Monday, 31 May 2010


Phew, that was a very long way on foot. 145 miles. Longest race yet.

Having trained pretty thoroughly and feeling like I had the fitness, strength, stamina and mental whatnot to have a really good crack at GUCR this year, it was more than a little annoying that my right knee started to hurt last week. Injury is not something I'm familiar with. I iced and ibuprofened and thought it might have been ok.

There was quite a buzz at the start in Gas Street. A lot like the start of other events, but with an air of excitement mixed with fear among the 91 runners. There were plenty of familiar faces and I was feeling very positive, really looking forward to getting going. The first 20 miles zipped by and I felt fantastic and was making very good progress, sticking to a 25/5 run/walk strategy.

Then came the first canal tunnel, where the towpath is diverted up and over a hill. Up was fine, but on the way back down my knee started to complain. It got progressively worse over the next 15 miles or so, until it finally screamed at me in no uncertain terms that it was not going to do any more running. But it felt ok walking (on the flat at least - inclines and steps were not fun). So, I figured I could have pulled out at the 36 mile checkpoint. But I have never DNFed before and I had raised over £20k in sponsorship and besides, I really quite liked the idea of getting from Birmingham to London without taking a train or any of the other usual transport options. The alternative to quitting was to walk the remaining 110 miles. As a runner (or at least a very keen jogger) the idea of walking that far was not really appealing, but I figured it would be a shame to waste the opportunity of taking part in this event and it would at least provide some good mental training. Very frustrating but there was nothing I could do, so I just appreciated that I'm fit and healthy enough to be up for a long intercity mosey and got on with it.

So began a very long walk. The route was pretty if dull (the canal gets a bit samey after a while, though there are some interesting barges and a fair amount of wildlife - mostly herons and various other birds with their cute offspring). I found that while Asics GT2150s are great running shoes, they're not so good for long distance walking. The blisters started to make themselves known somewhere between 50 and 60 miles. I initially kept up a reasonable pace (a little over 4mph) and was not overtaken by many people for ages, until the blisters began to slow me down. Like my knee, I found that the blisters were actually quite bearably painful on the flat, but much worse on uneven surfaces or going up and down inclines (like at the locks), where my feet shifted in my trainers to make them hurt in an unpredictable way. I changed shoes and socks at the 70 mile station, where I saw that the blisters were looking rather angry already. At that point they were on both heels and the balls of of both feet, but not yet on my toes.

I found the night walking fine, with the sky light enough that I didn't bother to use my headtorch much. The 85 mile check was in the middle of the night for me. I didn't stop long at any of the feed stations - just enough to fill my Camelbak and stock up on more food. It was darkest from about half past 2 for a couple of hours, when I began to feel very sleepy and really wanted to have a kip. At 03:30 I passed some sort of noisy car race, which seemed a little surreal. As it got light (around Bletchley) I began to feel a bit more awake and the thought of the next checkpoint at Tring being the 100 mile marker was very encouraging.

Then came the longest section: 20 miles to the next checkpoint. I began to feel very fatigued and spacey at around 11am. I really wasn't sure I could keep going. There's only so much Red Bull and Pro Plus can do. Then the blister on my left heel popped. Or should I say exploded? For a few minutes the pain dramatically increased, but it had the welcome side effect of really waking me up. My spirits lifted and I was pleased to make the next checkpoint in plenty of time - I had been worried that I might have been slowing so much that I was in danger of not making the 45 hour cutoff for the race. As usual it was great to see friendly faces and get looked after, albeit for only a few minutes. With just 25 miles to go it felt like the start of the home stretch.

It was very hot and sunny, but fortunately there was tree cover for a lot of the route. It got more open as we came in towards London. This is a section of the canal I have run several times before in other ultras, but they were all in January or February - it looked almost unrecognisably different in the sunshine! At the final check with just over 12 miles to go, we were given a map and written description of a diversion. I found it really tough having to come off the towpath, especially as the route went through a hilly residential area. I was extremely glad to get back on the canal, especially when the next sign I saw stated that there was 7 3/4 miles to Paddington. Usually that would take just over an hour, but I knew it would be more like 3. The end was finally approaching.

I called Jim when I had 6 miles to go. He was already on his way to the finish and he walked along to meet me about 3 miles from the end. He valiantly tried to get a photo of me with my eyes open (not easy at the best of times) and it was great to have company after 40 hours predominantly spent alone. We chatted about how he'd watched Eurovision Song Contest and how Tommy (our cat) was enjoying the weekend. He'd been posting on Fetch throughout the two days, updating people on how I was getting on.

Finally the finish banner came into view. It was a huge relief for it to be over. Dick was there to present me with my medal (the hardest earned medal I own, without a doubt) and there were more friendly faces there too. I sat in a chair with a blanket and a cup of tea and waited for a taxi home.This morning I popped my blisters and have been icing the backs of both knees. (The left one is very sore - probably an overcompensating thing.) My legs don't really bend or straighten properly and I can only move in a very slow motion comedy walk style.My final time was 41 hours, 5 minutes and I came 29th out of 45 finishers. I think it was quite an achievement, even if not quite the good long run I had hoped for.
The race director, Dick Kearn, is a top bloke of the finest order and his team of helpers are truly fantastic. Huge thanks to all involved. This is one of those events that feels really special, with a brilliant atmosphere. I can hardly wait to do it again...

Sunday, 23 May 2010

White Heat

It's getting far too hot for running! I did the White Peak marathon yesterday, which follows the Tissington and High Peak trails in Derbyshire, to finish at Cromford, near Matlock. It started at 11am, which is late enough that it's easy to get there by public transport, but has the major disadvantage of causing us to run through the hottest part of the day. Which yesterday happened to be around 26 degrees. And there's very little in the way of trees or other cover to provide shelter from the rays.

I planned to take it easy as I'm not sure how much my legs have recovered from the 10 in 10. Also I'm officially tapering for GUCR. I decided that since I'm stronger and less fat than last time I ran a hot marathon, this time I wouldn't have to wilt into slow motion. I just about convinced myself, finishing in a sweaty but respectable 4:05:45. I've decided to call that a 26-degrees-PB.
As usual there was a high turnout of all the regulars, including a good dollop of both Fetchies and 100 club folk. Great to see them all. Plus I found out that I'd been voted 'member of the month' on Fetch. Shiny.

So I guess now I should just take it easy for the next few days, in preparation for setting off from Birmingham in the early hours of Saturday morning, with the aim of reaching Paddington some time on Sunday...

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Pictures from day 9 and 10

So Jim brought his camera up to the Lake District and captured a few moments from the last couple of days of the 10 in 10. First up is me finishing day 9:After which I had an ice bath in the horse box.But the time passes quicker if it's shared (Chris obliged on day 9).We were introduced to the other runners on Sunday, up on the lawn near the finish, before heading down to the start for the final time.The first 6 lead out...
And of course the first back was Adam, with a new 10 in 10 course record and a new men's World Record. This boy is amazing.David was impressive throughout with sub 3:30 every day.
Steve had a pose all prepared with the Body Rehab girls,
Ray brought in the Irish charm,and Foxy grabbed a beer as he finished.I came in 6th, in a women's World Record time,shortly followed by the lovely Chris with his fastest run of the ten.Naomi looked very happy to have finishedand Jim followed soon after with his big Scottish grin.Michelle and Phil hobbled in hand in handand Aly arrived with the Welsh flag to round off the ten.We were all presented with our lumps of slate, a bottle of wine and a book by Lake District running legend Joss Naylor.
A very special event to be part of. Happy days.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Day 11 - back to reality

So, for ten days I was an 'athlete'. It was brilliant. The group of runners were amazing people to be around. We were looked after incredibly well by all involved. The Body Rehab team are gods. They really went above and beyond to make sure we could all get out on the course each day to run that tough hilly loop around the lake, over and over again. The food was excellent and plentiful - I'm not sure I've ever eaten so much good nosh.

I found day 10 very hard. I could hardly wait for the celebrations, but I was knackered and really not quite in the mood for running another marathon. I'd put everything into the previous nine days, not saving anything for the victory lap, so I felt I was running on empty. My left adductor (the one that had been needled several times by the physios) was pretty painful. But I just spent the time thinking about what we'd all achieved and how great it had been and the final 4 hours 6 minutes passed relatively quickly.

It was great to have Jim there at the finish, along with my mum and dad and lots of other runners I know, including loads of Fetchies and several from the 100 club. Plus of course the five 10 in 10 runners who finished ahead of me and the Body Rehab team. I loved cheering in the remaining five, seeing them finish their challenge in style.

The World Record seems unreal. I don't think of myself as a regular sub-4 marathon runner, so to get a final time of 39 hours, 7 minutes and 49 seconds, seems strange and pleasantly surprising. Apparently only 11 different runners have ever gone sub 40 for the 10 in 10. It's nice to be part of that group.And it was only yesterday that it all finished. It seems longer ago already, as I've been back to the usual work routine today. I went for a short jog before breakfast, then a usual day teaching Maths at college. I've had loads of laundry to do and then we cooked dinner. Life is very much back to normal.

Huge thanks to everyone who's sponsored me and sent lots of wonderful supportive messages and comments. It really helped to get round those last few runs as it started getting tough. I have so many fantastic memories and warm fuzzies inside just thinking about it all!

I guess it's time I need to start getting my head around my next long run, which is now less than a fortnight away...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Day 10 of 10 - new World Record!

I'll write more tomorrow, but for now I'll just say 10 marathons in 39:07:49, a new women's 10 in 10 World Record. Very happy.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Day 9 of 10 - just one more lap to go

It's all getting very exciting now. Jim came up last night and my parents were here this moring to see us start. There were lots more folk out on the course too today, as well as more awareness generally I think, with lots of cars honking their horns and cheering. I wanted 4:30, so very happy with slightly under 4:03. That means something like 4:55 tomorrow will be good enough for sub 40. Hopefully I can hold it together for one more day. I've had my icing and about to go see the massge wizards.

Tomorrow we start at half 9, with thousands of other runners doing the main marathon event an hour later. I'm knackered, but really looking forward to it. It's been an amazing 9 days so far and it feels like the hard work is almost over and it's time to enjoy the last run and the atmosphere before what should be a pretty big celebration.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Day 8 of 10 - feeling much better

That was much easier mentally than yesterday. I was taking it easy today, did lots of walking, hoping to make it in 4:20. I was right that I'd enjoy the lack of pressure to go sub 4 again. Still, it was very nice to nip just under with 3:59:53. Lovely drizzly rain most of the way round too. Not feeling quite as tired as yesterday now either.

I forgot to mention that yesterday there was a lovely moment when I got to the top of the big hill after mile 7 - three deer pranced across the road in front of me.

I've finally been making more use of the brilliant physios from Body Rehab. I was in for over an hour last night and again this morning. In addition to the usual massage and passive stretching, I also had ice and cryo cuffs on my sore bits, laser treatment on both shins and needles stuck into my groin. Plus they put some rather decorative K-tape on my legs to act as go-faster stripes. It's fascinating stuff they do.

Did I mention that this event is really great? Hopefully I can enjoy the next two runs. There are more people coming up to visit who'll be out on the course tomorrow and Jim is coming up this evening. My parents should be around from tomorrow too. Really looking forward to seeing everyone.

I'm after 4:30 each day now to get a sub 40 hours time overall...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Day 7 of 10 - first one over 4 hours

It was always going to be mentally tough on day 7. We all struggled to some extent today. Plus a few niggly bits are starting to be sore on my shins. About 8 miles in I felt something twang in my groin, which made it less fun running for the next 5 miles till I got some ice spray and gel from the physios. But I've got it better than several of the other who are suffering with all sorts of painful injuries, so I'll quit moaning now!

I decided at halfway not to go for another sub 4, which actually made it feel easier mentally, as the pressure was off a bit. I let myself walk up a few more hills too, as a treat. Still made it in 4:01 and more than happy with that.

Very sleepy now. I'll be having some quality time with the physios after dinner, then as early a night as I can get after that. Just a couple more of these runs around the pond, then we're doing The Windermere Marathon on Sunday. Looking forward to seeing lots of Fetchies and 100 club and other runners I know there.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Day 6 of 10 - getting there

Phew, that was a tough one. Very glad it's done now as I think it's great mentally being more than halfway through with (only!) 4 marathons to go: a good place to be. A few niggles and twinges started playing up today and I found the last 9 miles hard going, but very satisfied with another sub 4 at 3:51:27. It was pleasantly cool out on the course (though nice not to have the hail).

If you've seen the video clips, you'll realise that 'elegant, fluid and smooth' are not words you could use to describe my running. Steve reckons I could be quite quick if I got someone to sort out my running style (or lack of it!). I think he might be right.

I suppose this is technically a race (though I'm taking it very much a personal challenge) so I should update you with the fact that I'm currently sitting in 6th place. Adam has been amazing at the fast end, with three sub 3s and the other 3 not much over that. In the middle of the field there has been some shifting of positions, with Ray getting faster every day. Michelle and Aly have been running through considerable pain to complete each day impressively. Chris ran ten minutes quicker today than any of the previous days - it's like his training is just kicking in now. Unfortunately Phil had to drop out today. Despite the best efforts of the physio team his injuries were just too severe for him to carry on, a very tough decision. Now there are just 11 of us.

I'm quite tired again so hoping for another early night. I'll want some massaging first though to sort out my weary legs. Spirits in the group are generally high. Dinner soon...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Day 5 of 10 - halfway there

I got to bed at 9pm last night and felt much less sleepy this morning as a result. The meal out was great. We're eating here tonight, where the food is also top notch!

I felt good today. A lot like yesterday, but not so tired. Pretty consistent timing with a 3:48:41 today. I am extremely pleased with my times for the first half (and also still can't quite believe it). There was cold hail for a couple of miles today, but it was miles 14 - 16, which is a very tough part, so kind of nice to have something other than the hills to think about.

Adam did yet another sub 3 today after his course record yesterday. The boy is a machine! Some injuries are starting to flare up so the physio team will be working their asses off tonight. I'll just be popping in for a massage as my legs don't seem to be complaining much so far.

Nice to be halfway there, but it's still a case of taking each run, one day at a time. And it's still the best running event ever!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Day 4 of 10 - sleepy but strong

Phew, another one done then. I was VERY sleepy this morning, but once I got out on the course I felt pretty good. Legs were tired for the last 7 miles, but I guess a bit of achyness is to be expected on day 4. Almost got tripped over by a cute-fluffy-bunny-rabbit-running-out-in-front-of-me hazard at 10 miles in. Finished in 3:48:07, so more than pleased with today's effort.

We're going out to a local pub for dinner tonight, which will make a change from the usual routine. The days are zipping by. It seems like there's something to do the whole time from getting up to going to bed. The worst part of the day is probably the walk back up to the Lodge after the ice bath (only takes 5 minutes, but it seems to go on forever). The second worst is the 5 minutes passive drooling evey morning!

The best bits of each day are running the lovely scenic route and the banter with the other runners and the physio team.

That'll have to do for today. I'm knackered and need to go get my massage before we head out to dinner. Thanks for all the great messages of support.

The video clips from each day are at

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Day 3 of 10 - quicker

It occured to me today that if I had run the Windermere route before, I probably wouldn't have entered the 10 in 10, as it's far too hilly for me to have liked it. But I think the many miles of training, combined with a bit of weight loss and some solid core work (press ups, crunches & Pilates-type stuff) have prepared me well for this course. Plus the physio team are superb. I'm doing my ten minutes in the ice bath horse box every day after lunch and have had some really good deep massages. My legs feel a bit like they've run a fastish marathon, but I'm not hobbling around the place just yet.

So I broke my own course record today with 3:46:02. Very happy with that. It was sunny again, but got pleasantly cooler for the second half (which is definitely the bit I find hardest: miles 13 - 17 have a lot of the toughest hills).

There were several Fetchies out today cheering us on at various points around the course - great to see you guys, thanks!

The plan for tomorrow is to try to take it slower but hopefully manage another sub 4 (3:59:59 would be ideal). There's still a long way to go and I never like to count my marathons before they've hatched, but I'm absolutely loving it so far.

There's a great camaraderie between the runners (all very different and interesting individuals) and we're fully supported by a strong team of people pampering us. It's a joy to be part of this event.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Day 2 of 10 - a quickie

3:49:27. A 10 in 10 women's course record! Shiny.

I wasn't sure what to expect today. I figured 3:59 would be sweet, anything under 4:07 would be great as that would make a sub 4 average. But I felt pretty good and ran comfortably. I think the combination of ice baths and massage must be working. There was some strong wind in the second half, which didn't make those long uphill drags any eaiser. But it was very warm again, so at least there was a cooling effect. I walked the 3 worst hills that I'd selected yesterday as the ones to walk. I may add to that list later in the week, but I'll try to stick with just those 3 again tomorrow. I'd remember all the uphills, but forgotten that they were inevitably followed by downs, so had lots of pleasant easier sections that I wasn't expecting. I followed it with plenty of food and another ice bath.

So I managed just two sub-4s in my first 100 marathons (back in 2006) and have just done another 4 within the last month, including two on consecutive days. I think 'athlete' is still a misnomer, but I'm starting to feel like a real runner now.

I popped into Ambleside this afternoon to pick up a few things from the shops. It's a nice town to visit and thankfully small enough not to involve too much effort to wander round it. Dinner soon then massage later. Looking forward to another go tomorrow.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Day 1 of 10 - it begins

So I finished teaching at 3pm yesterday and was straight out the door to catch my train up to the Lake District. I was picked up by Steve Edwards ('running god' would be a fair way to describe him) and he drove us round the last 6 miles of the course, to help prevent me getting lost. It also gave me a sneak preview of the nasty hill at 22 miles.

I was the last to arrive at Brathay Hall, but soon settled in and got a feel for the place. The other 11 runners make excellent company and the other people working on the event are great. We are extremely well looked after and I'm loving the way they refer to us as 'the athletes'. I had a pleasant massage this morning, between two courses of breakfast (there's plenty of good food here). We can leave drinks in boxes places every couple of miles around the course. Also, we're being studied for some research into endurance athletes, so they weighed us, took some blood and a saliva sample (it was the first time I'd come across the charming phrase 'passive drooling').

We did a fake start for the media, which will probably be on the video clips, then headed out to the real start just down the road. It was sunny and a little on the warm side for my liking, but an absolutely beautiful course. We ran through Hawkeshead: a very cute village, and saw lots of sheep and cows. A military jet flew by very noisily. The backdrop of the mountains is stunning (though I was glad not to be fell running). Having said that, it's a hilly route, including a 14% steep one at 7 miles. Windermere was looking pretty, almost making it worth the long climb up in the second half, where we rose up to gain a fantastic view over the water. I found it tough between miles 16 and 17, but not hitting the wall, just a bit tired.
I was thinking a couple of sub 4s during the challenge would be good and was aiming for 3:59. I was a tad quicker at 3:53, which was hopefully not too fast. There's a long way to go yet. Adam had rocked up looking like he was out for a jog, in 2:58, followed by Steve, Dave and Dave who were in not long after three hours. Shortly after me, Naomi and Ray came in under 4 too. Everyone completed it today and most of us took the option of an ice bath. It's VERY cold (actually 5 degrees) and ther was swearing. It really hurt my feet though otherwise it wasn't too bad. It lives in a horse box.

So not long now till dinner. The menu includes a different vegan option for me each day, some of them quite imaginative. We also need to learn how to use the machine that tells us our exact times for the run. Then another massage methinks. This is the life. I miss Jim (and our cat Tommy - he's an idiot, but a cute furry idiot) but I think I'm going to enjoy the next 9 days.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Sarsen about

After a thunderstorm on Friday night, I was pleased that it dawned dry and bright, making the motorbike an appealing transport option for the weekend. A lot of bikers find motorways boring, but I really quite like to put Haku (my Fazer 600) up into 6th gear and zip down the M3 towards the South West. I stayed in a cute hotel in Amesbury, close to Stonehenge.

On Sunday morning, they bussed us up from the henge to Avebury (which has its own, less well known stone circle), for the start of the Neolithic Marathon (also known as the Sarsen Trail). I've done this one 3 times before, so knew what to expect. It was muddier than previous sunnier years, but still had the expected strong winds - fortunately this time they remained predominantly tail winds with some cross winds. There are several hills of varying steepness on this beautiful trail course across the Salisbury plains. As I'm officially tapering for the 10in10, I aimed to take about 4:30 to 5 hours, so that my legs wouldn't get tired and they'd recover quickly. My plan was to jog gently, then walk lots of the uphills, making it a pleasant day out. I stuck to my regime successfully, though finished a bit quicker than anticipated in 4:13. I guess that's a good sign that my legs are over the exertion of Brighton a fortnight ago and happy to run an 'easy' sub-4:15.Jim had been camping in the New Forest and came to meet me at the finish, which was great. The winds stayed extremely strong for the ride home. It's always a bit disconcerting being buffeted by cross winds in addition to the buffeting you get on a bike at 70ish mph, but I was very pleased to discover the heated grips on my handlebars are still working. We stopped at the Ace Cafe for food and coffee on the way home.

At the run I met loads of folk I knew, including several I hadn't seen for ages so it was good to catch up. I chatted with Danny who'd been tripped over at London marathon last week. After the first aid folk patched up his many bleeding wounds, he went on to run 3:58. Not bad for a chap who'll be 70 next year! He overtook me today at about halfway. I was also approached by 6 different people I didn't know, who'd recognised me from being in this month's Runner's World magazine. It was almost like being famous. Fame is not something I'd enjoy though - I've had to put myself about a bit in the media to try to increase my fundraising, but I'll be very happy to return to complete anonymity soon.