HOW DO YOU BREAK AN ULTRA RUNNER?
Tell them they have a marathon left to go, rather than a half marathon, when they've already run 98 miles.
This is exactly what happened to us during this 'fastest know time' attempt...read on to find out more...
This was my first attempt at running 100 miles, it was also Ben Whitfield and Adam Jacob's first attempts too. Statistics would say that at least one of us wouldn't make it!
I've had the idea of running the whole Greensand Way (111 miles) for a while, it starts in Kent and covers some lovely hills in Surrey. I know the Surrey end well and have always enjoyed the trail. I've also wanted to run 100 miles for a while, not fussed about buckles, medals and t-shirts from races, I figured that I'd just challenge myself to find a trail and go for it, the Greensand Way was the obvious choice.
I roped Ben into the challenge and recruited good friend, and ultra running legend himself, Ash Balachandran onboard as crew. His job would be to meet us every 6-8 miles with our food and kit, make sure we're still alive, point us in the right direction and keep us moving. A role he did with incredible assurance and skill!
Adam Jacobs, a pretty badass OCR racer, and newbie ultra runner, decided to join us for 'just' 50 miles at the start...we knew something was up when we turned up with 24 hours worth of food and it wasn't long before he was convinced to come to the whole way with us, something he was considering, but hadn't fully committed to.
Off we went from Hamstreet in Kent...the first part of the day was a delight, easy going trails apart from the odd bramble infested section, lovely views and orchards everywhere. We stole apples and strawberries, and skipped along the trail with endless enthusiasm. We took the odd wrong turn but soon realised thanks to our trusty Suunto 9 watches (mine had 44% battery left after 31 hours of running, before you ask!). We met Todd after 15'ish miles and it was fun to share some trails with him.
A big part of this challenge for us was to involve others, we invited anyone interested to join us and we're blown away by the support we received, loads of people appeared on the trail to run with us, and we are so grateful to each and every one of them.
While Todd was with us we enjoyed lots of chat, some silly photos and visited a bramble infested badger den (not intentional), he left us just as the sun was setting and we felt good as we grabbed our head torches, ready for a long night. Ben's mate Pete met us on the trail briefly (strongest handshake ever, unnecessary!) which was also nice. We grabbed a Pot Noodle (food of champions) at a local pub (thanks for the water) as the light was fading and from that point on we had our head torches to light the way.
INTO THE DARKNESS
I love running trails in the dark and as no one was around, we put some music on to distract us from any nighttime tiredness that might creep in. Music was followed by football on the radio but this didn't last long as the lovely Susie, Raissa and Katie appeared out of the darkness, cheering us in! It was a lovely surprise to see them all, Susie had brought a pom pom with her (but no head torch) but still gets 10/10 for effort. They joined us for 10 lovely miles and were great company throughout, loving being able to share the adventure with us. We were treated to deer sightings, and loads of badgers, so many badgers, and the odd owl!
Next we bumped into fellow Salomon athlete Dan Keeley and his lovely wife, they'd been out for a nice romantic dinner, and obviously felt that there was no better way to end a romantic evening than by standing in the woods waiting for some smelly guys to appear! It was great to see them and gave us another lift.
We continued into the night and the girls left us after going through a deer park, it was just the 3 of us again and we were running really strong, we made up some excellent time through the woodland sections and I felt that I could run forever, which is probably a good thing because I still had 15 hours of running ahead of me.
As we approached Reigate, Dai appeared out of the darkness. I'd only ever briefly met Dai before and he is a great guy. It's worth mentioning that he worked all day, came out to meet us, ran most the night with us, then went back to work! By now it was about 3 or 4am and it was getting COLD! Suddenly the temperature dropped considerably and we all started shivering. Thankfully super Ash appeared and we were able to grab hats, gloves, jackets etc...drama over.
We kept pushing and were treated to the most incredible sunrise as we hit Dorking, the start of the familiar area of the trail for us. Croissant and coffee was consumed and then Dai left us to crack on...back to the office for him. We were starting to feel tired now (22 hours in, not bad!) and slowed down a bit, running was getting harder and we knew that this would be where the challenge really started, we still had a long way to go. We battled past school kids and mums in Dorking and finally hit the trail up to Leith Hill. It wasn't long before Rach Murphy and Lofgren appreared out of a bush yelling with excitement, as me and Adam starred with confused looks on our faces! We exchanged stories and worked our way to the top of Leith Hill for a short rest.
THIS IS WHERE IT HIT US!!!
The mileages hadn't been making sense from the start, but I think we simply went into denial about it and thought it would all be ok. I KNEW that it was further than 13 miles from this point but refused to accept it. As we sat at the top of the hill, both Ben and Ash did some plotting on their phones as we discussed what was left. The news came out that we really did have AT LEAST a marathon to go, not the half marathon we thought. Can you ever imagine more draining news when you've run 98 miles already? I thought I'd be home at lunch...we had another slow 13 or 14 miles to add onto the day...depressing.
We all sat quietly, pondering what lay ahead. Until I told the guys to get up, man up, and get moving...there was no way we were giving up, we just had to suck it up and get on with it...so off we went.
Why did this happen?
Due to misleading online information mostly, watch inaccuracy may also be to blame but we all had the same distance on our various watches so I find that hard to believe. Whatever happened, and we'll never really know unless one of us does the trail again with one of those rolling things that measure distance (no thanks), the FKT attempt meant that we had to complete the whole trail, irrelevant of distance, so we had to crack on.
The legs were a bit stiff by now, and Ben was suffering with blisters, but for the most part, we were still moving well(ish). A bit slow, but not too bad. We ticked off the hills as they came and before we knew it we were out the other end where a nice chap had seen our attempt online and set up an impromptu aid station for us in Shamley Green. It was the next section where I personally struggled, from Shamley Green to Witley Station. This section drained my enthusiasm, along with still coming to terms with the extra mileage, and I was a bit grumpy! We mostly plodded in silence, with Rach desperately trying to lift our spirits and get us moving. We found Dan Brown on the trail, he'd come to find us so he could run the final bit into Haslemere. Dan had come prepared with THE MOST AMAZING Watermelon drink for us, it really lifted the spirits. Shortly after we met Tessa Rose, who had driven up from Bournemouth to support us. All this, followed by Ash presenting me with a twister ice cream really lifted the mood. I was buzzing again, ready to get this thing done.
We walked and ran the next section a bit better, ticking off the miles as we went, forever getting a step closer to the final destination, with aching legs and weary eyes.
We hiked up the Devil's Punchbowl and paused for a pic at the top. This was a big moment as it was mostly downhill from here. My favourite moment happened as a nice lady took a photo of us...'you guys have just run up that hill, you're barely even sweating!'...we all laughed and mumbled to ourselves...
'if only you knew what we'd really done!'.
We saw lovely Corina at the top of the hill and now had just 2 miles to go. We didn't hang around as we wanted this over. our crew was pretty big at this stage and we battled our way through the final section to Haslemere. We finally saw the sign to indicate the start/end of the Greensand Way, we'd done it...123 miles in 31 hours, 20 minutes and 28 seconds. A new FKT record.
Ash and some others were waiting for us down the road and we ran with a new spring in our step to our unofficial finish line (beyond the actual finish line, bad planning again!!), we all collapsed in a heap on a seat as people took photos and exchanged hugs. Our challenge was complete.
I want to say a massive thank you to Ash for being the best support crewman ever. To Ben and Adam for sharing this incredible journey with me, to everyone that came our to run with us or just say hello, to everyone that sent messages on Instagram and facebook...you are all heroes.
Recovery has been really good and I was leading Salomon trail workshops 3 days later...will I do another one? Probably. Will I quadruple check the actual distance next time? Most certainly.
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.
I own Running Adventures.