Thursday, 16 January 2014

Paul Hobrough, Physio&Therapy

Physio&TherapyPaul Hobrough 

Paul Hobrough - 

Is a specialist running physiotherapist and exercise physiologist, Paul spent sixteen years in the British Kayak Team racing all over the word at distances from 200m to 85 miles.

Paul setup Physio&Therapy UK in 2003 having missed out on qualification for the Athens Olympic Team. Since then he has worked with some of the World's top athletes including Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe, Steve Cram, Sonia O'Sulivan, Scott Overall, Marilyn Okoro and Laura Weightman.

Paul has clinics in London, Newcastle and Northumberland and using latest technology through his application iChat Physio clients from all over the world can enjoy a consultation with one of the World's leading running physiotherapists via Skype or Facetime.

For more information about Paul and Physio&Therapy visit:

You can follow Paul on Twitter at:

@corbridgephysio and or @ichatphysio


Paul will answer a selection during regular slots on the Podacst.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Archi's West Highland Way Race Report

Alistair Stewart, The West Highland Way Race 2013


I first learned about Ultra marathons some years ago, I think through an article in the Telegraph.  Of the races referenced by the journalist, two really captured my imagination The West Highland Way Race and The Marathon Des Sables.Impressed by the runners  but unable to relate to these ‘super-humans’ I no doubt put down the magazine, exhausted from reading the article and picked up a pork pie and bottle of beer to recover, well probably several of each, I was more than a little overweight and decidedly sedentary then.

Four years later having completed an ultra-marathon I recalled reading that first article and was amazed at how quickly perspective changes; now I thought ‘I could do that’, well only one way to find out …..
The Marathon Des Sables was simply a matter of registering my interest and then waiting, details in hand, for entries to open, following the organisers advice I was ready and waiting, refreshing the entry page until the magic moment it went live and I autofilled my way to the Sahara. Getting the pop-up message confirming I had indeed secured a place was a real gulp moment not least as it meant telling MRS S.  Never one to let bravery get in the way of cowardice, several weeks later I casually mentioned it and sometime after that, certainly measured in weeks not days MRS S started speaking to me again.

The West Highland Way Race is trickier to enter, quite rightly there are qualifying standards, full details of the entry requirements and process are available here, of the races on my calendar prior to the entry deadline, I felt the Hardmoors 60 would provide the best chance for fulfilling the qualifying standards and being selected to run.  I was absolutely gutted therefore when injury forced a DNF and resolved to waiting another year to tackle The West Highland Way Race. 

When entries opened for The West Highland Way Race almost out of morbid curiosity I re-read the entry page and found a glimmer of hope 24 hour races looked like they may hold some sway with the entry panel, having run and thoroughly enjoyed The Adidas Thunder Run an off-road 24 Hour race during the summer, I was hopeful I could make ‘the cut’. I duly completed the entry and waited with baited breath for the outcome. Which is of itself, given you are reading this, fairly obvious! I was in.

Training and preparation

At the time of entry I was struggling with a busy job and a near 4 hour daily commute, forcing me to run at a fairly obscene time of day to get in my target 50 or so miles per week.  A mixture of work pressures and a lingering hamstring injury reduced my weekly average to between 35-40 miles.  The longest mid-week run I could fit in was 6 Miles.  I found it difficult at the very early hour I was running, to commit to speed, tempo and hill workouts and logged too many junk miles.

Those work pressures came to a head when, along with my colleagues we lost the fight to save the company we worked for and called in the administrators; what was pretty bad news for my pride and finances would be great news for my training, surely a few months away from work, its stresses and that daily commute would put me in a great position for an awesome time at The West Highland Way Race?
A mixture of other factors the job search, interview preparation and the interviews themselves, school holidays and house maintenance meant that I didn’t ‘smash’ training between March and starting back at work just before the race in June in the way that I thought I would.

On reflection the factors mentioned above must really sit in the excuses box, had I simply got up and gone out before breakfast as I always have, when in work,  I could then have hit my mileage, met my other responsibilities easily and found a little more time in which to relax.

Happily though it was not all doom and gloom, I was able to lift my average mileage to 45 miles per week and increase the length of one or two of my mid-week runs.  Not as frequently as I had intended or perhaps with the intensity that would truly see improvements, I did also slot in some speed work and hill repeats.
An aspect of my training that I believe was just about spot on was the build-up in terms of long runs, in the ten weeks or so leading up to WHW I ran a trail marathon, forty mile ultra-marathon and three self-supported marathon length or longer runs and paced a friend over thirty-five miles at his hundred plus mile debut .

How then did I feel as I entered the taper?  In pretty good condition, if I have felt better I don’t remember when however still some way from where I felt I should be to do justice to the race and myself.  Weight wise, whilst not lean I was reasonably happy at 82KG, as an aside I was a little worried at the pre-race weigh-in to learn that in my kit I weighed 85KG, I either packed my heavy shoes or had really enjoyed the taper.

Outside comfort eating was I besieged by ‘taperitis’ and doubts? No, in fact I felt confident and didn’t worry too much, if at all, about completing, it is a race with generous cut-offs, I was however very concerned about how long I may be out on the course. Having reserved a hotel room for the Saturday night, with the race start at 1AM I was anxious I might not see much, if anything at all, of the bed or shower and worse still might miss breakfast!

Support Crew

My team consisted of my Uncle Keith, TBTRP co-presenter Phil Turton and his daughter the effervescent Pia , sadly Gary Linacre had been side-lined with a knee injury just a couple of weeks before the event. Tim and Pia were going to join the race from Beinglas Farm onwards.We proceeded with caution hoping that the Phil ‘sicknote’ Turton’s reputation hadn’t reached the ears of Ian Beattie and his team, a man who has injured himself on all but one trail race he has ever run would perhaps be deemed an unsuitable support runner for the WHWR.

Joking aside Phil was not fully recovered from his recent knee issues and whilst capable of meeting the race requirements of finding me in an emergency or supporting me safely to the end at a decent hikeif needed  he would struggle to move too quickly. I was setting out very much with the aim to run the distance alone unless it was unsafe to do so, as such hoped, in the nicest possible way not to put Phil’s recovery to the test. 

Race plan and time prediction

When I entered it was with a start and finish same day goal therefore sub 23 hours as an A goal and sub 24 hours as the B goal.  Two things happened prior to race day excluding my lack of training to substantially dull my expectations:


As both crew and pacer I saw Producer Tim’s HM110 first hand and boy did it hurt; Tim’s courage tofinish was a great inspiration, the pain he went through a catalyst for anxiety and doubt; Tim was a few hours outside of where I thought he would finish.


The second confidence shredder was looking up our very own ‘Man of Steele’ Jon Steele’s finish times.  Jon and I had both ran The Dukeries Ultra, a little over a month from the start of the WHWR, Jon finished a good half an hour up on me, if he was putting half an hour into me over 40 miles should I expect the gap to be much wider over 95? Jon’s three WHWR finishes range from 30:27 to 24:25.
With all of the above in mind, I settled on sub 25 and 26 hour finishes as A and B goals.

In terms of race strategy having seen the wheels come off Tim in quite spectacular fashion, you can read my report on crewing and pacing for Tim here, there was no question in my mind that a slow start was the order of the day, I definitely planned to follow the sensible ultra-runners maxim of ‘start slowly and just when you think you are going too slowly, slow down some more’. The only counter point to that strategy came from a conversation with Ian Beattie, eight time finisher and race director who put forward a hypothesis that having fresh legs when it got dark would prove something of a waste and should I be in striking distance of the finish before darkness not to hold back.

Race Day

I was staying with my uncle in Bridge of Allan and had travelled up on the Thursday so a leisurely Friday punctuated by an afternoon nap were surely the order of the day? That was certainly the plan, a little restless though I thought a nice walk out, might be fun. Somehow this leisurely walk turned into a speed ascent and descent of nearby Ben A’an:

Which was absolutely fantastic fun, the views from the summit more than justifying the effort expended to get there:

I did however finish absolutely drenched in sweat and decided it was definitely time to head back to my Uncle’s, to rehydrate and rest.

It’s under an hour from Bridge of Allan to Milngavie so we were able to set off quite late and still reach the start with time to socialise. It was great to meet up with Garry Scott who I had interviewed for The British Trail Running Podcast just a few weeks earlier and to see his support crew of Shirley Colquhon and Jon Steele, now that is what I call a support crew.


As is observed by nearly everyone there is real pleasure to be derived from the juxtaposition between 180+ runners, with head torches, trail shoes and packs and the urban town centre setting of the start; it meant a huge amount to me, this being the scene at the start of almost every Youtube clip I have obsessed over, to be running under the bridge and out into the town centre; finally a ‘West Highland Wayer’ it felt sublime.

I initially jogged alongside Garry Scott until I remembered our very different race aspirations, Garry realised his ambitions and then some with a 21:10:49 finish, well done Garry, I dropped back a little and let, what felt like every runner in the race, pass me.

In the humid conditions, with a steady drizzle and occasional showers my Montane Featherlite Smock was an invaluable piece of equipment, light really breathable it kept me dry and warm in spite of the rain.
I really focused on running light and easy but slow, I passed through The Beech Tree Inn without seeing my crew but was buoyed by the encouragement of all the support crews and had a little ‘lets see if they are so enthusiastic in another twenty hours’ smile to myself, this born out of crewing and pacing Producer Tim at the recent Hardmoors 110 which was exhausting.

I ran happily enjoying the conditions, warm, a little humid with a light drizzle. The approach to and up Conic Hill in the breaking light is as everyone suggests simply stunning and very energising, perhaps a little too vitalising as I started to push the downhill I reflected on the wise words of John Kynaston, not a direct quote but along the lines of ‘people will push it down Conic Hill, fatiguing their quads, they may put 5 or 6 minutes into you here however you will most likely see them again and you may put 2-3 hours into them later’, I slowed and slalomed rather more casually down the rest of the descent.


I was delighted to reach Balmaha feeling fresh, nice mentally to know you are more than a fifth into the race; when running my mind works very much like this, taking the race and breaking it into blocks of time or distance, one fifth done four fifths to go.
Whilst not quite consuming the volume of liquids I had planned I was close and slurping on my food of choice, for long efforts, Perpetuem.


At Rowardennan the midgies announced themselves in molten black swarm clouds, I was quickly covered by the critters, it felt like my bald head was being covered by a wriggling black toupee of biting insects.
I tend to take a fairly nasty reaction to bites, during my time in Asia I virtually had to bathe in insect repellent to avoid the mosquitoes, I therefore hoped that the good Scottish blood in my veins would be deemed far too tawdry and domestic to these wee critters and that they would go after the more exotic juices flowing through the English runners. Either I was right or they just weren’t hungry, as in spite of being covered by the buggers I didn’t seem to pick up a bite.

After a quick stop, a little way down the road I remembered my promise to MRS S to at least manage to check in with her at home once or twice. I dialled her up and we had a quick exchange ‘how do you feel?’, ‘fine thank-you’, ‘how far have you gone?’, ‘around 27 miles’, ‘is that all, I thought you would have managed at least forty miles by now!’, ‘catch you later’.  Suitably motivated by my wife’s support, on I ran phone in hand, intrigued by the app, that would post my time and position through the checkpoints I brought up Facebook and read that I was in 145th position, whilst wanting a conservative start, I was pretty bummed to be so far back, time then to push a little, I consulted my handy double sided pace plan and profile map (I’d recommend the production of something similar to anyone attempting a long ultra, it was brilliant to have a sense of where I was and what was coming up as a very easy reference, I really missed it later when fiddling with my pack I must have dropped it), noting a decent flat section, let’s make make some time up I thought …….

Loch Lomond

This was one of two surprises of the race, midge, rock and tree root infested here was the only section of the race where my sense of humour left me, keen to press on, inhibited by the terrain and besieged by midgies I worked myself up into a fairly foul temper. Luckily for the crew, you don’t see them through this section.


Reaching Inversnaid, I took full advantage of the chairs in the tent to rest and consume the contents of my drop bag, hungrily destroying what became my fuel of choice throughout, liquorice and Peparami. I was happy to swap the Perpetuem in the bottle on the front of my pack for Lucozade Elite (not that I am a big fan but the bottles it come in are great and fit the front bottle holders on my Nathan vest perfectly) once emptied I use them for Perpetuem.

Onwards then, very much restored, I now started for the first time to realise I was consistently passing other runners not something that I have managed in any other race for a prolonged period of time, I of course have read how motivating this is, it was so much better in practice than I had imagined.

Beinglas Farm

My crew chief Uncle Keith, had done a very fine job to this point, and continued to do so, however it was great to see Phil Turton and the little ray of sunshine that is Pia his daughter.  Uncle Keith wisely, was taking a nap, Phil and Keith would alternate support over the next couple of crew points to facilitate some well-earned rest for each. Phil guided me down from the trail and provided me with the most delicious ham sandwich. Phil saw me off with real enthusiasm, which added to my general feelings of strength and wellbeing.


The West highland Way was much busier now with walkers who in the main, were very courteous and encouraging, earlier runners, of which there were many, had clearly explained where these smelly, shaggy runners had started from and were going to as a result many walkers clapped or offered kind words of encouragement, there were however some notable exceptions with several walking groups seemingly determined to make at least this pesky runner ‘yield’ and let them, four or five stern faced people abreast, pass. In such good humour I refused to allow this to dampen my spirits and greeted and passed them all with cheery words about the beauty of the day, West Highland Way, joys of being outdoors and sharing the joys together hopefully this shamed them a little and they provided some space for my fellow runners to pass further down the route.

One set of very sociable runners invited me and a chap I had just caught up with to sit and enjoy the West Highland Way, as in their opinion it should be, midgie nets on, butties out and cans of cider to the fore, the runner with me, wide eyed at the sight of cider took them up on their offer, respect but not for me.
I entered the checkpoint and jumped on the scales for the mandatory weigh-in, very Intrigued to see the result I was happy to learn I had only lost just under 2KG. A quick change of socks, regretfully Phil had the plasters and lubricant, shoes back on and a quick munch on a tub of cup noodles and I was away. I would regret not paying more attention to my feet here and at Bridge of Orchy where I did get the plasters and lube from Phil.

Bridge of Orchy

The approach to this section provides great opportunity to run and I was delighted that both my mind and legs were in a cooperative mood. More positions gained, inspired by the runnable terrain and incredible scenery I pressed on whilst not floating on euphoria certainly enjoying a healthy runners high.
Another quick stop here, more encouragement from Keith and Phil punctuated by the effervescent smiles and entertaining chat of Pia.

Jelly Baby Hill (Murdo’s Hill)

On the approach to greet Murdo, passing runners with ease, whilst not running uphill, I was certainly managing the ‘speed-hike’ I have read, particularly American runners allude to.  Passing a charming young couple and enquiring as to the runners condition, I received ‘surviving’ as the response to which I responded ‘me too’ and got in return ‘hardly, you are looking a good deal better than that, the pace you are moving at’, pacer to runner as I carried on up ‘he looks like he is going to break into a run’ well it would have been rude not to. As I passed Murdo he commented that I was the first person he had seen running up that section for a long time, the euphoria ebbed away and some nerves set in, I had been moving well and passing runners for some hours now, had I overcooked it, I started to focus on the distance to go and slowed markedly; happily common sense and the pre-race talking to I had given myself settled in and I resolved to think only of the distance to the next check point.

Rannoch Moor

Like I am sure many a runner before me and no doubt many after, has and will report this is the quiet assassin of the course, the trails look wide, and well groomed, your feet quickly tell you another story this is one rocky stretch of trail, race surprise number two. These sections exposed a mistake the wonderful Patagonia Forerunner Evo I had worn throughout simply provided too little rock protection and were working my feet too hard.  After several miles within metres of each other the blisters that had come up on the heel of my feet burst, a most disconcerting rush of bloody puss flowing through the heel of my socks. This focused my attention on my feet and a realisation that they were feckin well hurting, I decided though the damage was done and there was no point dwelling on it, I have found before that the body will take over after a time and consign the pain as not significant; you still know it’s there but can carry on relatively unaffected, must have been some more ‘runners high’.

Glen Coe

I was delighted to arrive at Glencoe and somewhat charmed to see Uncle Keith taking a power nap. I opened the boot, quietly and went about getting the provisions I required. Clearly not quietly enough though as quickly I was joined and looked after by Keith and then Phil. My consumption of food and pertpetuem had started to tail off for some time, I had been emptying the contents of my perpetuem bottles before check-points to at least give the illusion I was getting some calories. Keith and Phil gave me the ‘hard word’ as they had been instructed to do, I appreciated this and ignored it all the same. They insisted on heating up some of the stew I had prepared, I talked them into driving down to Kingshouse, so that I could get on my way and promised to eat some there – Liar!


I waved the the guys off telling them I was going to press on, result I thought, pesky crew thinking they could dictate to me. As ever in life just when you think you have been clever, really clever you realise you have made a mistake. In my rush I had not picked up the next section of map or my headtorch. Whilst, so long as everything went to plan I was confident I wouldn’t need either, mindful that things often don’t go to plan I thought it sensible, given I didn’t have a support runner to pair up with the runners in front.

The Devils Staircase

Simon and Garraint were fantastic company, after seventy or so solo miles of running it was really lovely to have a chat, we swapped backgrounds and motivations as we ascended the The Devils Staircase. Simon (runner) and Garraint (pacer) were ascending a little slower than I might have on my own, I was enjoying their company a great deal though and resolved to stay with them. Which I did almost to Kinlochleven, Simon was fading quite badly though and after the third runner past us just outside Kinlochleven I reluctantly let the chaps know I felt a little fresher and would press on, I felt a little guilty having enjoyed there company so much but just couldn’t let anyone else past, where had competitive Archi, emerged from?
On reflection not picking up the map and torch, so as to feel I should and did sensibly pair up was in terms of finish time a huge mistake. I am certain I could have ascended and descended this section much quicker on my own and taking that additional daylight into Lhairigmor would have been invaluable.


On the approach I caught one of the runners who had passed me and we both glugged as much liquid as we could to ensure that we didn’t fall foul of the ‘weigh-in’. Great news at the weigh-in this tactic had worked and according to the scales I had put on 1KG from Auchtertyre. As it turns out, this was not good news. Ascending out of Kinlochleven I was aware that my hands were quite swollen and I was very, very thirsty in spite of the large volume of fluid just consumed. A run through of what I had been drinking pointed to the reason, I had planned to alternate the fluid in my bladder between water and electrolyte solution (for taste this was prepared at half the recommended strength), what in reality I had done was finish up the ten litres or so of water and then switch to Electrolyte.  Judging that should I attempt to slake my thirst I may head towards hyponatremia, I ate more salty peparami and took confidence from my self-assessment that I had enough fluids I just needed more salt, I sipped the Electrolyte solution through the rest of the section.


I made really good time out of Kinlochleven and almost couldn’t believe how well I was moving across Lhairigmor, the light started to ebb away, I left my head torch off as long as I could, much longer than those around me and I was passing. Finally I had to yield and switched on the torch.
Ian Beattie’s advice was at the forefront of my mind instantly, with the torch on, I lost depth perception and on the rocky trail found it incredibly difficult to keep to a pace. This is a tough section, it was by now raining heavily, water was coursing down the mountains and across the trail. I tried to keep the running pace up however on my third and very nearly final ankle sprain, I decided that finishing without a broken bone took precedent over time at this stage.

Reduced to walking I was pleased with my decision to swap to the heavier waterproof jacket and for the first time ever ran in full length waterproof trousers; these were perhaps overkill however I thought this sensible as I had opted not to have a support runner, better to be slightly warm than wandering around on the cusp of hyponatremia and hypothermia; I can’t tell you how close the margin of error was, should I have tried to slake my thirst and had not decided to err on the side of caution with my attire, I am certain I could have ended up in trouble at this point.

The walk up to Lundavra, the final crew point really dragged, without time reference, the Garmin had given up at Glencoe, my pace sheet and profile map, out in the dark on a very remote section, unable to maintain a run in spite of feeling strong my mood really dipped.


It was therefore so uplifting to see the bonfire and hear the music of the Lundavra crew point, I jogged up to the stop, to the Rocky music and went straight for the car. Several handfuls of salty crisps and a good swig of electrolyte I felt restored and again turning down real food I picked up some gels, topped up the bladder and headed for town.

I picked up a second head torch, regretting bitterly that I had not taken up Phil’s offer earlier of taking his bike torch, which over Lhairigmor may have kept me running, using one around the waist and one on the head, I could again make some good progress.

I absolutely loved the section from Lundavra to the fire track which takes you down towards and ultimately in to Fort William. There were what felt like a group of runners who must have left Lundavra just after me, I could hear them and see their lights, this spurred me on and through the single track forest paths, I pressed as hard as I dare on my now swollen and sore sprained ankles, the single tracks were interspersed with steps and rocks and I did my best to build a gap up on the runners behind.

Gradually I could no longer hear or see them and I eased off a little. As I approached the wide, fire track that would take me down, past the Braveheart carpark I saw a light behind me again, not wanting to provide a target, I switched off my lights and ran the first few stitch backs, able to get by on the well groomed trails without further damaging my ankles.

Fort William

Emerging from the trail startling a young lad walking up the road, I asked for and was given directions to the leisure centre, lucky I asked, as left to my own devices I would have missed the chalk mark and set off in the wrong direction. I managed a very slow jog to the roundabout, picking up my feet a little as I got closer to the leisure centre, only to be accosted by a group of lads, presumably a support team, in a van who wanted directions to the Nevis Centre, where they told me I must be going, I patiently explained it was the leisure centre I was going to and they probably wanted, twice, they seemed set to argue the point with a shake of my head I carried on leaving them to work it out for themselves.

In to the carpark and up to the doors, I checked in, was weighed and read my finish ticket …….. 25:23 for 80th place. Any disappointment I had over the finish time, was overshadowed by having made up sixty-five places from Balmaha.


I was blessed with a great race, I felt strong throughout and was in no doubt I would reach the end.
The sense of achievement was heightened by not using a support runner. 

I just scraped in food wise, I should have eaten more. I will in future reverse my approach, where I usually start on pertepuem until I am sick of drinking my food and switch to real foods I will start with real foods whilst my stomach is in good condition and switch to drinking calories when eating becomes tougher.

Monitoring fluid levels and salt intake is really important; I just caught myself in time. Once again, my confidence in my feet coping with minimal shoes over a long race was misplaced and I really paid the price, finishing with blisters and bruises on the pads of my feet.

The race was everything I expected and more, it truly is a privilege to run such an incredible route in the company of so many likeminded people.

I will be back to do the race again and with the right preparation prior and correct pacing on the day am certain I can go under twenty three hours.


The West Highland Way Race was the first challenge of three I am running for Framework an East Midlands charity that help some of the most vulnerable members of society. The three challenges are:

1) Run the 95 mile West Highland Way, non-stop - complete
2) The British Ultrafest, a 48HR non-stop race around a 400m track (yes, 48HRS running in circles) - August 2013
3) The Marathon Des Sables, one of the toughest footraces on Earth, 250KM through the Saharan Desert - April 2014

Please visit:

Where you can read more, if you can donate to Framework it will make a difference to someones life and provide some much needed motivation to me throughout the training for and completion of my challenges.

Some images of The West Hghland Way

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Hardmoors 110 - A crew and pacer's perspective

Crewing and pacing at the Hardmoors 110

One of my favourite topics for magazine articles, blogs and discussions on podcasts is the role and experiences of pacers and crew, particularly where they are supporting a runner on a 100+ mile adventure. I was delighted therefore when Producer Tim asked me to crew and pace for him at the Hardmoors 110 and looked forward to supporting a runner for the first time.  That it would be Tim’s debut at the 100+ mile distance added to the anticipation but also introduced a little trepidation; would Tim not be better off with an experienced crew?

The weekend became a bit of a TBTRP adventure given that the race was conceived, founded and is directed by our resident Shire, former MR Hull and Humberside, Jon Steele, and my co-crew for the event would be Phil ‘sicknote’ Turton, podcast co-presenter.

The event

The Hardmoors 110 is one of the UK’s toughest running challenges, following the Cleveland Way from Helmsley over the North Yorks Moors onto the coast and through historic fishing villages to finish in Filey, at the school, almost the furthest possible building from the end of the Cleveland Way, getting an insight to the RD’s psyche? The 113 mile route, infamous for a mind boggling and leg smashing number of steps, offers runners a stiff c19,685ft of ascent.

The hero of the story, our runner

Tim ‘Timbonator’ Bateson, all round nice chap, technology geek, sub 3 hour marathoner and speed goat ultra runner, strong willed and never afraid to stand up and be counted, when focused Tim is one of the most single minded individuals I know, a key ingredient in his running success to date and very admirable however this strength of character could be challenging for a crew.


We had a quick discussion on what Tim would want and need; Tim produced and shared a pacing plan; I think he was reluctant to do this and publicly commit to what was a very ambitious ‘A’ goal however as crew we needed a guide as to when to expect him where and a framework around which to support and hopefully motivate him to that goal. Sensibly Tim had ‘B’ and ‘C’ goals too, Tim’s goals:

A) 24 Hour finish (to give this context only 5 people have ever gone sub 24 hours)
B) Top 10 finish
C) Sub 30 hour finish

Having previously run a 24HR event and craved ‘real food’ and hot food overnight, I prepped a chicken stew, some home-made pizza and fresh chick pea and roasted vegetable salad to which, with Turto in mind I added some salty crisps and pork pies thereby ensuring runner and crew would be well fed. Not wanting to spend the whole event sitting in a no doubt increasingly fragrant car I packed some collapsible chairs and of course being British made sure we had the means by which to make tea along the route.

We were electing to use my car; I therefore added Turto to the insurance and decided I really ought to familiarise myself with the driving opposed to running route to get us between checkpoints. Admittedly this was something of an afterthought, as it turns out a pretty important one, as neither Turto or I know the roads along the route very, if at all well. Several hours spent with OS maps, route guides, google and runners notes, liberal doses of head scratching, muttering and a little swearing later I had plotted the official check points, unofficial crew points and Tim’s placing plan onto one document, this proved time very well spent and meant that we were, where we needed to be, when we were supposed to be there, without stress or being lost once.

Race start

We dropped Turto’s car at the Finish and headed for the Start. In contrast to Tim’s usual composure, the hero of this story was starting to show and openly confessing to, some quite understandable pre-race nerves. Turto and I got busy with Podcast business taking some snaps and getting some audio.
My feelings at the start were a surprise to me a whole mixture of emotions were present, excitement, a few butterflies in my stomach for Timbo however and unexpectedly given HM110 is high up on my bucket list no sense whatsoever that I was missing out, turning to Turto and observing what appeared to be the same emotions we said in almost harmony, “usually I would be gutted to be missing out on a race but today I am pretty glad to be waving the runners off!”, it appears both Turto and I will need to visit the big boys pants shop and strap a pair on before debuting at our 100 milers. As we waved Tim off the question hung in the air, was Tim wearing his big boy pants? We knew he would certainly need them. I took some snaps of the race start and our hero was off.

The Race: Helmsley > White Horse > Osmotherley (0 – 23 miles)

Putting aside our own worries of getting lost, falling asleep and not being all that a crew should be our principle concern was that speed goat Tim, would get caught up in the excitement at the start and head off with the leaders, pre-race Tim assured us that he had learned that lesson truly and thoroughly, at the Hardmoors 60 where in his own words setting out too quickly led to a second half, “death march”. Knowing Tim’s competitive nature provided an anxious wait at the first checkpoint.
We watched the lead 4 runners ‘blast’ through White Horse, at a pace quicker than I run 9 miles on the road as a tempo run. They looked fresh, were chatting to each other and were full of smiles and waves for marshalls and support crew.

In all my praise for our hero’s running ability, dedication to training and strength of character I may not have mentioned he runs with all the grace of a Saturday night drunk after 10 cans of Special Brew, all too soon his distinctive gait came into view.

Our worst fears realised, in our view, our running hero’s opinion differs a little, you can read Tim’s write up at Tim’s Blog, he had set out way too fast.

Opposed to providing a race narrative, Tim’s blog covers this nicely, I’ll try and summarise the crew’s actions and feelings through this stage of the race. In short we were found wanting, in retrospect I feel we let our runner down by not being forceful enough in our reproach, he was running too quickly, needlessly running a long way in front of an ambitious pacing plan. I think as novice crew we were too concerned with remaining upbeat and encouraging, crewing for Tim or another runner again at this distance I would definitely risk upsetting the runner; thinking about this on reflection I would try and agree in advance clearer parameters for what the runner wants from a crew in relation to their race pacing and strategy.
It would, I believe, be useful to have some agreed language and or scale in advance relating to pacing, perhaps something like:

1) You look terrific are moving freely and this pace looks spot on for you
2) You look good are moving well be mindful you may be going out a little fast
3) You appear to be working harder, sweating and breathing more heavily than you should be at this stage it might be worth backing off through the next section and seeing how you feel and look at the next check point

4) YOU ARE working harder than you should be and the runners around you, YOU SHOULD, slow down, significantly or WILL almost certainly pay the price later
All of the above, of course, against the back drop that, it is the runner’s race and we are here to support them every inch of the way.

Suffice to say Turto and I were strongly of the opinion that Tim was running at stage 4 on my scale whereas he appeared to think he was between 1 and 2. First observation of crewing then, is that it is, very disconcerting to be so emotionally invested in the race and runner but unable to effect the outcome.
At mile 23, the Osmotherley checkpoint, Tim informed us that he would be taking a much slower approach, relative to his early pace, through to Carlton Bank. Turto and I shared a relieved look and our anxiety levels dropped a few notches.

Whilst relieved our runner had decided to turn off the after burners and wishing desperately to be wrong, we strongly suspected this would be a very tough race for our friend. Tim was drenched in sweat, breathing quite hard and a little ‘glassy eyed’.

Before setting off Tim did ask, “How do I look?”, whilst I am not sure what platitude I offered I remember thinking, if you need to ask you probably know the answer.
Waving Tim off into the dark, suspecting he had inflicted some early damage on his legs was tough, hmm perhaps there is more to this crewing lark, than eating the aid station food and offering encouragement in the form of ‘banter’, I recall thinking.

The Race: Osmotherley > Carlton Bank > Kildale > Slapewath (23 – 48 miles)

Darkness falls and the crew and runner head into the night. This is where the route preparation was vital, even when we were in the right spot on the moors we had to spend lots of time checking, it felt really remote in the car and we were very much in awe of the course and runners.
At Carlton Bank, I got the chairs, camping stove and kettle out much to Turto’s amusement who clearly thought this a little ‘overkill’, however the strong (I mean crack cocaine of coffee) imported Sumateran blend, brewed and drunk here certainly helped me fight the inevitable overnight fatigue MR I don’t do coffee or tea Turton did not fare so well in spite of his prodigious diet Pepsi intake.

The first chink in our hero’s armour was apparent at Carlton Bank where he expressed, “he felt his legs were a little leaden, on the downhills already”.  We administered the best available remedy, a nice cup of tea and then with encouraging words waved our runner on.
By Kildale Turto had surrendered to sleep, big snorting Mackem that he is, leaving me to set up our aid station and sit in the cold, much preferable to sharing the increasingly fragrant car; Phil being 15 packets of crisps and two litres of Diet Pepsi deep at this stage; mind nothing like a chick pea salad to settle the scores on that front. I tucked into some nice hot stew and another strong coffee.
Very pleasingly I judged almost to the second when Tim would arrive, the kettle water was just off the boil so Tim didn’t have to wait for tea and could gulp the brew made as it was not too hot. Confession time here, being a bit of a dandy when it comes to tea I had unthinkingly just grabbed a handful of bags from the caddy and unbeknownst to Tim he was drinking Bergamot Oil infused South African Roobois which whilst delicious is caffeine free, oops suspect a healthy dose of caffeine was in order, sorry Tim.

A quick summary from the crew’s perspective at this stage:

1) Preparing the driving route in advance made life much easier
2) It is really flippin emotional seeing your runner for just a few minutes at checkpoints, especially when you think they are heading for pain
3) Thinking about your own creature comforts, hot food, comfy chairs, lots of layers if it’s going to be cold, will help you help your runner
4) If you are crewing overnight you will be tired and strong coffee may be vital, it was for me
5) Overnight your runner is likely to prize a cup of tea, getting the kettle on at the right time is imperative
6) Fancy tea bags are probably not required!

Back to the run, Tim’s splits between checkpoints were slowing significantly and the glazed expression settling in as a permanent look. Pleasingly Tim paired up with Steve Jackson for this night section, helping with navigation and company and settling the nerves of his anxious crew.

The Race: Slapewath > Saltburn > Staithes > Runswick Bay > Sandsend (48 – 79 miles)

“This, is going to be a very long and hard race”, Tim sat in chair outside the Fox and Hounds at Slapewath.

Tim, managed a full gamut of emotions through these sections all of which were mirrored and reciprocated by Turto and I, if the runner feels low so do you, when your runner hits a high you are almost ecstatic it is exhausting, admittedly not quite as tiring as running 113 miles.

Our lowest moment as runner and crew came at Staithes:

“You can only make a judgement based on what you can see now and I hate to say it but he is looking like a DNF to me”, yours truly having just witnessed a very jaded and extremely pissed off Tim.

“Never, never, ever again, will I ever run a 100 miler, what is the point of this; do I even want to finish this race?” I think is pretty much Tim’s quote.

It perhaps didn’t help that his erstwhile crew were sat in the early morning sun drinks and bacon butties in hand. We managed to get more tea into Tim but no real food.

It is strongly my belief Tim wasn’t eating enough, in fairness he does appear to be able to function on a handful of fig rolls however believe he would have benefitted from a more calories by way of real food and see this as a crew learning point; I will in future get out a smorgasbord of available foods at every stop to try and tempt my runner and be a little me forceful in getting them to eat. This was reinforced when the uber experienced marshall Dave Hetherington bullied Tim into a cup of soup he didn’t initially want which Tim quickly polished off, going back for a second.

Tim asked if I would ‘hop on’ a little earlier joining him from Robins Hood Bay opposed to Ravenscar as we had planned.  Having spent all night watching runners, the pent up energy combined with concern for Tim led to me kitting up and hitting the road at Sandsend. This hopefully boosted Tim.

The Race: Sandsend > Ravenscar > Filey (79 – 113 miles)

I have only paced once before, Turto from Scarborough to Filey at the end of his HM60.  What worked then, a constant stream of inane banter, insults, 1,2,3,4 Phillip isn’t running anymore 5,6,7,8 he wishes there were lots of pies he hadn’t ate, type ditties and all my worst jokes “dyslexic man walk in to a ….. bra” were not going to work with Tim.

“This is a pig who refuses to have lipstick painted on”, my response to Turto’s enquiries as to the wellbeing of my runner. Tim, was miserable in such a resolute fashion that I can only liken it to the type of intense purposeful ‘talk to the hand the face ain’t listening’ stupor usually the preserve of teenagers being dragged around a Garden Centre en route to spending the day helping their Grandparents gardening.

We fell into as close to a personable silence as we could manage and hit a kind of routine whereby I tried to encourage a reluctant Tim to drink and eat, it went something like this:

“Tim, what have you eaten in the last half an hour?”
“I have gels and fig rolls”
“Great Tim, how many have you eaten?”
“I’ll eat one now”

And then a few miles later:

“Tim, what have you drunk in the last half an hour?”
“I have plenty of water”
“Great Tim, how much have you drunk?”
“I’ll drink now”

I got the distinct impression Tim flirted with trying to convince me to retire from pacing duties, albeit briefly, in part in recognition of the journey in front and in part to prevent further nagging.
It was clear from before Ravenscar, I could, happily, let go of any DNF worries sadly though Tim’s own predictions were looking very accurate it was indeed going to be a long and painful day for a runner unused to walking anything other than the steepest of ascents. Tim’s concerns that it would be a long slog for me as a pacer were unfounded it was simply the most inspiring journey; to watch first hand a runner dig so deep was a true privilege.

A few things that worked for Tim on that run / walk to the end:

1) Having me run in front, banned at some events, so that he could fall ‘in to step’ and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other at the same pace
2) Running and walking to a fixed duration, we settled on 2 minutes running 2 minutes walking, as I had the watch this may have been a little closer to 3 minutes running 2 minutes walking and at times 4 minutes and 2. If Tim noticed he didn’t mention it
3) Having a definite countdown of miles, I reset the watch at Scarborough so that we could be sure about how far was left

There are a few moments worthy of re-telling through that section:

Running along Scarborough sea front, approaching two families discussing the merits of one families dog, “I would highly recommend them, they make a great family pet”, seconds before this great family pet, sank its teeth into my calf.

A definite pacer and runner disagreement over the best diversion out of Scarborough where the sea was coming over the wall preventing use of the usual route, zig zagging up the hill Tim wanted to go up on to the road and follow that, I opted for losing a little height and regaining it to join the usual path. Tim was not amused but a more emboldened and decisive pacer by this point I offered no choice.

Post-race it has become apparent that the section near Osgodby had caused an amount of controversy, folklore seemed to promote that dropping down from the road in Osgodby to Cayton Bay to run along the bottom before climbing back up to the road further down was optional. Our hero of the evening, night, day and evening with a little over 100 miles in his legs was initially all for exercising this option. After some consideration, much muttering and some swearing not entirely directed at his pacer Timbo decided, with a little persuasion to stay on the course based on the following thoughts, presented in order of importance:

1) He could call Turto a girl, as he had mistakenly, in the dark missed this on the HM60
2) It was clear he would get an unfair advantage over the lady in front with whom he had been exchanging positions over the past 10 miles or so
3) As he was definitely never, ever, ever, never again running this race had better do the ‘whole’ course
With dark threats that I should pick the largest hill Fort William has to offer at the end of my upcoming West Highland Way Race and bash out 5 miles of hill repeats, preferably wearing nothing more than a Union Jack mankini and with a water bottle shoved somewhere sensitive, in order to fully appreciate what I was asking of him, Tim manfully negotiated the very tough descent and ascent.

With Filey in sight, Tim returned to something close to the Tim I know leaving behind his dark 100+ mile ultra running alter ego and started to chat breezily about his Army days and the benefit that has brought to his depth of strength when running.

We met Phil on the road outside the School and Tim managed a remarkable trot in to the school to claim 8th place in a very good debut time of 28hrs and 1 minute, what had all the fuss and worry been about? Those big boy pants had been on under his running tights all the time.

I can’t write up this journey of crewing and pacing without taking a brief pause to tell you how inspiring Tim’s performance was, more so for the early pace and resultant difficulty in the second half. To be so far in the hole physically and mentally with 50+ miles to go and pull through was and is incredible and will be the benchmark I will measure myself against in the future.

Tim, reading this will I am sure take issue with some of my opinion on his pacing; whilst I stand firm in my view that his race was disproportionately influenced by those first 23 miles, I suspect not even Tim can truly know, of the two of us he is clearly better positioned to take a firm view so if in doubt as a reader I’d suggest siding with the runner.

I find it hard to summarise succinctly the experience for me, if you have made it this far, you will have, by now, realised brevity is not in my nature, my best attempt is below:


Some footnotes to the report above:

The first courtesy of Ben Davies, quoting from the Cleveland Way Guide “to walk the route is likely to take 9 days or slightly more if you choose a gentler pace”, it took Tim a little over a day.

Second another crew oversight and key learning point, Tim ran the entire race in tights, long sleeved top with short sleeved t-shirt over the top, which kept him warm through the night but must have been roasting through what was a hot day. I did try and convince Tim to freshen up his clothing to no avail, I should have been more forceful, his body must have expended untold, unnecessary energy trying to cool down.

Most importantly crewing, being awake all night and then pacing is tiring, do not, jump off the course shake your runners hand and drive two and a half hours home, I nodded off twice whilst driving which is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID.

And finally …… hopefully Tim will accept any observations are made as such, only my opinion retold to provide a crew and pacers view of the race. Tim’s performance to place 8th in his first 100+ mile race, arguably one of UK’s toughest, is not to be underestimated it was and is awesome, I am certain there is a quicker finish there to be had and don’t doubt should he be minded to he could join the other 5 sub 24 hour finishers, yes you read that correctly only 5 people have ever gone under 24 hours.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hardmoors 110 - My first 100 miler

This is my recourse of my Hardmoors 110 race this year. I started Ultra running last year and as part of my journey of learning to be a runner of trails, I had heard some people say that you are not really an Ultra runner until you have run a 100 mile race. So I decided to pick the Hardmoors 110 as my first 100, as it seemed like a real challenge. I was not sure how many 100s I would ever run. My attempt at running a 100 is as a one off, a challenge and achievement, so I thought I would pick a 100 that was challenging and rewarding. I do not find this complement easy to pass on as a Lancastrian, but the North Yorkshire Moors and coast are very beautiful part of Britain and decided that in for a penny in for a pound and I might as well go for the fully monty of 100 milers, the Hardmoors 110 which follows the Cleveland Way in North Yorkshire and actually weighs in at 113 miles with 19,685 feet feet of ascent.

I ran the HM55 and HM60 races  to get a feel for the route, and that was also a big plus for the Hardmoors series. Running the route as part of other races, is an ideal way to recce the full HM110 course. My combined times for HM55 and HM60 are just under 22 hours and after doing some number crunching for the past two years for people that had run the HM55 and HM60, who then subsequently ran the HM110, I deducted that if you had added 3 to 4 hours onto the combined times of the HM55 and the HM60 results you would get an approximate finish time for the HM110. BUT, I decided that my HM60 result was slow as I set off too fast and had to slow down. So I decided that I would aim for around 24 hours and if things went really well then I might even make sub 24 hours. I knew that this was a long shot though, as it was my first 100. The more realistic goals for me were to complete the race in under 30 hours, to get a top 10 finish and lastly if all else failed was to make sure I finished!

So after leaving work on Friday the 24th of May, Phill and I headed down to Filey to pick up Alistair. I should perhaps explain that Phill Turton and Alistair Stewart were to be my race crew. Unless you have run a qualifying race, then all competitors must have a support crew. I initially thought this was a little unnecessary, but having Phill and Archi there to help me made a big difference to me. I seriously doubt I would have finished at all without their tireless help and energy over the course of the weekend. So let me pass a BIG thank you to you both. After picking up Alistair at Filey we headed for Helmsley and the start of the race.

Once at Filey, Phill and Alistair got to work as fellow podcasters and started interviewing people involved in organising the race and the those running the race. Phill is shown below interviewing Jon Steele (Race Director) just before the race briefing. I was milling around and chatting to other runners. The weather was better than forecast. It has been raining most of the day, but the clouds had lifted and the sun had come out to greet us for the start of the race. By this time I was just wanting to get running and get the event under way.

As we get ready for the off the sun is out in full force and the strong winds of they day before have been reduced to a gentle breeze. Once we were running I seemed to settle into fifth place there was a light wind on our back and weather was great. I was not wearing a watch or any timing devices and just ran by feel. I passed through the first check point at the White Horse and was about 20 minutes up on my time according to me crew. By the checkpoint at Osmotherley I could tell that Alistair and Phill were getting concerned by the pace I was running at. I was no over an hour up on my predicted pacing guides. However, my pacing guides showed a consistent pace for the whole run, I did know that the pace would need slow down for the next section as we picked through the Cleveland Hills. I decided to take a mini break at Osmotherley and take on extra food and fluids ready for the night section. On leaving Omostherley the terrain soon became more undulating and I settled into an easier pace.  As it get dark some of the navigation was a little tricky as a heavy mist had at settled on the hills. On approaching junctions in the trail, I was beginning to get unsure of my direction and  I could tell that someone was approaching me so as they caught up to me, I found it was Steve Jackson who I did not know personally, but I knew of him as a regular to the HM race series. So I decided to buddy with Steve so we could keep each other company through the night. I would like to pass on a huge thanks to Steve for the night section. We picked our way across Lord Stones, Wainstones in difficult misty conditions and navigation was a bit tricky at times. We did have one minor confusion after coming of Roseberry Topping that we sorted out as the mist cleared and we noticed a shining head torch descending Roseberry Topping, meaning we had started to run back towards Roseberry Topping! Tempting though it was to go up and down again, we decided to do an about turn and head in the right direction again :) After the blustery freezing conditions last time I ran across Bloworth Crossing it was much gentler to us this time, with a light cross wind and heavy mist. The only issue was with stumbling on rocks. Both Steve and I took at least one tumble. As we entered Guisborough Woods, the sun was starting to make its presence felt.
The sounds of birds singing in the woods was very uplifting. I have never heard so many birds singing in once place before. This is Steve and I at the Fox and Hounds pub just after leaving Guisborough Woods. Archi was making us both a well needed cup of tea, before we set off for Saltburn. I was looking forward to getting to Saltburn and running along the coastal cliffs top. It was also a relief to make it through the night without any serious mishaps, As we approached Saltburn Steve started to slow down and I found myself running on my own, and forgot about needing to turn into Saltbrun park and carried on running up the hill! I had to double back and found some other runners that new which turning to take! At Saltburn Steve looked as though he was in pain, he would not continue running.
On leaving Saltburn and getting onto the cliffs the sun was out in its full glory and that lifted my spirits. Here are some scenic shots taken by my crew of this wonderful section. This is my favourite section of HM series. Glorious sunshine and great views added to the day:)

By the check point at Runswick Bay I had adopted a a jog/walk strategy. Was the fast start now catching up with me, or was I always going to slow down at around this point? I know Phill thinks that if I had started steadier I would have been still moving a little easier at that this stage. I took a mini break at this section and drank two cups of soup provided by David Heatherington one of the race volunteers/marshal for the day. The soup and can of coke greatly helped topping up my energy levels. By this stage of the run my body was getting very good at reminding me that I needed to be eating at least once an hour or my energy levels would start to nosedive. My main food/energy during the run was fig rolls, energy gels and sports drinks.  The longer the run went I was better able to listen to my body and take on food to keep my energy levels up. I also asked Alistair at this checkpoint if he would start running with from Robin Hoods Bay. I now knew that I was starting to slow and that I would not be making 24 hours. What was a great feeling at this checkpoint was thinking that I would hopefully be able to finish in under 30 hours. The weather was so fabulous at this point that having to walk and run felt like a bonus as it let me enjoy the weather even more.

The next major checkpoint was Ravenscar and there was some undulating ravines to help remove excess energy from the legs. Ravenscar also marked that I was getting close to the 100 mile point which was a great feeling as well. I also knew that the last 13 miles were going to take a little longer than expected. I was still in the top 10 though and my sub 30 hour time was still looking good. It was great to have Archi to talk to through these latter sections and the weather was still great. By this stage of the run though I was also definitely fully understanding terms like its about putting one foot in front of each and keeping moving.  My feet were starting to hurt from blisters, my legs were getting very tired and I had to sort of build up to my slow trotting speed gradually. I think I did tend to zone out at times even with Archi there and just make sure I was moving forward.

Approaching the finish at Filey, taking a little walk break before getting ready to trot in to the finish.

HM110 completed in 28:01:22 and finished in 8th place overall. A result.

I was delighted to have finished my first every 100 (113) mile run and was pleased to have held on to a top 10 finish as well.

It is now 5 days since I finished the HM110 and have spent some time reflecting. I entered the 100 mile event as one off and that is still how I feel now. I have no sudden urge to enter another 100 :) I think for me the challenge of completion was the goal. When I started running about 4 years ago now I always knew I enjoyed running on trails and my love of trails led me towards Ultra Running. Really, really pleased and proud to have run 50 mile, 100km and 100 mile events. I would now class myself as an Ultra Runner, but and yes there is a BUT. I am not sure if in the short term that Ultra running will be my main focus. I have trained really hard for 2.5 years with virtually no breaks and think I have earned some time off. I know that after running the 100km it left a question in my mind about what type of running do I enjoy. After completing a 100 miler as well now, I have an answer to my question. I like running quickly for up to 3 to 4 hours more than I do for 10 hours plus. So I am thinking that next year I will look to take part in more fell races and trail marathons. I will possibly run one Ultra a year and that will be no longer than 100km. I do not really have the time to dedicate to running and racing multiple Ultras in a year. The amount of time given my crew Alistair and Phill for the HM110 is debt I need to repay to them at some point as well. So I want to hold some time in reserve to help them. I also owe my family some me time as well!

What a weekend and the HM110 is truly epic event and one that I am very proud to have completed and taken part in. The organisation of the race was fantastic, the volunteers deserver a medal as much as the runners. The course itself is brilliant a great mixture of hills, coastal paths and small towns. I will at some point return to the HM series to run both HM55 and HM60 again. It is more likely that I will be trying of the HM trail marathons next year though :)

For those interested in podcasts the British Trail Running Podcast will be releasing a HM110 live special in the next week, we covered the Hardmoors Race series in episode 1 of the podcast and extra photographs of the event can be found at our Facebook page

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Running addict: Allendale Challenge 6th April 2013

Running addict: Allendale Challenge 6th April 2013: The Allendale Challenge fitted in very nicely as part of my training plan for the Highland Fling on 27th April. This is an event which I ha...

A very different Allendale Challenge.

The Allendale Challenge has always been one of by favourite race not because its a great fitness test (being one of the first long trails runs of the year), or because there's generally a good mix of runners with a few old hands, a few newbies to trail running and a few local runners but because its a charming course, full of character that contains a little bit of everything with roads, paths, trails, gentle rolling hills, steep ascents (and descents) bogs and peat haggs. The race organised by North Of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team, is now in its 24th year and entry includes a pie and mashy peas in the pub at the finish.

Over the past 5 years i've ran Allendale in all sorts of weather conditions - glorious sunshine, torrential rain, and ankle deep in snow, in fact i thought i'd seen pretty much all it had to offer, but this year for the first time I can remember the organisers made the decision to alter the course (for safety reasons - they were unable to get support vehicles up to some areas due to deep snow drifts over the past few days). Consequently the course was 23 miles rather than the usual 25.

The run started in the usual way with walkers getting a 2 hour start on the runners and followed the usual course up to the chimneys and on to nine banks, then the first of the changes took us left along the road past Farney Shields avoiding the hill up to Hard rigg and the boggy trail around black hill, the checkpoint at Killhope was still in but with an alternate route avoiding the usual peat haggs which where apparently full of drifted snow, from Killhope the route followed the usual track down to the road, a fun decent in the snowy conditions, the section along the river and up the Drag was bypassed with a slightly more hilly road section winding its way around and up towards Stobbs cross for the usual finish.

Despite this years route avoiding much of the deeper snow, there was still plenty of fun to be had running through snow around the course, in places the trail was down to a single trod cut through the drifts by the hardy runners and walkers ahead of us. In places it was hard to believe you were in fact in Hexhamshire and not somewhere in the alps.

The temperature didn't get much above 6c in the shade, the conditions on the day couldn't have been much better, clear blue skies and beautiful sunshine made it feel reasonably warmer with many of the runners sporting t-shirts (and there haven't been many opportunities for that this year).

A combination of a shorter course, the additional road sections and the less boggy route made for much faster times this year for the 117 runners, and the course possibly favoured the road runners a little more than usual, but the deep snow and slippery conditions certainly meant it was no easy race.

NB. The Allendale t-shirt was an optional extra this year, refreshingly it was a cotton t-shirt rather than a tech-t, it sported a fetching design including 2 of the Allendale chimneys and a grouse that has appeared on several of the previous designs. In a slightly intriguing way under date at the bottom was a row of dots and dashes which if i'm not mistaken reads sdj in morse code - designers initials maybe?.