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.


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.


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

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!


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…

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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!



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.

Ultra Dave’s Ultra Diary – Holiday Edition

‘Chafing, black toenails, and dehydration are just the rites of passage for those of us who race 50 and 100 miles and more’ – Scott Jurek

It’s been nearly 2 months since Dave completed the Kielder Ultra 80K race and within a week he’d signed up for another one:


I felt relatively fine after the Kielder race, so much so in fact that I was back out running the same week.

I decided to strike while the iron was hot and enter another race quickly so I didn’t come complacent and let food and beer undo all the hard work I’d done so far. The St Cuthberts Way Ultra on 16th July 2016 was the next logical step. It’s local and as it’s 100k felt like unfinished business after dropping down to 80K at Keilder. It was nice to have something achievable in the pipeline to aim for again.

Training since Kielder has been going well other than I haven’t really done many long training runs which seemed to dominate my training for the Wall. Even so I’ve managed to remain relatively injury free which is nothing to be sniffed at.

Halfway through training for St Cuthbert we were due to spend 2 weeks in The Algarve. Experience of previous holidays as been if you take a fortnight off training it takes a month to get your fitness back up to where it was and I didn’t have time for that.  I’d experienced running every day on holiday in Greece last year and found it was something I built easily into my day and felt better for it when I got home. I’d done it in Greece so didn’t see why I couldn’t do it in Portugal too.


The main difference running in Portugal over home (or Greece) is that it feels much more isolated. Too much beer and Kleftiko In Greece meant I did all my training runs early evening, however in Portugal I limited the amount I drank which allowed me to get out at around 10am before it started getting really hot. The two things that made it a lot tougher this year was the heat and the hills. I do, however prefer running in warm weather, so long as I have enough water with me. Although I don’t run as fast as in the cold, I find the warmth keeps your muscles nice a lose and tend to experience less pulls or strains. I also ran farther in Portugal than I did in Greece; 7.5miles instead of 10K – although both seem to have the universal foreign dog problem nipping at your ankles or just generally scaring the crap out of you as you jog past!

The training plan after holiday is pretty much 2-3 weeks of running as much as I can, doing way easy on the drink if not stopping completely than take a week or so to taper in the run up to the race.

For St Cuthberts I’m looking forward to the terrain and conditions being much more manageable that it was at Kielder. My practice of hill running in the heat in Portugal will hopefully have been good practice for any potential warm whether (for the North East!) and the 500 metre climb over 8 miles I did in the hills should stand me in good stead for the 2500 metre elevation on race day. My biggest hurdle I think will be that I haven’t done many long training runs however as always, I imagine the biggest real problem will be something I haven’t even considered yet.


The Newman Bucket List

‘I need to think as much as I can, to feel as much as I can, to be conscious and observe and understand me and the people around me as much as I can’ – Amy Tan

I wrote last year a little bit about how I’m currently staring my mid 30s in the nuts and have from time to time the inevitable ‘what the hell have to done with my life?’ moments. I’m also probably the biggest worrier in the world, so there’s been a fair handful of ‘oh my god I’m going to be 40 soon, I don’t have any children, I’ve never been to South America, I’ve never been in a hot air balloon, I’ve never skinny dipped…’ as if the second I turn 40 the assisted living facility down the road will come knocking and cart me to off to hang out with Edna and Gladys for the rest of my days.

That is, of course ridiculous. It’s easy for the humdrum-ness of life to take over and you always think you’ll get round to doing all the stuff you want to do someday. Things is, if you don’t make a conscious effort to get it done, that someday will never come; there will always be a reason you didn’t do it, be it money or the weather or whatever. I’m still young (as young as i’ll ever be as my dad keeps on telling me) and i’m (relatively) fit and healthy. There’s nothing stopping me getting done all the things I’ve ever wanted to do (apart from maybe my own anxiety).

So instead of just saying ‘hey lets jump out of an aeroplane today’ (actually I’ve already done that!) We thought we’d get it all written down and put it out there to the universe (that’s you BTW) and hopefully that might make us actually get some of it done.


See the Northern Lights
We went to Iceland in March 2015 but in typical Newman luck it was the worst winter they’d had for 3 years, so bad in fact that the local media were running competitions to name it. Suffice to say, no lights were seen, so that’s still on the list



Visit Sherwood Forest
Inspired by our recent visit to Sycamore Gap I want to go one better and go to actual Sherwood Forest. Seeing as I’m a massive fan of Robin Hood in all its forms and guises. And merry men. And riding through glens. And stealing from the rich. etc etc

Completed 21st May 2016



Have a Guinness in Dublin
I’ve been to Dublin a couple of times (their Cadburys chocolate tastes funny over there you know) but the first time I was too young to drink and the second time, well, I probably still thought Guinness was disgusting. Now however, I like its iron giving properties. It’s practically a health drink.


Go to the Edinburgh Festival
It’s a shame I’ve never been as it’s only up the road really. The cost and the crowds has always put me off but I know Steph and Chris have been a few times and with enough forward planning I reckon you could do it on the cheaper side of extortionate.


Visit some ‘souths’
South East Asia, South Africa and South America are all on places I’d love to go one day too. If I could sing Karaoke in Japan, See Christ the Redeemer in Brazil and sit in the Devils Pool in Zambia, I’d think that was pretty cool and would have enough new Facebook profile pictures to last me at least a couple of months!


Visit some extremes
There are a couple of places on my radar that have certain accolades that I’d quite like to visit. Lands End and John O’Groats would be quite cool as would visiting the Tan Hill Inn (the highest pub in England – I can always fit a glass of wine in!). Also Cabo da Roca (Portugal), the most westerly point of mainland Europe. I mean, if I were to be really ambitious I’d love to go to the Artic or Antarctica but it’s not like I have family out there I can stay with!

Visited Cabo da Roca in June 2016 and Lands End in August 2017


Visit an Ice Bar
Ice Bars are one of those things like festivals, I know they’re over priced and you probably only spend 15 minutes in one because it’s so bloody cold but almost everyone I know has been to an Ice Bar and I want in the club, they just look so cool (pun intended!). We tried to go to one in Reykjavik and after walking around for over an hour looking for it, realised it closed two years prior. So now it’s unfinished business

*UPDATE* Completed in September 2016



Skinny dip
Are there rules about skinny dipping (I know there are laws against it in some places) but, like, does it have to be in open water? Does a private pool count?! I’m saying yes it does, if for nothing else than ease of completion. My list, my rules.

Completed June 2016 (however you’ll just have to take my word for it 😉 )


I’m sure this is exactly how I’d look too!

Watch a sunrise
I’ve always been of the opinion that there’s no sunrise so beautiful that it’s worth waking me up to see. But throw in a glass of champagne and a chocolate croissant and I may be able to be convinced.


Ride in a hot air balloon
In the past if ever I’ve been at that kind of altitude (where you’re not so high you can still see the ground, high enough that if you fell out, you’d die) I’m chucking myself out the plane. But in my old age I think I’m warming to the idea of taking it a bit easier and enjoying the view.


Run a half marathon
Dave can obviously bash out a half marathon in his sleep. My legs are only about 4 inches long though so running doesn’t come as naturally to me. I’m not too bothered about doing an organised one. As long as Run Keeper says I’ve done it, that’s good enough for me!

*UPDATE* Completed September 2017


Go on a proper pic nic
We got given this super cute vintage style pic nic basket for Christmas 2015. It even comes with it’s own crockery and cooling compartment for your wine (seriously, they’ve thought of everything!) and pic nic blanket. It would be nice to actually get it used in some of the local parks near our house.


Hold and Owl
I’ve loved owls ever since we had a low rent Chris Packam come to school when I was about 6 and give us a talk. I even did my own project on them one summer holiday, it wasn’t for school or anything, I just didn’t have many friends back then. And must have read the book The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark countless times in primary school. I’d love to be able to hold one, then perhaps slip it into my handbag when no one’s looking….

*UPDATE* Completed May 2017


Go to a Backstreet Boys Concert with Meagan
Back in the mid 90s when we had dial up internet, the Backstreet Boys were pretty much our reason for being and the whole reason two 14 years from the opposite sides of the world became best friends. It would be amazing for us to see them in action together to come full circle and fangirl one last time.

*UPDATE* Completed March 2017




Volunteer somewhere
Gone, long gone are my 20s where spending the weekend in either one of 2 states; drunk or hungover was acceptable. It’s about time I grew up and used my powers for good rather than evil.

famous volunteer thank you quotes

Grow and nurture something
You know, a plant, a tree, a tiny human, anything I can grow and not kill I’d view as a success. I’ll be honest I’ll probably just start with a plant.


Visit some local ‘hotspots’
These aren’t necessarily travel dreams, they’re just local places that I hear a lot about but have never really gotten round to visiting myself. Places like Cragside and Simonside (both in Northumberland) that are really pretty and great from some walks.


Ultra Dave’s Ultra Diary – The Kielder 100K

Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further past what your mind wants to let you. That’s what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you’ve never known’ – Rex Pace

When you start to think about people you really admire, it’s easy to come up with the same old answer every time, a celebrity or a sports star, people you’re detached from and are almost superhuman. It’s easy to forgot that actually real people are doing amazing things around us all the time, we just don’t notice it as much because it’s not trending on Twitter.

I admire lots of people in my day to day life; there are lots of female senior managers at work I aspire to be like, my mum raised two kids alone in a foreign country while my dad worked to provide for us, my dad and brother how work ethics that are second to none. All little bits of different people that I take inspiration from and wish I could be like.

Then there’s my husband Dave, who, as you’ll know has taken up running ultra-marathons over the last couple of years, which, as far as my fat stumpy non-runner legs are concerned is nothing short of bionic. A few weeks ago Dave undertook his second Ultra; the Kielder 100k, which he’d planned to do as a warm up for the EnduRun24 in May, but when that got cancelled, Kielder turned into race day.There are 3 distances you can do for the Kielder Ultra; 50K, 80K and 100K.


So, how did he get on? He and fellow runner Ryan who completed (and only bloody won!) the 50K leg tell all…

How did Kielder compare to any races in the past?
Dave: I only really have one ultra, The Wall, to compare to. Kielder is shorter (even the 100K distance) but that is where any prospect of it being easier ends. The terrain under foot is probably the most difficult aspect of the race. It is extremely wet bog for large portions of the first half of the race. There are also some very steep hills, far from runnable for all but the very gifted. The course is designed to take the most difficult path so doubles back and takes odd detours just to be awkward! It is very pretty though, if you can see through the fog…

Ryan: It was quite similar but less hilly than most races of late, however the terrain took me by surprise. I’ve ran many parts of Kielder before but not where the course took us, it was fantastic and brutal in parts.

What are your pre-race rituals?
This race was unusual because it took place on a Sunday. Most ultras seem to start on a Saturday,as they may go on well into the next day depending on the cut off times and the speed of the competitors. We were due to register in late afternoon so having stuffed the car full of equipment we drove up to the start/finish point. We were one of the first people to arrive so went and chose our camp spot and put up the tent. Registration was simple and pretty low key. After that we went for a short walk down to the edge of the reservoir to take in the view and soak up a bit of the spring sunshine. The race briefing didn’t add much information and the details which were added went over my head a bit. I found it difficult to retain any navigation tips and apply them to a course I hadn’t seen, especially without a map in front of me. After the briefing we cooked dinner outside in rapidly dropping temperatures before quickly deciding that the local put was the best option (tonic water only for me). I didn’t really feel nervous rather just impatient to get to the running. Out camp was quite comfortable, but it still took a while to go to sleep.

Ryan: This has changed in the last year, I used to have a bowl of pasta and half a bottle of wine! Recently I’ve been reading a book by Renee McGregor called “Training Food” no I’ve don’t drink the night before but still have a carb rich diet. I make sure my kit is ready and laid out for the morning, most ultras start really early so I like to be really organised and have no stress in the morning.


The weather was pretty dramatic early on, how did that affect you physically and mentally?
Dave: We weren’t expecting to wake up to a tent covered in snow! It made getting to the start on time more of a panic and made me a bit apprehensive. It also made it hard to know where you were placing your feet. I fell over multiple times and almost twisted an ankle on countless other occasions. My feet were soaked almost immediately from the start and stayed that way despite multiple sock and shoe changes throughout the day. They were uncomfortably cold at points and the wet going made me over concerned with the chance of blisters which contributed to some tactical mistakes. I did actually find that the deep snow on my lower legs felt like it was keeping them nice and cool so wasn’t a problem.

What was the hardest part of the day?
The hardest section is the first big loop (leg 2) that the 100/80K runners complete over Deadwater and Peel fells, due to the terrain and steepness. However for me, the third leg was worst as I changed shoes to get dry feet, but this left me in shoes that did not give enough grip. The paths were partly very wet clay/mud which was extremely slippery, and I fell hard twice in as many minutes. The logging tracks were also covered in the debris of logging activity, particularly stray branches which slowed me to a crawl.

Ryan: I found the lakeside paths the hardest, I’ve ran around them over 20 times but as I’m training for another race currently most of my training has involved running up big hills, the more undulating sections of the lakeside path were more difficult than previous times I’d ran on them. The guys I ran with had really good flat speed which made me struggle.

What nutrition/hydration kept you going?
Dave: I ate mainly jelly babies but I stuffed the odd bit of different food into my mouth at checkpoints. For hydration I used Nuun hydration tablets with water and some sports drinks.

Ryan: I’ve always been good with nutrition on races, I’ve luckily never suffered from stomach problems and can eat anything, I’ve been known to eat jalapeno pizzas! Recently I’ve switched to Tailwind nutrition, it gives me everything I need to get round, it also aides my recovery. Since I’ve switched to it my results have improved beyond belief, it’s given me a new found confidence.

Who did you meet along the way and how important is it to have company?
Dave: I ran with a guy called Stu for some of the first leg. I like to talk to people early on to distract me from any nerves. I ran most of the exposed Peel Fell section with a lady called Cathy which was really reassuring because the visibility was terrible, the course markings not always obvious, and I wasn’t carrying GPS.

Ryan: The thing I’ve always like about ultras is the people you meet. As you’re not usually running at eyeballs out pace you can generally have a good chat and get to know people, you’re out on your feet for a long time so it’s a great way to pass the hours. I met Simon and Mark within the first couple of miles, we got chatting, it turned out I knew friends of Simon and knew who he was through the twitter ultra community. It made a huge difference, we worked as team really well, by that I mean there were times were one of us was struggle at some point and we stuck together to get each other through. I’ve ran on my own and in groups and can honestly say wouldn’t have got through the day as well if I’d been on my own all that time.


Dave had signed up for the 100K race but made the decision to drop down to the 80K…..
Dave: There were a variety of factors in the decision to drop down. Leg 3 was a disaster in terms of footwear, which slowed me a lot and made me concerned about falls. Being behind schedule I realised that the head torch I was carrying would not be up to the task of running off road in pitch darkness. I had thought I would only really need it at the start when there were lots of other people around. The conditions, terrain and to some extent, the hills were much more severe than I expected so I was concerned about how much this might have taken out of me. Also other runners and even some of my support crew were talking about changing to the 80K distance from early on, which planted the thought in my head. The deciding factor I think was that the weather changed so dramatically that by the decision point it was glorious sunshine. I had done very little proper running due to the terrain so decided a sunny 20K around the lake to the finish sounded much better than
more rough terrain and hills. This would allow me to finish at a better time for supporters and for the drive home.


The weather was sightly better by the afternoon!

What state were your feet in afterwards?
Dave: Not bad, I think maybe one small blister. The main problem only showing itself towards the end of the race was bruised big toes. More unusual for me has been that I’ve had a sore mouth, particularly gums for about five days after the event which made it painful to eat or have hot drinks. My main guess is that it is something to do with the electrolyte drinks but it could high glucose in food and other drinks, or just the amount of air breathed over the 12 hours running.

Ryan: Feet were fine, they got a soaking in the first 2 miles and again throughout the course.  Touch wood, I’ve always been lucky with my feet, I on’t tend to suffer from blisters.  I wear Injinji toe socks and Salomon Sense Ultra shoes and it;’s a combination that seems to work really well.  After St Cuthberts 100km, race director couldn’t believe how good a condition my feet were in, he jokingly questioned if I’d actually ran the course!

What one thing will you take away from the day?
Dave: Well I coped better than I thought as this was my first real trail race. Finishing 6th with relative ease and finishing strongly (3rd best final section time) confirmed that starting slow and getting stronger is more fun than heading out fast and running out of steam.

Ryan: The two great friends I made in Simon and Mark, my first ever race win and a lovely new Salomon Slab 12 Set, my running pack of choice!

Finally getting some editing done #kielderultra #teamvague

A post shared by Helen Newman (@honestlyhelen) on

What’s the next date in the running diary?
Dave: July 16th, St Cuthbert’s Ultra, another 100K race. I’ve got some unfinished business to attend to!

Ryan: I’m doing the Highland Fling on April 30and then my first 100 miler attempt, South Wales 100, a beast of a race in the Brecon beacons.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing their first ultra run?
Dave: Firstly, have you considered something more sensible?! Before the race, test out decent kit and do as many training miles as possible without injury. On race day focus on nutrition, hydration and pacing.

Ryan: Get entered, get training and enjoy the whole experience. It’s more doable than you think, if you break it down into sections, checkpoint to checkpoint, it makes it much more manageable. One last tip, when you think you can’t possibly take another step, trust me you can, it’s amazing what happens when you push yourself beyond that point. As long as you keep moving forward, you’ll get there eventually!


Ryan Hogben has always enjoyed distance running after completing his first ever half marathon and building from there. He says he’s never enjoyed the shorter distances and after couple of guys at his old running club had done G2E, a 55 mile ultra along canal paths from Glasgow to Edinburgh, he took the plunge and was hooked. The Kielder Ultra was his 12th race of ultra-distance.You can follow his own running adventure here.

Thanks very much to Steve at for allowing me to use his brilliant pictures!