Ultra Running & Reviews


2nd Training Weekend [14th-15th November 2009; Days 9 and 10 of the actual JOGLE Ultra]

by on Nov.16, 2009, under Training


Saturday 14th of November

As usual I started preparing for this run about a week before & kept a keen eye on the weather reports. The night before the run it said the weather was going to be 70mph winds and pouring with rain. Not the best weather to run 100 miles in! The good thing about this weekend is it started at Preston railway station at 5am which made it much easier for me. The first day was 49.7 miles from Preston Railway Station to Tarporley; the second day was 47.5 miles from Tarporley to Church Stretton. I arrived at Preston railway station just as the other 6 runners were preparing to leave! I slung on my Camelback and set off, as soon as we got going things didn’t feel right, I had a lot of tightness in my calves & really didn’t feel like I was ready to run another 50 miles. We set off with our head torches on as it was pitch black and we had to run some of the way down a dual carriageway. This time I also used a small L.E.D. light for the back of my pack & some extra high viz clothing after nearly being hit last time.

JOGLE training weekend 100 mile run

I was running at about the same pace as Justin Mclaurin so we ran together. When we got to the first point where we needed to check the route I reached into my pocket to get my SatMap out and it wasn’t there, this was a disaster as I had left the paper maps in the car. I must have dropped it when we set off, I called Samantha to see if I’d dropped it near the car & she said she’d have a look. Luckily it was in the back of the car & she said she’d find me somehow. We used Justin’s maps for the next couple of miles until we saw Samantha & the kids driving up the other side of the road, she pulled up to where I was and passed it out of the window while we kept running.

We carried on into the dark and the next stop was for food and water at 10 miles. By the time we reached Rory at the support van my calves felt much better but I still couldn’t get into a rhythm. I set off and just didn’t feel as good as usual. At least I wasn’t feeling sick though and managed to get plenty of food down. This time we ate some chocolates and I took some Nutrigrain bars for later. Filled up my Camelback & in a couple of minutes we were off again. About 10 minutes into the next 10 miles the sun came up & I wished I’d left the torch in the van.

This wasn’t the most scenic run I’ve ever done, most of it was on the A49. We passed through Leyland, Wigan, Newton-Le-Willows, Warrington, then back out into the sticks for the last 20 miles. By this time the wind & rain had really picked up and my ankles were sore from constantly being blown into each other. Rory met us at the mile 30 checkpoint and told us one of the other runners had dropped out. Both me and Justin made it to mile 40’s checkpoint together but he was having problems with a previous injury. We set off again and Justin said he was suffering a bit with his shins, he was going to have a walk for a bit & see how it went. I carried on alone, it’s nice to be able to run with someone as the time passes much quicker when you’re having the crack with someone. Justin dropped out somewhere between mile 40 & 50.

At about 41 miles I came to a road which was straight for as far as I could see, maybe 6-8 miles in the rain. These are the times when you need to dig deep and try not to let negative thoughts enter your head. I had to stop to climb over a tree at 45 miles, it had blown down in the wind. Climbing over the branches made me realise how sore my muscles were. At the 40 mile checkpoint Rory told me the MacDonald Portal Hotel was hard to miss so I didn’t need to look at my map which was good because it was getting hard to see in the rain, it kept filling the screen up with water every time I took it out! My feet were so wet they’d been squelching for the past 30 miles. The only thing on my mind was getting to the hotel.

Eventually I reached the sign for the hotel and turned off, my mind & body had started to shut down when I realised the sign was pointing not to the hotel but to a country lane which led to it! Just as I was hitting a low point my wife Samantha & my 3 children came round the corner, I was so happy to see them I sprinted after the car. The hotel was maybe a mile down the lane & I felt so good I ran it as fast as I could down the front lawn. The woman on the front desk asked how far I’d run, I told her from Preston and she looked at me in disbelief.

My room was massive & it had everything you could want, I got changed and went down to the pool. It was nice to have a swim & take the weight off my feet. I tried all 4 of the different saunas before going back to my room to meet the family & go for something to eat. I was staying at the hotel on my own so that I could get a full nights sleep & meet my family again at the end on Sunday.


Sunday 15th of November

I woke up feeling refreshed on day two & started putting my kit on, it was then that I realised I’d forgotten to pack my new socks. Not only that but I’d put my wet socks in the sink & they were wet through! I put them on & squelched my way through the hotel, making my way to the start. We were to be joined by Jen for the first 20 miles. Jen is Rory’s race organiser and a great athlete in her own right, she was off like a rabbit! We made our way into the dark again but this time it was dry. Justin and I ran together again and we both seemed more comfortable than the day before. We made the first checkpoint at 10 miles in good time. Again I set off with the bloody head torch on for the second 10 miles just as it came light!

We could see Beth one of the other runners up ahead and see her lights turn from red to white as she checked how far we were behind her. We came into the 20 mile checkpoint just behind her & quickly filled our Camelback’s and food supplies & hit the road again. Some of the roads we ran down on this stretch were very long and straight & we cursed the Romans! As we ran along I started to feel like I needed the loo, probably something to do with all the Nutrigrain bars I’d eaten! As most of today’s run of 49 miles was through the countryside it wasn’t possible to find a loo so I went into an old derelict cottage in the middle of nowhere. As I climbed through the front door which had a tree across it & looked like it had been there for ages, a load of bats flew out. I went into what would have been the living room and it was as if it had just been left, with an old radiogram and settee and two chairs! All covered with about an inch of dust, very spooky. I did what I had to and left, climbing over the fallen tree as fast as I could.

Justin was out of sight when I got out and I decided to try to catch him up. We’d run from Tarporley and were heading to Whitchurch, I saw Justin in the distance & decided he must have turned off down the hill when he got to the roundabout, I was wrong. I carried on until I got to a long stretch of dual carriageway where you could see far into the distance & decided he must have gone the other way, the right way!

I took out my SatMap & could see I’d taken the wrong turn off at the roundabout. I’d have to join the road I was supposed to be on about 2 miles further on adding another 2 miles to my day. Ah well at least the weather was on my side, the sun was back again.

As I ran down the lane I noticed Justin in the distance & started to run a bit faster to catch up. We ran together for a few more miles then parted again just before Shrewsbury as he had shin problems. I got lazy again with the maps outside Shrewsbury & got lost again. Luckily a young lady stopped to help when she saw me looking confused at my satnav, she was a local runner & was very helpful. I was soon on the right road. Just as I made my way through Shrewsbury I bumped into Justin again. It was nice to know for sure I was on the right track.

Once we reached Longnor it was a straight run through Leebotwood & on down to the finish at Church Stretton. The last part of the run was pretty uneventful, it passed slowly in my mind but I felt strong. As I got within a couple of miles of the finish Rory rang me to ask where I was & I said I don’t know. Just then Samantha & the kids came past me & again I started to pick the pace up knowing it couldn’t be far to go to the finish. When I saw the traffic lights I knew I was within yards of the finish and started sprinting, it felt great to go all the way & feel strong at the end.

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Mountain Bike Ride with my Son Alex

by on Sep.29, 2009, under Training

I went for a mountain bike ride today with my son Alex, he’s really come on since last time we went out about a month ago. I’m sure he’d agree that last time we went he was suffering somewhat. He’s stopped smoking and started doing some more training and today it all came together & I was very proud of him. We did around 28 miles and a good few big hills thrown in for good measure, all in all around 4,000 feet of climbing. See the full ride by clicking on the link below.

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1st Training Weekend [1st-2nd August 2009; Days 11 and 12 of the actual JOGLE Ultra]

by on Aug.01, 2009, under Training

After over 12 months out from running due to other commitments & injury I decided to do the new years resolution thing & start getting myself fit again. I started running a mile every night and built it up to 3-4 miles a night. After a few months of this I was getting very jaded with running & decided to find something different & started going mountain biking with Simon Fox. This was when I realised how unfit I was. The bike which I’d built for the real ale wobble a few years ago was still like new having been left hung in the garage for ages & never used. I hated the bloody thing which at the time was known as the triangle of doom because every time I got on it threw me off. After a few weeks of Simon killing me on the hills around Darwen it suddenly dawned on me that I was starting to enjoy it! Though probably not as much as Simon & Dave enjoyed me falling off, oh how they laughed!

day one Wigmore to Severn Bridge 58 miles

day 1 Wigmore to Severn Bridge 58 miles

With the nights getting warmer I was now doing 5 miles a night running. It was time to find a goal! My favourite distance has always been the ultra marathon so one club night someone mentioned a spare number going for the Edinburgh Marathon, this would be a good first goal to aim for but with only two weeks to train it wasn’t really enough. The miles were upped to 10 per night and one long 20+ mile run a couple of days before the race. I did it in 4:18 including a walk near the end which was OK. The week after I did Freckleton Half Marathon in 1:58.

It was then time to look for something a bit more up my street, an ultra-marathon. The first race I looked at was the Grand Union Canal 145 mile race. I almost entered that one until something bigger caught my eye. Ultra-distance runner Rory Coleman had decided to have a go at running the JOGLE which is quite a famous cycle ride from John O’Groats to Lands End, this sounded too good an opportunity to let go, a once in a lifetime thing. Rory is famous for his exploits in the Marathon De Sables & training Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton to run the 78 mile Marrakesh Desert Marathon he’s also done 619 marathons, including 162 ultra marathons! I rang him right away & asked if I could be one of the twelve runners to take part. He said he was sorry but they already had 21 runners names on the list & asked what experience I’d had of doing this type of thing. We left it where I had agreed to be added to this list at number 22 & wait to see if anyone dropped out, but I would still need to do a time test to make sure I could keep up & get enough sleep to do day after day of the run.

As the weeks past Rory would email or ring me to say someone else had been injured in training and eventually I got the email I’d been waiting for, I was in! All I had to do now was do the trial run, which was still unknown. I thought it’s about time I started to do some serious miles just in case. Training plans have never been my thing so I just did what could be done in the free time between running a business, family life etc.
Two weeks before the trial I did the Moors The Merrier 26 mile fell race as a training run & got lost in the last 2 miles, going from 15th place down to 30th after completing 34 miles in 7 hours 24 minutes. It got to 180 miles a week before the trial & 300 sit ups a day for core stability & 40 miles off road on the mountain bike, that would have to be enough!


1st of August 2009

Only six runners would be doing the trial as the others were doing the Lakeland 100 as a training run. We started at Wigmore in Wales and ran down to Taunton in Somerset. This would mean us running 58.3 miles on Saturday plus the length of the Severn bridge & 55.3 miles on Sunday. We set off for the hotel on the Friday night and got there at 10pm, by the time I’d got my stuff ready for the run & got to sleep it was 1:30am. The alarm went off at 2am, we had to be in the car heading for Wigmore by 3am.

This was the first time I’d met the other 5 runners, four men and a woman. They all looked a lot fitter than me, we got into the people carrier & set off for Wales in the dark. When we got there it was 4:45am and pouring with rain. At 5am we were counted down and off we went, I was surprised how slow we ran at first but after a few hours running it got harder & harder to keep going. As we talked I soon realised that I was by far the least experienced runner there. One of them Mark ran the double Badwater ultra in Death Valley which has only been done by 20 people in the world. The lady who ran with us had completed a famous walk on the Isle of Man where she lives called The Parish Walk not once but twice in one go, a total distance of 170 miles! Between them they’d done 100’s of ultras. It was a very humbling experience being with such great runners. I felt like a jogger running with Paula Radcliffe

As we chatted I asked a lot of questions and got some really good tips which I wish I’d known before the run! As the run went on the miles rolled by and before long we had covered 40 miles & had reached the water station (Rory’s Car). I had noticed a hot point on my left foot earlier & decided to change my trainers for some dry ones. When I removed them I had a big blister on my toe under my nail which was pushing my nail off. Luckily I had a medical kit with me and did the best I could with it in the short time we had before setting off again. I really needed to stay with the others as they knew what the best pace was and also how to read a map! Rory also told us that one of the other runners (Justin) had to call it a day with a stress fracture of the shin after 31 miles. He was going to stay in the car with Rory to assist at the aid stations together with Jen. It was sad news and dampened the mood among the runners who were left.

By 45 miles their better fitness started to take it’s toll on me & I was slowly starting to fall back. By the time we reached 50 miles they were out of sight and I was running alone. This is when it’s gets hard, your mind keeps telling you to stop but you’re battling to keep going. I was just in sight of the cycle path which leads to the Severn bridge & it seemed to go on forever. This bit was made harder by dog walkers with long leads who just left the dog to run round and at one point nearly trip me up. In the distance I could see the bridge and it didn’t seem to be getting any nearer. Then it stopped raining and I was on the bridge with a refreshing breeze to cool me down. I’d never been over the bridge in the light so couldn’t remember how long it was. Eventually I saw three dots in the distance & it was Rory & his welcoming crew Justin & Jen. Day one was almost over, the relief of stopping running was overwhelming, so much so I almost fell over with the strange new feeling of being still. We got back to the hotel to find my wife and kids waiting outside to cheer me in which was great. That night I didn’t feel hungry at all but managed to force down the best part of a mixed grill as protein to recover for the next day.


2nd of August 2009

After a tormented sleep with constant twitching from my legs I was woken up by my alarm on Sunday morning at 3:30am to prepare for the 5am start. I just couldn’t face food, just the thought made me feel sick. I got my running gear on & hobbled to the start. We left the hotel car park in the dark but this time it was fine, the forecast said sunshine so I put on some sunblock. We ran together for about 10-15 miles then slowly drifted apart, I found my groove and settled into my stride. The miles seemed to tick by more slowly on the second day due to the constant pain from my feet & legs.

I reached mile 20 and noticed my left leg was starting to bruise around the shin & my ankle was swelling. By mile 28 this had developed into a lump and it felt like my tendon was rubbing on it when running down any sort of hill, ouch! I don’t know if it was the pain or I’d got my food, water or electrolytes wrong but my stomach started to spasm. It felt like a very lonely place at the side of the road throwing up everything in my stomach. I leant on a railing at the side of the road and tried to get my head back together. A moment later Rory turned up with Jen & Justin, Jen asked how I was feeling “hideous” I replied with a smile. We both laughed & Rory came over to make sure I was well enough to carry on. I told him about not being able to hold down any fluids or food & about the lump on my shin bone. He asked me to sit down on the floor to stop the spasms but my legs were so stiff I couldn’t bend down! I sat in a deck chair & Rory had a look at the lump. He said it didn’t look good and mentioned stopping, how could I stop with only 30 miles to go? I took some pain killers & Rory adjusted my laces to stop my trainers rubbing on my shin and off I hobbled. After 4 miles it dawned on me that I still had a marathon left.

Day 2 JOGLE ultra from Severn Bridge to Taunton 55 miles

Day 2 JOGLE ultra from Severn Bridge to Taunton 55 miles

By this time my quads were so sore it was more painful to stop & then get started again than it was to run. As I reached the outskirts of Bridgewater the heavens opened again and it started to throw it down & I’d left my coat at the hotel. My maps were soaked and I took a wrong turn, not realising I carried on for about three miles off course. Just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse the battery failed on my Garmin & I’d lost my mileage. Luckily I still had an iPhone with mapping so managed to get myself back on course. I was back on the right road, things were looking up, must stay positive. I consoled myself with the fact that I could use the maps as loo roll now!!

I hobbled down another dual carriageway and by now one looked much like another, in the distance I could see flashing lights & wondered if they were going to an accident. The car came towards me in the dark and slowed down, it was the police. He opened the window and asked what I was doing, I told him I was in the final stages of an ultra-distance marathon & he said he thought I’d broke down up the road & was going to ask if I wanted a lift! Oh that would have been sooooo easy to just get into the warm car but I resisted the temptation. He told me he was thinking one day he’d like to do an ultra so I gave him Rory’s web address. He shook my hand and wished me well, telling me I only had a few miles to go before reaching the finish at Taunton railway station. It was the longest few miles I’ve EVER run. Crossing the dual carriageway made me realise how hedgehogs must feel when they try to cross the road, which made me chuckle to myself. One steep hill after another was starting to wear me down, trucks passed by every few seconds and sprayed me with water & grit from the road. I got confused and couldn’t find the right road into Taunton and it seemed to take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to make my way to the finish. I got it into my head that I was just going round in circles. Mentally as soon as I thought the last mile had come my body just started to shut down. I’d run 120+ miles & my body just wanted to sleep. I shuffled past groups of drunks outside pubs & they shouted stuff to me, at one point I had three drunks behind me copying the way I ran but I was too tired to care at this point. They were probably thinking “look at that old fella shuffling his way round a 2 mile loop” This made me smile to myself. As the last half mile came I suddenly got a new lease of life and finished quite strong.

My wife & three kids were there as always to support me and as I stopped I almost fell over again. It took me ages to get into the car but I’d done it. I was so glad to see them, it was a very emotional moment & I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The thing I took away from this is just how lucky I am to have a great family who support me to the end in everything I ever do, no matter how stupid!

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