Running Reflections 2018

I always like to end a year with some reflections on my year of running. According to Strava I have logged 860 miles this year with 116,000ft elevation gain. That’s over 100 miles further than last year and a lot more elevation gain. I feel stronger, sometimes I feel faster, but most importantly I feel more confident.

There have been many low points. Runs that haven’t gone well, runs that haven’t happened at all, and moments of giving up. But I won’t dwell on those. Here are the good bits from the last 12 months of running.


Mytholmroyd Fell Race

My first fell race. For some reason I thought I’d throw myself right into the world of fell racing but turning up to my first ever race in a blizzard. I was slow, and it was hard, but I survived. January was about learning to survive on the hills in scary snowy conditions.


Whernside in winter conditions

February brought snow, snow and more snow. There was lots of attempts at running which ended up more like attempts at ice skating. The highlight from February was probably Whernside. The first of my Yorkshire 3 Peaks (only Pen-y-ghent left to do now) and a challenging run in snowy conditions.



Chester 10k

March featured even more snow. There were lots of local hilly snow runs, and a few adventure runs further afield as well. I ticked off another Yorkshire peak with Ingleborough, and ran a section of the Pennine Way between Horton in Ribblesdale and Hawes. The highlight for March has to be a new 10k PB at Chester. I finished in 51:29 which was shocking and I’m still not sure how I managed to run that pace.

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Marsden Racers Club Runs

I didn’t do any races in April but it was a good month of regular, fairly consistent running, totalling 116.1 miles overall.  My highest monthly total of the year so far. I still don’t think I am good at consistent running so that will be something to improve on for 2019.  April was a month of good club runs and we were able to start enjoying better weather and lighter evenings. I also discovered the beauty of the West Highland Way and Glencoe on a running trip to Scotland.


Cake Race

The start of a hot summer of running and my 2nd fell race. The Cake Race organised by Saddleworth Runners is a fantastic local race. This 10 mile race is very popular. It starts and finishes over the hill in Diggle but the route takes in my favourite local routes across Marsden Moor. It was a blisteringly hot day so I was pleased with my sub 2 hour time considering there was 1,557ft of elevation gain. This race features a cake baking competition, so there is an incentive to run faster to get back in time for the best selection of lovely home-baked cakes.


Bristol parkrun

Heat and low iron levels marred my June running. I should have been putting the miles in as part of my Snowdon half marathon training but it was a hot and humid month. A trip to Bristol included Ashton Court parkrun which was excellent. An out and back route which literally goes up a hill for 1.5 miles and then back down again.


Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon

July saw the first big challenge of the year. I didn’t feel prepared and had no idea if I would survive it. But I think I thrived on the challenge. Reaching the top of Snowdon and then crossing the finish line of this race will be two of favourite running moments of the year.  July was the month I learnt I can run up a mountain, fall over and drag myself to the finish line with a smile on my face.



Ben Nevis

The hot summer continued into August. It brought many glorious summer evening runs. Evening runs on the moors around Marsden is one the reasons why I wanted to move here and August delivered on that front. Marsden Racers got out for some stunning Tuesday night runs on the hills and trails. At the very end of August I finally ticked off a long held ambition to hike up Ben Nevis. I didn’t think it would happen this year, after being put off by potential snow in April. Whilst in Fort William in August however, there was a surprise clear day so plans were changed and Ben Nevis was ticked off.


Marsden Racers Challenge – Haworth to Marsden

September has far too many running highlights to sum up here. A trip to Eigg. Marsden Racers Malham to Marsden Challenge. Wineathlon. Utterley Butterley Fell Race. New parkrun PB. The favourite on reflection has to be the Marsden Racers Malham to Marsden Challenge. It was my longest, toughest off road run of the year and much more challenging than the White Rose Ultra in November. The weather was grim but the company was fantastic. It was a gruelling day but car park cups of tea helped me through it. This run will always hold a special place in my memories particularly because there was nothing official about it. No medal, no official time to boast about, no support crews or organisers to rescue us. Just a bunch of runners, helped by lovely people who make great cups of tea, doing something for charity and to test ourselves.

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October was spent trying to get as many miles in my legs as possible in preparation for my first ultra. I struggled with running and was probably suffering fatigue from a very busy September. So October was a month of getting my head down and just getting on with it. I did some walking in preparation for the Ultra, as an alternative way to get more miles in my legs. I went to the Lake District and hiked up Helvellyn, a great day out, if you discount the crying and whingeing about perilous route choices. Not any of the classic Helvellyn ridge routes, just a very steep slippery grass slope up the side of Dollywaggon Pike.


White Rose Ultra 30

My first ultra. This is what most of my year running was building up to although I wouldn’t say I specifically trained for it. It was painful and I learnt a valuable lesson about the importance of training but also determination and persiverance. I loved this run because of the companionship of other runners. I set out on it alone, but found company around the route, thanks to many friendly runners taking time to make conversation and keep my spirits up. The biggest thanks will always go to Sheldon, a complete stranger who ran with me and kept me going.



Illness, rest and recovery

December was about learning to rest and listen to my body.  I pushed myself during 2018, both with running and at work, and definitely paid the price in December. A lingering cold is still with me now, nearly 4 weeks later, wiped me out. Running has been a struggle, yet somehow I’ve still managed to log over 60 miles for December. Some may call that foolish but I love the opportunity for daylight running offered by a long Christmas break from work. After a couple of months of running in darkness, who could ignore the chance to get out there and see the world in daylight. I certainly can’t! Also Christmas lights make December running a little bit more fun. My running highlight isn’t actually running but running related, a night in the pub with runners and cyclists from Marsden Racers to celebrate our achievements this year.


White Rose Ultra 2018

I am officially an ultra runner.  31.8 miles in 6 hours 53 minutes and 20 seconds.


Advertised as 30 miles. In reality it was 31 and a bit. I did almost 32 miles due to a navigational error. The moment I realised that the course was going to be longer than 30 was a tough one.  Thankfully the weather was beautiful, and the conditions excellent apart from the wind. It was windy which made it hard work at times but I feel the weather was on my side for a November ultra.

Rather than write a mile by mile race report, I’m going to reflect on some of the things I learnt by running my first ultra.

Things I learnt:

Chatting to other runners makes a huge difference on an ultra run. I owe a lot of special thanks to a lovely runner called Shelton who ran a couple of sections with me. Early on in the race I was feeling a little bit wobbly and daunted by the enormous task ahead. We started chatting and before I knew it we had reached 10 miles. Shelton and some other runners helped me out of the dark place towards the end of run. Having people around me in those last couple of miles, spurred me on towards the finish. The kindness of other runners is a wonderful thing. I have learnt that the company of others is important to my mental state on a really long run.

It will hurt but it is only temporary. Running an ultra will hurt and that’s normal. Obviously pain from an injury is something that you need to pay attention to. I was certainly being very mindful of making sure old injuries didn’t flare up.  But the ‘normal’ aches and pain that comes from being on your feet for 32 miles are going to happen. Sore feet, seized up quads, stiff hips. It’s all only temporary. That can be hard to remember when you want to lie down on the pavement and give up because your legs hurt. But that pain soon goes away once you’ve reached the finish line.

Training is important. You can’t get away with winging it. Related to the pain, training is key. I didn’t spent enough time doing long runs and getting used to being out on my feet all day.  It started hurting quite early on because I hadn’t done enough training to cope with the distance.

Get your nutrition correct early on. It seems that eating from early on in a race is important for me. I’ve read others online who say they don’t eat until a couple of hours in. I tried to practice eating during my training runs, even though I mainly shorter ones. Cheese sandwiches, crisps, flapjacks, and plenty of sweets. During my longest training run I discovered the joys of a cup of tea and pork pie. I took plenty with me, and ate most of it, so I can’t comment on what was available at the aid stations. I’ve seen photographs on Instagram from other ultras that have massive tables full of all the food you could dream of. That would have been nice but I was fine with everything I’d brought along in my bag. Tailwind was a huge help but foolishly I forgot to put a spare sachet in my race pack. I remembered to give one to a friend however left my own extra supplies behind at race HQ. Real food is good. I don’t need to rely on gels and artificial products. Will definitely need to improve my eating strategy if I’m going to survive the 50 mile Manchester to Liverpool Ultra next year.

When they say you should walk the hills, you should definitely walk the hills. I normally pride myself on my ability to run up hills. But to do so in an ultra is not always going to be wise when you need to conserve energy for later in the race.

Time and pace doesn’t matter in an ultra but I will still care about it. I’m proud of myself for running my first ultra marathon. Under 7 hours is a decent time and I was always in it with the goal of finishing and enjoying it. But as I reflect on the experience, I can’t help but think about where I could have pushed myself a bit harder. Next year I’d like to do better.



The Loneliness of the 30-Something Runner

Is everyone feeling as lonely as me?

Welcome to your early 30’s. I was told this would happen. People become geographically dispersed. You can go years without seeing people who you think of as your good friends. Friends are getting married, having children, and everyone is busy.   A romantic relationship ends and you lose friends. Move house and lose friends. Change jobs and lose some friends. Trying to get everyone together like old times becomes impossible. We all drift apart. I’m forever drifting away.

I wonder if this feels particularly problematic if you, like me, feel as though you didn’t have that many close friends to begin with. I don’t think I have ever been good at making friends. Why? I come across as aloof. I’m rubbish at keeping in touch. Staying at people’s houses makes me anxious. When I was little I used to cry to my parents about having no friends.  Looking back that was probably me being melodramatic but it really did feel true sometimes.

We are in the age of single serving friends. As a teenager watching Fight Club, the line about single serving friends stuck with me. You move around constantly throughout your twenties. Switching jobs, moving from city to city, and house-share to house-share. Never quite making lasting new connection;s because work friends are a bit like long-term single serving friends. Friendships that only last whilst you are colleagues, that dissolve when you move to the next job.

The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends. Between take-off and landing, we have our time together, but that’s all we get.

Fight Club (1999)

Running is my sticky plaster to cover up the feeling of being lonely.  It’s a good fix.  Joining a running group is a way to feel more connected to people. I don’t know what I’ll  friendships running will bring me if I stick around in one place for long enough. I’m sure some people do make good friends from running. Social media makes it look like this happens. I don’t make friends easily but running with people is a great way to feel connected. To feel surrounded by the essence of friendship. Running with people brings short-term companionship.

I definitely have a lot more people in my life thanks to running. People to say hello to in the street, when out for a run, in the pub. People who you get to see at races. Slowly you start to feel more connected and part of a community.  I’d probably feel lonelier if I didn’t go running.  I still enjoy running on my own but there is something wonderful about a group run. I’ll never turn down the opportunity for a lovely chatty run.

Running brings friendship. A lot of these are these single serving friends. Short term friends. Companions for a little while. The people you run with a couple of times. The people you spend time with at a race or chat to over tea and cake afterwards.  A strange thing happens when you run with someone. You can say things you would never say to a friend over coffee or a pint. Maybe it is the lack of eye contact or the fact you are moving through the world together for a brief period.

The single-serving friends of running are good things. The woman I chatted to for half a lap at parkrun about running with a hangover. The guy who spurred me on in the painful last miles of a half marathon. The people you see once or twice at running club.  The group you chat to over post run beers one time. It doesn’t even matter that you don’t know each others names or anything else because for the duration of a run you have found people you get on with.

Everyone feels lonely sometimes and running does good to help take away those feelings. It doesn’t fix everything, and sometimes it makes the problem seem worse, but it does a lot of good.


Do a recce?

Tonight I am asking Google how important it is to recce a race route. More specifically an ultra-marathon route. Do I really need to recce the route? How important is it? Does everyone do this for ultra marathons?

A quick Google search didn’t reveal much ultra specific advice. Some general race advice suggests it would help. Such as this wise advice from Pete Bland Sports:

“Recce it if you can. This means going out and actually checking the course, running it (or part of it) if you can. This way you will know what’s coming, removing some of the fear of the unknown.”

I keep intending to this. Obviously it would be sensible and probably make race day less stressful. Navigation would be less of an issue and I’d know what to expect.

My plan the weekend before last was originally to recce parts of the ultra route that I’m not already familiar with. But then I was off work sick and didn’t feel up to running the route. Then the following weekend I was away. Now it is nearly this weekend and I’ve still not attempted to recce the route. We have two weeks to go before the race so I suppose I won’t now.

Am I a fool for not making the effort to recce? By my logic, I’m reasoning with myself, that the unknown will make it more interesting on the day. 30 miles is a long way and I don’t want to get bored, or be weighed down by worries of what is to come. Perhaps not knowing what horror await will help. Or perhaps I will deeply regret it when I’m lost in a field somewhere near Huddersfield.

Do you always do a recce?

Malham to Marsden Challenge

Months ago my running club set ourselves a running challenge to raise money for Macmillan. Earlier in the year the cycling group at my club planned a Marsden to Marsden cycle challenge, and the runners needed a tough challenge to match. So Saturday 8th September saw a group of us run from Malham in the Yorkshire Dales back to Marsden on the edge of the Peak District. A team of 9 runners set off from Malham early in the morning, with others joining at checkpoints along the way, with 16 of us finishing in Marsden.


Our route mainly followed the Pennine Way, winding it’s way south over bleak moorland and across many bogs, covering a distance of almost 50 miles for those who started at Malham. The Pennine Way is tough running terrain. Swamps, rocks, narrow paths through cloughs, and riverside woodland trails.  Large sections are paved with stone slabs however these are not as friendly to run on as they sound. Better than the swamps they cover up though. Other sections, such as Blackstone Edge are rocky and almost impossible to run across.  Our route also had some slippery downhill sections. There is probably a very good reason why most Pennine Way walkers attempt the route from South to North, and at times I definitely wished I was making my way upwards rather than clinging on for my life trying to get down.  Let’s just say I never want to do the slippery path down to Charlestown at Hebden Bridge ever again.

I joined the run at Ponden Reservior, which is near Howarth, in Bronte country.  Imagine the windswept moors of Wuthering Heights, and add buckets of cold rain and a lot of mud. The runners were behind schedule but thankfully an amazing team of supporters were following the route to keep everyone fed and watered along the way. So I had company, and plenty of biscuits to distract from the cold rainy conditions whilst waiting for their arrival.

The run was hard. Beforehand I didn’t know what to expect, or how well I would cope with the run. I knew it would be tough, especially as I hadn’t trained for a long run, but I coped with it.

My first section was 10.5 miles from Ponden to Charlestown near Hebden Bridge. It was wet and windy, and the first 3 miles involved a tough climb up to Withens Height. The conditions on the moors were relentless during this section with no beautiful views to enjoy.  The weather eased off however I was soaked through and getting very cold during the slow sections. The final descent into the valley at Hebden was stressful. I was already feeling unsteady on the slippery Pennine Way flagstones so almost cried when faced with a mile of wet rock and cobbles going steeply downhill. Surely it is never a good sign if a footpath has a very rickety handrail.


My first checkpoint was greatly needed. I took the opportunity to change my running shoes into my Hoka Speedgoats knowing I would feel more confident on wet flagstones. I also put on another dry long sleeve t-shirt and ate some cake. The problem with stopping for a while at a checkpoint is getting going again.  Getting to Hebden Bridge was a mental milestone for me as I had run the rest of the route. Once the big climb to Stoodley Pike was done it was going to be a case of putting one foot in front of another.


At my second checkpoint I was suffering but a pork pie and a cup of tea saved me. Definitely the best cup of tea I have ever had. It gave me the energy to get to my next personal milestone which was crossing over the M62. My logic was that once we were on the right side of the motorway we were practically home. In reality once over the motorway there is still a way to go. This section felt tough and the light was fading. Eventually we made it back before darkness fell, arriving at the village pub around 8pm.


Are you afraid of the gym? Getting over the fear of exercise classes.

Instagram is full of runners doing strength training and going to gym classes. Not wanting to miss out I decided to get over my fear of the gym and join in. So earlier this year I signed up for a 6 month classes only membership at a gym. I only signed up for 6 months because I wasn’t sure convinced if I would actually stick with it. I At £12 a month through work it seemed a good enough deal to give it a go. Guess what? I’ve stuck with it and what’s more, actually kind of enjoyed it.

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The standard gym changing room selfie to prove that I actually went

I’ve surprised myself by becoming something of a regular at gym classes. It definitely helps that I work at a University, where the gym is in the same building as my office and I have flexible working hours which most of the time allow me to attend classes.  Not sure how this will change once Autumn term begins and my time is no longer my own though.

I have hated classes when I have been in the past. Still do to be honest.  My fears of going aren’t about not wanting other people to see me exercise. It is the anxiety problem I have always had, ever since I was a child, about going to something new. The problem of not knowing where I am going, not knowing what to do, doing the wrong thing, looking stupid, unexpected and out of my control things happening.  I’ve definitely experienced some moments of panic when trying out new classes at the gym. What equipment do I need? How do I use it? Are all the regulars laughing at me for being so incompetent?

The other problem I have with going to classes is that I am a bit rubbish.  When I was younger I hated most exercise because I though I was rubbish at it. Probably because I was genuinely not very good at sport. At school I didn’t entirely hate P.E. I was good at running and I could swim. All the other sporting activities brought me out in a cold sweat. I can’t throw or catch. I was hopeless with a lacrosse stick and so bad at tennis that I was allowed to go practice running the hurdles instead. I couldn’t and still can’t do a forward roll and the trampoline made me cry.  I remember everyone watching as my Year 7 P.E teacher determinedly attempted to force my long lanky limbs into a forward roll.  When we were in GCSE Year my school sent us all the local sports centre to do exercise classes instead of P.E. Thankfully nobody had invented Zumba back then but memories of those aerobics classes live on in mind. I’m that person at the back who is out of sync and doing all the wrong moves.

This isn’t me channelling my usual negative outlook on life. I am actually quite rubbish at anything involving coordination, rhythm, or agility. As a result not all the classes I’ve been to have worked out well.  Body Balance I didn’t enjoy as there wasn’t any time to focus on form. In any Les Mills class the instructor doesn’t have opportunity to correct your form or technique due to the choreographed nature of the class. Similarly Body Pump was reasonably fun however I couldn’t keep up and couldn’t move my arms for a week afterwards.  CX Worx was hilarious. I went once and spent most of the class desperately trying not to get tangled up in the resistance ropes.  Basically the less equipment involved in a class the better. Body Pump featured an overwhelming amount of equipment.


Not even sure what half of this equipment is called nevermind how to use it properly…

Classes that I have enjoyed with and stuck with have been Pilates and Power Pilates.  If a class involves distinguishing between left and right sides, keeping up with music or repeating too many complicated moves at speed then I struggle.  I love power pilates because it is done so slowly that I find myself able to do the routines.

I am noticing the difference in my running performance as a result of working on core strength and flexibility by doing classes. I’m not motivated enough to do these workouts at home on my own. However I’m wondering if it would be better to make use of the personal trainer service at my gym and focusing on doing my own thing.





Running Anxiety. Thanks Social Media.

This is going to be a blog post of negativity. I thought about not posting it and trying to post something more positive instead. But it is important to be honest and put this out there.

This is a topic I have been pondering for a very long time.  People say that running is great for managing anxiety. It is true for me, running is great for managing anxiety, and I notice a change in my sense of wellbeing if I can’t or don’t run. But running can also be the cause of anxiety, particularly when it come to social media.  A quick Google Scholar search brings back a lot of articles exploring the links between social media and mental health conditions so it wouldn’t surprise me if I eventually found some research touching upon the negative impact of social media relating to exercise.

Running social media definitely gives me anxiety.  Partly feelings of inadequacy and partly fear of missing out. I’m not actually sure which gets me down more. Comparing my performance, commitment to those I see online or comparing my lack of running friends and fun adventures to those I see online.  I’ve always been the person who gets sad because I feel I am rubbish at friendships, so it is probably that aspect of it that I find the most difficult.

Running social media can be a wonderful, motivating and helpful community. Running magazines and websites are full of brilliant, inspiring stories about how social media has made a positive impact for many people. But the constant stream of Strava uploads, Instagram stories and Twitter hashtags is something I find very overwhelming.

Strava goes beyond helpful competitive spirit and makes me feel the need to always be running faster to gain kudos, to get more cups and crowns.  Twitter has become an overwhleming stream of non-stop showing off. #ukrunchat used to be nice place for a little chat about running but that hashtag gets a scary amount of tweets that it is impossible to keep up or connect with anyone. Instagram is the cliquey place for the cool kids as well as a breeding ground for the wannabe motivational coaches. Don’t look at all the Instagram hashtags unless you want to feel miserable about your own life.

I started to ask myself why I wasn’t committed enough to run everyday or get up at 5am to stick to the training plan. I started to ask myself if I was a dedicated enough runner when I wasn’t earning medals at the same rate as all the #medalmonday tweeters. Everyone else is running faster, doing more sessions, eating better than me. Am I doing it wrong? Am I a real runner?

All of the above is a good example of the impact running social media has when I let the negative thoughts seep into my mind. It’s not a positive experience for me. It is more often a negative one.

I’m all for sharing achievements whether it be completing a race or dragging yourself out for a run when you really don’t want to go. I’m guilty of spamming Instagram with photographs of the views from my run or a photo of a pair of trainers. But I don’t do it every time I go out for a run or to the gym.  Personally I really don’t want to watch another Instagram Story or Twitter post where someone shares a shaky video of the pavement as they go for a run. It is too much. Too overwhelming. It leads to those feelings of inadequacy. The little voice in your head telling you aren’t good enough because you aren’t doing what they are doing.

So I’m going to try my best to not get sucked into all the hashtags, Strava uploads and Instagram stories. I’m going to try to be positive and enjoy the moment that I’m in rather than worry about not being good enough. Step back from the social media circus and focus on the interactions that make me happy. Surround myself with the good, interesting people that I want to connect with. Spend less time looking at influencer posts. Filter out the endless product promotion, discount codes and people trying to sell me things that I don’t need.

If the buzz of running social media works for you then great, keep going. But if it doesn’t then remember you can always step back from it. That said, I don’t think I’m ready to go Strava free just yet…

Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon 2018

Race: Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon
Location: Snowdonia
Distance: Half Marathon
Time: Doesn’t really matter when you have to run up a mountain

I had to give myself plenty of time to reflect on and recover from this race.  It was the hardest run I have ever done. It is a tough course but as usual I was under trained and unprepared.

The event featured ultra, marathon, half and 10k distances. I considered signing up for the marathon when I entered last year but on reflection I’m glad to opted for the half. At the time just doing the half felt like a bit of a soft choice but the half is a really good race. It shouldn’t be thought of as an easy option over the marathon. Obviously the marathon must be really tough but the half is a challenge in its own right.

Sunday morning race meant limited bus options from Caernarfon to Llanberis but start times worked out well so I was able to arrive at the race village about 90 minutes before the half marathon start. Plenty of time for collecting my number, getting a cow bell (never had one of these before), faffing about with kit and trying not to panic. Off the marathon runners went, then one last toilet visit before getting in the start area.


Pre-race nerves at the start line

The big issue causing nerves for this race was the unknown sections of the route (the bit between Llanberis and the Ranger Path plus the final couple of miles round the quarry) and not knowing how long it would take me.  With an actual mountain to climb I was expecting it to be slow but had no idea how slow. An added pressure came from needing to catch a bus to Porthmadog, with the ideal option being a bus at 2pm. Could I make it back in under 4 hours?

Well the race went much better than I expected. I made it back with plenty of time spare coming in at around 3 hours 20 minutes. It was more runable than I expected due to good paths, so I was able to run most of the ‘flatter’ bits. The big climb up the Snowdon Ranger Path arrived much quicker than expected.


Power walking up Snowdon

I was determined to put my mountain walking experience to use and make good time on the climb. Mile 6 involved 1200ft of climb and I did it in under 30 minutes which I was pleased with. The slopes of Snowdon were shrouded in low cloud and it got very cold but eventually I made it to the top.


Delighted to be finished with the climbing

Now for the downhill. Easy right? If only.  All was going well down the steep loose path. I’d nearly made it down and then I fell over. I got distracted for a couple of moments when my mind wandered thinking about how much my toe was hurting. You can’t get distracted on a steep technical descent. But I picked myself straight back up and carried on, laughing it off with the two runners who stopped to check I was ok. I had passed other battered, bleeding runners I’d passed lying down along the path waiting for first aid so it is clearly a path for falling over on.

Descent done so surely that is the worst bit done. Again wrong. The worst was yet to come. The final couple of miles took us up paths around Vivian Quarry. I was ready to give up by this point. The sun was beating down and the steep slate steps seemed to be never-ending. Mile 12 involved another 400ft of climbing. That’s just cruel at the end of a half marathon when you can hear all the noise of the finish line. But I gritted my teeth, put my head down and kept on powering upwards.

What goes up must come down so the last mile was a steep descent through the woods that led almost straight to the finish line.  On the final stretch a man watching from the sidelines actually asked me if I was ok so I must have looked completely broken. The finish line was a beautiful moment especially when it sunk in that I had made it back not only in time for the bus but with enough time for a trip to the shop too. Cheese sandwiches, crisps and lemonade. I’d been dreaming of that cheese sandwich for miles.



This race left me battered, bruised and broken. When I fell I must have landed on my water bottle as the next day my ribs were very sore. It took almost a week before my legs stopped hurting. But it was all worth it because I achieved a long-held dream to run a race involving a proper mountain.

Reasons To Run

Tonight’s run was a good one. I’ve been feeling anxious about running recently. Questioning why I’m too slow and feeling worried about running with others. But tonight was enjoyable and it made me think about the reasons why I run.

This year I’m on course to run more miles than ever before, as long as I don’t get injured, ill or let anything else get in the way of running. I feel like running is now part of my routine. A way of life. Before when it was something I had to force myself to do. I need to run.  All this running got me thinking about the reasons why I started, why I pushed on and why I now get very grumpy if I miss a week of running.

I first started running because I was fed up of being fat and unfit. I didn’t run far, fast, or often. I plodded on like this for a couple of years, fitting in maybe one or two runs a week in an effort to lose some weight. I remember living in London and going for lunchtime runs along the Southbank, thinking I’d done something massive. Looking back at my running logs I was only running 2-3 miles once a week. Forcing myself to get out there was a big deal as I didn’t love running.

I started running more seriously a few years ago as a way to cope with heartbreak. I was desperately sad and lonely, struggling to hold myself together everyday, and running became my therapy.  I ran further and harder as a way to deal with the pain. Literally running through endless tears until I stopped crying enough to get on with another day. Running for recovery. Running for head space. Running to prove something to myself. Since then running has been an important part of maintaining good levels of happy. This time in my life definitely set me on a path to see running as essential. It made me love running because running helped me like myself again.

I carried on running more seriously because I got addicted to the thrill of races. I signed up to my first half marathon in 2014. I didn’t believe I could do it but once I’d done one I was addicted. It gave me a reason to keep on running and something good to focus on. Medal collecting became my aim. Over the space of a couple of years my medal collection grew with many 10ks, 7 half marathons and a marathon between mid 2014 and the end of 2015.


Proud to be a Marathon Runner

Last year I discovered running for friendship. Moving around is hard and I wish I had been brave enough to get involved with running clubs much sooner as it would have made a big difference to my sense of belonging. I used to get jealous of religious friends who could go somewhere new and instantly find their new community through church. Now I know that if I needed to move somewhere new I could find my place much more easily.  Running clubs have transformed my running experience and brought so many joyful times. When you are somewhere new and don’t know anyone then a running club makes you feel less alone. It might not bring instant close friendships but there is an opportunity for a greatly improved social life.


Races are a good day out especially if there is beer or cake involved

The final reason that I run is for the sense of adventure. I’ve discovered the joy of always packing a pair of running shoes when travelling. There is no better way to see a new place than to run through it. I love running in the hills, up mountains and in the wild. There is something incredibly satisfying about surviving a fell race or going out on the moors alone and knowing you’ve got the survival skills to get back home. I love running in the snow, wind and rain, battling against the weather and feeling tough. I run because it makes me feel strong. I run to see the world.


The summit of Whernside in the snow.

If I get a bad injury that stops me running then I’m going to need to find a good replacement for the head space, friendships and adventures that running gives me.

Goodbye 2017.

In some ways we are very much into the New Year now. Back to work and back to school for everyone, although I still feel in something of a period of transition. I’m still eating Christmas chocolate for starters.  But January is definitely here with the gym adverts, diet programmes and good intentions all round.   I’d say this means it is time to get back to the running but I did a lot of running over the Christmas holidays. 47 miles during my 10 days off work which for me is a lot of running. I’m feeling comparatively lazy now that the new year is here and life has returned to the normal routines.

Before I write about my plans, or should that be lack of plans for this year, I want to stop and reflect on 2017. For all of it’s faults and my problems, it was a good year for life and running.

I ran 732.5 miles in 2017 with 79,334 ft elevation gain. I’m very happy with that elevation gain. I didn’t realise until I checked the stats from last year but I did 100 more miles this year compared to 2016.  I’m never going to set myself a target number of miles for the year because injury and illness get in the way.  Considering I’ve had both injury and illness in 2017 those numbers make me very proud.

Here are some of my highlights:

  • Bought a house and moved to the most amazing part of Yorkshire which happens to be dream trail and fell running country.
  • Running my first Wainwright, Place Fell during a camping trip to Glenridding.
  • Finished the Snowdonia Marathon in just over 5 hours despite thinking I wouldn’t even make it to the start line.
  • Made new running friends and had some excellent adventures. 2017 was the year of post race pub shenanigans, good run chats and car shares to further away races.
  • Trip to Mull and actual views from the top of a Munro!
  • Survived my first multi-day event, completing all 4 Tour of Tameside events. I came 8th out of 23 finishers in my age category which isn’t that impressive but it means a lot to me as I gave those races every last bit of energy I had.