Couch to Ultra (The Race)

I have had time to digest the experience of my first ultra. What have I learnt.

Miles or kilometres training does not quite prepare you for the full experience. I have a history of life’s highs and lows but an ultra puts that in the context of a walk/run sustained over a constant period of time.

After some faux pa’s at start – wrong shoes, forgot water bottle eventually got to start – off we go – no music or fanfare – next year Jamie?

The first few miles consisted of chatting to whoever would listen and vice versa. But then the serious business of hills and more hills kicked in. This began to whittle the field down into friendship groups and individuals. I found myself hooking up with a group of four and one other runner. This lasted to CP 2 and then it was just two of us.

I was three hours in and on target for CP 3 in fours hours as per reccy. However, by this point I had met Ian, who had a watch that navigates, and he was hobbling due to calf pull. So as I pushed on I was concerned about Ian. Fortunately he reached CP3 and we set off together now a friendship was developing. Incidentally I reached CP3 in 3hr 40mins – felt OK but not for long.

The next two hours were about putting one foot in front of the other. Early training days I had designs on 7hours to finish but quite soon I amended that to closer to nine hours. So we plodded and plotted along to CP 4 and The Miners Arms, Hundall – great real ale pub (personal recommendation) but back to the race and the inclines had taken there toll and I had hit the wall. I knew this would happen but coupled with my ill preparation on knowing the Jamie Glazebrook version of The Round Chesterfield Walk I was worried and hence why I stayed with Ian. Thanks Ian.

My insistence earlier that day that my poorly wife, Vicki, be at Brimington CP 4 was my motivation to keep going. We climbed through the least picturesque part of course, Brimington Estate, and approached the checkpoint. We bumped into Lucy, with Ben trailhound, who had done 1st leg of relay, and she told us Martin, my mate and Vicki were at checkpoint. This lifted my tired spirits and legs. The second half was about to start and fresh socks would be on my feet – Top Tip. Also dry t-shirt, replenish tailwind – why not available at checkpoints – Jamie? So we sat drank, ate and chatted regaled stories of the previous miles and were wished – ‘Good Luck’ as we left for Sutton Scarsdale and the final push. We were down to a snails pace by now. I was hydrated, fuelled and felt the benefit but only briefly after each checkpoint until the rot set in and strolling set in as opposed to purposeful walking – race walking even. I have learnt to vary your foot plant during ultras to reduce the impact on the same muscles, etc. So heel strike downhill, toe strike if feelingvspritely but mostly midfoot strike. All engage different parts of legs and provide some light relief relative to the distance covered. The notion of fuelling with food does not seem to work for me – more practice and trial and error to find what works for me. I did notice Ian, who recently did MdS, was sipping tailwind I frequently and only eating at checkpoints.

By know Ian and myself had shared many stories, experiences covering running, triathlon, employment, homes, children, partner/wife, etc. This chatting, having someone with you must help the mind games in your head especially if you are out there a long time. Jim NO one had caught us up at Brimington checkpoint but was no where to be seen now. We were pretty much on a gentle stroll as we wondered why we past the composting plant but went back up the road to pick up trail? This was all new to me as my reccy runs had missed this bit of course. Mental note to self must do better on navigation or wing it. Speaking of winging it – Well done Gav Wing – all that biking to/from work must be good training 😉.

Onward and upward to final checkpoint and another sit down picnic lunch including some staples coke, banana and water. I did not bother with cake, sweets, nuts, crisps, etc maybe this is the answer, not. The last three miles was upon us and I had promised myself I would try to run them. I beckoned Ian and off we set. Initial push was good but faltered. We both phoned respective wives and made arrangements for pick up. I was conscious of breaking nine hour mark so kept making us run, Ian had done the same earlier in day so joint effort. We duly got to end of five pits trail and only a short pavement run to the finish. Applauded in by a small band of supporters was a welcome sight. The nine hour mark I enquired only 37 seconds over – get in! So there you have it Couch to Ultra and then after food and drink back to Couch for rest of evening. To finish is to win. 😎

Postscript – 1st run Thursday – painful hip joint probably inflammation – ice pack on it.

Already planned training for Louise Smalley Walk Saturday 23rd June 40m – Ultra No. 2.

Last, but not least, Big Thanks to

Jamie and Clare for organising race

All helpers for encouragement and standing around

My wife Vicki for finally supporting me on route

All other runners for chatting, being comradely and enduring an ultra

Anybody who reads this blog. 😎


Couch to Ultra (final post?)

10 Ways That Running Changes Your Mind and Brain

Things to consider when planning to run a race


  1. Time
  2. Distance
  3. Shoes
  4. Vest
  5. Hydration
  6. Running
  7. Create Muscle
  8. Weather
  9. None of above
  10. Part time work
  11. No responsibility
  12. Or someone to do them for you
  13. Fitness
  14. Diet
  15. Coaching
  16. Agility
  17. Flexibility
  18. Massage
  19. Mindfulness
  20. Meditation
  21. Focus
  22. Mindset
  23. Breathing
  24. Attitude
  25. Belief
  26. Values


You could take any one, in isolation, and focus on it.

You could say one or more matters more than the rest.

You could think only time is important.

But remember only one person usually wins and has best time.

However many people finish behind them.

The majority are an array of humankind.


The winner is idolised, gets offers, is probably a ’professional’, wins prize, etc.

The values winning says are more important than second, third, etc.


So in my humble opinion my training for an ultra has helped me understand humanity not running. Follow the crowd and aim for time. Alternatively start at 26 and move up the list slowly and be surprised at the outcome.


Not all is as it appears.


To finish is to win. 😎

Couch to Ultra (April 2018)

It comes as no surprise that if you search ‘couch to ultra’ I am not the first to use that title. However, I have tried to log my efforts, trials and tribulations so as to act as a guide for those thinking about doing an ultra, Runners who may do one, or more, in the future.

So only three weeks to go as of last Saturday. I have completed 13 weeks of Run Ultra training programme. The back to back runs at weekends on the Spire Ultra course I hope will help on race day. The time on my legs will help. The cumulative effect of your legs, body and mind focussed on relentless forward progress is a new experience for many in an age of the car, fast paced lifestyles and no time to breathe in and smell the roses so to speak. Breathing has been one of my foci – long deep stomach breathing to fill my lungs and slowly breath out thus working my lungs gently, making my brain adopt a different approach to breathing rather than gasping for air.

Recently I re-introduced stretching and strengthening sessions, monthly massage and creative writing. Now some of you are wondering what? Well the Brian is a humans computer and if it is happy it functions better. Now my Brian, and I believe all humans Brian’s require stimuli from a variety of sources, not just a few usual suspects, this will enhance who you are and spark areas of your Brian other wise dormant. How does that help running I hear you say? Well happy Brian means endorphins and endorphins means energy and energy means you can last longer physically simples. Just a theory I have been working on although I think many humans have tried it before. Mediation, focussed mind, mindfulness, education awareness, etc etc.

Anyway early April has meant two final long runs, a couple of races and my first outdoor bike ride of the Spring.

I ran to Pools Brook Country Park Parkrun, 10k approx., did a lap of course, rested 20 mins, did 5k, had a hot chocolate and flapjack 15 mins then ran back 10k to home and straight out with daughter and grandson – busy lives. Also did No Walk in Park 5k new PB (2018) 24’01.

New race Idle Dash at Misson, Notts. Great 7k out and back off road trail out through woodland and back along river fast and muddy in places. 19th overall, M50 4th (+M60x2) in 33’51. Really enjoyed this PB potential course. Excellent cakes and tea afterwards. Event organised by Maltby Running Club and Frack Free Misson.

These improving faster times for short course races are a sign of the long slow running building a base training for things to come?

Well I expect this to be last but one blog before actual race so Namaste for now. 😎 To finish is to win. 😎


Couch to Ultra (Feb 2018)

The month has seen me continue with the run ultra programme. Long runs ended with a reccy of spire route with a nice small group. However, one of my go to routes is the Higham Hill.

I have organised a Higham Hill Race. Facebook/events/Higham Hill Race.

Tuesday 27th March, 2018 6.30pm. The Greyhound Pub. DE55 6EF.

Now back to my focus, fuelling, hydration and time on feet. I have discovered powders that claim to fuel and hydrate, created snacks which meet fuel needs, real food and synthetic products. Due to race sponsors being Chia Charge and Tailwind I have starting using these in training and trying different combinations. As for real food good staples banana, peanut and jam sandwiches, and I also use Graze pots.

It is a good idea to know your race route and what will be provided at check points. And practice using them. Or just graze your way round the course.

February also saw me resort to road running to fit sessions in around life eg. Work, anti-fracking, grandson, autistic daughter, wife, elderly father, home chores and the like. So not single, child free, disposal income more married, mortgage, parent of child more than average needs and only half a salary after moving on in life to part-time work.

But enough about me the Ultra calls and the ‘time on feet’ must be achieved. So I have reintroduced walking as often as possible. To the shops, pub, work, with dogs, during time on feet, in my sleep, around the house walking is the new go to get fit  method. This is one of the best kept secrets in the running world. Shhhhhh nobody admits to walking.

So for this month I leave you with can you ditch the car and walk?

To finish is to win. 😎




Couch to Ultra (Jan. 2018)

Couch to Ultra (January 2018)

If you have not read my first blog on this here it is. Couch to Ultra.

So I decided to use Run ultra training plan as my basis for running Spire Ultra, now entered.

Basic programme consists of Tuesday to Thursday 4,5or 6miles with one as Hill reps, one as speedwork and one just a run. Weekend or double days consist of day one long run vary from 10m to 30m,or in my case 1.5 hrs to 7hrs followed by day two about 6m or half distance or in my case half time of day one.

During January I have completed all of programme except one run due to tiredness. Tiredness is a constant state of my being but this is how it will be on May 5th – race day. This is because unlike Professional athletes or amateur athletes who are free to train (avoid life’s responsibilities) I actually work, socialise, look after myself, home and family and get involved in politics – currently anti-fracking. (see other blog).

Back to the grind and much of my training involves the runners don’t do it – walking. Now for those experienced or well read ultra runners they will know about walking but the rest of us may be naive.

During training I have walked my

– normal everyday style

– race walked (wiggled my arse)

– swinging arm motion

– upright bent arm stance

Reminds me of ministry of funny walks (Mount Python)

At this point I would like to give a mention to Andy Mouncey. I was fortunate to have won a half days training with Andy back in September 2014. He took me through my paces. Introduced me to different styles for uphill, downhill and flat. Using poles. Being mindful of distance and inevitable walking. All to complete an ultra.

So another revelation befell me. Walking for a living would mean you are training whilst working. Quick get me that application form for post office worker.

Another plug Run Forest Mike Blair. Great advice, shoe fit and lacing options. I am now a Scott Kinabalu wearing trailtrunner. These shoes promote forefoot running but allow midfoot run/walk.

My learning curve sometimes is steep but every step leads to Spire Ultra. To finish is to win. 😎



Couch to Ultra.

You may be aware of a health programme Couch to 5k. Proverbially, taking couch potato self off on a daily walk, jog, run with aim of completing a 5k run/race.

Due to my age and experience I have taken the term and repurposed it for a much tougher goal – an ultramarathon. Now many of you will think ‘he is mad’ but I am meeting more and more people who are ‘going for it’

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So with this in mind and a series of episodes of running, triathlon, marathons, fell running (read previous blogs) I am training for The Spire Ultra on Saturday 5th May 2018.

So far, since June 2017, I have got off the couch walked/jogged round the block, used local off road routes/trails, completed a fell race once a month increasing distance and introduced stretches and strengthening exercises. This self coached approach has background from level 1 coaching awards in running fitness, sports massage, triathlon and other information sources.

Not a complete beginner you might say but still I have to put the effort in to reach the goal and reward. I plan to document, from now, my progress.

This was me after a recent training session in the snow. Two laps of local park on mountain bike and one lap run. Also been doing ultra training staple – back to back days, at weekends. Most recent Saturday 2.5 hours on Spire Ultra course and Sunday 1.5 hours trail run. These ‘time on your feet’ sessions need to be increased gradually to introduce your mind and body to the long haul of an ultra. I have also been walking more such as parking car and walking last half hour to work. All adds to time on your feet. To this end I realised if you have a job which requires walking a lot or standing, such as postal delivery, then does this help with training? Answers in comments please.

So 2018 has arrived, resolutions are written/made now it’s time to execute them. 😎

To finish is to win. 😎

Climate change

I am not going to use reports, research, scientific evidence, etc. Most governments of the world accept Climate Change – The Paris agreement. This is the global agreement that Donald Trump said US would no longer abide by.

So do humans actually effect the planet Earth’s climate I. e. weather? If so what are/can we do to slow it down or stop it? The often quoted 2degrees rise in the planets temperate is cited as a critical point of no return?

What causes the rise in temperature? Greenhouse gases such as carbon. Hence we all have a carbon footprint and maybe should reduce or offset it? But will sufficient individual human beings globally reduce their carbon footprint?

No consensus except whilst each individual is doing their bit large countries, corporations are producing more gases which nullify the mere attempts of the individuals globally. So what to do? Hence The Paris Accord for governments to do their bit to reduce greenhouse gases. However, the privately run corporations continue to add to the gases not reduce them? Much media has printed the whys and where first but the fact remains the planet is still heating up with the subsequent weather, and other, changes.

In the UK the government has talked about phasing out diesel cars. No mention of promoting electric cars. It’s also fairly conclusive that the northern hemisphere is producing more gas than southern hemisphere. So the onus is on the rich nations of the north to make the biggest impact on the carbon footprint? So what are we doing to combat the use of fossil fuels, the cause of greenhouse gases? We are ploughing on regardless in the name of business as usual, energy needs, the economy boost, etc.

So is this environmental credentials of recycling, reusing, reducing as consumers the real extent of our efforts until big business stops putting profit before the planet? I am more convinced than ever that the Class War between the working class, they who have to work, or dependent on the state against they who are cash rich enough to not need to work or receive off the state is the fight to save the planet from the humans with greed as their motive against the humans, who may be greedy, but do not have the means to regularly overindulge in the luxuries available.

So what to do?

Devote more time to fighting, not flighting, the cash rich and their greedy ways. But in order to do this work has to become less of a priority or not a priority at all. Flighting has been my nemesis I. e. Depression. I am strong at the moment. Hence I want to fight not flight. But the social, political, economic pressures try to drag me back to the norms of working class – work, rest and play but definitely not fight the rich, each other yes, rivalry in sport yes, etc.

So where to place my energies? The Anti-fracking campaign in the UK has been brought to my attention. They are a diverse bunch of people with differing approaches to the central unifying issue fracking. There are the people who pursue the so called democratic routes – representatives (councillors, MP’s), government departments, civil servants, petitions, etc. Some people just just chat about it in at least one formal of communication. Then there are the law supporters who see the law as a means to undo governments and big business. Much of this is couched in non law breaking, using system, democratic process and peaceful means. Then there are the radicals who dabble with the aforementioned but find it unsatisfactory and are attracted by Direct Action. So the movement has slow walked, blocked the gate using lock ons, delayed lorries and other site traffic to stop the fracking companies actually fracking.

The revolutionaries see the cash rich doing as they please using armies to protect their interests and this is the block to stopping fossil fuels continuing to dominant and not effect climate change.

Steve 😎 October 2017

Running Statistics

Maybe this running lark is just a symptom of the state of things in Capitalist nations?


Statistics. Who doesn’t love statistics? [1] Like the State of the Union, every year RunningUSA publish data and statistics on the state of the US running community.

The first result one reads is the steady increase in marathons finishers: from the few thousands of the mid-70s to the half a million of the past year. This phenomenon has prompted many to call for the first running boom since the 70s. Some have linked this renaissance of running to the current economic recession: the sport is fairly cheap and doesn’t require gym memberships, furthermore being active helps to feel better. Although this looks sound, it doesn’t fully address the observed phenomenon, since the numbers are from races and marathon fees can be as high as 150$: it doesn’t look like people laid-off could easily afford those races. Maybe the increase is not (mainly) among the unemployed 9%, but…

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Ultra beginnings

I won two prizes from Sam Robson`s raffle back in July.

Thanks To Robbie Britton for the ultra Julbo sunglasses.

The second prize a half days training with Andy Mouncey.

This came to pass on Sunday 7th September, as part of a weekend away in Lancaster. The itinerary had been agreed via email, with Andy, and started with my run of choice – A five miler round the Ingleton Falls walk.

A sunny day meant this warm up was a good start. A jog, a walk, a view of waterfalls  – perfect beginning. Andy met me half way round, on bike due to stress fracture, to check ok and point in the right direction.

Warm up finished. Andy met me with towel and drink on offer. A short walk to the café and tea and scone like an ultra checkpoint. We sat down and began to address the issues I had raised with Andy via email. This including a don`t, till now, for Andy. Apparently he does not do don`ts. Anyway his list of don`ts is now published.

His experience, both as participant and coach, was evident and instilled confidence in me that I could conquer an ultra.  Some say you just have to do it! I say gathering knowledge, testing in training and applying a method will minimise errors. Thanks to Andy`s insight I feel an ultra is within my capabilities.

Our final encounter was to practise ascent and descent techniques including poles for the uphill.  This was a useful introduction to the science of conservation.

The world of ultra marathoning is about to become another stage of my journey.

Thanks to Andy Mouncey.