must have been very difficult for him to pluck up the courage to let us know he won't be coming. This has led to us stealing his rations and talking about him behind his back.
I think we all would like to thank Donny in advance for the great job he's done getting us the Territorial Army to help us out with transport, fuel, radios and somewhere to sleep and of course to thank Donny himself for being our support and Gofer.
See you on the other side (of England)
Stewart, Graham, Donny and me Gary.

The Long Mynd


Hill training. Stewart, Graham and I thought we might get a bit of real hill training in so we headed for The Long Mynd in Shropshire. This is a favourite place for my wife and I to go walking and take in beautiful views of Shropshire and the Welsh Boarders. We met at the Carding Mill Valley National Trust car park, Church Stretton and from there started our 15K/9.5mi run. The path we took is long but not too steep and once at the top at 516m/1693ft it flattens out to a degree. We took this opportunity to take a breather and talk about nutrition and what we will be needing to keep us going over similar conditions but for over forty miles a day. It basically came down to us grazing on a mixture of certain carbs and proteins and to keep only to the gels and drinks that we've tested on previous long runs. Graham is in charge of putting our daily menu together and I hope to publish a blog soon and go into more detail of what the basics will consist of.We came down off the hills at Minton and ran the country lanes back to Church Stretton and to the car park. We were too early for a pint and a pub meal so Stewart and I popped into the local cafeteria for a healthy breakfast.On my route home I pass through the village of Much Wenlock. This is the place where Dr William Penny Brookes, founding father of the Modern Olympic Games lived . I took a walk around the village and visited the church and I managed to get my well earned pintof real ale in the George and Dragon before picking up some local grown produce from the tiny market there.If you want to know more about Dr William Penny Brookes and his influence on the modern Olympic Games, Steve Chopper conducts an interview with Helen Cromarty, historian of the Wenlock Olympian Society on Mile 13 of the "A Mile With Me" podcast.Also if you would like to visit The Long Mynd or any other National Trust properties/sites you can go to their web site here:[...]