Archive for the ‘Another bloomin’ year has passed’ Category

It’s been a while… well, two months, I guess.

Saying which, there’s not a vast amount of wild things gone on – I’ve cycled lots, but you knew I was doing that. Lots of miles, just one route.

At the end of October I finished my fifth year of running – five years! It’s been a canny year – after three attempts I finally got to run the Kintyre Way, which was epic, and a truly lovely bit of Scotland – definitely worth a trip and the run is spectacular.

I had my first ever DNF (did not finish) at the end of October, on my favourite run – the Jedburgh Ultra. It was entirely my own fault, I didn’t train enough. I kind of knew I hadn’t, but thought I could fake my way round. I couldn’t. Massive cramp going up the first Eildon that led to something going wrong with my leg and I could barely hobble along. I signed out with the marshal, and slowly walked my way off the hills for an early finish. Gutted at the time, but now I realise it was down to me I see it’s a lesson that I’ve got a bit lazy and should take these things a bit more seriously. A bit less cycling, a bit more running, especially as runs get closer and all should be fine.

I had the norovirus – that was horrid, but it came and went.

I consistently nearly bought a Brompton, but I still can’t quite justify it to myself, I really fancy a cyclocross or gravel bike to take onto the bridleways and tracks, or even to have a go at cyclocross, which looks crackers.

I reckon I’ll have cycled just short of 5,000km by the end of this year, mainly since I started commuting in June. I’m hoping to keep it going as far into the new year as possible, but we’ll see what the weather thinks about that.

Not far to go to 2017, eh, let’s see how that goes…



I passed another milestone at the start of November. Four bloomin’ years of running. Whoever would have thought?

It’s been a funny time since July, when I had a spot of digestive bother that left me feeling constantly tired, lethargic and a bit trippy (I felt like I was going to trip over a lot, not like I was on drugs, though that’s not a bad metaphor either). Cut through a few months of trips to the doctor, enough blood tests to make Hancock complain, a consultation with a gut-doctor and then finally it brought me to the men’s changing room of the Endoscopy Unit in a hospital gown, waiting to get the bottom-paparazzi in.

I had a notebook and a pen, and despite shaky hands (this was pre-investigation, so I was a bit nervous about what it would the like), I thought I’d capture the memory…


Looks spiffy, eh?

Some interesting chats with the other chaps in hospital gowns, most of which focussed on food as we’d all been fasting and cleaning our pipework ready for today. It didn’t help that flipping Jamie Oliver was on the telly in the room cooking all manner of Christmas food.

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn that to all my other unique qualities you can add ‘difficult bowel’. That’s proper medical terminology – it says so on my notes.

In effect what it means is that they got 2/3 or the way around, but got stuck in a corner. Another exciting note for the CV is an ‘overactive vagus nerve’, which seems to mean that in circumstances of stress and discomfort*, I have a tendency to try to faint. Or, as I now know it is called, ‘pre-syncope’. I know, I’m a medical marvel. It just means that I almost fainted, and before you get judge-y about that, you’d have to give it a go**.

Anyway, today’s bit of fun marks, for me, the end of the poorly-journey. I’ve barely run (OK, so I did a bit of running – including the Jedburgh Ultra, which was it’s usual marvellous self) and part of that has been the feeling that there’s something to finish up in terms of sorting my health. Now that I’ve got the ‘looks clear’ report I reckon there’s no reason why I’m not back on with a spot of running.

Next year I’ve got a couple of things lined up – the Dark Skies Marathon around Kielder with the fab Trail Outlaws, and my third-time-lucky attempt at the Kintyre Way Ultra. I’ve been entered the last couple of years and never quite made it to the start line. The organiser has very kindly allowed me to carry it over both times, and I reckon this is the year.

Other than that, I’m aiming for the Blaydon Race (obviously, it’s the only road race you have to come home for***) and probably the North Tyneside 10k (who doesn’t love a finish at a lighthouse) and I dare say I’ll pick up the odd other event on the way through the months, but I think what I really want to do is to get in more quality running around and about, up and down the hills round here.

Right, here we go into year 5, let’s hope it’s a jolly one!

Also, a huge, and I mean HUGE thank you to the NHS folk who looked after me today. From start to end they couldn’t have been nicer, better or more caring or kept me better informed. In fact, my GP and the consultant and the people who’ve tested one thing and another have all grand.

*Like someone trying to push a camera around a corner in your gut, that’ll be ‘stress and discomfort’.

**Seriously though, if you’re told you should have one of these, you really should do it – it’s not half as traumatic as I imagined, and while it wasn’t exactly fun, you should get checked. If you’re of a mind for such things, you can even watch it on the telly.

***Y’know, it’s like the old McEwan’s Export advert…


My wayward path declineth soon,
But she shines not the less.

Henry David Thoreau – “The Moon”

Getting a bit arty, eh? Well, how about this then…


See, that’s me being expressive and the rest. I’ve started doodling a bit recently, and while I’m going out of my way to point out that it’s not very good, I am quite enjoying myself.

Anyway, on with the running related nonsense, I suppose.

New Year’s Day is pretty much the most traditional day for a run I can think of. Whether you are building on a successful prior year, making up for a lax finish to the year gone by or starting out as a new runner, there must be more people out training on New Year’s Day than any other day of the year by my reckoning.

This year’s New Year’s Day was a good bit stormy, to say the least – my hat got blown off when I was walking the dog, and I had to chase it across the field. As it looked a bit drizzly, I stuck a waterproof on with the hood up in the hope it would stop my hat from making another trip across the night sky. There were branches on the paths and ominous creaking from the trees around me.

One plus side of the wind was the sky was pretty clear, and the moon was making its way towards being full (on the 5th, I think).

As I bumbled along, I realised my head torch was fading a bit, the batteries must be getting ready to run out, but that’s fine, I’ve got another small torch off my bike that I carry along for just this kind of thing, and also so I can make out the tree roots on the path on the wilder part of the track.

Coming out the back of the Secret Village (it’s a secret), and heading down the path where the trees have been cleared on one side I realised the moon was silvery-bright, and I could barely see my head-torch beam.

So I turned it off…

And the night opened up…

Seriously – I can’t really explain it, other than to enthuse that everyone should give it a go, but I can give an especially geeky comparison – if you’ve ever played the computer game Elder Scrolls: Oblivion on a big display, like a PS3 on a big TV, and been out in the woods when a clear night starts and the stars appear, then it’s like that, only less showy and infinitely better.

Stars, silver moonlight, a vague impression of what’s around and underfoot. A lot of it is the difference between the path, which is pretty dark, and the grass at the side, which reflects a bit of the moonlight back at you.

But you can’t run in it, can you, that would be daft.

Wouldn’t it?

Might as well find out.

No, it’s great, you just need to have a bit of wits about you and hope you don’t fall over. This is not necessarily a simple thing, but I pretty much managed it, using the other torch every now and then where the woods drew in overhead and I could barely see where I was going.

The view is fantastic, the stars above, moving above the dark branches, the faint silver light on the trees around you, it’s just the most atmospheric thing.

It’s slower than usual, and I did have that one incident where I thought I was going to be mobbed by a badger, but it all worked out and I reckon this is the start of a ridiculous new bit of night-time running.

Rock on, and welcome to 2015!


That’ll be me then, part way around the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon at the end of October. It was ace, it was immense, but that’s not what this is about (I will eventually finish the race write-up and post it, I promise). What this is about is to point out what a beardy vegan sight I am, verging on the crusty, but not quite in running gear, obviously. I’ll go for being a running hippie and be glad to get away with that.

More importantly, what it’s about is that it’s me still running, after three years of first lacing up a pair of trainers and taking my 17 stone portly smoking self off up the road for a 30 second run / 4.5 minute walk, eight repetition set.  Reading back to my write-up from that first time I discover that I rather enjoyed it, I wasn’t fast but I figured I’d like to do it again. So maybe nothing has changed?

Or maybe everything has – there’s the obvious drop of 3-4 stone (depending on cake intake on any given day), the less obvious fact that I feel much healthier about things  or the fact that in the last three years I’ve done two things that I’d said for the previous 39 years I would never, ever be able to do. One is the running, as you’d expect, the other is swimming – I’ve never been any use at swimming, my high point to date was my 5m badge in Primary School, after that it was all downhill. Back in June I took the decision there was no reason why I couldn’t swim – I only needed a bit of a hand, so I booked a few lessons and now I can swim like a normal person, admittedly one without much upper body strength who can’t manage much front crawl without gasping.

I think I usually do a run down of what things I’ve been up to over the year – but I haven’t done anything especially new – I ran a couple of ultra marathons, including the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra, I ran a calf-squandering trail half marathon with the Trail Outlaws at Penshaw Monument – their inaugural race, I ran the Blaydon Race for the third time – I love the Blaydon Race. I didn’t run the Kintyre Way Ultra, and I didn’t make it to the Berghaus Trail Team day at the lakes, both because family comes first. I ran the Simonside Fell Race for the second time, and fell racing still remains the maddest thing I’ve ever done. Seriously, if you’re tired of life, go and try fell running, you’ll be glad you escaped alive.

But what’s next? Well, another Blaydon Race I think, I’ve got the Kintyre Way place transferred from last year. I’m entered in the Trail Outlaws first ultra, the St Cuthberts Way Ultra, from Lindisfarne to Kelso. I reckon I just might run Jedburgh again – I finished last this year, so I’m not sure I can do anything to improve on that.

Aspirationally I’d like to get better at training. It’s fair to say my approach to training is ‘accidental’ – I run a bit, if I have the time  in the run up to a race then I probably run a bit more. That’s about as good as it gets. I once had a training plan, but I lost it and never bothered to replace it.  I’m fitting in a bit of cross training (that’s posh for stuff that’s not running), doing a bit of cycling with the aim of commuting sometimes to save the planet and trying to fit in a trip to the pool every week to keep going with the swimming.

When I first started running, people thought I was quite possibly mad, and probably stupid. The I entered an ultra and they were sure I was mad, but tinged with a slight hint of approval. Now people assume I’m probably off doing something truly stupid most weekends, wrestling bears and running to Bulgaria and back (now there’a thought – what about a Wombles Ultra? Wimbledon Common to each of the characters names…). I love the fact that every now and then someone tells me that my madness has inspired them to do a bit of running.

More woods, more trails, more hills, goodness knows I need to run more hills. More weather, more mud, more tired legs, more rumbling tum, more random runs, more exploring paths, more moonlight, more thunder, more madness, more oneness.

Year three was the Year of Consolidation (I think) – this is going to be the Year of Striving.

Rock on folks, it’s going to be a good one…