2016 flashback: THE BIG STOCKPORT 10K – VEGAN RUNNERS TAKEOVER

This is a club blog post I made back in 2016, shortly after our first mass attendance at the Stockport BIG Event 10K race. The following year we’d more than double these numbers. Re-posting as it’s almost time to once again descend on Mersey Square, for this our 3rd mass attendance at the event – looking like we’ll once again have 150+ runners on the start line! #seeyouinstockport #veganrunnersuk

Usually you’ll be there, eagle-eyed, checking the shirts, looking for those distinctive colours. Was that a Vega…? No. Oh, what about …? When you finally spot a wild Vegan Runner at a race it can be quite a big moment, especially if you’re not lucky enough to be in one of the areas with a really active local group.

There was none of that on Sunday September 18th – a warm, sunny morning in Stockport, Cheshire, a few miles south-east of Manchester. On this day it was difficult to go anywhere without seeing a group of VRs.

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It began as an idea to find a race the Manchester group could turn out in numbers for. After a little searching and checking, a local race with a date that worked for a number of the group was found – a 10k so as to be suitable for most abilities and with a cheeky £10 entry fee if registering teams of 5 at once. Could the group fill 2 teams, or perhaps 3? As the teams filled, more were created, then more and others outside the group began to show an interest (let’s not ignore the fact that the race fell on the same weekend as the Manchester Vegan Beer Festival). This was no longer just a local gathering, VRs signed up from London, Hertfordshire, all over the North East, Leeds, Huddersfield, Merseyside… the list goes on.

There was quite a bit of organising and planning required to keep things on track and some members joined other local groups and spread the news. In the run up to the event, Jonna, Manchester group local contact, managed the teams. This became particularly hectic during the closing days as people had to pull out due to injury etc., but these were quickly replaced by yet more eager Vegans wanting to share the day with their club mates. Another task Jonna set herself was to secure a sponsor in the form of Unicorn, a local co-operative grocery, who offered a generous supply of fruit (organic, of course, as they offer nothing else!). And let’s not forget that banner flag, designed by Jason and to be heroically carried throughout the morning by Tom!

By race day we had 14 teams of 5 and a number runners registering solo, all ready to don their black and green shirts (some for the very first time) to run the streets of Stockport, promote a healthy Vegan lifestyle and do our club proud.

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Meeting on Mersey Square, opposite the Plaza, our numbers rose steadily, hugs became more frequent and smiles grew larger. Thanks to a borrowed shirt from here, and a pair of shorts from there, one of those intending only to cheer and spectate had a last minute change of mind and took a place – who could blame anyone for wanting to jump in and be a part of this BIG day – the vibe was immensely positive and compelling.

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With just over half an hour to the start of the race, around 60 Vegan Runners descended into the Bear Pit. Fortunately, being around 200 years too late to witness the kinds of activities that gave this area its name, instead it was the first club photo opportunity. With the photos snapped, a particularly memorable moment took place as Verna stood, faced the terraced crowd and said a few heartfelt words regarding the occasion and the history of the club, followed by a round of applause for Jonna and everyone else involved with making the day possible. It was OK to get a little misty-eyed at this point.

With little time left for anything resembling a meaningful warm-up, the gathered runners headed off past the theatre and up the hill to the start area – a hill they would each soon get to re-tread around 9.9km later. Outer layers were shed, toilet queues began looking unsurprisingly lengthy, bags got dropped, and the nerves began to kick in as the start time neared.

600 entrants – over 1 in 10 being Vegan Runners – queued at the start. After a short delay the race began, with the hosts commenting on all the Vegan Runners whizzing by mere seconds later!

The course itself wasn’t bad at all, although it did have its fair share of climbs, twists and turns coupled with occasional changes to the terrain. Not everyone enjoys a route that doubles back on itself down the same track but, just after the half way point, running beside the River Mersey in both directions offered a great opportunity to see, wave, high-five, cheer and encourage each other while the race was in progress. Wonderful stuff!

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As people completed their runs they joined the growing group near the finish line. Another chance to chat, cheer home the remaining members, sample the post-race fruit and stretch out some sore limbs.

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After the prize-giving, another photo opportunity presented itself before the group began to disband. Some had trains to catch, others had an appointment at The Allotment with the talented Matthew Nutter, local chef and runner, as he opened his doors to a lucky few dozen or so VRs for a post-run breakfast. It was said a hardcore few even made it back to the Beer Festival.

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Among those earning new 10k PBs were Alex Hinchcliffe and Bob Neill, finishing 2nd and 4th overall, setting up an easy win for the Soy Division VR team, with 5 Vegan Runners finishing in the first 20 places. Alex is more often found high in the hills around Sheffield, Bob is more at home in the vast wilds of the North East, running more substantial distances such as the Ultra Marathon he recently placed first in. For them both come travel and take part in an event that’s not really their prefered running format is something we’re all thankful for, and their placings really helped with the message. But, having said that, their efforts were equally matched on the day by all those Vegan Runners stepping up to the 10k distance, pushing for PBs and even taking part in their first ever events wearing the shirt. All commendable stuff!

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There are far too many stories to tell: PBs earned, friendships made, hangovers burned off. One thing is for sure, everyone did the club proud. It seems clear that, with the club being inherently different to regular running clubs and with all the difficulties that presents, yet expanding rapidly and gaining more and more attention, the local groups will play a vital going forwards. This kind of event brings us together just like our weekly training runs but on a grander scale and with a more accessible and inclusive format, bringing in members from further afield, maybe the kinds of people who cannot attend the training runs or have none in their areas. Yes, it was probably a record turnout for Vegan Runners at an event – but this record will be smashed soon enough, and again and again – it’s only natural as the club grows stronger in numbers by the week. What’s sure is the buzz generated by an event like Sunday’s will only seek to strengthen us as a club and bring us closer to the day the local groups take their place alongside their neighbouring local running clubs in their own right. Until then, more like this!

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It wouldn’t be right to end this without mentioning Sam Barton, Community Sport Officer at Life Leisure, the event’s organisers. Always available for advice regarding the teams, bag drop etc., and ensuring that *all* goodie bags handed out contained vegan-friendly snack bars, Sam made us not only feel welcome, but a valued part of the event. From all of us at Vegan Runners, thank you!

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Leigh Weekend on the Track : 6 Hour Challenge

This event looked useful – 6 hours running 400m laps of a running track. It ticked so many boxes for me at this particular point in my comeback. I could get some distance in the legs without risk of tripping and falling and with no pressure to race or keep running if I didn’t fancy it. I could try out the new shoes – New Balance 1080W V8s – and have a spare pair of old reliable on hand if things didn’t work out. Get to test out 2 varieties of Clif Bloks, Blackcurrant with caffeine and Margherita Citrus with 3x salts without risk of being stuck miles from anywhere with a gut-bomb. All good stuff working towards getting myself as ready as possible for Equinox 24 after being out so long.

Here’s some of the fun comments from local club mates before the race when I was attempting to drag some along, for some reason I just couldn’t convince them of the benefits of the race, instead they preferred to make fun:

“Sounds horrible 

How awful for you 😂

Not exactly positive, was it?! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And this is from people who run Ultras and Spartan Beast events… people who casually just rip their kecks down and shit in the wild when out for a run… people who roll around in mud on kids playground toys and call it challenging fun. I’ll take my ton of steady miles in a controlled environment anyday, kids – so much more to be learned!

Luckily I know them well enough to know they weren’t entirely serious with their jibes, and I’m glad to say they were wrong, and by a good margin. If they thought it wasn’t nearly gnarly enough for their tastes, well they didn’t see the weather we had before the race even began – torrential! But I loved it because, as any runner worth their electrolytes knows – rain running is the best running.

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Leigh track on a quieter and less-wet day

So it’s an hour before the start and it’s pouring down, the event team are all set up as they’ve been here all weekend for the track Marathon and Half the day previous. As I head over to check in, I see the usual fine spread you’d expect at a Time2run event – masses of goodies to eat with plenty I can go at being Vegan (bananas and bourbons, well with those two you make a friend for life), electrolyte drink, water, flat cola, hot tea & coffee, and the usual sweets and cakey things I’m not compatible with for the non-veegs with a sweet tooth.
Plenty of time now to check out the facilities – in the main building above, just down an exit/re-entry funnel over the start/finish line, there’s toilets that are a big step up from the portaloos you have to put up with on many events. One of the many benefits of being at the track! During the race I’d dash in here no less than 4 times, all those freely available drinks keeping me super hydrated, or was that over-hydrated. As I’m on my way I see I guy I think I recognise… but from where? The cogs turned, slowly. Somehow my addled brain picks it out, from a post a friend made about a guy she met at an event, a Big Issue seller who had an amazing past. I drag his name Stefan out of nowhere and, yep, he confirms he’s the guy I’ve read about on facebook. Follow that link and read about him, it’s impressive stuff!
Back to the van, sorting out my Camelback that’s going to be loaded with Clif Bloks, my inhaler and a full slab of Soreen Banana Loaf that I plan on devouring at the half way point. Through the rain teaming down the windscreen I think I spy someone I know from Bolton parkrun and Strava, so off I hop to the aid station. And yep, there’s Mark and we look at each other like “what are you doing here?!” as we’re both on the recovery trail after some time and both probably think there’s a few unknowns regarding distance and endurance if we’re to be out there for 6 hours. Fun times!
Then I see Charlie Sharp. Wow, I know he has close ties with Time2run, but didn’t expect to see him here for this one. Anyone who came with idea of winning probably had a little moment of realisation and downgraded plans for at best a 2nd spot 🙂
Back to the van to check & re-check the pack, get it comfy, and strip off the layers to just the shorts and a cheap and actually-not-very-waterproof, “waterproof” cycling jacket. It fits over the pack nicely though and I don’t really care to remain dry, just wanna be a little warmer, so it’ll do a job. Plus I got the good old one-size-fits-all-even-me Atari baseball cap to keep the rain out of my eyes. /|\
Five minutes to the off and we assemble near the start line for a quick briefing. It’s clear the inclement weather has put off some of those who entered from turning out – a shame, but a few more come in their place and there’s a respectable number on the start line if not nearly the maximum possible 50. We’re told there’s no completing your last lap when the timer runs down, it’s whole laps only within the 6 hours. Not much more to be said other than help yourself to the aid station goodies and we’re off. Or at least we were told to be off, but almost nobody moves and it takes a cry of “well, go on then!” until we spring into life.
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Charlie Sharpe doing what he does and opening up a lead instantly.

The plan was to keep it simple, run well within myself and get as much useful info out of the day as possible. Running with the pack on might have been a tiny hassle, but it’s going to be there in the 24Hr race so I need to train with it so I know what to expect. While it’s raining, though, it’s a little bit of a faff to unzip and reach around blind and squeeze out a few Bloks.

So there’s a couple of people in front of me and I’m happy to try and sit behind 2nd placed Mark as I ease in. It’s not long until we all begin to get lapped though! That guy is so fast and makes it look so effortless. It was a real treat to check out the form and some food for thought, not many people get the benefit of having someone of that skill and talent repeatedly run past and show you how it’s done. A real bonus.

It seemed like I’d settled down to something like a 9 minute per mile pace, which given the easy and forgiving terrain, not really too fast for what I was training towards. Something like 2:10 per lap. Chatting to one of the Team Deane runners we complete a number of laps together at this comfortable conversational pace and discuss running, football, Ironman (they’d all completed the Bolton event just a few weeks ago), swimming (I can’t – he couldn’t a year before his first IM – there’s hope for me yet) and when to pee. Ah damn… did I really go there? I said the word… a few laps of discomfort but there’s nothing for it but to duck out already after only 5 miles – when you gotta go you gotta go – bah!

After a quick pitstop I’m feeling really good, the freshfoam New Balance are ridiculously comfy on the artificial surface and it’s hard to resist the urge to rip off the jacket and pack and try to do a few laps at the leader’s pace! Instead I opt for something far more sensible and just up it a little to 8+ minute miles, just under 2 minutes per lap. It feels good but it’s not really useful pace for the 24hr training, no matter how easy the running is.

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The rain soon cleared up, about an hour in it was just splashing in little puddles

Now this “boring” race I’d been told to expect wasn’t happening, it was fun, felt great and I’d already enjoyed chatting to a few total strangers. Stopping for drinks and quick loo breaks, the event staff exchange words of support and encouragement – and it can’t have been easy for them in those first couple of hours when it was belting down. Lapping the slower runners, most of the time they step over and give you track position, something I’d regularly be doing looking out for the leader after he first caught me out on I think just the 2nd lap. That was possibly the hardest aspect of the first half of the event in fairness – not wanting to impede someone running so fast, so fair play to all those running in lanes 2 and 3 constantly, clocking up quite a few more metres than the rest of us with their wider laps. Of course, not everyone did this, a couple of people stuck hard to the white line of lane one to minimise their effort, and fair play to them it’s not Formula One and there’s no blue flags, they’re just doing their thing. As I wasn’t racing I didn’t mind taking a wider lane, often running out to the 4th and 5th lanes to pass a cluster of runners. No big deal.

The rain didn’t last too long. I would happily have taken the full 6 hours in the downpours, but the jacket came off – and for the leading runner even the shirt – as the sun baked down. And yes I managed to even get my close-shaven head a little sunburned! Wasn’t expecting that.

3:00 hours in was the time I’d been looking forward to – Banana Loaf o’clock! No, not a huge sandwich as someone thought I was devouring, but that big old Soreen loaf. 1PM is late for my lunch, and banana loaf doesn’t quite match the usual hummus/tomato/gherkin/pepper/feisty picked onion wraps I regularly devour in threes, but a big lump of sugary squidge would have to do on the go. So I walked a lap and stuffed as much of it in as possible before reaching the aid station and a chance to wash it down. I’ve got a feeling the rapid-fire Clif Bloks has been a bit too much every 20 minutes before this, and there was a little argument in my stomach between the two for 30 or 40 minutes, nothing dire but something to remember and beware of at Equinox.

At about 3:30 the leader had put in 110 laps. During these he’d run fast, some slower as he chatted to other runners and some at practically walking place as he gave tips and support to to a young lad who had only just been bought his first pair of running shoes the day before, had never really run, but continued to put in the laps. Some walked, some Jeffed, some run. Impressive! With an ultra-qualifying distance in the bag, he called it a day and left us to it. Well, he hung around for quite a while, shouted words of support and even cheered me on as I matched his total over half an hour later, but couldn’t be persuaded to come back out and give me something more to aim for 😉 It later turned out he was just looking to tick the Ultra box as he rapidly approaches 100 Ultras. Lucky for those sitting behind, as 10 of us would get the very rare opportunity to say they finished a race in front of Charlie Sharpe! Some would pay the entry fee just for that 🙂

So this turn of events had made me reconsider what I was doing here. Knowing that his place was just a matter of time to leapfrog, there was only really one person in front of me going off the last time I’d checked the standings on the big TV at the aid station. I didn’t know who it was or how far in front they were or even how long ago it had been, but I knew I’d been in 3rd place. So there’s this opportunity to win a race, something I’d only ever done once before in my very first event back in 2016, a charity 6 miler for Sports Relief in Chorley’s Astley Park where myself, my brother and my brother-in-law filled out 3 of the top 4 placings (which probably says it wasn’t really well attended by club runners, just lots of lovely people gaining that sponsorship money). But this is a proper race, and a distance one at that, and despite the low turnout it seemed you don’t get that kind of opportunity too often. So instead of keeping it steady and within a very comfortable threshold, I decided to try to maintain a pace and see how long I could keep it up and where it might get me.

The announcer also picked up his game from the half way point, letting everyone know the standings as this info was increasingly useful as time went on, and I was getting plenty of info on how many laps I was up to approaching 100 and then closing in on the leader at 110. From then on there was loads of encouragement from the guy as he repeatedly called out my name, my club name (which really did boost me, I have to admit) and often commenting “and he’s still going strong” which it actually didn’t feel like, as I was just putting in the laps and while it was getting increasingly difficult to maintain, it wasn’t really tough and I didn’t feel at all strong in what I was doing.

One lap I did choose to take it easier on was when I had the privilege to complete most of the young lad’s final lap with him and others including the Team Deane runners – his last laps being number 54 – i.e. over a Half Marathon distance! I’m not sure if it was for charity or just his Dad encouraging him to do his best, but he got (I think) £1.50 a lap for each of those 54 laps, and I’m sure the very next day he regretted every single one of them 😀 But now, looking back, he can say at age 11 he ran his first race and completed a Half. BAM! The thing that impressed me as much as his efforts was seeing the Team Deane guys, Charlie Sharpe and others doing plenty of those laps with him – heartwarming stuff and proving the TD motto of “nobody gets left behind” isn’t just a catchy slogan, it’s for real. I know if I ever get this swimming thing in the bag and want to join a Tri club, there’s only going to be one name on the shortlist. Mad respect.

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Young Ben getting the 54th HM lap in with Team Deane and others

What I also appreciated as the laps clocked up was the words of support from others in the event. I can tell you it’s quite fun and humbling to be referred to as “a machine” as you’re just trotting around putting in the miles, the words of encouragement gave such positive vibes and I returned them in kind, it really did feel like we were all aiming for that 6 hour mark in the best we could or dared, and doing it together rather than against each other. I think there was only one guy who I didn’t speak with the whole race and he was so in the zone hugging that inside white line that I didn’t dare risk putting him off!

The last hour was relatively tough, and I think after 6 hours at any pace that’s understandable, especially on the road to recovery being out for so many months. I’d already decided to knock the Bloks on the head and go with what was left in the tank – I’d hardly been killing it after all, they just weren’t necessary, more a matter of seeing how I stomached them when taking them on way quicker than I will at EQX. The lap times had been sitting around the 2:15s from hour 4, but into hour 5 they were stretching to 2:20s and more with only the occasional 2:15. I wasn’t sure how much of a lead I had until I lapped around the same time as 2nd place when the announcer chose to call his stats. It was a good lead and I could probably have stopped with over half an hour to go and been fairly certain of staying first. Now that might seem like it’d be a reassuring fact to know, but when you’ve been on your feet for 5 and a half hours, the last thing you need is some stupid excuse to go stopping or wildly adjusting pace. That last half hour was more of a struggle than I’d have liked to keep on it and keep moving, but at least I knew if I did it was mine to take – yay! The funniest thing I heard around this time was from Mark, he was in 4th and working for it, and we were discussing about keeping on it as you never know when someone has to drop out or decides to call it a day in these kinds of events, to which he replied “yeah, I was hoping you’d drop out… well… not hoping…” hahaha, I knew what he meant and it was spot-on, you have to think like that I suppose 😉 And he stuck to it and got his 3rd place!

As the 6 hours approached, it looked like I could finish on exactly 160 laps – a nice round number. But… as I just mentioned, those demons and their little ways of convincing you to do things you don’t necessarily want to do… well one whispered to me it’d be safer to complete 159 laps and walk the last one as a warm-down. Eff you, demon… that 159th walked lap was horrible! Fair enough a fast 160th could have been equally horrible and might have led to getting hurt, but I hate that you won out. The good thing was I managed to chat to the guy in 2nd place as he was walking the last lap, too. He’d kept at it knowing he couldn’t catch me from maybe 30+ minutes out, but still kept on. I had to get my legs moving properly though as I felt I might get stiff just walking, it just felt so wrong. So I hobbled then jogged on to the line and called it a day with 50 seconds to spare. Event director commented that I probably didn’t have a 50 second lap in me, heh, I agreed.

What I’ll say is that this event was the most social I’ve ever been involved in, and that’s a really good thing. I’ve done Endure 24 Reading the year it ended up as Ebola 24 with the plague of illness, I’ve run Equinox 2017 that was a super-friendly and welcoming event, but nothing comes close to this one I think because it was such a small event and everyone got to see a lot of everyone else throughout the entire duration. It really did feel like we all got through it together. Getting to stand up and receive a prize (red wine, wife guzzled gladly) was fun stuff, and seeing Mark do the same was great, he loved that,  and also Team Deane winning the team prize being the only qualifying team present got a laugh and a cheer. Another nice touch was the announcer from Time2run coming over to me personally afterwards and saying some really positive stuff – he didn’t need to do that but it was a classy move and I really appreciated it – top guy.

63.6km, just over 39.5 miles, in 5:59:10.

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So yeah, every dog got it’s day, this was mine – woof bark!

v3k half marathon – welsh vegan 3000s lite

Probably not the ideal choice of event to come back to, given the distance and 3,500ft of climbing, but I really wanted it – a test of where I was at and to get my head right in terms of what i could manage… and, damn it, I’d seen too many paid-for races pass by and this one wasn’t getting added to the list!

So I sought permission from the amazing NHS physio who had taken me from someone who was reluctantly walking and still not quite able to work to someone who was beginning to get thoughts of getting back at this for real. I’d been building up comfortably over the previous few weeks with a slow and a moderate 5k trail that both felt surprisingly great once I got moving, a 2k dash that felt as good as any i’d done on my little loop around the block in the past, an 8-miler and 11-miler on the trails, a hilly trail parkrun and a 16 mile bike ride. I might not have mentioned the elevation or gone into detail on the terrain of the race, but I got the OK I wanted after making that progress- BAM!

Dat self-doubt doe.

TBF, it was no more or less of an issue than that first 3.1 mile trail run through the local woods. It wasn’t difficult to come up with excuses to try to put that one off, but being up early for work meant bobbing out at 5:30am would ensure nobody would be around and if it ended in a walk of shame, no witnesses! That went well, but here we are again on a race start line – it’s a bit different. An 11am off and a mini coach trip to the start gave plenty of time for doubts to creep in and for the sun to continue to bake down. An hour to waste before the coach and not much around to keep me distracted.

The trip to North Wales isn’t one i’m unfamiliar with, but dipping off the main road to instantly find the event HQ had been easier than expected. Nowhere to park, though, as the ultra runners and campers had been here the day before, so the van got parked up on the side of the road and my handy VEGAN RUNNERS banner slipped under the wipers to attempt to keep the sun off a little.

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The bananas I left out show this didn’t exactly work to plan 😉

Not untypically, I managed to introduce extra difficulty to the race by doing something daft. Instead of simply wearing a hat with a neck-guard, I’d be clever and wrap a white t-shirt around my head as I so often do at work – it works well there when I’m digging, lifting & shifting as it guarantees to keep my neck covered at all times, so why not in a race? Well, the t-shirt I chose was a very silky-smooth running shirt of my own design, and the thing became loose if i as much as dared to look around to either side too rapidly. Oh the joys of having to re-tie & re-tighten the knotted sleeves of the shirt around my head over and over and over. What. An. Idiot. But another lesson learned 🙂

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Tim Glasby’s fb photo near the start of the half – t-shirt hat fail issues yet to make themselves known

A very hot day for someone who actively dislikes sunny running – where was the infamous clag?! Nothing but blue skies for miles – so glad I wasn’t running the ultra in that. As was mandated by the event organisers, I had over 2 litres of water in the backpack (one bottle frozen solid – that was nice later on!). Garmin e-trex in my palm because i have no idea of the actual route. A big fuck-off hill to climb straight away. Any doubts and concerns about what might happen instantly vanished when faced with the task at hand. We back at this!

After a pleasant speech from “T”, we were off. Starting near the front but to one side, probably sat in around 20th place as we begin the ascent proper. Only a few were actually what you’d call running up here, this was effectively hiking, and it was impressive to see how much progress the leaders were making. All went well, a few places picked up here and there while keeping it really steady. After a while there wasn’t anyone to follow, the speedy runners were gone, those in front were not in view. I occasionally spied the odd red flag course marker, but found myself looking down at the Garmin a lot to make sure I wasn’t doing anything silly.

Every time it seemed like I might be nearing the summit, around a bend or over a brow and… yeah, there’s a bit more… and a bit more…

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Plenty of climbing over the first 3 miles, but then we got a chance to actually run.

Eventually I’d gotten to the top – wahey, some actual running at last!

I don’t honestly remember too much of the following sections, only that it was fun, fast-ish and I fell twice 🙂 Passing hikers and walkers, everyone had a smile and said hello, same for those crazy Ultra runners I managed to catch up with. Having a good long view of the route ahead and those in front of me was great, it gave me something to aim for and slowly but surely pick up a couple of places. No PF issues at all so far, running in an old pair of clunky but comfy Brooks Adrenalin road shoes unlike almost everyone else all inov8’d up.

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One thing I remember is one of the faster half runners coming screaming past me before the half way point and tearing up the last big climb. How had I managed to get in front of him? Unfortunately later I realised what had happened – he’d followed an Ultra runner up the extra climb that was not part of our Half route, but it didn’t seem to be having much impact on his pace.

The last climb is an out-and-back up to a trig point, nice in that you get to say hi to those a bit in front and a bit behind as you pass. From here I remember back to watching Alex’s blip on the previous year’s Ultra race. He ripped this section up and I was looking forward to doing my V45 lolrunner version of just that. But it didn’t quite work out that way, hah. The guy in front seemed to be backtracking too far, I shouted him as I remember my brother doing an extra few miles doing exactly that the year before. He said no, his GPS was good, the route turned further up. I couldn’t see any sign of a red flag and my GPS said I should already have turned. Bollocks.

So I half-arsed plot a path that’s not the same as my route and leaning somewhere towards his… but there’s no paths here, just sheep and heather. Oh and missing bits with rocks and stuff. FFS.

Deciding to just follow my own GPS route as closely as possible, I spy little sheep trails and give those a go. Nothing seems to be going in the right direction. Grumpy Kevin is grumpy. My own fault, I didn’t learn the route and couldn’t make it to the reccy runs the club held a few months earlier. Deal with it, this isn’t some shitty little local half marathon on well-worn paths, this is proper fell business, git gud or go home!

Well I didn’t get good and the paths continued to elude me. The guy in front was nowhere to be seen, he’d gone further over and was presumably working with a GPX file that was better than my own.

Then I spy to runners to my left, maybe 80-100 yards away. I’m knee-deep in heather and they’re bombing down a nice trail. ^&!*^ but I’ll have some of that! 😛

Then someone appears to my right, he’s seemingly been doing the same as me only further over. Later he tells me he’s not seen a red flag for near half the race 😦

Someone passed me after a while, or maybe I dropped in behind, but with my fitness levels I couldn’t live with the pace at all. The screaming downhill I’d dreamed of just wasn’t here for me just yet and there was a little climb I just didn’t fancy. Reluctant but sensible walk. Soon I could see nobody in front and nobody behind once again. Yeah, that’s not really my kind of thing, I’m not in my comfort zone here at all, oops!

Now though, it’s all proper trails, it’s a clear route down and the pace can be picked up to an enjoyable wee tumble. I see the winner making his way up to join (I think) his gf, he gives me some tips on when to turn, but the Garmin got me covered on that. Hopping onto the open road I see a farmer and he asks how far we’ve been running – not as far as some I tell him. Then I hear the noise of vehicles and can’t quite bring myself to really open up on the last downhill to the finish as I’m constantly looking over my shoulder. It seems the big white van isn’t too willing to let me run the last few hundred yards behind me and I have to stop and let it pass. Cheers, fella! But no big deal really, I’m not going to sulk as I’m hardly breaking any records and nobody is going to pinch a place from the looks of things.

At the finish I’m approached by a smiling Alex and he informs me I’ve finished in 6th place, a fact that seems pretty unbelievable at the time as I’d originally thought I was further back to begin with. I’ll settle for that on a first race back, no danger!

I decided to change the footwear and clothing before nipping back for eats. Not looking forward to how hot the van will be as I plan a quick change in the back.

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You had a sneak peek at the result of the heat in the van on my bananas – well here’s the Altras that literally fell apart – the glue on the soles melted!

Feeling a bit fresher, now comes the food. Joining the other Half and Ultra runners, I think my plate leaned more towards the Ultra crowd’s in terms of the mountain of food I’d shoved on it. Maybe the 2nd time up as well. In hindsight I wasn’t really that hungry, but it all just looked and tasted so good. And the cake – yummy Vegan cake. I don’t eat cake, but apparently you gotta allow yourself to odd slice now and again when you’ve earned it, so I did just that.

But I was soon to pay for this indulgence, as sat around watching others cross the line my heart started pounding, my chest got tight and I began to wheeze and cough a little. I know this one: effing peanuts, it must have been. Yeah, I can’t have those because they make me ill. I don’t go into shock and risk death like those who are allergic, but in even small amounts they give me have a tight chest, a wheeze and a cough. Check, check, check. Any more and they kinda make me shut down and go into low power mode, I’m just not compatible. Time to head home while I can, if it gets really bad I know I’ll go jelly-wobbly-weak and spend the next few days or even weeks feeling listless and thoroughly meeeeeh. I’d say another lesson learned, but this is one I continue to trip myself up with. Derp.

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Speaking of tripping up, here’s some scuffed knees. And the haul – lip balm, coaster, medal, tent meal, and stuff with peanuts in 😉

All in all, a brilliant event – lovely, super people and the food truly was exceptional… I just need to do that ingredient check thing and not assume that food that looks like the stuff I eat is anything even similar, no matter how tasty. What a way to make my comeback to running proper ❤ ❤ ❤ Next year I’m going to volunteer there and party instead, then do the Ultra the next year 🙂

eventually…

october… well it’s now 10 months later. i originally decided to create this blog as i thought it could be a place to document my running without having to subject people to walls of text on facebook or strava. there had been comments 🙂 then i got injured. then i came to terms with the fact that i’d really been injured for some time and there had been a pretty obvious reason i was having to take pills just to get through the simplest of runs. denial is a powerful thing and this is a really shitty first post, but i have to purge before i can get on to the good stuff (if there happens to be any good stuff…).

so i had months to think about all this, try to make sense of it, figure out what i actually wanted to get out of it and put things in some sort of perspective. the good new for me is that, after 5 months out, a trip to the GP to see a practise nurse, a referral to a foot specialist and then several really helpful nhs physio sessions with my saviour ‘band 6’ – physio and something of a running mechanics expert – and i’m finally back out putting one foot in front of the other.

there’s no magic fix. i’ll probably always have some degree of discomfort in my left heel/arch area, but i have a better understanding of what’s going on down there and when i need to back off and give it a break. i’m also now equipped with an array of strength and well being exercises i can use to minimise the restrictions pf will have on me and my running.  being told “no, you really shouldn’t run the 50 miles of L2M next week” when you’ve been looking forward to your first real ultra event is tough. seeing your club mates come away with a team prize, knowing you could have been part of that – that’s not easy to take. having other paid-for events come and go is quite some food for thought. it all adds up to wanting to go about things in a more sustainable, realistic way.

september 4th 2016 was the first (and so far only) race I dnf’d during an inaugural local  half marathon. roughly half way out on the loop my left foot was already numb (i’d describe it as kinda like running in a plaster cast, though never having run in a plaster cast of course that was only a rough idea. it was something that had been plaguing longer runs in various footwear pretty much since i began running 5 miles or more) and now the arch was feeling increasingly sore. this heel/arch pain i’d gotten acquainted with some months earlier on a long run, tearing downhill, pulling up sharp and having to hobble home and rest for a few weeks. that one i blamed on new shoes with an aggressive arch support (the arch support was perfectly fine – it was obviously my arch that was not – but unable to admit the problem might be my own, i gave away the £110 pair of new shoes – d’oh!). back to the half… due to some really sloppy organising on the behalf of the event holders, there was no contingency for dealing with injured runners. you might think this would be top of a list of potential issues they might have to cater towards, but apparently not. a guy who pulled up moments before myself, vomiting profusely, was, i later found out, sat in the back seat of a marshal’s car with no way to contact his relatives and no hope of going anywhere until the tail runners had passed by. wtf?! so the best i could hope for was accompanying the sick guy in the car or making my own way back to the finish line. i was given the general direction of the nearest main road via a golf course and merrily set about hobbling my way back to the town centre. luckily for me, an off duty police officer and ironman athlete spotted me while walking his dog, nipped home and ferried me back into town. superstar. for completeness, these occasions are where i now know plantar fascia issues had first come to ruin my running plans. it’s also where i began the long process of ignoring them and pushing the problems to one side thanks to strong painkillers (prescribed after an unrelated operation), anti-depressants (prescribed after an unrelated trapped nerve in my shoulder) and regular, good old, over-the-counter vitamin i. this went on for some time until the events in the first paragraph took place.

so now i’m making like ciderspiller and making a plan and sticking to it. the plan doesn’t have hard an fast rules, in essence it’s to not be stupid, not be shit and go about everything a lot more sensible. of course, this opens the door wide to the kind of flexibility that could have it all ending in tears once again. c’est la vie… yolololol.