Fixing a broken treadmill – Estleys M600+ Portable & Foldable Treadmill

Slightly off topic but hoping this may well help someone in future.

I saw a treadmill being sold cheap locally. Had little use but had developed an error and refused to work. There was nobody else interested so I stepped in and paid £50 for a nearly new Estleys M600+ treadmill.

Link here for sale!

These retail at £450-£600 new so I figured it was a worth a punt and at worse I could probably sell the working bits and recoup the cost.

Other option would be to strip the mechanicals off and make an unpowered, manual unit, possibly for use at my desk.

When I picked it up I was impressed by the unit. It’s well made, certainly light compared to a gym quality one but crucially does fold flat enough to slide under a bed or sofa. It runs up to 8mph so is fast enough for most runners. It’s an ideal lockdown tool!

First Step –

Turn it on. All lights up but as per the advert has ‘Err’ on the screen and makes a warning beep. Not the most helpful error code. No pressing of buttons will get it to do anything or show a better code. Manual suggests the Err code is a safety key issue.

Next page also suggests a safety key issue. It’s a magnetic key so I tried swapping it in and out, and replacing with a stronger magnet from the fridge. No change. So it could be a ‘change computer screen/display monitor’. Let’s hope not as probably an expensive part.

I took the cover off the motor area. There isn’t too much to these units so a limited number of things that can be wrong. Visually it all looks good and a diode on the main board lights up so it’s getting power at least.

NOTE – I’m playing with the unit open and at times live. There is 240V power there. It could make you jump. Don’t be an idiot with this and minimise any danger. Mine was connected via an RCD device to trip in event of any issues.

Motor Test

Starting with the basics, is the motor goosed?

Note – the motor on all treadmills is a DC unit (direct current – like a battery) not an AC (alternating current – like the mains power) so you can’t just wire the motor directly into your 240V supply as you’ll fry it.

The benefit of being DC is you can more safely test and almost any battery will make it move a little to test.

The video below shows how to do it using a small 12V battery. Other videos show using a tiny 9V battery from a smoke alarm.

I tested mine with a 12V car battery charger – pulled the motor cables from the main board and connected directly to the charger, then turned on (making sure no risk of short circuits or bare wires touching anything).

It had enough power to ‘flick’ the motor but not turn the belt. If I gave the belt a helpful push it then had enough to keep it moving. So motor was good.

Note – the polarity of the battery you use will affect the direction the motor spins, so don’t be surprised if it runs backwards, just make sure you connect the cables back to the main board in the correct polarity, likely terminals are marked “+” for the red/brown cable and “-“ for the black/blue wire.

If your motor won’t turn at all then you can try disconnecting the drive belt from the treadmill belt to reduce resistance and try again. If it still won’t it may well be faulty and there’s various checks you can make with a multimeter to measure winding resistance.

Main Board –

Not a lot to test on this for the home DIYer. With the unit turned off and unplugged you can make some basic checks.

  • Are the power cables connected from the mains socket?
  • Are there any inline fuses that could have blown (most don’t have them and rely on the plug top fuse)?
  • Are the cables to the motor connected?
  • Is the multiway plug to the controls and the display connected?
  • Do any wires look frayed or broken?
  • Any obvious discolouration from an overheating component on the board?

These boards are pretty specific to each make and model of treadmill so unless you happen to have a working identical treadmill to hand to swap the board over this is little else you can do to test.

Mine all looked good and as said above, it had a reassuring light on so was getting power. Of course the light could have meant an error, I had no way of knowing.

Cabling to controls and display –

Given everything in the base looked good, I opened up the rear of the display and control. This is connected by a small 5-way cable with a multiplug. They’re not especially well made so inspect the end of the cable where it connects to the main board in the base and the other where it connects to the control board. Given this is a treadmill that is often packed up and folded the cabling and joints are at risk of becoming trapped or kinking and breaking. I disconnected both ends and did a basic continuity test the length of the cable ensuring pin 1 on one end was connected to pin 1 on the other. If they’re all OK then you can repeat to ensure pin 1 is not connected to pin 2,3,4 or 5 indicating a likely split in the lead somewhere and cross linking. Mine all tested fine and cable had no visual faults.

Control Board & Buttons –

Once tested everything else so fault is likely in the control board, display or buttons. This is where people are prone to spilling drinks or sweating over the unit so did a quick check for any discolouration, suspicious stains or similar that might indicate a short. All looks good.

It’s worth noting on the M600+ the flip up screen plugs into the control board and has the buzzer inside to make the beep so without it connected you won’t know if the warning beep is still present.

There isn’t much else to check on this unit. The screen was lighting up and making the beeps so likely working despite the warning in the manual. The buttons each made a further warning beep is you pressed them so evidently worked and since they’re connected to the screen via the control board you can assume that is working.

Safety Key –

The only item left to check is the safety key device again.

There are two types, one uses a magnet as part of the key and if you lose it can be replaced with any magnet to form the circuit and make the machine usable, or you can buy replacements off eBay for as little as £5.

Others have an insertion key, a small piece of metal on a plastic holder that is inserted and completes the circuit to make the machine operate. These tend to be on higher end machines and are a bit more difficult to replace. Your manufacturer should sell them so check directly.

The M600+ has a magnetic key and I’d tried several other magnets to get it to work as a first check with no luck. The unit has a small safety circuit board with a basic reed switch activated by the magnet, located at the front of the machine and wired to the main control board with a simple two cable lead. It forms a loop in normal operation, completing a circuit from the control board, out to the safety board and back. Any break in this loop either from a missing key or a damaged cable etc would break the circuit and stop the machine.

Safety switch board with 2-pin connector

Easiest way to test is to disconnect the cable from the safety switch board and link across the two terminals to complete the loop. This remove the key and the safety board as issues.

Success – the machine when powered up beeped, but just the once to indicate it was on, and was ready to go. It ran up nicely to the max speed of 8mph.

So the issue is either the safety key or the safety board. The cable to it has been linked out at the board end so that’s been proven to be OK.

If you were happy to body it, you could just leave the cable linked out so it always runs, but you’d have no safety switch for emergency.

Time to investigate further.

First check is to connect a continuity meter on the two terminals of the board. It’s as simple as a circuit can get. When a magnet comes close to the unit it closes and completes the circuit. Or it should.

No matter how close I got the magnet I could not get a circuit from the pin connectors around and back.

I tested with the meter probes on the pins of the reed switch itself (you can see them in the photo two above) and success! The reed switch opened and closed as expected. So the fault is either on the board itself or the joints to the connector.

Some inspection showed a minor surface wear in the PCB track that was deep enough to prevent a current flow. How this happened inside a machine I don’t know since it allegedly did work originally. I rubbed the area down and ran some solder over the gap to close it and reassembled. Sadly I didn’t get a photo but appeared like below:

For advice on how to repair then check HERE

Treadmill now works perfectly and runs up well, safety key works exactly as it should.

Cockbain Events Track 100 – Did Not Finish. Not unexpectedly.

The Fast & The Furious – and that was just the pre-race Taco Bell

I entered the Track 100 on a whim a number of months back. It was evident we were going to be getting precious few races in for 2020 and at 35 miles my only ultra, the Shires & Spires, was whilst a great day out, not really worthy of the title of ‘my longest run of 2020’ given I’d run at least a 100 miler for the last three or four years. The Track 100 was local, it was flat, it was likely fast and crucially looked like it might go ahead. I entered figuring if I changed my mind the entry was transferable (a very fair policy from the race organiser Mark Cockbain) without lengthy forms or arbitrary transfer fees.

Then summer finished, Autumn arrived and far earlier than expected it was race time. My plans of building on summer mileage, and in particular the 540 mile month I ran as part of Mark Cockbain’s Accumulator challenge in May, had fizzled out through some minor and varied niggles that never allowed me much than a 2 week block of happy running. Some weeks the nearest I got to training were building flat packed furniture and taking stuff down the tip as we got stuck into some DIY projects.

I was hideously undertrained for a 100 miler and had missed the transfer window so resolved to treat it as a long training run. Part of me hoped that a good few years of ultras would have built some residual ability into my legs and I’d do better than I expected, finish and have a good day. A tiny part of me wondered if months of rest and low mileage would be the secret ingredient to an effortless 100 mile personal best. The realistic part of me was wondering what was a good distance to drop. It’s not the ideal mental approach to a race.

In the last few days before the race I also learnt that for obvious safety reasons there were no headphones allowed. For Covid reasons we would also be required to keep respectfully distanced. So it would just be the sound of our feet, some fleeting conversations and our own internal monolog. If you’re in top form, and strong mentally this would not be a huge issue. If you’re already wondering at what point you would drop, remembering you’ve barely run for the last two weeks, and that your recurring knee issue made 35 miles feel hard work a couple of months earlier, this is not ideal.  My mileage the previous week had been a heady 2. Yes 2. The bare minimum number of miles necessary to use the plural. It had been run with the boy as he started to take up running. It had been great to share the joy of the sport I love but was not even enough to stem the decline of my fitness.

Driving to the track on Saturday morning I was reminded of a mate from Uni who rather than study for exams would prepare himself mentally by going for a run and then cramming in a few brief minutes of text books with the inevitable resultant grades. Conversely rather than run, I’d spend much of the previous few months either talking about running whilst recording podcasts, or writing about running whilst finishing off the manuscript of my second book and hoping that I was getting fitter by some form of mental osmosis. A similar level of success beckoned.

For Covid reasons the event required runners to set up their own mini aid station at the side of the track and store their gear and food. It seemed ideal that you would be able to access your food every 400 metres rather than rely on sporadically placed aid stations with a mystery buffet of food that may not cater for everyone’s vegetarian, vegan, glutton, wheat or other food issue, real or imagined. The downside was you had to pack exactly what you needed. Whilst Mark had a basic aid table and water available to supplement there were to be no petrol stations or pubs to call in and top up supplies with at mile 37. I arrived, dumped my chair and box at the side and collect my bib from Karen, in charge of the registration whilst her better half Matt handed out the chips for Timing Monkey. Karen had also been a key figure at my first (and only) track marathon a number of years previously so it seemed fitting she’d be there.

After an amusing race brief by Mark (“Obviously we have safeguards in place as we’ve all got Covid. Hang on, I don’t mean we’ve got it, but it does exist. I do not have Covid!”) we milled about and I ambled to the rear intent on starting sensibly and steady. 

I’d been debating whether to use my Garmin for the race as they are notoriously inaccurate on a track and Timing Monkey website would give us lap splits throughout and be accessible by their web page or depending on how much you wanted to anger them, updated verbally on request. Ultimately I figured a watch would at least give me a gauge of how fast I was going and stop me doing anything stupid.

I borrowed this photo off someone. Don’t know who, sorry!

I made a pros and cons list as I often do at these times.

Pros – 

  • This would be my 7th go at 100 mile or greater and I had never failed in an attempt yet, even the arduous Lakeland 100.
  • I managed to finish the GUCR145 event, nearly 50% further and was even wearing the hoody to remind myself (and others) that I could once run.
  • I’ve only ever DNFd a race once, and that was through a knee issue so severe I couldn’t walk to the start line but tried anyway.
  • Any distance achieved today would be a decent long run.
  • I’d managed to secure a pair of the discontinued Adidas Supernova, my shoe of choice for many years, and had these strapped on and ready.
  • The surface would be flat and smooth – no tripping over roots or sudden inclines to tweak my niggles
  • My mileage for the last few months had been so low I was the most rested I had ever been. Probably since birth.
  • I’m never fast at ultras but I’m pretty good at sucking it up and pushing on.

Cons –

  • It was a track.
  • 400+ laps of a track.
  • I would see everything 400 times…..
  • I hadn’t run over 35 miles since July. July 2019 at the Lakeland 100. That seemed a long time ago.
  • I wasn’t sure I had packed enough food.
  • It was forecast to rain. I don’t like running in the rain.
  • As I’d packed the night before I couldn’t find my decent taped seam rain jacket, just a couple of cheaper ‘shower proof’ jackets.
  • No headphones, no podcasts, no zoning out.
  • No shelter. No trees. No inviting church hall every 10 miles.
  • My knee was still not fully back to normal and a couple of times a day would remind me that the physio exercises only work if you actually do them.
  • I’d had Taco Bell for dinner and my stomach was suggesting this may not be ideal.
  • I was driving so I couldn’t even get inebriated to dull the senses like I had on GUCR145.
  • I’d had the sort of work issues in the prior couple of days that make you want to run until you puke, not pace at a steady zen-like Buddhist level of self-control.

Mark started the race off and we jogged into the first corner. My knee felt amazing. My new shoes felt amazing. The track felt amazing. Running was actually amazing.

Have you seen the movie ‘Talladega Nights’ where Ricky Bobby, a Nascar racer often shouts “I want to go fast”? Yeah that was me. So I did. Passing a few runners it felt great to be moving like I used to be able to. I closed the gap and ‘won’ the first lap, much to the admonishment of Karen. It all felt so effortless on the smooth track.

The race instructions allowed for faster runners to keep to the inside so it was easier to keep running at this pace than slow and deal with lane changes so I just kept it up and clocked a sub 7 minute first mile. Perfect pacing if I was going for a sub12 hour 100 miler and see me close to the 100 mile track world record pace set by Zach Bitter. Even by my standards this is ‘ambitious’ pacing.

I did reign myself in. A little. 

5k came in 23m40s, I was leading everyone by 2 minutes. No need to stop yet, I’ll get something to drink later, just glide around.

10k came in 46m49s, I was leading everyone by 4 minutes. Maybe I should grab a water but it had been so long since I had a decent run where it all felt effortless that I didn’t want it to end.

At 8 miles my stomach lurched. 

At 9 miles it happened again and I felt bloated and pained. Something was coming.

At 10 miles I dived for the portaloo and the Taco Bell made a sudden and violent reappearance. Of the few running skills I have, a cast-iron stomach is one of them. A mid-run poop stop is something I’ve only done once, at mile 75 of the Lakeland 100. I have never needed to stop at mile 10. 

I emerged from the toilet feeling clammy but lighter, grabbed some drink and a protein bar (yes I’d washed my hands) and mentally told myself this was a one off and I shouldn’t draw parallels between Lakeland 100, my worst race performance and this one today. 

It sort of worked for a bit. I took a couple of walk breaks and chatted to a few people. The Half Marathon came in 1h47m12 even with the pit stop and breaks.

I was still leading everyone by 3 minutes but the tide (along with the Taco Bell) had already turned. My knee was complaining a little and the quad above was introducing itself to the mix. It all started to feel a bit stiff and awkward on one leg. Not painful and certainly something you’d run through for the final section of an ultra.

I was on course for 20 miles in 3 hours, to give a marathon of just over 4 hours which is what I typically do for the first 25/26 of a 100 miler. Eventually that passed in a little over 3 hours. Anyone looking to do the whole event had another 22 hours to go. Mentally I wasn’t including myself in that group.

The rain came in earlier than predicted and we all got a bit wet and a bit cold. I debated getting a rain coat but knowing both of mine was useless I left them in the box.

At this point I realised my biggest issue was boredom. Could I really handle another 80 miles of this? Or even another 20? I wasn’t panting for breath just yawning.

I resolved to push on for the marathon, probably the 50 miles and then make a decision.

Boredom led me to walk a bit more.

The face of sheer commitment.

I had a banana and contemplated the small fixing holes on the infield of the track where they bolt down the metal guard rail that denotes the inside of lane 1 and wondered what dictated whether these were or weren’t in place on any given day. Did 400 metre events have them and not 100 milers? Are they labelled to ensure they go back in the right place? Why take them off and risk losing them? Were they taken off for the winter to prevent corrosion? That wouldn’t be a problem if they were aluminium. When I’d seen them at the Milton Keynes athletic track they looking aluminium. They probably were aluminium as that would make lifting easier from a manual handling aspect. This is the level of monotony my mind was at already. I won’t bore you with my thoughts on adjustable height hurdles and possible improvements I was considering nor whether I judged the track to have adequate fall and drainage for heavy rain.

The timing set up beeped as I ambled over it, tucking into some sweets. That beep was the nearest I’d had to music or entertainment for some hours. It wasn’t hugely melodic.

My walk break extended as I couldn’t be bothered to run. At a normal ultra you run until a fixed point, or the next aid station, maybe just until you reach an incline. There was none of that. No reason to run and no reason to walk. Given my pace was dropping and my fitness was well off was there even a reason to be here? I was unlikely to secure a PB for any distance from here until the 100 mile finish. Did I want to spend the rest of the day in boredom with no real goal?

I’ve learnt not to make snap decisions so resolved to complete the marathon distance. At 23 miles I planned to run 3 decent miles, get the marathon in just over 4hrs, and have a break before I made any rash decision.

Even that didn’t work and I walked a lot. Occasionally breaking into weaving sections of running where I veered across the lanes like a Formula 1 car keeping it’s tyres warm except I was trying to keep my brain in the game. Grabbing my phone I checked the timing system and ambled in the official marathon distance and sat down.

This. For 25 hours.

The marathon had taken me 4h51m09s. The leader at that time, James Parsons passed the distance in 3h42m41s. So a mere hour and a bit ahead, all made up in the last 13 miles.

I tucked into a Greggs sausage roll and poured a coffee. This was my first big aid stop and I was going to do it like a Centurion event. Maybe I could visualise the four out and back legs of the Autumn 100? I’d done Little Wittenham and back. Next would be Swyncombe Farm on the Ridgeway, a beautiful leg with some picturesque views. Of course that would leave the awful Chain Hill and the depressing Reading legs. Maybe this wasn’t the best visualisation after all.

I’ll just eat this and go run another marathon. Or three. Maybe.

I watched the runners go past and most looked very ‘in the zone’, pounding away in pursuit of everything from a Spartathlon Qualifier, to a 100 mile PB or even a world record attempt. I was in the ‘I fancy going home zone’.

What tipped me over the edge was a runner who’d been sat at the side finally stand up, grab their box and walk off in the light sprinkle of rain that indicated an approaching storm. I realised I was more envious of them going home than I was of those on the track.  

Decision made. 

I jogged over the mat one last time, dropped my chip in the reject bucket and thanked Mark, Karen and Matt for the event. It was great it just wasn’t for me on this day.

I went home, had a shower and spent the evening with the family in front of the fire. The storm raged intermittently throughout the night and over half the field dropped all told, including many more capable runners than me. I felt no remorse as it wasn’t my day. It isn’t even my year based on my largely lacklustre performance and injury woes.

DNF, in the car going home!

This all sounds depressing doesn’t it? It’s a reflection on me not Mark or the rest of the team. The event was handled completely safely and professionally. It is ideal for first timers wanting to get 100 done in a safe environment, or anyone in good form looking to hit a time goal. For me, lacking in fitness, nursing niggles and with no huge pressing desire to notch off my 7th 100 mile finish it just wasn’t quite right. That being said, I’m already wondering if I should train properly for another go….

It’s worth noting the eventual winner Mike Bisson was 23 minutes behind the race leader at marathon distance and the gap stayed in the 20-30 minute range up until 100km (62mile) where after he activated his turbo boost to close the gap and eventually finish 35 minutes ahead. Taking an hour out of the leader in the final 38 miles and running 100 miles in 15h19m is quite frankly ridiculous. He was nowhere near world record pace for the first mile like I was though so it’s clear for everyone to see who did better. It was him obviously.

If you want to hear his story check out the podcast – https://runlikeduck.podbean.com/e/ep25-you-could-have-been-running-the-track-100-mike-did-and-won-it/

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Money for metal – selling my London Marathon 2020 medal & top

I’ve run quite a few races.

I can still remember the thrill of getting my first ever medal, for the Bupa London 10k back in 2011. That combined with wearing a race bib like a ‘proper runner’ made me feel immense pride. Being awful at sports and having attended school before the ‘everyone gets recognition’ approach they have now it was the first tangible item I’d earned for my physical performance. I was holding something my podgy and uncoordinated body had sweated and worked for. It was awesome.

I went home and hung up the medal over my door handle and proudly framed the bib.

As my interest in running grew I went through a variety of medal racks as my collection expanded. From my first marathon I had a secret desire to join the 100 Marathon Club but didn’t dare look to see what I needed to do (for fear of admitting my silly goal) so I neatly filed my race bibs along with a print out of the results in case it was ever needed (for anyone wondering, no it’s not, they just need a spreadsheet with the races on).

Over the years I’ve stuck to this anally retentive approach, with every medal and bib filed by chronological date, sub-divided by distance. Ask to see the medal from the Brighton marathon and I know I ran it in 2013, just after a local marathon by Enigma Running and before London, so there it is, nestling on the rack in the correct place. The bib will be in a folder in the same place, with my finishers cert as well.

If it’s a 10k you’re after then that’s a separate folder and a separate rack as I’ve outgrown the marathon one. Keeping the bib and medal was everything to me as I plugged away at 100 marathons.

Fast forward to this year and I’m on something like 140 marathons and ultras. It’s probably quite telling I don’t know the definite number any more. It’s not that I don’t love running, but the accumulation of lines on spreadsheets, bibs in folders and medals on racks is now less relevant.

With the issues of 2020 there haven’t been many medals but I’ve still struggled to muster the enthusiasm to hang them up. I’ve enjoyed every race (well except Watford Half where I fell apart and got overtaken by every runner I know) but the bibs and medals were in a pile on the floor awaiting attention. It was only this week whilst patiently waiting for my virtual London Marathon pack to arrive that I mustered the energy to hang the marathon and ultra medals from this year (shorter stuff still on the floor):

  • Milton Keynes reimagined marathon – first time running with an app to direct you on the course and continued my ever-present streak at the event
  • Shires & Spires – my mate Maff’s first ultra where he fell apart and we
    laughed at him
  • An Enigma marathon – my mate Neil’s 100th marathon
  • The Enigma marathon I ran on the date of the London Marathon in biblical rain, to earn my virtual London Marathon medal.

All of these are significant in their own way and it’s the memories I want to keep, not the lump of mass produced metal that comes with it.

Finally nearly three weeks after running the virtual London, my finishers pack hit the door mat. I opened it and felt largely nonplussed. The t-shirt looked decent quality but the design was pretty horrid and last time I checked I had over 100 running tops (I stopped counting at 100 as it seemed too excessive to admit). I had a top I wouldn’t wear and a medal I wasn’t sure what to do with as I already had one for the marathon I ran that day.

Remembering that there is often a market for London Marathon stuff I checked eBay and was shocked.

Some sellers were listing at as much as £600, although the average sale price seemed to be around the £80-£100 price. For a finishers pack from a race that cost £20 to enter (or £25 if you were international and needed it posted abroad). True it sold out, but took several weeks and anyone could have entered, opened the app, ridden the distance on a bike or horse if they so wished and claimed the finishers pack.

Selling

So after an afternoon of pondering I went for it. Added the race bibs for extra attraction and stuck the lot on eBay, starting at £30 with a buy it now of £80.

Listed at 7:34pm.

Sold for £80 plus the postage at 7:51pm.

Wow.

Maybe I undercharged? There were still auctions up running far lower, so maybe I hit the sweet spot of a buy it now just low enough to entice people who didn’t want to wait on an auction finishing.

Who buys medals?

Yeah I never really knew either. I guess for an event like London, a full set of finishers medals from every year would be a pretty neat display piece on your wall. If you lost your medal you might want a replacement but so close to the event sending them out I’d have been tempted to contact the organisers and claim it was lost in the post rather than pay £80 for one. Other than that I was at a loss.

So I asked the buyer.

Lets call him Bob just in case he wants anonymity. He was quick to respond and advised he had a charity spot for London (the April ‘real’ one) but due to admin problems between the organisers and the charity he didn’t get a place in the October virtual and it was presumably sold out before he could enter directly. Having heard some issues from previous years this is understandable. Charities aren’t always on top of these things on a normal year, never mind a Covid year with completely different key dates and procedures.

Bob decided to run the marathon distance on the 4th October (the date of the virtual one) anyway to raise money for charity and wanted to treat himself to the medal as it was his first marathon. We exchanged a few messages about how hard running your first one on your own would have been and he recounted how his wife and kids came out at intervals to support on his first go at the distance. He’s since got a spot for London 2022 so intends to run at least one more.

Did he sound genuine? Completely.

Could he be a trader looking to buy it and sell on? Could be. Although after paying £83 his margin would be relatively small unless he wanted to chance his arm at the £600 Buy-It-Now end which I hope NOBODY pays.

Are you sad you sold your medal? Nope.

Do you feel bad about the price? A bit. When it was selling to a faceless oddity who wanted to buy a medal for a race they didn’t do just for bragging rights it was a fun social experiment. Now I’ve put a name (not actually Bob) to the buyer and learnt he was running for charity it feels unsettling.

What are you going to do? Several things. I popped a signed copy of “Run Like Duck” in there to hopefully motivate him to keep running (or at least be used for kindling if the winter is cold) and I’ve asked for his Just Giving page.

More metal more cash?

Out of interest I did a quick eBay historical search for some of my other medals.

  • London Marathon 2012 – often unsold around the £5-£10 range but some have sold at £45
  • London Marathon 2013 – similar to above, you might get £3-£4, you could get lucky with a Buy It Now around £45
  • London Marathon 2015 – less for sale, and lots at £70 unsold. A couple sold around the £25 range
  • Chicago Marathon 2019 – None in UK but some in USA going for equivalent of £50 if you could be bothered with international postage

So clearly there is a market out there but it pays to make your mind up and sell quickly for the best return. You might well cover your entry cost, you might even raise enough for the next couple of races and I guess getting something you don’t want into the hands of someone who does is ultimately a fair exchange.

Running your virtual London Marathon?

It’s three weeks to go before the big day.

If this was a normal London Marathon you’d be double checking you have enough gels, ensuring your trainers are nicely broken in but not too worn, and trying to work out what idiot to send to the expo to get your bib (they’re pretty awful in person).

But it’s not a normal London Marathon is it?

Unless your training has gone so well you’ve moved into the elites category allowing you to run around Regents Park on the 4th October you will instead be doing your London Marathon back home, past bemused shoppers and dog walkers on a Sunday morning in October.
This may seem daunting so here’s some random advice to help you plan and undertake your very own London.

Route if you’re super fast –
If you’re good enough to be thinking you may get a Good For Age or Championship time then make sure you pick a fast route. In pre-pandemic times these could only be achieved in events on measured courses fulfilling criteria for a maximum level of net downhill and maximum distance between the start and finish to avoid constant tailwinds. This was to stop you running 26.2 miles straight down Ben Nevis in a hurricane. If you’re running the virtual London Marathon in 2020 there is no restriction other than running the event within the 24 hour period so find something with a following wind, downhill, in an arrow straight 26.2 miles and you’re laughing.

Route for normal people –
If your aspirations are more not to die, then your criteria will be slightly different.

Aid stations – there aren’t any so plan to run past your house or car at intervals to replenish supplies. Shops would also work but likely to take longer and you need to remember a mask.

It’s likely you’ll be able to refuel less often than the every mile approach of London so you may want to think about a handheld bottle, hydration bladder or a race vest to carry some of it with.

Some runners may choose to complete multiple loops as short as a mile with bottles of drink left on a park wall, carefully labelled that they aren’t dumped and to please leave alone. If you can handle the risk of taking a refreshing mouthful of drunk’s piss then this is a viable option. You may be better to have a loved one/mate that owes you a favour on a park bench with a cool bag. As it’s your race you can fuel entirely on Port & Stilton if it takes your fancy.

Medical assistance – there won’t be St Johns Ambulance every 2 miles so don’t be an idiot. If you’re diabetic or need any medication then take it with you. Plan a route that isn’t too rural or remote should you need assistance.

Company – I ran a ‘fake London’ and a ‘fake Milton Keynes’ marathon in April and May during the height of lockdown where running with someone not a blood relative was punishable by death on social media. This is now more relaxed and you can run in groups of 6 so make the most of it. You may not find 5 mates with the same pace goal but even a spread of paces will allow you to stagger starts to at least keep an eye on each other as you pass (at the government measured 2m) or have a mate meet you at mile 20 to get your focused and encourage/belittle you as required to finish.

If you are running with mates then it might be a good idea to let them know of any medical issues so they can administer your Epipen as you go into anaphylaxis shock after a bee sting without you having to mime it due to a closed throat.

Safety –
Yes it’s dull but nobody likes being murdered or found dead. As with route and company, try to plan with your own safety in mind. Even experienced marathoners can occasionally have issues. It’s worth considering an ID bracelet or similar with details of emergency contacts and medical issues so if hit by a car and dragged to a hospital you’re not pumped full of drugs you have a deadly reaction too.

You can use various apps to allow loved ones and mates to track you as well. The official virtual London Marathon requires an app so you’ll have your phone with you anyway.

Pace –
There won’t be pacers like the real event so you will need to run your own race. Even the cheapest running watch will display pace to aid your efforts or use an app on your phone. Many even call out mile splits in a really annoying robot voice which is awful but effective.

Be realistic with your goals and accept that this is not a real event and for most of us, not worth risking injury for. If your training has gone well you’ll likely make 18/20 miles on target and then feel the effort levels required start to build. In a race you’d feed off the crowd support, dig in and push to get the time you deserve. This may be harder to achieve in a virtual event so you could instead back off a little and enjoy the final few miles without your lungs and lunch making a break for freedom from your throat.

Time of day –
Every spring there are countless runners shocked that over the course of the marathon the midday temps are higher than morning temps and complain bitterly on social media. For once the start time is entirely within your grasp in the 24 hour window. Want to run when it’s cold? Go out at 4am. Or given sunrise on 4th October will be at 7:09am maybe go then instead.

App –
Yes many of us run to escape technology and the black mirror of the iPhone that slowly steals your soul, but for virtual London you need the app to log and submit your miles for the medal and tee. It’s not released at time of writing but check HERE for updates. Given you need your phone you’ll also need to consider where to hold it so plan ahead.

The Finish –
Finishing on the mall is amazing. Finishing in dog-poop park just behind the public loos is less so. Accept it will be less special and personalise it instead. Run into the arms of your waiting spouse with a cold champagne on ice. Or a can of Special Brew and a bag of chips. You do you.

Putting it all into practice for the Re-imagined Milton Keynes Marathon

Unlike London, MK had a two week window to undertake their events, and with an app to guide you on a new route around the town. For the marathon this was two identical laps.

Due to rubbish diary and rescheduled events, I raced the first two weekends and had a further marathon on the Sunday of the third, so if I wanted a weekend MK marathon it would need to be a double marathon weekend which I’m not really fit enough for currently.

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Start ‘line’

Instead it was a nice 4am start for a mid-week, pre-work marathon. Yay.

It was dark. I ran with a race vest with two 500ml bottles of water, some Cliff shot blocks, and a few Caffeine Bullets. Given I was starting early I simply couldn’t be bothered to get up in time for a breakfast so grabbed a slice of toast on way to car.

For the aid station I parked my car at the end of the lap so I would get to it at about 13.5 miles. Inside was spare water bottles ready to go, some extra snacks if I needed them and a can of cold coke.

Starting – The app gives clear voice prompts either through headphones or phone speaker. As with London, your official time is the app time, so I elected to start my watch first, then the app as I set off. Using the watch as my main pacing aid means it was slightly ahead of the official time so as long as I crossed the line under my target time by Garmin I would be a few more seconds under by the app.

Running – Given this was a fixed route I relied on a combination of the app directions and markings for the course. If running your own route for London and it’s not one you’re familiar with, consider how you’ll follow it.

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Halway. Still dark.

I had hopes of something around 3h45 but given my still slightly stiff knee I completed the first lap in closer to 1h50/1h55 then stopped at the car to switch bottles and drink the coke. Even the swiftest changeover will add a few minutes to your plan, as will a fizzy coke and I adjusted my plan.

Once I settled on 4hrs I checked my watch at regular intervals, ensuring most miles were under 9 min and doing rough calcs at 16.22 miles etc (10 miles left, if I do exactly 9 min pace that’s 90 minutes remaining etc). Passed 20 miles at bang on 3hrs so then felt confident enough not to check so regularly and just run it in for 3h56ish.

Stopping – The MK route is marked so there is a clear finish line, and the app also counts down to the finish. It’s not known if the London app will automatically stop at 26.22 miles but the MK one didn’t, so you needed to pull your phone out as you approach the finish, unlock the phone (not easy with sweaty hands) and have the app ready to stop. It’s not a huge issue but if trying to shave a final few seconds off your time may need some consideration or potentially store your phone in a ziplock back to keep sweat free.

Of course if London stops automatically at the marathon distance you can instead concentrate on running like a man/woman possessed until it tells you to stop.

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Ultra-Tantrum – Shires & Spires

As I emerge from the shop with two Callippo I pop open the can of cider and down the ice cold goodness in a couple of quick swigs whilst walking to the aid station, much to the amusement of the marshals. I’ve covered around 29 miles and on the home stretch. Despite being September the sun has made an appearance for most of the day and I’ve been craving something other than luke warm water. Double checking my watch and it looks like I might have a chance of a sub 6 for the event. Certainly not a great time for a 35 mile course but given I’ve been nursing a dodgy knee since Wednesday and completion was doubtful I’m pleased with the overall progress. What matters more than the pace and the time is running an actual event, and where I belong, at an ultra, in the countryside, and mildly drunk. This is ultra-running and I’ve missed it.

One of your five a day.

Being an ultra I have (as legally required it seems) bumped into my running mate Jonathan. It’s been over 2 years since he carried me for the last half of the Thames Path and persuaded his good wife to drive me home at the end (my designated driver having retired due to early signs of renal failure because ultras are so much fun you risk organ damage) and we bump into each other regularly at events. I’ve not raced over a marathon distance since Lakeland 100 over a year previously. For 2020 my longest races have been half marathons so to be back at an ultra and hear him shout my name is a welcome breath of normality in what has been an unusual year.

The Plan

2020 was going to be a stellar year. With a running coach and sports massage package, along with fancy 3D gait analysis I was going to smash London Marathon in April. Surfing the wave of training gains I was finally going to run the Shires and Spires 35 mile ultra which has been on my to-do list for some years but never quite lined up with commitments. After a short recovery I’d ramp up the training again and go back to the Lake District to teach the Lakeland 100 a lesson to make up for the previous pitiful stumbling performance. The year would finish off with a bucket list marathon at New York with the wife and kids before we looked forward to Christmas and the festive parkruns. An excellent year of running was forecast. Nothing short of a global pandemic could stand in my way.

The Actual

Covid 19 happened and the world in general fell apart. London marathon was postponed (and finally cancelled when they admitted the impossibility of having 40k people in one race), Shires & Spires, Lakeland 100 and NYC also deferred or cancelled and running any event seemed a dream.

Return to Racing

With the relatively small numbers at trail events they began to make a tentative return in August. Centurion Running held a socially distant, Covid secure 100 miler at the North Downs way and everything was reported to go well.

Go Beyond managed to secure a new date for the Shires & Spires on 6th September and all signs looked good. I was finally going to race!

As luck would have it many of my mates had entered the re-arranged Spires event and we’d put ourselves forward for the team award as a mixed group of five. I was initially hesitant about being the weak link but after some up and downs months of training and minor niggles I put together two or three decent weeks of running including a respectable performance at the Ultra 5k (5k every hour for 5 hours).

The week before the race I manage my best Tuesday tempo session of the year and started one of my faster runs at the Wednesday 9 mile loop. Confidence grows. I feel good. Maybe I’ll have the experience and the fitness for this ultra. Towards the end of the run Maff comments on how well I’m doing and finally injury free. He curses me. Half a mile from the end of the run my knee feels a bit off and reminiscent of the issue I had post LL100 where I could barely walk for 2 weeks. Bugger. Thanks Maff.

Three days of no running and it seems a little better. Liberal application of deep heat and a knee brace mirrors my Chicago Marathon race preparation that saw me get around. Maybe this will be OK? Nothing else for it but to strap on our race vests and assemble in the car park in a quaint Northampton village ready for the start. Or at least three of us are ready. Jen and Ellie are still in the toilet queue and they emerge to see the runners set off. Quickly dumping jackets in the car they join Matt, Maff and I and we set off after the main pack with clubmate Stephen in tow. My knee is not sore but definitely a little stiff and I wonder if this hectic pace to catch the main pack is entirely the best idea.

Much of the first 8 miles is on quiet country roads. Excitement for the first race of the year is evident and everyone seems to be running far too quickly for an ultra. 35 miles is certainly not a long ultra but as our group records another successive sub 8min/mile I’m confident we’re going to regret them. As we pass other clubmates Neil and Jon we’re moving through the pack far too quickly.

Stephen wisely drops back and somewhere around mile 7 I decide the effort level in the gradual rising temps is too high at the pace and not helping my knee so let them drift ahead. I joke with some runners from nearby Buckingham that given it’s Maff’s first ultra I might well see them again further along the course. They’re visible on the horizon until around mile 10 before a sharp turn into some fields and they’re gone for good. Thoughts of catching them up are now laughable. Whatever Maff may lack in experience he evidently makes up for in fitness, and with guidance from the other three to make up for his inexperience this event is just too short to level the field. I resolve to keep a steady pace and hopefully not pull down the team position too far with a hobbling performance.

I’m not normally one for pain relief in a race, I’d rather know if something hurts but in this instance I already know it’s my knee so take a paracetamol to dull the throbbing and pass a half marathon in a respectable 2 hours wishing I’d packed some headphones to enjoy some music as I’m basically on my own.

Races are better if you chunk them down. Nobody runs 100 miles. You run 10 miles to the next aid station, 5 miles until you’re a third done, or 7 more miles until you only have a marathon left. For me I’m aiming for halfway. Using the GPX track on my watch I’m expecting 34.6 miles so 17.3 miles is the next target I focus on as an irregular stream of runners come past. There’s at least four mates behind me I can try and latch onto as they pass so can plod on and enjoy being outside running. In a real life actual race – none of that virtual nonsense here.

The course is probably one of the most picturesque I’ve done. Beautiful rolling farmland interspersed with villages so neat and pretty they could almost be movie sets. If you were looking to show an American ultra-runner a quintessential Britain this would be the route to pick, winding though nonchalant sheep and curious heifers before cutting past a stone cottage with leaded windows and a thatched roof.

Somewhere around halfway I stop at an aid station and douse myself liberally in hand sanitiser as it comes out with such ferocity I accidentally sanitise most of Northamptonshire. As I turn to leave Jon and his mate Ray arrives having inevitably closed the early gap and we run together much of the rest of the race, gradually surging and dropping back as we ride the waves of ups and downs that make ultra-running what it is. Marathons are a science, ultras are an extended car crash.

Munching down a banana and paracetamol I wonder how the other teammates are getting on. I have a history of under fuelling on ultras so make an effort to eat and drink regularly and often. It’s not food, it’s fuel. The negative effects of forgetting to eat are felt long after the mistake and can be difficult to resolve. With Covid concerns the aid stations are a little more sparse than what you’d be used to with just bagged sweets and bananas so limited on options. Fortunately my teammates had a veritable picnic in their race vests so should be no such issue. Mostly for me I’m craving a cold drink.

At the aid station at Long Buckby I manage to miss the village shop and we run on with the tepid water refills again. 24 miles down and on course for around a 4.5hr marathon which seems about right for current fitness and only one working knee which is making the 359th stile of the event a little tricky to clamber over. Mostly we talk the usual running nonsense and press on, pausing for the occasional navigational check. One field has no clear path across and we stomp over freshly ploughed dusty soil looking for an exit. A few fields later they’ve cut the silage down and let it sit in heaps including over the path and we wade through calf deep grass. When your knee is not great what you really need is a bit more dead weight to drag forward with each step.

As checkpoint 5 comes into view I’m just catching back up to Jon again when I spot the corner shop and dive in (remember a mask for shops kids!). There’s only one customer so I grab the lollies and cider whilst he concludes a long chat with the staff on whether they kept any copies of yesterday’s Daily Mail. The delivery of all of Murdoch’s Saturday papers was interrupted by an Extinction Rebellion protest at the printers and he’s clearly missing his regular dose of Brexit propaganda. Finally he leaves disappointed, forced to make up his own narrative of how the EU are trying to make our great PM look like a floppy haired fool and I can pay and get out the shop. Final aid station done and six miles left. The cold cider has done it’s job and I pick up the pace feeling refreshed and mildly drunk. Nothing can stop me now and I resolve to catch Jon and bring in that sub 6 hour. I had no real game plan when entering the race but it’s been good to have something to focus on.

The plan works and I’m closing down on the group ahead including Jon. I reach the back of the pack just at a farm with barely four miles left, using my specially honed skills of eating Callipo mid-run without spilling any as I’m a god damn ultra-runner and riding the rollercoaster of energy and emotions well.

Up ahead is a group of runners with one laying on the floor. Someone’s overcooked it. As we get closer I’m torn between disappointment and relief to see it’s my team. I bid Jon farewell and amble over. Maff is laying down admiring the sky whilst the rest are assembled around him. From the body language it’s clear there is no urgent medical issue. Their stance is more one of increasing annoyance and frustration than a panicked need to learn CPR via a Youtube video or call in mountain rescue.

Evidently Maff has decided to get the full ultra-experience on his first outing and has subjected all to a full on ultra-tantrum due to lack of fuelling and an ambitious pace. If only a wise and experienced ultra-runner had told them sub 8s was too fast. If only anybody listened to me. Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing. I know the trough of ultra-despair well and he’s deep in it. In his best impersonation of a made for TV war movie he implores us to “go on without me, I’m done for, save yourselves, I don’t want to be a burden”. Evidently I missed the previous game of ‘poke food in his mouth and hope he doesn’t spit it out at you’ which has tested their patience.

I’m a little annoyed at the rest of the team. Not for failing to look after him, but If only they’d have rolled him into a ditch and kept going I could have run past his contorting body in complete ignorance and got that sub 6. Now I’m going to have to help and give up my spare Callippo.

Fate obviously wants him to finish though. His phone has locked out so he can’t even ring anyone for a lift. He has to finish. Jen and Matt pick him up as I clearly wasn’t going to. They broke him after all.

We set off on a slow walk. Every runner that passes asks us if we need assistance. Some offer salt tablets or water but none have a can of ‘get over yourself you big idiot’ that we really need. Gradually Jen coaxes him into a run and I recall several years previously when she endured my own ultra-tantrum for a full 25 miles of the Autumn 100 and goaded me forward with regular suggestions to “try for a little jog”. Ultra-running is great isn’t it? Like normal running but more painful.

With two miles to go we find a pub and dive in to administer a half of Guinness which completes the restoration and he sets off at a pace that I’m not sure I can match. If he beats me after this I’m going to have my own tantrum. We’re joined by Jon who is surprised we stopped mid-race for a pint. It’s like he’s never met me before.

Finally 6h30 after setting off we cross the line and manage to secure third place in the team event. A mere pub stop and half hour tantrum away from first place. Although tired Maff seems pleased to have finished. He’s certainly earned the medal more than the rest of us and doubtless a few beers. He probably hasn’t yet realised that is his first, but certainly not his only ultra.

Afterwards in the pub Maff has made a full recovery whilst I shuffle around like a man with one working leg.

Extending the life of shoes – Hoka resoled!

e148723b-9cf7-4dcf-adb1-0815175f75fbAs you might have noticed on here I’m a big fan of the Hoka Rincon. A really lightweight and comfy road shoe that I was recommended after a full 3D gait analysis at Up & Running Milton Keynes.

At circa £105 they’re reasonable compared to some of the fancy  stuff out there but certainly not what you’d call cheap (recently the old stock has been dropped to circa £85-90 for any remaining sizes as the new Rincon 2 is now out).

I got my first pair in January (bottom) and as of early August was just starting on my third pair (middle, red). This may sound a lot but given I’m on 1700 miles for the year and most have been done on these two trainers (with exception of some trail runs) it’s a good mileage for a lightweight shoe being used by a heavy heel striker (I fluctuate between 82-86kg so I’m no Mo Farah).

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Some very worn Adidas Supernova of mine

I’m conscious that as runners the trainers we buy are one of the most problematic environmentally. They are very hard to recycle and can take up to 1000 years to break down (for more information on this check out Rerun Clothing )  I try to run in mine as long as possible before they start the demotion to dog walking then gardening shoes but there are only so many pairs I need for these so was considering getting some resoled.

Resoling shoes is relatively common in Europe, but less so in the UK.  Below is a stall I saw during a Spanish race. The general concept seems to be that shoes can go several times through this before meeting their final end.img_2771

By chance the super fast runner Richard McDowell (CFTB) had some of his super fast Nike 4% thingummy-bobs resoled by Chesire Shoe Repairs with some off road Vibram soles as below.

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Photo borrowed from Richard McDowell

The Nike are a similar ‘fat’ sole with a lot of rubber so far removed from the minimal sole trail shoes I’d often seen have the entire foot plate replaced and effectively just the ‘sock’ restitched to a new base. The company had shaved off the bottom layer, including the various black grip sections, and either filled or cut below the cavity sections to produce a smooth surface for the new sole.

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Original Nike sole – Photo from Running Shoes Guru

This got me thinking about the options for my Hoka with the similar sole construction. I emailed them photos and we discussed either trail soles as above, or road soles.

My first pair of Rincon were less worn than the second which I probably let go too far to be useful for road shoes as above (I’d literally worn the soles off).

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Instead I posted off my first pair for some white road soles “Vibram Carbon Road Soles” for £34. Return postage is included, my postage to them was £2.90 via Hermes.

The wear on the set I posted was mostly just the black grip sections as below. The uppers were all sound and had lots of life yet. If this all worked I’d have a rejuvenated pair of £105 shoes for £36.90.

As these are lightweight I thought it worth checking the weight before and after. They left me at 432g. For comparison my third pair, with only approx 150 miles on them were 459g so looks like I wore at least 27g off them during use. The listed weight on website (for an unspecified size) is 218g each or 436g for the pair.

So once posted it was a case of waiting. They promise 5 day turnaround (once received) and Hermes took a few days as expected. I posted Wednesday and it was received at their place on Friday.

Saturday morning I get a call from them that the chosen sole in white only comes in a single width (the black version comes in three widths) that is too narrow for my fat Hoka so we agree on an alternative – namely a SVIG road sole in white for same price.

True to their word, the shoes arrived back on Thursday (so 8 days from posting, two of which were used by Hermes on the delivery to them and a day or two on the return delivery) and I was impressed.

The sole has a bit more raised section than the one I picked which for me is ideal as I’ve got something decent for road but that will cope with some trail sections as well.

The workmanship looks good, with a decent attachment of the sole. There are some minor voids near the front at the sides where I presume they balanced cutting more of the original sole away for a truly flat surface versus the loss of the cushioning.

So what’s the weight? Given the original Rincon are super light with only a partial wear surface I was expecting some weight gain from going with a full length and width sole. They came in at 772g against 432g as they left me, or 459g for an almost new pair. That’s a gain of 313g from almost new. It’s a substantial gain compared to original but they don’t feel heavy, more like a normal road shoe.

I plan on using these over the next few days and will update with how I got on. I’ve got Shires and Spires booked for Sunday which is a mixed road/trail ultra which depending on the level of rain may well be a perfect test of these.

Update –

Update on my resoled Hoka. Did 35 mile mixed terrain ultra. Coped great on the road and the muddy paths.
For just over £35 I’ve take a knackered pair of road shoes & got a perfect trail hybrid, extending their life and keeping them out the bin.

Ultra 5k – Racing in a post-Covid era!

Races are slowly restarting across the UK as both the governing bodies and event organisers get to grips with the relevant safety measures to make their events ‘covid secure’.

This was to be first return to racing since March when I ran the MK Festival Of Running Half Marathon on 15th March. That was an odd day. Lockdown was still something happening in other countries and there were no restrictions on public gatherings so thousands of people congregating for a race was unremarkable although many could feel things were due to change and the compere even remarked that this might well be the last big event for a while and he was certainly proved right. Gradually events were cancelled, then club runs, then schools and pubs closed, then even seeing anyone outside your house was banned and the thought of 40k people gathering to run London Marathon became absurd.

161 days later and I’m driving to Box End Park for my first race back wondering how this is all going to plan out.

What is it?

The Ultra 5k is now in it’s 5th year, and requires runners to race 5k on the hour, every hour for 5 hours. Final positions are calculated on elapsed time so if you set a blistering first lap and then crawl around the final four you’re going to tumble down the leader board.

It’s a similar format to the Big’s Backyard Ultra except that race has no set finish and is a last man & woman standing event so can go on for 60 or more hours. Fortunately, we all know we’ll be done in five laps and not need to book the next week off work.

The event is normally held in July and often clashes with other events for me so for once the Covid postponement works in my favour and I can attend.

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Photo from https://www.boxendpark.com/

Venue

It’s held at Box End Park outside of Bedford. It’s primarily an open water centre and many of my immoral running friends attend a couple of times a week to slide into rubber gimp suits and splash about in the water for a few hours. When I pull up it’s more like a holiday camp with motorhomes and tents set up around crystal blue lakes with cyclists and swimmers bustling about. Most shocking is the torrent of swimmers in the lakes. Who knew so many grown adults thought a group bath was the best way to spend a Sunday morning?

Course

5k (well slightly over according to everyone’s Garmin) lap on grass, starting flat and then with some cheeky climbs for km 3-4 before a final flat push for the finish. It’s a measure of how a lack of racing dents your confidence that I was unable to decide on a suitable shoe. 5 months of not racing and now I can’t even pick shoes! Turns out I wasn’t alone in this as one runner I chatted to packed a different pair for every lap. In the end I went with my Hoka Rincon as lightweight road shoe but well cushioned for the bumpy sections.

Training

Yes we should all have done some. Had this taken place in April I was running well, scales were going the right way and speed work by Clean Coach Katie saw my pace peaking. Instead it’s August, I’ve just got back from 2 weeks in Italy eating pasta, pizza and Peroni and at heaviest I’ve been since I started running in 2011. On the plus side I’ve got back into running consistently after a poor June and July trying to recover from The Accumulator where I ran 540 (slow) miles and fell apart a little needing help from Rudi at the Treatment Lab to sort my hip.

Still it could have been worse, I could have been clubmate Lee who hasn’t run for the last 5 weeks due to work, family and lack of mojo and is wondering what idiots got him into this mess.

Arrival

The start of the Covid control measures. We’ve all previously completed a health questionnaire and upon arrival are asked to check it’s still correct (no temperatures, feeling unwell, cough etc) and have our forehead temp checked with an infra-red thermometer. If all OK then a gloved volunteer passes you your bib (and a cool free gift of a race buff) and you pass on to the holding area.

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Three ‘runners’. One doesn’t even have shoes.

Holding Area

A fenced off area of grass for the runners, marked up with dots at social distancing intervals so everyone has somewhere to use as a base whilst keeping separation. This works well with the number of competitors and is needed given many will have upwards of half an hour between races. We form a lose group of clubmates and mostly mock each other for lack of training or lockdown indulgence.

Refreshments

There’s one aid station to the side of the holding area, roped off out of reach of the runners. Instead you ask nicely for what you need and they bring it to a table for you to collect. It’s all very sanitary and clean, and works really well. For water there is a large taped tank that is wiped down between uses. For both of these they are used between races with no issue on speed which helps. How an event like London Marathon would handle 40k people trying to grab water without detracting from their splits and Good For Age attempts I’m not sure.

Toilets

Normal portaloos (or porta johns if you’re American) with ample hand sanitiser.

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Photo from Ultra 5k – look at that idiot in yellow in row 2! Oh it’s me….

Start Area

Five minutes before the hour they blow a bugle and signal everyone to assemble in the start pen. This isn’t the normal crush of a big event, instead numbered areas are spread across the pen to correspond top your bib. Three in each row and as the row at the front sets off you move forwards until it’s your turn. This keeps the separation well. The whole event is chip timed so whether in front or back row you’ll get an accurate time.

Bib numbers are assigned based on predicted 5k times with faster runners at the front to limit overtaking need. I have no idea what time I put down but I’m number 6 and feel very out of place as a portly sun burnt fatty ambles through to assemble next to the racing snakes. I presume I expected to be race weight and fast by now, not gorged on pizza and only just fully back from injury.

Race 1

After a little confusion (one of my row set off with the row infront) we head off after the fast boys and I do my best to keep up. I’ve not run the route before so set a far too quick first mile on the flat (6:41) to try and keep up with the runners ahead. Even that doesn’t work as I lose them and need to follow the route markings which are regular and constant but I’d rather follow a person and not have to use my brain. The route is similar to your typical cross-country race except dry and grassy not a mud slick. The ups and downs are challenging but runable. The predicted times seem to work well as I’m only passed once and for most of the race am well away from any other runners.

Other than a couple of attempts to attend a fast session with local runners I’ve not done any speedwork since April and it definitely shows. The mental effort to push an uncomfortable pace is a struggle. I’m panting, and my brain is questioning why a tubby ultra-runner is trying to beast himself for no gain. I’d need to run five all time 5k PBs, on a undulating off road course to even keep close to the front runners so it is all rather pointless.

Crossing the line I’m knackered in a vaguely familiar way. Legs are complaining but not a “just run 100 miles” way, more of a “oh that was a lot of effort in a short time” and my heart is pounding. As with parkrun after a minute or two it’s all settled down with only a sweaty top as a reminder of your effort whilst you cheer in team mates. The race format is interesting as balances outright speed (which I left at home) against endurance and ability to recover (which I hope I packed).

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Lee (left) finishing his furthest run in 5 weeks. Only another 20k to go.

Race 2-4

Similar story, passed by the same runner at around the same point (4k) each time. One lap he’s joined by a second runner but as before everyone is separated well and I’m closer to people queuing outside the pharmacy than I am at the event, it’s all working well and feels safe.

Most importantly it’s starting to feel fun. Yes it hurts to run fast but it’s a return to the ritual and the processes of running. Line up at the start with some nerves, a few tentative steps as your legs loosen up and you get into your stride, slotting in at the right pace within the runners as you push the speed, adjusting for inclines and sharp turns, realising your strengths and weaknesses against those around you before a final push for the line. Finish to virtual high fives and chatting about how it all went. For 5k every hour you can forget we live in a pandemic and just be a runner. It’s glorious and what I’ve missed.

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Race 5

Every lap I’ve been dropping around 5 secs per mile which is better than expected. I like to think the endurance is coming into play and making up for the slow start as my legs ask if once again I wouldn’t like to reconsider going this fast and maybe a gentle jog would be more fun?

Every lap I’ve avoided being passed until at least 3km. For the final lap I’m passed three times in the first couple of hundred metres. Pah! I resolve to keep them in sight and it’s a pleasant change to have someone to keep on the horizon. What isn’t pleasant is the last can of drink I finished before starting as it’s churning in my stomach and I wonder if an unplanned vomit might be on the horizon as well.

I can feel the runner behind gaining on me and after a few shouts from spectators realise I’m being hunted down by my own coach Katie, clearly intent on retaining her first lady prize from previous years (which she does, clearly motivated by Prosecco). The combination of being chased and having someone to target keeps me focused and in the final straight I decide to take the runner in front. I’m actually racing! The shift in pace is a surprise but feels manageable so I keep it going and pass another then just hold on to the end, half wishing I’d pushed this hard in the final sections on the previous laps.

Overall I finished 7th so maybe my 5k predicted time to get bib 6 wasn’t so far out after all. I’ve completed my first race (or possibly five races) since Covid and done more speed work in one morning that I’ve done in the last four months. The format is challenging but definitely one I’d try and do again. The pace drop off wasn’t as bad as expected and I’ll not dwell that my final lap pace wasn’t much quicker than my marathon PB pace a year ago though.

So did it feel ‘safe’?

Yes completely. It was expertly organised and at no time did I feel my health or the health of others was compromised. I’ve felt more at risk in Tesco when the staff push past with a trolley of stock. For smaller scale events this arrangement works well and given Boris is keen to get everyone fit should be encouraged. How this would translate to a 1000+ person event is unclear but it’s likely some time before that’s even a consideration for event organisers.

For entry for next year – https://ultra5k.co.uk/

 

“10 sure fire hints to keep cool on race day. Number 7 will amaze you”

Yeah we’ve all seen the clickbait rubbish.

Number 7 will not amaze you.

It’s unlikely to even be relevant.

It’s very likely written by someone who’s never raced but is paid to generate content. Their next article will be 13 surprising alternatives for dishwasher salt or even worse “You won’t believe how much these childhood actors from the 70s have aged in the intervening 50 years”.

So with all that in mind here’s a random brain dump of techniques I’ve used to try and keep cool and avoid instant death on hot races. None of them I invented. That’s probably why they all work. A bit.

  1. Slow down. Boring yes. You can’t do anything about the ambient temperature. You can control your heat production rate. Slow down before you break down.
  2. Acclimatise. You’ve already done that. Well done. We’ve had a hot summer. You’ve probably done some running. You’ll be better running a hot Saturday in August than you would a hot Sunday in April after a frigid winter.
  3. Shade. Yes it’s obvious but run in the shade if you can. Watch the footage from the ‘hot one’ at London Marathon. See how many keep to the sides in the shadow of building and how many run down the middle in full sunshine complaining it’s hot? Don’t be them.
  4. Hat on in the sun. Take it off in the shade to let your head cool a bit.
  5. Arm sleeves. Yes they look stupid. Even elite athletes look stupid wearing them. They look even worse on a tubby middle aged project manager having an outdoor poop on the downs but they do work. They keep the sun off your arms and you can soak them in streams or taps to help keep cool. You could even shove ice or a Calippo down each sleeve to boost the chill factor. Have I mentioned how good Calippo are? Incidentally if you are having an outdoor poop they also work as loo roll in an emergency.
  6. Buff. Same as above. Wet fabric you can move about to aid heat transfer and keep the sun off. It’s been scientifically proven (no it hasn’t) that a generic neckwear tube in yellow with a duck logo is the best for this.
  7. You won’t believe this one. Sorry.
  8. Calippo ice lollies are the daddy of all ice lollies. Anyone that says Solero are better is on a government watch list. Anyone that says Feast are the best ice lolly has no idea what a lolly is. A Calippo is perfectly shaped to shove down the back of your neck under your race vest to cool you. Wrap it to your wrist with a buff to cool the blood flow on your inner wrist. Stick it in your race vest next to your water bottle to cool your bottle. Unlike a crappy Solero even a melted Calippo is still a heaven sent slushy sugary hit of cold.
  9. Suncream. Whilst it won’t keep you cool it will prevent skin cancer or at least sunburn. Both suck. Slapping suncream on at 5am seems stupid but 50 miles later when you’re flame grilled like a whopper you’ll be sad you didn’t.
  10. Ziplock bag. We’re all trying to cut down plastic usage so use the one from your sandwiches. Fill it with cold water or ice. Stick it under your hat. You’ve just invented portable air conditioning.
  11. Dress sensibly. You are hot. You want to be as naked as the day you were born. Sadly that will mean excessive chub rub, sunburn and painful chaffing from your race vest so don’t be stupid. The combined weight of 2” sleeves on your tee compared to a tiny vest will not slow you down. The massive infected welt from not having sleeves will.
  12. All ultras route through graveyards. Nobody knows why. James Elson might I guess. Rather than dwell on your own mortality remember that most churches have an outside tap for watering flowers. Ideal to wet your hat and cool you down. In Britain it’s probably safe to drink too.
  13. Horse water troughs. Ever noticed how they’re full of manky water? Don’t drink that. Most are connected to a water pipe though with a float valve like your toilet cistern. Push down on the ball attached to the arm and ‘fresh’ water will come out the valve. I wouldn’t drink it but it’s safe to rinse yourself down with. In an emergency if it’s a choice between drinking that, your own pee, or a can of Fosters it would be touch and go.
  14. Tell everyone how hot it is. Nothing helps you keep cool more than constantly talking about how hot it is. Sorry that’s the wrong way around isn’t it? Stop being British and talking about the weather. You all know it’s hot. Repeating that fact will not make it cooler. Launch into a detailed recount of your last bowel movement to take your mind off it.

That’s it. Some of this might help. It might not. There are no amazing solutions to having to race in the heat. Except maybe don’t race at all. Go to a nice air conditioned pub. Have a beer.

For Sale! 1985 Dutton Phaeton Series 3 1300GT

Time has come to admit this car isn’t going anywhere as I don’t have time to spend on it so looking to sell it. Anyone in Milton Keynes fancy a kit car!

The good points –

  • It’s a properly registered Dutton Kit Car (not still listed as an Escort or something odd like many kit cars).
  • Insurance is a pittance. We paid less than £100 through a specialist.
  • It’s built to a decent standard
  • It’s got a 1300 X-Flow GT engine from a Mk1 Escort so is decent power for the size and the engine is pretty desirable
  • Strong 4-speed box
  • It handles brilliantly. Done two track days and it was only really stuff like Elise that could keep up with us in the turns. On the straights everything beat it though!
  • Very basic so little to go wrong – no power assist on brakes or steering etc
    Battery changed from the old Ford screw in type to the modern pole type. Current battery about 5 years old, barely used and may or may not charge up.
  • Sports harnesses
  • Has a full roof and doors (small hole in roof that needs fixing)
  • Also has the shoulder level tonneau cover thing
  • 4×108 wheel fitment so any old school Ford rims will fit
  • It’s road legal, has wipers, a (pathetic) blower, a window wash etc.
  • Emissions are based on age so it’s basically a no-visible smoke test
  • I ‘think’ there is enough original parts you could go through the process of getting an age related plate and be MOT and Tax free. I’m no expert on this though.

The bad points –

  • It’s sat for a number of years. I managed to get it started recently with petrol directly into the carb but the jerry can of fuel in the tank didn’t make it through to the front. Could be a blocked pipe, could be it just wasn’t enough to reach the pick up.
  • It’s a little buried in my garage at present (see photo at bottom) but in process of digging it out.
  • The exhaust manifold had a split so took it off to get welded (by high temperature coded pressure welders at work, it’s probably the best welded exhaust you’ll see) and it’s fitted with new gaskets but the rest of system is not yet connected.
  • It’s got a dynamo rather than an alternator. More authentic, less power.
  • It’s got drum brakes all around. To be fair with braided hoses they have no issue with the power, if you stuck a bigger lump in I’d look to upgrade.
  • It tops out about 70 or 80 so I wouldn’t want to drive to Scotland in it
  • The rear leaf springs are on lowering blocks but BELOW the springs so think they’re just to give the shock more room. Either way it handles well.
  • The radiator has a bracket, needs welding back on
  • Couple of cracks to the body work we fixed to get it track legal. Not very pretty. Worse is the front left arch as below. We rivetted a plate on to hold it together. We’re not GRP experts.
  • The wiring is the original loom with some adaptations and original bullet style fuses.
  • The seats are narrow and low backed which works with the low level cover but you might like proper high backed ones instead
  • Being based on a very old donor car the gauges etc are more a general indication of what speed/fuel/RPM etc you’re doing.
  • It’s got pretty high side walled tyres on steel rims. Personally I’m fine with that as cheap tyres and nobody is going to steal your rims but you might prefer some fancy alloys with a bit less rubber.
  • Handbrake isn’t amazing, probably wants adjustment

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Work needed to just get it MOT’d –

  • Charge battery or get a new one if it doesn’t hold charge
  • Work out why fuel isn’t getting through
  • Reattach manifold to exhaust
  • Fix radiator bracket
  • General check over, likely adjust handbrake

Work needed to improve it and make it A1 –

  • Repair body work better
  • Possibly some higher backed seats
  • Would be nice to rewire it all with one of those ready-made kitcar looms
  • General blow over of bodywork to a decent colour

Work needed to go crazy –

  • The world’s your oyster. People have fitted everything from Pinto to V8 into these along with suitable wheel/brake/suspension upgrade and roll cages etc

Price –
I’m looking for offers around £1000. Sadly a lot of these are ‘plate raped’ and the ID used for kit cars to avoid the need to pass through IVA/SVA or whatever it’s called these days so I’m wary if I sell for much less it’s going to be used for dodgy purposes. Turning an unregistered, unchecked Robin Hood or similar into a ‘road legal’ car is the fate of many of these.
Please note it’s registered in my mates name (it’s a shared track car) but he can pop around with photo ID to prove ownership etc and that it isn’t anything dodgy going on.

 

May – The Accumulator

accumBoredom can lead to odd choices.

All races cancelled.

Training for London was stalled.

zxwaqnj7kdab44lfxwh5The great guys at Centurion Running launched a virtual run of various distances, for the final week of May. Typically I don’t enter virtual races but this one had a great community spirit to it. I entered for the 100 mile. Split over a full week it was achievable but a fair step up from recent mileage.

With this in mind it made sense to suspend training for the rescheduled London and just take May by feel.

So that was fine. I had an ‘event’ planned for end of May, three weeks away so I could just run whatever I fancied in between. Cool.

Then Allie Bailey happened (you might have seen her trying to get celebs into shape to run across the desert for the recent Sport Relief). She posted a link on the Bad Boy Running group about something called The Accumulator. Everything else that happened is her fault and she owes me a pair of shoes. And a toe. And some new loft boards.

The Accumulator is a virtual event set up by Mark Cockbain of Cockbain Events. Normally he arranges the most sadistic UK races such as The Tunnel Ultra (200 miles back and forward through a 1 mile tunnel) and The Hill Ultra (165 miles up and down a massive hill. In winter). In the age of Covid19 he’s taking the pain virtual and after events such as The Garden Isolation Ultra (laps of your garden until your brain runs out your ears) his challenge for May was The Accumulator.

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Run 1 mile on 1st May. Easy.

Run 2 miles on 2nd May. Easy.

Run 3 miles on 3rd May. Easy.

In fact the first ten or more days are pretty easy for the average marathon runner. Then it starts to bite and you have to really make a decision if you’re in or out. Complete the whole thing and it’s a minimum 496 miles for the month, or 798 km.

The rules state the runs must be done in a single go. No double days allowed, so a pre-work 13 mile on a Wednesday morning  was probably the point I committed to the delightfully pointless endeavour. How far could I get?

The early days were largely uneventful. I run very long on the 3rd as I complete my own Milton Keynes marathon. Other than that mileage fits easily before work and months of structured training, core class by Katie and attention from Rudi the sports masseuse means my legs are in great shape and the miles are no issue.

Day 17. Saw a cool old car and mis planned my route to end up over 18 miles. Upside was a perfect 100 mile week which I couldn’t have done if I’d planned it. Also got some new Altra shoes as my favourite Hoka Rincon were close to failure from all the miles. These were from the lovely people at ReRun who find new homes for unwanted running gear.

 

It was all going pretty well up until around day 21. I was keeping to around 9 min miles so just leaving home 10 minutes earlier each day to allow for the extra distance. The weather was glorious but getting hotter each day which wasn’t ideal. Two weeks of blast furnace were forecast for the finish. Ideal weather for all the outside events that have been cancelled.

Whilst idly scratching my leg I noticed an insect bite on my ankle. Being a man I of course ignored it. It got big and inflamed quickly. It pretty much set my ankle in place and made movement hard. If it hadn’t have been for the bite I might have assumed I’d twisted it. This was becoming an issue with a long Bank Holiday on the horizon the plan was to take these days far more gently and do some sections with the family as fast hikes whilst they cycled.

Day 22. Friday. 17/18degC at even 5am. And muggy. My ankle is stiff. This is not ideal. I’m mentally wondering how many more days I can go rather than thinking about finishing it.

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Day 23. Saturday. I get out of bed accompanied by a scraping sound. My ankle is so inflamed that every step makes a sickening noise. Bum. I work it off with some stretches and try not to think about it. Ignoring stuff is always a good idea. The wife and kids join me on bikes for an escort for first 6 miles and then I round up in the woods. I’ve got a definite limp from the insect bite. The final couples of miles I’m met by the wife who brings me a beer and I limp it in.

Day 24. Sunday. Again the wife and kids join me on bikes for an escort for first few miles. I take a quick break at the new BMX track to do a lap on the daughters pink BMX under guise of freeing off my ankle. It may even have helped. We stop for doughnuts later at an impromptu aid station before a long solo loop and a final few with wife (no beer today).

Day 25. Bank Holiday. Also hot. It was also way too close to marathon distance not to round up. I seldom run much more than 20 in training as anything further is pointless. Running an unofficial marathon distance is even more pointless but so is this whole endeavour. I start the run with Jen for first loop and then meet the family on the lake for a picnic aid station and revisited it a few times as I continued to round up, then headed back home with family on bikes to hit the 26.2. The three days of ‘fast hiking’ was definitely helping and my ankle was slowly less sore but still took a fair few steps to agree to bending after stopping for roads or gates. I’ve felt worse on ultras but knew the event would be over in hours, not days. It’s also the first day of the Centurion One Community challenge so I get a solid 26 knocked off the 100 miler.

Day 26. Needed a marathon. Needed to be in Somerset for 8am to meet contractors on site. Left home at 5am. Unfortunately they were working to a different timescale so rocked up at 1pm. Would have been ample time for a morning marathon after all. I debated a dry slap but that doesn’t go down well at work. Instead it was back to hotel for just before 6pm and out for a marathon. Being Covid19 times it was for essential workers only at the hotel and room service only. The kitchen closed at 9pm so I ordered some cold food to await my return and set out. The hotel owner was a little confused “But the kitchen is open for 3 more hours sir, how long are you running for?”

Gentle half marathon down to Burnham-on-Sea for an aid station of sodium infused carbohydrates and fruit based sports drink (chips and cider on the beach) before heading back to cold sandwiches and a hot bath.

I stayed in the bath a long time.  I struggled to get back out with my ankle. When I did it was too cold so I got back in.

img_6035Day 27. Ideally should have run before going to site, but that would have been a 4am start after finishing the previous marathon 6 hours previously. Too much for me so instead a day on site, with a couple of people questioning my odd limp. Then a drive home for dinner with family before heading out with mate Gary for some miles (including a cute horse), and finishing up just after 11pm; time for bed. This was definitely a day I wondered what I was doing…

img_6044Day 28. The problem with pushing the runs later and later is it kills any prospect of a morning run. Fortunately I had a half day so ran in the afternoon. Unfortunately it was hot as feck. Again. A three Calippo and two beer run. Passing all the closed pubs is disappointing but I did see some deer so balances out. The dodgy running form is giving me a blister on top of my big toe. I ignore it.

 

Day 29. The previous day had convinced me to go early. So I got up at 5am and remembered my race vest was still on the washing line from the day before. It wasn’t. It was in the middle of the garden with a hole ripped in it where some wildlife had pulled it down and helped themselves to the biscuits and the Caffeine Bullets. Somewhere in Milton Keynes is a fox tripping out on caffeine. Fortunately I had time to grab my spare race vest and head out with the dog for a 14 mile loop in the woods, then home to drop dog, change a sweaty top and out to run the most shaded route I could find, a mixture of railway walk, canals and tree lined streets. In the woods I bumped into a mate SJ with her three dogs and it was great to chat to someone who wasn’t a podcast or voice in my head.

I finished a sweaty mess but my blistered toe was getting more and more painful, rubbing the top a little more with each step as the friction lead to more swelling and more friction. I was consciously having to stiffen my toe with each step and run even more oddly. My dodgy ankle had led to a dodgy blister which was leading to a dodgy leg and now my calf was playing up as well. It would be really rubbish to DNF this event ultimately due to an insect bite.

That evening in desperation I took a knife to an old pair of Adidas and cut the toe section off. I couldn’t manage a further two days of rubbing. The pair I massacred were a worn pair, well used but with just enough life to manage a further 61 slow miles.

Day 30. Repeat. Out at 5am with dog, and accompanied over the first 16 miles with a changeover of mates who also get up too early. Then solo for final 14 miles with more Calippo stops. The shoe is amazing. I almost forget the toe completely and can run so much freer, hitting marathon distance in 4h45, a full 30 minutes faster than the day before. Given the escalating temps this was much needed. Took a final three mile hike in with the wife to finish off and get to stroke a cow.

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Day 31. The final day. Out at 5am again for recreation of the day before, using my custom Adidas open toe again. Nobody else daft enough to join me at this time on a Sunday so just me and the dog seems more interesting in chasing squirrels and looking for left over picnic in the bushes (if you’re going to a park for a picnic, take your rubbish home with you, you lazy arse) so it’s a slower 14 miles than planned and I get home to swap the dog for a Gary who’s waiting to join me. Out for the usual loop to Newport Pagnall and Railway Walk loop, with two Calippo stops, passing marathon distance in a shade over 5hrs.

I hit home to enjoy the final couple of miles with the wife and kids and an impromptu finish line. The enthusiasm of the kids is off the charts….

 

Aftermath

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Legs feel so much better than around days 20-25. An ankle that bends is so handy. I’d recommend it to anyone.

My blister whilst allowing running has still grown. It is not pretty. On Monday in the loft I kick a box. It explodes. The release although painful is very welcome. Like a toe orgasm. The loft boards may never recover.

I finish the Accumulator and finish May on around 540 miles. It’s a big number but feel fresh enough to carry on. I don’t. I’m not THAT obsessed. Yet.

Tips and advice for pointless multi-day challenges –

  • Sort the admin the night before. Waking at stupid o’clock is hard and you’ll have plenty of excuses to stay in bed. If your trainers are misplaced and your race vest not packed it’s probably one too many reasons to stay in bed.
  • If able allow time to take the first mile really slowly, maybe use it to eat, drink and sort your podcasts out. I was up and out the house in about 15 minutes, eating on the way.
  • Timing is critical. Given the runs have to be done in one go then a 10 minute delay to leaving can leave you with three miles left of the days target and needing to leave for work in 15 minutes. Either you’re going to be late for work or you’re going to be abandoning this run and doing it all over again after work. Both would suck.
  • Check the clock. A further rule was the runs needed to be done within the 24 hour period. Head out at 9pm on the 20th and you best be running less than 3 hours.
  • Shoes. With a minimum mileage of 496 for the month you’re going to be putting a lot of miles into them. Probably enough to turn a box fresh pair into a set of dabs only suitable for dog walks. Best to have a couple in rotation. In my case a pair best described as ‘fucked’ saved the day.
  • Podcasts. You’re going to be running a lot. In current climate it was mostly solo or towards the end of the month with one other person. Get some decent entertainment to take your mind off. I ran out of running podcasts and started some true crimes one. Bad idea. Running at 5am, alone, in the woods, listening to the detailed account of a dismembered body found in the woods is not ideal.
  • Charge stuff. You need proof of your runs so keeping on top of Garmin/phone charging is vital. If you’re forgetful it may be worth sticking a battery pack and Garmin lead in your running pack for an emergency mid-run charge.
  • Plan your routes. Up to about 16/17 miles I did them as a single loop, carrying enough to get me through. After that I would drop into home at mile 14 (a convenient single loop and suitable for the dog to accompany me) to replenish supplies, pick up a hat etc.
  • Aid stations. It’s a virtual race so plan your route to pass shops that will be open at the time you’re expecting to go past. Particularly in the age of Covid, pay contactless to minimise time in shops.
  • Calippo. It was hot in May. Ice lollies were needed. Calippo is the only suitable option. Buying one at 9am on a Friday gets you odd looks.