Running isn’t my Hobby, it’s my Passion


The aim of this Blog is to hopefully paint a picture of the enjoyment I get from running off road. Running is my mindfulness and really adds to my well-being. 

2017 : QE Spring Marathon, 3 Forts Challenge 27.2 miles, Race to the King Double Marathon, Purbeck Marathon, Portsmouth Coastal 50K challenge 

2018 : R.E.D. (Run every day) January for MIND, Dorchester Marathon, South Downs Marathon, Goodwood Marathon & Isle Of Wight marathon run so far.

2019 : To blog about “why” I run as well as “where” I run

Race to the King : June 22nd, 41 miles completed. Portsmouth Coastal marathon December : entered

“Your legs achieve what your mind believes” pcm2014b

 Me in my element !!

Langstone Harbour running

Image-13The coastal path that follows Langstone Harbour makes up a large proportion of the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside marathon. This event is in its tenth year now and has built up quite a cult status what with the race being the weekend before Christmas.

My training had to be put on hold last week due to a back twinge so the aim of todays run was to get back to double figures.

This blog isn’t so much about the ten miles of running but more about my observations of the area with its tidal mudflats and seabirds.

Over the recent years I’ve looked at my running from a different viewpoint. Yes, I run to the best of my ability but, no I don’t beat myself up over my pace.

Running gives me a sense of wellbeing and mindfulness purely due to the locations that I pass through and the sights that I take in. Photography also allows me to express the enjoyment that I experience while I’m out running. Stopping for a moment to take a photo means that I can both look back on my adventures as well as share them with others.

Image-14The two photos that I’ve used so far really capture just why I chose to enter the Believe and Achieve marathon. Naturally the event has a Christmas buzz with many people wearing fancy dress and with rum and mince pies on offer over the previous years these are also reasons for me to return having run the marathon and ultra options before.

The weather conditions this morning were perfect with no wind and the water was as flat as a mill pond. Race day may well be a different matter !! It will definitely be colder in December but extra layers and gloves can remedy that. I love running on the “South Downs” but it’s also good to visit the coast on occasions.

Running next to the water offers a completely different experience to the hilly trails inland. There’s something relaxing and hypnotic about running next to the sea.

My route took me along trails close to the seawall and with the mud flats to your right, the yachts moored out in the deeper channels and wading birds to watch you get a sense that you’re travelling through daily coastal life.

The trail is fairly narrow with the exception of a tarmac section near Farlington marshes but the majority of the time there’s the smell of seaweed, occasional shingle and the lapping of the water onto green algae covered rocks.

Virtually the only people I saw were fishermen who were out early morning bait digging and it struck me that this was probably something they’d been doing for years. I do like to run through areas with some natural history and the old Hayling railway bridge at half way is a great example of this.

Image-15The clear water was a perfect mirror to the yachts masts and the individual supports of the long gone railway bridge were a reminder of times gone by. The low tide certainly brought in various birds that feast on the rich offerings. Their calls and chirping was a constant feature of my run.

Some sections of the coastal path are rough underfoot so it’s important not to get too distracted with your sight seeing but overall the conditions underfoot were good.

I’m thoroughly looking forward to a longer run along the coast path next week and as an added bonus I aim run earlier in an attempt to catch the sunrise.


Commit to get fit : 10 miles


My 2019 running has been quite hit and miss due to a number of factors which I won’t bore you with. Todays ten miles were fantastic !! I really connected with my running, my surroundings and my desire to commit. So, after a number of false starts I feel it’s time to focus on the remainder of the year.

I currently only have one race booked and that’s the Portsmouth Coastal marathon which is the weekend before Christmas. I may well enter some other races but the PCM is currently my goal.

Today was a game changer !! After a much better weeks sleep I woke at 7am, half an hour before the alarm and I said to myself, “lets make the most of it” and get up !!

Driving out to Meonstoke only takes about twenty minutes but I used this time to ask myself what did I want to achieve. My conclusion was that I needed ten miles with as few distractions as possible and quite simply to soak up the sights and sounds of a relatively early countryside run.

I decided to run the three miles to West Meon village, follow the High Street up and down and then return to Exton for Beacon Hill. The secondary aim of today was to run past where I dropped out of Race to the King. My feelings were predominantly of frustration the last time I was there and I wanted to replace this with positivity.

Pace wasn’t a factor for today, I decided a sense of reconnecting was my main goal. As I joined the Meon Valley trail I immediately felt relaxed, almost as if I was leaving the old 2019 behind me and embracing the remainder of the year.

I didn’t feel I was running away from the stresses of my life, more that I was heading towards a better way of dealing with them. Being in a good place really is the best way to deal with whatever life challenges you with. Running hasn’t 100% been my happy place this year but I was determined to change this today.

I decided not to look at my gps stats but just to accept whatever came my way and take a photo if I thought it was a good reference point. My first photo was at about two miles in.



It always strikes me that the animals I see on my travels look happy. It’s a bright sunny day and they are grazing outdoors. A simple existence and yet that’s all I was aspiring to on my run, just to co exist with my surroundings.

As I reached the end of the trail (it’s an old railway line) the remnants of West Meon station’s platform can be seen and I passed through a narrow footpath that takes you to the High Street. This path can’t be more than four feet wide and the walls look like the original stonework from the railway which opened around 1903.



I do enjoy running through history because I like to try and imagine what it would have looked like. My trip up and down the High Street took in the stores, the old post office, a butchers and a pub.

Returning towards Meonstoke I had Exton in my thoughts. I’d clocked up about five miles and was in a good steady rhythm. With few distractions the countryside allows you to listen to your body. This might sound a little self indulgent but I find it motivates me.

Even breathing means I’m pacing my effort, the sound of my footsteps becomes a beat to tune into and you really are living every second because its what you are concentrating on. The simple process of following one stride after another.

Mindfulness and Wellbeing are important to me and I feel I’ve drifted away from them in recent months. Today I felt connected with what I wanted to achieve.

Heading through Exton and up Beacon Hill I wasn’t even really thinking about when I dropped out of Race to The King in June. I was too busy taking in what was around me. The stream that flows through the village, the flint walls, the birds song and the upcoming hill !!

I was pleased to keep a steady pace to the trig point at the top of Beacon Hill which is were my first blog photo was taken. The South Downs Way was made for blue skies and sunshine !! I can definitely say that the effort it took to reach the top of the hill was well rewarded.

The downhill return meant I could speed up and let myself go !! After a number of measured miles due to fitness restraints it’s good to just “run free” downhill.

So, what did I set out to achieve ?

A ten mile run (Tick), inspiration (Tick), mindfulness and wellbeing (Tick) but most of all the sense that I’d thoroughly enjoyed and hour and three quarters of “me time”. Running makes me happy and it has a positive effect on the rest of my life.

I’m ready to commit to get fit with more training and deal better with what every the rest of 2019 has in store. I promise future posts will be less about me and more about running …. ha ha !!

Thanks for reading


Hydration for Runners : Dr Dan


From right to left this photo shows Dr Dan, myself and Neil Jarrett along with a number of Gosport Road runners. The reason/excuse for us meeting in a pub was a talk by Dr Dan on hydration, hosted by Alton Sports, the 5.45 running club and the Four Ale Tap Room.

The 5.45 club is a Gosport running community initiative set up by Nick Carter. All are welcome to the Wednesday “quarter to six” run, whether you’re a club runner or not its an all inclusive invite. Additional to these runs are occasional visits to drinking establishments and talks that are arranged.

Gosport Road Runners (GRR) naturally form the majority of the group but I’ve always felt welcome as a visiting Fareham Crusader runner. Doctor Daniel Roiz De Sa is the Senior Medical Officer at the Institute of Naval Medicine in Gosport as well as a GRR runner. Hayley Sparshott (another GRR runner I know) was also there.

Unfortunately travel commitments ( I caught the bus) meant I couldn’t arrive early enough for the run but a good number of runners had set off from the Alton Sports shop (just up the road). So, a run, talk, real ales/cider and sandwiches …. “yes”, that’s my kind of night 🙂 !!

Our venue for the evening was the Four Ale Tap Room which had numerous beverages on offer considering its relatively small size. The atmosphere is friendly and the chap in charge was as knowledgeable and passionate about his ale as we are about our running. I had two pints of berry cider which went down very well 🙂


Now that I’ve set the scene I’ll try to summarise some of the points Dan made. Naturally Dr Dan is an expert in his field and has years of analysis to call on, I’m simply going on what I remember so please bear this in mind while reading !!

Summer running is a curious and ever changing sport. One week the temperatures can sore into the thirties and then another week the humidity can be just as sapping even if the temperatures are ten degrees less.

So, what’s the best way of coping ?? This depends on your age, height, sex, weight and conditions so bear this in mind too and just remember even the best athletes don’t always get it right … we’ll never forget Jonny Brownlee staggering towards the finish line in Mexico due to his heat exhaustion.

Running when the air temperature his hot will increase your core body temperature. The body sends more blood to circulate through your skin, this leaves less blood for your muscles which then increases your heart rate. If humidity is added to this, then sweat doesn’t easily evaporate and you’ll need to take action against dehydrating.


This photo from Race to the King shows the kind of hot Summers day that’s beautiful to look at but needs quite a lot of planning and thought hydration wise.

Water not only makes up 60% of body weight in men and 50-55% in women but also regulates temperature. Water is lost in urine and sweat, so, to avoid dehydration you need to replace it regularly with both fluid and food. Water, sports drinks, soft drinks, tea and coffee are your obvious starting points and as a measure six to eight glasses of fluid are needed each day.

What I hadn’t considered was that you take in water from the food you eat. Some 20% of your total daily water intake comes from food with fruit and vegetables being 80% water, so eating “real food” on longer runs becomes important as well as on a daily basis.

Becoming dehydrated usually includes a dry mouth, the start of a headache and worsening concentration. One other clear sign is when the colour of your urine becomes darker !!

So, keep well hydrated in the build up to your race, stop drinking alcohol 48 hours before and don’t forget to have a drink as soon as you wake up on race day as well as an hour beforehand. Sipping on a regular basis while running is much more effective than drinking a large amount in one go and you are far less likely to need to go to the toilet !!

At this point I’d also like to mention reducing your single use plastic when drinking. I now take my cup and soft flasks whenever I run. I carry two 500ml flasks and refill them. Help save the planet too !!



Another factor to consider is where will you source your fluids from ? Races have feed stations but while out training include garages and shops for your top ups.


I’ve considered my fluids : Water – No calories, Low Fat Milk – nutrients & protein, Hot drinks – drink to suit and Sports drinks – for activity beyond an hour, I personally use SIS hydro tablets that you dissolve in 500ml of water and these include electrolyte.

Other practicalities that were also discussed were, avoid the mid day sun if possible, always wear suntan lotion, it’s personal choice but a visor or a cap can help and finally wear loose fitting wicked material shorts and top to prevent heat building up under your clothes.

Dan mentioned a number of athletes and personalities he’s help and to bring his experiences right up to date he told us he’d be working with celebrity SAS winner Wayne Bridge as he prepares for the 2020 Marathon Des Sables. Wayne will be able to acclimatise in Dan’s heat chambers and be monitored but we can also acclimatise to the heat by running progressively longer each time during the build up to our chosen race.

The last time I listen to Dan was after his own personal 2017 MDS race and a talk that he gave on it. Dan raised sponsorship for Walking With the Wounded in 2017, Wayne will be in 2020 and I did for my Race to the King 2017 focus event so in a small way we have something in common.


So, it’s a huge thank you to Dan for the talk and the various people that helped to make it happen. Typically August seems to have settled into a cloudy 19 degrees but that’s still no excuse not to stay hydrated for your best efforts when running !!

Thanks for reading …. Roger

RTTK : My first DNF but 41 miles covered


Forest Gump once famously said “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. As I stood on the Race to the King (RTTK) start line this phrase crossed my mine.

The last six months have been a mixed bag with no races, varied training, occasional injuries and then the prospect of running from Slindon to Winchester, or at least the possibility !!

I ran RTTK in 2017 and finished in a respectable 12.06, that time clearly wasn’t realistic this year but you only live once so I decided “what the hell” lets go for it.

In the end I called time at 41.5 miles and Exton village, it was both a hard and an easy decision, in that I knew, enough was enough. The remainder of this blog charts how the day panned out. The race was emotional but most of all it was full of the great people that trail running attracts.

After a 4.45am alarm call and a 6.05am departure from Fareham train station myself, Paul, Jamie and Mark were taxi bound heading for Slindon. The sun was out and anticipation filled the air.

Once at the start venue we saw a number of familiar faces, Tracey, Zoe and Sabrina from Fareham Crusaders, then Lee and Neil from Gosport and I was particularly pleased to meet Deborah who I talk to on twitter but hadn’t actually met.



Paul, Jamie, Neil and I set off at 7.45am with Lee and Mark already fast disappearing into the distance.

The initial mile and a half allowed for some overtaking so the field largely found its pace quite early on. The temperature was already warm and as Paul and Jamie eased away from me (not intentionally) I decided not to chase them but to run my own race at my own pace.

For regular readers you’ll know I like to take photos to show where I’ve been, the two photos above plus one more from the start were the only three I took through the whole day. Why ? Because I decided I had to give 100% concentration on this attempt. Thanks to Paul Coates FCRC and Su Baldock from Gosport RR for the remaining photos 🙂

As I approached the first pit stop at about 8 miles the scenery was breath taking, classic South Downs Way. It had been a long and gradual climb to reach the top of the Downs.


Each aid station has an amazing choice on offer and great marshals. I filled my 500ml soft flasks, grabbed a couple of energy bars and set out (they even had portaloos ).

By mile ten I was into a rhythum and was starting to contemplate what the rest of the day would hold. The sky was blue, the grass was a lush green and the white chalky paths made for a scenic contrast.

When running on your own it’s very easy to talk to yourself !! I commented out loud, “the heat is certainly building” !! As I crossed the road at Cocking there’s a steep hill and three quarters up it I noticed Mel from our running club. Yes, she’d run past me and not noticed and likewise I hadn’t initially twigged it was her.

The ironman tattoo on her calf and the Crusaders t shirt caught my eye, we discussed how these 12 miles or so had gone and then as the theme of the day would develop, she moved on ahead.

Around mile 13 I had my second wake up call of the day with a pain in my hip. I ignored it for a while and then decided to use some deep heat. The second pit stop at 16 miles appeared and after a quick chat with Aaron from FCRC, refills and some spectacular Tuna sandwiches I set off again on the long uphill country lane opposite. It was also good to chat again to DiscoDeb as her twitter name says 🙂

As with all climbs you may be walking (no one was running) but you can still be productive. I took my cap, sun tan lotion and more food out of my rucksack while walking with purpose !!

Once up on the Downs again a refreshing slight breeze helped but I decided to blast the hip pain with a double whammy. Paracetamol and more deep heat. By the woods up ahead and 18 miles I was hot and getting even more heated with the pain in my hip.

Granted the tablets hadn’t kicked in yet but my frustrations were heightened when I couldn’t find were I’d put the deep heat. I had a paddy, emptied virtually all my rucksack onto the trail and there it was. A couple of passing runners asked if they could help but I assured them I was fine, I was lying, I was annoyed.

In situations like these, in the middle of no where, there isn’t much choice but to press on so I used a combination of running and walking. The irony of being pissed off is that passing runners sense your frustrations and pass with either a knowing “I’ve been there” nod or they genuinely want to help.

Around this time Sabriana and her husband overtook me and I wished them well.

The kindness of total strangers immediately brought me down to earth 🙂 I knew the remaining thirty odd miles well from this point as we approached the first of the two Beacon Hills so I offered as much course knowledge advice as I could to everyone that enquired after my wellbeing. Trail runners are great people.


With Beacon Hill staring us in the face this also meant basecamp wasn’t too far away and even though we had a series of hills to master with Harting Down the 2.5 miles or so to the camp are largely shaded and downhill or flat, all of which I knew would lift my spirits.

Running into basecamp at about 23 miles it dawned on me I’d been running for over five hours and was on the verge of only the second marathon distance I’ve run in 2019. These facts gave me a boost and I left the camp with a renewed approach. I think I saw Tracey from FCRC here but I’m a little cloudy on that one ?? The multi-coloured flags were waving in a slight breeze which was very welcome.


The next coupe of miles were shaded which helped immensely as it was about 1pm by then and I was starting to get a headache. This could have been the heat or dehydration or stress with my hip but either way I needed a distraction to take my mind of it. My saviour was Su Baldock from Gosport Road Runners.

I’ve never met Su before, I just noticed she had a Gosport RR t shirt on. I know lots of GRR runners and without exception they are all friendly. We initially chatted in general terms and then when I mentioned I had a blog she told me my 2017 RTTK write up had been essential reading for a number of her fellow club mates which was very gratifying to hear.

As was the case for the whole race Su headed on in front of me and I set myself for the long gradual climb up New Barn Lane and the steep incline through Queen Elizabeth Country Park. I kept my sense of humour by imagining the many times I’ve run this lane but in the opposite direction. I tried to recall all my running friends that have accompanied me in this area and again the trail running community spirit spurred me on.

Once through QECP the legendary Butser Hill presented itself.


Again I used the hill walk to eat and text my family to ensure they knew I was still alive even though it wasn’t all going to plan. Butser really hurt my hip, I was starting to suffer with the heat and to be honest I wasn’t in a good place. I knew the 31 mile pit stop was on top of the hill and I pondered on dropping out.

I’ve never DNF’d (Did not finish) so I refilled with liquids, flat diet coke and peanut butter sandwiches (which I hate) but it was good to get proper food inside me as well as gels and snacks. I must mention another positive from this race in that there were no single use plastic cups so my refill bendy cup came into its own. Well done RTTK for tackling plastic issues.


I soldered on past the Sustainability Centre and down Salt Hill. The tough undulating downhill played havoc with two sore toes I’d largely been ignoring and for the first time in perhaps nine hours I actually stopped, sat down and contemplated what was my next step.

Yet again, the sound of a friendly trail running companion asking the way meant I could offer my local knowledge and consequently my mood was lifted. I told a few runners about the cold water tap at Meon Springs and their eyes lit up !! I poured more over my head than I drank 🙂

Old Winchester Hill was a slow walk and I entered the pitstops with a resigned demeanour, I was close to packing it all in. Zoe from FCRC passed me and we said hello briefly but I knew the end was in sight. I could have asked to be signed out there and then but I felt I owed it to myself to reach 40 miles. I plodded on.

The trig point on Old Wincheter Hill is a favourite location of mine but it wasn’t today, I was getting moody and the day was catching up with me. On the descent my hips and toes hurt but more than anything I knew I wasn’t enjoying it.

I’ve mentioned before that I sing to myself when running and as I contemplated my situation The Clash “Should I stay or should I go” came to mind. It was time to go.

I rang my wife and she came out to pick me up near Exton. So, 41.5 mile in approaching eleven hours with various stops and it was all over. My first DNF in 30 years.

The final irony was we still needed to go to Winchester to pick up my kit bag and at the same time I could officially register dropping out.

It was the right decision and I haven’t changed my mind. I still love trail running 🙂

Huge congratulations to everyone that finished. I managed 3/4’s of the distance on not enough training, a hot day and pain, others may have finished with a similar scenario but enough was enough for me.

I really appreciate the supportive comments that I’ve had on twitter, facebook and instagram from friends. I appreciate that they respected my decision and not one person offered sympathy because it wasn’t needed. I made the decision.


I’m proud of the 41.5 miles that I covered and yes, “I’ll be back” !!

5,000 calories and all but one of the big hills covered meant my appetite has gone crazy. A Harvester breakfast was the only answer on Monday #dayoff .

Thanks for reading. Rog 🙂


Winchester to Wickham 19 miles & 1 video

Saturdays run started by catching the 7.30am train to Winchester so this was the exact reverse of last week. After covering 25 miles a week ago I decided to cut my run short to 19 today and save my strength for Race to the King in three weeks time.

Videos are a new addition to my irunoffroad social media and I’ve had great fun experimenting with the two I’ve made so far. I’ve created a YouTube channel so feel free to subscribe for future running adventures, cheers.

After bumping into Jamie, Paul, Zoe and Tracey from Fareham Crusaders who were on route to Eastleigh for their own “train-ing” run I left Winchester in bright sunshine and good spirits.

The video above shows you Winchester Cathedral where Race to the King finishes, I then followed the South Downs Way up towards Cheeseford Head with fields of glorious poppies to the right and left of me.


Once I’d passed the tank experience (also video’d) it was noticeable the trail was becoming busier with mountain bikers but to be fair they were all considerate by announcing their presence.

I chatted with Lidya from Winchester who’d caught me up. This is the beauty of trail running when you can chat with someone you’ve never met before but the conversation flows about why and where you are running.

Not long after I bumped into my good friend Paul Coates who was running in the opposite direction. We stopped for some banter which again is on the video.


I pressed on towards Exton and then Meonstock Post Office for liquid refills. The temperature had increased during the morning and must have been around 20 degrees so I bought Lucozade as well as water.

Joining the Meon Valley trail I had seven miles to Wickham were I’d decided to cut my run shorter to 19 miles and my wife picked me up. Something she rarely needs to do.  I think its really important to listen to your body when you know you’ve pushed yourself but are still within your limits. I also had a quick chat with Karen Jenkins from the Crusaders along the old railway line.

My double marathon isn’t far away now so it’s taper time and flexibility work. Arriving at the start line uninjured and having flushed out the stiffness of long runs means you start with a degree of confidence even if I haven’t done the volume of training I’d liked to of due to issues earlier in the year.

Thanks for reading and watching 🙂


Fareham to Winchester 25 miles : RTTK video too


I ran with my friend Jamie from Fareham to Wickham (5 miles), then along the Meon Valley Trail (7 more miles) to arrive at what will be the 40 mile point of Race to the Kings 53 miles.

I recorded a video to show the last 13 miles of RTTK i.e. the last quarter.

Please take a watch and maybe even subscribe to my YouTube channel. Thanks very much

Videos are fairly new to me so all comments are welcome 🙂 Thanks Roger

irunoffroad : Youtube


I’ve decided to create a youtube account and see how it develops. It may come to nothing but I figure its worth a go !!

Our countryside running can offer all sorts of experiences, whether anyone is interested could be a different matter 🙂 They might think it’s a load of “bull”.

I read that it’s not until 30 seconds of playing that a view is registered on youtube but initially I’ve posted a couple of short videos as testers.

Naturally its also called irunoffroad for consistency.

I’ll update my progress … click on this link  Youtube

Thanks Roger

Guest Blog : Thames Path 100 miles – Richard Hill


Run report for Thames Path 100 miler – May 4/5 2019 Richmond to Oxford


This is the first time I’ve posted a guest blog. My friend Richard Hill ran 100 miles last weekend. The length of the post my be a challenge in its self but I heartily recommend you make a cuppa and read it all. Very few of us will ever achieve 100 miles, I take my hat off to you Richard.

Starting location is quite a distance from where I live on the South coast so I stayed in a Travelodge in Teddington on the Friday night and had a lovely dinner in the Ribs & Burgers restaurant on Teddington high street. Good nights sleep and a few train stops in the morning and arrived at the Old Town Hall for kit check and number collection etc. Got there quite early as I don’t like queues.
Didn’t really know anyone there, a couple of names on the entrants list I knew of but not that well so just hovered about for an hour or so people watching which I quite like. People have some funny routines before long runs.
Whilst I was stood watching the world go about its thing a very friendly chap asked me how I was feeling about the run. He wasn’t joining in himself but was planning to pop over to Hungry in a few days to run 100 miles a day for 6 days around a caravan park on a 1km loop. You don’t have these kinds of conversations every day! The excitement in his eyes was quite palpable.
It was a nice chat as we had something in common which I don’t often find in runners. We both love the heat and hot sunshine. I find the cold just saps me but the sunshine and hot weather is so energising. Not often you find runners with that same view. He was also the guy that started the run at 0930 with a bloody awful airhorn, locals must have loved that.
This was to be my second 100 miler having completed the Autumn 100 in October just gone. As I finished that event below 24hrs, which was my goal, I approached the TP100 in pretty much the same way and hoped for the same result. One thing that had been stuck in my head since the end of last Summer was something I heard on a Bad Boy Running podcast that had an interview with the Race Director of Centurion.
I can’t remember if there were any stats but essentially he said there is a high DNF rate among second time 100 mile attempts (having successfully completed the first). I found this quite alarming and it stayed with me since. The reasons for this DNF rate will be numerous but a big factor I presume is knowing you have a buckle already and when at a low ebb perhaps it’s that bit easier to bin it. I’m grateful for the Centurion RD to have shared that as I think it was significant in mentally preparing for TP100.
Just a quick note on why I chose to do this (everyone has their own different reasons). First off I think these events are called the wrong thing. Anything further than a marathon is an ultramarathon. The term ultra usually means beyond normal or extreme and I don’t think that’s the right description, it’s just another distance but not so uncommon anymore. Maybe its ultra for the people at the front that compete but then that’s same as those who can routinely run sub20 5k.
In fact for me, if I could routinely run sub20 5k I would perhaps consider it a greater achievement than hobbling through 100 miles. I can hobble 100 miles but I can’t routinely run sub 20 5k, in fact I haven’t even done it so go figure! As there are so many people enjoying longer than marathon distance events it isn’t beyond normal anymore and personally I’d be happier for the sport to drop the Ultra term, it just doesn’t fit in my view.
But anyway, reason why I entered is quite simply that 100 miles fascinates me. I have done lots of running in the past few years and I heard about Centurion on a social run one evening in the woods and that they had a qualifying system to get in. So I go look at their website and lots of things were different and a bit odd. For 100 there is no medal but a belt buckle (why is that?), they have a stats page that just didn’t make any sense. Some people have completed many 100 mile events and they are all logged on there.
Couldn’t really believe it at first but obviously there is no reason for it not to be true. Delve a little deeper and there are quite interesting chunks of info about various things like safety issues. One that caught my eye was the risk of muscle breakdown and release of myoglobin into the blood. Combine that with poor hydration and you can expect renal shutdown. Ok then! So I head off to the Western states website to find out about belt buckles and read endless Wikipedia articles about kidney issues among others.
Essentially the seed is planted and the fascination has just grown with time. So that’s the why, an event in which running is by no means the key factor. For a bloke that doesn’t enjoy the sensation of hard running but really enjoys long jogs in the countryside with likeminded folks and a reasonable touch of challenge it fits pretty well.
Having just read what I’ve written I realise it sounds a bit flippant. To complete 100 miles on foot non-stop in under 24hrs is a huge challenge that will inevitably end in failure without meticulous planning and preparation. But it is profoundly rewarding to successfully complete.
That wasn’t a quick note.
Forecast for the race was cold, northerly winds and possible showers with close to freezing overnight. So I stayed in the Old Town Hall to keep warm. When I eventually got outside for the race brief the sun was shining and it was lovely and warm. Typical.
Plan for this event was the same as A100. Finish the race within cutoff and if it looks possible go for a sub24. So I started off with 6 minute km pace which for me was far too quick over this distance but I didn’t really want to go much slower as it feels unnecessarily slow. That was a mistake. I should have started much slower, maybe 6.30 or 6.45 km pace.
I had a bit of knee trouble at the start of the year which meant five weeks off running and I hurt my calf once I had got back into it in March by pushing too much too early. The calf had been a bit of an issue since and sure enough it cramped up after the first check point at Walton at about 20k.
I honestly thought I might have to bin it (not a whimsical thought it really did feel that bad). I was up against trees stretching it and trying to heel strike as I ran as I couldn’t run the way I normally do. I was feeling pretty low and despondent. 140k to go and I was already in a lot of discomfort.
A guy I chatted to before the start came alongside and really lifted my spirits and encouraged me to keep trying to find a way and he helped enormously. I didn’t know his name but I cross matched his bib number from the event photos to the results list and this was Patrick, it was his first 100 and he did really well to finish. Thanks Patrick, you likely won’t know it but you really helped me out.
Couple more check points further on and at 50k the muscles had softened a bit and I felt ok to go on. I was cursing the Altra shoes for having no heel though. I’m a huge fan of Altras, this is the second 100 miler with not even a hint of a blister and I don’t use tape or Vaseline, just socks and Altras. But they are flat with no heel and with a tight sore calf a shoe with a heel lift would have been wonderful.
Between here and Henley I don’t remember much. There were a few showers and I remember being amused by the runners fumbling frantically to sort out their rain jackets. The showers didn’t last much more than a few minutes at a time. There was one guy (in a green grand slam teeshirt) who didn’t seem to give a toss about the rain, just carried on regardless. He was also listening to the football on the radio (only just audible so not at all annoying). He looked like he was in a very happy place, good for him, he made me smile.
I got to Henley 51 miles at ja little over 10hrs. As this was the half way point I was feeling pretty good as a finish was still possible and a sub24 was achievable too. As the forecast was for chilly temperatures I changed my tops for new dry thicker ones so I wouldn’t get too cold.
I used the drop bag service for here and Streatley. Chose not to have a crew or pacer as that would add extra stress for me and I like to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Having got settled for the second half and made good time against my plan I started to enjoy things a bit more, the Thames Path trail is quite beautiful with lots of interesting landmarks, Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, Lambs etc etc. It didn’t feel samey at all even though there is 100 miles of it. Probably because every childhood summer holiday I ever had was on a canal boat somewhere in England I felt quite at home on the towpath.
I had no headphones with me, I almost never listen to music when in a race (almost always when  out on normal runs to work or wherever) so there were plenty of nature sounds to enjoy along with a bit of banter from Joe public pointing out a few times that there are things called trains.
I’m not a running blogger although I did write a run report for my A100 finish last year (which was more as a keep sake for me personally) but my friend Roger who is a blogger suggested I do a blog for his blog (if that makes sense) so I’m trying to jot stuff down that might be helpful for anyone thinking of trying for a 100 or maybe of interest to anyone that might bother to read. Trouble is though I can’t really remember much from here so that’s a bit rubbish for a run report but I’ll try to dredge up what I can and sorry I didn’t bother to take any photos.
Between Henley and Reading it got dark at some point and according to strava my pace slowed up a bit. Two things that feel important to me to get a finish are only ever focussing on the next check point. I have a little laminated timesheet that tells me how far to the next one and that is all I think about in terms of distance. The second is pork pies. I have a completely unfounded theory that when we start running our stomachs shut down (flight or fight response perhaps) and that if at the start you simultaneously begin eating real food the stomach tends not to shutdown.
It seems to work for me but this might just be me, who knows. I received these two tips from the RD of the GU36 in Guernsey. So thanks again to him and by the way the GU36 is probably the most enjoyable running event I’ve completed so go check it out, it sold out in 9hrs last year so be quick.
Reading to Wallingford via Streatley is the 4th & 1st leg of the Autumn 100 course so was a bit familiar. I don’t bother to reccy a course as they are so well marked by the Centurion team, it’s too logistically difficult to do a reccy for me and its nice to discover stuff as you go. I’m not likely to ever enter a self-navigation event so I’m just not that fussed. This section was a bit of a haze, was mostly focused on the next stop and maintaining my hydration & nutrition plan.
On that I keep to a pretty simple plan that works for me. Breakfast was a pot of instant porridge, coffee, protein shake, and a banana. Once the race started I ate a large pork pie over the first 10-20 km (they get a bit warm and manky if you leave it any longer). The rest is a combined drink/eat plan based on Tailwind. One sachet in a 600ml bottle every 10k and did this throughout. Also scoffed sausage rolls, pork pie quarters, and fruit here and there at check points.
That’s it and it seems to work out fine for me. I was a bit worried at one point (before Henley I think) as I swallowed a bug (about the size of a ladybug) and it got stuck in my throat and caused me to cough so much I started wretching and thought I was going to puke up all my tailwind but thankfully it was just a bit of dry wretching that eventually dislodged the bug and all was good again. I use my own tailwind sachets rather than the free stuff at checkpoints because then I can control the strength and type.
Up till about 9pm I used naked flavour zero caffeine and then from 9pm till sunrise I alternated between naked zero-caffeine and green tea caffeinated. This seemed to work out well for me. Just as a bit of context, each sachet of green tea tailwind has about 70mg of caffeine and I was taking one about every other 70minutes or so, about 4 or 5 packs in total (total caffeine of 350mg). Go check out how much caffeine is in a medium costa, it’s about 280mg in one cup! I’m sure this is a news scandal in the making. There must be some serious costa addicts out there.
At Streatley there is another drop bag opportunity so I put on some loose fitting jogging bottoms as I could tell it was going to get chilly, also picked up the remainder of my tailwind, had a quick pee and I was on my way. I try quite hard to minimise time at check points. It’s wasted time that needn’t be lost. If I missed out on sub24 by 30mins and I had fannied about at the checkpoints I’d be pretty hacked off so I grab and go. Surprising how many folks linger around nibbling away.
Between Streatley & Sunrise (a little before Abingdon I think) I have only one recollection which was the check point that deviates from the towpath (possibly Clifton). Only reason I remember this one is the people who either don’t know how to focus the beam on their head torches or for some unfathomable reason prefer them on flood mode! Its horrible being blasted by a 1000 lumens right in your face. I always try to be careful with my beam as I know how bright these things are and also a small focussed beam on the ground is surely the best way to light your path. That really did irritate me so I remember that bit.
Actually two other things of note from this section, first I discovered that I can walk faster than some people jog. By this point I was reduced to a fast walk as I was in quite a lot of discomfort and had lost the will to try and even attempt to run. There is obviously an overlap between a fast walk and a slow jog. According to the results I picked off 23 places but as I walked most of it I wasn’t alone in my discomfort! The second thing of note, and a new experience to me, was some mild hallucinations. Nothing extreme just occasionally I found myself being startled by what I thought were deer or badgers only to find they were bushes or gates or tree stumps. This happened quite a bit but I got used to it.
Sunrise came and then into Abingdon which is a very pretty place. I’d like to go visit there one day for a run.
From here to the finish was very unpleasant. The relentless flat course had trashed my leg muscles and my mind. Thankfully it was only 10 miles or so to the finish. Had it not been a race I would have instantly stopped. I could sense damage in my body and my mind was really unsettled. I really don’t think there is anything in this world that could have lifted my spirit at this stage. The towpath was rough and I had truly had enough. I once considered entering the GUCR 145 miles along a canal towpath. That will not be a consideration any longer.
I run because I enjoy it. Between Abingdon & Oxford it was not fun and had the event been the TP90 I would have had a much nicer day out.
Didn’t even bother to stop at Lower Radley check point I just grumbled by and gave a cursery nod at the utterly wonderful volunteers. Those folk at Lower Radley check point (the last one) will probably never enter another running race after seeing the state of us all! It must have been like a zombie apocalypse..
Eventually I could see the finish line. As I entered the field the guys behind the line were shouting at me to run as I was close to getting under 22:30. To be honest I couldn’t give a toss but I did try to run and nearly fell over so I walked across the line in 22:29:39. 15mins or so slower than Autumn 100 but I am very grateful for that time nonetheless.
The after bit is the bit that is very different from my experience at the Autumn 100. The weather towards the end of the A100 was heavy rain and so I think the weather caused me to slow to a walk rather than physical and mental exhaustion. Here however I was walking at the end because I was more drained and uncomfortable both mentally and physically than I can ever remember in the past 44yrs on this chunk of rock. At the end of A100 I had a coffee and a roll and went home without incident. According to the strava log I was back to a normal running routine the next Thursday.
TP100 was different.
After crossing the line someone gave me a teeshirt and a buckle and took my picture. The photographer then asked me to hold the buckle in the air. I just refused and walked off. I am so sorry for my rudeness (I think he might have chuckled a bit, hopefully). I sat down in the pavilion thing and drank a coffee and then called a taxi. When I got up to walk to the taxi I nearly fell over and the next thing I knew I was being supported by two medics into the back of an ambulance. That’s where I stayed for the next hour or so. My blood pressure had dropped through the floor and I couldn’t stand by myself anymore. Blood sugar was perfect though (thanks Tailwind). I have since sent a message of thanks to the medics. They were amazing to say the least.
Lesson learnt is not to try too hard. Next time I’ll take it a bit easier. Talking of next time. I sent a text to my wife that said: ‘I will not be running100s ever again. It’s too damaging. I’m done and I’m happy about it.’
Eventually, again, I called another taxi and struggled into it and headed for the station. Being unable to walk in any normal way the prospect of the journey home wasn’t good. Got a train to Southampton and then had to change platforms for one to Fareham. This was not easy.On the Fareham train I ended up sat next to the lady who had just won the Southampton marathon that afternoon so the conversation to Fareham was really nice and fun. A fitting end to the day.
Once home and showered I had virtually no appetite and felt rough on and off till Tuesday. Don’t know much about muscles but the ones that allow you to lift your leg when sat in a chair didn’t start to work without intense pain until Monday evening. Obviously had no sleep Saturday night and Sunday night I barely slept again, not tired and legs too sore. Monday night got a full sleep, thankfully.
It’s now Tuesday evening and still not much of an appetite. Apparently I burned 11,000 calories during this event so I guess I’m going to get hungry at some point soon.
So that’s that, still knackered but I have a buckle I will treasure for ever.
Finally I want to say something about Centurion. Put simply they just care and it really shows. It’s a slick and nurtured operation with attention to detail at a level I haven’t seen elsewhere. There is no bullshit about being the hardest or the most extreme blah blah blah, they just give objective straight honest information and they really care about every aspect and everyone. Impressive.
Kit stuff
Start to Henley:
Started with a buff over my ears (bit of earache of late) with a baseball cap to hold it in place and keep the sun out of my eyes.
Light compression top (to stop nipple rub), tech tee and fleece top. Used a lightweight windbreaker at times.
UD race vest to carry stuff, mandatory kit etc.
Sealskin gloves (not real seals I don’t think).
Naked belt to carry bottles and phone.
Kalenji lycra shorts to stop chaffing thighs (and plenty of body glide in the crevices…..).
Calf sleeves to try to help my knackered calf – nice and warm too!
Injinji socks – same pair throughout.
Dirty girl gaiters – I really don’t understand why more people don’t use these. Not one bit of grit got in my shoes the whole race.
Altra Olympus 3 shoes – kept them on the whole race. Never touch my shoes once on, just let the feet bed in. No blisters.
Henley to finish:
Changed headwear to a warm beanie
Used a LED Lenser NEO10R & a spare battery that I swapped out at some point. Magnificent light and comfortable. Also carried a SEO7R and spare battery as back up and a crappy petzl emergency light. This is more than mandatory kit but I feel it’s really important to guarantee a good light source if going overnight. To be stuck with a faulty main and only an emergency backup may well end the race and that would be gutting.
Changed into a merino wool baselayer with a thick kalenji cold weather top.
At Streatley I put on some cold weather kalenji jogging bottoms.
I also have a Naked running vest that I wanted to try out but I didn’t wear this as my wife says it looks like a ladies croptop!
Thanks very much Richard for your insight into a 100 mile race.
Fantastic !!

Running Butser Hill – the beauty & the beast

Image-7I’ve been drawn to Butser Hill for over a quarter of a century. This iconic hill was the location of my first race when I moved to Hampshire and I never tire of return visits. Situated not far from Petersfield it towers above the A3 and offers any elevation hungry runners, walkers or riders the opportunity to test themselves.

Why ? I hear you say …. well, apart from the personal satisfaction, the views are amazing !! Portsmouth Spinnaker tower and the Isle of Wight to name two.

I arrived early enough to have the whole hill to myself. The shadows that darkened its lower slope would soon disappear as the morning sun rose and a steady trickle of “outdoors types” appeared from Queen Elizabeth Country Park on the other side of the A3.

Image-6 Butser can be climbed from a few different angles but I stuck with the main path that then forks off to the right on its way towards the trig point at the top.

Sheep and cows both graze on different slopes and at different times of the year so the grass is short wherever they have been. Naturally, our four legged friends can leave behind clues that they’ve been there, so bear this in mind.

Its worth saying that the visitors centre is currently being modernised so temporary structures are in place.

In order to gauge the height of the hill this next photo shows the view looking back from the fence line and gate that crosses between the wooded areas.

Image-9The hill gradually ramps up and then there’s the steepest section of 150 metres or so. The fact that you can only see the heads of the two walkers gives you an indication of the gradient. It’s here that your breathing and fortitude are tested, “keep on going” !!

Once through the gate its onwards and upwards for a gradual climb towards the satellite mast and then the terrain flattens once you reach the summit and the trig point.


Image-10Statistically the elevation is around 500 feet from the car park to the trig and 400 from the lower slopes of my first photo. This is enough to earn it the “beast” status I refer to in my title. Distance wise thats about a mile and a quarter and a mile.

I could let you into a secret that there’s actually a car park just the other side of the satellite mast as well as a café but you’d be missing out on the challenge of getting there !!

My personal aim for the day was four ascents. Hill 1, ran all the way, Hill 2, ran most of the way, Hill 3, combined walking and running, Hill 4, probably a 50/50 run/walk.

Yes your calves and thighs are tested to the full on the way up and there’s an inevitable jarring of your quads as you make the descent but you really can’t replicate this kind of hill training. Strength and confidence are gained in equal measures.

On one of the descents I had to negotiate “Hill Security” ….. I asked kindly if they’d “move” over. With this area being part of the South Downs National Park all the livestock are used to visitors but these cows are big old units so I showed them lots of respect.

Image-11The countryside is such an asset and it’s often closer to us than we think. My focus today was strength work running up and down this hill but in the process you are treading a path that’s been used for hundreds of years along the South Downs Way and effectively going back in time because it would have looked exactly the same, apart from the main road !!

In summary, a beautiful location that’s well worth a drive out to.

Thanks for reading, Roger