I'm very excited to welcome my first ever guest blog post. Wendy joined the Running Adventures North Downs Ultra Run this past weekend and wrote the following blog post about her experience and what she learned. Wendy is an inpisrational polar explorer who is preparing to pioneer a new route across the Transantarctic mountains and will finish at the South Pole in 2020. Find to more here.
If you'd like to submit a guest blog post, get in touch.
Things you only know when you’ve run a trail ultra...
We joined Matt, from Running Adventures, in an unassuming car park in Guildford early on Sunday morning. There were a few nervous first-timers (including me) and some seasoned ultra-runners there for a guided run on the North Downs. Matt is very chilled. I was expecting a big fanfare, ‘this is it guys, your first ultra’ type thing, or even a kit check or something, but he just said hi, and we more or less got going. That laid-back attitude was exactly right, we just pottered off together and Matt was happy to chat as we went round, offering advice and stories. I was super-happy just to finish, having vision beforehand of ducking out and getting a taxi back, but once I was in, I was in 100%. I was surprised – having done a few marathons – how slow the pace was, but it was essential that the pace was sustainable. A really enjoyable day with a really good group of interesting people. Here’s what I learned:
Sign up for your own running adventure here.
When my buddy Danny Bent launched the I Move London Relay...I simply HAD to be involved. As anyone that knows, or follows, me will be aware, running on roads and in cities is not my usual type of running, but this event looked so good and I wanted to support the amazing work that Danny was doing, I thought I'd do it!
What is the London Relay?
4,000 miles. 2,500 runners. 1 Baton. The I Move London Relay was a 4000 mile run completed in 10K and 5K loops, in central London, repeated for 30 days and 30 nights across July. A new Guinness World Record. Groups of 2-50 participants ran each leg. The main rule being...DO NOT put down the Baton!
No pressure then!
Running Adventures 'took over' 4 stages of the event, and I promised to run all 4 of them. I didn't at the time realise it would be close to 40oC on the day, the hottest day of the year!! I invited clients, friends and anyone that might listen to join me for at least one lap.
My laps started at 3:30pm and began with just me and Tanya Raab taking on the course, dodging tourists and having a nice little catch up. The next lap was busier, with some pretty awesome people joining me. We had Danny Bent himself, Annie Ross from Exerk, lovely Sophie Radcliffe (Challenge Sophie), fellow Dragons Back Race survivor Huw Jack Brassington and none other than Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton joining for a lap. As well as some other lovely people...we ran, we took photos, we chatted, we laughed.
The next lap saw me joined by some friends and clients of Running Adventures and we buzzed through London, dodging yet more tourists who were now joined by commuters! I was starting to feel a bit drained by the heat for the afternoon but kept moving...determined to finish my 4 laps.
The final lap, where we were joined by yet more lovely people, was tough...I was dehydrated and battling through, but kept smiling and kept moving. We enjoyed the slightly cooler (prob only 35oC by now!) and had lots of chat and banter as we ran.
We finished to a brilliant reception, with the next Baton holders giving me a wonderful guard of honour on arrival. I was whacked...and had to sit down for quite some time afterwards. Inside I was still buzzing, buzzing in the knowledge that I'd managed the 4 laps in that epic heat, and made a little difference to the lives of many through the charities the run was supporting.
I'm told that next year it will be back, bigger and better, if you weren't involved in this one...you won't want to miss out on this epic event in 2019.
Running Adventures has grown through my passion for trail running and ultra running. Running Adventures is basically ME...I do all the coaching and host all the events.
I do a number of things under the Running Adventures brand, and I love meeting new people and sharing my experience, knowledge and passion for this sport with everyone who comes along to an event, books a coaching session or signs up to a trail weekend.
Check out everything I have to offer via the tabs at the top of this website, and let me know if I can help you on your running journey in some way.
I'm looking forward to sharing the trails with loads of new friends in 2018.
A huge number of my clients come to me because they want to run on trails, but haven't had the confidence to try it on their own. They are used to running roads and feel intimidated by the transition to trails...
What if it's muddy?
Where will I go?
Is it safe?
WHAT IF I GET LOST!????
These are all reasonable concerns and totally understandable, we've all been there, nervous of what lies within those trees, away from the 'safety' of the pavement or road, away from civilisation.
In reality, running trails is often safer than running roads, for a start you can't get mowed down by a truck in the woods, so thats a bonus! I understand the fears that females have in particular about running in the countryside, they feel vulnerable, but (I apologise for my bluntness here) you are much more likely to be bundled into a van by the road than you are to be bundled into a van by a crew of criminally organised badgers. You are more likely to get hassled by people on the streets and you are more likely to run into some unsavoury characters on the streets.
However, like I said, I understand all the fears and concerns, I was there once myself.
So I thought it might be helpful to address some of these issues, in the hope that it might give you some confidence to give it a try.
What if it's muddy?
Then you will get muddy legs, you will get wet feet and you will slip and slide. You will also cry with laughter, feel more alive than ever before and pretend to be a child once again, splashing in the puddles without a care in the world.
Where will I go?
Take a look at a map of your local area, the chances are that there are trails right on your doorstep. Find a small area of trails and simply go an explore, you will don doubt discover some cool things you didn't even know where there.
Is it safe?
Of course, running on trails holds certain dangers and we have to be careful. Tripping is more likely and the mud can make running difficult at times. Forget about your pace and take it slowly, if you need to walk, then walk. Running isn't all about PB's and running as fast as we can, learn to run slowly through the trails and enjoy the environment.
WHAT IF I GET LOST!?
Then you get lost...so what? As long as you take your first few runs near your local town or village then if you get lost it really doesn't matter, you will eventually find yourself hitting a road you recognise or a village you are familiar with. Also, assuming you have reception, you can always see where you are on google maps and retrace your tracks. You don't have to run for miles on your first trail run, keep it close to home and simple.
I could go on forever with more questions and answers, and I will come back to this topic time and time again. If you want to learn how to run trails, master hills and the terrain, and increase your confidence, then I'm running some one day workshops that may be of interest. Otherwise, grab a map, grab a friend and head for the hills...be brave...you'll love it.
Let me know how you get on, if you have questions you'd like answered, leave them in the comments.
Doing races is awesome, pushing yourself to the limit amongst like-minded people, challenging your body to last the distance, getting to that finish line as quickly as possible.
But there are plenty of other ways to challenge yourself...
Myself and long time running buddy Ash are heading off to Portugal at the end of the month, on a self sufficient run along the Historical Way. The Historical Way runs through small traditional towns and villages with several centuries of history. Comprised mainly of rural trails, this is a classic Grand Route (GR), with stretches of cork tree forests, mountain ranges, valleys, rivers and creeks, it's a true journey through time, local culture and nature trails.
We'll be climbing onto that plane, in our running kit, with everything we (hope we) need on our backs. We'll have no support car, no feed stations, no emergency beacon strapped to us...we'll also have no real time constraints. We simply need to cover the distance over 3 days, otherwise we'll miss our flight home. If we want to run into the night, we will...if we want to stop for ice cream and coffee, we will...if we want to check out something interesting on the trail, we will. We'll be free to do what we want, when we want...so long as we keep moving forward.
We'll be taking bivvy bags and sleeping wherever we can on the trail. Unless of course we manage to find a comfy barn to stay in. Our final destination will be Cape St Vincent...somewhere I have visited many times before and is a special place to me, with so many good memories. Once we arrive at this awesome lighthouse, we will make our way to nearby Sagres for beer and food...still in our stinky running kit! 😊
After the stress of cut-offs on the Dragons Back Race, and the pressure to always run faster in other races, I cannot wait to start this adventure, on our terms, with our rules, experiencing everything rural Portugal has to offer along the way.
This past weekend saw 11 wonderful people come along to my Trail Weekend in the amazing Peak District. We were blessed with awesome weather and the best trails you could possibly imagine.
The weekend started on Friday, when we went for a 7 mile jaunt around the local area, offering everyone a taste of what was to come during their time with Running Adventures in the Peak District. We then settled down for some dinner as I ran through the plan for the next few days. We stayed in the fantastic Twitchill Cottages, just up the hill from Hope, I catered for everyone, so they could relax in the garden or the swimming pool when we weren't out running.
After a quick workshop on uphill and downhill running technique, Saturday saw us take on a spectacular 19 mile loop, taking in Mam Tor, Brown Knoll, Kinder Scout and much more. The views were spectacular and the trails were even better, offering some awesome running for everyone. We had a few trail running first timers in the group and they couldn't have asked for a better introduction to trail running.
On Sunday we ran to Bamford Edge and Stanage Edge, making time to play on the rocks as we went. 12 miles saw us complete a lovely route before we were back at our cottages. Quick swim, shower and some fresh clothes...and we made our way down to the local pub, where we shared stories over a few beers and a cracking roast lunch.
Finally, via request of the group, we woke up at 4:15am on Monday morning to run up the nearest hill for sunrise. It's never easy waking up early, but when you get to witness something so beautiful, it's all worthwhile.
A great time was had by all and I can't wait to do it all over again. Special thanks goes to Ben Lumley for capturing some amazing images of the weekend, all of which you can see here.
Who's coming in 2018? Registration is already open! Click the button below to learn more.
In case you didn't notice from all the Facebook posts...it got hot! Really hot!
You either love it or hate it, I personally love a nice heatwave, having said that, I've been on the beach for the past 3 days!
A bit of heat isn't an excuse to stop running, but I would advise you to take it a little easier, we don't want you passing out on the trails now do we? You'll wake up with a funny tan line!
So here are a few simple tips to keep you on the trails in the sun, this isn't rocket science, but you'll be amazed how many people ignore these simple bits of advice.
1. Choose a shady route - Live near some woods what offer shade and cover from the sun? Sure, it will still be hot, but it will take the edge off.
2. Drink lots of water - Make sure you start your run nicely hydrated, sip water throughout and have a nice drink when you are done. Dehydration isn't fun, trust me on that, so be sensible and take some water with you. If you are feeling a bit sicky when you get home, have a dioralyte, it'll sort you out in no time.
3. Eat a salty snack - Either during, or after your run, make sure you eat something salty. When we sweat, we lose salt. Without salt in the body, we can't process water properly, if we can't process water properly, we inflate like a water balloon and feel crap!
4. Take it slowly - You don't need to run every session at a million miles an hour. Take it easy in the heat, enjoy some new trails and leave the watch at home.
5. Wear a hat and suncream - This is basically advice, but plenty of people ignore it. If you fancy a Running Adventures cap, let me know, they are only £10 with delivery.
Enjoy your running folks, have fun and take it easy.
Who is coming to Love Trails Festival? If you're not.....why not!????
I can't wait for this, it's going to be one epic weekend of running, talks, beers, games and music. I'll be speaking about my 'Ongoing pursuit for a DNF' as well as hosting workshops all about ultra running.
There's also going to be some very excellent people joining me in Dorset including awesome ultra runner; Damian Hall, lovely cake loving super runner; Elise Downing, Impact Marathon Series top dog; Nick Kershaw, the legendary Barefoot Aleks, Happy dude; Danny Bent, and a whole load of other heroes.
So what are you waiting for, grab a ticket and join the fun.
Find out more here.
Summer is here and I have no doubt that you are all enjoying the sunshine?
Many of you will be heading off for your holidays soon, and I'm sure the majority will be going somewhere with a beach!? Holidays are obviously a time to relax and spend time with our families, but I'm sure, like me, you'll be sneaking your kit into your suitcase!
Below is a video I actually recorded last year, but I thought I'd resurrect it for the summer, it shows a fun little interval session you can do on most beaches, you don't even need trainers!
Have fun with it, and let me know how you get on.
"The legendary Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ follows the mountainous spine of Wales from north to south. This incredible 5-day journey is 315 kilometres long with 15,500 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain. It is the toughest 5-day mountain race in the world."
I lined up on the start line (with long time friend Ash, we were taking on this challenge together) of this infamous race with these words from the official website spinning around my head! This was to be the toughest challenge of my life, and without sounding like a showboating bragger, I've done some pretty tough stuff in the past!
I was quietly confident that I had what it takes to complete this race, a race that has previously only seen roughly 50% of it's starters even make it to the finish line! I know I was fit enough, but there were some fierce cut-offs that were dominating my mind, would I be quick enough over the unforgiving terrain to stay in the race?
Day 1 - The Dragon's Punch in the Face
Carneddau, Glyderau and Snowdon massif
With considerable ascent, day 1 was the Dragon's Back way of sorting the men from the boys, you would soon know if you had what it takes to complete this iconic race as we headed straight into the mountains. The weather was warm and we were working our way from checkpoint to checkpoint with relative ease, we knew the terrain from previous recce's and our plan to preserve ourselves seemed to be working as we hit the first cut off with over 2 hours to spare. This was going to be easy!!
Each day had multiple checkpoints where you had to 'dib' in, between checkpoints you could take whatever route you pleased, so navigation was key. At least twice a day there were checkpoints with a timed cut off, miss the cut off, even by seconds, and you are out the race.
We then headed up Tryfan, basically rock climbing our way, without ropes, to the summit, from here on the day got serious as we headed into mist and then eventually up to the famous Crib Goch ridgeline, up to Snowdon then a few more peaks after, just to finish us off for the day. It was brutally hard terrain but we moved fairly well and made it in with plenty of time to spare, day 1 complete, success.
Day 2 - The Reality Check
Moelwynion and Rhinogydd
Day 1 had been really tough, but we'd tackled it well, not going to fast or hard and getting ourselves into the finish with plenty of time to spare before the cut-off. If we could maintain this, it would be a fantastic, stress free, week. Then day 2 happened, and our new found confidence was beaten out of us.
We headed into the Moelwyn's and into the mist, this was a section we we'd recce'd but I was struggling to remember any of it, I simply couldn't visualise most of the section and it was bugging me. We navigated fairly well, a few minor mistakes, through the mountains and felt that we were cruising nicely. Then we realised something, we really were cursing nicely, too nicely, we'd already become complacent as we hit a checkpoint just 2 minutes within the recommended time. It was panic time, how had this happened? Why were we so slow compared to yesterday? With no time to consider the details we started HAMMERING the next 2 sections, hitting the hills hard and running the flats much faster than we'd have liked, but we had no choice, there was no way I was getting timed out if I could help it. Thankfully we nailed the nav through a tricky section and got to the timed checkpoint with 30mins to spare, we'd made up enough time to at least eat and briefly rest.
The afternoon saw the sun blazing down on us, it was BOILING. We went up the Rhinogs and then messed up our descent of the first one, annoying as we'd recce'd a great decent only weeks before, it took us ages to get down as we crawled down huge boulders, avoiding massive holes, and heather traps. Again, we were losing time.
We hacked on over the next few mountains, 5mins within the recommended time again, time to hammer another section. I was exhausted, the efforts from earlier, and the heat, were getting to me. We made up the time though. When we eventually got in, it was late, almost 10pm, this was not ideal but we were still in the race, many other were not.
Late finishes would now become the theme of the week, we'd get in at 10pm, quickly eat, wash our feet, take care of kit, set up beds, sleep for 4-5 hours maximum then the alarm went off at 4:45am. Straight up, breakfast, pack kit, back on the course at 6am. It was the only way we'd complete this race and it was relentless.
Day 3 - Long and Lumpy and Neverending
Cadair Idris and Pumlumon Fawr
This was a day to fear, huge distance and yet still loads of climbing to be done. We'd be lead to believe that if you can crack 2/3's of this day, you were pretty much home and dry for the race. Many people had already retired or been timed out, including some friends, we had to do this, for them, for everyone that was supporting us, for ourselves.
We were confident on this day as it had more runnable sections and less technical climbing, which suited us. The heat was cranking up even more and it apparently hit the late 20's on this day. When you are out on the open hills you are literally getting baked by the sun, there is no shade, it was like doing a hilly version of the Marathon Des Sables!
We moved well and but we were still close to the cut-off times, thankfully not as close as the previous day for the most part, just keep moving, just keep moving. Once again the climbs were relentless but the views spectacular, we were both really flagging again, the previous days and lack of sleep catching up with us. This day seemed to go on FOREVER and it was another late finish, but we made it, we were still in the race, somehow!
Day 4 - Wales Doesn't Get this Hot
Elan Valley and Drygarn Fawr
Another incredibly long day and another incredibly hot day. This day had the 'slightly less ascent' tag attached to it very quickly, but with 3 days of mountain running, crawling, climbing, walking in our legs, it wasn't going to be easy.
We started the day in the best way possible, by getting lost! Thankfully it wasn't just us but a huge clan of around 25 runners all looking confused in a forest. It's this way, it's that way, the problem here was there were too many chefs, and no one knew who to trust, or not trust! We ended up sliding down a forest covered cliff in the end, spilling out onto a footpath at the bottom, much to the shock and amusement of our fellow competitors who had taken the correct route. This wasn't good for time, we lost a load and were already playing catch up. Thankfully there were some straight forward runnable sections ahead and we took full advantage, gaining back the time we'd lost and some.
I'd been lucky up to this point, with minimal blisters or issues. This changed when I lost my foot in a hole full of cow shit! Not a big deal initially but suddenly my heel started to sting, really sting! I had the tiniest crack appearing and the dirty water was clearly aggravating it. You have to sort these issues early, before they get out of hand, otherwise you are in trouble. I did a quick job on it out on the trails and then as soon as I got to the timed check point, new shoes went on and the issue was taped, and taped some more. Problem sorted.
It was another huge day and we were totally broken by the end, drained of all energy, it was put determination that drove us forward, we got in late again but we knew there was one day to go and the end was in sight.
Day 5 - How Can We Stop You Now?
Carmarthenshire and The Black Mountain
This was it, time to finish this thing. Final day, it didn't matter than we could hardly walk when we woke up, it didn't matter that we were totally ruined, there was nothing that would stand in our way between us and the Dragon trophy that lie in wait.
Or was there?
I knew that if we got to day 5 in one piece, we'd nailed this race. We'd not been fast, but we were still in the race and all I cared about was getting to the end and getting that Dragon trophy. We set off sore and aching. We'd recce'd this whole day previously and knew it was relatively straight forward, or from what I could remember at least...
The first 30km flew by, we were smashing it, 2.5 hours ahead of the time cut-off and enjoying ourselves. We grabbed more food at a check point and cracked on, eager to get this thing done. Then the wheels started to fall off, and the doors, the windows, the lights....everything. It was BOILING, and there was hardly any water around so we were rationing. I could feel myself burning up and getting dangerously dehydrated. Just keep moving.
We had one last mountain range to conquer, and from what I remembered, it wasn't so bad, I'd remembered wrong. For some reason I'd forgotten about an additional 3 or 4 summits that we had to hit, and they were horrible. I was hot, felt ill, struggling to eat, surely I wasn't going to fail now? I had concerns for sure.
We kept going, I was grumpy, tired and felt worse and worse as time went by. The going was slow but we kept moving, one step at a time. FINALLY we made it to the castle that marked 5km to the finish. We were buzzing, I started to perk up as I knew it was all downhill from here, Ash was bouncing around like he was on a parkrun!
The final 3km were on road, and earlier in the day I'd made a promise to Ash, when we hit the road, we'll put some music on to distract us from the pain. We hit the road and I stopped and started fiddling with my phone, Ash was keen to get on and then the music started playing (A punk band called Midtown if anyone cares!?) and we both had huge grins on our faces. We ran down that hill like school kids at a rock concert for the first time, jumping around and playing air guitar as we went, time flew and that memory will last with me forever more. Then we saw a steward waving and clapping, I quickly turned the music off, we were done, we'd done it, we finished, we BLOODY FINISHED...we entered the finishers funnel to whoops and cheers, I had a tear in my eye, it was over, we were done.
We did it, never any doubt ;)
I want to thank everyone for all their amazing support and Ash for being the best running buddy anyone could ever have, we completing this race against the odds and it was an experience that I will never forget.
I own Running Adventures.