Road to the Great North Run 2017

Only when you are challenged, and only when you challenge yourself, do you discover what truly matters’ – David Levithan

Running. Where do i beginning with my running story? Well it’s less of a story and more of an anthology these days considering. To cut a very long story short, I started running in 2013 because it was a more favourable option than doing Insanity and Dave was training for ultra marathons so I didn’t want to be the fat wife sitting on the sofa eating cake while he was out running 50 miles a weekend.

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I started off really small, running half a mile, then a mile, then building up to 5K then 5 miles etc etc. It was always on my bucket list to one day, once in my life, do one half marathon (note the emphasis on one there as I have no intention of doing it again) and seeing as the start line for GNR is practically on my door step it seemed the obvious one to choose.

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Training wise I was lucky that I already had a bit of a head start in that I could run a 10K if i really had to which would bring on only a mild case of COPD and the loss of movement in my right knee for 2 days. So when I started my training plan I was feeling strong. The longer runs did become a challenge at weekends, not such down to physical ability but more the crappy British summer weather – running for an hour and a quarter on a treadmill is. not. fun. The biggest obstacle in training came at the end of July which saw my Birthday, my cousins wedding and a week long holiday in Cornwall 3 weekends on the trot during which I did no training whatsoever. Whilst I was glad of the rest, it set me further back in my training plan than I had anticipated so come the second week in August desperate times called for desperate measures. If i were to have any chance to hauling my blubber butt over that finish line in less than 3 hours I needed to pull out the big guns. So i stopped drinking. I know, I know. Drastic.

Race Day

I slept surprisingly well the night before the race considering how nervous I was and was lucky to have Ang come over to do my hair and help Dave cart my stuff across the North East. We made our way to the start line on the metro, which was busy but there was a good atmosphere. The time that took the longest really was waiting in line for the portaloos before the race for that last minute wee wee. It’s alright for blokes who can (and did) just stand against a tree but us ladies need a little more privacy!

Once I was in my pen it seemed to take ages to get over the start line. When you watch on the telly it looks like everyone piles through at lightning speed but it was a good 40 minutes from then gun going off to me stepping foot over the line. As suspected I started off way too fast as I just felt I was being carried along with the crowd but I had my Runkeeper App on which triggered every 15 minutes so about the 3 mile mark I had slowed right down into a more comfortable pace as the field spread out a little bit and I didn’t feel I was in peoples way as much.

I had my 90s hip hop cranked up full volumes and the mile markers seemed to be coming round relatively quickly. Around the 6 miles mark my maths skills once again proved to be my downfall when I congratulated myself that I made it half way, until i remembered that 6 is half of 12, and I was running 13.

It’s cheesy to say but the crowd really do carry you through and thanks to them I only walked twice for no more than a few minutes each time. My the 10/11 mile mark I was really starting to feel tired and was pretty ready for it all to be over. So it was pretty opportune that at the 11.5 mark i saw my friends Carrie, Emma and Jayne. As i was running alone I felt surrounded by people who were with other people or part of a big team so seeing some friendly faces was just what I needed and they gave me the big cheer and positive words that I was in so need of at that moment.

Once I left them it felt like pretty plain sailing to the finish to be honest, It’s still a good mile when you hit the South Shields seafront but the crowd is 10 people deep and it really spurs you on to keep going. I kept forgetting that my name was on my bib so was extra lovely that people cheer you on by name.

I finally got over the line in 2hrs 38mins 17secs which I’m over the moon with considering anything under 3 hours would have been a massive achievement! I had my awesome support crew waiting for me armed with prosecco and mars bars at the end and mum and Ang assisted me in getting out of my sweaty gear so we could position ourselves in the pub and wait for the metro queues to die down. Which turned out to the be the best idea really as by the time we were fully hydrated again at about 6pm there were no queues at all so it was plain sailing to McDonalds back home!

Here’s a few fun facts from the day:

Final time: 2hrs 38mins 17secs
Things i was overtaken by: 2 unicorns, a minion, Woody from Toy Story and a two person pantomine horse
Most random thing I saw: A full packet of contraceptive pills on the ground
Things taken from the crowd: Some jelly babies and a strawberry ice pop
Glasses of wine consumed post race: 5

10 of the Best: Quotes for an Overthinker

‘I admire the linear and decisive way a certain kind of man thinks, to my curlicue boundless overthinking’ – J. Courtney Sullivan

I tried really hard this year not to make any resolutions because they’re always the same, eat better, exercise more etc etc but one thing I have been consciously trying not to do this year is not over think everything so much. Last year was bad for my overthinking, whether it be at work, with friends or saving money, I seemed to be constantly getting myself into a tailspin trying to imagine every and any possible outcome to whatever minor problem was on my troubled mind at that time.

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But you know what? 99% of the time, in fact no, 100% of the time, none of those far fetched scenarios ever happened, and everything worked out absolutely fine. Now, I know as well as anyone that just saying ‘i’m not going to overthink any more’ simply doesn’t work. You need to practice it. I’ll probably always be an overthinker, it’s in my wiring, but I have found these useful quotes, which do help me put things in perspective, (in reverse order of favouritism) the last one being such a particular fave of mine I have it on my desk at work!

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‘Some questions should never be asked, because they have no answer, and the questions themselves serve only to haunt with grinding guilt and second guessing’ ― Bobby Adair

‘Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action comes, stop thinking and go in’ – Napoléon Bonaparte

‘The more you talk about it, rehash it, rethink it, cross analyze it, debate it, respond to it, get paranoid about it, compete with it, complain about it, immortalize it, cry over it, kick it, defame it, stalk it, gossip about it, pray over it, put it down or dissect its motives it continues to rot in your brain’ – Shannon L. Alder

‘Thinking will not overcome fear but action will’ – Clement Stone

‘Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere’ – Emma Bombeck

‘Be where you are, stop over-thinking, and focus on what you are doing’ ― Roy T. Bennett

‘Don’t get too deep, it leads to over thinking, and over thinking leads to problems that don’t even exist in the first place’ ― Jayson Engay

‘You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute’  ― Tina Fey

‘Don’t worry about the future or worry that know that worrying is as affective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind’ – Mary Schimch

‘The world is full of people who will help you manufacture tornados in order to blow out a match.’ ― Shaun Hick

 

Run a 10 Minute Mile in My Shoes….

‘It’s not that your goals are physically impossible that’s keeping you from achieving them; it’s that you lack the self-discipline to stick to them. It’s physically possible to lose weight. It’s physically possible to exercise more’ – Daniel Goldstein

I’ll openly admit that I’m probably one of the messiest, laziest person you’re ever likely to meet, and I’m perfectly ok with that. It also wouldn’t be unfair to describe me as wishy washy or flaky. I can make up a million believable reasons not to do something if I really don’t want to. One thing you may not know about me however is that every now and again, I’ll decide to do something and I won’t stop until it’s done.

On example of that recently was saving up for a trip of a lifetime to Vegas with Meagan. Another was just before Christmas when I set myself a challenge of being able to run a mile in under 10 minutes. I’ve never been shy of the fact that I’m not a natural runner, I’m 5’4 – with only a foot of that made up of leg, and my thighs are as wide as they are long (think less Beyonce, more international sumo wrestler) but I do know what good exercise it is, it tones me up like nothing else, and as cheesy as it may sounds, that ‘runners high’ you get when you’re finished is pretty addictive.

I’ve challenged myself with exercise a few times in the past. In 2015 I did a ‘10K Everyday’ challenge I invented myself as a way to stay fit over the Easter weekend and it’s been on my bucket list for years now to complete a half marathon at some point. The reasons I decided on a 10 minute mile challenge were four fold:

  1. It was less time consuming than marathon training and was something I could tag onto the end of a standard workout
  2. It’s something that can be done in the gym – which in the cold winter months was a huge attraction
  3. I feel I have endurance exercise down, I can zone out on the crosstrainer for 90 minutes on a good day, but fast, high intensity isn’t something I do much of, so will be good to try something new
  4. The treadmill at my gym shows you running around a virtual 400m running track and when you grow up with Janine ‘Gazelle’ Weightman and Angela ‘School Cross Country Team’ Harrison as your best mates, I want to prove to 12 year old Helen that running round a running track isn’t the stuff of nightmares it once was.

So after about two and a half months training (about a month of being frustratingly stuck on 10:15mins), on Sunday 18th December 2016 I did it, I ran a mile in 10 minutes (in under 10 minutes actually) and it felt pretty bloody amazing.

wp-1483563593927.jpgPhotographic evidence: calories, speed, time, distance

What’s even more bloody amazing is I’ve managed to do it again every time I’ve stepped on a treadmill since then as well, so it wasn’t just a one off – yippee!

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More photographic evidence from 04.04.2017

It feels good to set yourself a goal and achieve it. Not just achieve it actually but work it into your daily workout routine. Now I need to start thinking about what I’m going to do next; it’s Easter weekend again soon however I reckon the possibility of me running another 10K every day this year is slim to none – still, it’s something I can tell the grandkids I did once…

Silidyn Rejuvenate Review

‘All those vitamins aren’t to keep death at bay, they’re to keep deterioration at bay’ – Jeanne Moreau

It’s that time of year isn’t it? Post Christmas, it’s started to snow and  the (quite literal) gallons of prosecco that has passed through my body over the last few weeks have started to take their toll on my hair and skin.  I feel fat, spotty and lank and no amount of avocado and lack luster gym efforts seem to be helping.

I’ve always loved the idea of multi vitamins but have always been quite laxidaisy in taking them. Like my skincare routine or using dental floss, I can be good for a week or so then just fall off the wagon because it all because too much effort. When I was sent some samples of new vitamin supplement Silidyn to trial from the lovely girls over at 30 Plus Blogs I was determined to give it a good go, seeing as my skin, hair and nail dramas have been well documented in the past.

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Unlike other multivitamins or hair, skin and nail supplements, Silidyn comes in liquid form, rather than tablet form and can be added to any liquid, once a day (although advises that before breakfast is preferable).  The science boffs who created it say that it’s scientifically proven to combat the signs of ageing and contains a clinically certified formula to replenish, regenerate and reinvigorate your body’s natural foundations.  Something I can put into my morning coffee that will make me look younger? Good times!

They also state:  ‘Silidyn Rejuvenate utilises the latest bio active technology to inhibit cellular breakdown and replenish Silicon where it is lost to the modern environment. After an 8 week programme, Silidyn produces visible benefits, strengthening hair and nails, and firming skin, while providing a natural boost to combat the internal symptoms of age’ – oh, so it only makes you younger on the inside? Bad times.

Still though, I am currently trying to grow my hair out so I don’t spend my entire 30s with a graduated bob so any help I can get is greatly appreciated, so after roughly 8 weeks of taking Silidyn, here’s how  me and some of my little lab rats friends got on:

The pros:

  • I love that you put it in your morning coffee, and feels less clinical than taking tablets
  • It really is tasteless. My of my test subjects said they felt that it left a slight greasy taste in their mouth (albeit not unpleasant) and another said they could taste it slightly. I found if you put it in first before the hot water in your drink it mixes better rather than putting in last where it tended to sit on the top.

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  • My nails looked ah-mazing after a week or so. I tend to suffer from splitting and peeling especially in the winter, however had nothing of the sort during the trial.
  • I got my hair cut at the beginning of the trial and often suffer from severe breakage on the underneath of the right side. Although I think this is a genetic thing that no amount of fancy shampoo or vitamins can fix, I have noticed less breakage since my last haircut. This could be just down finally finding a decent stylist, however seems coincidental that it’s been much better since taking silidyn.
photogrid_1484596930264Hair straight after a cut then 8 weeks later, not unusual that it’s only grown half an inch but the condition is almost identical
  • If you’ve ever taken multi vits or berocca you’ll know that one of the side effects if it turns your peepee technicolour. Silidyn doesn’t. Hurray for no hulk wee!
  • While one tester said they found the packaging to look too clinical it would put them off buying it, another said they liked the clinical packaging as it reminded them of Dermalogica branding, therefore would make them trust the product more.

The cons:

  • Aging wise I saw no visible change, it’s obviously going to take something much stronger than me to get rid of my crowsfeet and forehead wrinkles
  • Immune systems wise despite taking it for 4 weeks prior to Christmas and continuing right the way through it didn’t stop me getting the lurgy for the first week in January.
  • It’s not good in cold drinks. Even if you put it in first and add water too it, I don’t find it mixes in properly and creates ‘floaters’ at the bottom of the glass – to be used in hot drinks only IMHO.
  • It’s £19.95 a bottle, which fair enough is for a 2 month supply so on par with stuff from Holland and Barratt, it’s double the price of a month supply of Hair, Skin & Nail vitamins from Boots though.

So in all i think it’s a good product with some positive aspects and would certainly rate it higher than over the counter vitamins. I love that you can stick it in your coffee in the morning. I genuinely believe it’s tasteless, in fact I snuck it into Dave’s coffee one morning and he never noticed (and I promise that’s all I’ve ever drugged him with!) however not sure I saw a drastic enough change to warrant the £20 price tag sadly.

Find out more about Silidyn and how it could benefit you here

Are cheap ‘Fitbits’ any good?

‘Walking at a moderate pace for an hour a day is considered a moderately intense level of exercise’ – Michael Greger

I wasn’t all the sold on Fitbit’s when they first appeared. Mainly because I thought they looked like a court ordered electronic tag than a fancy-dan pedometer. Everyone who has one though seemed to really rave about them. My job recently has forced me to come mildly obsessed with data and trends and charts and such so off the back of that I started to become really interested in the built in pedometer on my phone and trying to aim for 10,000 steps a day. Problem is I don’t have my phone on me all the time, particularly at work so I was having to basically try and run a marathon a day to get my steps in.

For my birthday I was given a Shonco Fitness Tracker, or my ‘Faux-bit’ as I like to call it and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with it so far. I’ve reduced the steps to 8000 a day which is roughly 5K as 10,000 was proving damn near impossible. It comes in a variety of colours (mine is like a turquoise blue colour) and is nice a slim so doesn’t look too chunky on my skinny wrist.

It’s on the basic side, it doesn’t have a heart rate monitor in it or anything but that’s fine, all I really want to know if how many steps I do a day. It calculates steps, walking distance, calorie consumption and monitors your sleep quality everyday. As it connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth you can set it to remind you by vibration when there are any notifications or phone calls coming in. Although the Bluetooth disconnects when its’ out of range from your phone the bracelet still tracks your steps or sleeping and updates retrospectively when you’re connected again. Oh it also tells the time too. Handy.

The data on the app on your phone is basic too but tells you everything you need to know, and breaking things down by daily, weekly and monthly data although one downside is it only shows you the current day/week/month, you can’t go further back and compare months or weeks, which is a shame.

Charging is easy, the band pulls apart to reveal a usb port that you can just plug into any computer. It takes about 30 minutes to charge fully and lasts about 3 days. The app that comes along with it is free on Android and iOS and although it means I have to keep my Bluetooth on and have the app running in the background all day I haven’t noticed it significantly reduce the battery life on my phone.

The main question with any of these things I guess is does it actually work? Well functionally it’s pretty accurate, however my advice would be to only actually wear it when you’re on the move, for example it thought I’d done over 1000 steps while straightening my hair one morning. It certainly encourages me to walk around more. I’ve started going out for walks at lunchtime if the weather’s nice and I walk the 1km to the gym now whereas I’ll be honest I used to take the car. I go to the gym often as it is so it’s not like I live a completely sedentary lifestyle but I’ve lost weight every week I’ve had it since my birthday so I think it is assisting on keeping me more active.

My favourite part though is the sleep data (I do love my sleep!), it calculates your quality of sleep based on your movement during the night and works out how many hours deep sleep and how many hours light sleep you’re getting per night. Makes it really easy to spot the nights I was drunk….

So it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a fitbit, but it is also only £20 instead of £70 so if you’re more worried about price than you are data analytics (or accuracy) it’s a decent enough substitute and will encourage you to get your steps done for the day!

Get yours here 

Getting My Running Mojo Back

‘I don’t generally like running. I believe in training by rising gently up and down from the bench’ – Satchel Paige

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with running, well with exercise in general to be honest. I only ever joined the gym because i’d started Weight Watchers and realised that the more exercise I did the more I could eat. I started running in 2013 after we’d decided to try Insanity at home then realised that anything anything would be better than that medieval torture DVD.

So suffice to say that any exercise I’ve done is because it’s been the lesser of two evils. And however cliche it may sound, when I first started running, I literally couldn’t run to the end of the street. So with Dave’s help (who runs ultra marathons incidentally, so there really was no excuse for me not to try). I did just that. I ran to the end of the street.

Then I would run to the next lamppost, then the next one, then the bench by the pub, and before long, I’d done my first 5K. Not long after that I set myself the goal of running to the airport and back, which is bob on 5 miles. Achieving that felt like I’d ran a marathon. I’d definitely caught the running bug.

Problem is thought i’m vey much a fair weather runner and it doesn’t take much for me to take an excuse to just go to the gym instead; It’s too windy, it’s too wet, it’s too cold it’s too hot, or most recently, I don’t have the right trainers – there’s that path of least resistance theory again.

I’ve mentioned before that I have flatter feet than Donald Duck, makes me great at swimming, crap at running and as such i need decent trainers that mean I no longer have the gait of a Weeble and make me need to hip replacement at 34 . I got some brand new trainers for my birthday (my trusty Asics Kayanos and quite literally wearing the lining off my last pair) so there really was no excuse now. Besides, everyone in the world seems to have been training for the Great North Run this summer, and I like feeling part of a gang.

So i laced up my new kicks, downloaded some cheesy motivational running tunes and set out for my first 5k in about 4 months. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had, and i was pretty much unable to move for 48 hours afterwards but i did it. And thinking how much effort it took me to run 5K not that long ago, the fact that I could run it reasonably ok after doing nothing other than crosstraining for 4 months felt like an achievement.

The main thing i like about running, other than it tones you up like nothing else (i swear I almost saw an ab once) is that it’s all you. The effort is all you. You’re not being helped along by water, or a machine, and yes sometimes you get lucky on a particularly windy day and get pushed home but other than that it’s you doing all the work and that’s why it hurts so much! But it’s also why it does you so much good.

So although my first 5k was a success it still feels like a long road back to 10K. Out all i needed to get my running mojo back was a new pair of trainers and to run out of excuses.

Ultra Dave’s Ultra Diary: St Cuthberts Way 100K

”Find the level of intolerance you can tolerate and stay there’ – David Horton

It’s been a few weeks since Dave completed the St Cuthberts Way 100K Ultra Marathon, here’s how he got on:

St Cuthbert’s Way winds its way from Melrose in the Scottish borders to Lindisfarne, or Holy Island on the Northumberland coast. It’s somewhat of a shame that the ultramarathon organised by Trail Outlaws runs the course in reverse meaning you’re running straight into the tailwind. That makes it a wind in the face experience with over seven thousand feet of climbing to be done. To be fair to the organisers this is less to with any need to be cruel to the competitors (take note High Terrain Events!) and more to do with having to run the part of the race which crosses the tidal causeway to the island at a time when the tide is out!

In the build up to the race I had tried to keep preparations a little more low-key in terms of my support. I’ve found having lots of people present, although lovely, can add a bit of pressure and a feeling of guilt that everyone is spending so much time out in the middle of nowhere following me slowly around the countryside. I was happy to just have Helen crew for me, but she wanted some company in the car and to share the driving so roped in bestie Angela, presumably with the promise of cakes or some other bribe (a day in my company is bribe enough – Helen)

The alarm woke us up at 4:30, race clothes thrown on and coffee drunk and we were on the road in our little Kia by about 5:15. Race registration was available at Melrose the night before, or the option we were going for, set up at one of the race checkpoints at Wooler Bowling Club, between 6:15 and 7:00 on the morning of the race. We got there just after registration has opened and went through the necessary motions. Kit check was first, no problems there, then I was handed my race number and the obligatory race shirt and even a free block of Kendal mint cake to add to my race nutrition. For the uninitiated, Kendal mint cake comes in a wrapper similar to any chocolate bar but is a sort of soft white mint block that seems to consist mainly of sugar. There is a chocolate covered variety but this was plain, it did make a nice change during the race though, definitely easy to eat!

We were one of the first to arrive on Holy Island and weren’t sure exactly where to park or where the race start was exactly. Other cars started to arrive, many equally unsure as us if they were in the best spot. A short walk took us into the village and to St Cuthbert’s cross where the race was supposed to start at 8:00. The organised coach bringing many of the runners to the start was delayed but the organisers eventually turned up and with a few short words of encouragement and not much fanfare, the race got underway.

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This was the first ultra I have run that did not feature a fully marked course. The way is marked all the time of course, because it is an official long distance walk, but it wasn’t long until I discovered that the marking was far from as well marked as the pre-race literature had suggested. I’d expected to just be able to follow the runners in front from the start for quite some time. However it wasn’t long before I came to an unmarked junction and the next group in front have disappeared from sight. I went a few yards down the right fork and decided it was probably the other way. The next couple of runners came along behind and confirmed my decision but I decided to get the map out of my bag at that point anyway.

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It seemed like no time at all before getting to the first real checkpoint, about six and a half miles in. I’d forgotten to take a tablet at the start to prevent my hay fever taking hold so was hoping my crew would have the tablets with them. Unfortunately they were in the car parked some distance away so I would have to carry on without until the next checkpoint.  (There’s always something I forget at the first checkpoint , always – Helen)

With fluids refilled, I carried on and began the days climbing. Once I’d gained a bit of height I turned around to take in the stunning views of Holy Island, where we’d started and hour or two earlier. I’d started at a very conservative pace and wasn’t running with anyone in particular so from this point on until late in the race, I was generally catching people in front of me rather than the other way around.

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By the time I got back to Wooler where we’d registered I had risen dramatically through the places to what I was told was about 13th. My parents had arrived to lend their support and quite a few people were around to clap me into the checkpoint. It is very supportive and well meaning, but can be a bit embarrassing when there is still so far to go.

Above Wooler there is a large forest, and this is where the day started to go wrong! Just before the forest the grassy track split into two. My new friend, who had come up from Leeds for the race was leading and took the right fork, I tried to check on the map while keeping up and it looked right, although the scale on the map wasn’t great for detail. The route still seemed fine for a while, but then we encountered a large number of downed trees blocking the route. I thought I recalled this being mentioned in a briefing email and that we should go around the root end wherever there was no obvious worn path. However we ended up clambering over things to the extent that we realised we must have gone wrong, although there were signs of other people having gone this way. I now suspect that we had gone wrong on the entry to the forest, and should have thought to go even further back. At the time our best option seemed to be to try and wider route through the trees to the right. All this had lost us at least twenty minutes and used lots of energy!

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By the time I got to the next checkpoint at Hethpool, still not even half way I was a bit down. My hamstrings were getting sore already, which had me worried and I hadn’t completely put getting lost out of my mind. My crew refuelled me though and the race organisers consoled me with the news that lots of people were saying that they had been lost at various point, so I wasn’t alone (I believe your exact words were ‘I suck at this’ – Helen) On leaving the checkpoint I dropped into rhythm with a couple of other guys and we marched up the hill together. Often pre-race advice from organisers suggests that grouping together for navigation is a good idea. However, I’m not so sure because there can be a bit of all following each other and nobody paying enough attention. The two runners together behind us had followed our next navigational mistake but realised earlier than we had. The result was all five of us cutting down a steep gully over rough ground and scrambling up the other side to regain the right path. More time and energy wasted, but I had learned my lesson this time and kept a sharp eye on navigation from then on avoiding any more major mishaps.

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I was on my own again by the time I ran into Morebattle and took a seat in the town hall, where my support team, now swollen by two more, ran around getting me plastic cups of coke and bits of food (Ang was particularly keen on making sure the Haribo Strawbs tasted ok before you had any – Helen). The last few miles before getting here was the only point in the race where I ran out of fluids and felt a bit dehydrated. I left without finishing the bag of crisps I’d started, but I took the rest of the bag with me having thrown some jelly sweets inside, not caring that the salty crisps and sticky sugary sweets would get all mixed together.

I’d crossed the biggest hills on the route and was starting to feel tired by the time I arrived at Maxton Church. There was still one large set of hill to get through before the finish, but thankfully the route was through a pass so didn’t go right to the top of the hill. By the time I got to the base of the climb it was getting dark, and in amongst the trees it was even harder to see. I pulled my new head torch and although it gave me enough light to run by, I had chosen a lightweight and inexpensive model so it wasn’t as bright as some. I navigated through the trees and spotted the lights of other runners up ahead. They had obviously chosen more powerful models as their lights lit up the ground in front of them like daylight. I caught them up shortly before getting to the top of the pass and exchanged a few words of mutual suffering before I went ahead.

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As the path came out of the trees the glittering lights of Melrose suddenly appeared below. They were unmistakable as Melrose is the only town of this size nearby. I could hear the other runners just behind me but didn’t look back as I realised I’d be faster than them on the steep decent in front of me. I shoved my earphones back into my ears and charged down the slope as fast as I dared, betting that my quads would last the distance and the pounding to the bottom. The abbey appeared in front of me, but while this was the end of the official path, it wasn’t the end of the race. I gave up looking for the final self chip which was allegedly tied to a lamppost (but I couldn’t see it) and followed a yellow arrow towards the race finish at Darnick Village Hall. I stumbled into the hall to clapping and congratulations. That didn’t include my crew though, they were in the pub!

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To be fair, they were following my GPS tracker but this had failed and didn’t show that I was close to the finish. I was given my finishers medal, I washed my face and hands and grabbed a celebratory cupcake before they burst through the entrance full of apologies for missing the big moment. We took a few photos and headed for home. The journey back wasn’t to be underestimated though, something definitely worth bearing in mind after an ultra. Helen was driving after Angela had done a great job of driving all day, but she had still been up since 4:30 so was very tired herself. It was all I could do to stay awake in the passenger seat to keep her company. It was nearly midnight by the time we got home, got a quick shower and collapsed into bed.

I found St Cuthberts tougher than the Wall particularly in terms of vertical gain and underfoot terrain, but the heat and extra distance of the Wall means I felt better towards the end on St Cuthberts. The Kielder ultra was probably a little harder in terms of terrain and looked intimidating early on due to the snow, but the 20K less distance made it easier.

I’m beginning to think that it comes down to the longer a course takes the harder it is, regardless of the other factors. Should make my next race (St Oswalds 100 mile in September)  interesting, since I expect it to take at least another 9 or 10 hours.