Fitting Peugeot 306 seats to a Citroen Berlingo

Another in the series of ‘really niche articles that have nothing to do with running’

I always wanted a camper, but wasn’t sure how much I’d use one. A combination of divorce and being tight combined so I looked at micro-campers. The idea being they’re more car-like to drive, cheaper to run, easier to park up, less prone to theft than a VW Camper and about 50k cheaper. 

Even aiming for small and ugly vehicles I found the ready-converted ones were very expensive for what was a crap car with a camp bed so I decided to make my own. 

Enter Bernie the Berlingo. Citroens finest. If you’ve never been in one it’s basically a car version of the Berlingo van with more windows and seats. This was a beautiful silver, with a long MOT and a realistic price. So I got it and cracked on with a mini-conversion on the cheap. Intention is the odd weekend with dog or to collapse into after a long ultra. 

The one gripe with the car (other than being so ugly it’s Moma would slap it) was the front seats were awful and falling apart. Replacement seats for a near 20-year-old entry-level people carrier are not plentiful and even those in better condition were still awful. A Google showed that Peugeot 306 seats are a ‘direct’ fit so after some scouring of marketplace I found some 306 GTI front seats in half leather a 10 minute drive so I went for it. 

Some guides on this will tell you to cut the mounting frame off the Berlingo seat (couple of stitch welds) and then use existing bolt holes on the 306 seats to attach, to keep the Berlingo fitment and the height. Mine didn’t work out like that as the Berlingo seats had nothing that could be readily cut-off, so I presume a different design. I went a different way. 

Note – I’d recommend doing one seat at a time so you have a reference point if you get confused. If you have room have all four seats out and tackle a pair at a time.  

Step 1 – Unbolt the Berlingo seat – four Torx bolts and one seatbelt pre-tensioner electrical connector to remove. 

Step 2 – Compare seats – Both seats have four fixing points. The inner fixings (nearest transmission tunnel) bolt down into the floor whilst the outer bolt into the side of the sill.

Berlingo seat – note ‘packers’ on rail on left

You’ll note the mounts are very similar BUT the Berlingo outer rail has two packers welded on the rail for it to reach the sill. A quick measure shows the Berlingo seat is approx. 1.5cm wider. You could just pack this out with washers when installing the Peugeot seats but that’s a bodge and I wouldn’t recommend.

Peugeot seat – note no packers on rail on left

Step 3 – Swap outer rails over – undo three Torx screws on the Peugeot seats and two on the Berlingo seats to remove the outer rails. These are accessed within the seat base. Swap them over and bolt the Berlingo rail onto the Peugeot seat. Width sorted. 

Step 4 – Seat belt pretensioner – the connector on the Peugeot (orange both ends) and the Berlingo (orange one end, green the other) differ. You could cut both off and re-join the correct connector onto the Peugeot but given it’s a safety item I’d rather not. Instead remove the plastic side panel from the Peugeot seat (2-3 Torx screws) and disconnect the cable from the seatbelt itself (likely held on with a metal clip). Do the same on the Berlingo seat (accessible from within the seat frame). Fit the Berlingo cable to the Peugeot seatbelt and reattach the metal clip. Remove the plastic sleeving around the Berlingo cable and instead route through the same cable management as the Peugeot one used (this is why doing one seat at a time helps). Use a cable tie to neaten up as needed, and clip it onto the plastic tray connector holder on the bottom of the seat.

Berlingo connector
Peugeot connector
Peugeot pre-tensioner with cable connected and metal clip
Berlingo Pre-tensioner with cable disconnected

Step 5 – Test Fit – You’ll note the Peugeot seats are lower than the Berlingo. As such some of the plastic trim around the rails may need to be trimmed depending on the exact model of Peugeot seats. In my case, the driver’s side needed a small section of the Drivers side outer rail trim cut off at the back to allow it to slide fully back.

Step 6 – Bolt In – Before placing in position use the adjuster under seat to bring the rails as far forward as possible (so the seat is in the furthest position from the steering wheel). This allows you to bolt the front two points in first as they’re the trickiest to do. Place seat in car, lean it back to connect the cable, then make final position. Bolt front two bolts up. Slide the seat fully forward using the lever, then bolt the rear two points in. Congrats the seats are in. Stand back, position your dog for a photo and marvel at the awesome upgrade.

Note –  

  • The seats will be lower than the ones you removed. If you’re really short this may be an issue. If really tall or like wearing top hats this is a bonus. 
  • You probably should disconnect the battery before removing and refitting the seats as there an immeasurably small risk of the seatbelt pre-tensioners going off.  
  • Depending on the Peugeot seats you may find they don’t fold as far forward when using as a camper due to thicker bolsters and different mechanisms (most camper beds run over the front seats for the added length). In my case the seats were from a 3 door so had a handy single lever to fold and slide forward to access the back seats. Combined with lower height they’re better than what was removed. 

Disposable Vapes – repurposing the crappiest invention

I don’t vape. Mostly because I never smoked so didn’t feel the need to graduate to sucking a robot penis in public.
If you do then cool, everyone is really impressed by the big clouds you blow out and I expect you get bored of turning down sexual advances based on your highly upgraded vape kit.

If you smoke the disposable vapes you might not have considered what’s inside them. They look similar to a pen, you suck them off, then throw them away like an unwanted date. Sadly like jilted boyfriends many seem to end up in the gutter as there must be a large overlap between people who litter and people who suck mango smoke.

Due to the high current needed in a vape they don’t have cheap single use batteries but instead have relatively large Lithium batteries, fully rechargeable but the units are made with no provision to do so and become single use. The capacity of the batteries can be as much as half of a modern iPhone (1500mAh Vape vs 3227mAh for an iPhone 13) yet are thrown in the bin with little consideration for recycling or use of materials and associated risk down the waste stream of uncontrolled fires (if punctured or become wet they can be very dangerous). Most people wouldn’t throw an iPhone in the bin, you’d at least take some steps to try and ensure reuse or recycling.

According to Sky News “Users in the UK are throwing away around two disposable vapes every second. The number of discarded disposable vapes accounts for around 10 tonnes of lithium being sent to landfill or waste incinerators each year – enough of the metal to make batteries for 1,200 electric cars.”

So what should you do? Don’t use disposable vapes, switch to rechargeable kits or better yet stop. You look stupid. Seriously. If you need an excuse to stand outside the pub in the rain trying to look edgy and cool, then take up sword swallowing.

If like me you find a lot of them, you might be curious to take them apart.

The most common types I seem to find are Elux Legends 3500 puffs and Elfbar 600 puffs. Surely anything measured in puffs is self evidently stupid? (Asthma inhalers aside).

Let’s open the Elfbar. It’s about the size of a fat marker. And less useful. Smells worse too.

Inside of an Elfbar. A lot of (slimy) stuff for a single use product.

You may need to warm the bottom slightly with a lighter but should then pull it all out. If careful it will come as one section and in theory you could recharge and reuse. The sponge certainly seemed to be wet with skanky liquid still.
Inside is the sensor/light at the bottom, the battery, the heating element and pad full of tasty tasty chemicals before the mouthpiece you suck on as you regress to infancy.

In this instance the battery is a 13400, 3.7V, 550mAh and 2.04Wh – it’s pretty small. A typical alkaline or NiMH battery in the standard “AA” size has about 2000 to 3000 mAh but at only 1.5V.

Mostly to stop the stench, bin everything but the tube, the ends, the battery, and the rubber sections can be useful for separating the components if you re-use the tube.

Next the Elux and as before, warming the bottom should allow you to pull it out.
Same arrangement as before, and again bin everything but the battery, end caps and rubber sections. It’s handy to leave some length on the wires if able to allow some basic testing before re-use.

Same arrangement of stuff in an Elux. If you open carefully it will come out as one. I wasn’t careful.

In this instance the battery is a 20400, 3.7V, 1500mAh and 5.55Wh – it’s three times the size of the Elfbar but still small compared to a more common 18650 battery as used in rechargeable vapes at around 4200mAh.

Battery Sizes

The battery numbering isn’t random, it’s the diameter then the length in mm.

18650 “standard” rechargeable vape battery and common for head torches, and lots of products is 18mm diameter, 65mm long.

20400 battery used in the Elux is 20mm diameter, 40mm long. This 2mm difference in diameter means it may not fit in enclosures designed for the 18650 even if you can get around the reduced length.

The 13400 battery in the Elfbar is 13mm diameter and 40mm long.

This powerbank case just about squeezes a 20400 battery in place of a 18650. If you could fit two and get around the reduced length it would be a decent capacity of 3000mAh.
The positive and negative are denoted by tape (red is positive) and the labelling. Make sure you get correct orientation.

What now?
Firstly you can’t just throw the battery in a standard AA charger pack. Aside from the size issue it needs to have battery protection during charging and use. Fortunately you can buy suitable USB style boards to solder on and they are typically £2 each in bulk on eBay and also Amazon.

TP4056 5V 1A Micro USB 18650 Lithium Battery Charging Board

TP4056 and comes with various options of USB cable sockets to suit your need. They are a complete constant current-voltage linear charging module for single-cell 3.7 V lithium batteries. In use it continuously monitors the voltage level of the battery during charging and discharging.
They are wired up as below (thanks for diagram Electrothinks) with the battery, the load (output via switch or however you wish to use it) and option to hardwire an input rather than USB if needed. Pay attention when ordering as some don’t have the additional solder points for the load/output so only useful for charging.

LED colour – the TP4056 LED indicators will vary depending on supplier but most seem to have steady red/amber for charging, a flashing red/amber for battery issue and a steady blue for fully charged.

The output of the TP4056 is exactly the same voltage as what the battery is providing, and not stepping up the voltage to a consistent 5V for USB use for example.

A TP4056 (charge only) version in a cut about memory card case. Charging a 1500mAh unit.

USB Power Bank Circuit Board 134N3P

These are similar boards to the TP4056 but have a full size USB at 5V (not 3.7V) out for the load making ideal for power bank use. They typically have a completely different LED system – flashing red/amber light for charging, a solid red/amber for fully charged. When discharging have a steady blue light.

A 134N3P unit charging a 550mAh Elfbar battery. Will test charge on Garmin and look into making a compact version, potentially with the Garmin specific lead hardwired. Black wire was from the Elfbar and a little small for continuous use.

Don’t want to buy a board to test if the battery is any good?

In my case I had a spare power bank kit designed for a 18650 battery that I could temporarily bodge a 13400 battery in to check. Copy at your own risk etc.

Charging via micro-USB
Output via full size USB. Blue LED to indicate use.

As noted above I’m keen to make up a super compact power bank for charging my Garmin GPS during long ultras. Depending on models these have 320 up to 420mAh batteries so even the smaller 550mAh battery unit from an Elfbar should be enough for a full charge, possibly two long charges. If I can do it by 3D printing an enclosure or even bodging something with excess duct tape I can have a free charger that if I do happen to lose or leave at an aid station I won’t cry about.

Ghetto version inside an Elfbar

In the meantime I made up a very cheap and nasty power bank from the Elfbar using a spare control board and power leads from a freebie promotional battery pack I was given at a trade show that died (batteries expanded and were in danger of splitting).

USB input and output leads are already attached from previous life, just needs battery on the B+ and B-

I soldered the Elfbar battery to the board and then wrapped everything liberally in electrical tape to prevent any shorting on the metal case.

If you solder like a blind man then cover it with tape.

Shove it all back in with a very bodgy cutting of the mouthpiece to squeeze the cable through and it’s done. Not pretty but surprisingly handy. Charge via full size USB, and then use on devices with Apple or micro-USB.

Fitting a 20400 Elux battery into an eBay case

Picked up a DIY powerbank case from eBay for £2 that looked like it had enough room to squeeze the extra 2mm of the 20400 battery in and potentially could be cut down. I’ve yet to find any kits designed for the vape batteries so best to get one that suits the 18650 and see if you can squeeze in.

Has the same combined micro and full size USB for charging and discharge. Trimming the middle row of splines either side of battery allowed a nice tight fit without distorting the case.
Didn’t want to make permanent changes to case so soldered + to the board and – to the bottom spring for test use.
Flashing light for charging and blue when discharging, just about visible through case.

Other ideas

Will continue to have a play. Looks like potential to squeeze two of the larger batteries into a single Elux with a 3D printed end cap to add some space.

Also potential to use the Elfbar battery inside the original case and cut down a little as a lightweight 18650 battery alternative for emergency use – some of my ultras require a backup battery even when taking place in daylight.

London Calling – Week 7 – race week!

Final week rolls around and it’s the final countdown to the TCS London Marathon on Sunday.

Monday – had some time to kill waiting for daughter at a club so went for a run in the woods. Even with a torch it got dark a lot earlier than expected and I reasoned this was not the week to trip on a tree root so came back on the road for 10k at a very pedestrian 11:16 mile pace. I’d love to say it felt like a jog but in truth my legs feel wrecked from ramping up the miles.

Chased in woods by vicious monster / tiny deer

Tuesday started with a spin class, with the evil/great instructor and my legs are wrecked for the cycle home. In the evening after a warmup I manage my fastest attempt at the 7:30min/mile paced run since start of July and a real confidence boost. Maybe I can remember how to run with some pace?

Common to much of the UK there’s a sickness bug sweeping through the house and I’m hopeful of avoiding it until next week as it’s consigned wifey to bed for a couple of days which is unheard of.

Wednesday was a surprise performance at the Brickhills 9 mile – Not only a second decent run in as many days and best since June but I actually have to do a couple of (tiny) runbacks for first time in months. It’s also a handy chance to pass my Expo collection pack to Jen for her to get on my behalf as I view Expos as only marginally more fun than colonoscopies.

My awesome shorts arrive for race day and the world rejoices so despite planning to take the rest of week as rest I join some mates for a gentle 6 miler on Thursday to test them out. They are not terrible but I suspect the elite would not recommend.

Final training run done, and 26 miles for the week so far. September ends (wake up that bloke from Greenday) and I’m pleased to record 211 miles for the month. 200 mile months used to be a mainstay for many years but since 2021 have been a rarity so it’s a good boost.

The last minute matching hat arrives and I shave the weirdy beardy to save vital race weight! Saturday I potter around mowing the lawn and trying to ignore the itchy throat that might be the start of the bug.

The less you look like a runner, the more impressive your minimal performance will be!

Sunday 2nd October 2022 – TCS London Marathon Race Day

It’s 5am and I’m up and getting dressed, making final check on weather as it’s been threatening rain all week but now looks like we might escape. To avoid parking and allow me to have a celebratory beer I decided to take one of the electric scooter rentals to the 6am coach collection for Redway Runners. The scooter cuts out tree times on route, and a further stop when I panic I’ve forgotten my running trainers (I hadn’t) means I’m nearly last one on but finally set off on way to London. With a quick service station stop for coffee and a bacon bap (I still prefer real food before a race) we pull up at Blackheath at around 8:00am.

I’m in Blue start wave 3 so due to assemble in the pen at 9:36 and start 9:49am. Time for a few toilet visits and to chill with other Redway Runners in a huddle on the ground. Unlike last year it’s surprisingly warm so I’m almost too hot in my borrowed coat and trousers I intercepted from the sister-in-laws charity donation. I do look pretty baller though and the organisers will collect all clothing discarded for charity so I’ve basically borrowed them.

Getting into the waves – I didn’t know it but I would spend most of the next 20 miles swapping places with the bloke in the striped top and phone bra.

Finally we were called forward and could set off on a little jog around London. I’d intended to run 8:30 pace as long as able but as usual got swept along. Unusually for London they seemed to make a big mistake on the starts and the Red wave was delayed and when it finally joined the yellow and blue was completely mismatched. Sub3hr runners were furiously trying to duck and weave around the masses and the 3h30 blue pacers. There was a lot of commotion and accidental, sometimes intentional barging as they forced their way through a never ending roadblock of slower runners. It looked more like miscreants trying to evade police capture on Oxford Street than an organised race at times. I was glad not be a runner that had trained for months for this single chance at getting their PB only to be entirely defeated by the logistics.

Poor running form 101….

For my own race I largely forgot my legs and the act of running and just enjoyed the experience. I was getting a lot of love from the crowds and this coupled with knowledge of running it a few times before meant I was mostly on a sight seeing tour of London whilst my body got on with it. My only real mental input was remembering to keep on top of gels and hydration and look out for any obstacles. Even from Wave 3 there seemed to be a lot of walkers from early on.

Not the best pacing.

As expected given the limited training I did start to feel the miles around mile 15/16 but was well up on my planned “hopefully sub4” so with a mixture of caution (I remembered the debilitating cramp at the later miles of MK marathon) and acceptance of my fitness I resolved to be a little more cautious up to the Hash House Beer Table at mile 22 and then really take it easy. This is the first time I managed to get a beer and it was much appreciated, cold, refreshing and cutting through the gels and Lucozade.

22 miles is often the do-or-die point of a race. If you’re aiming for PB, GFA etc it’s when you have to decide to double down, ignore the screaming legs and get the job done, or back off and finish a failure as you just didn’t want it enough. In my case I would have needed a teleportation device for a PB so mentally was easy to sit back and tick off another sub4 at 3h46. Given I failed to hold sub4 at Milton Keynes I was content to get the job done.

Yes as expected my nipples bled so much I may have stained my shorts.

To boost my charity donation I’d listed my medal and top on eBay and was pleased to see a notification that I’d sold them for £175 when I check my phone post-race, so no medal selfie for me as mine is already winging it’s way to a new home. Post race I went to the charity event where I couldn’t face food but a nice chap called Junior tried to massage into the floor whilst I cried.

Random thoughts on my performance –

  • For limited training it’s a great result. I always want to get sub4 on a marathon but over the last few years that has stopped being a certainty.
  • With enough experience to disassociate from the physical effort marathons are far more fun. I only really ‘ran’ for 8 miles.
  • It’s not as quick as last year so I won’t be leaping to get another booked in (handy as I can’t find one locally).
  • Whether through sheer stubborn refusal to get sick before, or accelerated by the physical effort the bug found me Sunday night and beat seven shades out of me. Fever, cough, aches, all the good stuff. Were it not for a negative test I would suspect Covid.

Random thoughts on the first TCS London Marathon now Virgin Money have gone –

  • The medal and top are the best in years. 2021 medal looked like a bizarre misprint and would have been disappointing at a local village event.
  • Aside from the issues with Red start it all seemed well organised
  • The crowds were the most vocal and supportive I’ve ever experienced, maybe a result of the first year being ‘free’ of the spectre of Covid?
  • Possibly as result of the red start issues there seemed to be more runners with a lack of race etiquette. One knob decided the line between runners and the Lucozade volunteers handing out cups would be the best place for a sprint so ran the fall length of the line, smacking multiple arms out the way and showering runners and volunteers alike in sticky drink. You sir, are a dick.

London Calling – Week 6 training – one week left

6th week of training and only 2 weeks until London in the unconventional plan. Plan was a slightly lower mileage week, Normally I’d keep relatively high mileage until start of the final week with a 5/6 day taper but given my recent tendency to injury I figured a more cautious approach is needed.

Monday after a 20 miler the day before I took the day as rest day, and busy schedule meant I didn’t make a spin class.

Tuesday Morning Spin, then double evening run. 4 miles with Redway 7:30min/mile paced run at a ‘slightly more shit than last week’ 7:34. Legs still felt heavy from the previous week. Followed up with a chatty 6 miler with mates.

Wednesday I was hopeful of getting back to my ‘less shit’ pattern of last couple of weeks but sadly failed and did a pretty slow early morning 9 miles, helping the other runners to get more mileage on runbacks. My hip was a little stiff and I managed to chaff in an intimate place due to poor short choice so overall a pretty demoralising run. 10 days out from the race you don’t want to feel creaky, sore, slow and a bit shit. In the words of Chris “When are you going to start getting faster again?”

London also released their app so people could log in and see start time etc. I’m in Blue 3 and despite initially showing a start time much earlier now shows 9:49. The upside is the pubs will be open when I finish, the downside is a lot of waiting at start as getting the coach down by Redway Runners, a fortuitous choice as they’ve just announced rail strikes on the Saturday that will affect the Sunday marathon as well.

Thursday again failed to get to morning Spin so just a leisurely 7 miles in the evening.

Friday I took as a semi rest-day and just Spin at lunch before heading to Isle of Wight for a family weekend away.

Saturday I tried a hard effort at parkun at the Medina IOW run but found not knowing the course and the wet grass added to my lack of fitness and managed 24 minutes. It’s a nice event but given how amazingly gorgeous IOW is, having the only parkrun held around some non-descript playing fields that could be anywhere in the UK seemed an odd choice. The performance did remind me that accidentally running 7:30 pace for London as I had the year before is not going to happen and I should stick to 9min pace.

Sunday was long run time. Being somewhere new it was a relief not to have a set pace or distance in mind and just run about taking in the scenery and pausing for some photos. Isle Of Wight is gorgeous and I will definitely be back. In the end managed just over 9 miles at a very pedestrian pace, and finished at 37 for the week.

From a very low base in July I’ve managed a relatively structured increase in mileage and pace with three 50+ miles before starting to taper. Given I’ve managed years of uninterrupted 50+ mile weeks it’s a long way below what I would like to be able to sustain but feels about right.

Gels and Caffeine Bullets have arrived for London, just hoping my duck shorts make it in time.

London Calling – Week 5 training – a race

5th week of training and only 3 weeks until London in the unconventional plan.

Monday started with early Spin class then whilst killing time waiting for daughter in clubs I ran a 7 miler with Jonno. The first mile was awful and one of those ‘oh god I can’t even run a mile why am I even bothering’ but eventually loosened up. I’ve definitely found with declining fitness and advancing age I need a few miles to get in my stride.

Tuesday I slept in and missed Spin so did double evening run. 4 miles with Redway 7:30min/mile paced run at a ‘slightly less shit than last week’ 7:23. Followed up with a chatty 6 miler with mates.

The queue to see the Queen’s coffin opened, ahead of the service on the Monday. It’s very popular and a bigger endurance event than most ultras. The average pace is about the same too.

Wednesday I was hopeful of continuing my ‘less shit’ pattern of last couple of weeks but sadly failed and did a pretty slow early morning 9 miles, helping the other runners to get more mileage on runbacks. They did point out that I’d run a marathon distance for the week including 3 runs in 12 hours and that probably wasn’t good training.

London also released their ace guide including the helpful checklist –

Thursday started with Spin then an evening run, plan was for 10 but nobody seemed keen so stopped a just under 7.

Friday I took as a semi rest-day and just Spin at lunch.

Saturday I tried a hard effort at parkun and managed 22m28s which is pretty poor based on previous performances but fastest since June so definitely heading the right direction. I’d like to say I was holding something back for the subsequent race but that would be a lie.

It was also new shoe day as I needed to use my life insurance 50% voucher so replaced my very tired Hoka Rincon 1 with Rincon 3. This was the only colour way they had:

Sunday was a difficult decision. Last year, also in a state of disrepair I ran the 60k Big Bear Ultra two weeks out from London as a final long run, ignoring that it was too long, and it seemed to work well. This year I was even less fit so decided to take the sensible option of the local Redway Runners Old Money run. It’s a choice of 5 or 10 mile, and I decided to run 10 miles first as a warmup, to get a full 20 for the day.

Was very sluggish for the solo 10, averaging 9m51s but kept it gentle effort, my only goal being to get the 10 done in time to register and run. For the race itself I managed 8m09s average, even with getting lost with a group of others. Optimistically I wanted to complete the 20 under 3 hours to be in with a chance of sub4 at London and I just scraped under despite no breakfast and only two gels so hopeful on race day I should be able to push harder.

Total mileage for week – 56, with 3 spin classes

Final long run done, now just……

12 days until London Marathon!

London Calling – Week 4 training – a bit less crap

4th week of training and only 4 weeks until London in the unconventional plan. Many runners have just completed the Great North Run as a fast Half Marathon effort. I haven’t as I get nose bleeds past Watford Gap.

Given I started Monday with heavy legs after the Sunday marathon conventional wisdom would be to rest. Old Mark would have probably gone for a run. I split the difference and did a spin class to ease the legs off.

Notable this week is the pillowcase of custard finally stepped down as Prime Minister and after significant barrel scraping the Conservative party ran out of anyone worthwhile to take the seat and finally confirmed a near-sentient confused owl as the new PM. It’s difficult to go downhill from Theresa May but we’ve managed it twice.

Tuesday I started with spin again and then made a decent effort at the Redway Runners 7:30 paced 4 mile run. I was a little less awful than the week before, despite the marathon, and in current form ‘less shit than last time’ is my main aim. I followed it up with an easy paced 5 mile with others to loosen off.

Wednesday I kept with the theme and ran my usual Brickhills 9 mile loop a little less shit than last time. 8:30min average pace, trying to ignore that sub8 was my more usual state.

Look, runners!

Thursday I couldn’t get out of bed for morning spin so just a 7 mile with the clubmates in a bumper turnout. I really should have pushed to nearer 10 miles but a mixture of laziness and sensible caution not to push it prevailed. It was also the day we learnt of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II so even non-royalists were saddened.

I failed to fit a run in on Friday, but did manage a morning spin class again. I’m really hoping these hard efforts with no impact will gradually bring back some cardio and endurance.

The weekend had an odd feeling, with many events from football matches and fetes cancelled, whilst rugby, cricket and parkrun went ahead with respect paid and a period of silence. As is the way, the more outspoken of the public attempted to outdo each other with their mourning and publicly shame anyone that didn’t plan to spend 10 days in a darkened room crying and neglecting basic hygiene. For some it’s not enough to grieve, you must ensure everyone else grieves in your narrow and pre-selected definition of mourning.

Saturday I had plans for a long run, ideally 18-20 miles, achieved by a lap of the MK Winter Half and then MK parkrun. I struggled to get out the door in time and instead had an 11 mile warmup, before a parkrun then home to record 16.5 at a not terrible 9:15 average pace making me think a low 4 marathon is possible at London with another couple of months of training. Shame I’ve got 3 weeks.

In the afternoon Charles was sworn in as King and we finished the week with an unelected PM and an unelected head of state, reminding everyone just how great the democracy is in the UK.

At the start of the week this man owned ZERO swans. By the end of the week he owned EVERY swan in England.

Sunday I slipped out for an 8 miler to round the week up to 50. I swallowed a dim-witted wasp and nearly choked, probably as penance for questioning the monarchy.

20 days until London. Time to focus on important items like making someone else collect my bib.

London Calling – Back to the big smoke

For me 2022 has been a bit of a wash out. I’ve DNS’d more races than in my entire running history. Go me!

I’ve not started –

  • Fred Hughes 10 miler – torn hamstring slipping on ice at start of running build up
  • South Downs Way 50 – poor admin meant it clashed with a holiday
  • North Downs Way 50 – tail end of Covid and hideously undertrained
  • Warwickshire Ring Canal 111 mile – still undertrained and train strikes added extra headache
  • Lakeland 100 – A failure at the hilly Wendover Woods 50k two weeks before convinced me it wasn’t even worth the drive up there just to become a liability to the organisers

I’ve failed to finish –

  • Wendover Woods 50k – got 10 miles in and my piriformis was getting progressively worse and painful. Given it was a test for LL100 I’d already proven I wasn’t fit enough or injury free so headed home.
Before the DNF at Wendy. Photo nicked off Coops.

I have managed to finish some races and by standards of the average hobby jogger haven’t been awful but when I expected to be smashing at least one 100 miler this year and haven’t gone over 40 miles it’s pretty sucky.

Malta marathon, unexpectedly my best performance of the year and still a bit crap.

Finished –

  • Malta Marathon – March – returning from hamstring injury I felt undertrained but pleased I stuck it out as a 3h38 finish is still my best of the year
  • Born To Run 30 Miler – April – a beautiful trail ultra in California that coincided with holiday. First event where niggles seemed to be OK and I ran pain free, but struggled with fitness. Two days later I had a confirmed Covid case so performance probably 50% Covid and 50% being a fat sloth.
  • Milton Keynes Marathon – May – was pacing 4hrs and although less easy than I’d like was on target until cramp at mile 23 reduced me to a walk and I had to wave off my runners. Finished in 4h08m which seemed awful.
  • Shires & Spires 34 Miler – May – Longest run of the year and went well. Fitness seemed to slowly be coming back and was a good day out.
  • Enigma Marathon – June – Maintained my injury free status and wanted some redemption from Milton Keynes. Instead my guts decided it was their turn to mess up my plans and it was the start of 2 weeks of awful stomach issues. Waddled around in 4h22 spending most of it remembering when 3h30 was a formality and bowel explosions were things that happened to other people.
  • Greensands Ridge Relay 34 Miler – June – At tail end of the stomach issues so after two weeks of minimal food I was finally less chubby but also under-fuelled. Managed to mainline gels and caffeine tablets and had a decent run even managing a fast couple of miles to finish.
  • Redway Runners 24hr – June – With no intention of beating my previous 104 miles at the event I was just looking for a long run before the Canal Ring. Managed 39 miles as longest run of year then went home to relieve the babysitters.
The start line of the MK24. Weeks of stomach issues mean I don’t look like a fat chud for once.

In theory this should have left me in June on a steady return to form, maybe event attempt the canal race. Instead I had a piriformis issue randomly occur on a 4 mile tempo that was so severe I struggled to put weight on my leg and even contemplated going to the Hospital. Rudi at the Treatment Lab diagnosed it and gave me some exercises to ease it. I rested for a couple of week, losing any semblance of fitness and found it was still stiff and caused me to drop from Wendover Woods 50k and Lakeland 100.

As well as the gastric issues, my son also decided to share the class vomiting bug a few weeks later so I had a fun three days where it felt like I was puking up my soul. Apologies to anyone that frequents the local allotment car park as when the bug hit it really hit….

As a measure of how poorly the year had gone, the previous time I ran LL100 I was on 2000 miles by end of June. For 2022 I had yet to pass 1000 miles and found anything faster than a 9 minute mile reduced me to a sweaty, panting, limping mess.

Refocus –

Clearly any dreams of a 100 miler for 2022 were dead so I needed something else to focus on.

By luck I saw had some runners drop out of London 2022 due to be held in October and were looking for last minute replacement with a far lower fundraising limit. I put myself forward and was accepted so on 18th August I got place for London a mere 45 days away and began to gradually build up the miles. Knowing a sudden jump in miles would likely break me I also joined the local gym for the spin classes, figuring some cardio work that didn’t have impact issues would be a good start.

Training for a marathon in 7 weeks. How to. Maybe…..

Week 1 –

32 miles including a 9 mile, a parkrun and the amazing Beerathon (5 miles, 5 pints, plus a lot more after). A non-typical training week and found the end of the 9 miles a struggle. This was now a ‘long run’. I tried to ignore everyone on Strava already at 18-20 mile training runs for London and in the second half of their 14-16 week training blocks.

Just a normal training run at the Beerathon

Week 2 –

46 miles – Started with a 10k that took over an hour and had to ignore the voice that reminded me anything slower than 45 minutes would be a failure when I was fit. Pushed the distance on the long run to 13 miles and struggled, largely walking in the last mile. Everything felt harder than it should. Tried the 7:30 paced run and struggled to break 8min/miles. Achieved my slowest ever loop of the Brickhills from over 200 attempts. Even the 5k loop for the Blackened Sun monthly beer run felt hard and left me a sweaty mess. 5k. Less than 1/8th of a marathon…..

The widest ford in Dorset. Exciting!

The week was somewhat saved by a holiday to Dorset and Sunday morning I was distracted enough with route finding and scenery to manage 12 slow miles.  Given the increase in overall mileage it probably went as well as to be expected.

Week 3 –

56 miles – Started with a scenic trail run in Dorset. Intention was to push double digits but really felt lifeless and looped back for 8 miles. Decided to go for something shorter the next day and managed a 3 mile tempo, ignoring that tempo now meant 9 min/miles not low 7s.

Moo-ve cows, I’ve got a run to do!

In place of the usual Brickhills I ran trail from Weymouth back to the holiday park for 9 slow but hilly miles, felt stronger so set off with good intentions the next day only to walk in a pathetic 5 miles on legs of death like a failure.

Turned up to parkrun hoping the legs of death had passed and recorded my slowest run of the year. Yeah! Not only could I barely run double digits I couldn’t hold a reasonable pace for a parkrun and had two sucky runs in a row.

Sunday was 4 weeks until London. Many London runners would be finishing their final long runs and considering the start of the taper. I’d not run over 13 miles since June so should really get a 18-20 miler done. Instead, relying on previous experience of just getting on with it, I made the unusual decision to get a last minute spot for the Dunstable Marathon. Given the above issues you’d question the logic.

My thinking was to battle the mental block of the 12/13 mile runs and just grind out a marathon, hopeful that it would also force my various niggles to put up or shut up, whilst reminding myself that after 150+ successful attempts, I can get a marathon distance done. It worked. Although slower than my previous attempt by a full hour and with some death marching normally reserved for final miles of an ultra I held together for the full 26.5 undulating miles and none of the niggles got any worse, a few quit whining and just went away. I finished the week sunburnt, tired, but confident I had at least a base to build on and with the good ache in the legs of a long run done, not my more regular injured ache.

Finding an ice cream van at mile 20ish was welcome

Week 4 is next and also 4 weeks until race day. How far on the road from ‘able to finish’ to ‘able to run well and enjoy it’ can I get?

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BMW Automatic Transmission Warning 420106 – Fix

If you’ve got a modern BMW or Mini with the steptronic auto box you might well be greeted by the “Secure vehicle with parking brake when stationary. Have the problem checked by your Service Partner.” error message.

If you check diagnostics it will show code “420106” and code error look up suggests “Shiftlock solenoid: Selector lever wrongly not locked in P”

This comes up on BMW 2 series, X1 (F48), X-drive 2 series, Mini Countryman (F60) and many other with the same steptronic box.

For me it occurred on a 2016 BMW 220d Gran Tourer at about 95k miles.

Yeah ignore the dust – car needed a clean.

Cue lots of panic and internet research.

Essentially it comes down to the car no longer being able to confirm the lever is in ‘park’ so throws up an error asking you to stick the parking break on. The gearbox is still fine, the selector is fine, the engine works as before, everything will continue to work, but you’ll get the error until fixed and I’m not sure it would pass an MOT with this error up.

The problem is with the selector mechanism and as I found the part isn’t cheap. You’re in need of “BMW Gearshift Steptronic – Genuine BMW Part 25168483098” – the cheapest I could find new was £600+VAT. Add in labour and you’re looking at circa £1k. Saw one driver quoted £1170 from a BMW main dealer. Great. As the cars age this could start to be majority of the cars value.

Fortunately a very helpful chap has done a full video (see below) on this and the issue is a tiny torsion spring that has snapped within the selector so it no longer pushes a magnet as you engage ‘P’ and can’t trigger the reed switch (a small encased hinged metal piece that is pulled down and closes the circuit to confirm position).

This is the spring. It’s pathetically small in real life.

The spring is available from eBay for as little as £4. Yep the car is throwing up errors and potentially costing you £1170 for a repair due to a £4 spring. Aren’t modern cars great?

See the broken ‘leg’? It’s held on by sheer will at this point and should be straight.

On eBay search for “Torsion Spring for Gearshift Steptronic Repair” and part numbers will typically be 25168483097, 25168612145, 25168638224, 25168666164. The one I purchased was here

I won’t try and recreate the video as he does a great job – even listing the tools. I’d recommend watching it through a couple of times first and having it loaded on your phone ready to pause at each step. The trim removal tools and the torx/star bits are probably the only items you’ll need to buy.

Image taken from M.Ovidiu video

As well as the tools he lists I’d get some decent torches/worklight and a number of trays to keep the fixings in. Another trick from working on old cars is get some carboard and push the screws through and label up with where each set came from.

One way of storing bolts – example only

The work is actually very simple but it does initially seem daunting and by the time you have it all out you may start to panic about how much is removed and how you’re ever going to get the car to the garage for them to fix if it all goes wrong. Keep the faith! Work slowly, remove the cables carefully and don’t rush yourself.

The only area I struggled with was making sure the selector was in the right position when trying to disengage the selector cable pin (7:33 in the video).

If the video below doesn’t work then search Youtube for “BMW 2 series f45 F46 ”secure vehicle with parking brake” Problem FIX”

Once done, assemble as shown and reset the computer as he shows and it will all be fixed.

This took me about 3 hours all in, including searching for the tools and trying to find a torch. I reckon 2 hours would be possible next time, probably under an hour for a mechanic. It’s entirely possible for a competent DIYer to do yourself and save £1170. Even if it took a full day that’s a decent saving and potentially keeps the car out the scrapyard.

Once these cars become cheaper it might be an idea to buy a second hand selector from a scrapped car, replace the spring at the comfort of your desk and then do the swap of the selectors, allowing you to upgrade the removed selector and sell on for the next sufferer of the problem.

Born to Run Ultra – 30 Miles In California!

The first thing to note about the Born To Run event is it’s not like any other you will run. The RD blasting three rounds from a pump action shotgun to start the race briefing is a final reminder should you have forgotten this. If James Elson tried that at Goring Village Hall the locals would lynch him before the last round rang out and the letters to the Daily Mail would be unprintable.

Just your normal Californian Race Director.

I’d entered the race relatively late in the process having been due to run the South Downs Way 50 the previous weekend but owing to poor organisation on my part, found I’d be in California on a family holiday (or vacation as the natives call it) so unable to toe the start line. This was disappointing but given I’d suffered a series of annoying leg injuries from a hamstring tear and a subsequent calf strain I was a long way from being 50 mile fit. The sensible part of me took this as a sign to properly rest and recover. The less sensible part argued that an entire weeks extra rest would be sufficient recovery to allow me to cover a mere 30 miles at this event. Guess which one won?

Born To Run is staged annually by the gun-toting RD Luis Escobar in the hills of California outside Los Olivos. If you imagine the Love Trails festival in the UK, mixed with Glastonbury and a smattering of NASCAR Americanism/tailgate sport events you’ll get some of the way there. At one point there was a pole dancing session taking place opposite a tie-dye demonstration.

People set up camp from Wednesday until Sunday and there’s the choice of 4 day, 100, 60, 30 or 10 miler. For those that really know their limits there is also the 0.0 event with avoids the messy business of running at all. For me the 30 miler looked far enough to be worth a minor diversion on the holiday without being too big an undertaking for an undertrained hobby jogger so I signed up and got on with the important business of packing for the holiday.

My main concession to the race preparation was to ask some previous entrants if road shoes would be suitable given I’d hopefully be running throughout the holiday in a desperate attempt to train and figured a run down the streets of Vegas in lugged shoes would be awful. As it turns out pretty much any run or walk in Vegas is awful. It’s the only place I’ve ever arrived and instantly counted down to how soon before we could leave.

No snakes in San Francisco wharf.

So it was that whilst tucking into a corndog on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco (a lovely place to do anything) that I received the first of several pre-race emails and began to appreciate quite what I’d let myself in for with the Born To Run ultra.

Living in the UK the worst we have to deal with on runs is stubborn cows or bossy swans. Only Stuart is soft enough to be morbidly afraid of cows. The FAQ for the race noted that rattlesnakes were present on the horse ranch hosting the event. Big ones. What?!

Other notable points were mandatory kit. Namely a cowboy hat. Not the full length taped seams trousers of the Lakeland 100 but an actual hat for a cowboy. Additionally we needed to bring a signed waiver (probably promising not to sue if bitten by a large rattlesnake) which is easy to do at home, less so in a series of motels and hotels as you travel the state and staff struggle to work around overly secure IT restrictions to allow this.

The two weeks of the holiday not spent on tours, theme parks, visiting Alcatraz, the Grand Canyon or cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge were spent eating and drinking with the odd foray into shops to try to locate a cowboy hat that wasn’t hugely expensive. I did manage to squeeze in a few runs but they were limited to a slow and ungainly 10 miles in San Francisco, a frustrating 6 in Las Vegas (a grotesque, crowded and anti-pedestrian hell hole) and a time constrained 4 miles in Anaheim before a second day at Disney. In all of them I felt awkward, unfit and struggled to recall when running had felt natural since it all seemed so very forced at the time. Ho hum.

Eventually Friday rolled around and we set off from Anaheim to the town of Solvang which sits nestled in the wine country of California among rolling hills and ranches and so of course is modelled on a Danish village, right down to windmills, pastry shops and Copenhagen hall. Solvang was founded in 1911 by three Danish immigrants so there is some reasoning behind this although it does initially sounds like a jarring Disney style pastiche it is one of the cutest towns I’ve visited and kids and adults were both equally enthralled as we drove to find even our motel was modelled on a Danish street. By luck the local grocers stocked cowboy hats and for $16 I finally found one closer to what I was prepared to pay.

These are motel rooms. Cuter than most actual houses.

Race day arrived and it was an early start. The 60, 30 and 10 events all kicked off at 7am on Saturday with race briefing at 6:30am. Although we had stayed close there were frequent warnings on the FB group that the entrance to the horse ranch was easily missed and I needed to allow time to register and get parked up.

I rocked up to the gates some time after 5am and after registering a group of us we were instructed to follow an off road buggy bedecked in lights down to the main staging area and shown where to park up (namely in a ditch off the road, which I was worried might claim the hire car as Camry are not known for off-road ability). Again it wasn’t the usual ‘follow Brian in the hi-viz to the parking area’ you get in the UK.

It was still dark I huddled in the car away from the snakes and watched the sun rise and slowly bring detail to the camp below. It was a small village of RVs, tents and pickups, with gazebos and coolers.

In the car. There is NOT ‘a snake in my boot’ – this joke doesn’t work in US as it’s a trunk…..

Once it was light enough I walked down to the centre and was greeted by many attendees still drinking from the night before whilst the occasional runner for the longer distance events stumbled through to cheers of support from the well-hydrated spectators. It was impossible not to be taken in by the festival vibe and I managed to forget my fear of snakes, hills (California is bloody lumpy) or lack of training.

After the race briefing (two lapped courses of 10 miles, one pink, one yellow, alternate and do as many as needed for your 10, 30, 60 mile race) the RD Luis introduced the runners from the Tarahumara tribe in the Copper Canyons region of northwestern Mexico. If you’ve read the book ‘Born To Run’ then you’ll have learnt of this ancient tribe of distance runners and no doubt broken your calf muscles and Achilles trying to imitate the natural, often bare footed approach they have. To see them in person was amazing and they’d even made the medals for the races so we weren’t just racing for a mass produced piece of metal from China but a crafted item from local wood by a tribe at least 2000 years old.

We assembled on the start line behind the tribe and got ready to run. There was the usual mixture of runners bedecked in multiple layers with race vests and topless dudes jostling for space at the front. Wherever you race there is always at least one topless dude. With a further blast from the shotgun we set off and I could (briefly) claim to be running with the Tarahumara before they left me for dead.

The day was initially cold and I’d started with a light rain jacket over my vest. Within a couple of miles I was too hot and had to strip it off. The course was beautiful, mostly wide trails through pastures strewn liberally with oak trees, it reminded me of a more undulating version of the gardens of a stately home with less tea shops. Undulating was definitely the theme as the course wound up and down the hills. None of the climbs on the first lap were un-runnable for someone fit but given I’d not run over double figures in a month I was cautious and rightly so as I gradually felt the miles mount.

Lap 1, pink, was completed in 1h40 and I felt largely OK but I worried if the second lap, on the yellow course was harder or hillier. It was harder. And hillier. Some steep climbs reminded me of Puke Hill in Milton Keynes or Wendover Woods where you can’t really get your heels down and run/amble up on your toes. The run along the ridge line was amazing and the views breath taking, akin to the Scottish valleys but bathed in the warm partially clouded sun of California. A couple of descents were steep on loose sandy soil and made me doubt the choice of shoes. I’d already lost the pace to slip merrily down the hills like a joyful goat and mostly slid like a fat Brit too full of Disney food and bottomless soda refills.

Despite trying various treats from the aid station and a concoction of sports drinks I was flagging quickly and the second lap was over 2 hours. I made a slight detour for the car to get my headphones as needed some music. The beautiful quiet of the horse ranch that I’d enjoyed for 20 miles was now a reminder of just how slow my pace had become and I wanted to take my mind off it. The advantage of countless marathons and ultras is you can sometimes see the slump coming and if not head it off, at least settle into it and work to make it more bearable.

Sometime around 24 miles the occasional spattering of light rain turned into a full drizzle and on cue a runner originally from Cheltenham, London, asked why I’d decided to bring the UK weather with me for the race. Whilst I was glad not to be scorched by the California sun it would have at least given me an excuse for my performance. The drizzle only called into question the likelihood of me getting the car out the ditch to get back to the hotel.

Whilst debating whether a forward or reverse dollop of speed would be best to get the Camry up the slope I settled into the power hike/ultra shuffle usually reserved for the later stages of a 100 miler rather than when you’re not even at marathon distance. A big positive was it being my first run since February when I tore the hamstring that I was without any leg pain. My legs felt great, amazing in fact, just lacked the fitness or cardio to make any use of them.

Me at mile 25

This being the second time on the pink route I knew that the large climb would eventually end and then a final couple of miles downhill through the camp to be cheered in by the attendees and over the line to finish a long way outside my estimated 6 hours at 6h25 and 58th of 131 finishers. The winner ran it in 3h24 which given the terrain is ridiculously impressive.

The event was amazing. The course was gorgeous. The weather was probably perfect for running. My performance was piss poor but to run with the Tarahumara and take home a hand crafted medal was worth it.

Things to note for first timers to this event

  • You probably won’t see a rattlesnake. Hopefully.
  • Although the California flag has a big bear on it, you won’t see one of them either.
  • If it’s dry a road shoe is fine.
  • Cheat sticks would be good for distances above 30 miles. Or anything over 5 miles if you’re as unfit as me.
  • The Hammer Gels on route are an acquired taste. I’d rather contract an STD than enjoy eating them.
  • Don’t forget your cowboy hat.
  • Don’t forget your waiver, one for everyone attending, not just runners.
  • It would be an amazing camping experience and given the price of California hotels a great money saver.
  • US race fees across the country are steep. The 30 miler ran at $125 plus $8.81 booking fee. You do get a great Patagonia tee, the tribal medal and a speed cup in the price bit it’s still twice the UK equivalent. This isn’t the race organisers being greedy, the whole business model in US seems different, I presume a mixture of land and insurance costs etc.
  • There’s a fee on top of the entry for everyone that attends the ranch. $10 per day, per person, payable in cash as you arrive. Compared to the hotel cost it’s great, but for one day attendees brings total to $143.81 for a 30 miler, about the same as a UK 100+ miler.
  • California is pretty pricey. The price of everything across the world seems to be creeping up and the self-imposed sanctions of Brexit and devaluing of the pound haven’t helped us. Don’t be surprised for most main courses to be over £20 even in chain restaurants and domestic beers from corner shop are £4-£5 a can, basically UK pub prices. Then there’s sales tax on top and service charge for eating out. Budget accordingly.

Malta Marathon – it’s all a bit political!

Malta Marathon – it’s all a bit political!

I’m old. Older than dirt. March is my 2056th birthday (or at least that’s how my knees feel some days). This year as a treat my lovely wife booked us a weekend in Malta so we could see some sights, eat some food, and I could run a marathon.

So in early February 2022 I booked in for the event. Within a week, by 15th February it was cancelled. The organisers announced “The route imposed by Transport Malta has been deemed as unacceptable by Mater Dei’s emergency department, the Malta Red Cross & the Malta traffic police due to safety reasons; both for emergency responders & the runners themselves.” They were denied permission to use the route that had been in place since 2009 and believed their only option was to cancel. This follows a cancellation due to floods in 2019, and 2021 due to Covid. A third cancellation in four years is not good for the long term viability of the event sadly.

Damn it. With three weeks to go before the weekend we began to look at other options. There are many other weekend destinations that also don’t have a marathon and likely have better weather as well. It was doubtless a blow to local tourism as early March is low season and in previous years as many as 4000 participated with a large number travelling to the island specifically to race.

Then the very next day there was an announcement of an alternative full and half marathon, organised by Transport Malta and Sport Malta, for the same day as the original.

So what happened?

There are two distinct views on this based on social media and news sites:

  1. A long running marathon failed to secure permission and cancelled, so the government stepped in to ensure a replacement in double quick time.
  2. The government forced cancellation of a privately organised and successful event so they could take it over and score some positive PR during a period of local elections.

Not being an expert on politics in Malta I have no deeper understanding. My main thoughts were could they really organise a large scale road marathon in 3 weeks? Their initial announcement was unsurprisingly low on details without start or end points, route, start time or any details confirmed. Given our flights were non-refundable we figured we might as well find out.

To add to the politics, the original Malta marathon still had tees and medals so invited you to run a GPX route they’d devised to earn them and a local runner disgusted at the whole saga held guided runs of 10k or HM as a ‘Solidarity run’. So there three rivals factions. A bit like the People’s Front of Judea from the film.


Yeah I should do some of that. One of the many arguments used not to cancel the event was wasted training of all the participants. Fortunately I had little. Despite great plans for a monster three months of hard graft to start the year (with Malta being a hard effort long run before a PB attempt in April) I managed to tear my hamstring slipping on ice. Like Bambi but less cute. My best efforts to ignore it were unsuccessful and after two weeks of running in great pain then being unable to move my leg to get out of bed I finally went to see Rudi at The Treatment Lab who confirmed it. I was ordered to take at least two weeks complete rest, not even allowed to cycle so zero cardio for 2 weeks and then a very slow gradual return.

The upshot is about three weeks of OKish training at a low effort with low fitness. A week out from Malta I was able to run 16 miles as my first, last, longest and only long run for the marathon. I’d barely broken 10 miles in the last month. My previous longest run was 14 miles in January. Oh well.

The Event

To be fair to the organisers they worked very hard on setting the event up. Multiple times a day they would update their FB page as more details were confirmed.

Applications opened 21st Feb, two weeks out from race day.

Routes were confirmed on 22nd Feb with GPX available. Start times of 6:30am (ouch) and promise of free buses to the start in Rabat or back from the finish line in Sliema. Buses were to leave at 5am. FIVE AM. IN THE MORNING…….

They advised it would be chip timed, with medal and top all for the bargain price of €20 with packet pickup at the National Pool Complex on the Thursday-Saturday before which fortunately is close to the hotel we’d booked.


The race was only €20 and it was pay at pickup. The organisers advised of 250 application in first 12 hours of opening. I wondered how many applications would either not turn up (no money down so if it’s raining a the weekend sack it off) or were deliberate protest registrations with no intention of arriving. This could be the smallest ‘big’ marathon I’d ever run.

Covid restrictions: We’ve become fairly used to it but the constant changes for travel, outside & inside gatherings add an element of risk to all activities. Runners needed to be triple vaxed and set off in groups of 100. A race I had planned to do in Gran Canaria in the summer was cancelled whilst I was in the air due to a change in Covid risk locally.

Organisation of a marathon is no small feat. Even established events like Manchester Marathon have a patchy history with multiple issues. How would a three week rushed event pan out?


For anyone who’s not been before (me):

  • It’s an independent republic which gained independence from the British Empire in 1964. The country is still part of the British Commonwealth and a member of the EU (wish we were)
  • It’s an island of 500k population spread over 121 square miles and sits under Sicily in the Mediterranean.
  • Currency is Euro
  • Languages are Maltese and English
  • Power is UK 3-pin 240v plugs
  • They drive on the left
  • Participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 33 times, yet to win but has achieved four top three results
  • So I expected something a bit like Cyprus in terms of relating back to places I’ve been to.

Getting There

Lots of flights from U.K. but as it’s off season they may not all line up as ideally as you’d like. We flew out of Luton on Friday and back Sunday evening to Heathrow so a bit of a pain for us. The flight back to Luton looked a little tight on timing for the original start time of the marathon.
Depending on when you read this, the COVID requirements may change but for 2022 were a fully triple jabbed certificate and the now usual Passenger Locator Form filled in advance to allow you to check in for flight.
Passport control on landing was very efficient as was baggage although there was then a 30 minute queue for health screening (checking Covid and passenger locator form). The actual process was very quick and there were 20 desks but it only takes a half dozen passengers who don’t have paperwork ready to hold up the line.
The race finishes in Sliema so that’s where we booked a hotel. It’s a relatively modern development of beachfront hotels and restaurants and a €1.50 ferry from the very old town and capital of Valletta.
Hire cars were ridiculously cheap for 2022 and we got a little Peugeot for £8 for three days as cheaper than a taxi and whatever car you’re in you’ll sit in the same traffic jam from airport. Traffic in Malta is pretty awful as they seem to be working on most junctions. Worth noting the hire company did the usual ‘there’s no damage sir’ which wasn’t the case so lost about an hour queuing to get car and then arguing the damage. Take good photos before you drive the car anywhere. 
Parking is a nightmare in pretty much all the big towns so worth getting the smallest car you can fit luggage and passengers in as a lot more options to park a super mini than a massive barge.

Bib Collection

For 2022 this was all from the national swimming complex so grabbed it on Friday after lunch at the picturesque bay of Marsaxlokk before heading to hotel. Payment of €20 by cash or card and then get given bag with tee shirt, bib, pins and a coloured wrist band that denoted your start wave (irrelevant for marathon as 100 people so all one wave).

Race Day

The organisers were a little vague on the coach details. It left at 5am from near the finish. There’s was no charge or pre-booking just turn up. Great but also makes you worry how they ensure enough coaches?
Given the early start I picked up a slice of pizza on way to hotel the night before and took it with me to eat whilst waiting for coach. 5am cold pizza is fine for ultra runners but I got some odd looks.
I found a large group of runners shivering in the cold with several volunteers in hi-vis. There followed a lot of phone conversations, checking of emails and rushing about by the volunteers before a coach arrived at 5:22am. Not a huge issue but when you’re told 5am and the event is organised by the transport department you would expect the transport section to be right.

Due to the time difference the 5am coach felt like 4am and I’d been eating and drinking heavily the previous day….

We piled on the coach and all just about fitted with some artistic seating arrangements and were dropped in the village square at Rabat about 6, still in the dark. None of the local cafes had seized the opportunity to open for hungry and cold runners so make sure you bring warm clothes and food or drink if you need it.

It’s still night!

There was a drop bag arrangement to take bags to finish same as big city events but given I was finishing by the hotel I took a throw away hat and a foil blanket left from a race previously.
Just after 6:30am as the sun came up we set off.

100ish people for the marathon. The half had 400 and started at a different location.

The Course

Despite the comparatively downhill nature of the profile the run itself doesn’t seem especially easy. There’s a fair bit of climbing in sections so don’t expect a super fast guaranteed PB. Of course if you’ve actually trained it would be better.
The first 18 or so miles is basically wiggly loops from the start and then back out towards Sliema on mostly country lanes. It’s a beautiful country so very enjoyable. Some of the roads themselves are a little potholed so worth keeping eyes open. Also a mixture of closed roads, sections with a lane closed off for runners and some roads where you run with the flow of traffic and hope they don’t hit you. Wouldn’t recommend big headphones for this reason. All the drivers were very courteous but I like to be aware of surroundings.

Country lanes and lots of stone walls. Like the Lake District but flatter. And hotter.

There was an almost excessive number of volunteers and police marshalling their route so it was all very organised and safe. Pretty sure the volunteers outnumbered the competitors. Route was marked with spray paint on the floor as well should you miss the marshals.
Aid stations were every 5k and had full 500ml bottles of Aquarius still sports drink, a favourite of mine.
As the temperature climbed and the sun baked the runners I would have appreciated some water to douse my head but there was none. From evidence on the road there had been wet sponges available but these were all gone by the time I got to the aid stations either used by the faster marathon runners or the HM runners that run the second half of the route and start an hour after the full runners. This is a minor area to attend to in future years. I completed the first half in about 1h45 so was by no means at the back of the field.

How It Went 

For someone very undertrained I was pleased with my performance. There was a hope that my accidental 3h25 of London might happen again but the reality of poor training, recent injury and a single long run of 16 miles thwarted that.
I set off steady, all over 8min pace and then as I settled in found them gradually dropping under and managed 10 miles bang on 80min.
Somewhere around mile 16 I could feel my legs getting heavy. Heart rate was still low but no amount of caffeine tablets, drink or gels could get around the fact they hadn’t run that far since November. The weather was also warm for a pasty Brit at around 15degC.

It ain’t half hot mum!

20 miles came in about 2h45 as I expected then started to count down the miles. About this point the route hits some of the less scenic sections as passes through industrial parks and on the side of busy roads. Mile 22 is basically a cordoned off section of the main bypass and like running down the North Circular but with more traffic.
Around 23 you leave the motorway and then mostly a sequence of undulating back streets for a mile before hitting the main coast road around the harbour towards Sliema. It’s scenic but by this point the runners were very spread so hard not to feel like an idiot running on your own down the shoulder of the main road.
About a mile out the crowds start and encourage the runners. I was flagging so needed the boost and managed to finish in 3h38 to collect medal and a banana before heading for hotel. I was too late for breakfast but able to shower before checking out and heading for liquid lunch.

Hotel room overlooked the finishing straight.

As we left the hotel and at the airport there was a fair presence of runners who had run one of the alternative events and it did feel a bit disappointing that the running community had been split on a day that is normally a celebration of coming together for the love of the sport.

Feet up in the sun to enjoy some beers before flight home.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. Both Malta the island and the race is worth a visit. Despite being their first attempt the organisation was better than many established events. As for who will organise the event in future years, that’s probably anyone’s guess. 

Whilst in Malta

It’s a beautiful country and would recommend a full day around Valletta taking in the sites. Mostly we walked the streets and sampled the food and drink. The cuisine is very Mediterranean with a heavy Italian influence – the most popular dish seemed to be platters of cheeses and meats. 

The fishing town of Marsaxlokk is also recommended as is Rabat. 

Weather in March is varied. We had some light drizzle Saturday and scorching sun on race day.