Do not fear Winters here! Time to hone the skills

Winters on its way, leaves are falling off tree’s extra layers are on and the soup cook books are being eyed up and dusted off.

If like most people the camping gear is being put to one side, or the back of the cupboard don’t be so swift in your actions this time of year is a great time to learn new skills and build knowledge and experience for those big world wide expeditions…

From gear selection to functioning for 12 hours outside at night with nothing other than a head torch for natural light and even ways to set out and pack up a soaking tent whilst getting soaked yourself!

You can even set yourself up in a bear Grylls type situation and have a fire by a secluded lake and take that winter dip and get yourself warm again to snowy winter map reading skills along the south downs which should be relative comfortable for most.

Part of a club or amongst friends? If your first aid trained why not practice applying dressings and going first aid during the cold dark winter months lets face it the idea of only administering first aid in a perfect summer calm warm day aren’t much of a reality. The Idea’s are endless I mean even if it’s cycling at night in the comfort of Richmond park in preparation for a London-Paris challenge in 2016, its all knowledge, its all free and yours for the taking.

And seriously theres no better time of year to wake up all warm and snug in a sleeping bag un zip the tent and see that warming winter sun rise and enjoy a coffee & bacon butties

It’s said that if we’re not moving forward we’re standing still, so keep getting out learning something new and growing its always best to make mistakes in the relative comfort of the British winter rather than seriously put yourself in a dangerous situation on that round the world cycle..

All aboard the pain train, becoming a runner..

I think it was watching Forrest Gump that set a seed for me wanting to be able to run all day, the only stocking point is that Ive never really “ran” Sure I’ve ran during playing football,basketball and such like, with bikes and cycling being my passion from an early age, but I’ve never tried this running lark..

It wasn’t until climbing buddy was making ever increasing fitness gains that I sucked it up rocked into blacks brought me a reduced pair of Ascis (I’m northern, gimme a break) and signed up for a half marathon 3 months away. The months slipped by and I was running 2-3 laps of my one mile loop the house, but I couldn’t go further. Not even in the gym could I bust past the 4 mile mark…

Even in 2008 before running a half marathon I’d done my fair share of long distance walking and thought I was fairly hardy and “knew Best” for prepping to run 13.3 around Derby. Thick Woollen socks, Lycra leggings (With shorts covering ones self!) A short sleeved rugby shirt (No seriously) and my ill fitting Ascics trainers. I was ready, nervous as hell but loving the vibe of being stood with all these other people at the start line waiting to start the challenge!

The horn went and off we went, Tim my climbing buddy was after a sub two hour time so left me for dust, I just wanted to keep going, take it in and get round… I managed to run until mile 6 so a huge bonus for me, I was sore, chaffing was setting in and I’d already blisters, (man thinking back to this its crazy the state I was in!!)

By mile 10 Mr Rubby Mc Rubberton was well in control I was hobbling like cross between John Wayne & Shaken Stevens (crap I’m old!) Mile Eleven and Twelve felt hours apart, then that magical Thirteen sign came round, we all know how that feels! Then I turned the final corner and see the finish, hear the cheers and people running past seem to splash motivation sweat all over you and drag you along with them, the last few hundred meters I was able to turn my waddle into a squishy squelchy jog that saw me over the line in 2.45…

My first medal I was thrilled, I knew I could go faster but my mind was overcome with pain from both my feet and both my front & back bottoms. Time to get changed to have some kind of correlation between the pain I felt and the way it looked. Well, I threw the cream over shorts and socks away, in fact the lycra went in the bin too, it was some time before it all healed up, I hadn’t realised just how visible it was, I must have been a laughing stock… Anyway, First half marathon attended and in some form finished although not so respectfully!!


They say the longer you leave it after a painful or traumatic experience the less impact it has on you, well, in our goodie bags was a leaflet for a KILIMATHON! I didn’t really know how far it was, I just knew it was six months away and It was Derby to Nottingham, mostly on a great route, through parks and off road paths. In true daft (I can do that form) me and Tim soon Signed up. Six months training, the goal was to finish in the same time I’d waddled across the half marathon line in……..

We had all summer to train and properly, learn what suitable threads were and get myself in a positive “mental space” about running, something thats stayed with me and has become my “adventure ace card” of having a stiff upper lip, I am British after all! So, I had a date, a goal, the race was localI knew most of the route for gods sake home turf advantage!

Trainings never been my strongest skill set, and although I was spending all my weekends in the mountains lugging my ass up and down over and over, I’ll never tier of Snowdon but even three summit Sunday’s after a while started to take its tole. Add to the pressure was our booking of Kilimanjaro and training for that, for which I just lumped a 40lb pack up and down 4 flights of stairs in my local park (yes it was secluded!)


I’d still not managed a training plan and couldn’t stumble up the effort to build up to running a half marathon prior to our 16.3 miles. I lined up next to Tim and he was injured, standard knee issues (Which have now ruled him out of most sports) I promised I’d stay with him and we’d plod through it together. Weather was hot and atmosphere was tremendous, come 10K and we’d had one water fight and laughing more than we were breathing hard! We crossed the half marathon mark in respectable 2 hours, I had massively smashed my previous time and experience, I was happy and my mind was drifting to smashing in a Sunday roast. Tim being Tim, hobbling knew I’d helped him to where we were and being bloody minded wanted to finish strong. He left me to plod on and enjoy crossing the finish in 2.35 and only a minute or so behind tim.


I was now just enjoying running and knew I could plod on all day relatively happy if given food and water. Tim’s running days were well and truly over with no less than 8 knee ops his time to hang up shoes/boots and non motorised activity was upon him whilst I was just opening my mind to the thought of whats really possible…

It would be two years before I ran a race again in my new home of London..

Failing Forward, the success of not running from London – Brighton

After Hikebikerun I pretty much fell off the wagon, didn’t train and kicked back, let’s say more than a little!! London2Brighton come around and I’d only ran a 10K and a bumbling half marathon over the Seven Sisters in the months leading up to it.. But I felt good, I’d a place to stay close to the start, so had no excuses not to crack on with it really!



I woke at 4am to get my train to Richmond (I’m a get there early Nazi, awkwardly so too!) it’s raining, I sighed to my self but knew these conditions favored me so the walk just the few minutes to the station saw me soaked! “Well that’s one thing I don’t have to be worried about!” Bloody train closures and a bus replacement, great, a wait and possible only being a hour early! THE STRESS! At last the bus arrived and dropped me and another fellow competitor off right outside RESULT!


We all huddled together all us runners like scared of the rain or stupidly trying to stay just that tiny bit drier, I watched the first group head out at 6.45, SIGH then it’s our turn to be utterly annoyed by the warm up team (just what I need before running 100KM, a warm up and calorie burn!) lining up I always look around to see who’s got new or old shoes on and based on that figure out who I’ll be quicker than!


We’re off people go shooting off along the soaking grass playing field as if trying to prove something, or wanting to get away from the rain! I set off from the back, and plodded, negative splits all the way for me!



Took me 10K to get into things and my the first 12k stop came I’d got 1.10 on my watch, considering in going slow as possible I was over the moon with my pace, we all took tea and snacks on whilst hiding from the rain once again.

We soon left the lovely paths and hit muddy puddle filled off road paths where those who shot off were slowly without trying, being reeled in. Mud, wet and off road is my terrain I seem to thrive in the worst of conditions. Mile after mile got eaten up, I remember now why I always had the desire, not a thought or idea but a feeling to want to be able to run all day. 30K in and I’m settled and in my stride, for those of you who may have gotten to that special place, I was there, no thoughts as if my mind emptied out, it’s a euphoric place where you are totally at one with the surroundings and the environment breathing is calm and steady but your in that zone its not even like I am doing the work I’m in total flow mind/body and soul are in line and working as one.



IMG_2507I hit the wall around 33K but now know what to expect and as soon as the wave hits me I begin to fuel up and up the pace, I know if knuckle down this wave will soon pass, the other end is not far away it normally lasts a few miles! It did drive me a little mad and I let myself have some photo fun along the way… another lesson for next time!



Time seems to become relevant, I am sharing places with a team of two who seem in great shape the pace is quickening with each field and road crossing. Before long there it is 40K! when did that happen, I felt amazing, utterly fresh as a daisy.



I pass through the magical 42.6K or Marathon distance a full 50 minutes short of my previous best. I’m euphoric, the rains stopped I pull in for a cuppa and a bit of cake (aahh come on I’m northern! I’d have eaten gravy if they’d have had it!) I set off in a focused mood thinking maybe I can finish in sub Eleven hours, maybe just maybe I’ve got this in me…… Time to knuckle down and get to work.



IMG_2518I pass through 30 miles with no niggles, plenty of grub with me, hydrated cool and relaxed. I’m on this and organised then my head starts……

“Russ, you’ve ran 30 miles that’s half way, can you do that again? this is unknown running now”


aahhhh the voice of reason, I think back to how empty I left myself after Hikebikerun, and with a busy second half of the year I didn’t want to totally ruin myself and on this occasion I wasn’t willing to find out what else I had in me or if I could go sub 12 or even 11 hours. This angered me, I’ve not trained, I’ve not given myself the best chance of doing well I wasn’t prepared for what this could throw at me, and most of all I wasn’t mentally ready for the fact that my body seemed able to comply with my dreams.

Being fairly positive (which in this case might not have been the best thing in this instance) I managed to see the wood for the tree’s and tell myself

“Maybe its best you stop at the next point, you’ve still got a marathon PB and ran further than you’ve ever ran before.”


I mulled this over whilst plodding along not quiet so motivated as before by now and managed to agree with my head & heart that I would come in at the 57K mark. Yes I would be failing, and maybe I am scared at what I could have done and scared to give something my utter all and be happy to fail a broken hero, or not as the case might have been. A decision has been made, I sucked it up and that was that, the next stop I’m calling it a day. Without a single niggle blister or ache or pain. no seriously!



I came in at 57K told the marshals I was finishing here, they looked at me rather strange as I was clearly in no discomfort or pain. They crossed me off, gave me my shorter distance medal and a T shirt and I collected my bag.

I sat down in the food tent and scoffed down my protein shakes and any other grub I could find trying to be focused on recovery as I was still expecting this run to at some point bite me in the ass. I stopped to look around at all the broken people lying on the floor, I tried to tell myself what I’ve done is right but I felt guilty, people here broken and injured i’m sat here not a single issue other than mental. Still that’s my race over I made a choice its done. The next day I woke up tentatively and inch by inch slowly edged off the bed to see what joys my body would present me with. NOTHING, NOT A THING. I quickly sat back down, I clearly made the wrong choice. I logged on and checked my stats for 57K. 6:11, I had about another marathon to run and even at a walk could have still finished in under 15 hours for sure..

But again, still I had the knowledge I have a new Marathon PB and I can be sure I can cover the distance required if I only push myself.

I’d given up on something when I’d no reason to but looking back I only stoked the endurance running fire even more than before. It’s hard to make calls or decisions right at that very time without being able to stand back and process it all. But knowing I have so much to now take forward into other races and faith that I can trust myself to make a good call when I need to, and find the good in all choices available.

What I have reminded myself of is that I always perform better when quitting isn’t an option, when all the lovely fluffiness of races are not around and that mini bus to the station doesn’t exist and the fuel stop, after fuel stop won’t be there. I still have that Itch, in fact its now bigger, all I want to do is run all day for no reason other than I want to and it feels good. I’ve found a way to scratch the itch for the short term, and the end of year will see me test if my desire to do something “Just because” will out weigh the pain and day after day struggle of running all day……


If you have to give up on something, find the positives, make your choice on how and why and suck it and move on. You can always learn from the situation you put yourself in be it good or bad.


One of my favorite sayings above, I’ve wanted to live by this, have it as a mantle for life. If I’d of carried on maybe I would have finished but become injured, that could have meant never running again, I could be too risk adverse and not living enough in the moment and looking ahead to much. Either way in 2015 I’ve promised myself to do adventures that push things a little more and make me live by that saying, in 2015 I need to force my comfort zone again, I have no excuses to not to be the best version of me possible…..