Thursday, 31 December 2015

It's out there, finally... Liverpool to Leeds Race 2015 ramble

Someone once told me (not so long ago) that I have a ‘slight’ tendency to hold on to things, to not let things or work go unless I think it is as absolutely good as it could possibly be. Obviously, nothing is perfect. In the case of this blog, I guess that is pretty true, albeit it has also been crazy hectic this year. But, now I’ve realised that sometimes you just have to get it out there.

It has been a massively hectic year, hugely hectic. I know, I said that already. I’ve not run as many races as I would have liked or was once used to, but I’ve run some good’uns that are important to me. The Liverpool to Leeds Race was one of them. So, finally, before the year is out, here is a ramble about that....

I hadn’t planned on running the Liverpool to Leeds Canal Race again this year. I figured I’d do a bunch of marathons and do GUCR and that would be my ‘big’ race. However, Grand Union didn’t go so well for me. I finished, but I finished painfully slow and my feet were a mess. I felt physically and emotionally bruised. I no longer wanted this to be my long run memory of the year. Because, quite frankly, I felt like a bit of a whimpering mess after GUCR and my PB attempt at this race actually became my slowest finish ever. I guess you can never completely plan for stuff in ultras. 

The start and supplies and stuff

So, I made it to the start in one piece and as disorganised as usual. I packed all the necessary stuff, such as plasters and emergency energy gels, Lucozade and ‘full fat’ Coke. I didn’t pack as much food as usual, as I feel that I have a tendency to overbuy for these races.

I had a natter to lots of the usual lovely faces at the start and picked up my t-shirt. I never normally buy a race t-shirt for these long ones. I guess part of me never wants to tempt fate. However, this means that I never end up owning a really cool race t-shirt with a huge map of a canal on the back and I actually really want to. Also, I reasoned that if, for any reason, I was unable to complete LLCR then it was all ok, because I successfully completed it last year.

So, t-shirt picked up. A kiss for the boyfriend. A big ‘class of 2015’ photograph and we were off!
I hadn’t trained for this.

Tummy troubles

Not to be graphic, but my stomach felt poo. I had to stop so many times on the Saturday, because my stomach just didn’t feel right. I felt so bloated and not particularly awesome. All I kept thinking about was where the next toilet or bush was.

I was very aware of how much I was slowing down and with this came a bit of a negative attitude. I knew that I would do it no matter what, because I would never go into such a long race thinking that I’d just ‘give it a go’. You can’t and shouldn’t do that. You should go into a race KNOWING that you ARE going to do it, no matter what it takes, giving it everything it takes. However, it doesn’t stop the negative thoughts that make it a little bit tougher, when you’re not feeling 100%.

I felt bad, because Jogging Jon had very kindly let me run with him. That was great because it’s nice to have the company on such a long run, but I felt guilty, because he had put in so much training for this race and I had put in little. His pace was amazing and I was being a bit of a snail. I’m so grateful to him for sticking with me for so long and for the lovely Mrs Sarah Jogging Jon who provided lots of awesome support and goodies along the route.

Into the night...

It must have been around 2.30am in the morning when my eyelids started to uncontrollably close and I must have spent approximately the next 3 hours, until day broke, agonisingly battling against the urge to fall asleep. It’s a horrible feeling when all you want to do is sleep, but you can’t stop and you definitely can’t go to sleep, so you end up stumbling along like you’re drunk. And it just doesn’t stop and no matter how much you wish for it, daylight just doesn’t come. It seems never ending as you focus on putting one foot in front of the other, very, very slowly.

The resurrection...

“The sky’s awake, so I’m awake, so we have to play...!” (Yes, this quote is from Frozen)
The sun started to rise and ‘just like that’ I started to wake up. It was pretty miraculous and I was surprised by how instantaneously I woke up. One minute I was dragging my heals (literally) and stumbling about all over the place and the next, I was running faster than I had in hours. I had let Jogging Jon slip away as day broke, as I know he was going at a faster pace than me and I was aware of how much I had held him back in the night section, but like a gentleman, he had stayed to accompany me out of fear that I might fall in the canal. I’m always struck by how beautiful this part of the canal is. You start to head towards Skipton and the canal meanders and winds.

Spoilt for shoes

Hokas. I bought some Hokas. I previously wrote about my search for Hokas and how tricky it was to decide upon which ones to get and where to start. I bought the Challenger ATR and I thought it had adequate room. This is still mostly true. They had enough room in the front of the toe, but they were a little too narrow at the toe, which meant that my niggly little toe got a bit snagged. It's funny, because my feet are surprisingly narrow for how long they are. So, it would appear that a UK 8.5 would probably have been best. I also started to over pronate a fair bit, especially on my right foot, after a while. They were great in terms of stones and cobbles and not being able to feel the ground, but after 40 miles I had to swap them for a trustier structured shoe.

I whipped out my Asics GT 2000s at the next checkpoint and I immediately felt so much more supported in my arch. I wore these through the night section and until I reached the 94.5 mile checkpoint. A few checkpoints later I changed these shoes to my well-worn-in Kayanos, because the morning dew on the grass had soaked my feet and clean socks. It’s good to have the variety I guess.

Random things you see by canals

I’m always looking out for random things by canals and during ultras in general. You do see some random things. Most notably, I saw some horses on a bridge. And I became a little obsessive with taking pictures of mile markers by the canal. I was so much happier when a stone mile marker informed me that it was 110 miles to Liverpool – not far to go – than when it said 99 ½ miles to Leeds...


I can never fault the check points on GUCR or LLCR. There was so much yummy cake. Lemon drizzle was my favorite and it’s so easy to eat when you’re finding it hard to get down anything else. I also enjoyed a really lovely bacon buttie just before the 100 mile mark and some pineapple juice at around 120 miles. I was feeling much better by then.

The End

Now I’m trying to recall it, I’m finding it tricky to recall everything. The last bit of the race was fairly pleasant, but painful. I do really need to solve the unsolvable problem of painful feet, but I’m not certain that this can be overcome during such a long ultra. This is a shame, because I'd like to think I could run even longer one day... Maybe it’s just part of the challenge? So, in the last bit, I found myself having to stop and take off my shoes a fair few times, as my feet were hot, sore and itchy. However, once I sensed that we were near the end and started to see all the tall buildings and hotels of Leeds city centre getting close and closer, I started to run faster and faster. I guess the bit that I’m most proud of is that I literally sprinted the last bit. I saw the finish and I legged it. I know it wasn’t just my imagination, I really did sprint it and most definitely ran faster than I had done all race.

I finished 3rd female in 35hrs 43mins – most definitely because there weren’t many women in it to begin with and also because the rest of the speedy ones dropped out. But, I’m happy with that. A really great memory from 2015. I better start looking ahead to 2016. Who knows what adventures will be had? (I actually don't know yet...I need to plan)

Monday, 30 November 2015

Knackered. Shattered. Tired.

As one of the children in my class remarked, earlier today, "You look really tired today, Miss Tunna". Yup. I feel shattered, knackered, sleep, tired, all rolled into one. Training to be a primary school teacher is like the longest ultra marathon ever, and the most emotionally draining. And yet, it is so rewarding. But I am definitely looking forward to a bit of a Christmas shindig night out on Friday. I need it.

Needless to say, I have been pretty busy lately and I haven't done too much running. And I really need to do more running because even when I'm not getting physically fat, I feel mentally fat and not quite sane if I am not doing a lot of running. However, I have just gone for a short one and I do feel better for it. Should have worn more layers though. It's surprisingly chilly out there. Brrrr.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Another year older.

So, It's my birthdaaaaay... I always have a bit of a tendency to feel quite sad around my birthday, as I never feel like I've achieved exactly what I wanted to in the last 12 months. However, I feel like I've achieved more than last year. I am training to be a primary school teacher, finally and I guess that I have always wanted to do this, but never had enough experience to get onto a course before/ it wasn't the right time. I also completed GUCR for the 4th time this year and LLCR for the 2nd time. Not done as many races as I'd have liked, but I've kept in the loop and not done too badly. And I've got Snowdonia Marathon tomorrow and then off to Dublin. There are positives here.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

New Shoes, coconut oil, coffee and pre-birthday splurge

Well, it's my birthday on Friday, 23rd October, so I decided to buy myself an early birthday present and got some new Kayano 22s. I used to work at an Asics outlet, so I really got to like the Kayano and the GT-2000, which is slightly less supportive and cushioned. And as well as being the right shoe for my strange feet, I really like the way they look :)

Whilst I was having a bit of a pre-birthday splurge I also picked up some coconut oil to aid in my mission to incorporate more healthy fats into my diet and medium chain triglycerides etc. I'm also trying to eat more protein and less crappy carbs. However, I feel like my eating habits have been a bit rubbish as of late. I've been doing some intensive trainee primary school teacher training, lesson planning, teaching and not a lot of sleeping, so I've been craving rubbish and haven't been entirely disciplined. But the consequence of this is that I've been feeling a bit yuck. If I write it here, I have to do it...

Monday, 19 October 2015

Too busy and sleepy

So much information and observations backlogged in my mind right now, and that’s before I even get to the pedagogical theory and primary school paperwork for my School Direct PGCE – fair to say I have been more than a little bit preoccupied. The other week, I was roughly averaging 3 ½ hours of sleep a night. As I type, I remain pretty preoccupied in the university library, but I cannot currently think of anything useful to write here with regards to my practises in the classroom, so I thought I would procrastinate and empty my mind of recent running exploits.

Chester Marathon – Sunday, 4th October

I can hardly believe that it’s been 4 years since I did my 100th marathon. This year’s race was my 160th…not an awful lot run in the last 4 years, when you consider that I did my 100th within two years. However, I have completed lots of long ones since then, so I have to remember that.

I do Chester because it is my home race. It’s local and it’s friendly. However, I also find it extremely overpriced. Yet, I’m not just moaning at Chester here, I’m moaning at pretty much all city marathons out there. They are so expensive for what they are and the medal is always overshadowed by corporate sponsors. I need to put a picture on here, but the original medal for Chester Marathon was all about Chester’s famous clock. The newer medals are much more stylistic and feature a massive sponsor slogan. I guess that is the way it is. So, this would be my first grievance.


Other grievances: I guess that I also really hate the endless country roads. It almost feels that the marathon runners are banished from the city, out towards Wrexham and then they’re finally allowed back into Chester at the end. Consequently, the middle bit is really boring for me. I tend to get a bit lazy around the 14-20 mile mark of boring country-road running. And because it’s a city marathon, you get the endless barrage of runners asking if you’re okay and telling you, ‘you can do this/ well done/ not long now/’ etc. They all mean well, but I’m there in my 100 Club vest, thinking that I have run a lot and I have run far tougher….not meaning to sound arsy, but I just always hear the same stuff. I was thinking about it and there is always that same small talk at city marathons. I don’t hate them, I really don’t, but, sometimes I just don’t know what to say. I think I was just especially sleepy at this marathon, because of my course. I want to do my best, but I'm finding it tricky to be my best at the moment.


And even though I am sounding like a very Negative Nancy here, I couldn’t help but spot the Negative Nancys during the race. By this I mean, those runners who just give up and don’t carry on or moan a lot (not just to themselves) during the race. I came upon a couple of guys who were still going and they were telling me how they had expected to finish in 3hrs 15 mins, but how they had injured themselves and were going to drop out at the aid station just up ahead. We were approximately 18 miles in. I couldn’t contemplate dropping out, even if I had to crawl, I’d do it. And I have felt like I have had to crawl in the past, in much longer races than a marathon. I guess my key point is that I often feel safer and more comfortable amongst ultra runners or at least marathon maniacs who somehow seem that little bit grittier and determined. I like the madness and the irrationality that even if you have a niggle, the possibility of carrying on is still there for the taking, because the impossible is a lot more possible when you dream bigger.  [Got a bit philosophical there, but you get my gist...]

Monday, 21 September 2015

PGCE and Kidney followed by sniffly

Just in case you'd like to know:

The Liverpool to Leeds race bloggage is underway, but it got rather backlogged due to a hugely busy spell.

So, I ran to Leeds and I made it and then I quickly attempted to recover and then I started a primary school based PGCE, to become a primary school teacher. Busy busy busy. Lots of paperwork and folders and an assignment and thinking and pedagogical ramblings. And then I started to feel horrible and shaky and sweaty and shivery and feel rubbish and my kidneys felt like I had been punched or kicked continuously. So, I went to the doctors (I know, I can't believe I got an appointment either!) and did a urine sample and had a high temperature and the doc thinks it was a kidney infection. Sooo, I have just finished taking antibiotics which also made me feel pretty rubbish in my stomach and now I'm one day post-antibiotics and I have a very sniffly cold. Rarrrgggh. Consequently, I will get a running blog out there soon, but I haven't even run since I ran to Leeds, so that's a pain. Therefore (I'm trying not to write 'so', I write it faaaaar too much) I have entered Chester Marathon at the end of next week. That should do it.

Monday, 24 August 2015

I got some Hokas!

I finally (years and years after everyone else...) got some Hokas. I researched and searched and Googled and Googled some more. Ended up with a headache from all the research. I had a few concerns. As someone who overpronates, I wondered if this even mattered in Hokas, as the platform is so significantly big/ stable in comparison to other running shoes on the market. For road running, I had previously been running in Asics' Kayano and GT-2000 series. I was used to supportive shoes, but I needed even greater comfort for ultra-running.

In May, I utterly destroyed my feet during the Grand Union Canal 145 miles race. I wore inov-8 Race Ultra 290s and I was really disappointed :(. Initially, I thought they were great quality and looked good; I went up half a size from my normal everyday shoe size. I'm normally a Size 8 everywhere. And I've worn inov-8s many, many times over the years. They are the only brand of off-road shoes I had ever worn, so I trusted them. Most recently, I have run in the inov-8 Roclite 275 Gore-Tex trail shoe and I had no problems with that at all. I even ran GUCR 2014 in that shoe and I've worn other versions of inov-8 shoes for various ultras over the years.

Anyway, I have long feet, but I don't have wide feet - they're pretty narrow and not very padded. The Race Ultra 290 was too wide around my forefoot. It was like a big clown shoe/ balloon around my foot. I know, the irony, considering that most Hokas look like clown shoes... Yep, I always want some room in the front of the toe-box, but there was too much room to either side in the inov-8s. Ultimately, I ended up with mega tenderised feet and HUGE blisters on the side of my heel and both big toes and between my big toe and second toe of both feet. There are lots of pictures on this blog somewhere. My feet have never been that bad during a race. It was incredibly painful. And I thought more than ever that I must try Hokas. Those little sharp stones along canal towpaths are the worst. I just don’t want to feel them

The Search for Hoka...

Well, it was all well and good deciding that I wanted to try these shoes and see what the hype was like, but getting hold of my size and figuring out which ones to get was a different matter. Almost every UK website I went on only had small ladies sizes.

After advice from fellow ultra-runners, it eventually transpired that a Conquest 2 would probably be best for me and my moderate over pronation but it was also the most expensive at around 170 Euros or £125.  I was also more interested in getting a trail shoe, rather than a road shoe, because I wanted the sole to be a bit more rugged and durable. I decided to get a Challenger ATR.

Now I just need to work out my foot measurements. I initially thought I'd need at least a UK 8.5 / 42 2/3 / 27cm. Looking at my current Asics road running shoes, I normally go up a whole size to a UK 9, because I like the extra length in the toe box. This equates to 27.5 cm. I'll admit that there is a bit more extra room than I strictly need, but it never causes me problems. I'd always get at least a UK 8.5 in Asics (27cm). But I'd never gotten Hokas before and I wasn’t sure what the deal was with how they fitted. So, I followed their instructions and put my foot on a piece of A4 paper, foot up against a wall and drew where the end of my foot was = 26cm. This equalled a UK 7.5, but I didn't feel comfortable getting that Size. I want a little room in the toe. So, I settled on a UK 8 (26.5cm) And....they fit! I have room, but the shoe is actually quite a narrow fit and not really wide like my inov-8s, but I have that length.

So, at the weekend, I took them out for an 11 mile test run on gravel trails and a bit of road. I could not feel any of those pesky sharp stones. Hurrah. I just hope that they serve me well during my next ultra-adventure at the weekend, Liverpool to Leeds 130 miler. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Another run home, another foot dunk...

Post-run foot dunking is so refreshing. This could become a thing. Tonight it was dark when I finally got home. I also managed to get in a bit of food-weight-training by stopping off at the shop on the way back home and picking up some Babybel cheeses, avocados, yogurt and milk. I always end up picking up way too much on a quick trip to the shop.

Really looking forward to the Dovedale Dipper 26 miler on Sunday - done it a few times before and even though the cows in the first field always scare me, it's a really friendly little run. I'm hoping me and my boyfriend can spend a couple of days in the Peak District afterwards and have a little explore.

And I am now seriously contemplating doing the Leeds to Liverpool 130 mile race again on August Bank Holiday weekend. I've got to sort out a few 'logisticals', but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to. I'm always up for a long ultra-running challenge...

Monday, 27 July 2015

A bit random, but...

... I had a really sweaty day at work yesterday. It was busy busy and the air-con was off. To use up the little bit of energy I had left, I decided to run home from work. I was feeling pretty knackered and my feet were feeling pretty sweaty. Fortunately it had been raining all day and I happened across a large, yellow container under our guttering. It was full to the brim with rain water.

It was far too tempting not to take off my trainers and stick my feet in the cold, refreshing water. Best feeling ever. Ahhhhhh.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The last few days...

The last few days I have...

* Been tormented by the biggest house spider ever. I thought I was safe now, because we (not really we, as I definitely did not partake) had managed to kill 'Biggest House Spider No.1' about a week ago, but now there is another one, living in the same nook and it's out for revenge. It only seems to come out in the evening and during moments where I have momentarily let my guard down. An example of this would be whilst on the loo or in the shower...

* Run home from work a few times and been high-fived by a fellow runner. Yesterday's run was much more energetic than today's. My legs felt so stiff and achy after work. I really felt like I was plodding along very slowly. So, when an unidentified runner from my old club ran past in the opposite direction and enthusiastically high-fived me, it put a big grin on my face and made me dig that bit deeper. And camaraderie is the name of that run.

* Eaten lots of scrummy food. So, we decided to try the food at a pub that we always drive past but have never eaten at. I had a fairly unhealthy Caesar salad, with pan-fried salmon and mega amounts of Parmesan cheese - my favourite. It was delicious. We also ordered some chips that had been drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled (not really the right word given the size of the parmesan shavings) with parmesan. Shaved parmesan would probably be more accurate. I felt like this balanced out the abundance of lettuce very nicely!

* Thought about entering lots of marathons. I get paid tomorrow, so this may well be realised. I want to up my game and do a few ones that I haven’t done before. I love a good goal and it will sure make me get out there and get in the miles.

* Nearly puked up after sniffing a protein shake. My Protein Oats and Whey is definitely the tastier shake. However, Maxi Nutrition Lean Definition offers more in terms of added nutrients and the amount of protein you get vs. calories. Having said that, it tastes disgusting mixed with water and smells terrible. That's why, upon sniffing the latter protein shake, post-run, I gagged. Downed it, but didn't enjoy it.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Old new route

Since I have the morning free, which never happens, I decided to drag myself out for a sunny run. However, I've been getting bored of 'the usual route'. I run it ALL the time. I run home from work on that route too.It's not particularly scenic and I found myself getting into a running rut.

I tend to be too safety conscious sometimes and I stick to routes with lots of pavements and safe options. Today I decided to take a more scenic route which was more countryside-ish. This route took in a small country lane in addition to the safer roads. I felt better for it. And I figured that if cars couldn't see me then they really shouldn't be driving at all!

The only odd thing I saw on my run was another runner wearing a coat! It is so sunny out and I am absolutely sweating. I don't understand. It's the same when men (mainly) wear full length running tights in the middle of a heatwave, I don't get it,

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Snot Rocket

A rather snotty run home from work today. I have been battling a dreaded summer cold for the past week and it really has been annoying. It's one of those things where you want to go for a run, because you physically can go for a run, but you just feel really bunged up and can't breathe properly, so your run ends up feeling rubbish and you sound like Darth Vader's relative.

Anyway, determined not to wait for the bus home from work and probably catch even more germs (I miss having a car...), I decided I was going to run home regardless. The run home isn't too far, just under 5 miles. But, I decided to extend my run, because I figured that I was out there anyway and I didn't get in any running at the weekend because of the cold, so I ran a little further and did about 6.5 miles. Not too much further, but it all counts. So, it was a snotty run, but a good run. It always feels good to bank some miles for the week.

Made it home

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Run home

On yesterday's run home from work I wondered whether I could fit anymore in my rucksack. I think the answer was probably 'not really'. But, I decided to pop to Tesco on the run back and picked up a random selection of milk, cheese triangles, an avocado and some blueberry yogurts nonetheless. Good workout. I was feeling super achy and sleepy after yesterday's run home from work. However, it's always good to know that you got a run in, when you know that you certainly wouldn't have dragged yourself out after work...

Below are some piccies of my sleepy face, trusty Kayanos, bursting-at-the-seams running rucksack and my trusty water bottle. I love this dinky bottle.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


Running long distances has turned my feet into something resembling a snake. Well, not green and scaly, but the skin is definitely shedding like that of a snake. If I was squeamish, it'd actually be pretty gross. Instead, I have taken lots of pictures (see below). Actually, my mum did think it was pretty gross and promptly told me that maybe I should stop running so far. I told her that I had actually walked and staggered more than run on my last ultra ;-)

So, the hard skin on the upper sole of my foot has started shedding. I have had to cut bits away to make it feel more 'normal' and comfortable to walk on.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


I've regularly taken whey protein for a while now. Sometimes I use it as a (lunch) snack/meal replacement, but more often than not I use it for recovery and to up my protein intake. Having tried some truly awful tasting and smelling protein shakes, I settled on MyProtein's Oats and Whey in Chocolate. However, since it was on offer, I have decided to go fancy and have been using MaxiNutrition Promax Lean (chocolate flavour). Now, I know it says to mix it with water, but it tastes horrible this way, so skimmed milk it is...I can get over the few extra calories and  at least I have added calcium :)

I even treated myself to a girly new shaker. But, I've spotted something that looks even better and I want one - PROMiXX Vortex Shaker .  Yep, I don't  need one, but it's so cool and mixes everything up so you never have lumpy protein shakes again...

In other news: It's so hot right now. Just not used to the heat in Britain, I guess. I went for a 5 mile run yesterday and I felt as if I'd run 50, my heart was beating so fast and the sweat was dripping off me. I remedied this with a swift recovery beer, of course.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Everything feels okay, but my feet are killing me... - GUCR race ramble

Apologies in advance for excessive rambling, random thoughts and pictures of my manky feet...

Just when you think you have learnt all you can from this race, it teaches you something else. I wasn’t expecting that this year. I thought I had grown fairly comfortable in this race, in what it was and how it worked. But, I was wrong. I think I had grown confident after last year’s PB of 38 hours 25 mins. Well, not over-confident in an arrogant sense, that’s not really my style. However, I had developed an inner confidence and self-assurance. Still, I didn’t exactly feel in my comfort zone. I don’t really think you can ever get that comfy with the prospect of a 145 mile run. But, I would talk about this race with fondness to whoever happened to ask about it. Oh yes, Grand Union Canal, so many adventures to be had along this stretch of path.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that this year’s race kicked my bum – big time. I’ve written many blogs about GUCR over the years and I don’t want to be too repetitive, so here is a fragmented version of events:

The plan

The plan was for me to run my fastest GUCR and try my hardest to run as fast as I could for as long as I could. I was down as an unsupported runner, so I could access various refreshments and food at checkpoints along the route. However, I had roped my lovely boyfriend, Jonathan, into being my ‘moral support crew’ and he did a great job – he even walked out to the last checkpoint to meet me and run/walk/hobble the last bit of the race with me (I was the one hobbling). I also wanted to create new memories on this year’s race. Some of the plan was successful.

The night before

After fuelling up on Pizza Hut and doing a mad trolley dash around the supermarket, my lovely boyfriend drove us down to Birmingham and we stayed at a Jury’s Inn. Last year, I stayed at a Travelodge just a few doors down from here. However, the noise levels were immense. I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping for long, since I had to start running at 6am and had set my alarm for around 4ish-am, but I still wanted to dose a little. This hotel I booked was so much better. Maybe they have better noise insulation? Major happy points J J

Fast forward to... The night section

I always dread going through Milton Keynes, despite this bit of tow path being very runnable. However, there are cycle paths off to the left of the path and I always think there are going to be dodgy people lurking. The reality is that I think all of the dodgy people don’t tend to be hanging around this late into the night, fortunately. I always envisage scary ‘status dogs’ around these parts, but there was nothing during this night section. I didn’t see anyone. It actually got pretty lonely. And, even though I have run this race for the previous three years, I still kept worrying that I had gone wrong somewhere, that maybe I hadn’t crossed a particular bridge I was meant to. These were just paranoid mind games which were largely triggered by the fact that I hadn’t seen anyone for so long. 

I was seemingly all alone and I had no idea of my position in the field. I knew I wasn’t near the front, obviously, as so many people had passed me much earlier in the race. However, I didn’t feel as though I was right at the back either. I just kept on going. A big bonus was that I felt really wide awake, which almost never happens during the night section. I normally always feel as though I’m about to dose off. Not this year, I felt really alert. However, I was really missing a buddy runner. I have pretty much always run these night sections with somebody else for company. It’s nice to have a bit of company to keep you sane and feeling normal. I missed that and felt slightly and sadly envious of the others runners I had seen ‘collect’ their buddy runners to continue on their night-time adventure.

Everything feels okay, but my feet are killing me...

I wasn’t lying. Or exaggerating. I got to the 100 mile checkpoint and everything really did feel okay, except for the feet. My legs felt much better than they had the week before whilst running Windermere marathon (probably due to not pounding the tarmac and hills) and I didn’t feel sleepy. These were major bonuses. But, the MAJOR downside of having painfully sore feet faaaaar outweighed the positives. It is the most frustrating thing to have so much will and want to move forward, but hardly be able to. I was limping along. I had invested in some ‘inov8 Ultra Race 290s’, having found it hard to navigate the range of HOKAs available and what I should be trying. The HOKA website also didn’t have any Women’s Size 8.5s in the ones I wanted/ thought I needed. 

Now, I have suffered from sore feet quite regularly during longer ultras, so that isn’t something new (I have long but narrow and fairly fat-free feet...the fat seems to stick everywhere else!). And, I also don’t think it’s hugely abnormal either. You are going to hurt on a long ultra. It’s not ‘if’, but when. Of course you are, at least a little bit. It’s a long way in the car, so it’s even longer by foot. However, not only were my feet hot and itchy and throbbing, but I had huge blisters. Huge blisters. I tried not to drain the blisters for as long as possible, but it had to be done at around the 106 mile mark. Armed with a safety pin (not the most sanitary procedure, but had to be done), Germolene and plasters, I sat on a lock and squeezed. So thankful to my boyfriend for providing all of the above 'instruments'. 

I don’t regularly get blisters. Yes, I’ve had a blister or two on this race before, but not to this extent. On my left foot, I had a huge blister on my big toe and on the upper sole, extending from a blister between my big toe and second toe. My little toes had become blisters in their own right. I also had blisters on the sides of both heels and another huge blister on the upper sole of my right foot and numerous sore spots. I’m sure there is something I did wrong. I definitely could have worn the shoes in more, but I’m not sure why this contributed to me getting blistering where I did. My socks had been good before and I always put body glide/ foot stuff on my feet before I put my socks on. I even wore gaiters this year, to prevent any sharp little stones getting into my shoes and then I have the worst year I have ever had with my feet. 

Needless to say, the feet issue seriously got me down. I had gone from a comfortable pace to a hobble. I had built up comfortable little gaps between cut-offs and now I was struggling. I ended up doing about 2.5 miles per hour, approximately. It’s a good job I was hours ahead of the cut-offs earlier on, because if I hadn’t have been, there is no way I would have made it to Little Venice. Later on in the race I was running to the nearest narrow boat, whimpering, ‘airing me feet’, whimpering, hobbling, running to the next bridge, crying, trying to stay in the game. I was not going to not make it. No way were my feet beating me.

Swelling: the immediate aftermath...

The hardest to get to Checkpoint in the world ever... Also known as ‘The Unreachable’ and ‘Check Point that never gets any closer’

After leaving the 100mile checkpoint at 9ish-am, the sun was really beating down on us. It seemed like it as going to be a scorcher and it felt pretty warm for a while, but it eventually became a little overcast and rained a bit later on, thankfully. There is a twenty mile gap between two of the latter checkpoints, from mile 100 – 120. When you’re so far into such a long race, this seems unreachable and it’s such a slog to push through the eventual negativity that starts to creep in.  The towpath also seemed to be quite ‘rocky’ along this section and the sharp stony paths started to really exasperate my foot niggles. Past experience has made me really dread this 20 mile stretch between checkpoints and I think this feeling gets worse each year. However, the feeling of reaching this 120 mile checkpoint is a great one – only about a marathon left once you make it here!

Beware of local wildlife...

At this time of year there are always swans and their signets dotted around the Grand Union Canal. There are also lots of geese and they are always really angry. There were a few incidents along the course of the race where Angry Swans decided to camp out with their babies in the middle of the tow path. There was one point in particular on the way to Braunston where it was really hard to make it past a group of swans at all, as the mother swan started to stretch out her neck and was getting a bit feisty with any runner that attempted to make it past. In the end, a nice man on a barge got out a stick and distracted them. This was the only way I made it past, because I’m a scaredy cat. Beware of swans.

This is the friendliest race ever

I don’t know where to start, because there were so many acts of kindness that I encountered. I will try to give some examples. I had just left The Navigation Inn at Cosgrove and was roughly 70 miles into the race and had just embarked on the night section. Suddenly the back of my head felt warm and my head torch started to power off. For some reason, the battery pack on my head torch had overheated and my head torch had packed up and I didn’t have a backup. A few moments later, fellow runner, Mike Blamires, was running past with his buddy runner and was so kind to lend me his head torch. Without this extremely awesome act of kindness, I wouldn’t have been able to see a thing and would have really struggled during the night section.

Grand Union is like one big crazy ultra-running family. Crews stop and ask if you need anything, people help each other out and everyone really gets into the spirit of things. I got offered yummy chocolate brownie, various snacks and I even got bought half a pint of Guinness at 120-ish miles in – a major boost.

The End

The incredible kindness shown by all involved carried on into the early hours of Monday morning as I stumbled towards the finish line. Gosh, the finish line seemed so very far away this year. Normally, the paving slabs start to change underfoot and the landscape alters and you just know that you’re almost at Little Venice, but this year I continuously got confused and progress was so slow. Minutes turned into hours. Ultimately, in my last mile (and to think, I had convinced myself that the end was ‘just around the corner’) a little ‘search party’ consisting of checkpoint crew and legendary awesome runner-types wandered towards me to see me in safely, since I was now the only runner left out there. I have to say, in the last ten minutes of the race, the pain disappeared as it was replaced by the realisation that if I didn’t sprint and get a move on pronto, then I would run out of time and I would fail because the clock was almost up. So, arenaline replaced pain and I sprinted for all I was worth, because nothing else mattered right then. I legged it. In the end I finished 63rd in my slowest ever time of 44 hours 55 mins – I made it with five minutes to spare...

Thank you to everyone who helped me during this race. A huge thank you to Dick – thank you for doing such a wonderful job for all these years. You made this race. We all looked forward to seeing you and your beard at the finish line! I have so many happy memories.


What was meant to be my fastest GUCR to date quickly became my slowest and most painful. It’s impossible not to beat myself up about it a little. What could I have done differently to change the outcome? Ultimately, the outcome was that I finished my 4th consecutive race. But, to say it was disheartening looking at the list of finishers and realising how much slower I was than last year and everybody, is an understatement. 

I know I was capable of better and yet, in that much pain, I wasn’t. The thing is, me and pain get confused with each other. I don’t know my limits because I have never truly experienced a serious injury or – touch wood – been in hospital for anything. I don’t know what real pain is, so maybe my feet weren’t the worst. All I know is that I stumbled onwards through clenched teeth, contorted facial expressions, swearing and tears. This wasn’t my brightest moment. And all I can think now is what is next? I will run far again. I didn’t fail, but I didn’t do my absolute best.