Monday, 19 December 2011

On The Raggedy Edge

It seems that I’m a bit shit at blogging. I know I promised to update this much more often but the truth is that when everything is going well I struggle to write it down. Now, give me something to complain about and I’ll scribble a thousand words in under an hour. When everything is going well it just seems so very boastful. I guess it’s my blog though so I can be a bit smug. So, here goes. I am fitter than I’ve ever been. I am thinner than I’ve been since I was in my teens. I feel stronger, faster than ever and dare I say it, much more content than I’ve been in a few years. That’s it. It’s all good.

There are some serious reasons for this. I have followed my training plan very consistently and have treated rest and easy runs with much greater respect. It hasn’t been perfect. I have missed some runs but most importantly I haven’t tried to play catch up with the miles I have missed. In my opinion, the reason I haven’t gotten all injured again is because of the training plan. I devised this plan with help from information in Bryon Powell’s book Relentless Forward Progress. I incorporated rest weeks and made sure that the weekly mileage increase did not exceed 10%. And I think that's the key, building up slowly.

Not so long ago I couldn’t run a mile and had to take a month off from doing any serious exercise. It was a real low point and gave me doubts that I could ever reach my dream of doing an ultra. It was a wake-up call that this was going to be different to how I had imagined it. I was not going to be a natural runner. I would not easily become one of these whippet like distance runners, bounding up mountains without breaking a sweat. This was going to require thought, planning and determined application. This was going to need a huge amount of effort just to move me from injury ridden to consistent. Above all, this was going to require time. Patience is the key.

With those thoughts I got my head down and put in the miles. I have come out of that with a renewed sense of optimism and most importantly, I still enjoy running. Of course, I’m still bloody rubbish at it but I don’t feel like I am playing catch up between where I am and where I should be.


Today, I ran eight miles over the hills around Conwy through driving rain and heavy clag. I had chosen to wear shorts which was a bit silly in December but I was alright. The coastal winds kept blowing one foot into the other and tripping me towards a precarious drop down to Dwygyfylchi. Aborting the exposed coastal path, I decided to run inland towards the shrouded bulk of Tal-y-Fan. As I climbed higher I lost myself in the thick clag and ran in a big pointless loop as I tried to look for the right path. I stopped to look at the map and compass. I was cold. It was time to go home. Any ambitious thoughts of trotting up to the summit were put to bed. I was craving lashings of hot soup and bread, not to mention a sit down. The compass was pointing me in a general down direction (which is handy when looking for an estuary) and soon I found a road I knew. With boots full of boggy water I sloshed the rest of the way back home. After bashing the sheep shit from my shoes I had a shower and ate until I couldn’t move. Lying on the sofa now, I can see hints of blue sky through the window.

Through the cold and the wet; the tiredness and genuine fear of peril, I loved every minute of it. I think it’s the ridiculousness of the situation that I enjoy. Running round aimlessly beneath a small mountain, cold, lost and practically underwater; laughing like a buffoon when I found the right path. I do this for fun. So do lots of people. I just wonder why. I hope no one finds out.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Now Running Without Knees

First of all, some good news: my knee seems to be totally better. I thought that I would get a bit geeky and write down exactly how I got better. By doing this I’ll know how to recover if I get a recurrence of the problem.


Since having a whole two weeks off from running I have been teaching myself to run slowly. This is more difficult than it might sound especially because I run pretty slowly anyway. But, I have been focussing on running at a very easy pace. My lungs and heart get stronger much more quickly than my legs so if my heart rate is too high on every run then it’s a pretty sure thing that my legs will soon break down. The five weeks of rehab went like the following:

This low mileage was accompanied by lots of stretching. I also did some gentle physiotherapy on the knee every day. The last run of the rehab block was a strength test to see if the knee was better. I went for a 5 mile fell run up and around Foel Lus. It was hard work and there was a lot of walking but my knee passed its first test with flying colours. It was time for my next stage of training.


During this phase of training I focussed on strength. This meant leg exercises targeting the knee ligaments and the quadriceps muscles. I slowly increased the amount of hill work and fell running. I also ran with a weighted backpack to increase effort level. All of this, while keeping the pace very slow. The mileage was as follows:

I got a slight twinge in my left calf that got worse during the second week so I backed off a bit. However, on the whole my legs felt pretty good during this phase. Most importantly there was absolutely no tweaks or twinges from the dreaded knee. Touch wood, I am better. The next phase is the “Base Phase”. This is where I will increase my weekly mileage from 30 to 40 miles over a period of six weeks. The emphasis here will be on long runs for endurance and fell runs for strength. I’m staying away from all that speed work/tempo nonsense for now.

I’ve lost a little weight which is handy but my diet is all over the place. I am not eating enough healthy stuff, vegetables and the like. This will need to be changed when I up the mileage.

Since becoming injured the goal of completing the Snowdonia Marathon was replaced by the goal of getting healthy again. Now that I’m relatively injury free I need to start deciding on some new racing goals. It was always my goal to start doing fell racing this year but I never quite felt I was fit enough or experienced enough over that sort of terrain. Whilst I have enjoyed training on the fells I was never race fit, especially on the ascents. As soon as felt that I was close I was always knocked back by some injury or health problem. Story of the year really.

So, the short term goal is to get fit enough to start feeling truly comfortable on the fells. This will give me the confidence to start doing some races next season.

My long term goal is to complete the Malvern Hills Ultra next May. This 52 mile race across the Malvern Hills will be my first (hopefully, of many) ultra marathons. I have been fascinated by the idea of doing an ultra marathon ever since I started running. I will never run a super fast 10k or a sub 3 hour marathon; speed is certainly not my forte. But maybe, with a bit of bloody mindedness, I may be able to find out what my limits are in terms of distance.

So, there you have it. That’s how I got better and that’s what I’ll be up to next year. I’ll try and update this thingy a bit more often now that things are a bit more, you know, shiny.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

It's Not All Bad

Right then. It’s all gone to buggery over the past month and a half. I am not going to be able to run the Snowdonia Marathon. This is not bad luck and although it is my body that has broken, it is my mind that allowed it to. Once again, I am painfully reminded that I have to do better to be better.

In my last post I diagnosed the problem and offered solutions. These solutions still stand but I was way off on my time frame for recovery. I immediately took a week off from training and then set out on a slow six mile run. This almost crippled me. So, I thought, I’ll take another week off. I then went out for a very slow run only to be confronted with the same pain. I had to admit to myself then that the recovery time for this was going to be much longer. The 20 milers in the pipeline for September and early October were simply not going to be possible. As a result neither would running a marathon be sensible.

I have to be pragmatic. There will be plenty more marathons to run and Snowdon certainly isn’t going anywhere. The focus is on getting my knee back to strength. I prescribed two whole weeks free from any running and then two more weeks of very small amounts with plenty of rest periods, stretching and physiotherapy. I amapproaching the end of this month of rehab and despite being less fit than my sofa, I have been moving without any pain or discomfort.

The dreaded training plan spreadsheet and Garmin watch have made their return. I am using the Garmin to make sure that I am not running too fast. I also want to track and monitor my progress to ensure that any successes and mistakes are clearly identified. I have used the spreadsheet to make sure that my weekly mileage increases sensibly. By calculating the percentage increase from one week to the next I can make sure that this doesn’t exceed 10%. This will mean I can build up my base fitness whilst trying to keep the knee problem in check. Every four weeks or so, I have set ‘easy weeks’ where the mileage and effort level are decreased. The emphasis on the first part of my training is rest. My focus is always running up something or on the longer runs. I have a habit of not doing some of the shorter recovery runs as I find them boring. This has to change. I am using a heart rate monitor to make sure that my effort level in these recovery runs is kept down. There is no such thing as over training, just under resting.

Once again, failure is met with a plan. Just got to dust myself off and carry on running. I hate the fact that I have to reintroduce science, plans and schedules back into my running. I don’t run because I want to follow a plan. I run because I enjoy it. It’s horrible to be confined by all that nonsense. However, it’s the only way to get back to health without making the same mistakes as before. Once I get the fitness and strength back in my legs I might feel confident enough to ditch all the science stuff.

I have bigger and better plans for next year which I’ll talk about later. Nevertheless, I have to get healthy and strong if those dreams are going to be realised.

Thursday, 18 August 2011


I haven’t blogged in a while. This is because nothing too exciting has happened. I have been putting in the miles and trying to look after my runner’s knee. This is generally what happens:

1. I go out running.

2. My legs feel great. I feel great. I love running.

3. After 4 or 5 miles my knee starts to become uncomfortable.

4. After 7 miles I start to worry and fret that the pain is constantly getting worse.

5. I think about stopping and seeking alternative transport or shorter routes home.

6. I realise that I’m running in the middle of nowhere. There is no escape route.

7. After 10 miles the pain is particular acute on any ascent and I am reduced to walking on even the slightest up hill.

8. After 12 miles the pain is so constant that I am reduced to hobbling along paths and pavements, being overtaken by pensioners and small children.

9. I stop running. Eat. Work. Rest. Sleep.

10. I wake up the next morning feeling refreshed with no pain in my knee.

11. I go out running. See point 2 and repeat.

This is the process which I go through almost daily depending on the mileage and the amount of hills. I have been running mainly on the flat and as a consequence most of it has been on roads and pavements. This is pleasant but boring. I would much prefer to be up a mountain or lost in some maze of valleys somewhere. What’s even more annoying is that (apart from the knee) I feel fitter than ever. It is just this one problem that needs sorting out. This is me, sorting it out.

OK. PFPS (patellofemoral pain syndrome or runner’s knee) is characterised by discomfort seemingly originating from the contact of the posterior surface of the patella (back of the kneecap) with the femur (thigh bone). The prolonged, repetitive compression on the joint causes pain and will eventually lead to the thinning and softening of the cartilage beneath the patella (I looked that up on Wikipedia to sound ‘knowledgeable’). Here are some of the problems and their possible solutions.

Problem: Overtraining or overreaching.

Solution: Physically and mentally I feel great so I don’t think I’m overreaching. It is only the left knee that is a problem and my legs feel pretty fresh even after a long run. However, the knee is clearly getting a lot of use and since PFPS is an overuse injury the obvious solution would be to use it less. Since I am training for a marathon this is not really an option. And besides, this would only be treating the symptom rather than the cause. As soon as I would increase the mileage the problem would arise again. However, I have been putting in some high mileage runs recently so it might be wise to do low mileage for a week or so to see if I can shrug this off.

Problem: Weak quadriceps.

Solution: I favour my right foot and as a result the muscles on my left leg (which is where the trouble is) are less strong. The quadriceps which hold the patella in place are responsible for making sure that it is aligned correctly during the bending and straightening of the leg. As the quadriceps muscles tire through distance or hills the alignment of the patella becomes squiffy and pain is felt. The obvious solution is to isolate and strengthen the quadriceps muscles on the left leg to correct this imbalance. It would also be a good idea to strengthen the core muscles to assist the quadriceps during running.

Problem: Tight hamstring and calf muscles.

Solution: I often find that the pain follows a tightening of my left calf muscle and that during the pain all the muscles on the back of my leg feel very tight. Now, I am rubbish at stretching. I don’t stretch for long enough or often enough. I am hoping that proper stretching will aid in this recovery.

Problem: Too much force on the knee as a result of being overweight and having a lack of cushioning on my shoes.

Solution: I am slightly too fat to be running. I could do with losing another stone. My weight is slowly coming down as I increase the mileage. I just have to be patient and eat less cake.

My shoes are about 450 miles old and I have just checked them over to find that they have almost no cushioning left in them. It’s a bit silly of me not to check these sooner. The same problem occurred at the end of my last pair of shoes (same brand). So I have changed to my other pair of running shoes which are pretty much unused. I stopped using them ages ago because, like a lot of Asics shoes, there’s this little ridge on the insole that always causes me blisters after about 4 miles (something you can never find out in the shop just before letting go of £80). This annoyed me because, other than that, they are a very comfortable shoe. I suddenly had a brain wave (should of thought of this sooner!) and decided to cut out the offending ridge. This has left the shoes a little airy and not very waterproof but should stop any offending blistering. We shall see. If it doesn’t work then I’ll just have to shell out for a new set of Brooks.

Problem: Overpronation.

Solution: I overpronate quite badly and rely on shoes to correct this. The observations made in the previous section hold true here as well. My old shoes were not giving me the correct level of anti pronation. New shoes will hopefully correct this.

Going through all these points has been a bit of a wakeup call to me. As ever, injuries are not ‘acts of God’ and there is always a reason or reasons as to why. Unfortunately, it takes me a while to suss out the reasons because I am stubborn and occasionally moronic when it comes to these matters. I have been running by feel, doing as much or as little as I want day by day. In terms of mileage and the quality of my running this has worked pretty well. However, as a consequence, I have been stupidly neglecting the basics. I forgot that I need to “understand the holistic nature of being a runner” (Lore of Running, Noakes). This means that in training to run one needs to train the whole system in every aspect of one’s life. Now, I’m not going to become totally obsessed but approaching more aspects of the whole system will help me here.

On the plus side I am really enjoying my running, especially the long runs. Despite the knee, I am getting fitter and stronger. If I can get rid of this injury then I feel confident in my ability to run much further. So, in conclusion, the following steps should lead to recovery:

1. Lower mileage for 7-10 days. Nothing over ten miles.

2. Change to new shoes with better cushioning.

3. Strengthen core and left quadriceps.

4. Stretch the left hamstring and calf muscles properly and regularly.

5. Wear my knee support whilst recovering.

I am sorry that this post has been boring and if you’ve stuck with it this far then you have too much time on your hands. I like to make lists when I problem solve. I think it’s a blokey thing. Incidentally, I am designing a cake holder for running. It’s like one of those funny little gel holders but for cake. Iced buns and scones seem to work well but jam donuts are a definite no-no for obvious reasons. I think I might actually be gaining weight during my long runs.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Snowdonia Marathon Training Week 1

To say that my first week of training for the Snowdonia Marathon was a complete disaster would be slightly over dramatic. However, it was certainly not encouraging. My week began as normal with me trying to fit short runs in around my lengthy work shifts. I did four miles on the Tuesday which was tough after my week of not running because of a holiday. My legs felt fresh throughout but my lungs rebelled a bit and I was left puffing after even the smallest of ascents. The two three milers I did in my lunch breaks at work went without a hitch and by Friday I was confident that my body had gotten over my week off. I was certainly not at the fitness level that I had a month ago but my legs and lungs were getting used to running again. Then it all went a bit tits up.

On Saturday I was feeling a bit tired so it wasn't until the evening when I got out the door for some hilly ten miles. I prefer running in the evening when it's summer. It is cooler and the roads are less busy. I packed my head torch and headed of into the sunset. I felt really unfit over the first few miles but soon settled into a sedate pace and started to enjoy the lovely, still views over the Conwy valley. My route took me to the village of Rowen along darkening country roads. Even when I am just running along the roads around here I am constantly amazed at how beautiful it is and how I didn't really notice before I started to run.

I ran at a very slow pace and even walked some of the steeper ascents. I was having too much fun for this to become hard work. At about the halfway point I started to notice some pain in my left knee. Nothing too serious but it was particularly uncomfortable on the uphills. It wasn't too painful and I finished the run without giving it too much more thought. Now, my knee problems have been well documented and moaned about but I am pretty used to dealing with. When the "runner's knee" problem occasionally pops up I make sure it gets iced and then rest it for the remainder of the day. Usually, by the next morning it is fine and I carry on as normal. On a few occasions I have to wait until the day after before doing any running. I don't particularly mind this problem. It is my body's way of telling me that I am doing a bit too much and should probably lie down on the couch for a bit, preferably with an iced bun or four. I am fine with this. I have always been very good at lying down and eating.

This time was different though. By the next morning I could hardly walk. Visually there seemed nothing wrong with the knee. There had been no sudden worsening of the problem during the run. I was a bit confused as to why it was so painful. Anyway, I contented myself with a day of rest which was only interrupted by a painful excursion to the supermarket. I used to think that hobbling around civilians with a bandaged running injury made you look tough and weathered. Now I think it just makes you look like a crazy person. Like the tramps who visit supermarkets just to shout at the home baking section.

Unfortunately, the next morning arrived and I was still in a considerable amount of pain. This was the point where I got all miserable. I was in my first week of marathon training and had been beaten by a 10 mile jog. If this continues I'll be lucky if I... moan moan moan moan moan. I then remembered that this is "the new me". I'll run when I can, both physically and mentally. There is always a sensible reason for these things. 10 miles was obviously too much so next week my long run will be eight miles and I shall build from there. There is no shame in this. It is better that I get injured now rather than a week before the marathon as happened last year. I just have to be patient and build up the mileage a little more slowly.

To other matters. I have retrieved my bike from the family home with an eye to doing some mountain biking. I am hoping that this will strengthen my quads and knees and help prevent any further injuries in that area. It currently has a flat tyre and I am a little unsure of what to do about this. I haven't changed a bike tyre since I was a wee lad. I think I need to change my inner tube or something. And I need to buy a pump. And a tyre repair kit. And a helmet. I am starting to remember why I enjoy the simplicity of running. Still, a replacement knee or a knee repair kit would be pretty handy right now.

On equipment, I bought a small Camelbak backpack thingy. I have a similar Raidlight pack which is great for long mountain runs but is a bit over the top for road running. On the flip side, my water bottle doesn't have the capacity for runs over about 10 miles. The Camelbak holds the middle ground perfectly. It is great for those longish runs and holds all the bits and bobs I need. I'm rather pleased with this purchase especially as it was cheap, like the budgie.

On nutrition, my gall bladder and I have realised that Quavers do not cause the excruciating pain that other crisps seem to. I very much like crisps and haven't eaten any in months. As a result, I have bought 28 packets from the shop and intend to eat a packet with every meal, including breakfast. I am still being a (sort of) vegetarian which is helping with my stomach woes. This is good because meat suddenly seems to cost far too much. Rather save my money for beer. I wonder if I could put beer in the Camelbak bag, then as my knee pain increased I could count on the pain relieving qualities of some ale. Probably wouldn't work. Too fizzy.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Getting Back At It

This week is officially the first week of my marathon training for Snowdonia at the end of October. The last few weeks have been pretty quiet. After the short but sprinty races of June and July I decided to go easy on the training for a bit. I took some time to go on holiday and to get ill. I am refreshed but feel like I lost a bit more fitness than I bargained for. Still, there's nowt I can do about that and it's just a matter of slowly rebuilding.

That's not to say that I stopped running completely. How could I ever do that? A notable highlight was going up Foel Grach. This nine mile, mountainous loop took me the best part of two hours and was actually one of the more challenging runs I have done. The run started along a wide valley over the village of Dolgarrog. This flat expanse was interrupted by the broken ruins of a dam and its grey walls loomed above me as I passed. It seemed to me like I was running through an ancient battlefield where giants once hurled bits of mountain at each other. It was an awesome and peculiarly haunting place.

I soon started to ascend the boggy ground up to the top. I knew this would take me a while as the gradient was far too steep to even contemplate running. Hands pushing on my knees I slowly made my way up and up. This three mile slog was only interrupted by meeting a group of hikers who were on their way down and looking quite smug for it. We exchanged pleasantries and they unwittingly informed me that the top was still much further away than I had hoped. I can't really complain though as the views were stunning and just got better and better the higher I got.

I finally reached the top and sheltered behind some shards of rock. The wind was blowing hard and I knew that I wouldn't be able to stop for long before I would start to chill. I ate some sweets and prepared myself for what I thought was going to be the easy descent back to the car. Unfortunately, the path which I had eyed up on the map didn't materialise. Which was very annoying. Now, I enjoy a good, technical descent. I love bombing it down mountains at a breakneck speed with little regard for the serious injury that almost certainly would occur if I put a foot wrong. I even take a little pride in being good at it. It is certainly the only time when I can reach a good clip without wheezing along like the fat asthmatic that I am. However, running on this descent was not an option. The knee high heather and boggy ground made it like moving through porridge. I was sure I was on the path. I even got out the trusty GPS thingy just to make sure. I then decided to ignore the none existent path and make my own way which didn't work as I then got lost. Well, not so much lost as pointing in the wrong direction. It took me a while to get my bearings back and I soon found a real, tangible path that would lead me back to the car. I was a bit cross by this point and took out my anger by walking lots. I soon got back to the car park and bumped into the walkers I had met earlier. I think they were a bit confused as to how they had got down first. But, as I clambered into the car and shut the door I was filled with the familiar glow of satisfaction, a feeling that whilst I hadn't achieved anything spectacular, I had persevered. And that is enough.

Now, in the present, I am ready to start working towards the Snowdonia Marathon. And I am going to do it differently. When I trained for the same marathon last year I wanted to organise and plan everything down to the tiniest detail. I think this got in the way. I put too much emphasis on planning my training and then get annoyed when it doesn't go exactly right. This has been the way I have done things since I started running. I make an in detail training plan, something goes wrong a few weeks down the line then I make a new one. Repeat. Boring. From now on, the emphasis is going to be on enjoying running. The Garmin is going in the draw and I'm going to bin the boring spreadsheet training plan. I will now run for the pleasure of running rather than to fill my quota of miles for the week. I will run by feel and not worry about my average pace or mile splits. There is only one training requirement and that is that I get out there and enjoy. I have no idea whether this approach will work but that's rather the point. I'm already quite looking forward to it.

Friday, 17 June 2011


The Kentmere Challenge is a 17km race from the village of Staveley in Cumbria. The website promised some of the most scenic countryside in the UK including ‘idyllic tarns’, ‘ancient woodland’ and a hill called Reston Scar. It all sounded rather magical so, despite the slightly expensive entry fee, I signed up for the Challenge event. The Challenge was billed as a somewhat more relaxed affair with a longer time limit than the race proper. I was in half a mind to sign up for the race but decided that I might want to take it easy and opted for the Challenge.

I had agreed to meet up with a friend the night before and it was decided that he would accompany me to the race. We drank a couple too many large whiskeys in the evening and as a result I felt like a pig had shat in my head upon waking. Luckily the race was to start in the afternoon so there was plenty of time to rehydrate and recover. We left the stink and grey of the motorway and were soon driving through beautiful rolling countryside. Soon enough we arrived in good time to relax and take in the sights, sounds and sunshine of Staveley. I resisted the lure of the little cake stall and started the routine of getting myself ready to race. With all that out the way I contented myself with sitting on the village green to relax and focus. My accomplice for the day was not racing and was enjoying a snooze in an effort to ward off the still lingering hangover. Needless to say, we were both unimpressed when the Kookaburra All Stars samba drumming band started up. Hangovers and drumming just don’t go together.

We were soon off and running through the narrow streets of Staveley away from the crashing crescendo of drums. The route quickly turned uphill and it wasn’t long before the road quickly petered out to a rough stone track. It was all quite enjoyable but rather hard work as I ran steadily up Staveley Head Fell. I feel much more comfortable on the trails these days and relish rather than dread the challenge of a good hill. The view stretched northwards down Staveley valley towards Kentmere and was lovely in the crisp, clear sunshine. The weather was a little on the hot side but this was interrupted frequently by gusts of cooling wind. I was working very hard by the time I got to the top and was glad of the descent down the side of Millrigg Knot. The path here was very rough but I kept the brakes off and flew down to join the tarmac road that would lead along the valley.

Along the flat of the valley floor I started to struggle a little. Rather than recuperate on the downhill I had gone all out and was now paying the price. Down in the shelter of the trees the cooling wind had been replaced by a stifling stillness which was also taking its toll. I was also aware of the steeper climbs that lay ahead. So, I rather sensibly backed off.

Upon reaching Kentmere the trail switched back on itself and started to ascend the fells to the west of the valley. The climb was quite steep in places and lasted for about a mile. I opted for a brisk, steady walk to the top. After the climb I was puffed and red-faced but fresh enough to up the pace as the route turned south. The path was undulating but I still felt good and took great pleasure in splashing through muddy puddles to cool my feet. I was starting to get quite hot. After a short spell on the road the route had a final sting in the tail. We ascended the side of Hugill Fell through long, grassy fields to the top of Reston Scar.

This was the hardest part of the race for me. I walked the steep bit and plodded where I could. It was a blessed relief to reach the top and begin the descent back to Staveley. However, I was all out of puff and couldn’t descend with the dramatic abandon I had earlier in the race. Once the descent was over there was a winding and tortuous few hundred yards to the finish line where I performed the most meagre of sprint finishes.

My finishing time was one hour 47 minutes and 43 seconds. I didn’t go into this race with any aspirations or time goals but I am pleased that I got round in less than one hour 50 minutes. I struggled at points but ran by feel and had a great time in beautiful scenery. My legs felt pretty good both during and after the race. I just ran out of puff. I think that drinking whiskey is not the best preparation for any race and with a fresher head I might have got round a bit quicker. But hey, they can’t all be studied and serious PB attempts. I had a great time.

The event itself was brilliantly organised with friendly and encouraging marshals at every turn. The start/finish area had a great atmosphere and my only regret is that I couldn’t have stayed around afterwards for drinks and cake but, I needed to hit the road. Back home I rounded off the day with several donuts and a big plate of curry all washed down with Crabbie’s Ginger Beer. Outside, rain began to tap on the window and I sat there with the satisfaction of a good days work.