First off SORRY FOR NOT DOING BLOGS (to the 3 people that read them)
2019 has already been quite the year. Let’s get the excuses in, shall we? I have finally moved out of London to lovely sleepy Somerset – home of the Mendips, hills and lots of cows. The running here is ace and I feel like I have finally shaken off the horror of 23 years in London. But it’s a big change – the first month I felt like I was on a different planet – then I had to find work (you know that thing that actually pays you?) So I took a step back from internets for a bit.
Another reason for lack of bloggage. It seems I have been writing them for everyone else but me this year. For some reason my inbox went a bit mad and I’ve been asked to write pieces, blogs and interviews for a Bulgarian Travel and Adventure Magazine (apparently I am going to be on the cover?!), Run Deep, Precision Hydration, Lessons in Badassery, Dure, Red Bull and Trail Running Magazine. Plus, I have to do my day job. And look after 4 dogs. And a 9 year-old (not mine but sort of is mine now….) and a man human. Jokes. He’s looking after me.
So what’s been going on? EVERYTHING HAS. 2019 started with BBR trotting over the The National Running Show in Birmingham where we had a stand and I gave a couple of talks. I was I the throws of a horrendous depressive episode and had to attempt to put a face on. I still wasn’t over Panama really. I think it took me about 3 months to get over it in the end. I had to do a talk on a panel about mental health and running (oh the irony) and then my own talk about running across deserts, jungles and that.
It was very difficult attempting to inspire people when I actually felt like a piece of shit. The show itself was ace and weirdly we have been asked to come back – but more on that a bit later.
I got out in January and February to do a couple of reccees for White Star Running. The weather was JOKES bad. 60mph winds and rain made for a very interesting trot along the coast.
We were checking the route for Septembers Run Jurassic races which are going to be amazing. Have a look at what’s on offer here - and rest assured that it shouldn’t be weather like this on the day…..
Then came the first race of the year - Larmer Tree Marathon in Dorset. Lest gusty with 40-50 mph winds making for another interesting run, and it was also Pickle the ultra dogs first official marathon – she loved it. Look at her little face!
Then it was off to Bulgaria to do some talking about running. Myself and David from the Bad Boy Running Podcast were asked to go and do a talk at a running expo they had there and it was MEGA fun – defo returning nest year to do the 100KM ultra they are organising – it’s BEAUTIFUL in Sofia.
Back home and it was off to Rat Race’s Ultra Tour of Arran for the second year. 62 miles over 2 days with “some” elevation (A LOT) and some demons to slay. As you know I did NOT enjoy this last year - my fear of heights and ledges almost got the better of me, but this year was different. We had about 10 Do-Badders with us and some of them were first time ultra runners, so I felt a bit like I had a duty of care to them.
As part of my role with Rat Race, I did a little talk to people about the Bucket List which was great and I managed to get round the course with the whole squad without crying. Only issue was I ended up with an eye infection that meant I couldn’t wear my contacts. This is not recommended on mountainous trails. I fell over 3 times - my knee looked like someone had gone at it with a rifle. It really knocked my confidence for trails and I have been super careful ever since. I really hate falling over.
Arran was beautiful and epic as always. I cannot recommend this race enough. Its otherworldly out there. Here are some pictures – the weather was so kind to us. If you get booking it now it’s pretty cheap – or even better register for a rat race season ticket and it sort of pays for itself!
Next up was London marathon. It was my sixth year and I wasn’t looking forward to it having only just really moved away. I used to love this race, but I had done so little in the form of road running I was dreading it a bit. So I decided to spice it up by running it in reverse to the start and then running it the right way round.I need some night running experience for later I the year so why not? I also wanted to raise money for my old friend Scott who we lost to suicide last year. If you want to give a few quid, the charity has been set up now and you can find it here.
We got up at 12am after 3 hours sleep and got our stuff together – we were running with a couple of friends starting at Birdcage walk. We decided on a 5-6 hour time as I had the real thing later on, and this was a training run ultimately. That didn’t go to plan and we ended up smashing out 20 miles in about 3 hours – meaning as we came into Greenwich everything was shut. ARGH! I need coffee! I’ve never waited for a Macdonalds to open, but that day I did! We decided to march out the last 6 miles as we had the time and my legs were already staging a protest about the relentless road pounding they were getting. Once we reached the start we headed over to a hotel on Blackheath where my amazing friend and Head of Crew™ was staying.
We had the BEST BREAKFAST EVER and got I got changed into fresh kit and then it was time to do it all over again. I forgot how much waiting about there was at London. I think I stood in the pen for about an hour, little legs seizing up, feeling cold for once. London is usually boiling. I took a minute to look around at the people running. Lots of them were doing their first and only marathon. Some of them made me want to cry. I saw a guy dressed in a bin bag looking nervous, fiddling with his headphones. He has a message scrawled on his arm in sharpie – obviously written buy one of his kids. It said “I love you daddy and I am proud of you”. He kept looking at it. It made me want to cry. Sometimes humans can be wonderful. I bumped into the legend that is Anna Mcnuff in my start pen. She wasn’t wearing any shoes. Brilliant. She’s running the length of Britain barefoot so was a training run. I had SO MANY QUESTIONS but she seemed very cool about the whole thing. She really is relentlessly cheerful, that woman.
Then we were off. I felt pretty good considering the fact I had already done it once that day. As always there were huge crowds and bottlenecks and I was running a lot faster than I had done in a while. You can’t help it at London. You kind of get swept along. I was very wary of eating and drinking – I hadn’t eaten much during the night run and I am used to picnics on ultras now. I tried to take it easy but it felt easier to run at pace so I did what felt good. For once I wasn’t wearing a pack and it’s amazing how much that frees you to go a bit faster. I was relying on the water stops for all my hydration and that worked.
One of the things I really noticed about the marathon this year is the aggro. I am so used to the chilled nature of trail runners that I totally forgot about what happened in New York. Road runners can be total arseholes. There were points when I ran over to the water station, signalling I was doing so, only to be physically bashed on the shoulder by other runners and told to “move out of the fucking way”. When I take water I tend to slow down, walk at pace, finish the water and then run on. It’s pretty obvious. I walk close to the edge so people can pass me. I’m sorry but people need to have a bit more patience. Fucking idiots. ANYWAY I managed to finish in a pretty OK 4 hours 10 mins. Getting out of the mental finish area was awful as always, and I had to meet up with a couple of people because my personal hell wasn’t ending there. I had signed up to help out on a Rat Race private event for the next two days and needed to get to Richmond to drive up to Cirencester. No boozy celebrations for me! So off I went to work with 300 bankers who were out on a jolly for 3 days running, cycling and kayaking 165 miles along the Thames. Wednesday came and I had never been happier to see my bed!
Turns out road running smashed your body up a lot – especially 53 odd miles of it. My back was killing me, my legs hurt. So I did something I am not very good at – I had a bit or a rest. A few days off, runs at the weekend, went to physio. And then, two weeks later, it was time for The Ox Epic.
This is one of my favourite races of the year. Set on the Rushmore Estate in Wiltshire, its a whole weekend of camping and running courtesy of White Star Running. You can choose what race you do. Theres a 10km in the dark, a 10km in the morning, a half marathon and a 50 miler. So what did I choose? I CHOSE THEM ALL. Last year I managed to accidentally win the Epic - this year was a different story. This was a training run for something much bigger.
Once again White Star pulled it out the bag - a beautiful weekend and everything went like clockwork for me and him indoors, despite the fact we had all four dogs on site plus a 9 year old to look after. I managed to keep the same pace for all the races and not feel broken, plus I had a really nice weekend! We ran some laps with the dogs, some without, took out time at the aid stations, walked the hills and ran the flats. All in, we managed to get 76 miles in the bag over the weekend and finished knowing that we could do more. It was a chance to practice fuelling and hydration and catch up with old and new pals. Highly recommended and I will definitely be back next year - perhaps with my eyes on the prize again.
Pretty much everything that I have done in the first part of this year has been pointing towards my one A game race of the year which is happening this weekend (18-19 May). The Climb South West Devon Coast to Coast Ultra. I signed up last year on a whim. It’s 117 miles from the south coast to the north coast of Devon non-stop. This is the furthest I have run without a break, so it really is a huge deal to me to get through it. We’ve been out and about doing a couple of back to back weekend recees to see what the route is like. It’s self nav and we will run a lot of it in the dark. It runs along the Two Moors Way, across Dartmoor and Exmoor, through some horrendous terrain. There are a lot of muddy bridleways, fields and hardly any markings.
Elevation is mental – it literally feels like your going up hill all the time. It’s a really important race for me because it’s one I am not sure I can do. I have a plan A. B. C and D in place but I can’t see myself finishing in under 39 hours. Will I finish at all? Dunno. Stay tuned I guess….
So yeah, a lot has gone on so far this year, and there are some awesome plans in the pipeline for the rest of the year.
Adventure time! AGAIN!
I am resurrecting my position as Rat Race Test Pilot for 2019-2020 and doing 4 big recees this year, as well as pretty much all the events.
June sees me travel to Spain for the Sea to Summit test pilot outing. The highest mountain in mainland Spain is 80km from the coast. Our route connects a start line on a beautiful beach on the Costa Tropical to the summit of Mulhacen (3482m) via a tough 2 day running route, giving 2 marathons back to back and nearly 4000m vertical height gain. No biggie. Plus it’s going to be BOILING and we start at 2am to try and avoid the sun. This is Ben Nevis twice in a day. Fun.
August sees me trotting off to Malta for The Maltese Falcom. There are 3 islands that make up Malta. This ia a full traverse of the island chain. 3 disciplines. Run across Gozo. Kayak to Comino. Swim from Comino to Malta. Run across Malta. Hot. Historic. Warm sea. An island totally geared up for Endurance sport. And all in one day. Another world first.
In September I am off to Scotland to do something I have always dreamt off. A full coast to coast traverse of Scotland on foot. This is a west-coast-to-east-coast outing, n foot, over 6 days. The difference here is that Rat Race have devised a route that encompasses crossings of water and the use of some rivers and lochs, for which we will carry and use pack-rafts. This very unique route means we will hike or run, get to a body of water, use the raft to cross it or traverse it and then carry on by foot. An insane format in a simply stunning setting and incredibly remote area. The route goes from a starting location at Mallaig to finish just north of Inverness. This is the wildest country in the British Isles. We will be vehicle supported for some of the outing; and then self-contained (pack on back) for a significant portion of the rest. Almost 100% off-road. And in September. Be kind, weather!
October I will return to Scotland for a multi day traverse of the Outer Hebrides. Another dream event. It is around 150 miles from the bottom to top of this rugged island archipelago off the West Coast of Scotland. We will attempt this journey over 6 days. We’ve not quite worked out the logistics on this (have I not learnt anything from Panama??) But I am SO EXCITED TO DO IT!
In November I am travelling back to Namibia to crew for the Race to the Wreck event. That means I get to see the beauty of the desrt from the crew vehicle with a bit of running, but most importantly, it means I get to encourage, help and inspire people to complete the crossing. I would like to thank Rat Race for constantly believing me and allowing me to do these awesome things. I am one lucky piglet.
Also here’s a thing – if you fancy joining me on any of these funtime recees then you can – just drop me an email here for more details.
I am also doing a few other things in between mega adventures to keep up the training and fly the flag for Rat Race and White Star. There’s the Dorset Invader Marathon, the Man Vs Series, the Run Jurassic Series, Ultra Tour of Edinburgh, not to mention my first Threshold event at Race To the King. Basically it’s BUSY. But I am happy. And that’s the most important thing.
Finally – big announcement – Bad Boy Running are thrilled to have been asked to curate a new section at The National Running Show 2020. We have been given the honour of curating the Ultra Zone – a brand new zone that focuses completely on Ultras. We have our own stage, our own guests and our own talks and panels, We are in charge. We will be announcing out line up in the next month or so but if I were you I would get your tickets NOW because you DO NOT want to miss this. You can get your free ones here using my code AMB18. We have some of the biggest names in Ultra running confirmed and it’s going to be mega. You can register for your free ticket here. Massive thank to Mike for believing in us (and trusting us – he may regret this….)
I’m also going to try and bet better at this blogging thing – I have a lot to write about so not short on material – it’s just the time. Having said that I am happy to write for anyone else that fancies it. Just drop me a line and I will take a look at it. So yeah. That’s it. Whirlwind update done. See you next week. If I survive.