2014 Journey On


This years race schedule thus far;

  • February Bath Skyline
  • Sufarloak 7k April 19th,
  • Bristol 10k May 11th,
  • Scafell Pike Mountain Marathon June 15th,
  • Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon June 22nd,
  • Bath Running Festival Marathon July 27th,
  • Bristol Half Marathon September 21st,
  •  Athens Classic Marathon November 9th,
  • Portsmouth Marathon December 21st.

I’m sure somewhere in there is time to rest and dance!

January meant a half hearted bash at Jantastic a program meant to get people running or set challenges for those that do already.  I did a basic mile a day.  With mine and friends birthdays mid January I wasn’t up to committing myself to too much training post marathon.  I got a new pair of Saucuny road running shoes in silver blue and pink for my birthday from Dad.  Whilst I don’t have a lot of road races booked this year a lot of my training is on asphalt.  February was meant to be a distance target and March a timed target but I didn’t do these bits as for February I was due to run a marathon with Matt in Salisbury Sandy Balls Holiday Park but lost my shoe the day before.  This goes to show … always bring spare shoes.  Maybe next year I’ll do the full program but it did it’s job keeping me motivated.

The first race of the year meant back to course A for February Bath Skyline 2014 and even though it was the easier course I hadn’t ran much since the Marathon so my time was a sloppy 1:34:07.  This is the slowest time of the series.  Considering the minimal training due to a longer recovery period I was pleased to have kept up that level of fitness over my January break from heavier training.  On the plus side for this race I had invested finally in a pair of trail shoes in the shape of pink Adidas Womens Kanadia 6 which according to the seller are amongst the most popular trail shoes on the market.  They feel a bit narrow around the toes but they should do for tougher trails hopefully making me more confident when placing my feet in road shoes on the trails – clearly not an ideal mix.  They did help a great deal with grip in this race as it was a frosty day in February with dew on the fields, damp in the trees and hail half way through the race which made the rest impossibly hard after blurring vision.  No wonder it was a slow one.

Sufarloaf Mountain 7.5 miles April

One sunny spring Sunday my Dad drove me and Matt to Wales Breacon Beacons for the Sugarloaf Mountain fell race.  It got less sunny and less sunny again the further we got into Wales once we’d crossed the bridge.  We talked anxiously about how fitting Lord of the Rings soundtrack would be amongst these rolling fells.  There was no way to distinguish which one would be our hill containing the summit we would climb.

Once there we registered and got together at the field full of obviously local runners thick with the Welsh accent all getting their kit ready for the race.  This bit is always the peaceful bit.  The only sure bit of the race.  Signing in.

Then the clacker went and we were a small bunch of maybe 30 to 40 runners pegging it up the field and onto the roads that led up and up to the hill which would be our hill.  It wound around it steadily from the base gaining elevation with each turn until it hit the pathway up.  I struggled so much on the up through the thin shrubbery that I was relieved when we got to leveler ground although as usual we were last.  Matt still stuck by me whilst Dad raced on ahead.  We took photos and videos the whole way.  The fell was soft underfoot and almost mossy track led up the ridge to the greater one in the distance a few miles away which came to an abrupt summit of tumblestone rock and white grassy rock.  Once up there I took in the view of my first summit.  It felt casual trying to get there even though I knew I needed to pace better I felt stronger on this section of the climb than the very bottom.  The top was breezy but a stable head meant getting down was alright once I’d found myself level again we ran faster.  We hit a tumblestone path under the cover of trees which took is descending back down to the roads leading again to the finish where all the other runners were still waiting for us with a friendly cheer.  They hadn’t just gone without us which was nice.  We were told stories by the tail runner about how last year was covered in snow and fog so thick you could hardly see a hand in front of you.

It’s made me realize I’m not quite Olympus Marathon standard yet.  I don’t doubt I will be one day but I’m glad I didn’t sign for it this summer.  If I’m struggling to do local mountain runs of 7 miles it’s a big hit to the ego being last for that.  I’m medium at road running speed wise and a snail at trial running.  I need to do so much and have no idea where to start apart from being faster in general and getting more confidence on ascending and descending.  I did learn though that this is the kind of running rush that I love.

We finished the afternoon with a lunch in the local pub whilst in our running gear talking of future runs regardless of yet being over the pain of current ones.  01:47:00

Bristol 10k May

The weather stayed mild for this turning annual event along the iconic Bristol Harbor whose route hadn’t changed from the previous year.  I had two crumpets with butter for breakfast before heading down to town with Liam an hour before hand which hopefully leaves it enough time to digest.  I ran into Matt, Anna and Scott at various points.  Dad was running with one of his cousins as well.  The atmosphere was very friendly.  The queue to the toilets was huge yet this year it was easier to find and deposit baggage although harder to get it back out again after finishing.

I kept pace up really well through this one considering I wanted a time of 55 minutes I knew I had to be speedy on the day than my usual training runs as often is the case with races anyway due to inevitable excitement.  The second mile up the fly over was the fastest at a random 07:30 mile as I ran up the slight incline.  5k in I’d clocked a new 5k record whilst battling a stitch that I breathed through although this caused me to slow down slightly for the rest of the race and I consumed a gel to keep energy up.  I saw Mum at Cumberland Road cheering on at around 4.5 miles and zoomed through to the finish around the centre.  I knew I was close.  I could hear the radio blearing over head and the general cheer of the crowd.

Although I felt close that last half a mile of tension felt like it lasted forever.  I wanted that time I’d targeted for.  Could feel it within reach.  I was tired but I kept going and made it to the finish where I was greeted with this years’ race medal and tee shirt in an astonishing neon yellow.  I’d competed in 0:57:25.  02:25 minutes off my target time but still well within sub 60 10k standard for the first time!  Take victories where you can, the PB gain is still pretty big on last year, a sub 60.

Afterwards I met Matt and went down to the Floating Café to have lunch with the Southville Running Club.  I had stewed chicken, Greek salad and pizza… random mix for a victory meal but it’s just as important to replace the carbs as it is protein.  I also had a pint before heading back home for a roast dinner with the family.

Cheddar Challenge

Good morning from the sunny fields of Cheddar.  Matt and I hitched a lift with the Southville Running Club from round the corner to Mum’s.  The registration fields over looking the deep Gorge and Glastonbury Tor in the distance were busy with runners and families preparing for a days stay.  Quite a few runners were late due to traffic trying to park so the event didn’t start until 11:30 am ish.  It was a bright sunny day with a little cloud but not much breeze to cool down when in the exposed fields.  The route didn’t completely follow the terrain of the half marathon in August as it only uses that route for the August event when it has all lengths on its course.  It still contained the signature tough elements of the rocky ascents at the start, Jacobs Ladder, long lengths of grassy fields.  I finished the 10km in 1:16:54 Cheddar Gorge 10km in May with position 188.  This was better than the Bath Skyline times over the winter which clocked a higher time by 5-10 minutes showing some improvement.

Then a month later I clocked 3:24:17 during the Cheddar Gorge HM June and finished 2nd last.  Finally not last in a Relish Race.  This was twenty or so minutes faster than my first Cheddar Half and I didn’t finish last.  So in a year I’ve managed to cut some time off my trail races and get myself out of last position in these considerably harder races but I still need to do better.

Scafell Pike Mountain Run

The day before the race we travelled up to Keswick by train and coach from Bristol Temple Meads.  On the way there we speculated which fells would be our fell.  They all looked as looming and personal space invading as each other battling for dominance on the horizon almost giving the impression that we were entering a geographical bowl.  The coach dropped us outside the local supermarket and we stopped for a cup of tea there at the café outside.

Eventually we made our way down a couple of streets to the public footpath which led us past a little Italian restaurant and through two fields of very loud happy sheep with their lambs chasing each other about over their manmade hills for practice when they will day be let out onto the mountain no doubt with the bigger bossier free sheep.  Following this led to a bridge that bounced as we walked over it and then it was only about a third of the mile to our hotel.  The hotel was a posh white washed building with traditional black beams on the façade.  Inside it was high ceilinged, traditional patterned carpets and very ornamental.  There was a bar, restaurant, conservatory and gardens leading to the lake (where the triathletes will be swimming tomorrow) from the first floor.  Our room was on the second floor overlooking the road and apartments behind.

The day before the race we travelled up to Keswick by train and coach from Bristol Temple Meads.  On the way there we speculated which fells would be our fell.  They all looked as looming and personal space invading as each other battling for dominance on the horizon almost giving the impression that we were entering a geographical bowl.  The coach dropped us outside the local supermarket and we stopped for a cup of tea there at the café outside.

Eventually we made our way down a couple of streets to the public footpath which led us past a little Italian restaurant and through two fields of very loud happy sheep with their lambs chasing each other about over their manmade hills for practice when they will day be let out onto the mountain no doubt with the bigger bossier free sheep.  Following this led to a bridge that bounced as we walked over it and then it was only about a third of the mile to our hotel.  The hotel was a posh white washed building with traditional black beams on the façade.  Inside it was high ceilinged, traditional patterned carpets and very ornamental.  There was a bar, restaurant, conservatory and gardens leading to the lake from the first floor.  Our room was a double single on the second floor overlooking the road and apartments behind.

After arranging our things we headed down to the conservatory to have dinner by the window overlooking the garden.  The garden seemed to be namely a large algae pond to the right with the grassy areas doubling up as a playing field for golf.  A sandy path led from the patio to the lake.  With the right side of the garden being a built up selection of large trees which fell into an avenue around the pathway leading outwards.  I had a cut of salmon with new potatoes and seasonal veg.  Pudding was a sticky toffee pudding presented on a plate of slate dusted decoratively with icing sugar and dried berries.

Once we had let food go down a bit we put on our gear and went for a run around the local high street that was full of hiking and outdoor equipment shops up quiet winding roads to the fields of farm land we’d driven through on the way up.  We went in search of a stone circle and found it complete with sacrificial sheep.  On the way back we popped into a Chinese restaurant for takeaway noodles and realized we’d clocked 10k by the time we reached the hotel.  We ate the Chinese food on a bench overlooking the lake using our waterproofs as protection from the damp after recent rain.  It was so relaxing that sleep came pretty easily that night.

The next day was amazing!  Breakfast was a stack of toast with marmalade and a strong coffee and a banana.  We ran 30k up and down the mountain through woods that reminded me of those experienced at Forest of dean and rolling open valleys as we approached the mountain listening to the Lord of The Rings soundtrack at times and chatting with fellow runners.  It started from the roads of Keswick and took us over the full ascent and descent of the summit.  There was also a triathlon on the same day.  The inclines were steady leading up to Scafell with stretches of oddly paved pathway and hill walks over bridges until we got back on the road to the first feed stations and after that the lead up a steep ascent with roughhewn steps leading up and up.

A lot of it is a blur apart from sections.  I remember the river bed pathways coming up to the feed station base at Braithwaite.  After that was boggy marshland.  As we headed up this section Ricky Lightfoot was pelting it down along with the leading lady who eventually won the race.  Up we went.  I remember a wall of dark rock that was basically a vertical climb up and then a scramble down around it to get back on the path again.  This was where the agoraphobia hit.  I clung to the rock not wanting to move.  I was amused by an empty Haribo packet on the floor and continued the scramble with Matt’s encouragement.

At the summit there was a couple of miles of boulder fields unlike anything I’d ever seen before in real life.  They were of varying sizes sometimes with considerable space beneath leading into darkness which didn’t exactly bring confidence that the rock you were on was stable.  I was afraid of falling with my bad leg and bag on my back.  There was a hut at the very summit which we insisted on sitting in for a time to make the most of it even though the clouds were thick so the view was minimal.  We made our way slowly back down to the 30k point back to the first feed stations.

I realised I am agoraphobic which is fear of open spaces about half way up (I’d never been that high by climbing myself before having only done short hikes up Snowdon as a kid) and found it very hard due to a muscle injury in my glute which shifted from muscle to muscle.  Sheer stubbornness and determination got me through to the finish.  Once at the top I refused to quit as we were 13.1 miles in by that point.  On the website it states that we finished in 8 hours 41 minutes 11 seconds. am still pleased with this and wear the shirt with pride.  This is because even though I didn’t finish the marathon part of the race I did still complete over 3209ft of mountain elevation.  It was a choice between the summit and the distance and I chose the summit meaning that that’s the second summit of 2014 beaten.  It’s proven that sometimes victory comes with making choices that one might not normally make accepting defeat in one area so that you can be personally victorious in another.  I’m just happy I survived the mountain through the injury and agoraphobia without doing myself in completely.

During the run I consumed a few energy gels at hour intervals.  The whole sack of water I’d brought with me.  An apple and a few mini Cornish pasties at food stations.  Some jelly beans.  I think I kept consumption up well despite the nerves being all wobbly.

On the way down I distinctly recall seeing a sheep through the clouds which was large and grey being slightly dizzy by this point I often wondered if the sheep were wolves.  It’s strange the tricks the mind plays under stress.  It’s certainly been an experience it had all the right elements for a nightmare…. Those haunting grey clouds.

It started off as a lovely day and by the time we were on the descent the clouds rolled in creating a very atmospheric environment with the outline of Mordor, I mean the mountains, looming over head, almost making one feel as insignificant as a leaf in the wind that could be blown off the mountain at any moment!  Tremendous adventure!

Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon

When a trail route starts to become familiar it starts to become less terrifyingly challenging.  Like an old friend you’ve gotten used to having around despite their sometimes tricky quirks.  Even if it’s challenging physically somehow the mind relaxes.  It knows the twists and turns.  It knows that smell of chive and the shape of the terrain.  It seems less impossible.  I’ve found this was true of the Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon.  I met Matt at the Southville Running Club just round the corner from my Mum’s on the morning of the 22nd of January – the day after the summer solstice which is the longest day of the year.  It was stiflingly hot.  One of the hottest days that June and clear blue skies to boot.  It would have been a beautiful day to sit on a beach with a few beers.  A worryingly hot day for anyone planning on running long distance.

Members of the club kindly drove us up to Cheddar and we experienced the joy of trying to park up on the Gorge.  We then walked a short stretch to the start field, a steadily rolling grassy incline, walled off at the end before a slight drop into the next field.  I found a couple of Bristol and West members, said hello, went to drop my stuff in at the baggage and collect my number.  I always like that I can see Glastonbury Tor in the distance from this field which seemed extra fitting today.

It was so hot that even ravens were dropping dead out of the trees.

I finished the race in 3:24:17 which is a great PB gain on the 3:49:21 I finished in during Cheddar Gorge HM August 2013.  This route was also slightly different, it being effectively two laps of the 10k route, so you knew what you were in for the second time round.  It cut out some of the harder shrubbery inclines of the August route which they use for the marathon making this HM slightly easier.  Southville waited until the end so I got a small cheering crowd at the Finish flags which was nice even though I was second last so that field was pretty empty by that point in the afternoon.  It was nice to still have support waiting at the end even though they didn’t have too.

The goody bag contained a glorious item along with the medal and a Toffee Crisp bar that because of the heat went down like it was the most precious substance on earth.  An old school ice pop.  I think I had blue. I sat down with Matt and the remaining club members getting through that ice pop like it was the nectar of the gods and at that moment it felt better than any trophy.  Getting through that route, in that heat, with an surprise ice pop at the end.  All summer races should have these or similar.

After the race we went to a local pub in the Village and had a victory roast dinner and pint of cider. This was equally lovely, finally getting to relax with the sun flooding the beer garden, food on the way and chatting about future races and goals with fellow runners.  Sometimes, when the route doesn’t feel as challenging, the runners you’re with and the little things make all the difference.  I know it seems odd to see such a slow finish time as a victory but I think the victory is in the time gain and the enjoyment.

 Mendip Muddle 12.58 Miles 

It was the second weekend of the month and as I had a random weekend off duty thanks to my Grandmother I spent the week trying to find a race that I could do but everything had been booked up or was too far away.  I had considered visiting some closer trails instead.  As if by magic another member of Bristol and West had posted that they were unable to make the Mendip Muddle that Sunday so would anyone like to take up their number?  I jumped at the chance and Karen offered me a spot in the car with her husband and son for transport so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Autumn hit like a brick this season.  It made itself known that chilly Sunday by the large droplets of dew gathered in the grass of the field turned car park.  The grass was above ankle height so that meant damp socks before even beginning the run.  I hate damp socks.  It’s the worst thing about cold weather.  It seemed like moisture hung in the air from the rains overnight.  It would hang in the mud too.  For we all returned from our trails spattered to the knees in the stuff and considerably damper than when we set out.  Most of the Mendip Muddle route was the Cheddar Challenge in reverse including some sections that the Challenge only use in August and an incline towards the Challenge start field.  It looked quite different in the autumn where it was once dry and fresh in the summer had turned the dark hues of autumn.  Ferns browning in the undergrowth.  Mist hung in the air.  The sky a pale wintery egg blue with silvery clouds promising bad weather rolling in over the hills.  Dusky red mud puddled beneath the pounding trainers of a few dozen runners.


I used an energy gel per hour for this run taking it as an opportunity to fuel for Athens.  I realise that I need to practice fuelling during longer runs to keep up energy levels to perform consistently.  I felt that my energy levels were kept up despite the cold which seemed to run through the core and make me tired.  By 9 miles I wanted nothing more than a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  I slacked a little here because I was so tired and slightly fed up by this point.  At 11 miles I got my will power back as I could see the end and ploughed through to the end along the country lanes back to the finish hut.

There I had a couple of sausage sandwiches, a slice of iced sponge cake and a large cup of tea.  This I munched on happily to be finally in the warmth after a long morning of hard running as the group stayed for the awards.  Bristol and West runners took back quite a few prize bottles of wine for different categories.  I didn’t win anything but I completed the run faster than I had for any of the Cheddar races despite it feeling like the Cheddar races in reverse.  This made me feel like I’d progressed with my running recently.  So a successful day for all involved.   MendipMuddle













2014 Athens Authentic Marathon


Due to three days of classic Mediterranean storms hitting Athens each afternoon the three of us were hopeful when the weather forecast suggested light rain on the day of the Athens Authentic Marathon to help bring the heat down.  Zeus gifted us with no such luck.  Once the sun rose it blasted bright sunshine which bounced off the asphalt blearing into the eyes with a general heat of 22 degrees.

 Sleep was very hard to come by on the Saturday evening because I was so full of anticipation.  I was up at 5am for the marathon breakfast in the Rooftop Restaurant with nearly two dozen other runners all dressed and ready in their gear.  Plates were loaded with the knowledge of a hard days running a head.  I had croissants and cheese with fruit and random European breakfast pastries I can’t recall the individual names of.  All washed down with a couple of cups of good strong filter coffee.

 Runners then started to make their way down to the nearest subway station where there were queues down the street for buses to Marathon.  I’d never seen so many buses attempting to make their way down the road to pick up as many people as their seating allowed.  It was like a slightly organised free for all.  Matt, Liam and I were lucky to get on a coach together.  It looked like they’d employed every coach and bus company in the Europe as we even saw German company names on the sides of various vehicles.  Quite a feat organising more than thirty thousand runners to get to the other side of the country at 5am in the morning.  Yet, somehow everyone still got there to the starting pens in Marathon under the light of the Olympic Flame.  After a couple of laps of the track to warm up we made our way to our individual pens after wishing each other good luck.  Each wave started with a thank you for running speech and the soundtrack to Mission Impossible blearing through the speakers which got the energy going.


What struck me was how supportive the crowd were.  All the way through the route, not just in main towns, members of the public gathered to cheer runners on with shouts of ‘bravo!’  Local pubs bleared music from their porches.  Volunteers waved flags.  Ladies gave out cuttings of olive branches for luck.

 As despite my best efforts I couldn’t find a bottle of Lucazade Sport in the area as Power Aid seemed to be the sports drink of choice I stuck to water and Coca Cola to keep hydrated.  I ran with a spare bottle to tip over my head and splash myself with to keep cool.  I had as usual an energy gel per hour of running.  Along with that I had a few bananas and a strange European chocolate bar at half mark but it was hard to stomach solid food with the heat.

 I was going steadily until about 16 miles when I got heat stroke.  Depression due to a mix of self-doubt and exhaustion hit shortly after.  I had to spend nearly an hour out recovering in the shade with the help of medics who questioned whether to let me continue on.  It was heart breaking watching my sub 5 hour training plan I’d been following for sixteen weeks fall to nothing.  But thanks to a supportive message from my boyfriend Steve I got up and carried on.  I felt better again by the last 3.1 miles so I did a strong jog to the finish lap in the Sports Stadium happy for the shade of the city buildings.  I finished the race in 5:58:35 seconds.  Ten minutes slower than my first marathon at the Portsmouth Waterside Coastal in 2013 which was disappointing but I didn’t die and avoided serious injury apart from a bit of an ego battering so I’m quite glad about that all things considering.


(Image thanks to Matthew Larmour)

Regardless of the disappointment of the time lost due to heatstroke I had a fun memorable time running the original marathon route.  Nothing will ever beat that feeling of euphoria.  The euphoria of sitting down on the grass with other physically battered people stretching my legs out after receiving my medal which felt heavy enough to knock someone out as it was placed around my neck.

I hobbled exhaustedly by to Athens Gate and had a victory nap until the evening when Matt and Liam joined me for dinner in the Rooftop Restaurant.  The waiter excitedly explained that, ‘Yesterday, everyone wanted the pasta!  Today they all want the meant!’ so we joined suit.  I ordered some honeyed chicken and seasonal veg.  We chatted about our experiences of the day, trials and tribulations, expectations for future races despite still being battered from this one nothing much can knock a runners optimistic nature.

I will always remember how on that day, the 9th of November, thirty thousand plus people came to Athens with the one unified goal of running the original race.  They came together in peace for the love of running.  During my  five days in Greece I never met a single person who wasn’t incredibly positive, helpful and accommodating.  It is a beautiful place and I can’t wait to go back there.  Even as I write this in early January I still have the tan line that my Garmin watch made on the day fading to a memory on my wrist.

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