DIY High Elevation Treadmill

(or what to do with a busted treadmill)

During the last year of so whilst setting up my home gym I’ve dabbled in repair of exercise bikes and treadmills and had some fun in the process.

I picked up an old Reebok i-run treadmill recently and it’s been the first one I’ve been unable to fix. The motor was completely blown and the cost for a replacement is excessive for a cheap treadmill. It cost me only £10 so I was able to recoup costs by selling the safety key for £10 and the control board for £45.

Unaware it was about to become a high elevation unit!

This left me with a motorless treadmill fit for the bin so I decided to see if I could turn it into a manual treadmill but with some proper elevation to use for hill training – Milton Keynes isn’t exactly known for hills.

Testing the theory with some steps and random wood.

Step 1 – add some vert!

This was done with a simple wooden frame as I wasn’t sure how much time or effort to invest into a possibly pointless endeavour – it might not work after all.

I had two offcuts of sturdy wood, cut them down to equal length added cross braces for strength, then secured to the frame with anchor bolts. It was sturdy and at about 40 degrees. Most treadmills go to about 10%, some 20% and a few beyond that.

I did say it was a temporary wooden bodge.
Looks classy – if you saw this in a gym you’d know it was a luxury establishment!

Step 2 – handle issues

Given the elevation and the current ‘lashed together’ nature of the treadmill I wanted something to hold on to so I didn’t die.

The existing handles are at roughly 90degrees to the running deck which is fine on the flat – when elevated it’s completely in the way.

The easiest way to sort this was to take the handles off, remove all the useless wiring and display, and then re-install rotated around, with two large bolts to hold it vertical.

My thinking is for very steep hills I’d almost certainly be using cheat sticks (walking poles) so having the handle is relatively similar. Ideally I might swap them for two vertical bars with hand grips to give a more realistic feel.

Step 3 – add resistance

Normal treadmills have motors, you adjust the speed, and run fast enough not to fall off the back.

For manual units the propulsion is entirely by your legs.

When elevated like this your own body weight (in my case, a lot) is able to turn the belt too easily so you need something to add resistance.

I pondered a few option, maybe fitting a small brake disc or flywheel to the shaft and having either disc brakes from a road bike to add resistance, or the usual felt pads like on a spin bike.

Given I’d spend some time repairing exercise bikes and had seen how hard they are to use if you over tension the belt I decided to try to use the existing drive belt on the treadmill. As I’m cheap.

Slightly rubbish picture but I used a couple of bearing from a broken kids scooter in a U section of metal channel I had spare in junk pile. This gave a nice smooth motion. Then I used a large bolt through this to the external treadmill frame and fixed with a bolt. By tightening this bolt I could tension the belt and add sufficient resistance that the belt held still with my weight on.

It needs a spanner to adjust so would not be ideal if you planned for a lot of different weight people to use this, but as it’s only me it is fine to set and forget.

Then reassembled and moved to a location in garage so I had some more head height. I stuck a couple of screws into the fixed plastic sections on side of belt as they were prone to sliding down.

It seems to work well and only a few minutes of climbing raises the heart rate and begins to get your ankles and legs working. In my case I’m as flexible as a fence post so even just 10 minutes of climbing and forcing my ankles into a stretched position, climbing on tip-toes is a workout and hopefully will gradually improve my mobility and climbing skills. If I find I use it a lot I can neaten the design up, make the legs foldable, have a better means to adjust resistance etc but for now it works and has saved the item from the tip.

Running a marathon on a Cruise Ship – because why not?

Ever had an internal conversation with your body?

“Do you think we should run a marathon today?”

“Maybe. When?”

“Well now.”

“But we’re just digesting a large lunch of meat loaf and three beers from the cruise buffet?”

“True but it’s starting to drizzle a little so the running track will be quiet.”

“But we did a spin class this morning in the gym. The man shouted at us. It hurt. We sweated so much a mop was needed.”

“True. But there’s only a couple of days left, and one is in port, so it won’t be as amusing on Garmin as doing it out at sea and this boat is a week old so likely we’d be the first.”

“OK then. We’ll do it. But we demand coke and beer.”

“Naturally.”

Background

Running a marathon on a cruise ship is quite a thing. There are geeky clubs of people (often American it seems) who compete to run the most marathons on cruise ships, or one on every ship in a given company etc. Even for someone as run obsessed as me that is just a bit stupid, but I did want to try one.

My only other time on a cruise ship was in my pre-running, so-fat-my-blood-type-was-Dolmio phase. So this year was my first time back on a ship with legs able to run.

The MSC cruise company had launched a new ship, the MSC Virtuoso and running UK sailings out from Southampton and back over 5 days, as a luxury hotel on the sea, unaffected by Covid issues or amber/green/purple/pink-with-spots list countries. We were booked on the second ever sailing of the ship so there was a good chance I could be the first person to attempt a marathon on board. I tried contacting MSC Media team for confirmation of this but they were unresponsive.

So I did it anyway.

The onboard track is marked as 0.2 miles. I walked a lap of this before we set sail from Southampton and GPS on the Garmin also recorded 0.2 miles, or 0.33k, so a little less than a usual 400m athletic track.

I knew from other mates that had run or walked on ships that the GPS would be useless when at sea so decided to use the lap feature of the Garmin – press the button every lap for 132 laps. Easy.

On a random Thursday afternoon (3rd June 2021 if it sets a record) I took advantage of a downturn in weather and whilst kids were in teen club and wife was enjoying the spa I strapped on my trainers and went for a bimble.

Slow down, duck and dive.

The Track

Knowing it would likely be a hard surface I had packed a new pair of Adidas Supernova as very cushioned. I’m not sure what the technical name for the track surface is, but it’s basically a poured and set levelling compound. Very smooth but also as soft as concrete.

What I hadn’t really noticed on the walking lap was two chicane points on the straights that forced the dedicated walking and running lanes to merge and twist between two glass screens. Whether for weather/wind protection or to intentionally slow idiots trying to run a fast pace on a track I’m not sure but the affect is the same of forcing you to slow and stumble awkwardly through. I’m sure a slight and supple runner could make it look less like a double decker bus negotiating a width restriction.

The Attempt

I started well, remembered to press lap every time I passed the start line and tried not to think of the laps to come.

Accompanied by podcasts the laps ticked away. After 150+ marathon or ultra events, and maybe another 20-30 training runs or pacing gigs of over marathon distance I can be pretty confident when asked to do stupid things my body will generally cooperate.

The first 1/3 of the laps passed in a little over an hour and I felt strong, confident of my usual sub 4 hour finish.

At periods other passengers would come out for some running or walking laps, and gradually have their fill of getting dizzy and go do something more worthwhile.

The kids took turns to pop up and deliver water or Coke, and another delivery from the wife.

20 mile aid stop

The chicane became increasing tough on the knees and ankles from the sudden changes of directions. I could feel the discomfort building and made a conscious decision to take these even slower to minimise the strain as I really wanted to finish. I did debate stopping at halfway but having recently given up on the Thames Path 100 miler for no real reason I couldn’t start to make a habit of quitting. The track corners are also relatively sharp and blind, so it was safer for all to take these steady and avoid any collisions.

Darling daughter was walking with a new friend from the teen lounge. Said friend commented that ‘the weird running man’ was approaching them. She was forced to reluctantly admit to being my offspring as I greeted her when we ran past. Being a source of embarrassment to your offspring is basically the role of a dad.

As expected the GPS tracking was well off, and my instantaneous pace on the screen switched from 4:20min/miles to closer to 20min/miles.

Then the sun came out again, the deck got busier and I got sweatier and slower.

Who needs a medal when beer exists?

The advantage of the laps is they don’t easily covert to miles so the usual ‘oh god here comes the 18 mile slump’ is less obvious but somewhere around 20 miles I really started to struggle. The family were getting ready for dinner so I was on my own and diverted to the bar for a beer. The barman praised me for finishing my run and I sadly advised I had another 30 laps left, or at least an hour.

The beer hit the spot and I perked up and got some pace again.

A woman dressed for dinner burst out onto deck in front of me and I was planning to divert around her before she congratulated me on running and asked how many laps I had left for the marathon. Her family had been watching me all afternoon it seemed. Which was lovely. And surprising. I’d mentioned to a few runners what I was up to and it seems the word had spread a little.

A couple of other people popped up on their way to dinner to also add some support and finally the remaining laps were in single digits and eventually all done at 132 laps in 4h33, measuring as 35.5 miles on the Garmin. I was left to jog back to the bar where the staff saw me ascend the steps and shouted out their congratulations and began to pour the beer. Best marathon finish line ever.

Advice For Anyone Else

  • Don’t do it. It hurts.
  • If you ignore that, have some very cushioned shoes. Or decent running form. Try not to run with the grace of a rhino.
  • If able take some tools and remove the chicanes (you may get thrown overboard for this).
  • Use the lap function, not the GPS and run to feel.
  • If the running track is right outside the gym, and the spin instructor sees you running he will still beast you the next day. Then he will comment how ‘loud and slappy’ your feet were as you tired in the later miles and remind you to keep good form.
  • A spin class the next day is actually not a bad way to work the legs loose.
This will hurt…..

Packing List for an Ultra

Even if you’re an experienced ultra runner it’s worth having a checklist for packing. Main note should always be to have the mandatory kit. In Covid times you might not be subject to a full kit check at registration but the overall or group winners almost certainly are and a random selection of other runners. If you suddenly have the race of your life and win Western States, you don’t want to be DQd for forgetting something.

Not everyone fuels their ultras like this….

Carrying During The Race

Below is what I’d pick to carry from for a typical 80/100 miler that had aid stations and a halfway drop box.

Check what’s mandatory for your race and from what point – some will allow you to put head torches etc in your halfway drop bag since if you don’t make it to halfway before nightfall you’ll have been timed out at a previous checkpoint.

Unless going superlight for the win, even on an easy ultra on a good day I’d carry a spare long sleeve top in a ziplock bag to keep it dry. Things can go wrong and if you twist your ankle on a summers afternoon and crawl into the next aid station in a sweaty tee you’ll be getting cold.

Headtorch rules vary. Some are fine with a spare battery, some require a separate torch completely since if you fall and smash it then all the batteries in the world aren’t going to help you see.

Some may also require a red light on your rear (often in European races) – it can be acceptable to be a red light on rear of head torch, or they may require a separate one on your pack, active for duration of race (so if you fall down a mountain in daylight they can fish you out at night even if you didn’t have the presence of mind to turn it on mid-fall).

For hot weather than arm sleeves are great for wetting, protecting from the sun, or shoving ice down. If you know it’s going to get hot & bright then put on sunscreen before setting off.

All three of these are technically cups. Only one is actually of use as a cup. It’s also about £1 from Decathlon.

The cup debate rages on. Do you need soft and hard, or does one suffice, how big should they be etc? Personally I’m a thirsty git so would rather a 1g weight penalty than carry a cup the size of a thimble.

Carrying During The Race 
Phone and waterproof caseMandatory
Torch 75lumensMandatory
Backup torch 25lumensMandatory
Bladder / bottles 1 litre+Mandatory
Cup (some require hard and soft)Mandatory
WhistleMandatory
Emergency blanketMandatory
Rain jacket, taped seamsMandatory
Spoon/fork/sporkOften Mandatory
Waterproof trousers, taped seamsOften Mandatory
Emergency calories (often 500cal)Often Mandatory
Buff or hatMandatory
GlovesMandatory
Base layer or fleece top (not worn) in dry bagOften Mandatory
Tracker – Maps – Race numberMandatory
Suncream (if race starts at night)Medical
TissuesMedical
VaselineMedical
First aid kit Medical
Nipple tapeMedical
Salt Caps / salt tabletsMedical
Zero/sports tabsMedical
Any essential meds (insulin etc)Medical
Race vest/waist pouchGear
Emergency cash & cardGear
Arm sleevesGear
Calf guardsGear
Peaked cap for rain/sunGear
Sunglasses Gear
GPS watchGear
Headphones/iPodGear
Cliff shot blocksFood/Supplement
Caffeine Bullet of GelsFood/Supplement
Baby Food Sachets / Food of choiceFood/Supplement
Zip lock bag for food at aid stationsFood/Supplement

Drop Bag(s)

What you put in drop boxes or bags will depend on race distance, weather and level of support. In Covid times you’re likely to get a lot less food options than previously at checkpoints so may want to put something relatively substantial in if that works for you.

It’s worth checking expected pace and cut offs to try and predict when you’ll get to each drop box. If it works out one before nightfall and one in the early morning you may want to have cold weather gear in first, and warmer stuff for morning as you make the final push for victory!

If you know either from experience that you’ll need poles for the second half as you fall apart over an ultra, or that the challenging climbs are only in the second half then pack them.

Likewise if you’re carrying stuff you haven’t used or won’t need further and can drop without falling foul of mandatory equipment rules then put that in the bag when you get there and lighten your load.

Don’t pack so much stuff that you piss off the aid station volunteers but also remember you don’t necessarily have to use or take everything from the box/bag – in most cases your stuff is transported to the end for you. Better to pack some spare socks and shoes and not need them than to macerate your feet in the first 50 miles and carry on in soaking shoes and socks for the rest of the race (me on Lakeland 100). I also would never even think to pack talcum powder but when I saw someone at LL100 with a ziplock bag of it, their feet inside getting beautifully dried before they left the checkpoint I was envious beyond measure.

If you’re doing a longer point to point you may get to the end before your drop bags do and need to wait around for them. If you think that might be a problem then pack more minimally and not have anything you would be sad to let go in them. For SDW100 I had shoeboxes for each point with a couple of old hats, buffs and some food items that I didn’t mind giving up so either used them or left at aid station with the volunteers to offer to anyone coming through that needed them.

Even if I don’t intend to use shoe boxes as the drop bags, I often have two open on the side and throw stuff in the week before as I find it/buy it and then transfer to small bags the night before after a final check.

Not the best photo, but throwing stuff into shoeboxes helps.

The lists below are pretty extensive, if you packed all of these you’d likely get some sarcastic comments from the volunteers.

Drop bag 1 -50 miles, 7pm Drop bag 2 -70 miles, 11pm 
Headtorch (if able to collect at checkpoint)MandatoryBattery pack(s)Electrical 
Any additional mandatory items (hi-viz?)MandatoryVaseline for chaffingMedical
GPS watch chargerElectrical Talcum powder for feetMedical
Phone chargerElectrical Tape for feetMedical
Battery pack(s)Electrical Dry hat/buffGear
HeadphonesElectrical Dry Base Layer or TeeGear
Vaseline for chaffingMedicalChange of SocksGear
Talcum powder for feetMedicalCarrier bag for sweaty stuffGear
Tape for feetMedicalSports Drink / RedbullFood/Supplement
Poles / Cheat sticksGearBeerFood/Supplement
Dry hat/buffGearMilk ShakeFood/Supplement
Long sleeve top if expecting coldGearStarbucks Double EspressoFood/Supplement
Dry Base LayerGearCaffeine BulletFood/Supplement
Change of ShoesGearBaby Food SachetsFood/Supplement
Change of SocksGearRice PuddingFood/Supplement
Extra gloves in case of rainGearPot NoodleFood/Supplement
Carrier bag for sweaty stuffGear  
Sports Drink / RedbullFood/Supplement  
BeerFood/Supplement  
Milk ShakeFood/Supplement  
Starbucks Double EspressoFood/Supplement  
Caffeine BulletFood/Supplement  
Baby Food SachetsFood/Supplement  
Rice PuddingFood/Supplement  
Pot NoodleFood/Supplement  

The End Bag

Don’t forget that after running 100 miles you will eventually finish and need to consider what to have in your end bag. Depending on facilities this may be in a fully kitted out sports hall with showers, steam room and good transport links or it could be in a muddy field, under a tree, with a 3 mile walk to the train station. Either way you need to consider keeping warm, getting out of your sweat/poo/snot covered gear and getting home. If it’s somewhere with power it’s worth having a phone charger so you can use your phone to ring the husband for a lift home after it went flat from excessive usage for selfies.

End Drop Bag 
UndiesGear
SocksGear
Joggers / shortsGear
Dry topGear
HoodieGear
Rain coatGear
Shoes or flip flops (depending on weather etc)Gear
Carrier bag for sweaty stuffGear
Glasses for drive back (if contact wearer)Gear
FoodFood/Supplement
Recovery drinkFood/Supplement
Celebration drinkFood/Supplement
Phone charger (wall charger)Electrical 
Wet wipesMedical
Towel & shampoo if showersMedical
PlastersMedical
A clue how to get home/meet liftMandatory!

Book 2 for pre-order “Ducking Long Way”

Pleased to say my second book “Ducking Long Way” is now available for pre-order. Once again published by the lovely people at Sandstone Press.

Due for release in August, you can pre-order it now from Amazon here or on Waterstones here or Blackwell’s 

A sequel to “Run Like Duck” it focuses on ultra running and is a humorous mix of advice and recounting of making the transition from marathon runner to ultra runner.

Praise for “Ducking Long Way”

‘Mark clearly understands all the pain and turmoil of an ultra, and also why we keep coming back for more.’ Vassos Alexander, Radio 2 presenter, author and runner

‘A funny and level-headed insight into the crazy world of ultra marathon running.’ Simon Hollis – Race Director and Ultra Marathon Runner

‘Proper advice from a down-to-earth guy who tells it like it is. Runners like Mark are the lifeblood of the sport we all love.’ James Elson – Centurion Running Race Director & Coach

‘A compelling attempt, no doubt funded by the chafing cream industry, to promote the view that ultra running is accessible, enjoyable and achievable for all levels of runners.’ Running is BS Podcast

‘Refreshingly unpretentious, inspiring, funny.’ Paul Tonkinson – author, comedian, runner and host of Running Commentary Podcast

Repair Guide – NordicTrack C7ZL Upright Exercise Bike

If you need to manual for this then head here – https://www.iconsupport.eu/sites/default/files/NTEVEX78009.0-282316%28UK%29.pdf

These bikes are really good quality, not far off gym spec and far better than the awful unbranded items you get out of Argos etc.

I was given this free as a project. It was described as working but with a dodgy resistance adjustment. The way these work is similar to a spin bike, with a pad pushed against the flywheel to change resistance. In a spin bike it’s normally a fabric/cloth material, on this bike it’s a couple of magnets that slow the flywheel. Unlike a spin bike where adjustment is manual and adjusted with a big knob (fnar) it has an actuator that moves the resistance pad (magnets) which can either be controlled with a dial on the control panel or select one of the variable workouts that do all the adjustment for you. I presumed this actuator might be the issue as it’s moving part that is hard to service without taking the whole machine apart.

Magnets for resistance attached to the actuator by the metal arm.

First check – when I got it out the car the rubber drive belt had obviously been shaken a little loose and popped out the side. It was worn as hell so I pulled it off and ordered a new one from https://www.expertfitnessuk.com/

“NordicTrack C7ZL Upright Exercise Bike Drive Belt NTEVEX 78009.1” for £24 delivered. A little pricey considering you can get a drive belt for a car for less but the old unit was definitely  ruined and I couldn’t find cheaper elsewhere.

If the drive belt is outside the bike it may be a subtle hint of the problem.

The strip down process is detailed in the manual above. I found it easier to use a crank puller to pull the crank arms and pedals as one to save time, then it’s just lots of screws to split the two halves.

There isn’t that much to these bikes, just a sturdy frame, the belt driving the flywheel and the resistance pad and actuator. I tested the resistance adjustment and it all worked fine so (spin the adjustment dial on the control panel and watch the actuator turn and the magnets move towards the flywheel).

Bearing Change – Whilst pedalling (using the old knackered drive belt as a test) it made an alarming noise at irregular intervals.

Having a poke around and the crank bearing on the non-pulley side was fine, but it wasn’t possible to see the one on the other side as hidden behind the pulley. It felt a little hard to turn at times and there seemed to be play so I assumed the bearing had worn giving play and likely also adding to the wear on the belt.

Circlip shown outside of groove. You need to push those two holes away from each other to open the circlip and allow it to move free.

To remove the crank (the shaft the pedal crank arms attach to) you need to knock it from the free end but first the circlip/snap ring needs removing. If you don’t have proper circlip removers you can manage it with two small screwdrivers but it’s a bit fiddly. The ring is sat in a grove so you need to use the tool to open the ring and slide forward and off the crank arm. Then the crank just needs knocking through. The bearings should be tight in the frame but looser on the shaft of the crank. To avoid knackering the tapered end of the crank I’d recommend putting the crank arm back on and hitting that with a block of wood instead.

Once out I could check both bearings and as expected it had a completely worn crank bearing on the pulley end.

You shouldn’t be able to see the ball bearings inside the bearing, it should be sealed like the one above. This one is toast.

Figured it was worth replacing both bearings at same time. The part you need is in imperial dimensions and a R12-ZZ Shielded Deep Groove Ball Bearing 3/4×1.5/8×7/16 inch. I purchased two from www.bearing-king.co.uk for £9.77 delivered.

Original two bearings on top and two new ones below.

To put the bearings back in you either need to use a bearing puller or line them up with the hole and with a block of wood to protect it, slowly tap the bearings back in. They should fit flush or slightly recessed from edge of the frame. Once in, push the crank back through and you should see the small groove on the end of the crank to allow you to reinstall the circlip/snap ring. If you can’t see the groove then either the crank needs pushing in further or the bearings need seating further into the frame. Once done you should have a freely rotating pulley and pedals. Job one sorted.

Drive Belt – you’ll need to undo the bolts on the flywheel to allow you to thread the belt around the flywheel shaft and then slip over the pulley.

The manual above gives advice on how to adjust the belt but I found the drawing is incorrect as it shows the upper section of the belt being pulled down by the idler but in fact the idler pushes up on the bottom section of the belt to provide the correct tension.

Section from manual and I believe incorrect belt arrangement.
Correct belt arrangement, bottom section passes over the idler. Photo is with a spare belt, not the correct item.

Once done I put the crank arms and pedals back on and tried a test ride before putting side panels back on. Assuming all done correctly you should feel very little resistance and smooth operation on lowest resistance, and need to stand on the pedals to keep moving on the highest setting.

All done! These bikes were close to £600 new and by spending £35 and a couple of hours work I’ve replaced the main wear components and returned the bike to as new condition. Resale value on one of these is circa £150-£200 so there’s clear profit if I was intending to sell on, but I will probably keep as an exercise bike that will last many many years.

Thames Path 100 – Attempt 2 and a DNF

If you want to read about how to run Thames Path, then click here for my previous attempt.

Photo from legendary Stuart March who makes anyone look good running

Despite finding the race a struggle previously and being bullied by newfound running mate Jon for much of the back half, I was overtaken by serious race envy when a bunch of mates entered for 2021. This was back in August last year when races were coming back after Covid and I was getting some form back. Hell yes, let’s join them!

Then I had a lacklustre end of 2020 including my first proper DNF at the Track 100 when I mostly couldn’t be arsed to run in the awful weather for a medal and my 7th 100+ finish so went home for dinner. Like a boss.

Plan was to train properly from January and run the TP100 with some enthusiasm.

Then I tore my calf in January, then a knee issue in February left me with 2 months to go from zero to 100 mile ready. I nearly made it.

Easter Monday I managed a marathon, my longest run on the year. The following Saturday I finished the Rose of The Shires 54 miler, my longest run since 2019. It left precious little time to do any more training in between so managed some 20 milers and a couple of harder sessions. The Tuesday before TP100 I had my first decent ‘woah that was fast but fun’ run in months.

I stood at the start line for the TP100 in Richmond feeling damp. The weather forecast had gradually improved over the week from ‘rain forever’ to ‘rain most of Saturday’. I hate running in the rain. I’m soft.

Photo stolen from Jen

I set off with Jen and Matt and we mostly stuck together for about 10 miles before I decided to back off. They’d both had perfect training with multiple weekends of back-to-back 30 and 20 milers. I’d managed one decent week of 90 miles so staying with them any longer would be foolish.

Then I started to get passed a lot, first by the legendary Richard McDowell who went on to win in a ridiculous time of 13h42m42s and then Bad Boy Running mate Lorna who also went in a blur and didn’t stop running until she crossed the line and won her first 100 miler in 20h02m31s.

Somewhere around 30 miles after finishing off my Costa I’d purchased on route I was caught by Stuart, Spencer and Helen which was good to have company but when I learnt they started nearly an hour after me and had made that gap up in just 30 miles it’s hard not to think ‘fuck’.

Knowing I’d be on my own for a fair bit of the race (the covid-safe rolling start ensures an even more spread field than usual) I’d packed headphones but managed to flatten them by the time I rolled into Henley to be greeted by Kerry on aid station duties. Pacing wise I wasn’t doing too bad and not far off my previous TP100 go but that had been in the 2018 ‘Hot as Hades’ special edition. Spender was already out on course before I reached Henley and Helen and Stuart were both far enough ahead they headed back out whilst I was still sorting kit. I never caught any of them again.

Photo stolen from Kerry

I forced down some rice pudding, opened my cider and tried to push on but never really felt in the groove. If I pushed I managed 11-12min/mile pace but it was hard work and that section of the course is largely awful. No podcasts, few runners around, I was having dark thoughts. It’s also the section that leads into Reading which is a low point of the course.

One of the positives of the race is I’ve got much better at packing food and drink in drop boxes so was able to sail straight past the aid station at Wokingham Waterside Centre at Reading. If you’ve done TP100 or A100 before you’ll know it as the bastard aid station up a million steps. Being able to run straight past is a good mental boost and it was still daylight. When I’d last run TP100 I’d come down the steps in the dark although started later so not all that difference was performance based. This did give a perk to my spirits though and I almost looked forward to the noise of trains as I knew that meant the line was gradually converging with the Thames and I’d soon be squished into the bleak path between the two which somehow felt a lot less likely to be the scene of a murder than previously. I made it up over the railway line and into the village of Purely On Thames in daylight only needing headtorch as I dropped back onto the Thames.

Sadly this is where my race ended. Physically I was fine. At 67 odd miles I certainly had some stiffness in my legs but I could feel my eyes closing. I’ve managed multiple 100s and raced for as long as 38 hours without sleep but for some reason I was struggling to stay awake. A couple of times I closed my eyes and carried on marching, almost hoping some inbuilt defence mechanism would be awakened and jolt me alert with a blast of adrenaline. It didn’t happen, instead my brain went ‘Mmm that’s nice, let’s keep our eyes closed and have a nap’. It wasn’t even 10pm.

I resolved to push on and get a coffee at Pangbourne which is when I realised the familiar sound of my cup banging against my pack had gone. Somewhere since Henley I’d lost it and I really needed coffee. I was also conscious that the RD could impose a 1hr penalty for missing mandatory gear. Whether they would do so for someone so far down the field as a result of a genuine accident I wasn’t sure but more importantly I was now unlikely to get coffee.

I was 13 hours down, with 33 miles left. The cut off was 28 so I could pretty much stroll in a finish at a little over 2mph. If I pushed and misery marched for the next 11 hours I could probably get a sub24hr buckle. It would sit next to the sub24hr I already earnt on this race. I didn’t really need another one. I certainly didn’t want an over 24 buckle if it meant 11 hours of misery. When a marathon starts to fade you can buckle down and endure a couple of crappy hours. When you’re on a 100 and you’re looking at over a full working day of misery it’s a little harder to stomach.

I began to wonder on the logistics of dropping. One drop bag was on route from Henley to the end. I could probably get Jen or Matt to collect that and my final drop bag. I had one more drop bag at Goring. If I could make it to there I could try and bother someone for a lift home. A few texts to mates had the amazing surprise that Gary and family had come out to meet me at Pangbourne.  I resolved to make it there before making any decisions, but I think I’d mentally dropped by that point.

It was great to see them and be offered a cold beer and it did lift my spirits but I was weighing up being home in bed before midnight or a misery trudge along some of the worst parts of the course, largely on my own until I got to the new headphones at Goring. When you realise the only thing keeping you in the race is looking forward to listening to Bad Boy Running podcast in the dark and cold at 2am you question why you are there. I could get the finish but I had to want it. If I made it to Abingdon I knew Lou was on aid station duty and would bully me on to the finish. The issue was the 26ish miles in between.

So I dropped. Handed tracker and bib to the friendly marshal and headed home in the car via Goring to collect drop box 2. I was in bed by midnight where I laid awake for hours as I WASN’T TIRED AFTER ALL!!!!

Well done to all those finished, many seemed to smash PBs and achieve their goals. I had leftover pizza for breakfast so that was my goal.

Notable mates in the race –

  • Jen Sangster, 2nd 100 finish, 3rd female, 21h38
  • Matt Clements, 1st 100 finish, 21h38
  • Helen Wyatt, 5th female, 22h36m
  • Stuart McLaughlin, 22h55m

Things I learnt –

  • You probably can complete 100 on 2 months of training, but you have to REALLY want it.
  • I didn’t REALLY want it.
  • Going back to have another crack at a race you did pretty well at the previous attempt is not hugely motivational. Now I’ve got a DNF on this I can go back determined and stamp on every crappy step on the railway bridge.

Positives –

  • I’m much better at taking on food and fuel than previously. A massive benefit if you can avoid needless aid station stops.
  • Dressed better for the elements and was never cold. Whether I’d have been cold at the awful Clifton Hampden section in dead of night I don’t know but had several more layers to go if needed.
  • Much better paced with plenty of early walk or Costa breaks.
  • 68 miles on very little training is pretty good. I wasn’t even too broken the next day. If there was another 100 in a couple of weeks I’d be tempted.
  • Having previous course knowledge helps and hinders. You realise the crappy bits will pass but also know the crappy bits are coming. It does at least avoid the ultra tantrum of being stood in what is undoubtedly (at the time) the single worst square meter in the whole of the UK shouting at the moon “Why James? Why? Why here? In the name of all that is good why have you taken me here? I’ve been to sewage plants that were more welcoming.”

To improve next time –

  • Try not to get injured and take most of two months off. Duh!
  • Headphones. I’m not a fan of them when running events normally but over 100 miles with the covid-safe staggered start you will be on your own a lot with your thoughts and need something to take your mind off. Have a backup pair.
  • Given above, maybe sort some pacers as you can’t assume you’ll fall in with someone at a similar pace.
  • Not to lose my coffee mug.

Next up? Going to try a parkrun. Reckon I can finish that.

Best laid plans… coping with injury

Or how NOT to train for a marathon. And an ultra. 

A slightly downbeat post but hopefully something I can look back on and that may help someone else cope with issues.

Like everyone else I had a largely ‘meh’ year in 2020 with regards running. Managed a couple of events, most others were cancelled. Didn’t get my usual 100 miler per year in as DNFd at the track 100 with a slightly sore ankle but mostly a large case of can’t be arsed.

I dialled back the mileage a bit in November and then decided in December to get back to it.

Unfortunately ‘it’ seemed to suck and I found most runs an effort.  

Over the long Christmas break I took advantage of the ‘run with one other’ Covid rule and inflicted my generally lack of fitness and miserable disposition on a succession of clubmates. Mentally it was a case of accepting that every run was going to suck and be a long way off my best for both speed and distance, but it was all necessary part of getting back into it, and to some extent helped me accept that after 10 years of continual improvement maybe a slight decline wasn’t exactly surprising.

New Year, New Me!

January 2021 and I began to get a bit more focused. Four of us from Lakeside Runners started running in pairs following a loose marathon preparation type schedule. One pair in MK, one pair in Woburn Sands, we’d all do variations of the same sessions, with intervals on Tuesday, longer session Thursday and proper long run on weekend. Probably the first time since April the previous year when under Clean Coach Katie that I had a schedule.

Gradually, and slowly I was getting some form back. In mid-Jan Chris and I managed a 18 miler long run and despite feeling slow for the final few miles I was only just outside 8min/mile average. For a training run this was a huge mental boost and I began to think I could get back to previous marathon form. Although I’ve got mostly ultras booked in 2021 and only a couple of marathons, what will and won’t go ahead is anyone’s guess so any fitness is welcome. At any rate I was riding high on a solid three weeks of decent training and finally getting back to 50 mile weeks that were my bare minimum for a 3-4 year block.

Man down!

Tuesday the following week was intervals, legs felt heavy from the 18 mile long run still but went OK.

Wednesday 9 miler with Stephen and I started well but calf began to hurt in final few miles. It was a loop so no option but to finish and I needed to get to work. After a long drive I got out and was hobbling on my leg, seemingly unable to bend my ankle or bear weight well. Bugger.

So I did what all runners do. Rested for an insufficient amount of time.

By Friday I felt OK so risked a 9 mile loop with Jon. In the dark and rain. We ran about 4 miles before my calf went again and I basically had to walk it in. It was miserable. I barely slept that night as the my lower leg was throbbing and when rolling over in bed even the dead weight of my foot attached to my buggered calf was painful to move.

Rest

Clearly I needed actual rest so took one of my infrequent visits to Rudi, a local sports massage genius who fixed me before Chicago marathon. He diagnosed a calf tear and at least two weeks rest along with some exercises to ensure the calf muscle healed with ability to lengthen and contract rather than just be fixed length. I was really good at one of these prescribed remedies and rested for three weeks. I did light cycling only but nothing more than a fast walk. It was the longest break from running since I started in 2011. Initially it felt horrendous but gradually my inner lazy bastard returned. It helped that it coincided with one of the wettest January and Februarys in history and most of my usual routes were submerged. I was missing running, but missing some really shit and wet running is better than perfect June runs.

Things I learnt during three weeks off –

Trust the process – you will get better

Remember why – you’re doing this so come spring you can run in the woods like a loon

Find other stuff – I enjoyed the bike and did a lot more strength and conditioning, even some weights and now include a daily dumbbells session in my regime

Do things you wouldn’t normally do – no early starts and no kids clubs means I could lay in and eat toast in bed. Bliss.

Accept you’re going to put weight on – live with it

Come back too quickly. Dick.

So after a full three weeks I came back. First run 13th Feb. Previous run was 22nd Jan. I had aced the rest. Get me.

Sadly I hadn’t been doing the heel drop and raises prescribed by Rudi sufficiently it seems and my calf although healed was stiff. I came back what I thought was gently, no more than 10k. Bugger all for an ultra runner like me. I thought. It was probably too far but worse was running too often. In a stupid quest to get back to running I ran 9 times in 11 days. The 9th time was a planned 8 mile loop. It went so badly I had to hire one of the electric scooters (like a Boris bike) and do the final 4 that way.

When you bugger your knee you have to cheat to get home

In retrospect I think the stiff calf was putting excess strain on my knee. After only 9 runs the cumulative effect on my knee was that I couldn’t walk. In one week I’d self inflicted the same knee injury it took 100 miles of Lakeland 100 to achieve in 2019. Awesome.

Rest. Again.

So more rest. Bugger. I took a further two weeks off and did daily knee specific exercises for an Instagram video that randomly popped up on my feed. I also kept the cycling up, just slow and gentle to try and stem the decline of fitness and rising weight.

The return of the return.

On 5th March, I came back. Again. This time I stuck to no more than 5/6 miles, but forced myself to not run two days in a row.

It seemed to work and by 15th March I lengthened one of my runs to the heady heights of 8 miles.

I rested the next day and on 17th March attempted 9 miles without issue. 9 miles used to be my steady run every Wednesday, mere hours after double speed work the night before. Now it was a run I need to plan and psych myself up for. 

20th March I decided to push the bounds of physical endure and attempt the hitherto humanly impossible task of breaking into double figures with a 12.5 mile run. Again it went well. Slow but I could feel some vestiges of fitness return and felt better in the final few miles than the start.

I managed a few shorter, infrequent runs in between and pushed the mileage to 16 miles for 27th March. The reason for pushing the distance was races. I had the delayed Rose of the Shires 54 miler which was looming on April 10th, just three weeks away. I didn’t want to admit this was unfeasible this early so made the decision to ignore the likely Did Not Start (DNS) for a while longer.

Then I got the email reminding me my Easter Monday 2020 race had been rescheduled. I now had a marathon 4 days before an ultra and had three options.

  1. Decline both. Be sensible.
  2. Do just the marathon. Decline the ultra.
  3. Do the marathon as a test of the legs, don’t rush into decision on the ultra.

So of course I did 3 and this week ran my 150th(ish) marathon on a longest training run of 16 miles. It was entirely a case of relying on remembered ability. My goals were to finish, maybe go sub4 hr (as that’s been my default for nearly 8 years) and not get lapped by mates. I managed all three and finished tired but not broken. It was a huge mental boost and the pace for most of the race was well above what I’d been able to sustain for recent shorter training runs.

Back at the marathon again

So… this Saturday I’m going to be toeing the line of the Rose of the Shires ultra with my longest training run being only 26.2 miles, and four days before. Last time I ran it I was thinking about finish position. This time the goal is to finish.

Fixing a Pro-Form Tour De France exercise bike with broken lift motor

Something like £1000 when new. Ouch!

Fixing a Pro-Form Tour De France exercise bike with broken lift motor

Another random how-to in hope it will help someone save an expensive piece of kit. This all relates to Ver1 of the Tour De France, model PFEVEX71316.0 but looks like many of them use the same lift motor which was the problem.

About the bike “ProForm TDF Indoor Cycle Trainers replicate outdoor riding experiences like no other exercise bikes can. To imitate the feel of road bikes, the new ProForm Tour de France 1.0 for 2016 has configurable gears, a freewheel clutch and a three-piece crank. It supports uphill and downhill training with an automated 15% incline and 15% decline, and its workout programs help make rides especially true to life. Built-in coaching programs facilitate interval training and use incline/decline settings from French tour segments. Additionally riders using the iFit app can get full-color interactive street views for Google Maps routes.” Or in simple terms it goes up and down and has gears to better simulate a real bike.

As purchased. Constantly up and down & angry!

Issue – This was being sold cheap as the lift mechanism had broken. When the incline is adjusted it started a cycle of going up a bit and down a bit on a constant loop and generally being a bit annoying. My plan when I picked it was to bin the mechanism, replace with a solid shaft and just use as a normal bike. BUT when I started to fiddle, I realised that unlike normal spin bikes that have a resistance dial/buttons to adjust the effort level needed, this used the incline buttons to adjust both the bike lift motor and the electromagnetic resistance motor that adjust resistance. As such I had to use the incline buttons and associated annoying up and down or end up with a really easy effort level forever. Not ideal.

Plans – Came up with a couple of options:

  • Replace the lift mechanism – Part number 381160 Model LMA60305-A – looked around on internet and struggled to find a price. Pro-forma have a parts website but no prices or anything useful, just a number to call. I could find similar parts for anything from £200 to £450! The motors I found all had power cable and a feedback cable so indicated some form of position measurement or counting of rotations to know where it was on it’s linear stroke.
  • Replace with a solid shaft (or simply disconnect the cables if the motor itself was solid) and see if it would still simply adjust the resistance and the software would just ignore the lack of motor or feedback without throwing up errors or refusing to work. I measured the full stroke of the motor and it was approx. 26cm at shortest and 35cm at longest. So a 30cm length of bar or box section with some hole either end would work.
  • Try and fix the lift mechanism.

Strip the side panels off – This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKQaDYKE-aE shows the process well

Lift motor inspection –

  • Once covers off, it became clear the motor function (or linear actuator really) was fine but the plastic casing had exploded for want of a better word. The bearing was loose, and a small circuit board was hanging on a wire.
  • The small circuit board was some sort of measurement device that counted rotations of the shaft based on a small metal insert in the plastic collar. Presume some form of inductance or similar.
  • I tested the unit by holding the circuit board close to the plastic collar and operating the bike incline buttons. It all seemed to work as expected, with the bike rising slightly, then stopping. No annoying beeps, no bouncing up and down. So if I could find a way to repair the plastic housing and hold the circuit board in correct place it might be repairable.
  • Now to remove the lift motor and have a look.

Lift motor removal –

  • Disconnect cabling first. Take photos. In my case there was a + and – connection direct to motor. Also a white cable from unit with a connection close to the unit to pull apart. The loose circuit board that counted the rotations was on a multiway ribbon cable. I traced this back and it plugged directly into the main controller board between the pedals. This required cutting a cable tie on the seat post stem that held all other main cabling.
  • Disconnect other cable ties – there is one that holds the flexible gasket section to the motor and another on the cabling to keep it away from the mechanism.
  • Bottom of motor actuator is bolted into the base plate, hidden under the plastic cover just below the flexible gasket sections. The plastic cover pulls up. Need two 14mm spanners for the nut and bolt.
  • Top is held by a metal pin that is bolted into the frame by an Allen key bolt either end. Remove the bolts and then drive the pin out with a hammer and drift.
  • Motor is now loose. Either fit a new one, or try and fix it.

Lift motor repair–

  • The seller had kindly given the sections of casing that had exploded, or all that he could fine.
  • I could piece it back together with a slot available for the counting circuit board.
  • Why had it failed? Fiddling showed that whilst the unit is normally under compression so very strong, if the unit is placed in tension the bearing is only held in place by the plastic casing. If you were to lift the entire bike up from the saddle, as you might well do to tip it onto it’s front wheels, the weight of the frame is hanging off the plastic casing. This seems a poor design and I suspect the lift motor is a generic part used for many applications where it would never be in tension like this so would normally be OK. Not in this instance. Likely this also means any replacement lift motor would be of the same design and inherent weakness.
  • To fix I glued the sections I had back together with two-part resin for strength, making sure the small circuit board was inserted.
  • The metal tube on the rear of the plastic housing is bolted by four long bolts. I decided to use a metal plate to reinforce the glued side, and extend the bolt holes through the unit to sandwich the plastic casing between two metal plates. This way if you lift the bike weight is now transferred from the rotating shaft, through these bolts and directly to the metal casing of the actuator and bike frame, not all hanging off a plastic casing (hopefully photos show this better!)
  • After some tinkering I went with a very thick machine washer that fitted over the strut, drilled two holes that lined up with the now extended bolt holes and then installed two long bolts to sandwich it all together. I used locktight and double nuts to ensure it didn’t work loose.

Reinstall –

  • Reverse of removal, found it easier to attached the top first, then bottom, then connect cables.

Test –

  • Plug the mains power in, turn it on and hope.
  • The unit powered up and lift motor spun to lower the bike to lowest position then stopped ready.
  • Fiddling with buttons and it all worked exactly as it should. Each 0.5% include increase have a small rise, no annoying bleeds, nothing else.
All works!

Fixing a broken treadmill – Nero Sport HU143NG Foldable Treadmill

Yeah I like tinkering in the garage and hoping this may well help someone in future.

Picked up a faulty treadmill (again) from someone local and figured I could have a tinker after the success of fixing my first one.

It’s a Nero Sport model HU143NG but as with a lot of treadmills they seem to a generic model and available under various brands.

Fault – dead. As disco. That was all I was knew.

Step 1 – Basic Check

Plugged it in and turned it on. The power switch lit up so it wasn’t something simple like the plug top fuse. It was getting power  to switch at least.

The control panel was dead, no obvious physical issue like a smashed screen but nothing on it, no display, no response to buttons etc.

Step 2 – Check Control Panel

Common faults can be the cable between control board and the main circuit board. Especially on folding units these can wear over time.

On this unit the display was wobbly and appeared to be missing the bolts to stop it rotating on the metal frame so could just rotate around and around until cable or screen breaks.

I took the rear panel off the control panel -lots of little screws.

First issue was pretty clear. The black cable with the white plug that connects to the circuit board was not connected.

Looks like the control panel has twisted around the frame enough times to pull out the cable.

Step 3 – Reconnect Control Panel and Test

Released the circuit board and adjusted the slightly pulled cable coupler socket and reconnected

Turned back on and screen powered up. Success!

It beeped constantly and displayed an Error. Bum.

This is where lack of attention wasted me time on the next few steps. Skip straight to step 7 if you want to save time!

Step 4 – Check Main Power Board

Couldn’t find anything on internet on the error codes. Some treadmills give useful codes identifying motor issue, speed sensor issue etc. This just said Error. So next thing to check was the main power board.

Took the cover off the motor housing. Standard arrangement of a big DC (direct current) motor and a main power board. This converts the AC mains power to DC for the motor among other things.

Main power board looked all OK, no signs of overheating, blown components etc. Most boards will have some large capacitors on that can hold charge even with power off. Don’t poke around like an idiot.

It did have a fair bit of hot glue applied to components on the board. It was unclear if this was done at factory or by previous owner in a repair. Given it was on other components on the treadmill I think it’s original.

It did have a separate fuse mounted on the board. I pulled this off and checked for continuity (is there a circuit through the fuse?) it was OK and hadn’t blown so pushed back in.

Not much else to check on board without a lot more effort or test gear.

Step 5 – Test Motor

The motor is direct current (DC) not alternating current (AC) like the mains so you can’t just connect 240V from the plug to it as you’ll fry it, start a fire and get told off for being an idiot and messing with electricity.

Instead I disconnected the motor from the power board by unplugging the positive (+) and negative (-) leads. Make a note of which is plugged into where if not clear. In this case the terminals were marker + and -.

You can use a small battery or a low voltage DC power supply to test the motor.

I used a 12V car battery charger, connected the crocodile clips to the terminals (all while off), red to red, black to black. If you get this the wrong way around it will just run backwards at this stage, no issue as you’re not running on the treadmill.

Turned on battery charger and the motor spun well, no noises, no burning smells etc. At very least I had a working motor to sell for spares.

Step 6 – Test Cable to Control Panel

Bum. The cable that connects to the screen from the power board is glued into it’s socket on the power board so couldn’t easily disconnect and check the continuity in the cable to determine if breaks in cable. Given the control panel was powered up and beeping it was fairly likely it was OK but would have been good to check. It’s a three core cable so without knowing detail of the wiring I presume it positive and negative power (+/-) and a signal cable of some sort so a break of just the signal could have a functioning board and errors potentially.

Step 7 – Stop Being Stupid – Safety Switch

When I first gave the unit a look over I noted it didn’t appear to have a safety key function. It didn’t come with a magnetic safety key and there wasn’t a separate board containing a reed switch (a switch that is closed in presence of magnet) as I was expecting. So I presumed it didn’t have a safety kill switch being a cheaper unit.

Then I looked closer at the control board and saw a tiny reed switch on the unit itself. Idiot.

Using a fridge magnet to close the switch I turned the treadmill on again. It worked. Error message gone, now just OFF, awaiting a start.

Step 8 – Put It All Back Together

Reassembled everything, put covers back on, all fine.

Step 9 – Kick Yourself

So the only things wrong with the unit were a twisted control panel section had pulled the cable out, and the magnetic safety switch was missing. I could have done skipped steps 4-6 if I’d bothered to realise all treadmills need a safety switch.

Step 10 -Tidy Up

Few bolts were loose or missing, so sorted them.

Installed some bolts and washers to keep the display in place for future and prevent a repeat of the issue.

Tensioned the belt. Looks like someone has fitted a slightly narrower belt at some point. Works fine but could do with being an inch wider.

For now using a fridge magnet but really needs a proper magnetic key, these are on eBay and Amazon for a few quid.

Making A Home Gym

Age is hard to deny. For the last year or so I’ve realised that running alone won’t keep me in shape, and I need to cross train. If I wanted to join a gym they’re periodically closed. The onset of Covid has also made running in groups at times difficult, at other times illegal.

I’d purchased a treadmill at the start of lockdown as was fearful we’d be in the full house arrest mode of some countries like Italy. It was expensive. It was in the lounge as the garage was too full of junk and I had an optimistic goal of running on it whilst the family watched TV. The excessive noise meant this wasn’t really sensible. So it sat in the lounge for months, used a handful of times.

Seldom used and when it is the dog barks at it….

The problem was the garage. It was full of car. A kit car shared with mates that had not moved under it’s own power in about 8 years. I couldn’t get at it to work on it as there was too much junk. I started to clear it. Tips were shut so started with a skip. Then once lockdown eased much was sold, or taken to the tip.

This is mostly cleared. The before situation was so bad the kids refused to believe there was even a car in there

Flogging stuff – Facebook marketplace is amazing. It’s free, and key is it’s local. You may get less £ than ebay but you can get it immediately with no fees. Drag something out garage, take photo, state collection that day, gone by end of day. Some items seem to attract idiots though and you need to assume 50% of people are idiots who will never show.

Once the garage was cleared we could pull out and sell the car. The amount of stuff I had in the garage was alarming. I am a natural hoarder. I don’t normally do clickbait articles but this link HERE was brilliant. We’d moved into the house about 7 years ago so I knew much of what I was coming across I had not used since we moved. Seven years of keeping stuff ‘just in case’. So I got rid.

Now an emptier garage.

First step was sweep, sweep, sweep again and then paint the floor. Everyone in the UK seemed to have the same idea and garage floor paint, along with loo rolls sold out. I started to paint by mixing up all the odds and ends of gloss paint in the garage. It worked but wasn’t amazing. By luck someone locally donated a half tin of proper floor paint and I managed to get two full coats.

Keeping draughts and leaves out. I’m lucky to have a double garage. One door is always blocked by wheelie bins so I sealed that by gluing a length of plastic trunking under it, to seal water and dirt. For the other side that would open I went cheap and screwed a length of the flexible damp proof roll I had spare. This is doing a great job so far, especially given the proper seals are expensive and most involve a strip on the floor that would make wheeling stuff in and out harder.

For the crap I was keeping I gradually amassed Milton Keynes entire supply of filing cabinets. Went for these as they’re cheap (most were free), sturdy and lockable. Also look a little neater than open shelving of crap.

I’d had a gym at the old house and had used some industrial carpet tiles with rubber backing to keep the warmth in. We moved them (it appears I moved a load of crap) so put them down first.

Other lockdown project was sorting the daughters bedroom so a quick relocation of the pink carpet from her room on top and I had a double layer of sound and noise insulation.

I had a shed load of used race numbers so kids and I got stuck into the sticking and gluing of them to a panel of wood. This was to go behind the treadmill. The bib from my DNF at the Track 100 was placed front and centre.

All garages needs tunes so I dug an old amp and speakers out the loft and bodged a movable laptop arm that pivots and raises or lowers to match the height of the treadmill or rower. Speakers are slung up in the roof pointing down. I had a spare set of power line adapters to retransmit internet into the garage.

Rower – I’ve had a cheap rower before. They’re awful. I wanted the proper Concept 2. These are gym spec, and the manufacturers still make the parts for models as old as 20 years ago. Look after them and they will outlast you. After missing out on numerous auctions and Facebook marketplace ads I finally scored one for £350, a cost more than covered by the crap sold. It’s more than I’d like to spend but unlikely to lose money. The screen was broken but there’s a chap on eBay who can fix them for £45 – hence why missing in photo.

Spin bike – I wanted one as well but again kept missing out on the sales. Then good mate Neil offered me one. For free. It’s been around the running club and I’m now the 3rd or 4th keeper.

Gym coming along well. But what if I wanted to get buff?

Picked up a cheap weight bench from marketplace. It was £15. It was tatty. Given I wasn’t sure if the weightlifting would stick this was a good price point. I cleaned it up, sprayed it with some silver paint I had left from a car I owned about 10 years and recovered (badly but enough to work) with an old blind from the boys room.

Weights are going silly during lockdown. If you can manage to find any in the shops you can pretty much resell for a better margin than a Playstation 5. Through some lucky adverts I managed to score a bar and two 20kg weights – 40kg plus the weight of the bar is more than enough for weak runners arms. Also managed to score some cheap dumbbells and weights. A bit of elbow grease and paint and they started to look better. Had more weights than handles so made some DIY handles for these CLICKY.

Knocked up a dumbbell rack out of scrap wood and gym is pretty much there for now. Assuming my arms ever develop to more than that of a small child I may need some more weights. There’s a vague thought to get some Olympic weights and try some proper lifts but will wait for gyms to open and someone who knows what they’re doing to show me. For now I’ll stick to normal stuff.

It’s also been handy for the kids. When I use it myself I tend to stick a Youtube spin class video on and follow that as a warmup, then the rower, interspersed with some weights. Goal is no matter how busy I get, try and do at least 30min in the gym a day on the rest days from running. Had a few work days where I’ve left at 5am, got home at 8pm, and once kids in bed could blast out 30min spin so I wasn’t a complete coach potato all day.

Hopefully this has shown how you can manage to set up a reasonable home gym for a relatively affordable price. The running machine was the most expensive and to be honest the least used. Leave that out. Run outside. Keep the rest.