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Sunday, 6 December 2015

Trailscape East - Cuxton marathon (27.2 miles) race report.

Last run of the year and with Gatliff just 6 days ago and a 60+ hr week at work, I was left wanting. What a nice course though, taking in the Wealden Way and NDW. Very muddy again and ferociously windy. So good to spend time catching up with 260 marathoner Robert Cameron-Wood for a few miles. What a legend. 


My shoes had barely dried from Gatliff and here we were again. In the mud. The first few miles were technical and even though the course was well marked, was tough going. After a while it opened out into some form of track and it was time to get a move on. CP1 was only 4.5 miles in. straight through and off to Vigo village for the turnaround. There are some big hills there and you go right down to the Medway and back up which means 3 big 600+ footers in a row. The one at the end of it was a beast. 

To give you an idea of the terrain, the 10k was won in a pedestrian 52 mins.....but onwards. Feeling tired I necked gels early and hoped to hang on. Flat on my face in the mud after 10 miles only spurred me on. I ran all of the race alone, save for a quick chat with a couple of people I passed or half marathoners being overtaken. 

Pleasantly surprised with 14th place and a 4hr 31 in these conditions. 20 mins quicker would have been a podium so not a bad end to the year. Marathon #66 done. 

Gatliff race report - never a dull race

Usually the Gatliff 50km is long. We ran 56km this year. I ran the whole thing with shits and giggles himself Matt Biggin. We went wrong once, I stacked on a style. We watched poetry in motion as a  runner hurdled 2 styles.


This race is a fucking joke to be honest. The directions are piss poor, the course is never ever 50km and I usually finish in the dark. Why come back for more you say? Well it is full of people I know very well now, close to home, never anything less than a challenge and always full of laughs at the end of the year. 

A great sunday out although no way a course to get anywhere near a PB. Just a few kms longer than the Stort 30 a few weeks ago but 8 hrs 2 mins. Hilarious. See you next year. Never will I forget "oh fuck off you lanky binman"

Trail Running Association UK Ultra Championships 30 Mile race report

Potentially a lucky number according to my wife and indeed it was auspicious in terms of my day. having run this last year and enjoyed it, I was up for some serious beating of my time last year. After minimal faff and again travelling very light....bottle and a couple of gels, it was race briefing and then off. Watching Centurion running Craig Holgate blast off at the start was awesome. He gained the course record in......3 hrs 12 mins! Insane.

Back to planet earth and I was on a mission. It was muddy underfoot but I was going off at a good pace.....drafting some guy for about 6 miles at 7.45s and feeling good. Then I got stung by a bee. Right in the calf muscle. This pissed me right off so I overtook the chap and off I blasted. Last year I went hard and regretted it in the back half. I hit halfway and bumped into Nathan, whom I had ran with the previous year. We had loads of banter and quickly knocked off the miles. I got to marathon point in 3hrs 33 and felt pretty good. The wheels fell off in the last couple though and I dropped to 9 min miling which meant my overall was 4hrs 10 mins. Still a big 24 mins inside my 30 mile PB. Top 20 and 4th MV40 (narrowly missing out on a podium) at the UK Championships. Maybe an extra gel next year and I can aim for sub 4?

High Weald Challenge 50km race report

Having really enjoyed the 50k earlier this year I thought I'd have a go at the autumn version, albeit on a different part of the Weald, tracking North instead of South. Arriving early I hadn't expected the drop to 4 degrees in the middle of October. I had come in a t-shirt......brrrrr! Good to meet up with George again at the start, David Thompson (in a vest!) Rich Stewart and Dave Barker. A short trudge to the start and it was off. George and I ran together for the first few miles. I guess we have run together over 30 times now but is rare that we are both in the same vein of always does better!

After a hilly first 5 miles I was feeling the early undulations. Travelling light with a bottle and some gels, I finally got into a rhythm and ran with something a bit more like I was enjoying it, but pushing myself. After about 10 miles I began to find some form. Sometimes of the early miles are slow, I can speed right up. The cold lifted and so did my spirits. Running atop the High Weald and Ashdown Forest was delightful, the gradients seemed to flatten and I gained lots of places during the second half of the race, although the sedentary start meant that a 5 hour time was out of the question, although it was a hilly course.

In the end I nearly caught up with Rich Stewart, who was building up to the Autumn 100 and in great form. 26th place and 5 hours 12 mins. The reason for doing it was that RD Stu Mills gave me the earthenware mug that my wife had asked me to bring home. Marathon #63 Done.

Kent Coastal Marathon

Only a week after my disaster at the Ridgeway I had a race booked in. Originally with Sue Byrne and Cookie, Sue pulled out owing to injury. My plan was a non-competitive recovery run. The week had gone reasonably well with a hard but productive week at work. I drove down to the start on a blustery but sunny coastal crispy day.  Bumping into some familiar faces is more of a regular occurrence than not and the start line in sunny Margate was no exception. It was a pleasure to catch up with George at the start. George is having an amazing year of running. 

Off down to a windy start and I hooked up with a slightly nervous Cookie with his dad and bumped into Sue who had had a gentle trot down from her weekend flat in Broadstairs just up the road. The field was packed and we aimed to head off about 30-40% back from the front. George went off with his crew from Orpington Road Runners with Cookie and I settling into an early but fast-ish pace. A switchback partway to Margate along the Parkrun course and it was off up the hill past Joss Bay and the hilly coastal path to Broadstairs and then Ramsgate. I saw Peter Johnson marshalling.....I think he lives round these parts. Sue bimbled with us for a mile or two then cut off home. Our glorious forst 6 miles was punctuated with an "I need a shit stop" from Cookie. That came out of nowhere. I knew a public bogs from a training run with Sue a month earlier. I watched most of the field go past as I waited for captain shitter. We had a laugh and knew that this was a jolly up and not a competitive run. 

Slightly lighter than before, Cookie made some speed up, with us chugging along to Ramsgate and the turnaround point. This event was well supported and I encouraged Cookie to take up some jelly babies that were on offer. I necked a gel and in no time we were at half way stages. Cookie slowed. I was chatting away, looked around and he was gone. I stopped. Waited. Then we continued our conversation. Cookie drafted like a cyclist behind my broad-shouldered frame and we repeated this chat, stop, wait a few more times. Spotting a runner that I knew I called out...What have you been up to? "Oh the usual" Whatever that meant.  As we traversed the promenade at Margate about 2 miles later, chatting away, I turned around and Cookie was probably a fair few hundred yards behind. I knew he would understand. 

I necked another gel and went for it. Our leisurely 8.30s pace, plus the 10 mins of shit stop and waits felt like a launchpad to bang in some faster miles. The last 10 miles I averaged 7.30s but that included the into the wind stuff. The big turn around felt like forever around a nice beachside estate. It was head down and knock out the last few miles. Feeling very good I caught up with George with a mile to go. Despite our slow start, a 3.45 on an undulating and windy course was pretty fine. George came in a couple of mins later, with Cookie in about 30 mins later. 

Will definitely do this next year.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Ridgeway Challenge - 86 miles UK Ultra Championships

My journey to the start line of the Ridgeway Challenge began in earnest a little over 6 months ago. I had decided that it was time I upped my mileage: got in some quality runs and improved work on speed, endurance and hills. Being quite pleased with losing just over 6 kilos, accruing 700km more than this time last year and getting my Park Run PB under 20 mins whilst improving diet and cutting out alcohol all led me to believe this was going to be an epic race.

Having completed the Ridgeway in 2010 in a respectable 21 hours and coming in 47th place in the TRA UK championships, I  knew exactly what to expect. I knew the terrain, I had mapped out the CPs both mentally and on paper and I was very much looking forward to meeting my wife and daughter at the end. Or so I thought.

I set off with a decent night sleep and good feed under my belt and, despite feeling slightly sluggish it was a short hike to the start of Ivinghoe Beacon to begin.

A concise if not slightly curt race briefing from the RD and then we were off. Looking around there was almost nobody that I knew, which was weird. I know many were off to Chamonix for the UTMB but not a familiar site at the start of an ultra. Never mind....within a couple of minutes it was time to have a bit of a chit chat with some running folk as we bimbled off. Great I thought, as we ran into a slight headwind on the undulating Chilterns and I counted off the miles feeling fairly chuffed as I reached CP1 12 mins faster than I did last time. A quick bottle fill and off to CP2, having a bit more of a chit chat with a couple of runners until I was motoring along, race-walking the steeper hills and running everything else, holding gates open for my fellow runners. Then I got a thirst.....a thirst that I have never ever had before......and at the same time a deep deep stomach ache. I downed both bottles in the space of 3 miles and the stomach ache got worse. I'll run this off I thought and stopped for a piss. Nothing much. CP2 and I filled both bottles again. This time I needed a shit. No problem I thought and off I diverted behind some well positioned foliage. Grim, but necessary. CP3 and a chance to pick up my drop bags. Bang. Another shit. Not funny now. I motored on thinking potentially race nerves or maybe carbs upsetting my guts. I'd had nothing unusual to eat or too much of it anyhow. I made very good time up to CP3 despite this and then onto CP4, being about 45 mins ahead of schedule.

 This was brilliant as my wife and daughter who had been with friends in St Albans had dropped in to see me on their way to our other friends not far from the finish. I explained that the first miles had felt tough and Susie could see that in my face but she was pleased I was ahead of schedule and on course for an 18/19 hour race completion. After a goodbye I was off, conscious of the short but effective checkpoint strategies I had maintained thus far. I latched onto 2 chaps who were in a bit of difficult as I was feeling overheated and colonically unstable. Boom. Within the space of an hour or so I had forcibly ejected litres of unmentionable from my skinny arse. I felt insatiably thirsty so necked my electrolyte Nuun and within a few minutes, booooooom it was out. I couldn't eat (save for 3 twiglets) and I was completely dehydrated. Then lightheaded. I scuttled to CP5 and then called it a day.

I was too ill to capture the awesome sunset so this is the last image that I shot along the way. I think I had a shit somewhere to the left of the track, so desperate was I. At least it was in the wheat and not on the track. Good luck to the next loaf of Hovis that provides. And so it came to pass.....a DNF. Out. Scuppered by shit. Never before has this happened and I have no reason as to why. I managed a dribble of coca cola coloured piss 16 hours later and only a proper mansize micturation just over 24 hours later despite full-blown rehydration.

I got a nice t-shirt though. Had I not completed the race in 2010 I would feel a total fraud wearing it, but no sub-20, no medal and no cigar this time round.

Lessons learned?

1. No matter how much training you do, the shits are your worst enemy
2. A DNF is OK if you know you'll be a danger to yourself or cause the race organisers unnecessary problems if they have to collect you from out on course and you put shit stains in their Land Rover.
3. The race will be on next year.
4. All that training can be put to good use by entering some more marathons and ultras in the Autumn.
5. Come back harder, faster, stronger and with some Imodium and plentiful bog roll.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

High Weald Smugglers Marathon - Race report

For the 2nd time in as many weeks I bumped into George Fairbrother at the start, again with Michael. George had run Ranscombe the day before so I was mighty impressed at his BIG weekend. A small field had turned out for what is well known as a technical and often tough marathon. True to form, in the first mile, after the lead 3 had gone off the front like a bunch of Nagasaki Greyhounds, the next group of runners, including George's Orpington Roadrunners mate Dave.

I like to be on the directions as soon as I can on these self-navigate LDWA events. Readers will know that I have succumbed to others' mistakes at these events and ended up in a pickle. So, henceforth Dave and I, joined by a chap from Folkstone were on the money with the directions, with me calling the shots....absolutely the way I like it. 

Anyone who knows the Weald will know that it is not flat. It is deceptively hilly. Not big like the 850 footers of the SDW or the 750 footers of the NDW, but the perpetual undulations that resulted in nearly 3000ft did mount up. The countryside was awesome, the weather warm. I opted to travel light with just a bottle and no belt or bag. Dave (of 260+ marathons) got a good clip on, forgetting about the runners in front and had a good chit-chat and bimbled along. There was only one point where we had to back track, check, double check and make sure we were going the right way. Other than that, we hardly put a foot wrong in the gorgeous Kent countryside. 

Everything was going well until 24 miles in. Checkpoints that were well stocked and very friendly came and went.....then down the hill blasted Robert Cameron-Wood. Robert was in 2nd place and then got lost. We must have overtaken him in that time. We had a little chit chat and then continued to run. Dave et al had been tiring over the last 4-5 miles and so I decided I would aim to keep up with Robert. We blasted the last 3.8 miles together, knowing that we were in 2nd place. I found it very hard to keep up but just managed to hang on on the steep uphills, catching up on the flat. We crossed the prizes for the time.....5 hrs 38, but a nice cuppa at the finish line and the usual LDWA certificate. A podium is a podium!!!! Yesssssssss!

South Downs Marathon Race report

Coming off the back of the biggest mileage I've done since being married, the marathons that come up are tired ones on the back of 50+ mile weeks and I'm quite sanguine about the times to be honest. I've been fitting in some fairly slow buggy miles with little Audrey too, which although is good aerobic exercise up Crystal Palace hill, is not great for posture or technique. Today was about hills, getting the miles in and enjoying the run.

So I set off for the run early. It is always a difficult one, getting to QE2 park, then a bus for an hour, then sitting around for 90 mins+ for the race to start. The I bumped in to none other than George Fairbrother!!!! George was with Mike Bennett, who I had also not seen in ages. George and I first met in December 2008 at the Doyen of the Downs...incidentally our first ultra which was also the first ultras of Dave 'Immune' Hegarty, Jerry 'Jezza' Smallwood and my good buddy and other Irish friend Sue Byrne. George I do believe I have known you longer than my wife!!!

Anyway we had a good catch up and a great thing too. Now, onto the race itself. I bumped into none other than 1st place podium (robbing Ewan Dunlop and myself top prize) at the NC50, Johnny Melbourne himself. He was going for it. He eventually came in 11th place. Awesome work. I went off feeling good. Usually (this was my 5th time of running) I start off crap and improve as the race goes on. I felt OK and even on the long slog up from Slindon to the Downs, was comfortable. At the top by the masts and CP1, I felt good and blasted the next 10 or so miles to mile 17, feeling positive and great. I'd brought 2 gels, not remembering that there is just water and a few gels available at CP3 and 4.....although I couldn't stomach them. Tired, I dug deep and on tired legs, began the cruise home. I'd run much of the marathon alone, something I am not a fan of, as I love a chit chat whilst running. Harting Downs to the finish was just about that.....finishing. The last 3-4 miles are usually a blast, with a couple of 400 footers and then a long descent to the finish. My long descent was long......11min+ miles.....just hanging in there on the empty, a little light headed. I got passed lots in the final 2-3 miles which is pretty unusual and sums up perhaps a 15+ min loss of time over the the last 5-6 miles or so.

That said.....Marathon completed and a happy boy at the end of it. George STORMED in only 90 seconds behind me. Excellent work fella!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Weald Challenge 50k Race Report.

Salt tablets and Nuun at the ready, I set off for this 50k with just a handheld and a couple of pocketed gels. I was really looking forward to this trail ultra. I had carb loaded well and felt good in the morning on the drive down to Chiddingly.

After a few bits of race admin it was to the back of the packed field for the start. The first couple of miles I ran with a chatty fella from Heathfield runners but couldn't keep up the pace. Some had gone off at a very fast pace and I wasn't having any of that. The course took in a reverse of the NC50 mile race in which I podiumed 2 years ago so I believed I had a little insider knowledge. We set off up the Wealdway (WW) and back down the Vanguard Way. (VGW) Both tracks are not easy to follow and after running with the first lady and a chap called Glen, we nearly went off track. We got a good clip on and it was no time at all before we got through the first 10 miles. Approaching CP2, I stopped to get a Nuun out from some tin foil in my pocket which had all but disintegrated. I popped this in my handheld and dropped an SCap salt tab for good measure. After a couple of mouthfuls of watermelon I realised the other two had shifted on. 13-16 was basically uphill or very technical wooded trail with plenty of roots and low branches, nettles and brambles. 2 other guys cam straight past me at a speed that I just couldn't fathom out. Me shit or them good? They even asked me if I was OK? I felt fine, just going up the hill in a low gear.

I got to the top for a wonderful open expanse of the Ashdown Forest. 800ft up and with awesome views of the surrounding hills and a line of runners a mile into the distance. At King's Standing an about turn and the route switched from WW to VGW. CP3 was time to snaffle a gel and refill an empty water bottle. Looking at the marshal's timelist, I was in 39th place. 2 runners went past and I settled into a rhythm. Through the woods was just awesome. Wind garlic replacing the last of the bluebells. I overtook a guy, then another and another. I went through 20 miles and felt that all of the rubbish I have been feeling with my running melt away and really enjoyed myself. I ran with Jerome for a couple of miles. This chap oozed positivity. I felt even better. Jerome was on form so I let him go, but then overtook one of the fast guys from earlier. The sun was baking and the views were splendid. This. This is what running is about. I caught up with Glen and we ran together to the 25 mile CP. He was running his first ultra and was suffering a bit. A couple of cokes and I was off up the hill. I picked up a cramping lady who had joined from the marathon course. We had a chit chat and I gave her an SCap. Within 2 mins she had turned from cramping walker, back to runner again. We ran to the final CP and I took on 2 more cokes and had to walk the big hill. The last cuple of miles of the VGW was quite technical and required concentration. I overtook another few runners and then blasted the last mile at about 7.00s to take 31st place.  

Really pleased with my performance compared to the last effort on the 3FM. I have since run my first 100k week in 2 years so am getting back to it. Marathon #59 Done!

3 Forts Marathon Race report

This was the 4th time I had entered this iconic race. It is just a couple of days after my birthday so is always a birthday treat to myself. It has been a bit of a comeback from this niggling piriformis injury and every time I go for it and up the mileage, it goes again. This time was about taking it more carefully.

I was joined for the second time this year by my good running buddy and neighbour Jon. Hard to believe that 2 ultra runners live opposite each other in a small street in south London. Here we were setting off in the rain and wind. 2 miles up from the start to Cissbury Ring. I felt OK, but a little short of miles and lack of proper carb load. Jon was off like a rocket. We ran together for the first few miles, me struggling with the drive to push uphill owing to that piriformis and then catching Jon up as the terrain flattened out. We reached the turn at the summit of Devil's Dyke, Jon first and then me, in the fog, driving rain and a fierce wind. After the switchback I saw Helen (who was really suffering with a heavy cold) and then dug deep to get back up the hill to the CP. It was here that I had some form of shoe malfunction. This has happened before to another pair of shoes but unexpected in my inov8s. The inner sole came out of the back of the shoe and dug into my heel. Ouch. Some moments later and we were heading off down the hill. Jon was off like a rabbit again and I only caught up at the next CP when he was waiting up. By St Botolphs I removed both inner soles and (feeling slightly guilty) shoved them down a grid, carrying on with no inners in my shoes. Feet sliding around and reduced cushioning was a pain in the rectum but on we went, from 16-20 miles. At 20, something happened that to my knowledge has never happened before. I got cramp. Both quads, at the same time. This now felt like the seven plagues of Egypt...rain, wind, fog, shoe malfunction and now cramp.

Jon ran on. He had to. I must have been a shit to be with. I could see him up ahead, perhaps 100m or so. My favourite part of the race is up to Chanctonbury, then down, up again and then up again to Cissbury ready for the last 2 miles. We had a chit-chat at the top of Chanctonbury. I hit the skids with another bout of cramp on the way down. Jon went off. I walked down the hill. The cramp subsided so I aimed to put a silver liming on the cloud. I went for it. The last few miles were nearly ticked off. 3 to go.....bang. Cramp again. I was literally on the floor. What the hell? 5 minutes of sitting down and it subsided. I got up.....filled my cerebral hemispheres with the most positive thoughts and chugged out the last 3 miles, thankfully overtaking about 20 people, finishing strong(ish) and only 6 mins behind Jon.

Medals and smiles but a lesson learned. Salt experimentation begins.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Compton Downland 40/20 Race Report

As the eponymous song begins "Woke up this morning feeling fine....." as I drove up to the beautiful albeit windy Berkshire Downs in good time for what might be the last ever Compton Downland 40/20. Essentially this race is a 2 lap 20 mile route through picturesque rolling big hills and chocolate box villages. Competitors can switch between the 20 and the 40 and vice versa as the entrance fee is the same.

At the start I bumped into Kelvin Gower who's blog you can follow here and we had a chit chat and ran the first mile or so together. The rain-soaked clay undulations were some work at the beginning. I chose to set off at a relaxed pace for lap 1 so I could keep the powder dry for lap 2. CP1 came and went, well stocked and ready for munch on lap 2. I got into a reasonable rhythm but became irrationally irritated by silly distractions; laces too tight, laces too loose, long sleeve on, long sleeve off, tightness of my waist belt, hair in my face....just about anything with my own race admin that I couldn't begin to take in the awesome vistas, steep ascents and descents. Even the runners around me did my head in. Of course this is my own head shit going on and I need to point out that I am not having a go at them. So I ran alone. Through choice.

As I progressed towards CP2 about 9 miles in, I was thinking about how long it would take me to return from the doldrums and ran through the delightful village of Streatley. Momentarily distracted I felt OK and quaffed a mega-crazy caffeine gel at CP2. A dull ache in my leg that I had thought was symptomatic of my moody maudlin mouvaise became more pronounced. Ouch and mother fucking ouch. Piriformis. Literally a pain in the arse.

I decided that this was a one lap race and not a step-up-to-50 ultra. Damage limitation ensued. I switched from my normal mid to forefoot strike to a flat footed run. All sorts of other niggles kicked in. Stomach cramps, hamstring twinges, bad back, even a pain in my forearm. Clearly somebody had the voodoo doll out somewhere. So I shuffled to the finish, taking in the awesome scenery and the big hills. The race then joined the Ridgeway for 2 or 3 miles. Wow. Hopefully I will be in better form next time I'm on this hallowed track in a few months. I twas gorgeous but lap 2? No way. Kelvin whizzed past looking in fine fettle. He was really enjoying himself. I had 2 miles of undulating mud to cope with and then some streets. I peeled off after 20.1 miles and 2043ft of gain. Race over. Not a DNF but a race cut short.

I'm not an easy catch is perhaps the most unlikely of statements. Mine should state: You miserable little shitbag. I'd be happy with that. My shortest race in a couple of years now, but scenery very enjoyable. Me? Well I am just pretty shite.

I'll be back. It may take some time.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Race Report: Ranscombe Challenge

I woke up a little unsure of myself before this race. I haven't done any serious miles recently and with a promising start to the year with the Tanners, have not got over 18 miles in the last 9 weeks. Still, with a coffee and marmite on toast in my belly I ventured out into the heavy rain and whizzed down to the Medway on the North Downs to Ranscombe Park.

Rain on the way gave way to light drizzle and then a couple of hours break in the weather. Having not raced a 'Vikings, Normans and Saxons' event before, I was pleasantly surprised at the checkpoint food, the organisation, the medals and the goody bags. What I was not looking forward to was running laps. Despite this, a slow start to the race on the first half lap to get my legs going and to ascertain how I was feeling for the run gave way to some harder and faster miles which felt good.

Clearly the idea of laps demoralises me but this was dispelled quite quickly with a scenic route. I can only imagine how nice this would be in the early summer, but for now it was head down and race. The idea of the challenge was to either; run as far as I could in 8 hours or run as quick as the terrain and the lack of training would allow me to do a marathon. With the inclemency of the weather and Mother's Day lunch both looming, I chose the latter, and wisely so. One whippet went straight off the front, chased by another, then a group of say 10 runners and then me. Lap 1 was to be my slowest. It took some time to get into the groove. Once I was, laps 2-6 went by really well. I went through the field and was lapping people, some twice and only 2 chaps were in front. The guy who was clearly the best runner there was Adam, from the Royal Marines Running club. Boom! He was a mentalist. Then there was this guy whom I said hi to every lap we crossed paths near the CP. After 4 laps of ignoring me, he finally said hello. At the start of lap 6, he finished, leaving me in 2nd overall and by the start of lap 7, having lapped everyone but the Royal Marine....who then lapped me!

Essentially the laps were; undulation, up up up, down, down, down and then undulation at the end. 7 times for the marathon. The weather turned by the end of lap 5 to rain, lap 6 to quagmire and hail by the start of lap 7. Halfway round lap 7 my goose was cooked and it was time to ring the bell and finish. 3453ft of hills and 4 hours 11 mins. On the back of no training, not bad. 

So marathon #57 done and dusted. Nice medal, great organisation and I'll definitely be back for more of their events. 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Race Report Winter Tanners 30 2015

Starting 2015 with a big run was a bit of a pipe dream just over a month ago as I was coughing up the heaviest chest infection I think I've ever had. I had the lung capacity of a heavy smoker and was struggling to breathe, let alone run.

Christmas came and went and I found myself improving and all of a sudden, 15 days of consecutive running. No drinking as of new year and I woke up in the morning of Sunday 11th Jan and met my good friend and neighbour John who was running his first ultra: The Winter Tanners 30.

A quick drive at 7am from chilly South London to Leatherhead and after dropping the car at the station car park and some sorting out of race admin in the local leisure centre it was off to the start. Twitter chums had agreed an 8.30am start and we milled around for a few moments and said good mornings to David from Springfield Striders and also to Mark Thornberry. Later in the run John commented on there being quite a tight-knit bunch of runners in the ultra community and although I had never met Mark before, banter started quickly and it was more like we had known each other from before......

Out of the traps and local boy Mark showed us the way so we didn't need to look at the directions, not that this stopped me from doing so and on the occasional corner, I would slow from the other two and check bearings. The course is different every year and getting lost is not an option for me on an LDWA. Denbies vineyard was a long drag up but we were welcomed with majestic views of the recent sunrise over the Surrey Hills. Gravelled paths and tarmac quickly gave way to muddy tracks as we headed away from Dorking with a brief stop at CP1 and up the high point of the day. We were welcomed to the 965ft Leith Hill after a 5km drag to the top. Mark recounted the story of why the tower was built on the top, to raise the height to 1000ft. Coming down off the top was a blast. Soft wooded twisty path. Perfect for jumping and running all the way down, although much steeper than the way up. Fun though.

CP1-CP2 was a good 10 miles and this got hard going. Some sections between Holmbury and Shere were calf deep in really claggy mud. Some poor chap lost his shoe in a recce run last weekend. I can see why. After a drier spell, Mark slipped and fell. We all pulled up and walked to check he was OK, but clearly he had done some ankle damage. Bravely he soldiered on, just behind, catching up when we stopped to get directions and again at the next CP at Hurtwood Control. One heck of a climb up Pitch Hill preceded this. Normally we would take the Peaselake route aka Founders Route, but this 'faint path' was nuts. Hands on knees straight up the side! After a quick feast, we were on our way, skirting woods through farmers fiends towards Abinger. After being overtaken by David for the 10th time John recounted how much he was in his element and enjoying the run. We were having a blast and it wasn't until another claggy field that I realised that I had better neck a gel at 20 miles having not yet eaten sugar. CP3 was at 25.7 miles and after a lot of valley bottom, a steep ascent onto the NDW. John's effervescent self had withdrawn into a pale-faced wall hitting death march. Plenty of encouragement was required up to Steer's field at Ranmore Common, where we also caught up with Richard Stewart and Dave Barker. I ensured John's face was stuffed at CP3 and we rammed a chocolate and caffeine gel down his face. After a gentle and tentative descent to Tanners Hatch and the Wilberforce monument, it was banter time with Rich and Dave. We had 4 miles to go and with colour back in the bearded-one, we hit a cameo blast for the last few. Chit chat gave way to some full tilt running and from the field gate after crossing the Guildford Rd it was sub 7s for the last 2 miles. This was an awesome way to finish an awesome race. 5.58 is not quick by any standards but the mud was pretty bad.

Not only did we all finish like juggernauts, the legs felt great. Not only was this day #30 of a running streack, I've continued and now at day #35. It may well be a 100km week. That has not happened for a while! Lets see how far I go after parkrun tomorrow.

Marathon #56 DONE.