Into Perspective

We are living in strange times and 2020 has definitely been the strangest year yet.

The last decade has seen some real extremes in this country, from the highs of sports events like the 2012 Olympics & Cricket World Cup, to the political lows of the Credit Crunch & Brexit. People have been brought together and fallen apart, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for what we are going through now.

The last week alone has seen travel bans, curfews, self-isolation and sadly there will still be more to come. It is times like this when you just want to spend time with your loved ones, but in many cases even that is not even possible at the moment. For me personally things are very different this year, with a new baby to look after and family members to worry about. Sport should not have even entered the equation, but for some reason it did.

For many people sport is of course a luxury, a hobby, and low down the list of important things. Most UK sports events in the coming months have now been cancelled, including International Rugby, Cricket, and even football (you know it must be bad when the footie is off). Sure, we can do with a break from sport for a while, although for many it is a big part of their lives – something to get excited about, something to escape with, something to guide your social activities. There was a great piece on BBC News this week on this and I know exactly what they are getting at.

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This of course brings me onto the postponement of the London Marathon, the driving force behind restarting this website. For many runners it is the pinnacle of their career, ad it is with true British irony that after a decade of trying to get a place in the darn thing, the year I finally manage it and the world turns upside down!

For the first week of March as the news started spiraling and Covid reached Europe I wondered if it might even affect the race – hoping this might come and go by the end of the month like many other stories, forgotten moments later – but clearly things were different as other races, events and matches began to be cancelled by the day.

Lots of questions, both selfish and practical: If the Marathon is cancelled will they honour my place next year? Could they really reschedule such a complex closed roads event? What about the funds I had raised so far? How long could I maintain my running fitness? What about the hotel I had booked before and after?

By the time the inevitable announcement came it was actually a massive relief. The race was still taking place but postponed until October. I would keep my place, and have the luxury of summer training to look forward to (more irony after months of cold, wet training through winter!). I even managed to defer my hotel say until the new race weekend.

It feels like a massive weight had been lifted. Having waited all this time, I can manage another few months waiting. Clearly there will be a lot of disappointed athletes, who maybe cant make the new date or cannot cancel their travel plans as easilly, but ultimately you have to look at the positives. The actions now will reduce pressure on the health service and ultimately save lives, and with luck the crowds will be back in full strength again by the Autumn, ensuring that special atmosphere everyone wants for the this race. And hey, how many people will get to say they took part in the only London Marathon to have ever taken place in October…

Even better, you lucky readers will get an extra six months of these ramblings to read in the meantime!

 

 

A Tale of Two Seasons

When I talk to many people about my various challenges and longer distance events, at some point the conversation will usually get around to the topic of training.

As much as I would love to claim to run hundreds of miles each month or smash through 4am gym sessions the truth is somewhat less exciting: I train 3 or 4 times per week, usually for about an hour, majority cardio, and whilst I do step it up as I get closer to the big day there is only so much time in the week with a full time job (and 9 month old baby!).

When I first started out my training was very gym based, with a big focus on spin and circuit based classes and only occasional outdoor stuff. It was only when I started working away and wanted to escape the monotony of chain hotels that I even got into running. To be fair though it all worked, seeing me through three 70.3 Ironmen, two 100 mile cycle sportives, one marathon and a whole load of obstacle races, half marathons and so on.

The common denominator of all those races though, is they took place during Summer or early Autumn, which has meant for most of the last 6 or 7 years I have been able to take it steady from around October to March, keeping my base fitness through Winter with nice cosy indoor gym sessions, before starting to step things up as the time the clocks Spring forward and the temperatures start rising, in time for my A-race.

Everything has changed this year with the London Marathon, an event not only terrifying in its distance (which I know I can do) but in its timing – April! This has truly forced me out of my comfort zone as I actually have to train properly through the Winter, increasing my weekly mileage throughout December, January and February. Believe me, getting around 26 miles is a big part of the sponsorship, but it is those three to six months before that you really earn the contributions and show your commitment.

Where once I used to smile inwardly at the ice cold January joggers, shuffling down the pavements in their shiny New Year’s resolution kit, as I drove past for another high energy class in my cosy warm gym, I am now the one hobbling down the high street in the fog, dodging the tidal waves as cars take turns to try and splash me with any available puddles. Yes, I am now a Winter runner.

rocky 4

To be fair there are some benefits of Winter running. When you get the right day, the sky can be even clearer than Summer, you have the roads to yourself, and the chills act as natural motivation to run faster and stave off hypothermia. But get the wrong day, or worse one which starts out looking alright and tricks you into running miles from home before unleashing a months worth of rain in half an hour… but back to the positives!

First up is the kit, which admit it or not, is always a massive draw for anyone who likes to work out in the cold dark evenings – and don’t the manufacturers know it. Layers of long sleeved, sweatproof, fast wicking tops just look cool, and the best ones even have those thumb holes in the sleeve so you can use them as a sort of weird glove thing. As a bonus they usually come in a range of 90’s dayglow colours which stand out in the dark, making you look like a high speed version of Ross’s teeth (for older readers think Cheshire cat)!

Ross Teeth

Then there are the leggings, a top look for any modern man, and one I rock hard, at nighttime anyway as they tend look a bit tight on my rugby player legs. Still, they keep you a lot warmer than shorts, as I have found to my cost in the past with bright red legs and icicle toes. I also usually run in my trail shoes at night, mainly to protect my precious road trainers from all that mud that accumulates on the local roads that you can’t see in the dark…

head torch

…or so I thought until I invested in an even ‘cooler’ piece of kit. That’s right I actually went and bought what used to be described as a miner’s lamp but is now cunningly re-branded as a runner’s head torch, ensuring my runs through the park now look to the casual observer like some sort of illegal teenage rave is going on, meaning it is only a matter of time before I get chased by the 5-0. Until they see my skintight leggings up close and let me go as the fall over laughing.

Crawley Run

But as usual it will be me who has the last laugh , as I can really tell the difference this year having done all this extra Winter training in the last few months. Not only will it make sure I am ready for London but give me a head start on any other events I do later on in the year: maybe even a new PB. Who needs Summer?!

2020 Vision

Having spending the last few posts looking back over recent years, it is time to look forward to what is going to be happening in the Chile Challenge world in 2020.

2020

Kicking off the year will be the Solihull Half Marathon, aka a way of making sure all that winter training has done enough to get me at least halfway around the capital. This is a new event for me, but in a good location that is pretty personal for me, right by where I got married. Although relatively small, it looks like it has all the things I look for in a race like chip timing, water stations and of course the promise of a goody bag!

Solihull

At this time of year there is a bit more limited choice of events at the right distance, but this one is right in the sweet spot, three weeks before my main race. Whilst I am not actually following a formal training plan, mainly because a 9 month old baby makes it near impossible to stick to any kind of schedule that tells you when to run, I have done enough big events by not to know how and when to build up my distance to (hopefully) peak at the right time, so this half will be a good test of how much I have learned.

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Then it is the biggie: London Baby! I will be writing plenty more about my thoughts on this one as it gets closer (68 days to go at time of writing) but for now it is hard to put into words how excited I am just to get a place in this, one of the world’s most famous races. After numerous of  failed attempts to gain a ballot place over the years (about 25 applicants for each place, and  have the losers t-shirts to prove it) I am so proud to be running for Bowel Cancer this year, a cause very close to my heart, and one I have a long history with going back to the start of this blog in 2014.

Bobby

After that it is a bit of fun to calm things down in Rough Runner, an old favorite in a new venue. I wrote about this here after first doing it a few years ago as my first ever OCR, and it was a real laugh. Like the Wolf Run it is a sort of team based cross country run, but the obstacles are based on classic TV shows like Gladiators and Total Wipeout, with all sorts of giant inflatables to negotiate, walls to climb and everyone’s childhood dream a Travellator to run up at the finish line!

Gladiators

And that is it for now, although I am sure I will tuck in a few other treats as the year goes on and write about them on here. In the meantime please take the time to check out my my sponsorship page where all support will go towards the Bobby Moore Fund for Bowel Cancer Research and keep me going around those London streets in April!

Catching up on 2019

Bringing things up to date, 2019 was a mixed year for challenges: fewer races than usual but some new and interesting things to talk about.

From a training perspective, the big new thing at my gym last year was the release of a brand new, purpose built Blaze studio. Touted as ‘the next big thing’, Blaze is a fantastic form of HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training –  short sharp bursts to get the heart rate pounding and maximise calorie burn, while building endurance and strength.

BlazeBlaze studio

The concept is simple, a 45 minute class with 3 x 3 minute rounds in 3 different zones. Firstly a treadmill, usually set as steeply as possible with (if you are lucky) alternating sprint/walks, or otherwise brutal climbs like the training montage in Rocky 4. The middle is a strength zone with dumbbells and a bench to do anything from squats to flyes, planks to deadlifts. The last (and best) is a full length punchbag, for all kinds of kickboxing drills, punches, knees and even some crazy floor work to really de-stress.

drago

To bring it to another level, all participants wear combat gloves and My Zone heart rate monitors (regular readers will know I am a sucker for new kit), with everyone’s performance projected onto the wall and coaches patrolling the room shouting encouragement,  over the music. Activities are targeted by zone, yellow being 80% of Max HR and Red being 90%+, with a goal to spend 12-18 minutes of the session in the red, while recovering as quickly as possible inbetween. It is massively addictive and I loved it instantly, a great way to keep up and track fitness all year round, with an unofficially competitive edge as it is near impossible not to compare your stats to others, which only pushes you on further.

blaze graph

On a slightly calmer note, I managed to get in a bit of diving last year, although not quite on the same levels as usual. This was neither the warm Caribbean sea nor the icy quarries of the midlands, but some more unusual venues. First up was an old fashioned hard-hat experience, diving indoors in one of those brass screw on helmets from back in the day as seen in films like Men of Honour, and wow did those guys have it tough. Not only did the helmet weigh an absolute ton, but the set of lead boots accompanying it ensured it was only possible to shuffle around with all the grace of a moonwalking elephant. My 15 minute experience went by in a flash though, and is highly experienced for any diver if only to realise how good we have it now!

The second part of the day was spending time in a real life decompression chamber. These things allow divers who have been to higher depths and pressures, or worse managed to get themselves DCS, aka ‘the bends’, and looks more like something you might see in a space station than hospital. In the end four of us spent half an hour simulating a deep dive to 50 metres, before the system slowly perfectly decompressed back to atmospheric pressure. And yes, all of the expected side effects did happen, from squeaky voices to nitrogen narcosis! A great experience, although hopefully one I will never have to actually do for real.

Dry Dive

Back on the racing trail it was two more familiar events that anchored the year: Velo 2  and Great Birmingham Run number 6!

The first Velo was my longest race to date and really tough, involving 8.5 hours cycling 100 miles up and down hills around Staffordshire, Worcestershire and the West side of Birmingham. This one was more of the same, but on the East side, taking in the sights of Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire, with plenty of countryside to accompany the concrete. In fact one of the highlights was riding through the cobbled streets in the centre of Cov: who knew it was such a great looking place from that angle! 

The last race of the year was the Birmingham Run, which is really more of an annual tradition, and as mentioned the sixth in seven years (including the marathon). By now these have all blurred into one, but it is always a decent day out and supportive crowd, and I was happy enough that at least it did not tip it down like the previous year. Since October I have been ramping up my running in prep for the Marathon, moving from around 10k per week to closer to 20k by the end of the year, but more on that in future posts…

Because by far the biggest thing to happen last year was the birth of my beautiful baby daughter Isla in May!

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PS. Sponsorship link https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/james-and-the-marathon-challenge, with more to follow soon!

Flashback to 2018

With two years to catch up on since the last review, now seems as good as any to catch up on what has been happening in the meantime. First up 2018, which was mainly about two new things: Family Running and Obstacle Races.

As with most crazy ideas, our first was probably concocted following a few Christmas drinks, after we discovered the Wolf Running team were launching a new event in the South East. Being fairly close to much of my family we thought it would be a good plan to enter our own ‘Wolf Pack’, and the next thing we knew six of us were lined up for the inaugural Spring event in Sussex on a chilly April weekend.

Wolf Run

So what memories of the event nearly two years on? Mud, mud and more mud. This was the first obstacle race any of us had done before, and it did not disappoint. Wolf is actually a (possibly reverse engineered) acronym for Woods Obstacles Lakes & Fields, with an emphasis on natural features where possible, and the lakes in particular being an unexpected delight after a particularly freezing winter (some readers might who remember the ‘Beast from the East’ just a few weeks earlier), with the initial swim (trainers and all) hidden behind a slide which landed you right underwater with no time to back out, to the extent the subsequent mud baths were almost a relief to warm the bones, with a good bit of cross country to stretch it out over 10 km.

As an added bonus, we were lucky enough to be joined by three real England Rugby legends and World Cup winners, Mike Tindall, Will Greenwood and Neil Back, who were part of the race sponsorship. Running even part of the course with them is one of the biggest honours I have ever had, and my youngest sister particularly enjoyed them hauling her out of the rope climb. And yes, that is genuine royalty Mike Tindall doing my drinks round below!

Although this was my wife’s first major race, for some reason she liked it enough that before we knew it, we had entered all four seasons of the wolf: Spring & Autumn down south with the wider family, and Summer & Winter closer to home in the Midlands. The good thing is the courses naturally changed with the seasons, the Summer one being a pretty scorching event where you were always hoping for a dunk, through to Winter requiring multiple layers of clothing and ideally a portable radiator. It was all worth it though as we did feel we had really earned our Alpha Medals!

Image result for wolf run 2018 alpha medal

Having a new found taste for mud, I also decided to check off another legendary event: Tough Mudder. Right from the kick off you could tell this was something special, walking in with AC/DC blaring out, all of the entrants kneeling together to say a Prayer (not a joke, “I will uphold the Tough Mudder values of teamwork and camaraderie…)” and even fireworks and flares going off as we crossed the start line.

Despite both being OCRs (Obstacle Races to the uninitiated) it could not have been more different to the Wolf, with the obstacles mainly man-made but much more challenging and many requiring teamwork to get past. The legendary ice-dives, barbed wire and ‘Mud Mile’ still give me shudders some 18 months later, as does the sight of a guy I had been running with getting thrown about 3 metres by the electric eel tentacles!

The final climb was pretty cool, requiring contestants to literally create a human pyramid on each other’s shoulders to reach the summit (see below pic) before crossing the finish line and reviving a well-earned orange headband.

Between all these races we also managed to fit in another local one, Gung Ho, which was more of a bit of fun at 5k with inflatable obstacles, a massive hill in the middle, but most importantly another new headband (seeing a theme here!)

Gung

As part of the training for the Alpha Wolfs, I also managed to talk my wife into joining me in some outdoor run training, perhaps helped by some more exotic locations in the Dominican Republic and Mallorca, and even managed to persuade / trick her into a couple of out and out running races. The first was the Birmingham 10k on a baking hot summer’s day in May (that Caribbean training coming in useful) followed by an even more impressive Birmingham Half Marathon on the polar opposite, an October morning with bucket-loads of rain (spot the difference below). Oh yeah, and for the half she was two month’s pregnant… but more on that in the 2019 review!

2018 was not all running about in fields and ice lakes though, the other massive part of that summer was becoming a PADI Divemaster! This involved a number of weekends dealing with increasingly stressful teaching situations, beginning with learning how to manage newer divers underwater and boost their confidence, culminating in escorting some genuine first timers around the bottom of a lovely flooded quarry in Tamworth (not a million miles away from an ice lake but at least with a dry-suit on this time)! On top of that we had to spend numerous evenings at the bottom of a pool practicing skills like mask removal, equipment changeovers and rescue lifts again and again to get them up to demo standard.

Being honest the only bit I really felt I smashed was the various timed swims, some of them in full kit and others regular front crawl, much more like my normal training. After a month of full on training and another month or so to draw up a ludicrous underwater map of the quarry, I finally ‘got my stripes’ and graduated as DM, ready to be let loose in the world of scuba training. But as it turned out things went in a slightly different direction in 2019, but more on that next time…

 

The Challenge Returns… to London!

After a couple of years away I am pleased to announce the Chile Challenge blog will be making a return in support of the most exciting adventure so far: The 2020 London Marathon!

Over the coming weeks I will catch up on the various events, races and adventures from 2018 & 2019 and looking forward to what else is in store this year alongside the biggest of big races.

As part of the Marathon I will once more be raising money for a very personal charity to me, the Bobby Moore Fund for Bowel Cancer Awareness, who supporters kindly raised over £1500 for the original Chile Challenge back when this first began.

The new sponsorship page is https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/james-and-the-marathon-challenge

Best of the Best 2017

Having rediscovered this blog in recent weeks I realised I left things on a bit of a downer after the Silverstone Half, which isn’t really a fair reflection of how the last few years’ Challenges have gone. As today is the start of a New Year (and I have a few spare hours to fill) I thought it was only right to round-up how the rest of 2017 went – the best of the best if you will – and for anyone still reading to give a bit of an insight into what is to come in 2018.

For someone who has always said my weakest area is running I seem to have spent much of my time last year on foot, so in true seasonal Top of the Pops style this is a countdown of my Top 10 runs of 2017, with a few bonus rounds thrown in for good measure:

10 – Bromsgrove Fun Run

The two main reasons I started this blog in the first place were firstly to help get fitter and achieve some personal success in races, and secondly to raise some money for charity from sponsors in my long distance challenges, so when a friend from the gym announced he would not only be organising a fun run on behalf of a local refugee charity, but it would be in my local park (my first race ever on home turf) it was a no-brainer. At just 3km I would of course have to break my own ‘not-getting-out-of-bed-for-less-than-5km’ rule, but on the basis I could add a couple of km each way by running to and from the race it made it more worthwhile.

Fun Run

A few seconds into what was a rainy run, I realised I had slightly misjudged the level of competition, as I sprinted off the line leaving behind a crowd comprised mainly of children and pensioners! Still, a result is a result, and I realised I had a rare chance of a podium as this rate. In the end it did not quite happen, and I had to settle for 5th place behind a kid about a third of my age (if only the race had been longer distance!) whilst top spot was apparently taken by a Team GB quadrathlete who had also obviously not got the memo about taking it slowly. Still, a fun day out, and maybe one I can return to try again in future.

9 – London Olympic Stadium

This one goes right back to the early weeks of January almost a full 12 months ago now. Just a nice early morning run around the East End, but with a pretty memorable centrepiece running around Olympic Park and the Stadium. Despite being pretty chilly, the lights looked great – except for the pitch black ‘Greenway’ section which my workmates casually told me was also known as ‘murder mile’ later that morning – but fortunately there were not too many others about at 6am and it ended up being just me and the stadium for much of the run.

Bonus 1 – Les Mills Live London

As our fourth One Live in two years, we felt like veterans by the time this rolled around in July, longer getting lost on the way to the venue or between classes, and managing to pace ourselves to not burn out around lunchtime. I have written loads on here before about One Live, and happy to say this one was more of the same, which was a good thing. We hit all the big classes – Combat, Attack, Pump & Step – bookended with some relaxing Body Balance and a bit of Sh’bam fun.

8 – Norwich City Runs

This was a big year for City runs, and at one point  had intended to try a different one each month – until I changed jobs and stopped living in hotels like Alan Partridge for a living – but I did manage to get in a good few in the first half of the year. Talking about living in cheap hotels, I had two weeks in Norwich during the late-June heatwave, which gave some good opportunities for exploring, although the runs needed to be either first thing in the morning or late at night to avoid the most of the heat.

It is a great running city with interesting streets, a castle, football stadium and plenty of riverside paths to explore / get lost in. The second week was spent out of town in a much nicer resort with its own golf course, which naturally I had to test out on another early morning run, trying to avoid the groundsmen in their giant lawnmowers who I had convinced myself would tell me off if I went near them for running near the course.

7 – Guernsey Seaside Runs

An even more exotic destination back in March was a fortnight on the Channel Island of Guernsey, which was also surprisingly warm for the time of year. Saint Peter Port is a charming capital of sorts, and another fantastic location for some long runs around the water’s edge. Highlights included fantastic early morning sunrises over the sea, two large castles with plenty of cannons, and generally great scenery all round.

 

Bonus 2 –  Cyprus Scuba

Whilst two weeks in Cyprus was not great for running (just descending the steps to the pool made you sweat in 40 degree heat) it was a lot better for diving, after I discovered a great scuba centre right next door to my hotel. After a couple of familiarisation shore dives I managed to notch up my 50th dive (as well as achieving Master Scuba Diver status) on none other than the Zenobia – rated as the top wreck dive in Europe. With warm waters and great visibility, the near-fully intact transport ship more than lived up to expectations as we managed to swim all around and inside the vessel, joined by copious amounts of tropical fish. A couple more sessions closer to our resort culminated in my first ever night dive, which ended up turning into more of an underwater rave complete with glowsticks!

 

6 – Newcastle Night Run

Going back even further to February I had a freezing fortnight on the Toon, staying so close to the Tyne that the fog was literally all mine, misting up my hotel room window every morning. The runs though were great, and I wrote about them on here in some detail in a previous post. As usual I alternated between late evening and early morning runs, meaning I had most of the streets to myself, got totally lost (at one point missing my lift to the office after an unintentional extra 30 minute detour one morning!). Still, the parks, bridges and waterfront all looked great lit up and this was a nice way to see much of a genuinely interesting city.

 

 

5 – Silverstone Half

My first event of 2017, and covered in much detail in my last post. Looking back I am still glad I managed this, the opportunity to emulate my F1 heroes and zoom around the famous circuit, albeit with eerily empty stands! If anything it made sure I got the year off to a start, making me train though winter and teaching me some valuable lessons on pacing yourself in a race.

Bonus 3 – Iceland Expedition

Ok this one is not strictly a sports event, but I was fortunate enough to spend this Christmas in Iceland, which I would be remiss not to talk about here. Whilst the snow made it pretty impractical to do any running, we did manage to conquer a few snowy peaks on top of the county’s longest glacier Langjökull, and even venture inside at one point (wearing crampons to ensure no ice-related injuries). A fascinating and beautiful country, especially at this time of year, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the outdoors.

Iceland

4 – Valencia Run

Back to the running world, I did manage a warmer run in April whilst spending a few days in city of Valencia in Spain. Given the weather allows for great year-round running the locals have done a fantastic job of creating interesting run routes, most notably the Turia gardens, a dried river bed that once ran through the city, which is now acres of parkland which winds around the historic old town, past the city gates and the out-of-this-world City of Arts & Sciences which has to be seen to be believed!

3 – London Top Gun

Last year seemed to be a case of either being far too hot (Cyprus, Valencia, er Norwich) or freezing cold (Iceland, Newcastle, London in January), but I did manage to get in one more hot run in London whilst working there in early July. Although I stayed in my usual place and retraced a few of my classic routes, this one was a bit special as it was my first proper ‘Virtual’ race – the Top Gun run. The idea with this was I could complete any route I liked, in any time, and upload to a website to ‘compete’ against others. I received back a finishers certificate and a pretty cool Top Gun medal, which if anything is at least the largest one I now own, if not the best looking.

 

2 – Worcester Half

My other proper half marathon last year was in Worcester, near to where I live. This ended up going a lot more smoothly than the Silverstone race, although was perhaps slightly less memorable. Closed roads made it a lot friendlier, and it did have a good atmosphere with plenty of time to chat to other runners as we completed one large loop, and learning from past experience I relaxed properly into this one, giving me a slower finish time but plenty of opportunity to take in some of the countryside in spring.

Bonus 4 – Velo Birmingham

The last of the non-run events this year was also arguably my A-Race, a 100 mile bike sportive around the West Midlands, taking in parts of Birmingham, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. In the past I could have written pages about the great atmosphere, hair-raising corners, organised pit-stops and even attempted sabotage from local protesters (yes really!), but the main thing I remember from it was hills.. endless hills. As much as I had tried to train properly for this race I had other things on my mind (see next entry) and as such I had enough stamina to get around this, but it took over 8 hours (!) and was a real killer. That said, it was a huge achievement which I would stand alongside any of my half-Ironmen on time alone, and the less said about recovery time after an entire day in the saddle the better!

Velo

1. Birmingham Marathon

So the biggie, a full marathon in my adopted home city. And what a day is was! Having completed plenty of half’s over the years, I decided it was time to step up ad bite the bullet. The good news was there was a new route which started the race in the main athletic stadium in the North of the city, before winding through to the centre. From there it turned into two loops, some of which was on the old half marathon course, although interestingly doing it backwards (clockwise rather than anticlockwise, not actually backwards as that would be crazy). This had some benefits as it meant I knew where I was going (although with 10k+ runners it would have been hard to get lost), but as per the usual rules of multi-loop races meant the second lap was guaranteed to be a real test of mental toughness.

Bham Marathon

And with some inevitability, around mile 20 a particularly short but steep hill brought on a dose of cramp and put paid to any thoughts I had been harbouring of a sub-5 hour finish. In the past I might have let that get to me, but this year I had learned from my mistakes in Silverstone, and refused to let myself worry about times – after all this was my first ever full marathon, and was taking place around the corner from where I used to live, and right next to my current office – this was too good a chance to worry about small things. So with the help of some of the best support for any race I have ever taken part in I pushed through the final few miles and made it across the line for that indescribable feeling of euphoria you only get after going through the limit. Marathon complete!

Looking Ahead

So how could that list possibly be topped? What next for 2018? Well a few days ago I realised that this was looking like the first year in half a decade where I had no races in the diary, having had to enter most of my big triathlons and marathons over 12 months ahead in some cases just to be sure of a place. In something of a panic I have managed to spend New Year booking myself onto two big outdoor events:Wolf Run & Tough Mudder. These are both off-road, trail based runs which should involve plenty of rough terrain, obstacles, and of course mud. Both should be fun, and I am sure I will be adding a few more races to the list by the end of the summer, and who knows maybe I will be able to rack up as many events as 2017. I might even write a blog about them…!