RUN WITH ME HERE: 21/12/12

Hi Guys!

Welcome to my Ultra Marathon Running Blogspot! This project has been in the pipeline for the past few months and I am really excited to launch the site now just in time for Christmas.

I've been busy writing up race reports and editing photos on my flickr photostream, while big sis Sam - who luckily for me is a freelance PR marketing guru - has been busy designing this blogspot and loading up all my stories. I am really pleased with it and hope you enjoy the reports as much as I enjoyed writing them.

I decided to start a blog to share my experiences of running, training and hopefully grow the ultra marathon running community online. I hope you will join me as I share my running experiences here.   I'll post new updates on Facebook too, so follow me  to keep up with the latest reports.

I have also added a Nutrition Blog where I'll be posting up my juice blends and healthy snacks and meals. (Sis Sam - the sensible one - would like me to add here that my foodie tips are my own personal experiences and any health advice should be checked with your GP or a trained health practitioner).

I love writing race reports and sharing my running experiences and hope to get a guest blog on a running forum or magazine for some of the more interesting events coming up, such as the Thames Path 100 mile ultra and Florida Keys 50 mile marathon. If you are a journalist reading this, then please contact my PR guru sis Sam Williams.

I have lots of challenging events planned over the next 12 months, the next one is the Portsmouth Marathon on Sunday and then a short break before the Country to Capital 45 mile ultra on 12th Jan.  See my full list of marathons - past, present and future - on my EVENTS page.

Please share my Blogspot with other running and fitness enthusiasts and if you have any corporate contacts, potential sponsors too!

Visit again soon.

Run free.


BOSHING around the Christmas Tree! 18/12/12

I'd like to say Merry Christmas to all my pals from the BOSH Running Facebook group. It has been great fun running with you this year and sharing training and race experiences with you on the Facebook page.  Please share the link to this Blog with all your running pals. I'll be posting up more race reports from 2012 soon.

Keep BOSHing during the Christmas season and see you all in 2013.


SANTA DASH 5k Brighton: 08/12/12

Before the race I wish fellow BOSH Runner Michelle the best of luck, telling her to just stick to what she learnt in her training and not to start too quick, but most of all to enjoy herself.  I can tell that she is a little nervous as this is her first race, but she seems excited to be amongst the friendly BOSH-Run group.

“30 seconds. Santas by the tent!” shouts the race organiser over the speakers.  I am huddled right in the middle of some 600 Santas and I can't even see the front…or the back!    My sister who is supporting me today has already gone to the front for pictures.
I tell everyone ‘all the best’ and try to squeeze further up towards the front, but I quickly decide staying put here is probably the best and more fun option.  I fix the white beard in place over my chin ready for action...

Countdown begins 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1…then a loud horn sounds and we are off!  We start at a trot until the group gets moving through the starting area.  Passing all the cheers and clapping spectators the Santas break into a fast sprint up the promenade.
I take to the left and keep at a 7:15min/mile pace, which is comfortable to sustain long enough until I feel I can speed up. I have been having some discomfort in my left knee since my Ultra in early November, so I want to keep the fast intervals for once I'm fully recovered.

Heading up past the King Alfred Leisure Centre, then further on past the Babylon Lounge Bar, I see many families and dog walkers out enjoying the hilarious sight of 600 running Santas along the seafront with the biggest grins on our rosy faces!  I think to myself this has to be the best fun run and I must make it a Christmas tradition every year!
After passing the many coloured beach huts dotted down to Hove Lagoon, I overtake some of the speedy Santas then see the turn back point up ahead. I see the Santa in the lead on his way back towards me then another and another. 

These Santas really mean business and must have some magic stardust on them! I overtake a Santa pushing a pushchair then a Santa racing with his dog! This has got to be the most bizaare race I’ve ever done!
I turn back around the cones and start to increase my pace to 6:30-6:15min/mile. The knee feels okay and I'm pretty warmed up by now.  The sun is shining on us and I can feel myself heat up under the Santa suit as there is very little breeze on this way back to the start.

To my left I can see a long stream of Santas approaching me from the other side.  Such a spectacular display of red and white, sparkling in the sun.  I see Tristan from the BOSH-Run Group and shout ‘Hey’. 
He is followed shortly by James, then further on down I see Sunday with an almighty grin on his face under the white beard. 
 Soon after I spot Michelle looking great, then Lucy and Chloe all smiles shouting 'BOSHER!' as I pass them.
By now I'm running faster at a 5:50min/mile pace and I start to overtake some more speedy Santas.  I pass many more spectators and enjoy their claps and cheers.  After passing the King Alfred Leisure Centre again there is only minutes left to reach the finish.
I sprint the best I can without feeling too strained to the point of exhaustion or the worry of my knee becoming painful.  The Santa in fourth place is playing catch up with me and I sprint on to lose him for a few 100 yards.  Before I know it he is back again, then within 20 seconds he tails behind again.

Lots of cheers and hoots as I approach the finish with a big roar of applause!  I collect my medal and water with goody snacks.  Sister Sam comes round to greet me and take more pics, then I see Dave and Stu from the BOSH-Run Group who have been spectators at the finish.
I check my Runkeeper app and I've completed in 20:34.  Turns out I came in third overall, but this is just a fun cause and not a timed event so it isn’t important.  The runners were raising money for Pass It On, a charity dedicated to building new schools in Africa. 

We look out for the others to come into the finish, giggling at the many Santas crossing the finishline in groups by now. Next in is Tristan at a super speedy time, then James, followed shortly by Sunday, then Michelle. Then big smiles and cheering from Lucy and Chloe as they reach the end!

BOSH-Run Santas and sister Sam 'support crew'
It's been a great run and such an experience that I decide to make this a yearly tradition for Christmas!  Plenty more photo opps follow and laughter before we say our goodbyes.  A big thanks to my PR sis for supporting today and taking lots of pics, including dragging us into a photo for the local paper, see here

Looking forward to next year already..... BISH BASH BOSHERS!

Ho! Ho! Ho!


After a rush check-out of the Travelodge with mum and sister Sam and eventually getting the sat nav to locate a GPS signal, we make it to the meeting point that is just at the side of the road near a caravan park in Wheatley, Oxfordshire.

Steve the Ultra Running director called me before to check I was on my way as the other runners were ready to start! Officially start time is 8am but as it now gets dark early we can start once ready. I start to feel late and that I am holding everyone up. I only see a small group and knew as today is Monday less would be running. But as it turns out it's just myself, Kenneth and Kirsty attempting the 53 miles today.

After a quick brief from Steve and trying to fasten my number on with gloves, we have a few photos of the group and Steve checks we have our maps, GPS, water, phones and directions. I'm feeling rather nervous and rushed all of a sudden.  

It didn't help that my sister needed to know a time I would be at the last check point and finish to meet me. I couldn't think straight or guess as I am not sure of the conditions of the route or my navigation skills....So I just said that I would text once at CP3 in case they wanted to meet me at CP4.
Looking a bit nervous at the start...
7:40: It's just getting light and there is still a thick mist of morning dew, the winds are light but it’s a brisk 3C. Steve squeezes his horn and we walk off then ask which way to go... Not the best start, I think we are all still sleepyheads! We jog up the road past the caravans and then over the bridge above the M40. The fields ahead are covered with a thick mist and the sunrise is trying to peep through.

We look around and then stop to take a look at the directions.  We can't find the path to the left and think we have passed it or not seen it. This is not good! All three of us start to read back the first few steps. We agree it must be the left through the field and not up the track to the farm ahead. One glance over tells us we will get wet feet, a huge deep puddle is right below the style we need to climb over. No point hesitating now, I go in first with a splash and the cold water fills my shoes.  I grit my teeth with the sudden shock of ice cold water soaking into my socks!  

We head across fields as per the directions then climb over a gate as the style cannot be seen in the mist. The starting, stopping, reading and climbing gates are seriously adding time to how long we will be out on the route to Swindon.  Kenneth stops for a toilet break and I chat to Kirsty about other races she has done this year and how she hopes to do. 

I'm glad to hear we are in agreement to stick together at least until we reach the Oxfordshire / Ridgeway tracks as the directions seem rather tricky up to CP1.  I decide there and then that this will be an enjoyable scenic day out on the trails and will be good training practice at navigating! So far I'm not too good…

After more navigating our way around fields the sun has risen and the mist is lifting from the horizon and it is starting to become a fresh, sunny but cold day.  At least there’s no strong wind.

8:40: After about 4 miles and an hour on our wet numb feet, we pass through wooded areas and hedgerows before the route takes us through a dense green wooded trail and eventually onto gravel past large houses and outbuildings. We cross the next road and continue on the Oxfordshire Way up muddy stone tracks winding up and through the countryside, past more farms and plenty of pheasants on the route. 

The three of us seem relaxed running together at a steady pace of approx 8:40min/mile, aware the start has slowed us considerably.  After about 7.5 miles on a tarmac road, the Ridgeway route bears to the right, where it is rather uneven stone underfoot. Taking it easy as we pass morning dog walkers, a smile and ‘good morning’ goes down a treat here!

9:30: After 9 miles or so on the track the directions say to stay right, signposted Swans Way. The track only goes straight ahead and to the right is a road but no sign.  We follow the road and once at the end check the directions again. We stop as the track should go ahead through woods and eventually reach the first CP at 10 miles. We have already gone over this so at a guess we are pretty close already. We can't see any sign of a tent / table marquee in sight.

I suggest we head back and just follow the previous track, hoping for the best. We head back and turn right, this time back onto the track that takes us through under growth of dense forest with large hedgerow to our right. A few minutes later Kenneth shouts from behind 'I see them'. Then there is the Land Rover I saw from the start which must be Steve's and further into the trees a marquee with boxes and fuel available. 'Click', 'click', 'snap', 'snap', from the photographers as we approach and they follow us up to the CP.

09:52: It has taken us 2 hours 11 minutes to cover 10.89 miles at an average 12:07 min/mile.  My starting pace aim was 9-9:30min/mile.  Heading out from under the trees, Kenneth, Kirsty and I read over the next set of directions before running off down the road, staying on the right hand side facing any oncoming cars. After a few miles we reach a large roundabout, head towards Wallingford, then past The Bell Pub and some local village shops. 

As it is approaching mid morning the sun is shining and gives some warmth on my face from the cold temperature. We carry on over a bridge and past The Boat House Pub.  We continue onto a cobbled road and then meet the water edge that is the Thames Path. This track continues parallel through green fields, houses, apartments and kissing gates.

10:55: After about 3 miles and an enjoyable route of sightseeing I am at a comfortable pace keeping steady at 8:30min/miles.  I suddenly have to go to the toilet.  A very unfortunate thing about running is the well known sudden need to go quickly! I tell the others to run on, I will see them soon.  They know the deal. I see a covered area of trees and bushes and dash in to go. I am so glad I packed my trusty travel toilet roll and hand wipes! After I've managed to fix my bum bag and gloves back on, I head back to the track.  

I see a cute chocolate Labrador approaching.  He seems very excited, happy and harmless.  I say hello and ask what he is up to.  He runs alongside me, which I find very comforting and actually like the company. He is such a happy fella. 

He picks up a big bottle of water that is just in the grass and carries it along. I laugh to myself that he thinks I maybe thirsty.  Such a clever dog! 

I stop to take a picture to remember the moment.  

A few minutes up the track I see his owner on the wooden decking by the water and he goes to greet her. 

At 20 miles or so, I have already caught up with Kirsty and we walk together to have some energy gels. She tells me her hip has been playing up and thinks at CP2 she may have to pull out. She lives close by so it is tempting for her to just head on home to rest. I wish her the best and say it was nice meeting her today. I pass a school field and the kids are out on their break in the playground. I run around the field but then realise the path leads to a private track so have to turn back on myself.

The directions carry on up the main road and then right into Willow Court Lane which takes me onto a stony trail up into the countryside hills of Oxfordshire.  The track begins a steady incline up to the Ridgeway trail and I remember on the elevation map it ascends for some miles at this stage.  My quad muscles are starting to feel fatigued and tight along with my energy levels. The slight hill seems daunting now so I just slow a little to a 9:30-10:00 min/mile pace.  Afterall I'm only approaching halfway and I need to save my leg power for the end if I want to finish strong!

I open the Chocolate Gu gel which has some added caffeine for a lift followed by Cliff shot blocks and water.  I'm feeling rather hungry so finish all six blocks rather sharpish.  As I plod uphill the track begins to get muddier and wetter.  I slip and slide in places, tip toe and jump big pools of water.  I even try to walk on the edge of the pools, grabbing tree branches so not to slip. At one point I skid and almost go flying head first, but manage to get my footing just in time.

Once the hill finally levels out, I take a few photos as I absorb the views for miles around me: nothing but rolling hills of yellow and green.  I carry onwards and enjoy some downhill cruising speeds, but it doesn't last long. The trail soon leads uphill again on long grass with large track marks filled with mud and water puddles.  I stick to the grassy edges.

I can now see Kenneth running in front. He seems to be doing a walk run:ratio from what I can tell.  As he goes from a speck in the distance to a clear view, I eventually reach him and see how he is doing. I mention it may only be us left soon as Kirsty is having trouble with an injury.  I make some light conversation and run alongside him for a few minutes at a similar pace. It's a therapeutic moment and rather pleasant, like having a pacer with me. The silence is not uncomfortable, just the patter of our feet and smooth flowing movements seems to be our communication.

I very slowly gain pace and eventually he is out of ear shot, he shouts that he will see me at the next one so I pick up a little and run alone at my own pace.  After a few miles, I can see two people ahead crouching in the grass and once closer I notice it is the ‘snap happy’ photographers. The familiar flags of 'Ultra Running' and Steve's Land Rover is behind them.  I'm rather relieved at this stage as I'm feeling the lack of fuel and hunger setting in.  

12:05:  Steve asks how I'm feeling and says I'm looking really good! I add water to my shaker bottle that has a blend of vegan protein, Maltodextrin and super green powder. I top up my Camelbak again and take some more Gu gels as back up. I still have nine bars of my own so feel I have enough fuel in my backpack to see me through.  

I see Kenneth running into the CP as I'm throwing on my bag ready to go.  I've covered 24.86 miles in 4 hours 29 minutes.  I text my mum and sister to let them know I am just leaving the CP.

I head off to the road and up towards the track.  Next stop in 8.2 miles time. After a few minutes I glance back and see Kenneth behind, not that far from me. I can see large chimneys in the horizon to the right in the fields. The cloud formation they are forming is rather amazing so I stop to take a photo.

After 1.6 miles the uphill track heads down under a road and then back up to open space fields. From where I am the track ahead just looks never ending with a steady ascent all the way.

I start to feel the cold up here as it is so open.  The wind has picked up and is hitting my face hard. I cover my nose and ears with my buff, put my head down and take one step at a time. My legs are really starting to ache now. 

Eventually as I approach what seems to be a small car park in the fields I can spot the photographers again on either side of the track in their big red jackets hiding behind their camera lenses. I pull my buff down to my neck once closer and give them a thumbs up and a winning smile. They ask how I'm feeling and say keep it up.

Further up as the hill flattens slightly with a steady ascent, I pass a female runner with striking hi-viz yellow gloves.  She only has a vest top on, so she must be so cold or just very used to it up here in the open!  We smile and say 'hey' as we pass. I have to go the toilet now so stop to go, rolling up the directions I put them between my race number and jacket where it sits safely.

13:00:  I have some Gu gel as I stop for a breather, this is a sweet peanut butter flavour, which is delightful right now. I have a 9 bar for afters and a slurp from my Camelbak to rinse my mouth and quench my thirst. I head on forward up the track and notice the time is just after 1pm.  I seem to have made good progress now managing to stay on the right track and with no further difficulty in directions.  My pace is picking up too.  

After another mile I pass a large monument on the Ridgeway, which is in commemoration of the Battles of Inkerman and Arms. I stop to take a picture.  The scattered clouds from behind cover the sun as it shines down making it look shadowed.

A few more miles pass and the only sign of life up here is a small white farm house to the right and a few passing walkers with their dogs. Another 0.4 of a mile up, I can see another car park approaching and by the directions this should be CP3. I look for my directions and suddenly realise they are no longer tucked behind my race number and I hadn't even noticed I wasn't carrying them in my hand.   They must have fallen out some 3 miles or so back when I stopped to pee!  I figure I should ask if the team have a spare copy.

13:22: Closer in view I can see the stand out flags and team: Time for some fuel.  I text my mum and sister to let them know I am here. I’ve covered 32.39 miles in 5:46:44.  Heading out from the car park to the road I take the next left sign posted Ridgeway. The track remains gravel stone, but lots of mud in places as it progresses uphill. 

After a few miles of track that seems to never end, past rows upon rows of trees and hedges, the mud gets very deep in parts, and I find my shoes have clumped so much that I lose grip and slip and slide. The puddles are mini ponds of muddy water and as my feet never dried out from the first plunge I really don't fancy getting my socks wet anymore!  I jump and tip toe around as best I can, using the grass verge to get some more tread but still slipping and at one point I slide backwards and have to grab a branch to steady myself.

Now in usual circumstances I can laugh these moments off, as I have experienced many a wet, muddy race, but as it’s just me out here all on my own without a soul to be seen for miles around, I start feeling rather low and frustrated by it slowing me down.  My feet are still soggy and cold, my quad muscles and glutes burn from 35 miles of being on the go and I can feel a dark hole swallowing me up out here in the mud!  

I slow to a trot, then a walk, then feel like just giving up altogether!  All these questions fill my head like "will I ever be able to finish?"," Will I get lost again?"," Will I have to run in complete darkness out here?"," Can I do this?".  I just want to rest....
Time for reflection...
I come to a standstill and have some water, as I suddenly feel my thirst. I have some Gu gel (the chocolate delight flavour).  I suck out the sweet gooey gel, then have another quickly after. I start to walk further up the slippery track.  After a few minutes I start a slow plod, then a trot, then a jog, then a slow run. The mud starts to ease off eventually and as I can feel the fuel start to fire up my depleted body. 

My outlook starts to look less dull and brighter.  I tell myself: “Yes you can do this! Run Lukey! People are waiting for you at the finish and they will be waiting a lot longer if you don't start to get a move on!" I love running but I didn't like that moment back there! Well if that was a wall I hit, I think I have broken through it....

14:10:  After about 4 miles up the track the path leads downhill under some trees and then slowly creeps back up again.  After passing a few cross road tracks and carrying on up the Ridgeway, I have to cross the next road and left following the sign posts again.  A minute or so up the path I can see a farm and spot a drinking tap sign.  I stop to refill my Camelbak and then have half of my Maltodextrin water I made at the CP. I head back onto the track and already feel the benefits starting to set in.  

My pace is a comfortable 8:00 min/mile average reducing the overall average mile so far to 10:45 min/mile.  The pain and muscle ache in my legs and calves seems to be dull but persistent and my endorphins have cleared my head.  My focus is back and I'm just completely in the zone, feeling very strong on my feet. This must be a second or third wind I'm feeling, it just feels fantastic and like I could run forever!

The Ridgeway track seems less muddy and just dried dirt tracks and stones now.  The ascent seems to be levelling out some and eventually after 10 miles from the CP I think that is the last of the steepest gradient today.  I notice the sun is shaded from clouds now and also the trees are more dense in cover up here so the chill in the air is more noticeable. 

15:38: The sun is lower in the sky and it will start to get dark soon as the winter nights are drawing in.  I see the track coming to an end and a lane coming into view.  The directions say that the next CP is just left and then right by The Burj restaurant.  I reach a wooded car park and then the lane.  Carefully I check the road is clear and run on the right side.  Seeing The Burj in view at the bottom, I spot the Land Rover and Steve walks out to the road to greet me clapping.  I’ve covered 44.81 miles in 8:02:27.

At CP4 I grab a chocolate and peanut butter Gu gel and refill my shaker bottle with water as it is only 8.2 miles until the finish and my Camelbak is missing the bite valve so I figure this will be enough.  Steve jokes that the distance left is nothing for me and says he will see me very soon at the finish.  

I notice my sister has text that they were out of signal and got my last message late so will have to drive direct to the finish.  I also see that I have been tagged on Facebook by my sister at The Burbury Inn, which is the finish. 

Best get a move on then!....

I head onto the main road staying to the right side and use the grass edges whenever a car approaches me.  As it is now getting darker and the sun is just sitting on the horizon I turn on my light that is around my waist so I can be seen.  I shortly head over the M4 bridge and reach a T-Junction, turning right then crossing the road for signs to Chiseldon. Again this is road so I have to use the grass verges quite often as there is more traffic coming from this direction.

I look over to the right and the valley below is made up of tiny villages and huge fields.  The sky is turning orange to pink and it glows over the Wiltshire countryside. It looks stunning and I am so happy to appreciate the views after a glorious sunny day of running.  At the next road I cross straight over, passing a farm shop and then carry on forward up the track which is now cycle route 45. The road goes off to the left and the cycle route becomes track then soon after 4 miles it starts to become rough gravel track and then reaches the Ridgway track again.  

Grateful to be off road again I enjoy the views of the hills around me and head up the trail, but slowing slightly as it starts to ascend again. I pass a few footpaths on both sides but I’m looking for a sign (Millennium Trail) on the right.   I have yet to see any but by the directions it should be any time now... I gulp down some water careful not to spill it all down myself and then a peanut butter Gu gel.  

I’m feeling sharp and focused enough so can give the caffeine gel a miss now. My legs remind me how far they have travelled today and I have some muscle soreness and discomfort growing above my knees, come to think of it my left knee is starting to ache too.

Up ahead I can see some trail signposts and it looks like a road.  There is nothing about a road on the directions. Once I reach I stop to check the paperwork.  l start to worry it must have been the footpath I just passed on the right some miles back.  I curse myself for not taking the gamble back then, but without a GPS watch running I cannot gauge the distance I have gone unless I keep my phone in my hand.  I am already down to 30% power left!

I make a decision to head on the road down the hill, which is parallel to the footpath I should have taken except it is a road not trail. I figure if I stay on this road I will eventually meet the A4361 that The Burbury Inn is on. The road bends round corners like a snake and begins a steep descent, I can’t help but speed up as gravity pulls me down but have to jump up or stop onto the grass verge to the right whenever cars approach.  

It has suddenly become very dark and the sun has already set.  The cars in front dazzle me with their bright headlights so I just jump up on the verge when they approach.  I can see cars driving across on the road up ahead but it still looks a good mile away from me. I carry on down the hill and start to think that it must be the A road approaching.  I’ve just over shot the footpath a mile or so tops so I will be coming into the finish from behind everyone I think...

As the road approaches closer I can make out the signs and see the A4361 so turn right onto the road I need and again stay as close to the grass verge as I can. This is one busy road and the cars whizz past me. Eventually a few minutes up the road and I can see a white building with a big pub sign next to it, ‘please be it, please be it’ I say to myself... I can just make out the sign as I adjust my eyes to read it and it is The Burbury Inn! Yes! I made it!!!

17:18: I shout hello and my sister sees me first, “There he is!” she laughs.  Quickly Mum, Steve and the photographers turn around cheering and clapping, looking very surprised and ask what happened.  I explain how I was looking for the Millennium Trail, but realised too late it was the footpath I already passed. Steve says it doesn’t matter I still finished, but just added a few miles on the way! The photographers ask me to go back up the trail path and run through the finishline so they can get the winning picture.
Winning smile after running 54.52 miles in 9:38:26
I the refuel with coconut water, banana and a Cliff bar for now.  I am just feeling thirsty but I am sure the hunger will come soon enough. I can’t wait to get out of these soggy socks and stretch!

Another first place finish with my second Ultra distance.  I am so chuffed and excited that not only did I get to finish today but I also managed to come in first. Not that we had lots of competitors.  If I could take off the slow start getting lost and lack of navigation skills this would have been an even quicker finish, but I had such an amazing day and have learnt so many things along the way.  

My biggest obstacle was breaking through the negative, low moments and focusing on the mindset that I WILL finish today and it doesn’t matter in what time, just getting the fuelling and training correct was my goal and it worked.  I receive my winning trophy, medal and t-shirt.  

Lots of pictures are taken and then I receive a big goody box Steve has made up for me full of energy bars and gels. We bid farewell to the Team as they wait for Kenneth to come in. I pass on the offer of pie in the Inn as its now peak traffic and we have a long journey back home.

Me and my proud sis!
I would like to thank my Mum and Sister for patiently waiting and coming along for the journey over the last two days, my loving partner for all the positive messages, Ultra Running for a great experience and fantastic supplies and support throughout the day, and lastly my amazing running group Bosh for all the updates and comments on Facebook.

Without the support and encouragement from my running buddies, family and friends I would never be able to enter races, experience them and get to win these fantastic events.  Life would be rather boring without running in my life.  I LOVE RUNNING!

‘Run Free’

The Stats:
54.52 Miles
Average pace 10:37min/mile
6667 Cal

Race costs (Maybe of interest to those considering entering an Ultra):
Race Fee: £45
Travelodge: £25.50
Petrol: £60
Food: £55
Supplies: £20
Kit: £226
Total cost: £431.50

BEACHY HEAD MARATHON Eastbourne: 27/10/12

08:15: Mum has driving duties today as she offered her assistance as my crew for the day. We pull up the top of the hill near to where the start is and as I have 15min to get to the registrations tent just drops me off, grab my Camelbak and head down the hill while mum parks up somewhere else. She shouts from behind ‘water don’t you want this?’ I run back up for a swig and tell her anymore water I’m going to be peeing all day! 

I manage to see the starting line and a marquee tent on the green opposite the school so head over to find it pretty rammed full of runners pinning their numbers and waiting to collect. Number 47 is me and a dinner voucher and chip is in the pack too. I head out and pin my number with difficulty as the biting cold wind is making my hands numb, even though I have been wearing gloves from Brighton in the car all the way here!

As I locate the line for the toilets outside I see Andy straight away, fellow BOSH-Runner from our group. We chat about the conditions briefly and I see he has no over coat or jacket but joggers over his shorts so he must be cold! Andy is usually a running shorts man! I attempt to call mum see if she has parked up but she finds us and I introduce Andy, she jokes he’d be easy to spot with the long hair. We say our goodbyes and wish each other good luck.

I’m in my usual trusty running tights, compression long sleeve, an over weather layer, gloves, my Vivo Trails with socks, buff and cap. Yet I’m still cold to the bone! Mum has lent me her big weather coat to throw over but I’m still shaking like a leaf... 

After a few last minute pics, tweets and FB update (with great difficulty) I head into the start pen area and wait around the front by the less than 5hr finish, not many runner’s have got into the area yet and I figure why as the strong bitter wind is sweeping down from the steep hill in front of us.
Just a few minutes left for gun fire, everyone huddles into the starting area and lots of jumping, shaking about and movements as we all try to keep warm somehow!

09:00: After countdown from ten we start with the loud horn sound and I start my Runkeeper and Garmin watch, head straight towards the first hill just 30 metres or so from us.
We climb up the few steps and grass at a steep, sharp ascent and fairly quick, it’s very cold still and I’m excited but want to just warm up. I can feel my heartrate elevate quickly so slow to a climbing pace, concentrate on my breathing to a steady rate but with the biting wind against me it takes a while. 

As the hill levels out to a slow gradient I realise if I have just struggled there it is going to be a real tough race! I’m really not sure if the just six hours sleep and finishing my night shift only yesterday will help me in feeling good to race. I keep my pace to around 8:00min/mile until I feel my heartrate has steadied some.  Is it the excitement and cold? I normally feel lots stronger than this...

After a few minutes I can hear bag pipe music drifting with the wind into our earshot, I look up to see a player in all his kilt and colours playing for us! His head is turned so he can see the runners coming over the hill. Nice touch I thought :-) We head over the road where a marshal has stopped traffic to allow us to cross, we head over the other side of the field which is part of Beachy Head and leads onto the South Downs Way trail.

09:25: Mile 3 after the first water stop is another rather steep climb into the Trail.  The path leads under shady trees and I am grateful for the wind block so lower my buff from my mouth and nose a little. There are hard slab stones that are rather uneven beneath our feet, which become hard to run down as the slope gets steeper as we descend. 

I see a lady approach from the side of me in a baby blue top and shorts (cross between mini skirt and running shorts) big shades and dark curly hair, she looks Spanish perhaps? She smoothly glides past me like a ballerina, wonderful watching how light and at ease she runs. Another sharp hill and rock gravel underneath so I take it carefully and slowly pass the lady in blue: “""u hang with us we descend downWill hang with you again, see u soon!” I say. She laughs with a big smile.

09:55: At 6.79 miles my Garmin stopped and I did not realise at the time.  We go up yet another steep gradient, I slow to a 10:00min/mile pace. Eventually down again we head through a small village which gets quite muddy and slippery, so glad my trail shoes have the grip! After what I think is about two miles we reach another water stop and I then notice the watch stopped so restart again cursing how I didn’t notice and then how did I manage to stop it? 

High up into the South Downs and I take in the breathtaking views for miles around us.  The sunshine really does make this area look stunning and I think this is so much better than hard rain so learn to deal with the bitter strong winds. A very enjoyable flat moment is ahead on the SDW trail high   up and it gives me time to absorb this great view! I quicken my pace into a comfortable 7:20min/mile pace and swiftly fly along...

10:20: Nine miles in or so the trail has led downhill a fair amount towards the south and I can see the sea in the distance ahead .I can't hold any longer and stop for a comfort break. We are deep into a wooded area under many trees and climb over a stile and then steps lead us high up again. I can hear bagpipes again from above and can see another chap playing in all his get up! Nobody around me talks a word and I climb the large big steps slowly. I’m walking these along with everyone else and enjoy the peaceful sounds of the bag pipe player as we pass him. 

I look back to see how steep it is. I wish I counted how many steps as there was more than a fair few... The top of the forest opens up to a big field and cheers from spectators at both sides say: “Well done, keep going not long to go!” I thumbs up and thank them but know deep down we have awhile left to go and plenty more hills to come! My quads are starting to burn and ache from the steep ascents but it is a nice familiar discomfort I’ve come to expect from this year of many marathons.  It makes me feel like I have worked at something, without this pain I know I’m going too easy and slow... 

10:55: 12.70 miles we reach a water stop, I see half mars bars, hot cross buns, biscuits and squash on offer, tempting but no not yet for me, just some water. The fields lead down to yet another steep descent past a river and over a bridge.  The route leads out onto a small private road then out left into a village.  I try to look around for key places or signs to see if I recognise anywhere, I eventually spot Friston and the local pub has a huge crowd cheering and clapping us as we pass down the road. We slow to some marshal’s blocking the A259 from passing traffic to let us cross and enter the Seven Sister’s park.

The view from here is stunning and I remember walks here years back. I think to myself I’m so glad I get to experience some of this today during a marathon, I now see why this is such a popular race to run and grasp some of the most scenic sights East Sussex has to offer. Many more walkers, spectators and marshals on the way cheer and clap as we pass by. I take in the views and plod on checking my pacing which is around 7:00-7:15min/mile.  I start to feel fatigued and rather hungry all of a sudden so tuck into a pack of berry Cliff shots leaving only one cube left - the pack contained six! It doesn’t last long as by mile 14 I’m ready for another SIS gel and use the caffeine berry as I am still feeling rather sluggish and tired. Killer hills and no tapering this week are probably catching up on me now...

11:28: 16 miles or so on the cliff side and I am now facing Seven Sisters which means seven cliff top hills to go... I take a look back at the famous cottage on the cliff edge you see on postcards so take the moment to snap a photo for myself. I see up above the hill I’m not the only one snapping away. I climb the hill rather slow and figure I can speed up going down to make some time up here.  I only just manage crawling up at a 14:00-16:00min/mile pace! 

The ground is a combination of soft grass and chalk gravel so the climbing up becomes tricky, not knowing where to place your feet as it is so uneven. The wind is so strong here and each climb at the top I’m greeted with a huge cold blast that feels like ice thrown on my face! These hills are repeated for another six and the view of the lighthouse at Beachy Head looks very small from back here. My aching quads and tired cold head just want this to be over now and I start to hit a low...

11:55: Reaching the climb just after mile 20 I can see a drinks station ahead and it’s actually a relief to just stop a minute and catch my breath. I can see the lighthouse closer up front on the cliff edge and figure still so close but so far left to the finish. I drink two cups water and decide to take half a mars bar for the chocolate, just a moment of bliss to try to distract the last few hills to go.  I thank the volunteers and speed down the hill with my mouthful. The speed doesn’t last very long, as quick as I get to the bottom I only slow to a marching effort back up the next steep slope.   

A few small slopes that feel a breeze for the time being so I have a moment to feel some recovering, only to see another two big sister hills left. I decide to keep my head down on the climbs and enjoy the speedy drops which seem to lift my spirits more - or is that the sugar rush from the mars bar that I would never have in my diet usually?!

12:30: Approaching about 24 miles the last of the sisters are behind me, all seven of them.  I have a proud moment knowing I’ve managed to conquer those and got the worst over with, well almost…I can see a huge steady incline of a hill which leads up to the lighthouse that is Beachy Head up next. I take it slowly but try to keep a 10:00-12:00min/mile max going on here when possible. 

The climb feels like forever and the cheers from passing hikers and walkers helps but I can’t help thinking have they ever tried running on Beachy? It is brutal and horrific in places. Not one for a beginner this. As the hill gradually becomes steeper still, as if it couldn’t already it still climbs up reaching 300ft to the top. Finally as if I would never see what is over the hill I eventually get a sneak peek as I creep up nearer to the summit.

Then there it is…the light house and a nice bit of flat, just a short part but it is flat! This is where I can see everyone who is upfront in the lead. I try to count some of the runners ahead but I soon give up and know with my time that I will be around the first 100. I cruise along here feeling so much better already.  Then a small climb, which is over quickly enough, then through past the pub restaurant car park at the top of Beachy Head and around to the main road following it up across the grass verge. I notice it looks familiar and realise we passed this but on the other side of the road earlier on. I suddenly have a clear idea that means the finish is only about one mile or so away! I up to my race pace (or the closest I can) with my burning exhausted sore legs and hope please for no cramping!

12:43: Less than one mile to go and no cramping yet. I remember back to Liverpool how this is when it started, I’m quite grateful that today has been mainly off road and the road we did run on was very brief. We make our way around the cliff top passing walkers and spectators strolling to see the runners come in. Over the small mound and past some trees, I can see a glimpse of Eastbourne and then, as I approach nearer the finish, I can see the Pier. 

Then I notice a half rainbow peeping from the thick clouds over the seafront, it’s the most amazing moment to see and such a nice welcome for the end of a race that has been stunning with scenery on the way.  I think of my partner Sunday and how he would really like it up here - to see what all us runner’s have seen. As the route seems to slope downwards I sense this must be it - finally the sharp hill that we climbed all those hours ago. I literally fly down but have to steady myself as the steps approach and land two at a time.  I whizz past the cheers and crowds and there it is the end....I sprint the best I can and thumbs up the spectators with a sign of relief and a big smile as I pass through the finish line. 

 I clock my time to be 3:50:39 
which is 70th place,  
not bad for my first Beachy Head Marathon! 

That’s 47 minutes slower than Liverpool two weeks ago and 25 minutes quicker than my Three Forts Marathon ‘The Tough One’ in May which has a similar 3,400ft elevation gain too. The Eastbourne website claims you need to add 30-40 minutes onto your road time so I am very happy with my result today.
I gain my 17th medal from racing and my 10th Marathon to date since 2010.
Thanks for reading and Run Free!


RUN LIVERPOOL: 14/10/2012

My partner Sunday is running his first ever marathon today. I’m really excited for him as it takes me back to my first marathon back in 2010.

My very close friend Helen is running her fifth Marathon so far this year in aid of the Olympic rings so it is an extra special race for her too. Joining us are friends Darren and Tanya from our BOSH-Run group on Facebook. This marathon will be Darren’s second and both he and Tanya are hoping for a Personal Best!

08:40: After a short train ride to Birkenhead with the guys, we reach the park entrance and drop our bags on the lorry, it is sunny but a brisk northern 5c chill. My Inov-8 Wrag will be my wind proof today.

Pictures taken from Run247 and for our run group.

Heading over to the start, Helen already with soggy feet in her Vibram Five Fingers. I am wearing New Balance MT10 today, I favour my VFF on shorter distances.

We walk the start pen staying in the sunshine to keep warm. Wishing Sunday and the guys good luck, I head further down to the front as it is getting crowded.

I can see elites up front and the Mayor of Liverpool on the balcony.

09:30: The countdown begins 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. A loud horn sounds and we are off! everyone is tearing through the park at lightning speed...

I steady myself and get my pacing to a 7:15-30 min/miles but find it a struggle with runners flying past.

Heading onto the main high street of Birkenhead, with lots of spectator cheers from both sides of the road.

At the first water stop I have just a few gulps as I'm only a touch thirsty. I find my pace and take in the sights of the Wirral. Over bridges, industrial works following signs to New Brighton.

10:10:  Six miles in and I can see the sea. I'm just about warming up now. Runners head up the sea road, passing more spectators. I thumbs up and smile at the crowd. The route switches back on ourselves with the view of Liverpool over the Mersey in sight.

Nine miles in and onto the promenade of New Brighton. I see a lighthouse out at sea and the buildings of the city. As I have an SIS energy gel. I am running 6:15-30 min/mile pace.

10:50:  Eleven miles or so and back over the bridge from the other direction and then towards the Birkenhead Tunnel. The toll is closed off.  I head towards the huge dark opening, it feels strange with empty roads. 

An eerie feeling it is to be running in a dark tunnel that usually occupies three car lanes.  As I approach the bottom of the tunnel, I see other runners ahead and we meet the half way marker. 

I cannot see any end close by. I start to feel rather low and try to keep focused. Alredy half way through the race.

After over 15 minutes in the tunnel I can hear live music playing from the exit.... 

Then finally, light at the end of the tunnel. I start to speed up to the exit. I have no idea how fast, my phone and Garmin have lost all service in here.

11:18:  At 13.5 miles I reach the opening of bright outside air. Greeted with almighty cheers. I see dancers and cheerleaders. I notice our Hotel just across the road.

I carry on the road, away from the docks for a few miles before another switch back down the other side of the road. I check my pace, still around 6:20 and I'm feeling muscle soreness from the road beneath me but still feel strong and confident I can finish this at my 3:10 goal time. 

Passing another water stop I gulp down a bottle of water and take a High5 gel with caffeine. I also have some Cliff shot cubes I'm carrying on me.

11:45:  At 18 miles I pass the Albert Dock and cut through the city past the town hall. The road then appears to be going up. I thought being a city marathon this would be more flat. Oh well, what goes up must come down...

My pace drops here as I start to feel the ache in my feet, swollen from the ‘tarmac pounding’.  Once the road flattens out, into a park, the path is gravel, which is a relief break from the roads. 

Lots of walkers in the park and see 2 hours 30 minutes have passed, so it is about midday.  This means I have less than 30 minutes to get a sub 3 hour finish.  I still have 4 miles to go....

I spot Sunday, so run closer to the right to shout over to him. He gives me a thumbs up and says he is ok. I feel proud knowing how far he has come with his running.

Big day for my partner Sunday: his first marathon!
Leading downhill at last, I see the 24 mile marker, so I am very close to the finish! I start to feel my glutes getting tight with the chance of cramping. I have some more Cliff Shots, followed by water at the next stop.

12:25:  With just one mile left, I check my Garmin and see that I may gain a PB for a Marathon. The glutes start to tighten more. I feel the pain approaching. 

The crowds towards the finish at Mann Island are screaming at the runners, clapping and cheering.  The support is truly intense and I feel a lump in my throat. Suddenly a muscle cramp hits my glute and I have to slow to rub the area. Luckily it fades and I head for the finish.

The road bends and I see the big archway finish. I try with all my energy and power I have left to sprint. It’s the best I can do without another cramp stopping me. 

I hear over speaker ‘Luke Ashton is just finishing’ and look up to see the time of 03:02:55 BOSHED!

That’s a PB and six minutes slashed off Brighton Marathon time from April.

I have a good stretch as I take in the moment and the memories of the race....My first Liverpool marathon!

I have time for a cold shower and change before the others from the BOSH-Run Group are due to finish.  I head back to see Darren gain his PB of 4:09, Tanya then Sunday finishes his first marathon in 4:21. Sunday has time for a cold bath before we head back for Helen to finish....

Luke’s Top Tips for completing a road marathon:

1.  After finishing the marathon drink plenty of water.  I also recommend a high carb protein shake. I currently use a Vegan mix of pea and hemp protein as its plant based, lighter than whey and dairy free. I put a teaspoon of super green powder and Chai seeds in for added antioxidant boost post race.

2.  Run a cold – or if you can brave it an ice bath - to cool the muscles in your legs.  Sit in shallow water for 10 minutes.  Uncomfortable as it maybe, after a few minutes you will already feel less inflammation or aches. The next day your legs will thank you!

3.  Wear the right shoe for the terrain. With road races I use a minimalist shoe.  Today I wore my New Balance MT10 as they have just that bit more protection on the sole over my barefoot shoes.

4.  Remember to grease up your feet and toes.  Cover toenails with plasters if they suffer from bruising and wear a good running sock.  I have to tape up all my toes when wearing my New Balance trainers. With any marathon you will get the odd small blister but by greasing and using plasters you will prevent the worst that could stop you completing a race.

5.  After an hour to 1.5 hours after the race have a very well balanced meal to aid your recovery and start to replace all those calories burnt. You would have burnt between 3,000 to 4,500 calories in a marathon.

Run free!