2020 Review

The last couple of these have been well received so here goes for 2020
Jan – everyone complained it was too cold to run
Feb – everyone complained it was too wet to run
Mar – pandemic
Apr – pandemic
May – pandemic
Jun – pandemic
Jul – pandemic
Aug – pandemic
Sep – pandemic
Oct – London marathon. Just joking, pandemic
Nov – pandemic
Dec – pandemic

Making your own dumbbell handles from scrap

Slightly off topic, but given we’re back into an almost lockdown this may be useful for someone.

Exercise equipment is once again in short supply, commercial gyms are closed, and we’re forced to exercise as best we can at home.

I’ve been trying to get a home gym sorted on the cheap and ended up with lots of dumbbell weight plates and only two pairs of handles. Constantly swapping weights is boring. I looked at getting a full rack of dumbbells of varying weights instead but the prices are ridiculous in Covid times. Even a pair of 2kg dumbells is going for £10 or £20.

Given I have weak runners arms, I’m not in the position where I need 30kg dumbbells but did want a range of smaller weights. I looked at making some handles so I could have weights ready to go.

Looking around in the garage I managed to scrounge some materials.

Standard non-olympic weights are typically 1” holes. By chance I was changing the roller blinds in the kids bedroom and the interior tube was 1” diameter – perfect for the inner sleeve of the handle.

Looking through my stash of junk in the garage I found the interior tube from another blind, that was bigger and could slide over the interior tube and become the handle section. It would sleeve the inner section but be too large to pass through the weight plates so keep them apart.

I cut this down to 14cm, which matched the handle measurement of the dumbbells I had.

To hold it all together I used M10 threaded rod with a nut to help centre the rod in the inner sleeve, and a unistrut channel nut on the end. These are M10 and normally have a spring on them. I had a stash thrown out without the springs.They’re ideal as they’re a long rectangular nut that would grip the plate.

Tightening the two nuts together will lock them and they won’t shake loose.

Then put the plate on, slide the inner sleeve through the plate and slide the larger diameter outer sleeve up to this to form the handle and space the next plate off.

Then it’s repeat the smaller nut to help centre, and another unistrut nut on top. Tighten this up with waterpump pliers/spanners on both unistrut nuts and the whole assembly becomes rigid.

Because the double nuts at the bottom have formed a lock nut, only the top unistrut nut could come loose. If you’re worried about this then either apply glue or locktite to the threat, or a blob of weld if you’re able.

For me I’m confident then won’t move, and have a set of 5kg dumbbells ready to go. I made another set with two 1.5kg plates to give a 3kg pair as well. With the two pairs of proper dumbbell handles and 6 more 2.5kg plates I was able to create two heavier pairs to give a range of weights. For the homemade budget handle arrangement I probably wouldn’t go much further than 5kg on each end.



Only as long as needed to fit both weight plates, no risk of skewering your face with the extra length of a dumbbell handle

Can have a few pairs of weights ready to do 


The handles weigh basically nothing so you don’t get the added benefit of the heavy handles

If you don’t have a garage full of junk you might need to buy them

Run to feel? Guessing a marathon pace.

2020 has been an odd year. I should be sat at mid-December on a (hopeful) PB at London Marathon in April, a triumphant return to Lakeland 100 in July and a blow-out November long weekend in New York for the marathon. There would have been the odd marathon and ultra in the mix, and it would be a successful year, a jump forward both in both marathon and ultra performance. A level up in ability and experience.

Then we had a pandemic.

London went, New York went, Lakeland 100 went.

The other thing that went was my legs. They’d been broken at Lakeland 100 in 2019 and it took expert attention by Rudi at The Treatment Lab and coaching by Katie at Clean Coach Katie at start of this year to get them back to the 3h30 marathon range. The 520 Mega May Miles undid this repair and I limped around Shires & Spires in summer and had a wet and cold fake London marathon in October, just under 4hrs.

It’s now December and I’m sat in the car, watching the rain come down. Sunday morning and my last marathon of the year and I’m not feeling it.


Given my watch is likely to end up buried somewhere up my sleeve I decide to try something I’ve never done before on a marathon – run to feel. The advantage of a small scale marathon in MK is there are no crowds, no packed start pens to drag you off too fast, and not even any clocks or mile markers to refer back and inadvertently measure your progress. It’s seven and a bit laps, so I just need to count laps. The position of the sun and how many podcasts I get through will be the only indication of how I’m getting on.

After setting off (staggered starts, it’s just me and two others for this slot) I make sure the watch is counting, pull my sleeve down and settle in. I will not look at my watch again until back in the car.
Most marathons if trying for a PB I have the screen on elapsed time and pace for each mile. Don’t worry about what mile you’re at, just that each is within a few seconds of your target pace. Today I won’t.

The race starts with a mini loop then the main seven loops. Running past the start I can grab my McDonalds coffee I didn’t get to finish at the start, and use it to wash down the breakfast roll from the same fine establishment. Yep I’m an athlete.

The laps click by, the rain comes down. The low numbers, staggered starts and lap format means I don’t see many people. I’m overtaken by a speedy bloke with a later start. He laps me towards my penultimate lap. You can tell he’s a proper runner as his feet come up so high he’s splattered mud the full length of this body. My ultra shuffle barely gets my calves muddy.

I’m alternating water and locuzade each lap, taking a walk break as I finish the bottle and lob in the bin. Start of lap 2 and 5 I have an Ella’s Kitchen fruit pouch. It’s baby food and tastes like mashed banana and strawberry.

I have a plan to start the penultimate lap and check my watch. Should be around 20 miles, so can make a guess of how I’ve got on. 3hrs and on target for 4hr? If not I could hustle and get it back.

Instead I decide to stick it out. Put my faith in my (stiffening) legs. I’m definitely slowing so wonder what this will do overall pace. Lack of runners means I can’t even judge from relative progress. Pretty sure I’ve missed the 4 so maybe a 4h15. I berate myself for the whole stupid idea. Sub4 doesn’t really matter but it feels like a step change. I don’t want to be over. I probably could have been under had I not done this stupid mystery marathon pace. Idiot.

Coming up to the finish I see Kerry has just finished. She started ahead of me so gives me little hint to where I am. I’m going to stop the watch and then unwrap my sleeve like a rubbish advent calendar. Except I don’t need to. Foxy times me over the line and announces 3h56.

Sub4 blind. Blinding.