Dark O'Clock X-C

Dark O'Clock X-C
Early morning cross country run from Flitwick to Luton

Monday, 31 December 2012

The very last run

Day 366 Monday 31st December 3 miles : miles to date 2500 Well folks, the final run is done, the stats are in and the final results from 2012 are below. Before I get there, I have to sat thank you straight away to all of my friends for such a wonderful last run. There were so many e-mails beforehand saying well done but we can't make it for one reason or another, that I wasn't surprised when we arrived at the off and there were just seven of us to go. I really wasn't expecting many more. I now know there was an orchestrated campaign run by a certain David Cook to make me think everyone was away. It worked. I even fell for Ady's excuse that he was an elf helping at Santa's grotto. Dooohhhh. Four hundred metres down the road, it was a massive and totally unexpected surprise to be joined by thirty five other runners. I didn't have a clue and it made today for me, very special indeed. Thank you to each and every person that came out. An extra hugggeee thank you to Satnav and Sherpa Sue for allowing their home to be swamped by so many wet, thirsty and hungry runners, all of whom left with a smile on their face. The food, beverages and hospitality were hugely generous. I also have to thank Chairman Jeremy Bell for his very kind words after and the present, which was a DIY cardboard toilet called the "Shitbox". Charming but very apt. George Arbuckles and Philip Horans inscribed toilet paper was an absolute gem and Rebecca Fleckney ''The Book of Poo - A Spotters Guide" was just hysterical. Who writes a book about No2 ing? Damn, missed my call. Last but certainly not least was a fab 2012 running man that already has pride of place in the kitchen from the committee. Thank you all. So, to the stats;- 1. No of runs - 369 2. No of miles - 2500 3. No of calories burnt - 289,925 4. No of hours running - 393hrs:24mins:5secs 5. No of No2 posts - too many to count 6. No of PB's in 2012 - 8 7. Highest Team Finish - 1st Men's team Chester Marathon 8. Highest solo finish - 3rd Bedford Clanger Ultra 9. Average weight loss - 2 stone 2 pounds 10. No of beers drunk - see number 5 above 11. New PB's in 2012;- -Bedford Clanger ultra 04:23:00 (previous PB 04:52:00) -Chester Marathon 03:04:13 (previous PB 03:25:24 also in 2012) -Twenty mile 02:51:34 (previous PB 02:59:59) -Half marathon 01:27:41 (previous PB 01:40:41) -10k 39:59 (previous PB 44:04) -5 mile 30:35 (no previous race) -5k 19:10 (previous PB 20:36) 12. Highest mileage month - December 270.9 13. Highest mileage week 101 - in the last week!!! 14. Average weekly mileage - 48.07 15. Lowest mileage month - 152.2 June 16. Most calories burnt one month - 29,541 December 17. No of running shoes used - 5 18. No of mates run with - see 5 and 10 above It has been an amazing running year. I have had so many great experiences, run with so many friends and achieved more this year than in all of my last eight years of running, that it is just impossible to pick one highlight or one person alone to praise. To try to do that, would be unkind to the many, many people and friends out there who have helped me along the way. All those runs we did, those comments at training or on facebook, the pressing of the like button to my often inane ramblings, the amazing interest and support my friends have shown for the entire year, the good humoured mickey taking and the often needed kick up the backside, all of it helped more than you will ever know. So, all I can do is say thank you to each and every person out there who has been kind enough to show me any interest and support. The final word's have to be dedicated to Fi, Megan and James who have had to put up with my mad challenge all year. There have been many times when family life has been disrupted through my needing to get a run in at all sorts of silly hours and at odd times. They have all put up with my year long obsession and without their help, support and encouragement I would never have made this streak. Fi has not only put up with me, but has actively encouraged to make it, ofetn putting on her own daps and coming out of the door in all sorts of weather conditions. So, in a rare show of public emotion (I am British after all and a bloke), I love you all very much and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Which is still 42 bpm. Oppssss back to me!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The penultimate one

Day 365 Sunday 30th December 3.1 miles : miles to date 2497

Tonight's run was down to one thing and one thing only. How many miles to 2500. Luckily for me, HW worked out a couple of miles longer than planned so I was left with a 3.1 mile tonight to leave me with a spot on three miler to finish on day 366. My legs and mind are tired, so it was nothing more than a very grumpy trudge around the ever so clean and mud free streets of the village. Something of a contrast to the last three days. I might just get there you know?

Hadrians Wall run Day's 1-3

Day 362 Thursday 27th December 31.1 miles : miles to date 2437.9

AKA: HWD1 - The Blood, Sweat and Beers Ultra Boys Tour 

 Like all daft idea's, it was a good one at the time. Why not run all of Hadrian's Wall between festivities was the question? A multitude of very good reasons could spill forth, not least leaving the family to run through mile upon mile of deep mud, water, cow droppings and all manner of farm debris.

 As the alarm went off early doors, the rain was hammering against the window and I had to gently persuade Fi to drop me at the metro. Three hours later, Satnav and Mrs. Satnav collected me from the station having left Beddiesford land at 5:30am. We then carried on for another forty minutes until we reached the desloate coastline of Bowness on Solway. With Ireland behind us, Scotland on our left and England on our right, we ran back the way we had come before the tide came in and swamped the area.In true Roman road fashion, we ran along a windy, open and straight as an arrow stretch for three miles, before finding Sherpa Sue Jones who waited at various points all day with supplies. 

 There were very few houses and not a single shop for the entire route. Even when we wound along the river skirting Carlisle, there was nothing but trail and mud. Lots and lots of mud. We found our first field of the brown stuff early on and soon realised we were going to spend the entire day totally caked in the stuff. I have no idea how many field's we went through for mile upon mile we sank into the stuff at least up to our ankles, if not halfway up the shins. As a result, it was very slow going for almost the entire section. It is difficult convery just how muddy sapping this route was, although on the plus side it was very well sign posted for the entire run. 
We collected Sue at the 18 mile point, having waded through a field flooded by an adjacent river. The next section was relatively fine. At the 24 mile point the tables turned again. By now we were in the dark and finding it difficult to find our way out of the fields, simply due to the fact that we could not see the exits until we were virtually standing next to them. We slowed a huge amount and the cold, wetness and six hours of sodden feet beagn to take their toll. After another three miles of very deep mud, we decided to step off the trail and run an extra mile or two around to the b&b on the road. Despite the extra distance it was the wise move we eventually made it the pit stop after a long, arduous day on the trails. 

 Satnav was as always Satnav. If it hurts, run more is his mantra which came out today. Sue had a very interesting to self navigating long distance trails and to be fair, the last two hours in the dark were hard and demoralising. Still, a quick shower and nip down to the pub for a rather large steak and several pints of Welsh wine should hopefully set us up for day two. After a full English breakfast of course. 

 Pasta? Bar humbug.

Day 363 Friday 28th December 25.5 miles : miles to date 2463.4

AKA: HWD2 - The Mud, Sweat and Beers Ultra Boys Tour

 I awoke early doors in my warm, comfortable and wind free b&b on top of an exposed hillside looking over the Irthing valley not wanting to leave. It was a struggle to make it downstairs for the full English, but having done so I perked up and felt almost ready for the off. The idea of starting at a high point in a wind and rain swept isolated village was actually worse than starting itself. As soon as we were outside we realised it wasn't that bad and we were at the top of the contours, so it was a flatish start. I always say I prefer a bottom in front of me rather than a frontal lobotomy and I knew early on that I would be following the main man's buttocks for a long way which I did. 

 Within a mile we found our first Roman ruin at Banks Turret and spent a little time being tourists. We carried on slowly as Satnav's knee was playing up. The terrain had changed almost overnight. Where as we had spent the first day at a low level, with lot's of farms and very deep and filthy quagmires to try to wade through, with a bit of higher ground the cows made way for sheep and their much smaller feet made my trying to keep my very go slow daps on my feet a little easier, but not much. I still managed to fall in a Tom and Jerry way at around the three mile point as we came down one very slippy hill, landing very hard on my back with my legs in the air. Luckily the ground was very soft and muddy as it was all the way.

 The first real big tourist stop was a Roman fort at Birdoswald which had picnic benches outside and no one anywhere to be seen in every single direction. In fact, in the first two days we came across a total of one walker in 56 odd miles. This section was relatively fine, in the sense that every step was in water or mud, but at least we weren't fighting to keep the shoes on. For quite a few miles, we then battled with sheep, wind, mud and isolation. We slowed badly after that and were very glad to meet Sherpa Sue at an old quarry for a pep talk and sarnie. It had taken us over three hours to reach just over eleven miles. It turned out that this was the easy section.

 We then began to climb crag after crag after crag. There simply was not a sole to be seen for miles as we did clambered up one very big hill after another. The climbs were very steep, slippery, muddy and constantly an ankle turning or leg breaking worry. It was impossible to run up or down all of them. The descents were more difficult than the climbs. It was difficult to even walk them, but the panoramic views at the top were breath taking and worth every second of discomfort to get there. At the top of the highest it was hard to stand still it was so windy, but it was utterly fantastic to me there, especially with my very good mate and guide.

 It was blooming hard work and despite the ultra boy's fitness and sheer bloody mindness, we knew after some hours of the terrain and with light fading badly, we were in danger of serious injury as the light went and the crags continued to punish us. We still had some miles to go and made the decision to go down and wade through marshland where I doubt a single person has walked in twenty years.  We somehow managed to make the main Roman Road and as the light went, we had no real choice other than to miss the last few crags. Eventually we would have gone through the main outstanding Roman fort at Housesteads. Instead we dodged cars on a very narrow country road for some miles, before reclaiming the trail in the dark. By this point, my trench foot had begun to heal and the total immersion back into the goo had my tootsie's almost in tears.

 We struggled back in the dark oscillating between road and HW trail all the way down to the finish point at Cholleford. Both of us are not that far off three hour marathon boy's (ok old blokes), but it took us over seven hours to finish less than a marathon, but this was three times as hard. And ten times better. The views, the country, the experience, the fact that there was just the two of us, the isolation and the sheer majesty of this part of the UK made every painful step worthwhile. Standing at the top of Hadrians's turret's and forts quite literally looking over the same view that a Roman centurion would have looked at in AD 122 plus was spine tingling. 

Even so, it was great to finish a long, hard and difficult day. Sherpa Sue did an awesome job in supporting us at various stages and me and Satnav were very grateful. At the end, Fi was an angel in a Volvo descending down the road to collect us, before whisking us back to the outlaws small, but very warm, cosy and food fueled house on the North Tyne to a fabulous home cooked meal, a couple of bottles of wine and a short, but very nice trip to the local pub. Which was called the Grey Bull, which was next to the Black Bull. Say's it all really.

Day 364 Saturday 29th December 30.5 miles : miles to date 2493.9

AKA: HWD3 - The Mud, Sweat and Beers Ultra Boys Tour

Roman Wall Blues by W.H.Auden

Over the heather the wet wind blows,I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Aulus goes hanging around her place,I don't like his manners, I don't like his face.

Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;There'd be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I'm a veteran with only one eye, I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

 Having done such a sterling job, Shepra Sue was promoted to the starting grid with Fetcher Fi coming in to cover the essential support crew role. We headed back to the exact point we had finished last night at Chollerford next to a bridge crossing the North Tyne. We then proceeded to climb for two consecutive miles, with the feet soon becoming wet and muddy. The wall route from Chollerford almost exclusively follows the Roman Road and is very well sign posted. This made navigating very simple and once we were at the top, the route for longish sections was on relatively firm ground, although inevitably it dipped into the brown stuff with every undulation. There were Turret's after Turret's and as always, the panoramic views across Northumberland were stunning. 

 In this section in particular the Vallum was very obvious for many miles. It is a huge earthwork unique to Roman frontiers and runs from coast to coast on the south of the wall. The Vallum comprises a ditch, nominally 6 metres wide and 3 metres deep, with a flat bottom, flanked by two mounds about 6 metres wide and 2 metres high, set back some 9 metres  from the ditch edges. For a great deal of its length a third lower mound, the so-called marginal mound occupies the south berm (flat area between mound and ditch), right on the southern lip of the ditch. The total width of the fortification (consisting, from north to south, of mound, berm, ditch, marginal mound, berm, mound) was around 36 metres. The distance of the Vallum from the Wall varies. In general there was a preference for the earthwork to run close to the south of the Wall where the land allowed. In the central section we ran yesterday,  the Wall ran along the top of the many crags while the Vallum lay in the valley below so far away we couldn't see it.

 The route was still quite and isolated even though we were only fourteen miles from Newcastle. We came across two walkers and within a few miles, two runners who were local and dressed for a short run (probably fifteen or so miles). Despite the weather forecast, we were extremely lucky with the rain in that all we experienced in three days was drizzle every so often with the wind being the main element to contend with. Even that was South Easterly and mainly from behind. After ten miles, Sherpa Sue was picked up by Fetcher Fi and normal ultra boy's service was resumed. Mind you, it was a lot better following Sue's derriere than Satnav's.

 The route was by far the easiest to follow in the whole three days, although for the next five miles we did run through a few very wet and muddy sections. The girls met us an hour or so down the road and were a very welcome sight indeed. We were both starting to struggle a little and needed to see them and grab a sarnie. We then headed over to the first main village that had any shops or pub's open in the sixty five odd miles we had covered by then. We didn't know what to do with the bright lights and carried on as quickly as we could to join the Tyne, which we then followed for the last nine miles or so. Approximately four miles from the finish we ran into Newcastle Quayside which looked magnificent in the light rain and darkness. We ran under a number of bridges crossing the river, until we reached the main night life area. On the left we had pubs, clubs and lots of places to eat and on the other was the Sage and the huge converted Baltic Arts centre. This would have been a lovely place to stop, especially when we found the girls waiting for us in the dark under one of the bridges. 

 Wallsend was still another four miles further on and this was probably the ugliest part of the route. As we ran away from the town, the area became rougher, more rundown and for the last two miles with no street lights at all. Fi and Sue continued to be hugely supportive and were waiting for us at the end. The actual HW monument was tucked away in a closed museum  so that was a bit of an anti climax, but the warm car wasn't. 

 There was no way that we could have done this run without the help and support of Sue and Fi, so a huge thank you is needed form us both. I know just how much Satnav benefited from Sue being there and I felt exactly the same way about Fi. Their help, support and tolerance were very much appreciated.     

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Boxing day bounce

Day 361 Wednesday 26th December 3.5 miles : miles to date 2406.8 Oh dear. Having eaten the equivalent of a small horse in the last few days, my bulging belly erupted over the top of my shiny new day glow Hilly tights today like Vesuvius eschewing molten lava down its side. The Weeble's wobble but they don't fall down advert from the 70's perfectly describes my current physique. I was a tiny bit puffy as I strode forth on yet another new route along the coast at North Shields, just over the water from the finish of the GNR at South Shields. The area was quite busy with a number of runners and walkers, even down on the sands in the darkness. I was enjoying my meander so much, I forgot to stop at 1.5 miles and turn back, as this is a taper day before HW Day 1 on the morrow. I didn't even rise to the challenge of two runners coming towards me who clearly were fast and fit. I have re-adopted my trade mark ultra marathon shuffle, which Richard Jones and I have honed to perfection over the years. Very little arm movement or knee lift and feet taken off the ground only so far as to allow us to shuffle along in the most energy conserving way possible. It was in complete contrast to the one bloke, who was bouncing so high off the ground with each stride, he looked like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. I thought he was going to shout ''Hello buddy boy! T-I-double guh-err; that spells Tiggerrrrr'' at one point. Hi there Tigger, I'm Pablo the No2 would have been the response if he had. Oh, that reminds me, extra loo roll needed in my back pack HWD1.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Day

Day 360 Tuesday 25th December 3.3 miles : miles to date 2403.3 Happy Christmas first and foremost to one and all. For some weeks, I have been a little worried about running on Christmas day. In days of yore, I would have scoffed at obsessed fitness fanatics on this day of all days, thinking you must be barking. Despite this streaking challenge, I honestly don't think of myself as a fitness fanatic and I'm not. I run a lot, but that is due to the pleasure it brings and to stack the cards against me popping my clogs too early. Both my brother and pa were my height, in the 20 stone plus category and went to meet their maker in their 53rd year. That's one family streak I'm hoping to miss. So, today was like any other in running terms. On went the go medium daps, the back pack (for carrying my trackies) and off I headed for an urban trundle with the aim of meeting the outlaws and Fi not much later at a pub, where my bro-in-outlaw is the newly installed head honcho. As I sheepishly strode fourth, the run just took over and the thoughts of the day were lost as I gingerly wound my way through the debris of the night before. I soon found myself glad to be running before the festivities take over and I can hardly move off the couch. It was cold, northern, grey, no snow and I was in my shorts running a medium tempo on Chrimbo day. Glorious. The prezzie's had emerged early doors. To go with my Ron Hill jacket with splash of orange, Santa delivered matching bright orange gloves, orange hat and orange tinted running tights. My super new head torch, fresh fogger deodorant, jar of jelly babies and book called ''Once A Runner'' rounded off the wonderful clutch of running related presents. I cant wait to try them out in two days in the middle of nowhere in the dark.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Go go go go go go.......

Day 359 Monday 24th December 5.7 miles : miles to date 2400

There must be something about the North East, as the legs were on fire tonight as they were last time I was here. Having driven hours to get to the outlaws, I left without even having a Christmas Eve sniffler with the sole intention of getting to 5.7 miles to bring up 2400 miles for the year so far.
 The long play was stuck on a Now Music mix, but as luck would have it the first little ditty was " Gonna Fly Now '' from one of the best films ever, Rocky. Something just clicked and bang, I was flying like Pegasus himself. I was in a very built up urban area and I constantly had to stop for traffic, dodge the staggering beer hounds on the way to the kebab shop for a spot of dinner and scoot around discarded odds and sod's at some speed. It was almost like an urban adventure race. After three miles, I suddenly recalled that in three days time I am about to run possibly three ultras on consecutive days and Pegasus won't be around to give me a lift home if I blow up. The brakes went on, the long play flipped to easy listening songs and I dropped down several gears.
 I don't know about my Mojo, but I certainly found my Rojo tonight (Running One's Jacksie Off) and I reminded myself that the Voldemort plan part two, will kick in at the start of next year. Fi is looking forward to this streak stopping. I don't intend to run every day next year. Just six days a week. She's a lucky girl.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


Day 358 Sunday 23rd December 5.9 miles : miles to date 2394.3 Without realising it, I dressed for tonight's run in homage to one of the longest streakers I know of, the great Ron Hill. The only thing missing from the ensemble were my daps, which have been the same make and model for the last six years. I met Ron once, before my first ever marathon and didn't quite realise at the time that one of us was in the presence of greatness. Not to worry Ron, I'll send you an autograph. As for the run, uuurrgghhhhhh. Luckily I haven't had many tough one's, but three day's of very non-athletic munching and imbibing of too many brewski's meant I felt tired, lethargic and about ten years older than I am. There are only nine days to go and roughly 112 miles to cover. I trudged around my local 6 odd mile route, put the long play on and zoned out. It was slow, uninspired and nothing more than junk miles. I felt so out of sorts after the run, I didn't even have the greatest invention known to man, a cold beer in the shower. Shocking I know, but true.