Race to the Stones 100Km Trail Ultra #racetothestones #lunasandals

After UMCB in Mexico I was looking for a Summer Ultra, but something a bit closer and easier on the pocket when I saw Race to the Stones. It was pitched as:

“The Race to the Stones is a fully supported 100km trail ultramarathon following in the footsteps of Romans, Vikings, farmers and traders along the iconic Ridgeway. You will pass Iron Age forts, ancient burial chambers, cross the mighty Thames and the mystical down-lands of Salisbury plain on your way to the finish line at the 3,000-year-old stone circle at Avebury”


Here’s even more info for any history buffs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avebury

100km along a the Ridgeway ending in Avebury Stone circle sounded good, I just needed to sort out the logistics and start planning .

A day of so before, I even cleaned my Luna Leadville pacers which fit like a glove having done around 1,000 miles. They are a bit thin and I’ll probably replace them with the new Oso trail sandal when it is out, but it should be ok (or so I thought.)

I’ll be wearing Injinji toe socks with them which will give me a bit of padding, but mainly so any stones that fly up don’t open cuts on my feet so will give me a bit of skin protection.


I drove down to Avebury on Friday night, had a dinner (Salmon) in the pub in the centre of the village and retired early as I needed to be up at 4:00am to get the coach from the finish (where I was camping, or sleeping in the car) to the start at Chinnor almost 2 hours away. At least this way when I finish I can crawl to the car.

Breakfast was 2 bananas as I got on the coach at 5:00am which with 3 hours before the start was just about right.

On arrival at the start it was get registered, attach timing tag to my ankle (a short piece of Luna leather lace usually does the trick) and fill up my camelbak & bottle.

Then a cup of tea, and join the queue to the usual little blue houses!


I knew it was going to be a hot day probably 30C / 86F so my plan was to keep drinking from my hand bottle and refill it every Pit stop / Aid Station (roughly every 10-12k). I had 1.5 litres in my Camelbak should I need it (and I certainly did later on).

For nutrition I was using the following:

  • Clif Shot Bloks (caffeine version) – pretty much from the start, and at the latter stages when I needed the caffeine
  • Justin’s Nut Butters (Peanut & Honey) – They were great, just had to have them at aid stations due to the amount of water required to wash them down.
  • Quesadillas with refried beans & cheese – These I got the taste for in Mexico and were great, not too filling but with high carbs, fat & salt really picked me up
  • Banana Malt Loaf – small pieces to snack on and not as sticky as the normal stuff
  • S-Caps (Salt tablets) I was taking 2 tablets at every Aid Station

(I did have cups of tea and water refills at the excellent Pit Stops / Aid Stations, and a couple of flapjacks but that was all. I wanted to be pretty self sufficient on food I had trained with to avoid any errr …..shall we say “digestive distress” and I had none at all, hurrah)

Then we were off, as usual I started at the back as we were a mixture of people doing 100km non-stop and people doing it in 2 days camping overnight who were a bit more sprightly (though many of them paid the price later as only 60% of them finished).

The scenery was gorgeous and difficult to capture on a phone camera but I did try.


One became very grateful for any shade as obviously on the “Ridgeway” there was not a lot of trees for shade.


I did notice after a few hours that the “fluid” was looking a bit “strong” so I increased my water intake a little and upped the salt tablets to 2 an hour after starting to get “sausage fingers”. It was about 10 hours before my next loo stop by which time everything was back to the right colour and my sausage fingers were back to normal. (I seemed to have to stop every 20 minutes for the last few miles of the race as I was clearly emptying my fingers!).

I was also soaking my wrist and neck Buffs in water and pouring water over my head to keep my Visor Buff wet which was refreshingly cooling (and something I learnt in Mexico to keep cool).

Did a couple of Heart Rate checks during a few hiking stages (Normally my Resting HR is 55bpm & Max HR is 194bpm) and it was around 96bpm so not too bad.




Run to the Stones 2013


Run to the Stones 2013

This was around halfway at 50k in 7hrs 40 min something like 16:30 Saturday afternoon.

I had hayfever tablets in my pack in case this field of rapeseed set me off but luckily it didn’t.


Crossing the Thames at Goring & Streatley and seeing the ice cream vendors was very tempting (as were the pubs)

The Bad

I got to 75k around 23:20 and I was suffering.

My Luna Leadville Pacer huaraches were just not man enough for the gnarly rocky flint trails I was going along. I’m pretty light in them but the sharp stones just kept bruising my feet leading to a blister just forward of the ball of each foot. I stopped and changed my socks (which seemed to have collected a cup of trail dust each), cleaned my feet with the irreplaceable baby wipes (should be renamed “Trail wipes”), applied blister plasters and put on my clean socks, wonderful.

My other source of pain was chafing which I treated as best I could with my Bodyglide stick (oooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww).

I was now slowed to a half jog and “cowboy” type walk.


This little guy made me smile in the early hours!

By now my Garmin 910XT had finally given out after 20 hrs 26min (which was pretty impressive as it is only advertised as lasting 20 hrs) and I was feeling really tired. The morning sun had come up and I was now walking slowly over rolling hills, each time hoping for a glimpse of Avebury or some indication that the end was near. I knew it couldn’t be more than 8k but it was taking forever.

Then I had an idea, in the last few Pit stops / Aid Stations the same runner would arrive (with his pacer) and snooze in a chair, I’d leave and later on he would pass me seemingly refreshed after his 10 minute sleep. Maybe it would work for me?

I came upon a fairly flat rock at the side of the trail, took of my rucsac and using it as a pillow laid on the rock backwards with my feet still on the floor. It wasn’t that comfortable which I was hoping would prevent me from falling asleep for too long. It was nice and warm in the sunshine and I must have dropped off, hearing some runners walk past as I drifted off.

As my Garmin was dead and my iPhone was in low on power and in airplane mode I wasn’t aware of the time but I reckon I must have dozed for 10-15 minutes, either way when I awoke I felt a lot better. I threw on my rucsac, popped a caffeine shotblok and headed off, with a bit more spring in my….err delicate stride!

I could see 2 runners ahead who kept disappearing and reappearing as they descended and ascended and each hill. Then they didn’t reappear! I kept walking hoping that meant they were descending off the Ridgeway towards Avebury and the finish, but trying not to  get my hopes up. I reached the point where they had disappeared from sight and there they were, descending the Ridgeway towards the little village of Avebury and the finish. I was nearly there!

Now I knew that the last bit of the route involved going into the middle of Avebury, between two of the stones and then following the shape of a letter “U” back the way we had come and then finishing down a long straight path ending in an Finishing arch and the farm where I had left the car.


As I approached Avebury I pulled out my iPhone just to see the time, I wasn’t particularly bothered (as I didn’t think there was a cut-off time for getting 2 UTMB points, or at least my questions regarding that hadn’t been answered) but I wanted to know.

I glanced at the time and a cold shiver went down my back, it was 7:45am Sunday morning and the race started at 8:00am Saturday morning, if there did happen to be a cutoff for UTMB points it would be at 24 hours, shit thats 8:00am!

I started running, declined the offer to have my picture taken between the stones and headed back the way I had come and the two left hand turns that would lead me to the finishing straight. I glanced again (I was now holding my phone) 7:50am and I was picking up speed across the field towards the final turn and what I guessed to be 500m to the finish.

The pain in my feet and my chafing was fading as adrenalin was kicking in as I accelerated down that straight, mentally I was back in Bushy Park parkrun, throwing everything into that last 100 metres, except this was several times that distance and I was tired, but that tiredness was leaving me, being replaced by a fierce desire to beat that cut-off. I could think of nothing worse than missing the cut-off which I could have made if only I had speeded up for that last mile.

I was now 100 metres from the finish, it would be close, I could see people and the circa 7 minute mile pace I had been doing, gave way to sprinting which I knew from experience would cover the final distance in 16-17 seconds, whatever state I was in.

I crossed the line at 7:57am, stamped on the chip sensors just to make sure the tag I had tied round my ankle registered me finishing and staggered into the shade where someone hung a medal round my neck whilst I tried to get my heart rate to leave the dizzy heights of 190 bpm or so for something a little more sedate.

 The race had started late so my finishing time was 23:45, but better to be safe than sorry.


My tired old pair of ‪#‎lunasandals‬ Leadville Pacers that got me through 100km of gnarly rocky trails (5,000ft ascent / descent) in temperatures of 30C / 86F are probably due to be replaced with a pair of Oso’s just as soon as I can afford them!


All in all a great and well organised event, in fact brilliant for their first time running the event under these conditions.

Roll on next year’s, I’ve registered an interest already!


Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco – The adventure begins

It all started one evening in November 2011 in a Girls school, near St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. I had started running in VFFs, moved to Luna Sandals, read “Born to Run” (not the normal order of things I gather from other running folk) and was now sat with several hundred people in a school hall, listening to a tall, shy, tanned guy talking about two subjects that were clearly very close to his heart, Tarahumara and running. I had taken my then 16 year old son Sam along, not because he was a runner, but because he had read “the book” and wanted to meet Caballo.


By the end of the evening the race had moved to the top of my “bucket list” and despite Caballo trying to persuade me to run in 2012 I insisted I needed to run an ultra first so would run it in 2013, after which he referred to me as the “2013 guy”.

So after a couple of ultra’s in 2012, February 22nd found me on a flight to El Paso with all my running kit in my hand luggage and the stuff I could afford to lose in the hold.

I had booked a place on the “Diego shuttle” so was spending 2 nights at Motel 6 before departing for Paraiso del Oso midday Sunday with the rest of the travellers. I was also due to be sharing a room in Motel 6 & Urique with a Scotsman I had never met (aside from Facebook) who judging by the way he typed in Facebook probably sounded like “Groundskeeper Willie” from The Simpsons.

I was right!

Fortunately Graham and I hit it off from the start, and as we loaded the vans and then squeezed in to the back seat of the van along with Graham I had no idea of the impact the trip would have on me, never mind the impact on Graham!


Our journey to Cautemoc was slow as we hit a sandstorm at one point


Cautemoc Hotel (our overnight stop on the way to the canyons)


I didn’t realise the altitude we were at (6,400 ft) and how cold it would be in the morning (yes that is ice not some kind of flower)


Divisidero Cable Car & Zipline

We stopped at the Divisadero Cable Car & Zip Line for a couple of hours although I wasn’t brave enough for the Zip line. Instead a group of us took the cable car down and walked a trail for a while.



Christelle and I returning back to the cable car after a walk along Tarahumara trails.


The intrepid UMCB Zip wire team!


What a view


Jan Bosschaert with a good head for heights (or maybe he didn’t realise there was nothing holding the rock up)


Doug’s Hotel

We finally reached Paraiso del Oso and were well looked after during our stay and were grateful for the work and coordination Diego had put into making this trip possible.




My first ever Margarita, alas swiftly following by 6 others after which I had to lie down!


The legendary Guadajuko


We visited a Cerocahui Tarahumara Boarding School providing a BBQ, games and I set up a Webcam I brought with me.


The girls sang a song to thank us.

Wednesday 24 mile hike to Urique

For the 24 mile hike down to Urique we had local guides who looked like they were going on a 10 minute stroll to get some milk, where as we seemed to be carrying enough supplies and water for a month!


A touching moment as we were about to cross the bridge on the 24 mile hike down into the Copper Canyons and Urique. Maria and Luis made us take Caballo’s ‘if I get hurt lost or die, it’s my own damn fault’ oath. Luis said that what we were about to undertake would change us, and I believe it has, particularly for 2 people on that hike (you know who you are) the Tarahumara phrase ‘Kuira-Ba’ is beautifully relevant.


At 55 I was expecting to be on the upper age group on the trip, and then I met Toshio who at 72 years old (and 250 Ultras to his name) gives us all something to aspire to (and he is always smiling)!


It was sometime after the hike that I started to see less of ‘Graham’ and more of ‘Graham + Kate’ and I was usurped from my ‘Scottish to American’ translation duties’. I fully understood why, as fair Kate had far better legs than me (a fact I was able to confirm frequently over the 32 miles of the race on the following Sunday) 😉

On Thursday morning we hiked up to Los Alisos (part of the race course) for a farewell ceremony for Micah.



What you can’t see below is the 2nd horse he is towing that insists on taking the inside path, so we ended up edging around its rear end on the drop side (I was getting ready to grab its tail if I slipped)!


Looking back on the trail it’s not only beauty that is skin deep 😉 (glad I didn’t meet the horses there)


Los Alisos


For the ceremony we all formed a circle and Maria passed Caballo’s ashes around the circle for everyone to hold and offer their own silent farewells. After which Caballo’s favourite Mas Loco shirt was burned on a fire and the ashes were sprinkled around his favourite tree and finally on the fire. Memories of Micah were spoken and it was a moving experience for all.

I managed to keep in together until as we were leaving I hugged Maria, who thanked me for making the trip and said she was glad I came, after which the emotional wheels came off and I had to hurriedly head for the trail whilst trying not to blink!


Thursday afternoon we drove to the top of the canyon to Cabañas San Isidro for a Temazca (ritual sweat lodge) where 14 of us sat in the dark in a small hut whilst red hot rocks were shovelled into the pit in the floor along with water sprinkling and herbs of various types added to the heat. After around an hour we left the lodge and stood around the fire outside in silence for a while and the dark. It was quite eerie as no-one felt the need to speak.



The ride up to the top of the canyon I found very traumatic as the road is very rocky, narrow, sheer drops and the driver was on his mobile for a fair bit of the journey! On the way back down I was blindfolded and playing music loudly though my headphones (Sensory deprivation rules ok).

Tarahumara Dinner

Friday evening we were invited to dinner at the Tarahumara camp on the far side of the river. They had butchered several cows and were cooking them in 3 large pots whilst the butchered carcasses were covered up nearby on rocks.


It was a uniquely original evening with local people appearing from everywhere once the word got out about dinner!

Saturday – Kids race

This kids race on Saturday was a great success and I hope it becomes a regular event as it was great seeing their enthusiasm.


Giving out the medals, water and bags of school supplies was brilliant.


Sunday – The Race

As Kate & I were likely to be running at a similar pace (as in we would be a lot slower than the Scottish mountain goat known as Graham) we decided to run together.

Graham stopped for a hug on his first return from Guadalupe and still finished in 10 hrs 30 min! Makes you sick doesn’t it (though on second thoughts if I was offered a hug by Kate I’d probably stop too!)


We were going ok (slow, but ok for Brits not used to 97 Degrees F) until we reached the bridge to Los Alisos after 8 hr 45 min where we were told that there was no water at Los Alisos. Now so far we had each consumed around 12 litres of water (and probably poured a similar amount over our heads), eaten 24 S-Caps each and decided to just stop for 5 minutes before continuing. We filled up our Camelbaks, thought about the run up to Los Alisos (I had done it on the Thursday so knew what was involved) and that our water would just about last us to get there (if we drank it rather than used it for cooling) but we would be coming back dry and couldn’t guarantee the water at the aid station by the bridge (where we currently were) would still be open. In addition we would also have missed the Urique cut off by a number of hours as well.

I kept remembering (as did Kate) the bit of “Born to Run” where Barefoot Ted runs out of water and drinks bodily fluids, so we had a vote and decided a cold Tecate was infinitely more preferable to the warm alternative, so we heading back to Urique to finish 32 miles and still an Ultra!

Just outside Urique we were greeted by Graham walking towards us carrying 2 cokes, I almost hugged the Scotsman, but instead got Kate to give him an extra hug on my behalf.

It was an incredible day and one none of us will forget for a long time.


So the big question, will I return to Urique to finish the outstanding 18 miles I missed this year?

Yes I will, but I’ll probably leave it a few years and maybe time it for a special birthday. So maybe I’ll see some of you guys in 5 years time to celebrate my 60th birthday! Knowing my luck Toshio will be there and still thrash me as a racy 77 year old!

For me 2013 was the important event, and I fulfilled a promise I made to a friend who is no longer with us.

Last Blog before the long awaited UMCB Mexico running adventure begins

Well after months and months of training in rain, snow (and sometimes even sunshine) I’m on the last 6 days before I leave to journey to Mexico for the Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco http://www.ultracb.com/ made famous in the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall (http://www.chrismcdougall.com/).

It is expected that there will be around 120 international runners travelling from all over the world to run alongside 100 Mexican and 300 Tarahumara runners.

I’ll try and update my blog wherever I can get WiFi access as I’m sure the scenery will be stunning.

Its been tough keeping the miles up over the past few months with the UK weather and trying not to pick up an injury.




Alas I had a twinge on my right calf after doing 30 miles in the snow on two consecutive Sundays (with my mountaineering neighbour and http://www.ringofire.co.uk/ RD James Bingham) a few weeks ago (suspect it was partly due to wearing heavier “minimalist” shoes than my Luna’s causing a slight running form change). After which I halted running and moved to just working on my quads using my Wife’s steps (whilst furiously massaging my calf so it’s fixed in time for the run). With the amount of ascent & descent (10,000 ft) the inevitable walking should give my calf a bit of time to rest during the run.

Alas the only thing I cannot train for (aside from the ascent & descent) for is running in temperatures of 35-40 degrees C at midday!!

Here’s a quick summary of my itinerary:

I fly out from London on Friday to El Paso, Texas (2 hr flight change in Dallas) and then on Sunday start a 2 day van journey (with an overnight stop at Cuauhtemoc) with 25 other runners to a hotel at the top of the canyons (http://www.mexicohorse.com/).

Tuesday some local hikes and a tour to Cerocahui and in the afternoon we will visit the local Tarahumara school where I will be giving a 10 year old laptop I’ve brought from Twickenham a good home!

Wednesday we commence a 24 mile trail hike down into the canyon whilst our luggage is transported down by van. Followed up by dinner with the runners in Urique at Madam Tita’s restaurant (of “Born to Run” fame)

Thursday we walk part of the course and in the evening 20 of us are going to a Temazcal Sweat Lodge at Cabañas San Isidro. Several hours of sweating later I’ll be glad for the swim in the waterfall.

Friday we walk another part of the course and pick up our race packets and in the evening attend a Pre-Race Runners Dinner with the Raramuri runners.

Saturday is a run for the Kids of the Canyons! Over 400 Children from all over the Canyons will participate in this run. All children finishers receive a Medal and a Shirt donated by Marathon Kids and a bag of School Supplies donated by the Runners and Supporters of the event.This is followed by a Pre-Race Festival in Urique Town Square.

Sunday at 6am the 50 mile Ultra marathon Caballo Blanco starts!!!! Presentations start at 5pm which I would really like to be back for, but 11 hours for 50 miles is 2 hours off my best time so we will see……..

Monday we all leave (walking very delicately I imagine) and start the 2 day drive back to El Paso where I catch a flight on Wednesday afternoon back to London having (hopefully) achieved the number 1 item on the top of my “Bucket List”!

Now what was number 2 on my “Bucket List”……….. 😉

.Oh yes, and I need to recover quickly as I’m pacing James for the last 30 miles of the Thames Path 100 Ultra (http://www.centurionrunning.com/thames-path-100-2013/) on the 23rd March!


Training, parkrun interloper, Bristol Half Marathon and no more road races (probably)?

With my last race of the year approaching on Sunday I reduced my training to a 9 mile morning run through Bushy run on Tuesday and a 10 mile on Thursday.

I was a volunteer “funnel marshal” at Bushy parkrun on Saturday and had to cut some of the finish funnel tapes at one point (whilst the runners were over at the start) due to the fellow below wandering rather close to the finish!

Sunday at last, I had driven down to Bristol on Saturday night and my friend Phil and I arrived in Bristol about an hour before the start. It was already starting to get crowded.

It was a bit chilly but pretty good for a run.

My target was to beat my PB/PR of 1:48:55 which I set in 2010 and I was hoping the increased miles I had been putting in would help.

I set off at around 8:15 min/ mile pace with an intention of pushing up to 8:00 min/ mile after the 1st mile. Of course I had forgotten that there were a few hills on the course.

I ran with my water bottle and a few shot bloks so I was able to avoid the rush and all the water on the floor at drink stations (which are a bit of a pain in Luna Sandals as they can get a bit slippy).

I felt fine all race and I finished in 1:47.52 beating my PB/PR by just over a minute and averaging 8:12 min/mile.

What I did decide after running up and down streets, round traffic islands etc was this was not that much fun any more.

The two Trail Ultra’s I did earlier in the year (  EcoTrail de Paris and The Wall) , and the training in Bushy Park and along the Thames that I have been doing is so much more enjoyable than running with thousands of other people up and down town streets and round and round traffic islands.

So for now, at least, I will not enter any more road events. I’ve already entered my “Bucket List” event Caballo Blanco Ultra Marathon in Mexico in early March 2013, and I’ve offered to pace my neighbour (and Race Director of Ring O’ Fire Ultra) James for the last 30 miles of his Thames Path 100 Ultra later on in March 2013. So maybe I’ll just look for another Trail Ultra later in the year. I must admit this one did look rather nice ……South Downs Way 100

We shall see…..


The Wall Ultramarathon 69 miles – 23rd June 2012

On Saturday 23rd June 2012 I ran the furthest I have ever run, 69 miles and 4,700ft of altitude, and I did it in my Luna Leadville Pacer Sandals (https://www.lunasandals.com/), and with the weather on that day they turned out to be the best footwear choice I could have made.

The race was called “The Wall” (http://thewallrun.com/) and was a 69 mile Ultra marathon along Hadrians Wall, a 2,000 year old wall which was the most northerly permanent component of the Roman empire.

(The race finished in the middle of Newcastle but alas my garmin battery died after 20 hours)

I set off from Kings Cross station on the day before, nervous and wishing I had some “magic” to help me complete the distance, but alas this is as close as I got (Harry Potter fans will understand).

The start was from Carlisle Castle at 7am on Saturday (there was another start 1 hr later for those runners completing the race in 2 days, but the thought of running 32 miles, camping, and then getting up next day knowing I had another 37 miles to run didn’t appeal!).

I was staying at a hotel close to the castle so after a light dinner (no exotic or spicy food for me that evening…….) I headed up to bed after setting 4 alarms on my iPhone and booking a hotel call for 5:30am (they had laid on an early breakfast for 6am as there were quite a few runners staying).


Ugh, my various alarms went off and I pulled back the curtains to see …….. rain!

I showered (whilst thinking why am I doing this, I’m going to be getting wet for the next 20-24 hrs?) dressed and went down for some toast & tea.

The topic of conversation amongst the runners was….you guessed rain, and what to wear / carry.

On return to my room I surveyed my 3 bags, my running rucsac, my drop bag, roller bag.

I was running in my Luna Leadville Pacer sandals (traditional leather laces), shorts and a short & long sleeved technical top with my OMM waterproof on top. I was in trouble if it did stop raining as I had nowhere to put all this stuff as my bag was already full!

My running rucsac had food (Clif Shot Bloks & Clif bars), 2 litles of Nuun in my Camelbak, mandatory first aid and safety kit, spare warm top and waterproof trousers for when I get cold in the early hours. I had also packed my headtorch, just in case my drop bag (with spare clothes and more food) didn’t make it to the halfway pitstop at Vindolanda. I was also carrying a pair of Mountain King “Trail Blaze” running poles (http://www.mountainking.co.uk/) which were so light I intended to run with them folded in one hand, getting them out for any steep climbs (I did an ultra earlier in the year where I was picking up bits of wood to help me up steep climbs in a forest, so I was not doing that again) and when I slow to a walk for the latter stages of the run.

I grabbed my bags and headed down to the start at Carlisle Castle.

It was pretty miserable at the start with around 200 people (around 200 are running it in 1 day and 600 are running over 2 days) muttering about the rain and unpacking waterproofs.

Fortunately I had bought my Aquapac waterproof iPhone case so I should be able to take pictures, even if the quality is sometimes not that hot (see below).

As usual I got lots of strange looks due to my footwear, but I did see one person in VFFs.

The start was delayed for around 20 minutes but we eventually got under way (after some “stuff our lawyers make us say” type talks by the organisers) by around 7:20am.

The first few miles wind around streets and parks next to the river, which I got my first inkling as to what was in store. Water, lots of water. The river had flooded (and was about to break its banks again), the result of which was all the paths near the river were under 8-9 inches of water.

I had great delight in running through these flooded areas whilst all “shod” runners queued and tried to thread their way around the water trying not to get their clean trainers and socks wet.

It wasn’t long before the looks of puzzlement at my strange footwear turned into looks of envy as I ran through the water, shook my feet dry, and continued running on the paths (accompanied by cries of “stop rubbing it in!” ).

Here are a few videos taken during the run.

My nutrition and fluids seemed to work well (I was drinking about 0.7 litre per hour and eating 6 shot bloks per hour) from all indications (I’ll avoid further details you’ll be glad to hear).

In the latter stages when the paths were alongside the river we were wading knee deep through the flooding (when we told the staff at the next aid station they said that the first runners through earlier in the day had to wade through water waist deep!). I was almost using my poles as a depth gauge as knee deep water was ok but I didn’t want a swim.

I managed to last until 10pm before I had to get out my headtorch at which point I put on my warm top as I was slowing down and starting to get a bit cold.

I reached the 62 mile pit stop at around 3:00am by which time I was consuming anything with caffeine in (Gu’s, shot bloks I mean anything to stay awake). I had a wonderful slab of chocolate flapjack and nearly fell of the chair with sugar rush. In fact I really did fall off the chair(I think I fell asleep for a second before the sugar hit). A quick cup of tea and then I and another runner who was continuing (we left several “youngsters” behind who were dropping out) left together to cover the last 7 miles that seem to take forever. Boy was I glad I had poles now.

It even started raining again as the sun came up so I stopped to put on the waterproof trousers to fight off the cold for a few more miles. It was ironic that the warmest part of my were my feet, and they were bare!

I crossed the finish line in Newcastle at just after 6am, exhausted, hungry but grinning from ear to ear at what I had accomplished, and very impressed with the organisers of the event (http://www.ratrace.com/run/) who had to cope with some appalling conditions on their first Ultramarathon along “The Wall”.

Now this event was entered with one objective in mind, to prove that I can run over 50 miles, and why? Because I want to travel to the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico to run the Copper Canyons Ultra Marathon (CCUM) in March 2013 (made famous in Chris McDougall’s book “Born to Run”).

I met the main character in the book “Caballo Blanco” in London last year and he referred to me as the “2013 guy” (he tried to get me to run it in 2012 but I declined as I needed more training). Regrettably Caballo Blanco (Micah True) died whilst running trails several months ago, making it likely that the event in 2013 will turn into a celebration of his life, the native Tarahumara people and place that he loved.

Now to sell the idea to my Wife…………


Brighton Marathon (well, pacing for 8 miles of it anyway)- 15th April 2012

Now before anyone gets excited I didn’t run the whole Brighton marathon, but I paced a good friend for the last 8 miles, at least that was my intention anyway.

I generally run a couple of half marathons each year with my friend Phil, but as this was his first marathon I said I’d come down to Brighton and maybe help him out.

As we were staying at my ‘Parents in Law’ just outside Brighton we got to the start in plenty of time and I agreed to meet him around 18 miles and see if I could run along side on the pavement or something and provide encouragement, as miles 18 -26 took you a long way out West of Brighton and back and looked like it could get someone down at that stage in the race. I was wearing running gear, albeit with a few extra layersand my Camelbak , tracksters and a windproof top and of course my Luna’s.

The race started @ 9:00 and I made my way to the nearest Starbucks for tea, breakfast and to warm up as it was pretty cold just hanging about for the last 90 minutes. I reckoned I had got about 2.5 hours before Phil reached 18 miles, so I installed the neat iPhone App for the race that could tell you when your runner hit halfway, and could then estimate (on the previous 13 miles) where they were on the course.

An hour later , recharged (both me and my iPhone) I started walking a few miles West towards another Starbucks closer to the 18 mile point.

According to the App Phil had reached 13.1 miles in 1:56 so he was well on target. I watched till it said he was approaching 16 miles and headed out of my second Starbucks of the day where I had been making a small cup of tea last forever (I didn’t want to be looking for toilets and Phil).

Around 18 miles the road was very wide and I was able to stand in the middle section with runners entering and leaving this 4 mile loop off the main course, and started looking out for Phil who should be returning from the loop back to the seafront to reach the 18 mile point.

At last I spotted him (as well as a barefoot runner a few minutes in front) and as the runners were pretty spread out I jumped in alongside and began running with him!

He was doing very well, hydrated, snacking on Shot Bloks and looking pretty comfortable. We carried on till about mile 23 where I had to stop for a second to remove my windproof top (I was overheating and missing the pint of blood I gave away 2 days earlier), at that point Phil either decided to drop me, or else something “attractive” ran past him and he gave chase, either way I never caught up with him.

Looking at his splits I’m not surprised as he increased is mile pace by around 40 seconds per mile from that point to the finish.

Whilst I was looking for Phil, a runner alongside (who’s name I have since forgotten, but as his memory is younger that mine he may remember this blog address) started a conversation about my foot wear (Luna Sandals) and it was only when I looked at his I saw he was running in Vibram Bikilas. We chatted about each others minimalist footwear experiences, the sad loss of Caballo Blanco (it seemed we both met him in The Barbican talk in London last year), and the “clubmasloco” Google group that we were both members of.

We were both impressed at the 2 “real” barefoot runners we had seen in the race, of which at least one would be finishing around 4:15 I think.

At about 25 miles we stepped up the pace so he would get under 4 hrs, and I bailed out of the race at 26 miles having paced an old friend and a new one.

I met up with Phil at the agreed point beyond the finish (he was very pleased at his time of 3:44) and we made our way to the train station. We had a very welcome shower and Sunday dinner at my Parents in Law, after which I drove us back to Twickenham, and Phil then carried on home to Devon.

A good weekend and an excellent first marathon time for Phil.


Bath Half Marathon – 11th March 2012

Well it’s race day at last. Phil and I drove to the Bath racecourse and got the coach down into Bath to avoid the traffic and parking/road closure issues that are caused by 12,000 runners descending on a city that is not car friendly at the best of times.

It was a mild morning with expected temperatures of around 14 degrees C later on so I’d taken a cap to run in.

I was intending to run with my Camelbak with 1.5 ltrs of water as practise for Paris.

The route is pretty fast and involves 2 laps before returning back to where you started. The start begins with a downhill stretch so you really have to hold back and try not to think about the uphill finish later!


I was wearing my Luna ATS sandals with the usual improvised chip holder.


Phil and I started together but soon got separated as he accelerated away into the distance.

I did the first mile in around 8:30 as intended (not much time or space to warm up when you are stuck in a field that big). The picture below shows people queuing to get to the start 3 minutes before the race begins.


I then increased my speed to between 8:00 -8:15 where I tried to keep it for the rest of the race.

I skipped all the feed stations and just sipped from my pack as needed (drank .5 ltr in total) and had a shot block about every 30 min. The cap was a good decision as it was sunny but shorts would have been better than my 3/4 tracksters.

Due to the 2 loops we have to keep to the left at 1 point as the leaders will overtake us. We saw the police outriders and heard the cheers before we saw Kenyan Edwin Kipkorir come past who went on to win in 64 minutes! Kenyan Edith Chelimo was the fastest woman in 71 min 25 secs. It really takes your breath away to see the speed and grace with which runners like that go past you. The rest of the runners were clapping and cheering as they flew past us.

My speed fluctuated between 8:10-8:25 generally, finishing in 1:50, not a PB/PR but as my training had been focused on distance not speed I wasn’t too concerned. My HR recovery looked good, dropping 50 beats in 2 minutes.

Injury wise I had a blister on my Mortons toe (my 2nd toe is longer than my big toe) on each foot so I must have been pushing off a bit uphill and maybe breaking downhill. I’ll probably tape them for Paris. I’m heading towards running Paris in my KSO Treks (better if muddy) but putting my Lunas in my Camelbak pack in case.

We left the beautiful city of Bath and headed back to Phil’s Dad’s house where a shower and full Sunday lunch was waiting for us, mmm delicious!