YEAR IN REVIEW 2014



2014 Most certainly has been quite different to last year! With far less races, some on going injuries and in particular no where near as many marathons... 

I found out that although I do enjoy marathons, especially the off road events, it was getting very costly, hard to balance shift work, time off, logistics, and then with build up to ultra events. My ankles soon caused me to really slow down and look at what I wanted this year to be like....

I took January off, keeping my longer runs and gym sessions shorter, but started to take my road bike out more so for some cross training. 

The first race wasn't until February. 


The year went like so:
1x Half Marathon
1x Unofficial Marathon
3x Marathons
1x 33 Mile Ultra
1x 24hr Event
2x 100 Mile Ultra
1x 147 Mile Ultra
2x DNF 100 Mile Ultra
1x DNF 160 Mile Ultra


  



February 
My only half this year, and like tradition in my home town. It is quite a big meet up with the running friends I have made over the years, local and from afar. 

I rarely train for this distance and just seem to go on my current fitness and feel. A chilly morning but typical bright sunshine for Brighton. 

Not my best time but a happy 1:26:42 in 235th place from over 6,900 runners. 



March
The Moyleman (Lewes Test Marathon)
Local runners have created a route for a new marathon starting in 2015. In honour of runner Chris Moyle. 

So I jumped at the chance to be one of the guinea pigs to experience and write up a report on the course.

I was one of the twelve runners today.

Myself and Shawn really enjoyed the route and weather. Some aid stops were quite far apart so I did go quite dry without water. But felt good otherwise. 

The last few steep climbs over Lewes Downs WILL be in the final route (So whoever told me after the race that they probably won't, was winding me up).

I came in 2nd in 4:00




The marathon was a success and the organisers will be making some adjustments to put on an inaugural marathon for March 2015.



Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series Sussex
A week later I headed to Burling Gap, East Sussex. Which is close to Beachy Head, Eastbourne. I have good memories of pain and very scenic views from the CTS Devon last year, so really wanted to give the local Sussex event a go. 

The ultra distance uses the marathon route, then passes back through the finish, before heading out again onto the 10k route. 

Endurance Life rate this event as 'Moderate' on a scale of 3. The Devon event was a 'Severe' scale 4. To be honest they both were with hard, harsh, steep climbs but Devon was definitely much tougher rugged terrain along the moors. 

I took it easy on the hills and raced the flat, downhills with feeling strong. The wind chill was fierce, but once the rain stopped it turned out good conditions...




I finished strong in 10th position out of 83 ultra runners in 5:33:33

I am signed up for next year and hope to improve my time and position.



April
Brighton Marathon
Brighton marathon has always been a special home race for me. It was my first ever marathon back in 2011 and Brighton's first too. 

This year was my fourth attempt, and after struggling so hard to reach a sub 3hr last year (just seconds off from cramping). I wasn't so sure how this year would pan out after running my ultra races...

I hadn't been training much road or intervals, so just counted on my current fitness and feel to get me through.

The run went well and I felt pretty strong throughout. I started in the elite area again which starts in Withdean Park, and avoids the lap around Preston Park.

I am not sure if I started out too quickly with my pace or my muscles just tired from the road towards the end....



I came in minutes over 3hrs and was pleased I am still fit and consistent, but I was slightly gutted that again, I did not reach that Brighton sub 3 goal of mine.

Although I have nailed a sub 3hr goal already, twice, it would be nice to actually achieve this in my home city. 

Perhaps next year...



The Viking Way Ultra
Easter weekend I made a long journey by car (to Peterborough) where I met Ultra running friend Nick, who then looked after my car for the weekend. I jumped on the coach for a 4hr journey up to Hull. 

I finally managed to get settled at midnight for a 4am wake up to share a taxi with fellow runners over the Humberside Bridge to the start. I should have registered on the morning instead of getting the train over the night before. I now know for next time...

I was very rested and tapered for this event, despite the lack of sleep at the Travelodge. I would have liked to reach a further distance in my training but a 90 mile week would just have to do. 

A 7am start at sunrise was a beautiful beginning south of Barton On Humber along the Viking Way. I was amongst 20 other ultra runners today. I took it very steady with a 9:30min/mile pace on average for the first 50 miles. 

I have never run over 100 miles before so really wanted to keep my energy levels for when tiredness and day two begins. I stuck to my nutrition plan of only liquids, and salt capsules for the first 8hrs, as the usual avocado, bulletproof fuel lasted me all this time. 

The weather was perfect spring conditions, breezy and dry mostly. 




I did go off course in places, as this was a tricky self navigating route to follow, with the small picture maps I had printed to carry along. As time went by I soon added bonus miles to this epic journey!

The night section was very difficult in places and I soon went the wrong way trying hard to run back along the actual route. I met up with another runner in lincoln, who remembered the directions through the city and back into the woods. 

Slowly other runners started to drop and injure, then quit. I had to battle through some pain in my ankle after 27hrs, then the frustration of getting lost. The last few hours and into Oakham was a major fight to keep moving as walking seemed to hurt my ankle more so...


On Easter Sunday at 16:29
33hrs and 29min from starting, I reached the finish. I covered 160 miles in total, 147 is the actual route...

I still managed first place 4hrs in the lead. Only 3 other runners finished in the 48hr time frame.

This was the biggest highlight and achievement of my running to date. I was so so sore, yet so ecstatic with joy, it took me awhile to digest what really happened that amazing Easter weekend. 


May
Centurion Thames Path 100
This was my second attempt at running the Thames Path 100 miler. I had some tough competition this year, and with a much later date in the calendar than March 2013. The conditions looked to be perfect, if not a little too warm for the time of year. Slight breeze and little cloud, it was a very warm start and I made sure to take precautions and keep hydrated and cool. 

I couldn't seem to get my layers right and I also really struggled to settle into the race. I didn't feel as comfortable or happy as I usually do at long distance events. My body felt tired and strained from Viking Way still and after a marathon distance it really wasn't looking pleasant then on...




I suffered with the same ankle, ligament strain when I finished the last race, and it just got more and more sore the further I went. the Thames Path is a very flat and hard surfaced route, which really made my ankle uncomfortable. 

I added an ice pack at Henley-On-Thames, the half way point, and tried to decide the best action for the later stages. 

I eventually hobbled away, but once I reached the next bridge, I had already made my mind up to stop and call it a day...

My ankle was just too sore and the thought of walking the last 50 miles in pain wasn't my idea of fun or helping. It really was too soon after the epic distance of Viking Way.

More rest needed. My first DNF this year.



The end of May I tried out the Sussex Trail Events new addition to the calendar. The River Arun Marathon starts in Littlehampton Marina, where it follows the river north, passing Arundel Castle, then reaching Amberley. The off road route then stakes the South Downs Way up high towards Washington, before the switch back half way.






The route was very scenic and flat to start before the track leads into Amberley. I ran most of the race with ultra runner Dill, who runs at similar pace. We both wanted to treat this as a training run before the SDW100 in June. Although off to a good start, the warmer weather and no shade took a toll on my body. I over heated quickly then felt sick from sun stroke. It didn't help that I went off route missing a turning and Trey followed. 

We both ran 3 extra miles and came in 6th and 7th place. Shawn was not too far behind us in 8th place, he didn't get as lost as we did...

I threw up after I finished three times, which for me was a first. I really suffered from lack of shade and wearing all black was a bad move!




June
Centurion South Downs Way 100
After much needed rest and recovery, some light running, but mostly the gym and bike to help heal my ligament damage from April. The South Downs 100 miler was the next challenge, and my first attempt.... finally. 

The eastern section of the South Downs are local to me. So this has been on my radar for the past two years, and I really wanted it to be my first 100, but then I wouldn't of experienced the Thames Path in 2013, when I did, for which I was very prepared for at the time...

The weather had been warm leading up to the event, then stormy the night before. I was lucky enough to get a restless nights sleep in a tent on site at the start. The rain was so immense it kept deaf old me awake on and off for 4 hours. 

Although lack of sleep and an early start of 6am, I felt surprisingly good and charged to go...




It wasn't to be for long..... 

I chose Luna Sandals to start, which was a huge mistake after the rain storm. The mud was so thick and deep in places I had to remove the sandals and try to run barefoot until I reached dry patches. 

Once I reached 25 miles I managed to change my footwear to trail shoes and could eventually pick up my pace. This wrong choice really slowed my pace, and I dropped places, forever playing catch up for the rest of the day. 

The very humid start from the storm added excessive sweating and loss of salts. I really suffered for the first 50 miles. 

It wasnt until late afternoon I started to settle and feel I could concentrate and focus on the next half. Things started to go more to plan, and the weather improved with less humidity and more of a breeze. 




Although it was my slowest 100 miler to date it was one of my most memorable experiences. I had so many lows but even better highs. I had fantastic support from the team and my crew. No nagging injuries and my nutrition was spot on. 

I learned much from the south downs this weekend, and it is one event I would like to participate every year where possible. A very tough and steep route, with plenty of vast scenery and contrasting landscapes that can be seen from near and very far...

I came in 23rd position in 19:29:28




August 
Centurion North Downs Way 100
I have some history with the North Downs. One of the first 100 milers I tried to enter, but volunteered instead, then last year I dropped at the aid station I was a volunteer for.

So this year I really wanted to make it past Botley Hill at 43 miles!

I kept a nice gap in my calendar, after the race in June, so I was really rested for this one. The North Downs 100 is classed as the toughest of all four Centurion events.

Another 6am start for the summer race and I made use of a more comfortable rest at my parents house an hours drive away.

The start was cooler than usual but very muggy again. I felt better prepared this time and kept my salt levels up from the start. 

As the first section was very familiar to me, from previous marathons in the area, I could get my pacing correct and consistent. It wasn't until reaching the familiar climbs at Box Hill and Reigate Hill, that I could feel confident reaching Botley Hill injury free. 

I really had to power hike the steep parts and steps, so to save my energy for much later. The dreaded Detling steps are at 80 miles, which everyone talks of will finish anybody off if you have raced to early on... 




The weather turned out great, with some clouded shelter from the sun and a breeze. No rain to worry of for now and I got to the halfway point in a good time of 8hr 50min in 9th position. My crew, friends and family were fantastic following along the entire route into darkness. 

I tried with everything I had to make the finish by midnight, but with all those steps and steep hills it wasn't to be. The tail end of a hurricane in the Atlantic hit the coast in the early hours, so the heavens opened to strong winds and rain for the last few hours of running.

I really didn't let it dampen my spirits and outlook. My cheering and very helpful pacers got me to the finish still feeling strong and again without any injuries. My energy levels throughout the race were steady and I rarely suffered with lows. 

After the South Downs I felt very conditioned and prepared for this one, and my body seemed to except the stresses with ease and knew how to cope with it. 

My recovery was the quickest it has ever been. 

I finished in 8th place in 20:52:15 which was my slowest 100 miler to date but considering the elevation and tough rain towards the end, it was a nice surprise to reach this position still.



All four Centurion 100's now completed in under 24 hours




A slightly late decision to enter another event in the same month as a 100 miler, but this was something quite different. I teamed up with my good friend Helen for the Spitfire Scramble, running as a mixed pair. Appropriately called Hare and the Tortoise.

I have always wanted to try a 12 or 24 event running laps, solo, but the thought of road or track does not appeal to my trail running legs. This new 24hr event for London seemed ideal. Using a 5.79 mile loop. 

Taking place in Hornchurch Country Park, Havering. A mixed terrain through woods, farmland tracks and parkland, with some scenic views out to London.

A large number of teams ran as a relay and myself and Helen were one of three as a mixed pair. I figured this would be a good experience and taster for the both of us to see how these lap events pan out and feel. 

We spotted many other running friends by surprise, who too kept it quiet about this one. The Gosport Runners were kind enough to let us use their tent area to keep our supplies and changes of clothes for later.

Starting at midday we agreed to running one lap each for the time being. Perhaps I started out a little too fast but I soon got into the hang of recovering between laps. 

After Helen reached her 2nd lap she asked me to run two, as she was having less rest periods between my laps. We planned to have one of us running for the complete 24 hours until midday Sunday.

The afternoon flew by and when the night time came it was the most enjoyable part. The temperature dropped quickly and although still humid it felt cold warming up between laps. We used large blankets and change of tech tops to stay dry, but by 4am we had run out of clothing and started to borrow gear from The Gosport running team! 

As tiredness set in we started to slow and take longer breaks to warm up. 

By 9am we called it a day as the car battery had died (I didn't lock the car properly) and the RAC had to jump start the car, which then needed the engine running afters. 




We managed a total of 18 laps between us in under 22 hours, and were the winners for mixed pair. It really took us by surprise and had we kept going we may have covered even further. 

I ran for 12 laps (70 miles) in total. We was so pleased with the result, and our first 24hr event. We have already signed up to go back in 2015 and see if Hare and the Tortoise can claim another trophy...


September 
I decide against running Coltswolds Way 100, as the Spitfire created Plantar Fasciitis in my heel. Which is a first for me. 

It was quite uncomfortable to run with, so I really didn't want to risk straining it further on a route I am not familiar with. 

An event still on my to do list...


October
Winter 100 
(Renamed to Autumn 100)
Centurion Running have pulled forward the last 100 miler event to October as such harsh conditions caused many problems the first few years, during the end of November. 

This will be my second try at the Winter 100, so I am familiar with the route, terrain and areas covered already. 

With September as a month off to allow my Plantar Fasciitis to fully heal up, I wasn't sure how this race would go and my training had suffered as a consequence. I spent more time in the gym, on the bike and cross trainer to try and keep my stamina up. 

I most certainly was rested for this one...




The first two legs, out and back started out well, although I was aware I had to keep my pace steady at around 8:45-9:00min/mile. 

The conditions were warmer than usual with a muggy feel to it all day... I kept my salt levels up as I was feeling slack from the start. I was waiting for the usual enjoyable runners high I get when at these long events. 

It never came. 

I got through the familiar Ridgeway route out to Chain Hill in the dark and with the winds picking up. This is the steepest and loneliest leg of the race. 

The volunteers and disco lights (from the aid station) were fantastic, and like true Centurion style, nobody was left disappointed with the show.

On this leg back to base my ongoing Plantar Fasciitis started to really aggrevate more so, and I was unsure how the next 30 miles would end up...

I remember catching up with Shawn as I came down the hill, and his race was improving, but I explained how mine has never really started. 

I just never had that buzz or felt like my heart was in it today.... I was so low and once reaching base I decided to call it quits. 

I really do not know if it was the injuring making me feel so depressed, or that my body needed the time out from endurance running?

I already have the Winter '100 miles in one day' buckle and felt it was unnecessary to push myself through the night walking in pain, when my holiday was so close...

I used the time off and vacation in November to rest up fully and find my running spark again.


December 
The Hill Ultra
This would be my 2nd try at one of Mark Cockbain's epic challenges (not for beginners). i signed up to run The Hill Ultra some time ago and had planned on using my 100 milers as warm up leading to the end of year event.

Set in the Peak District and using Shining Tor as the hill section, an out and back 2.9 mile leg in total. 

All we had to do was run up and down the hill 55 times, in less than 48 hours, which totals 160 miles if you finish...




With plenty of rest and starting at 8pm on the Friday. 23 runners set out on the cold frosty hill for the night. I felt brilliant during the night and didn't get much fatigue until well into the next day come afternoon. My nutrition kept my energy levels up and I stayed around 3/4 place throughout. 

It wasn't until the weather really started to turn and the cold turned to fog then high winds...

I was still feeling strong, but with some slight ITB syndrome developing on my left leg. However, my pace dropped considerably as finding my footing in the thick fog was near impossible in places. I fell and then my judgement started to get hazy when the cold really got to my head and chest. 

By the 27th hour at almost midnight on Saturday, after 40 reps of the hill I decided to call it a day. The winds slowly getting worse by the hour, and then rain and hail predicted, I think I would have got very ill or caught Hypothermia in the night.

I am just not kitted up or acustomed to the harsh northern eliments the Peak District brings! I needed polar gear!






I had the best experience and it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable moments of my year. The dark fog will haunt me forever...

I will be back to conquer that hill...



The 5th year of the marathon in Portsmouth and my 3rd time! This has become the last race of the year for my schedule and I have a love hate relationship with the route and time of year. It's always the last Sunday before
Christmas so weather can be pretty nasty. I wasn't fully rested last year after the Winter 100 and really suffered at the end.

This year, however went much better and
Just 15 days after running 116 miles in the Peak District, my body did not seem to tire like I was expecting it too.

Actually I felt very good throughout considering and only slight leg ache towards the end. 

My pace was consistent and steady without pushing too hard, just in case, and I managed to finish five minutes quicker than last year in 3:23:26

It was a good training long run and ended off the year nicely to actually get a medal. After the last two DNF's my confidence was slightly knocked, so to finish strong and without any further injury was a big boost and a Happy Christmas to look forward to....





The 2014 Collection


Ultra Marathon statistics for Ultra Luke 



2015
I have a few more marathons planned and perhaps an overseas event possibility somewhere in my schedule of work and time off allows. 

My challenges are the Hardmoors 160 in May and then the T184 (entire length of the Thames River self-supported) in August. I hope to run a 12/24 hour event solo where possible and then some different 100 milers around the country.

It looks to be an exciting 2015 to come...

See you there...

PORTSMOUTH MARATHON



The 5th Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon. Starting from the South Parade Pier and heading clockwise around Langstone Harbour until the halfway point before heading back again. 

This will be my 3rd attempt at Pompey, and hopefully it will be less grim than last years weather! 

Arriving at the Pyramids Centre in good time with running friends Steve, Tina, John and Tristan. We join the line to collect numbers and chips, whilst on the look out for other Bosh runners. 

This has become quite a tradition each year to run so close to Christmas. I'm not sure what we was thinking, as the time of year always brings rain and heavy winds along the Southsea coast...




Numbers and chips all attached. We meet new faces and the usual smiley familiar runners. Kevin, Keith and Ange Elshaw, Nuala, James, Andy, Lee and Amir. 

Once ready to head outside, its a quick group photo and last minute toilet break, before heading to the starting area. 

Today there are over 1,250 runners congregating along the seafront...


Nuala, Steve, James, Myself, John and Tristan
 

This year it is an earlier start of 8:45 as the South Parade Pier is being renovated, blocking the pathway. So we start to walk down in that direction. 

Without much of a warning, as like last year, the runners just start to shuffle along and eventually we break into a run, crossing over the chip mats by the pier.




I see Shawn sprint up and then run along side me, I was wondering when he would show up and asked if Nick is here too. He is feeling good and ready to give it his best. He is looking the right ultra man with his growing beard. 

He could actually pass as my older brother! 


Miles 0-13.1
Heading along the promenade with the wind pushing behind us, I wish Shawn the best before putting my foot down and following the other runners. Over the road and to the shoreline that leads around the harbour. 

The terrain is slippy and with seaweed over stones, it gets quite congested with runners taking it slow, before we reach the small bridge. Once over and passing some spectators. I see Ange and Gosport runners are here to shout for us! 

We follow the bay around until meeting the cycle lane. 

This is the long and flat stretch I remember so well every year. It doesn't help this time that I have the sudden need to go to the loo. The Bulletproof Coffee breakfast has really started to work...

Desperately looking to find somewhere sheltered or with trees. It seems impossible the further down the pathway I go. The busy road runs along side of the fence, so there is no cover from the traffic. 

Eventually the path leads below the road and a wall shelters the view. I can't hold any longer and have to dive into the shrubs to go do my business. I see a gap with runners behind so only a few catch up eventually. 

I soon get myself organised and decent. 

One of runners many problems when caught out and with little else to do.... being an ultra runner it's the one thing you soon get used to, and have no choice in the matter. 

I feel better already and can pick my pace back up again.

I am averaging at 7:30/45 min/mile and going to run on feel as my body is still recovering. 

So far I am feeling good and well. 


My pocket size EVOO


After the track leads over a bridge and parallel with the road it reaches the waterside again, a pebbled beach, then aid stations before the familiar muddy path for the switch back...

Already the front pack runners are coming back towards us for the last stretch. A mile and half later I reach the turnaround point. I wave to running friend /supporter Graham Carter who shouts out to me just before I reach. 

It's always good to see a friendly face I know, cheering everybody on! 


Miles 13.1-26.2
Heading back down the same track, staying to the left, so to keep the other runners on the right. I soon spot Shawn approaching, then Steve and Kevin shortly after. We high five as we pass, with well wishes and smiles.

Minutes later I see other Bosh runners, then Amir and James. Nuala, Tristan and Nick are not much further behind them. I look out for John, but cannot spot or see him with the bigger groups passing now...



At 18 miles in I chew on a jelly bean from the aid station, spit it out, then sip on my small shot bottle of extra virgin olive oil. This is always enough when I run marathon distance and gives me a little kick in my energy for the last few miles. 

I've only felt the need for one salt capsule so far, as I'm not pushing hard or overly sweating much. 


When I reach 23 miles where the route would go over the small bridge and back along the waterside, I see the runners up ahead carrying on and ignoring the turn, I shout out to the nearest runner if it's this way. he shouts back to carrying on ahead as the tide is coming in. 

I figure this is in the email notes that I hadn't read fully before started today.... 

The diversion is only small, but cuts out all the waterside that we ran along at the start. With a few turnings and through housing estates, along pavement, then a park, eventually the route meets up to the seafront road where we started. Then along the promenade for the last stretch back to the Pyramid Centre. 

I didn't enjoy that section and my pace started to flag with the boredom of the road...


Ultra runner Shawn Timmons (Pic by Tina)


With the wind now stronger and pushing me back to a slower 8:00min/mile pace for what feels like forever. My calves and quads are now screaming, with the first time today where I can feel my body straining from the running. Although I still feel strong to finish and can just about push the last mile, I don't think I could carry on any further, if this was a longer race...

When I reach the cafe then can see the finish and clock, clapping and cheers greeting me as I finally make it over the line and can eventually stop to collect my medal....




Just metres left to go..


With two DNF's before today it is so nice to actually get a medal for a change. I feel good that I managed to get through today strong enough and feeling much more conditioned than last year, so soon after running over 100 miles. 

It seems my body and legs have excellent memory from all the trauma I put through them and the rate of recovery is far quicker than when I first tip-toed into ultra distances...
 

I came in 85th position in 3:23:26. Although not my best time for Portsmouth it is five minutes quicker than last year, and felt better too. I think most my recovery from The Hill is now over! 

Nice new medal design this year


Actually something in the goody bag I can have!

 

'OOSH...Bosh Run'


I catch up with Tina and wait patiently in the cold wind for the others to come in. A slight down side for finishing when I do, as I have longer to wait at the finish and try to keep warm. 

John comes in very strong and with a good time. As does Shawn, Kevin and Nuala. I catch up with Jane and Jonathan briefly before they head on inside to warm up. 

Tristan and Steve come in then Nick later on. he suffered some today and with a bad flu still in his system it took a toll towards the end. 

BUT we all finished with medals and fond memories just in time for Christmas...

I have not decided about running again in 2015 or attempting to try the 50k version of Pompey the organiser has introduced.


Ultra Luke

THE HILL ULTRA



If the hill doesn't get you then the weather most certainly will...


Tonight I will sample one of the Cockbain EventsThe Hill Ultra, up in the Peak District. After running The Viking Way, this shall be my second attempt at one of Mark's pleasant adventures...

So I shall be expecting it to be what he calls... the 'Hard Stuff'

This is all you need to do:



I arrived in Macclesfield very late, on a very cold Thursday night in December. I stayed in the Central Travelodge which had everything I needed nearby, but it was the sleep and rest I wanted the most. 

I stayed awake as long as I possibly could do, until 4am, so to sleep in Friday, as the event starts at 8pm. I figured it best to be in night shift pattern already to get me through. As a shift worker, running late at night seems very normal.

18:00
After checking I have everything a dozen times, layering up and loading the car I am ready to head on to the Cat and Fiddle pub, Buxton Rd where the event is based. 

Just as I was leaving some snow had already settled at the pub. Thanks to fellow Southerner Chris Ette for the heads up. I knew it was high up but didn't realise it would get snow so soon in the evening....

The pub is situated at around 1,500ft above sea level.


Courtesy of Chris Ette


After finding a spot in the second room of the pub, I keep all my kit bag and box together which has my name labelled. A good idea as other runners have big boxes, sleeping bags and gear dotted all over, so I will be able to spot my things easily enough. 

I chat to Allan Rumbles, who made it up in time after all, as the roads have been so busy. I catch up with Chris then speak to Mark about tonight and how I am a little too rested for this after my holiday perhaps. 

I decide to get a hot peppermint tea to keep me warm, then each runner collects a time chip to use for each rep of the hill, top and bottom. 

I put on another pair of gloves, a high-viz beany hat over my skull cap, and a fluorescent vest to be seen. I clip a green LED light to the rear of my hat. 




With just a few minutes left to go, we follow mark outside to the caravan and check point area. This will be where we scan our time chips for each hill rep, and a screen will shortly display our progress.

The wind has a real, sharp bite and already the snow has cooled the air to 1c. Frost and now the ice is forming on the ground below. I start in my HH trail shoes (fairly new but cosy with adequate tread), and Helly Tech Protection Waterproof jacket over a long sleeve tech top. My compression tights with shorts over them. I will soon see if this will be warm enough for the cold night ahead.

With last minute instructions from Mark, as we shuffle and twitch about to keep warm. The big bell should only be rung when you want to quit the Hill, except for now as we set off down the road.

START 20:10 
Everyone heads along the white line until the glow sticks go off onto the track, and follow the trail on a gradual undulating climb along the fence line. Then through an open gate and over a mound leading down a stoned walled track.

The stones are quite sharp and uneven in places, so I try to remember where to place my footing for the next rep. We all stay bunched close together and maybe setting off too quickly, but I think we all just want to warm up fast!

The winding path heads uphill quite slowly then in steep climbs for the last half mile it seems. The ground is almost like sand in places with chicken wire placed over the very soft areas. 

I can see the green glow sticks bending up to a big wall, which looks to be the top of the Hill... Already the first few faster runners are heading back down the hill to base. 

I get my chip tag out ready to dip. Two scanners are chained to a seat at the top which is covered in white frost... 

I dip the chip until it bleeps and flashes red. Then head on back down the way we came. The route is easier to navigate back down from memory, as I remember where I placed my feet without slipping. 

Soon enough we meet the road again and follow the white line until reaching the base at the pub. Again I dip my chip until it flashes, then head on out for rep two.


Peak of Shining Tor


The full moon is so bright tonight, lighting up the sky and showing a huge display of stars above. Although it is a bitter cold night, it is a perfect one for running out here in the Peaks. 

I enjoy the peace and still of the night air as we run back and forth, up and down the hill. The crisp crunch of frost with each step is my running lullaby.

I text my friend Helen after 5 reps before she goes to bed, she will keep an eye on my Runkeeper after 3am for when she goes to work. There is no need to text Sunday yet as he is flying up above some 35,000ft.

I'm really feeling good and fresh and think starting the run in the evening has helped give an adrenaline boost. 

The miles fly by and the hours seem to melt away so quickly...

I stop at 16 or so miles to refill my water in my Salomon pack and take an S!Cap (salt capsule)

I still feel fueled enough from my Bulletproof coffee and avocado I had in my room. 


Dawn break

The moon is still so bright shining the path like a huge torch. I can see ponies grazing at the nearby farm house that I've now passed so many times already. I'm amazed they are still out at 2am in the morning...

Slowly the moon starts to set over the hill and the sky turns from deep purple to pink, then a orange glow from the east. It's been a very cold night with the frost turning to ice. 

But it looks set to be a sunny morning which should warm the ground up and my face too.

SUNRISE
After 60 miles reached and 21 hill reps, I have been running for 12 hours through the night. The sun is rising and the warmth is very welcomed after the bitter cold.

I still feel sharp and coffee with cream, olives, bites of cheese and my usual sips on olive oil has really helped keep my energy levels constant so far. 


Warm welcome

I use the pub to heat up after so many reps and to change my gloves and hat. I feel ok in my shoes and jacket at the moment. We are asked to move our kit out of the main room and into the other side of the pub for when it opens to the public. 

At the moment I am running in 3rd position behind Mike and Ronnie, who are a lap or two ahead of me. I can see them slowing their pace slightly but not by much. I seem to climb the hill better on some reps than others, the downhill is the easiest part still.... for now.  


Miles of thick frost


The clouds soon come in over the Peaks, as does the wind. The daylight won't last long and the cold will come in again for tonight. 

I catch up with Chris and chat to the other runners as we pass each other. The number of competitors seems much less than last night and I can only see the same handful of faces again and again. 

I later find out Allan is one who dropped out with a bad back, and about 9 others  have called it a day already...

I listen to some beats for the first time since I started. 


Clouds and wind coming in


15:00
By late afternoon the clouds have come in thick and fast as the wind picks up, bringing in the bitter cold again. I Change my shoes for Brooks trails, that are wider and with more cushioning, change my tech top for a base layer and my Cox Swain waterproof jacket. I add my head torch and rear light ready for when the dark sets in...

Tonight looks to get foggy and very windy! I warm up with coffee from my thermos and tuck into some olives and avocado, before setting back out on another rep..




As it's been so cold my body has been sufficient at keeping warm enough by running, and with power walking the steep parts. So I've not been sweating anywhere as much as I usually would in milder weather like at home. I have took far less salt capsules because of this and just relied on added salt in my nut and energy mix from my cool bag.

There has been more activity along the route during the day, other than us mad runners. Hikers, dog walkers and older folk strolling about. 


 Still running strong

A few supporters and friends of the race team are dotted down the route taking pictures. Calling out words of encouragement and clapping as we pass by...


Very little wildlife up here

Soon enough it's the end of another day here in the Peaks and the sky turns to dusk. Thick fog clouds come swooping in across the valley heading in our direction....



Lonely Christmas tree


I spot the lonely Christmas tree which is just as the hill climbs up steep to the top of Tor. I have been using this as a marker to run to if I have been walking the flat path during the day. Something I only just noticed I was doing. Playing mind games to pass the time and keep me moving quicker...



Final climb up the Tor


I send a few text to family and friends on my progress and that still feeling good. I feel fantastic reaching over 27 reps and half way through the challenge! Although my legs have that familiar dull ache, but nothing with discomfort or any pain.

I speak with Helen as she drives home from work then my Mum, and later my sister as she heads out for the evening. I like to call these my 'Crew Calls' when I do not have any outside help or crew team on location with me. 

I have many messages from followers and friends to read from Twitter and Facebook once this is all finished. As usual I feel very overwhelmed by all the support and encouragement I receive. 




28 Reps in and half way...

20:00
After 24 hours of running and 37 reps of the hill complete. I feel good in knowing I am so much closer to the 55 rep! The wind is picking up by the hour and fog has started to sit over our pathway.. 

Visibility is becoming poor.

I am also feeling the slight discomfort of ITB on my left leg. Which I rarely suffer from, but with the lack of high mileage training up to this event, it's very likely something was going to start to strain.. 

When I warm up back at base by the log burner, which is now extinguished but still warm. I take an aspirin and paracetamol in the hope it will subside for me. 

I stretch in front of the warm and try to heat my hands. Two gloves is not protecting from the harsh wind chill. My finger tips are numb and loosing sensation in them.




I make sure to get out again quickly as it's always hard to start running again after standing stationary. I can also feel my throat becoming sore and dry like the cold is getting to my head. 

I take a salt capsule and sip on some olive oil to see if that will soothe it. Wearing two layers of a buff does not seem to be keeping out the cold after all this time.

I can feel my body shaking trying to get warmed up again as I head on out into the thick fog. Wind is blowing in all directions now and makes it difficult to get balance over the rocky path. 


Dusk on the Peak


After the rep to the top I struggle to find my chip with my numb fingers. I decide to tie it around my bum bag instead for ease of finding it from now on. 

I take a moment to look around in the foggy darkness. My head torch seems to just make the fog appear more hazy and my pace has dropped to a shuffle walk when I can't see ahead clearly. My battery is dying fast and I did not pack any spares.

I manage to pick up my pace downhill, yet I kick a rock, then slip on the next one before flying head first across the grass edge. My hands cushion my fall, luckily, and with it being so cold I didn't really feel anything. 


Thick Fog approaching

Tom, another runner on the downhill sees me and checks I'm ok. I feel stupid for not keeping steady and feel clouded in my judgement all sudden. I think the cold is slowing my reactions and thinking. 


The chip dipper bench at the top (pic Mark Cockbain)

I plod down slowly with the help of Tom and his hand torch. I notice how much easier it is to see ahead and in close up areas on the ground with his torch. He tells me to hold my head torch on the spot function instead. Although not as bright as his, it seems to help and I can use it for watching the stones by my feet. 

It feels forever before we reach the road again, then the pub. I dip my chip and have some water before heading back inside to change my batteries and warm up again. I thank Tom for guiding me back and this time keep my torch on spot light mode. 


Head torch through a thick haze

As I head on back out in the biting wind, I call Sunday who is at Heathrow the night. I have to fold my phone into my buff as the howling wind is so strong, he can't hear me. I can sense his concern of the weather and my fall. I know he is not comfortable I am in unknown territory and my comfort zone. Without trying to sound concerned myself, I assure him I am well and doing ok. 

Although not completely true.... I am starting to question how many more reps I can go if this weather keeps getting worse. I've slowed to a power walk as the fog is so dense to see ahead. I do not feel as safe running right now. This is one hell of a storm out here! 


At best this could take me another 13-15 hours to finish... Really not what I had in mind... I wish the wind would die down to let me warm up again. 

23:30
By the 40th Rep, starting and stopping to see ahead I made the decision to call it a day once I reach the pub. I really feel ok within my body except my head and throat. The severe cold bitter wind that is getting stronger by the minute is clouding my judgement and I'm finding it increasingly hard to warm up in 20-30 minutes (Max time allowed) before heading out again. 

I really feel myself getting poorly and cannot afford to make myself ill this close to Christmas approaching! Especially now I've got it off work... 

I eventually make my way to the base and dip my chip. I'm offered pizza but turn it down as I do not eat much wheat, gluten these days, or feel hungry for it right now. I run into the pub to get warm again and rethink what to do...

Minutes later I come back out and tell the team I have to retire as feeling myself get sick. I just can't carrying on through the night with the conditions getting worse. 

I ring that bell.... It's over..., the Hill beat me and another DNF looms over me! 

00:00
I text Helen, then she calls to see how I am. A hard decision to make when I have it in my legs, but considering how far I got I can only learn from the experience and come back more prepared next year! 

I managed to creep up to third place in the later stages and stayed very strong as others slowed down, I know I can do this next time. 

I stopped at 40 reps covering a total of 116 miles in 27hrs and 20mins.

I later caught up with Chris after having a nap on the sofa, like me he too found the brutal weather too extreme to carry on through the night. 

He finished at a very impressive 43 reps.


Mike on his last rep (pic by Mark)
 

Shorts out again for the final leg (pic by Mark)


Winner Mike Raffan with a new course record


This year Mike smashed the course record finishing in 38hrs and 1min. 

Ronnie Staton 39hrs 50min
Tony Hall 45hrs

23 runners began The Hill and only these three finished....

I shall have to toughen up for the weather next year and be more prepared to beat 

The Hill Ultra...