Thursday, 20 August 2015

Hardmoors Saltburn

I'm writing this 4 days after the race so my feelings are a mixture of the raw and calmed down. I last ran a "marathon" on February this year. I use the word "marathon" as the Hardmoors events are always a wee bit longer. "Free miles" they call them !

I hurt a lot in that last one, mainly due to a pelvic problem that caused severe pain in my left leg on the descents. I withdrew from similar events in April and May.  My confidence had been severely dented by that pain.

After running well, strong and pain free during July, I decided to run this one. I hadn't trained for it as such, but did put in a 10 mile/20 mile Sat/Sun 2 weeks before as well as my general running. Perhaps I should have picked up the clues that Sunday. The last 8 miles or so hurt. Not pain as such, more a cumulative hurt in my hip area and feet.

I travelled south to Seahouses to meet up with old friends on the Saturday. Having spent an enjoyable evening with them, I bedded down in my van knowing I had set my alarm for 5am. This was my last view that night. Bamburgh Castle.

After a reasonable nights sleep, I awoke to this view and enjoyed it as I breakfasted on the beach at 5.30am on a pork pie, a tin of peaches and some chocolate milk. Please don't judge me! Holy Island and Lindisfarne.

To the race then. It was a lovely warm and sunny day, which doesn't suit everyone but I'll take that over a miserable cold one. There was plenty of water at the checkpoints, so dehydration shouldn't have been a problem.

Initially, the route follows the cliffs. These are mighty cliffs and the views were something to behold. I trotted along feeling good, enjoying the place I was in both physically and mentally, aware that there was a long way to go. I was photographed around this time. A rarely smile, so this probably says a lot about how I was feeling!

Now things began to change. Around 8 miles I was chatting with a man aware how much I was beginning to feel this. He was cruising along quietly (but speaking to him afterwards I found out his pain came too!). By 12 miles I was hurting, aware that I had a long long way to go.

After this I managed to get into a zone I've been in before, where i just tick the miles off and by 17 I was feeling better about this whole thing. However my hips and feet were really starting to shout at me and I began to think all the thoughts I'd thought before about this being too far for me now. I was hurting, I wasn't enjoying it, I was grinding it out.

About this time I found myself running with a man named James, who was happy to chat and help the miles pass. He knew where I live and someone there, so the chat was easy and helpful. James and I ran together to the finish and I'm sure we both appreciated each others company in equal measure.

So despite the hurt, I'd knocked out another "marathon" (28.9 miles). I had a special recovery weapon waiting for me in the van! Yup, Brewdog Punk IPA :-)

So now I've had a few days to let the dust settle so to speak, the question is should I run another? No is the answer. I love running so much and I want to run for as long as I can for the rest of my life. The bottom line is that I did not enjoy that. Its a great course and I'd recommend it to anyone, but it is simply too far for me now.

Dunsrunner hereby announces his retirement from marathons and ultras (but reserves the right to change his mind!)

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A lap at the Thunder Run #tr24

And what a lap it was...........

A little background: this is a 24 hour event where we run as many laps as possible of an off road 10k route from midday Saturday to midday Sunday. There are solos, pairs and various teams. I was part of a team of six.

Having run at 1.45pm and 7.15pm on the Saturday, I tried to get some sleep before my next lap which was due around 0.30am Sunday morning. Sleeping is not easy as you know you have to up and ready to run again so soon. I dosed and slept a little for 2 hours and getting out of my sleeping bag was the single hardest thing I did that weekend. If I had not been in a team, I would have rolled over and slept. No doubt about that at all, but I was in a team and that made the decision for me.

When I got to the start/finish/changeover area there were of course lots of people waiting like me for their teammate to appear and hand over the baton. This area is floodlit but as the runners are all coming with headtorches blazing it was really hard to pick out your runner. Needless to say I did and I was off.

I immediately felt fine despite running a 5k on Saturday morning and 2 hard 10ks at the Thunder Run. I got my headtorch set the way I wanted it and started to pick off runners through the first wooded climb and settled into a good rhythm.

I am a bit of a slave to my watch, looking at it to check pace, distance etc too much so it was quite liberating to not be able to see it. I could have pointed my headtorch at it but I doubt I'd be able to read it without glasses and I'd forgotten how to press the backlight ! The first time I saw it was after the end of the lap.

As the lap progressed I really started to enjoy it. Firstly I felt strong which always makes things easier. I was running in Luna sandals as I did for all but the first lap, which make me run "light", aware where my feet are, careful not to stub a toe (I never have yet, but that will come !). As I negotiated the twisty wooded trails I really felt like I was floating along.

Weather update: there was none. No rain, not a breath of wind. Absolutely still and dark. All I could hear was the pitter patter of my feet and my breathing. It was quite magical. As I emerged from the woods at around 5 miles I could see street lights all around to the south towards Birmingham. Once I dropped down off the escarpment, I could no longer see the lights but only their orange glow in the sky.

I ran hard to the finish, handed over to Mike and felt quite elated. I got a drink of water from the stall and two ladies did the same. We looked at each other and collectively went "Wow". We had all experienced the same thing and subsequently I've heard similar remarks about that night lap.

I can honestly say I've never felt so at peace. I did wonder if I was just caught up in the euphoria of the moment, which is part of the reason that I havent written about this until a few days after. No, I've felt so good and calm working this week, and I am reliving that run as I write this with a smile on my face and a glow in my heart.

No photos of this lap for obvious reasons but here are some from a most fantastic weekend.
Chhilling in camp !

Light of Birmingham after "that" lap

About to tackle the last hill of my 5 10k s in 24 hours

4 laps done, 1 to go

With my team and jeez I look bald (not true I promise !)

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Running, running, running.....but?

I have a dilemma. I am at a decision point with the direction my running should take. For sure, there are more serious decisions out there to be made. This is about me and my running only.
Having run my first marathon (a marvellous hilly affair in the Lake District of England) in July 2012, I have run another 12 marathons or ultra marathons. All bar one have been off road.
I have won my age category twice, but to be honest there must have been a poor entry on those days. That said, I turned up, I ran.
The last one I ran was in February this year. It hurt, as in A LOT. I see a fantastic chiropractor but went into this race having not seen her recently enough. I was "out" without knowing it at the start, but I knew it by 10 miles. I recognised the symptoms and thought (excuse the language) "Oh Fuck, I have another 18 miles or so to go".  The downhills were excruciatingly painful. Its the only race where I've longed for the uphills !
I took a few weeks to get over that one, but as a runstreaker since 28/09/13 I ran every day, albeit gently.
I was persuaded by a very fast road running friend to enter a 10 mile road race. The trade off was that he would enter a 10 mile hill race. I had run this road race in 2010 & 2011 before I "saw the light" so to speak and went off road.
I ran the road race and, against all my expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed. I even beat my 2010 time. 5 years older, no road running training and I'm faster! How did that happen?
The 10 mile hill race (the return leg so to speak) was great. Basically its 3 miles of serious up, followed by 5 miles of fast gentle down along muddy trails, with a killer last 2 miles back up. A great mix of serious hill climbing (think do I put my hands on my knees or on the ground in front of my face?), fast sustained downhill trail running and back up the hill when seriously knackered ! Ideal really.
Back to my dilemma.....which is where am I going with my running? These shorter races have reinforced my view that I have scratched that marathon/ultra itch. I've done it. I've amazed myself that I've managed to do it if I'm honest.
With these doubts in mind, recently I've tried some different things. Last Saturday I ran the fastest 15 miler of my life. Lets qualify this by saying its only the 3rd 15 miler I've recorded. The next day I ran my fastest 10 miler. Again to qualify, it was mostly downhill. But I have to add that regardless of route, these are the fastest I have ever run over these distances. And at the age of 51 and 3 quarters! dilemma. Cut out the big distances (and the training they require)? Run for fun for longer, hopefully injury free?

Monday, 30 March 2015

3 Eildons race report

A little background first: this is billed as a 10 mile trail race with 80% of it off road and 20% on road. Got the maths right so, so far so good ! This is the first running of this particular race which takes place under the banner of Melrose Races (, run by Chris Renton. This is the first event of their's that I've run and I must say, I was impressed. If you've read any of my previous race reports, you'll see that as an inexperienced off road runner I've concentrated on the "bigger" organisatons that host events.
That is no bad thing in itself, and running all the Lakeland trails events in 2013 was great grounding for me, but lets not beat about the bush, they tend to be expensive.

In February this year I ran my 13th marathon or ultra (all bar one being off road), two and a half years after running my first. I never had a huge desire to run a marathon but once I did (and realised that it wasnt "that" scary and I could do it|), I kept doing more. That's my nature.

However, like lots of things in my life I've lost interest a little because I've "done that" and, lets be honest, running these marathons up hills, through bogs and whatever else (who puts stiles towards the end of a mara route??) isnt easy. Just this evening, I've pulled out of one in 2 weeks time. Perhaps its time to drop down the distance as at 51 I'm feeling it. The slog of marathon training can be just that, a slog.

A twitter conversation several months ago led to this race. A very fast (mainly road) runner I know through twitter but have had the pleasure of meeting several times at the start and finish of races (lets just say our pace isnt similar !), suggested I run the Lasswade 10 miler. I'd run it in 2010 before I discovered my love for off road running. I said OK as long as you run the 3 Eildons. He agreed !

And so I entered this race. I felt good about supporting a new and local event (with profits going to the Brathay Trust I should add) but really wasnt looking forward to trying to run a 10 mile road race. Road races are fast. At least in the hills you get to walk, even if it is sometimes ridiculously steep! The road race was 4 weeks ago and I was delighted to run it 1 minute faster than 5 years previously. I really did enjoy the feeling of running fast (thats a relative term btw !).

The race. As the title suggests, there are 3 Eildons and we had to summit them all. After registering and having a race briefing, we had a 10 minute walk to the start. This served quite nicely as a gentle warm up. The weather was fine, the forecast earlier in the week of very strong winds did not materialise.

 I'd say this wasnt an orthodox route, not unique I'm sure (Howgills marathon springs to mind), but it was a fantastic one. We ran about half a mile along a gently uphill tarmac road before turning onto the hill. It was muddy and my NB Minimus shoes coped OK but not as well as others I have but I knew what was coming later and these shoes performed really well later in the race. Now we were on the steep climb. It was single file, hands on knees climbing. I was following a lady and like all ladies in these events she had a very nice shape, but all I could think of was "please dont fart, I need all the oxygen I can get!" She didnt!

We reached the first summit around 1.3 miles in and I think my watch showed around 900 feet of climb. Trying to get the legs going for the descent, which was more gentle, was difficult and as soon as I did we were ascenting the 2nd Eildon. The path splits giving us 2 choices and folk split. I chose right but I've no idea if I chose "right". Up we go, hands on knees. This summit was just shy of 2 miles and showed around 1200 feet of climb.

We started to descend. I've done this before on my own and 99% of runners seemed to be taking the route I had in the past. Not the lady I seemed to be destined to run the whole race with.....she veered off left. I thought that she must have local knowledge. She didnt ! As this wasnt an exact route, we weren't doing anything wrong but as I found myself "skiing" down on a one foot wide bed of skree I felt sure this wasnt meant to be. We took approximately 10 places and the gps shows we cut about .25 of the mile off the race ! I'm sure we lost all of those places again, but not until the last 3 miles ! Result

The 3rd summit is far less severe and is about quarter distance. This is where the race changes hugely. The next 4 miles are largely downhill. Muddy fast trails through the woods change to muddy fast trails along a stream (we are now on St Cuthberts Way) and onto a tarmac mile down through Newtown St Boswells.

I was feeling quite strong, enjoying the change from it being hard work to ascend to it being hard work to run fast. I was aware that the lady was just behind me. I kept pushing, both hoping I could hold her off and that she's pass and tow me along. Then I thought that the sound of feet behind me was more than her. A quick glance confirmed this. I had a pack of 6 tucked in behind me. Basically all the runners we had passed whilst skree skiing !

I had run this route once before or a close approximation of it, so I thought I had fair idea where I was going. As I crossed the road in Newtown St Boswells and headed down some wee back lanes I began to wonder. There were mutterings behind that I couldnt hear. No one passed me so I assumed they were trusting me. I was right because as soon as I passed an arrow marking the route, they passed me one by one !

Once we reached the river Tweed the pace slowed considerably. The narrow riverside path was twisty, uneven and slippy. And then we start to ascend again. Hurrah ! A chance to walk ! I walked/ran in intervals up through the woods until we crossed the A68 and then I ran. I knew it was less than 2 miles until the finish.

The long slog up the track led to a half mile downhill tarmac finish. I quite wanted to finish alongside the aforementioned lady as we had spent the whole race within 100 yards of each other but I had the finish in sight and she wasnt there. She finished 2 or 3 minutes later. We had a big handshake and smile afterwards. We both knew we'd helped one and another. Its what running is about.

In summary: a lovely mix of proper "hands on knees" climbing, muddy trails, fast sections, a naughty mile 9, for charity race.

PS I loved it :-)

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Hebden 22 (again)

A wonderful, value for money, challenging event. 22 miles, over 4000 feet of up and down, technical trails, open moorland, lots of food at the checkpoints, tea and toast at the start and a hot meal at the end. Shall I stop now!

I travelled south from my home in south east Scotland to West Yorkshire on the friday afternoon, parked my van up in a free car park 200 yards from the start/finish of this race. And headed to the pub for seriously good cheap food and beers.

This event is organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) is can either be run or walked. What a fantastic organisation this is. The organisers and marshals are so friendly, enthusiastic  and helpful, which rubs off on the competitors. Everyone is there for the same reason and knows it. Fellow runners offer you food, hold gates open for you until you get there.

Race morning brings sleet down at race HQ, which obviously means snow up on the course. For once, I got my race kit spot on. From the ground up: Inov8 mudclaws never once slipped in the mud, snow or slush. Inov8 race tights with my trusty kilt to keep my arse warm. Three merino base layers and my Montane Polartec jacket. And of course, buffs ! One round my neck and one on my head (note folks: never run buffless)

The light snow showers continued on and off all day. Perhaps there was 2-3 inches right on the tops but it was not a problem. On the plus side, you could follow the tracks of the other runners more easily as this is not a straightforward, marked route.

My run? Well it went better than expected. I had quite a tough running year in 2014 and so have been taking it easy for a month. I ran this last year in 5 hours 5 and thought anything this side of 5:30 would be a good steeping stone to my first marathon of the year which is towards the end of February.

I just ran it by feel, without looking at my watch until 18 miles when I realised I was way inside last years time. For the record, I finished around 25 minutes quicker, which pleased,if amazed, me.

The course itself is quite something. In no particular order, you have to run across boggy moorland, open fields, pass through or over what seems like about a million stiles or kissing gates, descend steep woodland paths, climb killer steps. You get the idea !

Fancy it next year? Get in quick when the entries open as I know lots missed out this year as it filled up so quickly.

Not much in the way of photography I'm sorry!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

2014 for Dunsrunner

Wow ! What a year that was. My only running goal at the outset was to try to continue my runstreak, started in late September, and complete 365 days of consecutive running. Many disagree with this sort of behaviour, saying rest days are essential, you must cross train etc etc. Well I'm hardly an Olympic athlete and I like running, so bollocks to that !

Like most runners, I have had injuries in my running life which extends to nearly 7 years now as I write (I was a very late starter). However, its no coincidence that my runstreak (day 466 today) began at the same time that I started seeing a fantastic chiropractor. What she does is so simple looking (of course its not and her diagnostic skills are immense), keeping me aligned so the stresses I put on my body are dealt with properly. This entirely appeals to my sense of understanding. The whole world seems intent on treating the symptoms and not the cause (and I'm not talking about running here). It appeals to my inner Dirtbag (see later !)

That runstreak goal was achieved, but the year was to provide me with many fantastic runs. My post work runs through the trails in Duns Castle estate were, and continue to be, so much fun. An ideal way to clear the head after work. Woods, hills, deer tracks, mud, very few people. Ideal to me.

Having run my first marathon in 2012, 2014 was the year I really took to the distance. I'd be lying if I said that I never hurt or had doubts in the six I ran. My thinking is if this doesnt hurt, I'm not doing it right !

The Osmotherley marathon ( in the North Yorks moors was special in that it was the first one I had run and felt happy with the way I executed it. It was topped off a few days later when I realised that I was first MV50. I was genuinely shocked and delighted in equal measure.

The Scafell Pike marathon is the highest marathon in England. This sticks in my mind for three reasons. Driving there in the morning I started thinking about it a bit, got a little nervous like I do on race day, but I was nearly there before I actually thought about it being marathon distance. I must have come some way if that wasnt worrying me. I liked that. It was beyond brutal in places and around 20 miles I started hoping for an injury so I had an excuse to stop. Never thought like that before or since. Thirdly, as I drove home battered and sore, I found myself smiling. The sense of achievement was more than I'd ever experienced. I found out a bit about myself that day.

And now for something completely different. The Thunder Run 24 or TR24 to its friends. I was supposed to be involved in this in 2013 but got injured (pre chiro days !). Its a simple event. Start midday Saturday, finish midday Sunday. In that period, run as many laps as you can of a 6 mile trail. There are solo nutters and there are pairs nutters who do this. I am not there yet and was part of a team of six ! It was a strange experience to run hard, have a few hours off and do it again. When do you eat? Try to catch a quick sleep? Must be ready for your lap. It throws the clock out of the window a bit. For example, I thought I was finished at 7 am and downed the sweetest bottle of beer in my life.
I've never had beer at that hour before (or since !), but it didnt feel like that hour at all. It turned out I wasnt finished and did run another, albeit gentle, lap.
Two memories from this fantastic event : 1) the feeling amongst the team was strong and at the end emotional. We had shared something great
and 2) the vibe about the whole event. Everyone was there for the same reason. I could add that my kilt went down well too !

Another first was running a marathon as a pair.
I guess we didnt have to actually run the whole event together but we had to check in to the finish together. Needless to say we did run together in the beautiful West Yorks moors. Chatting (or in my case listening !) during a marathon altered my perception of the time elapsed. How had we run 16 miles already, for example. This event stands out for me in that it is the strongest I've felt in a marathon. I would have quite happily run further.

My marathon PB was 4 hours 3 minutes, achieved in the 2nd one I ran in 2012. It was the Kielder marathon in the north of England. Its an undulating trail run on a good surface, but still manages to have 1700 or so feet of climb. I have only ever run one road marathon (Edinburgh 2013, dressed as a clown so dont ask !) and hated it, so if I was to have a pop at that PB it would have to be a trailie. Back to Kielder I went in October. I ran it fairly much to plan, although I did make a huge schoolboy error in that I chose shoes a tiny bit too small ! By half way, my feet were screaming. Almost exactly 3 months later, as I write this, both big toe nails are just hanging on. I have to wear socks in bed so that I dont rip them off ! Anyway I ground out a PB of 4:00:41. Whilst initially disappointed at being 42 seconds short of going sub 4, I am now quite pleased about that. Somehow it just sits well with me that I "nearly" did it but didnt. Keep your feet on the ground, son !

Late in the year I came across Dirtbagrunners. I'm not going to attempt to explain this because part of the beauty of this in my opinion is that its open to your own interpretation. Search it out yourself if you want to know more. I'm confident true dirtbags will find it. Anyway I'm delighted that they accepted me as an ambassador.

One last highlight of 2014 is that on Christmas Eve I ran my 2014th mile at an average climb of over 100 foot per mile.

I'm not sure what 2015 will deliver but I have plans. It'll do well to match 2014

PS I also grew a beard !