25 Apr

Vegan Runners at Greater Manchester Marathon 2017

Waiting for more write-ups – message me to add your words, thanks!

A dozen Vegan Runners at Greater Manchester Marathon 2017

Katherine Challen at Greater Manchester Marathon

Having thought that with the combination of two young children and a part time nursing job, attempting a marathon,well even the training, would not be possible due to time and sheer energy required- I jumped at the chance of having a go when a spare place came up, I was not on shift and childcare was no issue. I run frequently although not more than half marathon distance and cross train with HIIT and TaeKwon Do when I get the chance. I decided that what will be on marathon day will be- it was a chance to be out on my own for a good few hours to myself of mindful repetitive movement, if I didn’t make it round I had my tram ticket home at least! The sun shone and the support from the crowds was great. I completed the marathon with a few walking breaks after mile 19 and in a not so terrible time of 4: 53 too! It was good to chat to other runners about why they ran and random people talking about veganism. One lady told me about watching ‘Carnage’ and another man said that he had been to a great new vegan cafe in Sheffield though he wasn’t veggie or vegan himself but really was considering making the change. It shows that wearing the VR vest does get people thinking and really, that’s why I’m a member of Vegan Runners.

Martin Ciderspiller at Greater Manchester Marathon

See Martin’s write-up here.

Kevin Dempsey at Greater Manchester Marathon

Manchester was my second marathon and one I’d hoped to do after witnessing my brother cross the line the previous year. My first was a far from enjoyable race as I was on the very edge of managing an injury the whole way ’round. Crossing the line was the main goal for York, to simply get it done and have a first marathon under the belt exactly a year after first going out for a tracked run, but every step was a battle vs. injury and under-trained noobishness. My knee fully gave way under me no less than 4 times – the camber on one side of the road had to be avoided at all costs. An extra goal of averaging 8-minute miles for a 3:30 finish made things overly difficult at times and had me questioning if a finish would even happen, but 15 seconds over the goal time was close enough to call it a success. Manchester had pressure in the form of a self-imposed challenge to obtain a good-for-age sub-3:15 London 2018 qualifying time (assuming that stays the same this year). 15 minutes quicker didn’t seem impossible given the fact that I’d be better prepared, fit and more confident, but thinking and doing, they’re not the same thing.

Training plans just don’t seem to suit me. I find them too restricting, difficult to work life around and adapt to, and therefore frustrating. I also don’t particularly like how so many marathon plans seem to have you run up to just 18 or 20 miles and taper down, that feels like being set up to hit the wall hard and have a bad day out. So my own plan was to simply bump up the miles from a good way out and see how I got on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run 40 and 50 mile weeks without risking injury again, I just don’t have the experience in my legs, so I decided to concentrate on length of time of activities over intensity and distance.  I posted on the local Vegan Runners facebook group and a few of us started running the local trails on a Monday, so Mondays became a great excuse to get in some more relaxed efforts as I stretched the runs out to 3 hours or so with solo efforts either side. Riding my single-speed mountain bike on the same trails was good to break things up, as was occasional virtual 5 and 10k efforts on the rowing machine. But my secret weapon would be my 10 year old little doge. Instead of 20 or 30 minutes in a local field, I took her on long, undulating walks, with a few little efforts mixed in here and there and plenty of steep little climbs. These allowed me to get plenty of additional easier miles in, but more importantly useful hours out and about raising the heart rate a bit. So a typical “40+ mile” training week was more a combination of long slow trails, parkruns, bike rides, virtual 5 and 10ks on the rowing machine, maybe a 10k race and a little commuting and a lot of doge miles. Not really standard marathon training I suppose.

2 hours and 6 miles – not usual marathon training!

At one point during training I questioned what I really enjoyed about running – the VR trails were a great excuse to chat and catch up, but away from that I wasn’t doing much of the fun running I enjoyed to support the hard parkruns and 10k races – the speedier weekly miles that work towards them. I eased back on the marathon training and switched over to hill sprints and pacey laps. Luckily, someone put me right, got me to trust the pacier stuff would come easier after the marathon and to get back on track. It wasn’t just a kick up the backside, it came bundled with good advice and a bit of a plan. He looked at my running history and said to aim for 3:10 and have a 5 minute buffer running 7:15 miles. A 20 mile trail race in filthy conditions a month before race day suggested I was on track with an average under 7:10 minute miles – but a complete failure fuelling-wise saw the last few miles being the hardest I’ve ever run and suffering a bit for a short time afterwards (at least it’s better to make those mistakes 4 weeks out than on race day).

The marathon itself was mostly uneventful – I think that’s a good thing! The hardest part initially was having to hold back as people rushed off from pen B. For 8 miles or so I was consistently passed by other runners, but with my TomTom on mile laps I was reassured as each sub-7:15 mile ticked by as I knew  it was at least another 10 seconds in the bank, and the real race wasn’t to begin for another 10 miles or so.

At half marathon distance my pace was almost exactly 7-minute miles in total. Faster than required but coming very easily, so nothing to be concerned about. The course was flat and easy, far easier than anything I’d been running in training. The support  was great and the sun shining. I stuck to the same kind of effort and kept an eye on the mile splits. As more miles passed, the splits increased a little but not significantly and I knew I had wiggle room so continued at a similar rate. It felt very much like a solo training run in terms of effort – fairly pleasant so far. The last 8 miles are where the wall can show itself but I’d been fuelling well, alternating between medjool dates and SiS gels. Only the water bottles had been a challenge so far – opening them to insert HIGH5 tablets! ( I resorted to letting them fizz in my mouth and chugging the water asap, no doubt wasting time as I faffed around, but I kept my cool despite failing in the simple task of twisting open a plastic lid – hah!). The race would have benefitted from offering sports drinks, not just water.

By now I was beginning to pass more and more runners, with some pulled up cramped, limping and some strolling. I still felt surprisingly good but a couple of slightly slower miles hovering around 7:25s convinced me it was time to pick up the effort, keep the right side of the splits and get some work in to try to match those earlier again. This went OK for a while. It was harder work, but nothing to get concerned about until a little climb over a bridge on a bend that seemed a lot harder than it should have… maybe with such a flat course anything at all hilly seems a bigger deal than it should, or maybe being knocked out of rhythm is more difficult to cope with when you’re 20-odd miles in. Whatever it was, this marked a real change.

Lots of people around were suffering now, pace right down and some staggering around dehydrated – it was quite hot. With about 4 miles left, a quick bit of maths said I was still well on course for beating even the safety buffer time of 3:10. Now it was going to be about managing the difficulty and not doing anything silly. Pretty much knowing it was going to happen brought a new problem as it made things mentally tough – it felt hard to justify increased effort when there was nothing to be gained other than a slightly faster time – why try too hard and make your PB difficult to beat next time out?! Why even think this way? I think the mind has some great tricks to convince you to look after yourself! Maybe it was just physical and mental fatigue, but keeping a good rhythm was no longer easy. Nothing was flowing, it all felt hard work. Well OK, I’d had it too easy up to now and this is more like what I was expecting miles back. The last 2 miles were a real effort. A woman shouted “only 1 more mile” with around a mile and a half to go – urgh, unintended but very difficult to deal with. You can see the finish line from a long way back. Seeing the finish line doing Hitchock/dolly zoom effects feeling further and further away the closer you get is apparently not uncommon. I think the effort I was putting in here was showing as a race marshal/angel accompanied me to the line. I believe I thought it was someone attempting to take my place from me and sprinted harder hoping to leave them behind. Oops! Strava has me running 6:40 over the line when I was down at 8:00/mile pace in the straight. I don’t know why I did this, I was well inside the required time and had nothing to gain and plenty to lose. Messy. He passed me over two 2 marshals and said “keep an eye on him” – I thought I felt OK, but as I turned to say this the world went quite wobbly and my words came out kind of drunken and slurred.

Accompanied to the line by the guy in the red top

The next few minutes recovering saw me stagger and wobble my way to the goodies, dropping dates and stuff out of my pouch and struggling to bend over to fetch them… obviously the race had been harder on me than I’d realised. But 5 minutes, 2 bananas and a litre of water later I was back in the room.

Myself, Stella and Dan

Meeting other VRs as they finished was the best part of the day, the hype levels were so high and pretty much everyone seemed to be equally all fired up and buzzing. And the bag collect took literally seconds vs the 3 hours+ last year’s runners faced, bonus! I’d crossed the finish line not far from the same position I’d crossed the start line despite being around 170 places down at half way, with a time under 3:10 – result. Two hilly/trail marathons and a solo 24 hour race to look forward to later in the year, none of those will be trained for, just run as fun experiences. Training will begin for London 2018, assuming the qualification time for V40 remains the same, in December! My Doge is ready.

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11 Apr

Marathon season

April really is the main marathon month of the year and Vegan Runners have been doing us proud so far in Manchester, Brighton and Paris to name but a few. I haven’t been able to keep track of all the marathon news so please post your results here. Stories about your marathon journey are also great to hear!!

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05 Apr

Make a plan and stick to it! With Martin Ciderspiller.

I started running just over two years ago purely to help with my goal of losing weight. I was pretty miserable at the time, and something had to change. I was terrible at it and it was hard. I persevered though, and it worked. I lost over 30kg in the first year. As time went on I got hooked and started to realise that I actually enjoyed running, and I was getting better at it than I could have ever imagined. I loved seeing the fast improvements I was making and I liked getting all nerdy about the data I collected in strava.

In 2016 I got a charity place for the Berlin Marathon. At the time I had no idea if I could even finish, so I put my estimated finish time as 04:45:00 and embarked on 6 weeks of endurance specific training. I ended up finishing in 03:53:07 and raised well over £1000 for Manchester mind. That night in my hotel room, I did some nerdy calculations and came to the conclusion that it would be possible for me to run a 03:30:00 marathon. This seemed crazy, that’s the sort of time “real runners” get, and I kept the idea to myself. But that idea had taken root and a plan was forming.

I signed up for the Greater Manchester Marathon straight away with that number rattling around in my head. I embarked on a 12 week training program leading up to the big day. I committed to running outdoors 3 times a week, despite it being cold, wet and dark for the vast majority of it. I would do a long run every Sunday, recovery run on Tuesday and a varied workout on Thursday. Track days, progression runs, fartlek sessions, fast finishes, threshold intervals and goal pace runs. Anything I could think of (or read about on the internet) to keep it varied and interesting. I uploaded all my runs to strava and was amazed to find that quite a few people were genuinely interested in following my progress and all the nice comments on there helped keep me motivated.

I had often toyed with the idea of joining a running club but I was always a little nervous about it. I decided it was about time I actually met some people who ran. Coming straight from the freeparty scene to doing pretty much nothing but training in a relatively short space of time meant that none of my friends ran and I had no one I could really talk to about what I’d been up to. I did some research into local clubs and the VEGAN RUNNERS seemed like the obvious choice.

I went vegetarian in primary school (mainly to annoy my dinner lady and get special meals) and have been vegan (with quite a few cheesy lapses and various levels of flexibility) since college. The social aspect of VR appealed to me the most. They have lots of meet ups involving tasty food. Having people to meet up with at races and people I can chat to about running has been great. Wearing the vest is also quite a talking point and I’ve had quite a few nice chats with people on the street.

So, on race day I was ready. I had a plan and I had put in the hard work. All the VRs who were doing the marathon met before the start for a quick photo and some words of encouragement then we split up and went off to our various starting positions in good spirits. The weather was perfect. The sun on my face and a cool breeze in my hair. It was time to blast SLAYER in my headphones and simply execute the plan! For the first 30km I was feeling great and cruising. I had to keep reminding myself not to speed up even though I felt like I could. Compared to the city-wide party that was Berlin, I was half expecting the Manchester Marathon to be a boring trudge through Trafford, but the the crowd support was amazing and the big marathon vibe was there in abundance. Manchester did good.

As the km clocked up, my legs started to hurt, but I was still managing to maintain my pace. I was loving it. I was pacing myself using strava and I knew I was bang on schedule pretty much the whole way round. I saw a few VEGAN RUNNERS running the opposite way on the various loops of the course and we waved each other on. I also saw a few VEGAN RUNNERS supporters in the crowd going nuts when they saw the green vest. For the most part I was in the zone and getting on with it. Finally, I saw the finish. I was really struggling now but I knew it was okay that there was no chance I could do the sprint finish I had hoped for because I had made up a few seconds here and there along the way. The finish was on the longest straight ever and it didn’t seem to be getting any closer for what seemed like an eternity. And then it was all over! My phone battery died the second I stopped strava, so I had no idea if I had achieved my goal. I knew my splits were good, but gps can be pretty inaccurate over that distance and it’s chip time that counts.

I saw Kevin from VR who was waiting at the finish line to congratulate everyone. He had got an incredible time, smashed his target and looked fresh as a daisy. August crossed the line shortly after me. I’d passed him at a water stop a few minutes earlier and I did my best to tap him on the shoulder and give him a smile without tripping and knocking him over. We had a little chat before I skulked off to find some bananas, a complimentary alcohol-free beer and a phone charger. And there it was. I’d done it. 03:30:05 – I’m sure not going to lose any sleep over those 5 seconds! I was sat on the grass enjoying the sunshine and watching the finishers when a stranger came up to me and gave me a giant vegan protein bar and congratulated me. It was disgusting and I couldn’t eat it, but it was a lovely gesture and it made my race day perfect.

Make a plan and stick to it.

NEXT!

@ciderspiller

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05 Apr

Canalathon 50k 2017 (& 16!) with Britta Werner and Mike Chaloner

http://cannonballevents.co.uk/canalathon/

Canalathon, 26.03.2017 and 27.03.2016, 50km with Britta Werner

The run is from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge along the canal. There are also 75km and 100km options.

I chose this event last year, as I really wanted to run a marathon but felt the pressure (self-imposed) that I needed to finish it 4 hours. I’d never ran a marathon or more than a ½ marathon when I registered so knew that was very unlikely, so I chose an ultra instead (with a bit of – “ahhh I am going to be 40/midlife crisis” going on in there). The reason I got into running, after all, was because I wanted to run long distances.

So a flat course with mixed terrain, nothing too challenging and definitely no danger of getting lost, with a cut off of 9 hours and starting where I live in Manchester, it seemed like the perfect race.

When I did it in 2016, all this was new to me (I had only been running for just over 2 years at the time). The first mistake I made was not going to the toilet beforehand as the queue was far too long, so after 15km, I finally found somewhere a bit sheltered. I asked a few guys if they knew if there would a toilet but of course, it’s easier for them.  Anyway…

I also didn’t eat early enough in the race and hit the wall at half way. The aid stations (two of them) didn’t have many vegan options, I think there were only a few peanuts and I felt uninspired by the energy bars I brought.

Because of the bad floods in the area around Christmas 2015, there was a diversion which led you onto a busy road up a hill – my mind and my knee really didn’t like this, so the second half was just rubbish. Even back along the canal, I couldn’t find a lot of enjoyment in it. A drizzly Sunday where no clothing options seemed right (gloves on and off, headband on and off, another layer on and off). So I finally managed to walk/hobble/run through the finishing line after 6 hours and 10 minutes.  However, I really liked the camaraderie. I met Katie, also a Vegan Runner, and we ran most of the first half together, and met another women during the second half who helped me get through it. Also chatted to others along the way which made it a more enjoyable event.

And you know it is:  post-race amnesia, an email with Early Bird discount and you find you have registered again for following year.

 

So I did it again.

I was less prepared this time –  I missed a few of my longer runs but felt less injured.  I nearly didn’t do it but my friend (who has been running for 40 years and originally inspired me to run) convinced me that I would be OK. Learning from past mistakes, I went to the toilets before the race. I also made myself some date balls which are easy to eat and actually tasty compared to some packaged energy bars.

It was a beautiful sunny day so I thought I would just enjoy being outside if nothing else.

Knowing the course definitely helped. I was very surprised how quickly I found myself in Rochdale (about 12 miles in), so I never really hit the wall. Having run another ½ marathon distance with a Vegan Runner friend the day after a half marathon race really helped, as I knew I was ok on tired legs.

The path starts with tarmac, patches of cobbles (especially under the bridges where it is a bit slippery) and mostly gravel or compact trail surface. Apart from a few mini inclines, it is really flat. The path is wide enough for three, sometimes four people. The route is, of course, open to the public, but they were all really friendly and helpful and moved aside and cheered.

There was one bit past a pub where everyone applauded, there was a women with two kids following her husband (I was about his speed, so saw them several times), there were even a couple of girls cheering “Go Vegan!”. So the sun definitely helped to bring out supporters which really helped me.

There were three aid stations this time. At the first and second there were vegan flapjacks, bananas and peanuts. The third also had humous wraps. When I got to the first station, another women was just asking if anything was vegan. I never had a chance to speak to her, so thanks for asking -I would not have known that the organiser actually made sure to provide vegan food.

There was a 3-mile diversion along a busy road towards the end of the course with a steep incline, but the smooth surface and the thought of ‘it’s only a parkrun distance’ got me though with no problems. The same for the last section, as it was ‘just another parkrun’ to the finish line. When I recognised the building where the finish line was, I nearly cried. I’d completed it again and actually really enjoyed running it this time. I finished in 5:57. Not many people can say that they have a 50km PB. I will never be as fast as the guy who won in 3:34 or the guy who finished the 100km in 7 hours, but I’m happy with my result.

And yes, I’ve registered again with the Early Bird discount, especially because a few other Vegan Runners said that they might be up for it next year.

I also know that I didn’t push myself and concentrated on enjoying it a bit too much, I might actually be able to run it a bit faster one year. So seeing myself improve on the same race will keep me motivated.

One issue – the t-shirt has got a questionable design!

-Britta Werner

Canalathon, 26.03.2017, 50km with Mike Chaloner

On March 26th, a beautiful Spring morning, I ran the Canalathon 50KM race from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire. A drive down from Edinburgh the previous evening and the clocks going forward meant that I arrived at Ancoats at 7.30AM a little blurry-eyed and groggy, but it was too late to start making excuses, I’d had this race booked since the previous year, it was time to run my first ultra-marathon. I registered, met a friend and colleague Martyn as he got off the coach and then waited for the race to start. After the usual safety briefing and countdown, off we went, along the canal taking in 31 miles of industrial architecture, motorways, lush green countryside and small mill towns, but not before a lap of the Toys R Us car park to meet the distance requirement.

For the first few miles you run through Miles Platting and Failsworth, scenes included a huge gondola shaped like a swan on the canal, a surreal image that for a second had me questioning if I was hallucinating, fortunately, Martyn pointed it out at that moment. With my sanity reassured, I carried on running. As I repeatedly checked my watch, I noticed I was running about 30 seconds a mile above my intended time; every single piece I’d read online before the race had said to take the first half of the race at a very leisurely pace but a mixture of the adrenaline, excitement and favourable running conditions made me decide this pace was fine and that I should continue.

Andy, a training partner and friend met me in Failsworth, he graciously let me steal his energy drink from him as I ran past and cheered me on, his enthusiasm and support was a great boost even though I was early into the race and meant that the doubts about going out too fast were pushed further from my mind. Some old college friends were waiting to cheer me on in Chadderton and then Paul, another training partner met me shortly afterwards to run with me the next 9 miles to Hollingworth Lake.

One you’ve run through Chadderton, the housing estates, mills and other common sights of Manchester thin out; the browns and greys of the city are replaced with the more lush green of the countryside, despite having only run 7 miles or so, the contrast of the scenery compared to how it was of the start was quite dramatic . Me, Martyn and Paul talked and the miles ticked over, the first half of the race is a very steady incline, but it was practicably unnoticeable save for the occasional short steep incline as you pass a lock. About 10 miles in, the race leader of the 100Km (there was also a 75KM and 100KM distance) passed us running towards Manchester at a pace that seemed reminiscent of the opening scene of Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor’s character, Renton, is being chased down by security guards.

We got to the first aid station a few minutes later which and were stocked with clearly –labelled vegan food which included flapjacks, peanuts and falafel wraps. I grabbed a handful of peanuts, a wrap and quickly drank a cup of deliberately flat coke and continued to a short section of road which left the canal and briefly joined a pavement and you cross over a road where you re-join the canal. At about 12 miles, Martyn mentioned he was having an issue with his toe and was going to stop for a second to rearrange his footwear, he suggested we carry on and so, still feeling pretty good, we pushed on.

At Littleborough, Paul concluded his pacing duties and another friend, Mike, took over to run the second half with me. When I entered the race I didn’t know that I would run the entire race accompanied, but somehow it fell together and made the event much more enjoyable and far less daunting; instead of it being this almost huge distance, it felt like several training runs that just happened to be happening straight after each other. Mostly.

By this point, the scenery has changed again, the green fields are replaced again by a shallow valley either side of the canal, barges and boats are far more frequent on this section and the uniformed semi-detached houses in the commuter towns are far less common, instead, lock keeper cottages and stone built terraces are what draw your attention between checking your GPS, fumbling around for gels and, most importantly, watching where you’re going. Little Bridges, essentially planks of wood with crosshatched steel segments on them cover gaps where there inbuilt overflow runoffs and canal markings stating the distance to both Manchester and Sowerby Bridge serve as the most heavy duty mile markers I’ve ever seen.

On one section as you go through Todmorden, you have to cross a bridge and re-join the towpath on the opposite side of the canal on the same side of the bridge, arrows mark the way, but somehow me and Mike both missed them and I ran across the road and then stood scratching my head wondering how to get back onto the canal but we quickly realised our mistake and got back on. At the time I tried to blame the error on poor course marking, but in retrospect, the arrows were there and I had failed to spot them, I think I’ll have to sharpen my navigational skills somewhat before taking on an unmarked fell race.

I rang my wife shortly after that stating that I was Just over 20 miles in and was feeling really good, almost immediately after I hung up the aches and muscle soreness started to creep in; I’d been steadily taking in nutrition over the course of the race (or, ‘eating food’ to use the non- ultramarathon vernacular) but despite that, my calf muscles and hamstrings were beginning to tighten. I dropped my pace and hoped that the stiffness and soreness would go, or at least not get any worse, I mentioned to Mike that I may have to start ‘digging in’ a bit more. This was also the time that my need to use the bathroom kicked up a gear, just as I began to seriously consider jumping over a wall to resolve the issue, I spotted a pub right by the canal. I went in and in very un-British behaviour, asked a man about to enter the cubical if I could push in front of him as I was competing in a race, thankfully he obliged and so with the issue sorted, I continued. One small downside to the brief stop was my watch pauses if I stop for any amount of time and so I was not entirely sure how far behind my watch was with the official chip time, making me unsure of exactly how long I had left to meet my goal time of sub 5 hours.

By Mile 25, the aches and stiffness had become more apparent, my longest training run leading up to the race had been 24 miles and so this psychological barrier combined with the overzealous early pace meant that the aches where quite noticeable. I ignored the pain as best I could, but in order for me to keep moving, I had to drop my speed further; I’d gone from sub goal pace, to way over goal pace within the course of 4 miles, if it dropped much more in the last 6 miles, I’d miss my goal time.

I dug deep and carried on, the final aid station was a welcome sight, I grabbed some more peanuts (I wanted the salt more than anything) downed some more flat Coke and grabbed a bottle of water. The next few miles left the canal and continued on a road, the hard tarmac pavement felt more jarring by comparison to the gravelly paths the majority of the rest of the course had been on. I looked at my watch; 28 miles said the top left display, ‘Just a Parkrun to go, they’re easy enough…’ I thought to myself.

The last three miles were pretty tough, I just wanted the race to be over and for the first time I started to have negative thoughts creep into my head: ‘you’ve definitely missed sub 5, your pacing was well off, how could you be daft enough to make such a fundamental error’ ? I got passed by about 4 or 5 runners in the last few miles, each time it cemented by suspicions that I’d messed my pacing up and was paying for it in the later stages. Whilst I think that was part of the issue, I also think that I underestimated how hard going beyond the marathon distance, even by as little as 5 miles can be, you’re going to feel it, I need to be more resilient, push harder and give those negative thoughts less attention when I run my next Ultra.

I tried talking to Mike about how I’d gone out too quick but I was pretty tired by this point and according to him, what I was saying sounded more like I was speaking in tongues as I tried to articulate what was I was thinking. I decided to try and focus on my running form; I slouch quite a bit when I get tired and so despite it not feeling like it, I straightened my back and looked up, as I did I made eye contact with a woman on a barge, who congratulated me and said ‘well done, keep going, only 800 meters to go’. This gave me a boost, despite having resided myself to have missed my goal time and pushed on for the final stretch until I heard the ‘beep’ of a chip timer syncing as I crossed the finish line. I smiled, knowing I’d finished strong and, all things considered, I’d had a good race (it wouldn’t of an ultra-marathon if there hadn’t been any low points). The man at the finish line congratulated me and said, ‘nice work, just snuck in under 5 hours’. I asked him if he knew what my time was and he relied ‘four fifty-nine, forty something’. My official time was 4.59.43; I’d come in under 5 hours by a whole 17 seconds. Seemed quite a fitting end to what was a very enjoyable day’s running.

A huge thank you to Martyn, Paul, Andy, Adam, Sarah and Mike for being part of my first ultra-experience and to cannonball events for making it happen. Also a massive debt of gratitude is owed to my partner Laura and our two boys, Isaac and Jude for being so supportive.

-Mike Chaloner

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30 Mar

Edale Skyline Fell Race with Alex Hinchcliffe

Alex’s original blog: https://alexhinchcliffe.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/edale-skyline-fell-race/

The Edale Skyline fell race: 21 miles of the Peak District’s finest trails, bogs, bracken, views and hills. I had excitedly entered the race back in February as soon as the entries opened, with the idea that it would be a good early longer run at race pace in prep for my main challenge of 2017, the Vegan Welsh 3,000’s (V3K) in June. Previous to this, I have run two category AL races (fell races that are not just ridiculously hilly, but also ridiculously long). My first was the Ras Pedol Cwm Pennant fell race in Wales last year, as part of the British Championship, where I got my first (but not last…more on that later!) taste of fell running induced cramping, and managed to place 3rd u23. My 2nd attempt was not nearly as successful as I struggled around the Borrowdale fell race last August, which was an English Championship counter. I placed 98th and couldn’t walk without the accompaniment of a heavy hobble for a good few days after. Edale should be fun then!

I felt better prepared for this than the last two AL races, and it was a good job; this would not only be my longest race by 7km, but also my second longest run EVER! Whilst training for this classic race I have incorporated regular Sunday long runs in the Porter, Limb and Rivelin valleys of Sheffield. Rivelin is an ideal location for getting in some steep climbing, and this alongside with a few hill sessions left me feeling relatively fit and raring to go! I had a good run out the previous weekend at Hallam parkrun, clocking 17:25, however I was also very aware that the last fell race I did was nothing to write home about; a disappointing run at the Auld Lang Syne race on New Year’s Eve.

With this in mind I was unsure of what to expect, and was a mixed bag of nerves, excitement and abject terror on the morning of the race. For breakfast I opted for a 4-banana smoothie with some oats, water and a bit of almond milk, with lots more water to drink as well. The weather gods had blessed us with an absolutely beautiful spring day, and a dry few days preceding the race, meaning that by Peak District standards the route was pretty dry underfoot! A clear forecast also meant my chances of getting lost were significantly reduced, which had been perhaps my biggest worry leading up to the race. As both a geography student and fell runner it is inexcusable how terrible I am at navigation, and frankly quite startling as to how I have STILL not mastered the basic skills; something to work on. With the forecast as it was I opted to run in just my Vegan Runners UK vest, and am now the owner of a rather sporting vest tan. The fact that I got sun-burnt in this year’s race whilst in previous editions runners have been forced to pull out due to hypothermia highlights the unpredictable nature of fell running. But don’t let that put you off!

After a few words from the race organiser, essentially telling us to remember that part of the route was new for 2017 and to not get lost, we were off up the ascent of Ringing Roger. Climbing 160m in the first kilometre was a nice way to warm up, and I reached the top in the first 25 or so feeling good after a rocky scramble to the summit. A nice grassy descent towards the woods at the base of Win Hill followed, and I ticked along comfortably in a nice group of 6 of us. There is a lot to be said for the ‘group effect’ in racing, whereby the effort feels a hell of a lot easier if it is done when running with others, and going along the roman road towards Win Hill tucked in behind other runners I was feeling strong. Next up was the new part of the course for 2017, down into the woods towards Ladybower reservoir and the bottom of the hill. The sun shimmering through the branches of the trees was a magical sight to behold, and I felt truly blessed to be able to enjoy the sensation of running in such a special place. When we are injured or unable to get out to the trails we often dream of just enjoying moving through these beautiful places on our own feet, so when we are able to we should appreciate it and not take it for granted!

Cruising along the roman road (Photo: Mossie Net Photography)

After a bit of uncertainty about whether we were on the right track, we soon reached a marshal who directed us up through the woods to start the long drag up to the summit of Win Hill. I did a bit of self -management here and ate a date that I had prepared earlier by gouging out the stone, and also took on a gel and some water. I use High5 gels because they are fully vegan, are the best tasting gels I have come across so far and have a good range of flavours (not sponsored!!!). Fed and watered, I plodded up the hill whilst dripping with sweat. Once at the top I nearly ended up going the wrong way off the top and descending Parkin Clough, which is the complete OPPOSITE direction to the way I should have been going, hooray for navigation! After being pointed the right way by a bemused marshal, and some much needed encouragement from fellow vegans Corin and Ruth (thanks!), I ambled my way over to Hope Brink, the steep descent from Win Hill down towards the first aid station. I knew this was probably the steepest descent on the route. I have not yet mastered the proper steep, -40% gradients of fell running; from falling over 5 times whilst descending Steel Fell in the Lake District on a BG leg 2 recce, to sliding down Winder in the Yorkshire Dales and acquiring a rather nifty scar on my wrist that is still present a year on, my past history of steep descents is anything but successful. This being said, I surprised myself by a) not falling over once(!!!), b) OVERTAKING SOMEONE and c) actually being relatively speedy, coming in at 12th/288 on the wonderfully named strava segment “once more unto hope brink”. Ace.

The strava segment profile, average -41%!


12th/288, not bad!

Getting ready for the overtake (Photo: Mossie Net Photography)

Into the first water station I downed a cup and poured some on my head to cool down a bit, and set out tackling the climb up Lose Hill. I was in a bit of no man’s land here, with a group of 5 a little too far in front to realistically catch, and a few runners strung out behind me. The climb up Lose Hill was a bit of a lonely affair, and I attempted to do the “10 walk, 10 run” technique, a Helm Hill secret weapon tactic for rapid hill climbing. This soon became “10 walk, attempt to run then lose count and start walking again” but I reached the summit in relatively good shape having held my position since the aid station. Once on the ridge the views were spectacular, and I made sure to take them in as I made my way to Mam Tor. Turning off on a trod from Back Tor to Hollin’s Cross, a keen walker told me I was in 13th place. Yikes! I was not expecting that, and energised with this news I pushed on up the flagstones to Mam Tor, climbing surprisingly well after having already got a lot of climb in the legs. Off the top of Mam Tor I did my best to go the wrong way again, before realising my mistake and joining the right path, by which time the runners behind me had caught up. I entered the second water station in a group of 6. Seeing my friends Mikk , Alex (and his friend Andrew) and Nic B here was a boost, and I took on some more water before the last section back home to Edale. Thanks to Mikk for marshalling and for the photos too!

Descending into the second water station (Photo: Mikk Murray)

Great support from Alex Forrest (far left)! (Photo: Mikk Murray)

At this point I had run 20k, and knew most of the climb was over but that these next 14km would be anything but easy. I had been warned the path to Brown Knoll was a long drag, and the edge path on Kinder was renowned for being boggy, boulder-filled and broken up. Fortunately I got into a good groove going over to Brown Knoll trig on the newly installed footpath, running in a group with 2 other runners. Running in a group over this long, lonely section was brilliant, and I know I would not have run this section as fast if I had been on my own. Working together, we ran this section at a fast pace, coming in at 5th/377 on the 4.2km strava segment. We overtook a Dark Peaker just before reaching the summit of Brown Knoll, and in my head I calculated that I was now in 13th place with 11th and 12th just in front in our little group. From here, my goal was simply to maintain this position and not blow up and go backwards through the field. But at 26km in, my legs were beginning to grumble and I could feel hints of cramp coming on. I finished off the rest of my gels and water, and settled in for a painful final 8km to the finish.

We reached Edale Cross checkpoint and the lovely marshals here had some water which I gladly took, desperate to stave off the impending cramp. By this point our motley crew of 3 runners had dropped to 2, with a Pennine runner falling off the back. I soon was dropped by the other runner, but kept him in sight as we circumnavigated the edge path along Kinder Scout. By now my legs were in a bad way, with twinges of cramp in my inner thighs and calves becoming ever more regular. All I wanted was to be at the finish and not running, yet when I began to walk up some gentle inclines the cramp got worse so I was forced to at least attempt to keep running. What a nightmare. I was soon reeled in by a Dark Peaker who was moving well, and I followed him as best I could to the final checkpoint at Ringing Roger. Dib in, then to tackle the final descent down to the finish.

Descending down the scramble onto the path wasn’t the nicest thing to do on battered legs, and running down the rocky, stepped path wasn’t much of an improvement. The race rules stipulated that we had to stick to the zig-zags of the path on our way back down, and as I hobbled down at a snail’s pace I caught sight of the Pennine runner from earlier, who had been slowly reeling me in for the past kilometre. Bugger. There is nothing worse than being chased into the finish, especially after 3 hours and 20 minutes of hard running in the legs, but on the final turn into the finishing field I was overtaken. The race was on! The final descent to the finish is down a nice grassy field, where one can let the legs go completely and run at top speed. We were side by side, centimetres separating us, bombing down the hill at ridiculous pace. I managed to pull away and open up a small gap, running through the finish chute and dibbing in for the final time to finish in 13th place and 1st u23. Phew! What an exciting end to the race, and also what a great way to ensure my legs were completely and utterly useless immediately after I stopped running! After chatting with other finishers for a while, I did a cool down waddle back down the road to registration. I ate some satsumas, dates and mushy peas and drank a load of water. The spread put on by the race organisers was very extensive, but unfortunately neither of the pies were vegan and the cakes all had cow’s milk or chicken’s eggs in them too! So in the end I settled for a whole plate of mushy peas (yum), which I later learnt on twitter was much to the amusement of a fellow runner. Haha!

Famous!

I stuck around for the presentation as I had been told there was a prize for first u23, however after my name was read out as the winner of the women’s u23 prize before an abrupt correction, the race organiser then forgot to read out the men’s u23 result at all! Oh well. After that it was a hobble to the train station, and back to Sheffield. Overall I am over the moon with how the race went; the effort I put in, how I fuelled my body along the way and the position I ended up finishing. With lots of stretching, yoga and foam rolling on Monday, and a fantastic sports massage from Amy Beard from Amy’ s Body Clinic on Tuesday, my legs are also beginning to feel normal again, which is nice. Here is to more fell racing in the Peak District!

A big thanks to Mossie Net Photography (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mossienetphotography/) for the excellent race photos, which are taken to raise money for Malaria No More, a charity that distributes mosquito nets to needy communities. I have donated a fiver, and would encourage anyone else snapped by Mossie Net Photography during a race to do the same!

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24 Mar

Waters Wilmslow Half Marathon

March 19th 2017

A very fast and flat course on closed roads, the Wilmslow Half Marathon attracts entrants from all over the UK and beyond. Despite being blustery at times and wet for lengthy parts, conditions were pretty good and with a runbritain difficulty rating of just 0.9 on the day, a number of our members managed to post best times for the distance. For a couple of us, it was opportunity to run the distance under race conditions for the first time (but most definitely not last, despite what might have been said after crossing the line!).

With such a large race (over 3,000 competing on the day)  meeting up proved difficult and pre- and post-race photo opportunities were kept to a minimum. In fact so much so that I can’t find a single instance of one. So instead, here’s Richard Bullock’s video of an early part of the race:

The race was staffed with pacers running between 1:15 and 2:30 – bright yellow vests and signs held aloft for as long as the runners could manage. These proved useful for positioning before the start as the race doesn’t feature starting zones (despite a potential 5,000 runners taking part). It’s not uncommon to discover a number of very slow runners have parked themselves a few metres behind the elites, setting off at a shuffle as the gun is fired and forcing lots of dodging and pace stuttering for those more sensibly positioned behind. But wide, closed roads made for good running with little chance of bottlenecks beyond these first few minutes. After a brief trip North, the course took us away from Wilmslow towards Knutsford, looping through Mobberley and running a 2.5 mile section in both directions either side before a half mile stretch to the finish.

Support around the course was definitely good, one or two might have ceased applause upon reading our distinctive lettering, but at times the support for the vest was every bit as spectacular as seeing the planes take to the skies from nearby Manchester Airport. It’s always a pleasure to run in the black & green, but never more so than when people shout their support with genuine surprise – witnessing people reconsider their thinking in that moment is special stuff!

Most managed to meet up in Wilmslow’s Unico Lounge for a post-run chat and meal, and we have photographic evidence this time thanks to Jonna:

Well done to everyone who took part whether it was your first half; a race-day training run pre-Manchester, a rusty first race in a while, or an opportunity to claim a new PB.

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22 Mar

Reading Half Marathon

Frank Colman reports on a great VR turn out at the Reading Half on the 19th March:

“Brilliant day yesterday at Reading Half Marathon for Berkshire Vegan Runners! The atmosphere was vibrant throughout despite a chilly and blustery start. The crowds of supporters at various parts of the route were amazing, backed up by thumping disco music, live bands and a sensational drumming band under the bridge in the town. There were lots of “Go Vegan” and “Come on Vegan Runners” shouts. The Olympic style stadium finish at the Madejski rounded off a truly great and well-organised event. We had a pre-race meet up, a post-race meet up and a vegan burger meet up with local Reading vegans at the Oracle. Highly recommended for next year!”

Berkshire Vegan Runners Results:

Suzanne Hooker 01:46:13
Simon Scott 02:12:36
Samantha Taylor 02:27:00
Philip Mace 01:40:43
Olga Maliszewska 01:53:47
Nicholas Holland 02:01:06
Mark Laidlaw 01:36:16
Lydia Williams 01:50:09
Lucy Samways 01:51:27
Joe Battimelli 01:46:51
Frank Colman 01:50:33

Other Vegan Runners Results:
Name Chip Time
Rebecca Mitton 02:22:37
Mike McBeth 01:33:44
Laura Hailey 02:39:01
Jacqueline Stott 01:52:05
Holly McCain 02:00:12
Gina Penman Dearing ?

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16 Mar

Irwell Valley 20 Trail Race report

Irwell Valley 20 Mile Trail Race, Prestwich, Manchester

March 5th, 2017, saw Crazy Legs Events’ inaugural running of the Irwell Valley 20 Trail Race. 266 entrants showed up on the day and braved the elements, an impressive 251 lasting the full 20 miles. Luckily for us, all the gathered VRUK members saw it through to the finish.

One thing Manchester is known for is its weather, in particular weather of the damp, soggy variety. For a week solid prior to the event it rained. It also rained a bit the week before that. As a lead up to a trail race, these were not really ideal conditions. The day of the race began differently, however, and we were treated to a bright and dry early morning, but which also had unfortunate side effect of giving us the coldest day of the month by far, topping out at a frighteningly chilly 6°C.

We made our way to the start area in Drinkwater Park and assembled for a group photo and chat. It was around this time that it began to rain. After something like a 20 minute delay race management were ready to get things under way. Off we went, through Philips Park with a sharp climb to a rather bouncy pedestrian bridge spanning the M60, and on to what is familiar turf for a few of the Manchester Vegan Runners: the Outwood Trail. Outwood is a great trail, offering the choice of a hard surface with a narrow clear path for the runner or cyclist, or something a little more soft under foot off to the side, but understandably a little too soft at this time of year.

It was at the end of the main Outwood stretch that the only real problem with the race arose. Checking the Strava Flyby, it seems that some time after the lead runner passed a course marker, some cheeky scallywag reversed the direction of the arrow to then point runners off on a tour of Radcliffe’s ASDA, rather than a sharp left turn back towards the main Outwood trail, over the bridge and on to one of the short road sections of the race. They, or some other toerag, had also dragged fallen trees across the trail on this short section (so at least that misdirected group missed out on a short hurdle course). It’s also worth noting there were also issues with the last group of runners continuing down the main Outwood straight, missing out the twisting/turning section altogether. The course definitely needed more or better positioned marshals around the Radcliffe loop, but it is a new event and it’s sure to be corrected when the race is back next year, hopefully with more runners in attendance.

The upshot of these events was something of a surprise to both Dan and myself as we were now running directly side-by-side for the first time in the race, a quarter of a mile back he’d already pulled out a lead of around a minute prior to his diversion. Dan took it very well, exchanged pleasantries, said it couldn’t be helped and kicked on – the perfect way to handle something out of your hands in a race like this, not letting it plague the mind and potentially ruin a race, but accepting it and shrugging it off – well played, Dan. Other runners were noticeably and audibly less impressed with the situation.

From now on the rain would get heavier and heavier as we made our way back up the twisting trail, back down Outwood and steeply down to the Clifton cut back, with all its mud and mush. Next up was a loop of Clifton Marina and 4 miles along the Irwell, with a duck under the M60 this time. I think this is the point where Dan suggested the rain could be classed as “p***ing down” in his facebook post, and that was no exaggeration, it really did get quite relentless. No surprise that this also coincided with the section that provided the biggest tests. Prior to this the going had been mostly solid underfoot, but here the runners were presented with a few more tricky technical sections with a runaway tumble towards the river, an undulating tree root laden trail, gloopy mud, plenty of twists and turns and a single track of seemingly never-ending puddles besides the Pilkington’s tile factory. This particular section is one of those where you cannot pass and are therefore limited to only go as fast as the person in front, with the added potential pitfall that running too close can give you too little time to judge the next step as the terrain varies from step to step with slippery sides and puddles of varying, unknown depths. And some, I can personally vouch for, were quite deep and icy cold! Thrilling stuff! Well, bracing at the very least, and maybe just what was needed to help reduce the swelling on any injured purple toes anyone might have had.

So back over the Irwell we went, on through Waterdale Meadow and under the 13 arches through Philips Park and back down to Drinkwater Park. A little undulating, but good firm ground under foot and a chance for the rain to better wash away some of the previously acquired mud in more open surroundings. Next came probably the least interesting part of the race, another trip over the river for a view of HMP Forest Bank, some winding paths and out onto the road again. There was a bright side, however, as here we were greeted by the race team’s most enthusiastic and genuinely supportive marshal who also managed to snap quite a few photos of us and posted them freely to facebook.

 

Once the short road section was out of the way, a quick cut back into the park and the finish line would be only an easy, steady climb away… of course, we’re only 12.5 miles in at this point, it’s now time for a 2nd lap of Clifton Marina, Pilkington’s and around again we went. This is where the mental battle became tougher, having to run the same trails we tore through an hour or so ago wasn’t going to be easy. Couple this with the incessant rainfall and temperatures that seemingly gave up bothering to rise any further at around 10am, and it’s understandable why a few called it quits at this point. None of VRUK, though, we all stuck at it.

So the second time around. Where there had been mud previously there was now slop. Where there had been a thrilling roller coaster down to the river, 266 pairs of shoes had created more of a mudslide. And best of all, what once had been a tricky to negotiate series of puddles with muddy, slippery sides, now presented as a series of long, unavoidable canals of the most bitterly cold ice water with only one sensible route to take- directly down the middle and through them. Now this write up isn’t meant to be a blog of my personal race, more an overview of an event at which VRUK members represented strongly, but a few things happened in my race towards the end that I’d like to share. Feel free to skip this bit and go to the tl;dr and results! I particularly remember feeling less refreshed and more broken having waded through that trough for a second time. It wasn’t giddy fun this time around. As with any race consisting of lapped sections, it’s inevitable that the faster runners will catch up to those running slower at some point. What I found one of the best series of moments in the race occurred here, it was the genuine support and good-natured banter offered by those working hard through their first lap and their desire to make way and let the faster runners through as quickly as possible – massively impressive. These runners had been on their feet just as long as everyone else, but had another 10 miles to go until they’d receive their well-earned medals, spending maybe 4 hours or more out in those terrible conditions… and they were more concerned with not wanting to slow someone else down by a few seconds than running their own race. Remarkable.

Make no mistakes, this 2nd lap was tough stuff. I don’t think I’ve personally had to dig that deep just to try to maintain a pace before. Now, in my case, this could have had more to do with the lack of fuelling, as my belt was still stuffed with untouched dates and gels. Quite why it never occurred to me to ingest some of them during the last 8 miles I can only put down to the horrendous weather issues and the constant demands of the terrain, but the nett result was that, with 4 miles to go, I’d begun pacing the wrong side of 7:30 miles and had horribly cramped calves and a very tight rear thigh muscle in my right leg. At around the 18 mile point someone passed me for the first time since very early in the race, “it’s not long to go now” he said as he eased on by. Not too long after a Bury AC runner came past and also uttered something positive which I can no longer recall. Pleasant words, but it wasn’t doing my mind much good. But a fellow Vegan came to my rescue. On the last long straight a young woman began shouting “GO ON VEGAN! I’M VEGAN, TOO!” and other highly supportive cries as I lapped her. This was immensely helpful, kicked the doubt from my mind and helped me find something I didn’t think was there. I went from over 8 minute miles to pushing 7s again and under in spots, and before I knew it I was over the line in a time I never thought I’d manage. As I stood around at the end, medal in one hand, juice in the other, the young lady passed the finish line to begin her 7.5 mile 2nd lap and again offered loads of positive, encouraging words. I don’t know what I shouted back, whether it was at all audible or just random grunts and noises, but what I wanted to say then and now is “thank you!”.

Coming to a halt at the end of the race offered us all the opportunity to realise just how unbelievably cold it was and how standing around in wet running gear in a car park is a pretty daft thing to do. It was ridiculously cold. Normally we’d all wait around and meet up and chat, but this day was tough and nobody was blamed for wanting to get home asap. There were defrosting trips to cars, “2 more minutes then we’ll go back outside”, and wet, soggy clothes exchanged for cold, soon to be soggy clothes. Some of us did get together for more ill-advised rainy chatting in the car park, but cramped legs and ever-colder body temperatures soon put an end to that nonsense. No matter how cold we all were, there were marshals stood still out on the course for over 4 hours – that must have been tough, too!

tl;dr: Irwell Valley 20: character building.

Here’s the results from the members present. Everyone did amazingly well. We might not have all achieved the times we would have liked or aimed for before the event, but given the conditions and toughness of the race, the fact we all came home safely and made it around is the real achievement. VRUK finished 2nd place in the Male team competition (first 3 club members home per club) and Stella’s soon-to-be 2nd claim Warrington ladies came first. Great Vegan representation in the results!

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26 Jan

Vegan Runner Ishmael Burdeau Takes on Britain’s Most Brutal Race

For those of you who don’t know it, the Spine Race is known as Britain’s most brutal race.  The race travels the 420Km length of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District through the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Park before finishing over the Scottish border in Kirk Yeltholm.  

Vegan Runner Ishmael Burdeau took on the 2017 Spine Race and tells his story first hand.

 

It’s now four days since I crossed the finish line in Kirk Yetholm to complete the 268 mile Montane Spine Race in 149 hours. I’d spent much of the previous year preparing for the race – gradually increasing my training, buying and testing equipment and, most of all, pondering whether or not I’d make it to the end.

Although only a few years old, the Spine Race has earned the reputation of being “Britain’s Most Brutal Race”. Typically fewer than half the participants make it to the end within the seven-day cutoff, victims of fatigue, injury, hypothermia and even frostbite. I knew it would be about a lot more than just fitness – enormous resilience, good planning and luck would play a bigger part than just training.

I have become a plant-based athlete gradually over the past two years. For many years I competed seriously as a cyclist, completing events such as the London-to-Istanbul Transcontinental Race in 2014 and 2015 as well as road races and 24 hour time trials. In years past I had also raced many marathons. Over the course of these many years I had, I thought, worked out a suitable diet for myself.

However after gradually moving to a whole foods, plant-based diet a few years ago I found many positive effects. I was sleeping better and had more energy. I had fewer ups and downs. Most importantly, the minor injuries which had caused me so many problems as a marathon runner went away. I found I could easily train about 80 miles per week for weeks in succession without even a minor ache or pain, whereas when I had followed a more conventional diet I could only manage 50 miles per week. Plus I was 15 years older.

Back to the Spine Race. Day One saw fairly deep snow on the hills above Edale, which, when combined with heavy rain and strong winds, made the miles to Hebden Bridge really hard going, with deep streams to ford and trails made slippery with ice and snow. Nutrition-wise, I was very fortunate in that I had excellent support in the form of my partner Georgina and our Ford Transit camper. So I had little to worry about with respect to getting the right food en route and also at the beginning and end of each day.

As I was covering about 45 miles per day, there was no need for the gels, drinks and bars which form such a big part of many athletes diets. Instead it was homemade vegetable soup, chai tea, pitta bread, nuts and avocados. Typically I’d finish off the day with a wholefood meal, such as rice or quinoa, tempeh and vegetables. After four or even five hours sleep (amounts of sleep unheard of in this event – most runners tried to get by with only two or three, with variable effects), I was refreshed and ready to go again after a breakfast of porridge with quinoa or granola and coconut milk. Of course I did also have some treats – lots of dark chocolate and even a veggie burger and chips at the end of day two.

Sadly our van wasn’t fully up to the job, and Georgina had to end her support for me about 200 miles into the race while she took time out to take the van to a garage in Haltwhistle to repair a broken exhaust and failed starter motor. This meant I’d have to complete the final two days of the event unsupported – a fairly standard but daunting task for runners on a so-called “standard” diet, but somewhat more difficult for a vegan one. I knew from previous experience in the Transcontinental that competitors who are resourceful, resilient and stay healthy are the ones who make it to the finish. In this case, resourcefulness meant getting by on what was available and making intelligent food choices.

Fortunately staff at checkpoints were supportive and interested, and I managed to get a good Quorn curry and a few nice soups over the final stretch. The other big factor in my favour was that I had been banking sleep during the race, never having fewer than four hours of sleep, and often as many as five hours per night. Based on my Transcontinental experiences, I knew that after several days without sleep or with very little sleep my pace would slow dramatically and my morale and decision-making abilities would hit rock bottom. I have no doubt now that lack of sleep was a big factor in the downfall of many runners, who limped sadly though the final few days or dropped out altogether.

On days five and six I was still moving well, and suffering only from a number of blisters on my consistently very wet and cold feet. The final morning over the Cheviots was clear, sunny and cold, which did a lot to make up for the many days of rain, drizzle, fog and gloom of the rest of the week. I eventually crossed the finish line in 33rd place out of only 58 finishers with a time of 149:32:54.

 

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