Run Steak Data

Today is my comma day!

Run Steak Data25 September 2021

Among people who have a running streak, your comma day is when you have run everyday for 1,000 days. For me, that was today.

My current streak (there have been other, shorter, steaks before) started on 31 December 2018. During the last 1000 days I have run every day, always 2 kilometres or more. My total distance over the 1000 days is 9,692km (6,022 miles), that is an average of 9.7km a day (or 6 miles a day). The longest single run was 108 miles in Junes of this year (but that took 38 hours, so it was two days’ worth of running).

So, here are the answers to a few questions that I get asked from time to time.

How did you get started doing running streaks?

I have been running regularly since 1981 (the date of my first half marathon), but my interest in streaks was started by a wonderful person and friend Vanessa Oshima. Vannesa is based in Japan and has now run every day for the last 9 years!!! Vanessa’s motivation is different to mine, she started running as an act of solidarity with a friend who had just been diagnosed with cancer. Vannessa’s running has become entwined with the battle against cancer and she has been an inspiration to many, many people, me included. You can read and watch a video about Vanessa here. Vanessa showed me that a run streak was indeed ‘a thing’, so I gave it a try and find it was good for me.

Why do you run every day?

There are lots of reasons. I can’t really tell which is the ‘main’ reason, so here is a list of reasons that are all true.

  1. I like running, so I am not making myself do something I don’t like – even if there might be the odd day when I don’t particularly want to run.
  2. I like to reduce the number of my daily pressures, and knowing I am going to run makes my life simpler. Yes, I have to decide how to fit a run into my day, but I don’t have to think about whether I am going to run. For me, the when/how question is much easier and has less pressure than the whether question.
  3. It is good for my mental health and builds resilience. It means that every day, no matter how busy I am and no matter how many people need me, there will be at least 30 minutes which is all me, doing my thing. Many of the runs I do are much longer than my minimum 2KM, during the lockdown In January 2021 I often went out running for several hours – which was really good for my head.
  4. It does provide a sense of achievement. Every day I keep the streak going, I achieve a goal.
  5. When I am working away from Nottingham, it means I get to see lots of places, including New Orleans, Tokyo, Paris, Madrid and Amsterdam. Running is faster than walking, so you see more places, and you tend to see different things, especially riverbanks, parks, and hills overlooking cities.
  6. I like running – that is perhaps the main reason.

Is running every day healthy?

Running every day is neither healthy nor unhealthy for me. If I were to run hard every day, that would be unhealthy. I ‘train’ between 2 and 3 times a week, and I only do about one race a month. On the other days, I run very gently, as slow as I like. The slow days are good from a mental health point of view, but at that speed it does not have a major physical effect. Running for a hour slowly is for me about the same as you walking for an hour. My heart rate will tend to average 100 beats a minute when I am running easy (or jogging as I am happy to call it)?

Don’t you get ill or injured?

Not really. If I did, I would break my streak, rather than running ill or injured.

Part of this must be good luck (including genes). But a lot of it is a) healthy eating, b) losing weight (which I did by eating less), c) getting enough sleep, d) stretching, and e) not pushing too hard when I race or train. I probably could run faster in races if I pushed harder, I could probably run faster if I pushed harder in training, but I would also get ill/injured more often. My last injury was three years ago and that was pushing too hard.

When will you stop?

I will stop if I get ill or injured, or if there is a reason to stop (for example if somebody needed me and that meant missing the run, then I would miss the run). The streak is there to help me, I am not defined by the streak.

What are your learnings from having a run streak?

The biggest learning has been what to do when it is hard to fit a run into your schedule. There are days when the choice is either 1) get up at 4am to run before catching a plane or train somewhere. Or, 2) run in the evening when you get to wherever you are going. Over the last 1,000 days I have never regretted getting up early, in the rain or snow to run. But I have often regretted leaving it until the evening.

Do most of your runs alone. In a typical month, I run 10 to 12 times with other people, but I run alone about twice as often. Running along lets me sort my head out, it lets me change the route, and it takes less time out of the day. If I mostly ran with other people, I would have to devote more time to running – which would be a challenge.

Appreciate there are lots of different reasons to run. My daily run will tend to be 8 to 12KM, by myself, for about 60 to 80 minutes, running very steadily, not breathing heavy, and thinking through the issues of the day. Sometimes, I train with my running club, this is social and varies from quite hard to very hard, depending on the session, and involves very little introspection. Sometimes I do a race where I try to run fast (5km to marathon), this is all about effort and focus. Sometimes I do a social run in the hills, this is very social and is about people, the mountains, and pleasure. And sometimes, I do an ultra race, e.g. 50 miles or 80km – this is about focus and effort, the mind goes much deeper itself. The learning from the last 1,000 days is to appreciate the differences of different types of runs, and not to compare them.

Should you start a run streak?

I am not too worried about whether you do a run streak, or cycle every day, or walk for 30 minutes every day. I find that imposing a discipline helps, you might find it helps too? So, next month, pick something, for example running, cycling, walking etc and commit to doing it every day for one month. After the month, take stock and see if you want to do a longer streak.

p.s. the Robin Hood Half Marathon

Tomorrow I will be running the Robin Hood Half Marathon, which will mark 40 years since my first half marathon. I ran in the inaugural Robin Hood in 1981 and I have only missed three since. So, I guess that is another kind of streak.

Ray Running

Ray cycling Lands End to John o'Groat

Land’s End to John o’Groats – 2009

Ray cycling Lands End to John o'GroatThis post was first posted in 2009 on Typepad, reposted here 14 July 2021

During the 12 days from Friday 3rd July to Tuesday 14th July I cycled the 954 miles from Land’s End to John o’Groats, along with my son Will, my daughter’s then boyfriend Matt, and supported by my daughter Michèle, along with help from my son Josh and Will’s friend Jess.

This post tells the tale of that journey in a sequence of photos.

However, first a plug for the charity we were cycling for. We are collecting money for Oxfam. If you followed our progress via this blog, via Facebook, or via Twitter, please make a donation to Oxfam by clicking (now closed). If you are one of the many people who have already made a donation, many thanks.

Day 0

Will and I live in Nottingham, so our first job was to get our bikes and gear down to Cornwall to start the ride. We decided to travel by train, but Nottingham does not have a direct train to Cornwall and changing trains with bikes can be an issue, due to problems with reservations and timings. So Will and I booked seats from Derby to Cornwall and cycled the 22 miles from our house to Derby station.


Here are Will and I about to leave for Derby on what was a very sunny day. We travelled with small backpacks and, for this leg of the journey, will had a camping mat strapped to his bike.


For much of the ride to Derby Will and I followed National Cycle Route number 6, which was off-road for much of the way.


Here is a picture of Will on National Rout 6. I doubt that either Will or I really understood how demanding the full ride would be at this stage.


At Derby we met Josh who had taken our luggage, via taxi, to Nottingham station, and from there to Derby by train.

From Derby, the three of us travelled to Bodmin station in Cornwall, where we were picked up by my daughter Michèle, who lives in a small village in Cornwall, by the Camel Trail, near Bodmin.

Day 1, Off We Go

Friday morning Mish (Mish and Michèle are the same person, BTW, as are Josh and Joshua), drove us all down to Land’s End to start our ride.


Here are the three riders, (from the left Will, me, and Matt), with our support vehicle in the background. We need to send an enormous thank to you Matt’s Uncle and Aunt, Gary and Penny, who lent us the mini-bus for two weeks (BTW, Gary and Penny run a really great hotel in the ski resort of Alpe d’Huez, read about it here).


Although Will and I are raising money for Oxfam, Matt was raising money for the Cornish Air Ambulance. Matt is Cornish and plays for Wadebridge Camels rugby team, who make regular use of the air ambulance! His justgiving site can be seen here. Note, in the UK most (maybe all) of the air ambulance’s are funded via voluntary contributions.


Here are Will, Matt and me in front of the classic Land’s End sign. On the sign it says John o’Groats 874 miles, however, that is the shortest route and involves motorways, our route choices added another 80 miles to this total.


After many photos, Cornish pasties for Matt and I, and plenty of filling in of forms (to prove we actually rode the distance), we set off for our 12 day adventure.


The first part of our ride was around the coast to St Ives, through places like St Just, and through some wonderful Cornish countryside. This section was not flat, but not too bad.

In St Ives my bike started to play up and by the time we reached Hayle we decided to visit a bike shop, Hayle Cycles.. The guy in the shop disassembled by rear wheel hub, found a spring in the freewheel had failed, and replaced it. This was the first of four dealings with bike shops, all of which left us impressed. However, this meant that with a longish drive to Land’s End, lots of photo delays, and now a repair to the bike, we had only ridden about 25 miles and it was aout 3:30pm.

We got a move on for the rest of the day, going up the coast for a while and then picking a route between the A30 (too busy, dangerous, ugly) and the coast (too hilly) for most of the way to Wadebridge. From Wadebridge we took the Camel Trail cycle path back to Matt and Michèle’s cottage, a distance of about 76 miles for the day. Mish and Josh cycled along the Camel Trail to meet us and Matt’s parent’s (who live in the farmhouse next to the cottage) walked along the trail to cheer us on. All in all we were pretty happy with our first day.

Day 2, into Devon

The second day started with a wet, long climb from Mish and Matt’s cottage up to the A39, which is a real up and down road. Most of the rivers in North Corwall and in Devon run North or South, whilst the route runs West, which means crossing many valleys.

The second day took us up the the A39 to Bude, then accross country to Crediton, and finally over some significant hills to Tiverton, where we stayed Bed & Breakfast in a country pub. We completed 80 miles on the second day, 156 miles completed, only about 800 to go.

Given that most days were about 11 hours from departure to arrival, with about 6 to  7 hours of pedalling, it was vital that we consumed enough food to fuel our progress, which was not an onerous task. The difference between the pedalling time and the total time allows for traffic lights, repairs, traffic jams, meals, map reading, photographs, and ‘comfort stops’.

In general meals comprised breakfast, a second breakfast about after 2 hours, lunch after about 4-5 hours, afternoon tea after about 7-8 hours, and dinner about 12 hours after breakfast.


This was our first fuel stop on Day 2, cream teas near Bude, showing me, Matt, and Will.

Day 3, from Devon to Wales

This was a fairly flat day that saw us leave Devon, travel through Somerset, through Bristol, and across the Severn Bridge into Wales, a total of 91 miles. In addition we dealt with our first puncture of the trip when Matt got a large piece of glass stuck in his wheel.


Somerset is one of the flattest counties in the UK and we made good progress. In Somerset we mostly followed the A38 through Wellington, Taunton, Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, to Axbridge. From Axbridge we took one of our occasional trips away from the tarmac and followed the Strawberry Line cycle path through a tunnel under the Mendips, through to Congresbury, from where the A370 took us into Bristol.


One of the sites along the way was the Wellington Monument high on the hill.


We had a great picnic lunch, supplied by Mish and Josh.


In Bristol we avoided the hills by going under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, down to docks, and then along the Severn to the higher of the two Severn Bridges.


By the time we crossed the Severn Bridge it was beginning to get dark.


Just after we crossed into Wales Mish collected us in the van and took us to the campsite, returning us the following morning.


During the trip we became increasingly aware of how much we relied on Mish and the van, to organise campsites, B&Bs, food, clothing, spares, and isotonic drinks.


And of course Josh and the tent!

Day 4, up to Ludlow

Monday was a wet day and the waterproofs were in regular use, along with some sheltering under trees when the rain was at its worst. This was our slowest day of the whole trip with just 61 miles completed. Matt’s bike had its second mishap of the journey, slashing its back wheel and inner tube, both of which were replaced in Hereford.

The day started by being driven back to the roundabout above Chepstow, where we had finished the day before, and then heading into Wales past historic Tintern Abbey.


Before passing through




Herefordshire. Just outside Hereford Matt’s back wheel went flat and after inspecting it we saw that the tire and the inner tube were both slashed right through. Matt jogged into town whilst I cycled ahead to make plans. Mish found the details of Coombes, a local cycle shop, who replaced the tire and inner tube whilst we had lunch.


And, into Shropshire.


During the late afternoon the weather had improved and we passed 300 miles, which at the time seemed a long way to us, we did not really think too much about the 650 miles we still had to ride.


For some reason bridges seem much more important when cycling (compared with driving and hiking). Here is Matt on the bridge at Ludlow.


We spent the night camping at Ludlow, at a campsite high over the town with a great view.

Day 5, urban riding

Josh had to leave us on the Tuesday to go back to college, but his help had been invaluable over the previous days, especially in helping get our gear from Nottingham to Cornwall.

This was a day of good progress, with 89 miles travelled, but the second half of the day was spent riding in the relatively urban areas, leading up to our overnight stop in Warrington. Our route mostly followed the A49, from Ludlow, through Shrewsbury, a short cut along the B5476 through Wem (the home of the Eckford Sweet Pea) to Whitchurch, and across the Cheshire plain to Warrington.


The only county boundary we crossed was the Cheshire boundary. In the Manchester/Liverpool sprawl old fashioned counties are a rarity.

Day 6, to the Lakes

Day 6 started with yet more urban riding, travelling through Wigan before emerging into the countryside beyond. The day was a little below average in terms of distance, at 74 miles, not helped by Will developing a sore left knee, which was helped a bit with a knee strap and ibuprofen.

The day started by following the A49 through Wigan up to Preston. In Preston we picked up the A6 which would be our main road until Carlisle. On Day 6 the A6 took us through Lancaster, Carnforth, to our destination at Kendal. Just after Lancaster we took a minor route through Hest Bank.


We went through Lancashire, including Lancaster.


Not long after Lancaster we reached the coast at Hest Bank and had our first view of the Lake District mountains in the distance.


The least impressive county boundary of the whole trip was Cumbria.

Once in Cumbria we pressed on to Kendal where Mish had arranged the B&B.

In the first six days of our twelve day ride we had covered 471 miles (just under half of our eventual total). My bike had had one repair, Matt’s had had two repairs and we had changed his saddle, and Will’s knee was troubling him. We were all pleased with the progress we had made but suddenly more aware of the scale of challenge we had undertaken.

On the plus side we were getting masses of messages of support from people following our progress through the blog, through Facebook, and through Twitter. Also, plenty of people were visiting the justgiving site to make a donation to the charity.

Day 7, Scotland at last

Thursday saw us cycle over the Shap pass, all 1400 feet of it, before heading North through Penrith and Carlisle to cross into Scotland at Gretna Green, before heading along the coast through Annan, and then stopping for the night in a B&B in Dumfries, 86 miles in total. Except for the hils of the Lake District this was a pretty flat day.

We stopped in Penrith for bike spares, including new cycling shorts for Will and me, at the same shop Will and I had used three years ago when we cycled the somewhat easier coast-to-coast cycle (the Arragon Cycle Centre).

This was the day when we realised the ride is much more about Scotland than it seems at first. In total we spent 6.5 days cycling in England, 0.5 days in Wales, and 5 days in Scotland.


Before the road to Shap there is a warning about how high it is.


On the way up to Shap we had some wonderful views of the valley below us.


After going over the top of Shap, and having second breakfasts in the village of Shap, we cycled an undulating road to Penrith, with our last view of the Lake District.


Crossing into Scotland was a cause of great celebration and we asked a man who was heading, with his son, for Land’s End to take a picture of the three of us, me, William, and Matt.


We noted all the classic sites at Gretna, but quickly pressed on.


And as well as entering Scotland we were entering Dumfries and Galloway.

Day 8, across to Arran

Day 8 was the only day we had a fixed point we had to reach by a certain time. Our plan was to cycle from Dumfries across Dumfries and Galloway and across Ayrshire to Ardrossan to take the evening ferry to Arran, which meant booking both the van and us on the ferry, and then getting there in time. We made the ferry with plenty of time to spare and we covered 79 miles (which does not, of course, include the miles the ferry covered).

The day started with a setback, Will’s wheel was buckled and a spoke was loose. However, we visited a bike shop in the centre of Dumfries who replaced the spoke and straightened the wheel in a jiffy, for just £5. There is a great pleasure in watching somebody who knows his craft work his magic, as in the way Will’s wheel was so quickly fixed and replaced. (The shop was Kirkpatrick’s, 01387 254011).


Cycling through Dumfries we noted another river and attractive bridge, they seem to be one of the themes of the trip, along with eating.


The roads in Ayshire were possibly the worst of the trip, in terms of road surface.


From the Ayrshire coast we had a good view of island of Arran and the height of the hills we would cycle over (the road goes along the coast and then over a pass).


Once in Ardrossan we caught the ferry and had a picnic dinner. The crossing to Arran was about 55 minutes, which allowed us time to relax on the ferry.


Landing in Arran we noted that the road to the next ferry crossing, at Lochranza, was just 15 miles.

Day 9, up the West Coast

Saturday saw our day start with simple cycle along the coast of Arran, then a hard slog over a high pass, followed by an exciting descent into Lochranza, where we just caught the ferry to Kintyre. We then cycled across to the West coast and up Kintyre Lochgilphead, then across to the West coast again and up to Oban, covering 84 miles (and the ferry ride).


The ride over Arran was in great weather, and we have all fallen in love with Arran.


Here are Will and Matt making the bikes secure for the ferry ride to Kintyre.


Mish was not able to get on the same ferry as us and had to wait for the next one, about 2 hours later. This was due to the size of the van, she needed to be near the front of the queue to be able to get on the small ferry. However, Mish’s great parking and pleasant smile must have impressed the crew as they gave her a chance to drive the ferry!


When we arrived in Kintyre we noted that the signs were now in two languages, Gaelic and English. Failte means welcome and Cinn Tire is the Gaelic for Kintyre.


Crossing Kintye involved some more long climbs, and wonderful descents, with views over to the isle of Jura.


In Oban we had a fish and chip supper, including a battered black pudding, which we eat looking out over the harbour. We we all struck by how light it was at 10pm. When we started in Cornwall it was getting quite dark by about 9:30. By the time we reached the top of Scotland it was barely getting dark at all, despite being some 20 days since mid-summer.

Day 10, into the Great Glen

Sunday was a wet day, but nevertheless a good day. We cycled up the coast to Fort William (where we bought and fitted a new saddle to Will’s bike) and then headed along the Great Glen that runs from Fort William to Inverness, reaching Fort Augustus at the foot of Loch Ness, covering 79 miles.

Will’s girlfriend Jess joined the support team today, having flown to Inverness. Mish collected Jess in the van.


As we cycled up the coast we passed into the Highlands. We had one of the best meals of the journey on this stretch when we stopped for lunch at the Holly Tree Hotel. I had the seafood platter with Oysters, smoked salmon, and longoustine, Mish has the scallops.


As we entered the Great Glen we had views of Ben Nevis, made more majestic by the bad weather.


Towards the end of the day the weather improved and we had scenic views all round, here is a picture of the Caledonian Canal, which connects the three lochs in the Great Glen, making a navigable waterway from the East coast to the West coast.


At Fort Augustus they play the Loch Ness monster for all it is worth.


Here is a view from a bridge in Fort Augustus.


In Fort Augustus we stayed at a great independent hostel, where we seemed to be the only UK people. Here is a picture of Will, Jess, and Matt outside the block that had bedrooms, showers, and a communcl kitchen.

Day 11, up to the East coast

Monday 13th of July was our next to last day of the journey, the penultimate. It started with a pleasant ride along the side of Loch Ness. About two-thirds of the way up the Loch, just after Castle Urquart we turned North and climbed what may have been the hardest climb of the journey, followed by the longest descent of the journey, taking us to the East coast of Scotland, just North of Inverness. We pressed on up the East coast until we reached Brora, where Mish and Jess had set up the tent. This meant we had covered 91 miles during the day, leaving just 64 miles for the final day.


Here is Urquhart Castle, just before we turned North.


As we progressed up the East coast we entered Ross & Cromarty.


After 840 miles John o’Groats finally appeared on the road signs. By now, both of Will’s knees had support bandages.

Day 12, we reach John o’Groats

We had decided to spend two nights at Brora, which meant we did not have to pack anything (although to be fair 99% of the packing has been done by the support team, which mostly means Mish). We got off to an early start in what proved to be the worst weather of the whole trip. Mish and Jess met us twice during the day to offer us a chance to dry out in the van and change to dry clothes.

We arrived at John o’Groats just before 5pm, which meant we were able to get our forms signed. Mish had brought some champagne and she had had t-shirts made for the celebrations at the end.

The total jouney from Land’s End to John o’Groats was 954 miles.  Durng the 12 days we typically had 9-11 hours between starting and finishing and tended to have the wheels spinning for about 6 hours a day (the rest of the time being traffic lights, map reading, eating, comfort stops, and of course meals).

It was great to have ridden the distance with Will and Matt, but special thanks must go to the support team of Josh, Jess and most especially Mish.


Moving up the coast from Brora we passed into Sutherland, which seems a strange name for somewhere so far North.


And finally into rain swept Caithness, with a great view of my bike (built by Langdale Lightweights).


This picture of Will on the last day captures the weather, and the wear and tear on his knees.


Here are the three of us arriving at John o’Groats.


Once at John o’Groats we had pictures in our trip t-shirts.


And pictures with our support team. From the left: me, Will, Jess, Mish, and Matt.

The fund raising goes on

Although the ride is finished, we will be continuing to collect money for our cause. You can make a donation at (now closed).

Some Odds and Ends

Home Lovin’ Man. When you are cycling for hours on end you tend to get a song stuck in you head, which goes round and round and actually helps the time go by. Sometimes the songs were inane, such as the children’s classic “The wheels on the bus go round and round”, but the song I most recall filling my inner mind was Andy William’s Home Lovin Man, which is perhaps a bit odd for a song about travelling away from home, but perhaps reflects the anticipated pleasure of returning home at the end of the journey.

Ray Poynter

108 Miles of the Spine Challenger Race in 38 Hours

Ray Poynter at the start of the race

Ready to start

Posted by Ray Poynter, 9 July 2021

On Saturday, 19 June, at 7:30 in the morning I set off as a participant in a 108 mile (174 km). race along the Pennine Way. 38 and a bit hours later I finished the race, at 9:42pm on Sunday. I ran it slightly slower than I had hoped, but I was very pleased to finish 26th out of 111 runners. Here are some of the highs, lows, and whys about that race – and my target for next year.

But, first things first, I dedicated this run to raising money for my favourite charity, CoppaFeel!, raising awareness of breast cancer amongst young women in the UK. So far, thanks to the generosity of so many people, I have raised over £2000 – but you can still make a contribution by clicking here. You can find out about CoppaFeel by clicking here.

Map of the raceThe Spine Race
I took part in a version of the Spine Race called the Challenger, an unsupported run along the UK’s most famous path. There are other versions including the Sprint (46 miles), the full race (268 miles) and the Winter versions. Find out more about the Spine Race here.

The 108 mile race is a bit more challenging than you might expect. In addition to the 108 miles, we need to carry our kit on our

Pen-y-ghent - a mountain

Pen-y-ghent – a really steep climb and scramble

back (spare clothes, food, water, waterproofs, first aid kit, head torch, emergency shelter etc), the route is not signposted (we need to navigate), much of the route is open moorland, there lots of hills (we call them fells), and the checkpoints are really spread out (the first checkpoint is at 46 miles) and the next full checkpoint is at the end (108 miles) – there was a mini-checkpoint at Malham Tarn, about halfway between the first checkpoint and the end.

Path leading to Jacob's Ladder

Path leading to Jacob’s Ladder

Before the Race
In preparation for the race, in addition to running lots of miles (from Feb to May, I averaged about 380KM a month, about 240 miles). I visited every part of the route to ‘recce’ it, ensuring I made my mistakes during my practices, not during the race. I also spent a lot of time trying different items of kit, especially different makes of shoe, bags, socks. I also bought a Garmin Fenix 6 watch and downloaded the route onto it. During the race I had three navigation options, I had the route on my watch, I had it on a handheld device (a Garmin eTrex), and I had the route marked on a map (and I had a compass, and I know how to use the map and compass).

Wassenden HeadOn the Friday before the race, I registered at the start in Edale, and came home to get a good sleep in my own bed. On the Saturday morning my son Josh and I left Nottingham at 5:00 am, so I could get to the start for 6:30am, where I deposited my ‘dropbag’ (which I would see again at the first checkpoint and at the end), visited the bathroom (more than once), mingled with other runners (all the time being sure they were much better runners than me), and said goodbye and thank you to Josh.

The start of the race

Socially distanced at the start – and afterwards

The Race
To be fair, calling it a race in my case, and calling it running, is a bit of an exaggeration. There were plenty of sections where I walked (up hills mostly) and I was not ‘racing’, I wanted to finish the event, I wanted to enjoy it, and I wanted to avoid injury. (But I did get a buzz out of finishing 26th out of 111 starters – there are no age grades in this sort of race.)

At 7:30am we set off, through the start line and on our way to Jacobs Ladder and the Kinder Plateau. Note, most of the photographs with this post are from the recce runs, I did not faff about taking photos on the race.

Kinder Downfall

A very dry Kinder Downfall

The Start to Checkpoint 1
The first section went pretty well. I completed the 74KM (46 miles) in just under 12 hours (this section included 2106 metres of climb, about 6900 feet).

I realised I had made two weather mistakes, based on the weather forecast. The forecast was for a bit of sun, then rain for two days. So, I wore waterproof socks and did not pack my sun cream. The daytime of Saturday and Sunday ended up very hot and sunny (Saturday night was very wet). So, my feet got a bit sweaty, and I got a bit of sunburn (the first sunburn for many years).

In my pack I carry a water filter, this means I can take water from fast moving streams on the fells and it filters out most of the nasty things, like bacteria. However, because of the recent dry weather, most of the steams were either dry or a disgusting sticky brown – so being careful with water was going to be important. For those of you familiar with the area, Kinder Downfall was almost dry, and normally it is a fast-flowing stream/river.

Ray Poynter

The official photo

For many years I have used Nordic poles for some of the walking sections, especially for long hills. But during this race I discovered I could use them while running. The benefit of using the poles is mostly that it shifts some of the effort from your legs to your upper body, but an additional benefit is stability. Having learned this new skill, I ran with poles for most of the race after about 20 miles. This had some benefits, but it broke one of my cardinal rules – ‘Never do, wear, eat, or drink anything on a race you have not done in training’. I ended the race with a very stiff back. I think the stiff back was because I used my arms for about 30 hours without a break, and without training for it. I will use the poles again in the future for long runs – but I will use them more in practice too.

Jacobs Ladder

Jacobs Ladder

Arriving at the Checkpoint in Hebden Bridge I was feeling pretty good, but I noticed that my rucksack was beginning to rub my back, and the little toe on my right foot was getting a bit hot. The volunteers at the Checkpoint were amazing making sure I got a hot meal, drinks and refilling water bottles. I was a bit disorganised and did not charge my phone and watch, which I should have done, I did not run out of power (thanks to carrying a power block), but I came closer to running out than I wanted to (my phone was down to 20% when I finished – but I did have a Nokia backup in my bag). In my next event I will take the advice of others and write a do list/checklist for things I want to do at the checkpoints.

Before leaving the checkpoint, I changed my socks to regular socks. In retrospect, I spent too long at the checkpoint, and could have achieved slightly more, in slightly less time if I had been more organised.

Checkpoint 1 to 1.5 (Malham Tarn)

Malham Cove

Malham Cove – quite a climb

I left the checkpoint at just after 8pm, so there was plenty of light left. The initial section is along a canal, so that was a steady way to get back into running. However, I discovered that my bag was now really beginning to rub (partly due to the large amounts of sweat running down my back). So, I stopped after about two miles to see what I could do to ameliorate the problem. I was wearing a bum bag as well as a rucksack, so the solution I ended up with was to empty the bum bag, put a couple of packets of tissues inside it and then wear it higher up my torso, so that it sat between my back and my rucksack. This helped quite a bit, but the bum bag often needed adjusting, and I did get some nasty rub marks on my back.

After the canal section, there was a really big climb, back up to the tops. Around 10pm it started to get dark, and as I approached the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs it was time to put my head torch on – for the next few hours my world consisted just of the small area in front of me illuminated by my head torch. One of the unusual challenges, running past the reservoirs was the large number of frogs on the path. I worked hard to avoid standing on them as I thought they might be quite slippy and I did not want to fall while running 🙂

I was aware that I was running slower than during the first leg (looking at Strava I can see I averaged 9:10 minutes per KM in the first leg and 10:56 minutes per KM in the second leg). This was a combination of fatigue and running in the night, and the rain that started to fall quite heavily.

One super highpoint was an unofficial support camp run by the Cowling Triathlon Club (who had people running in the race). They guided me into their camp by torchlight and gave me coffee, a bacon sandwich and good conversation – god bless them!

The weather played another trick on me. Around Gargrave there were fields with lots of wet, long grass – which is great for soaking your feet. On the first day I wore waterproof socks and it was dry, but now I had regular socks and wet feet.

Limestone Pavement

Limestone Pavement – avoid breaking tired ankles here 🙂

Not long before the checkpoint I went through the beautiful village/town of Malham and bought a wonderful ice cream. After Malham comes Malham Cove (a very steep climb up the steps next to the waterfall and then a careful stepping challenge across the wonderful limestone pavements. By now the rain had gone and the weather had changed to hot and sunny, again.

This second stage was 65KM (40 miles), included 2000 metres of climb (about 6500 feet), and took me about 13 hours. This was slower than I had hoped, but when I looked at the records for all the runners in my section of the race, it was fairly typical – I think most of us found it hard.

At the checkpoint the medics offered to check my feet and back and I am delighted to say I was sensible enough to let them. My hot little toe on my right foot was getting bruised and there was a cut between it and the next toe. The medics did a great job of cleaning them up and putting tape on the sensitive spots. I took my dry, spare socks from my bag and for the rest of the race I had the right socks. They also put some tape on my back to reduce the rubbing with my bag. I spent longer at the checkpoint than I had planned, but it was all really worth it.

Checkpoint 1.5 to the end (Hardraw)

Ribble Viaduct

Ribble Viaduct in the distance

The final section was 43 KM (27 miles), involved 1170 metres of climbing (3800 feet), and took me about 11 hours. This section was hard for several reasons. My back was starting to get very stiff and painful, I developed a habit of leaning forward when using the poles and to minimise the backpack rubbing, and this made my back hurt (and it hurt for the next couple of days). I was beginning to use water faster than I usually do (it was hot and I was tired), so I had to watch out for hydration more than I usually do and with about 10 miles to go I made a conscious decision to slow down a bit to reduce the rate at which I needed water. I was also beginning to hallucinate. Not really-scary stuff, more a case of seeing things ‘wrongly’ – for example I thought I saw a man sitting by the trail, but when I got a bit closer it was a pile of rocks, on another occasion I saw some green bin bags with yellow writing, but they turned out to be a bunch of nettles with the light playing on them. The hallucinations were the result of missing a night’s sleep (and running instead of sleeping). I had woken at 4am Saturday and finished running just before 10pm Sunday night.

My watch

I had a map & compass, I had an eTrex, but my best friend was my watch

My pace for the last third was the slowest of all three sections, 11 minutes 13 seconds per KM – but that is not surprising, all things considered.

For much of the section from Gargrave to the end I was running with Woody (445) and his company made the time go faster – so a big thank you to you Woody.

As I turned into the finishing straight my ears were blasted with shouts of ‘Come on Ray’ from Pete Henley, one of my club mates from Redhill Road Runners. Pete was a member of the Spine Safety Team and was there at the end of my run, with a pint of beer waiting for me.

I spent a little while talking to Pete, the volunteers, etc and then one of them kindly gave me a lift the two miles to my hotel – having confirmed to my children and partner that I was safe, I quickly fell asleep.

On Monday morning, I had a hearty breakfast at my hotel, took a bus to the train station and travelled back to Nottingham, and regular life. I was feeling pretty happy with myself, I was not sure I could finish the race, I had finished, and I had finished with nearly 22 hours left before the cut off (as well as running 108 miles, you have to do it in less than 60 hours). I had one black toenail, some chafing on my back, a stiff back, and sunburn – so not bad all things considered.

I also saw what an amazing job my children had been doing in terms of the fundraising and support – helping me get past £2000, and helping me with things like letting the hotel know I was late, but would be checking in soon.


Cairn on a mountain

A cairn guides the way

Some people ask why? The answer has to come in several parts. 1) I love running, especially running on the fells. 2) I like adventures, I like to be challenged, 3) the buzz you get when you set yourself a challenge and you make it is exciting.

Did I enjoy it? Not all of it in the conventional sense of fun. The first section was all enjoyable, and well within my abilities. So I would say Saturday was enjoyable. It was what we call type 1 fun. Sunday was hard (not terrible, not super difficult, but hard). Sunday delivers type 2 fun. Type 2 fun is when you look back at that ice cream in Horton, to running down Pen-y-ghent, to meeting volunteers with water on Cam High Road, and to chatting to the medics and it brings a deep smile to your face and to your insides.

Path in mountainsI have various runs and races coming up during the rest of the year and early next year. In January I am going to run the Spine Sprint. This is only 46 miles, but it is in winter, there is only about 8 hours of daylight at that time of year, and there could be snow, rain, hail, strong winds, ice, or all of the above. The pack is heavier, so it will be a different sort of challenge.

But, the big challenge is in June next year, I am going to try the full Spine Race, 268 miles (431KM) in six days. I plan to run a very different race. My thinking is that I will run a section and then sleep for 4 to 6 hours before running the next section. Between now and then I will practice the whole route, and practice running (say) 40 miles, then sleeping in a bag on the floor for 6 hours and then running another 40 miles – first for two days, then perhaps three or even four.

Thank you
Thank you for reading this. If you were a fellow runner, thank you for the support we all gave each other (I loved the way the fastest and the best runners take care of the rest of us). If you were a volunteer, many, many thanks for your help. If you contributed to the fundraising, thank you very much. If you’d like to make a contribution, click here.

Back in the Hiking Groove

Cromford to Hathersage Runkeeper Map Aug 2015As I type this I am sitting in my room in the George Hotel in Hathersage, tired but happy. The hike from Cromford to Hathersage was 41.7 kilometres, which is almost exactly 25 miles.

It was not a fast walk, with heat, a rucksack, plenty of hills and a stop for food, indeed the walk took me just over 11 hours. But, the key thing is that I feel that I am back in the groove.

There were many highlights during the day but a few of them were:

The millpond in Cromford, where I started today.Cromford 3 Aug 2015

A fountain and nearby a cross and well dressing in Bonsall.



Wild flowers and beautiful cottage gardens.
Wildflower Derbyhire Aug 2015Derbyshire Cottage Garden








The bridge at Darley DaleDarley Dale Bridge Aug 2015




In Chatsworth park I had a great vew from the top of the waterfall that used to power the fountain (maybe it still does?) and of the Hunting Tower.


Derbyshire has many impressive rocks, here are two that could look sinister with the right lighting and music.


The Eagle Stone is my favourite rock in Derbyshire and I have been coming back to look at it and sometimes to try and climb it for about years, so far.

A large part of my walk today was on the edges, a series of cliffs overlooking the valley below. Once you climb up to them the walking is quite flat and view stupendous.

And finally I reached the George Hotel in Hathersage, just in time for dinner.

Walking for 11 hours gives one plenty of time for thinking, and sometimes for coming up with definite plans for the future. One plan I have is never to go hiking with a map that is 20 years old! I had several problems when a route I was planning to take, which existed on the map, was now a road, or a street, sometimes with houses. Social researchers are fond of saying the ‘map is not the territory’, but I want my map to at least be up-to-date in the future.

Not all of my photos have uploaded, so I will upload them later in the week.

Getting back to hiking, a trip to the Peak District

I have just come back from four months in Japan and one of the things I did whilst I was there was a couple of nice hikes near Mt Takao. This reminded me that a) I really like hiking and b) I have not done much hiking for years, especially point-to-point hiking with my kit on my back.

So, this weekend I have set out to rediscover hiking and to revisit the area where my love of hiking was honed as a teenager, in the Derbyshire Peak District.

After work today I packed 2 days of clothes, maps, wet weather gear and some essentials such as a computer in my rucksack and set off, helped by a lift from my brother Ian to Nottingham station. In just under an hour the train deposited me at Cromford, on the edge of the Peak District National Park.



Cromford has many links to the early days of the industrial revolution. For example, Richard Arkwright built his water-powered mill here in 1771, followed by many others, which led to rail and canal links.



On the walk from the station I was treated to wonderful views of the River Derwent and the terminus of the Cromford Canal.




A short walk, between 1 and 2 kilometres, took me to my stay for the night, the Greyhound Hotel in Cromford. I might also get back to camping, but I decided to break myself back in gently. The Greyhound Hotel was built in 1778 by Richard Arkwright for visitors to his mills.


The road sign in the picture was taken on my walk to Cromford and is in feet and inches and warns of the height of a low bridge. However, this sign is not only confusing because it uses feet and inches, but it also uses an old notation for them. The ‘ symbol means feet, and the “ symbol means inches.


At the Greyhound hotel I treated myself to a proper Northern dinner of meat and potato pie, followed by apple crumble.

The walk proper starts tomorrow morning. However, since this is not a business hotel, breakfast is served (on Saturdays) from 9 till 10, so it won’t be an early start.


The journey to Japan starts

Breakfast at Heathrow

Breakfast at Heathrow

My 24 hour journey (a 13 hour flight to Singapore, a 2 hour layover, a 7 hour flight to Tokyo, and then 2 hours of immigration and travel into Tokyo) starts with breakfast in the Singapore Airlines lounge, a benefit of being a Singapore Airlines regular flyer. Breakfast included a bacon roll, probably my last taste of ‘proper’ bacon until the middle of August – for the next six weeks, when bacon is on offer, it will be in the US style, thin strips without the meat part.

In so many ways Singapore are my favourite airline, so I hope everything lives up to my expectations. The bad news is that the plane sounds like it is going to be very full. I have aisle seats on both legs (seat 59D on both legs – I often try to choose the same seat number, but for no real reason, just seems right), but it sounds like I won’t have the luxury of an empty seat next to me.

I need to make sure that over the next 3-4 days I do plenty of work on the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana scripts – I have promised my tutor, Yamamoto-san, that I will know them by Thursday. There are 48 basic Kana (i.e. 48 Hiragana and 48 Katakana), but then there are also 25 diacritics (such as? and?) and 21 digraphs (such as??) – so there are about 100 Katakana and 100 Hiragana items to learn – wish me luck!

Although I travel a lot for work, this will be my first extended trip of exploration since about 1981 – so it will be interesting to see how well I cope with an extended visit – at the moment I am experiencing both excitement and some trepidation. When I bought some Japanese Yen at the counter the teller asked my if it was for business or leisure. When I told him I was off to study Japanese he said it was good to see somebody my age still keen to study – we need to change expectations, IMHO.

Here are the Hiragana characters, from a chart on the Textfugu site – I am hoping some of you will visit their site, clicking the image below takes you to the version on their site.

Hiragana Chart

Off to study Japanese

Yotel Cabin

I am on my way to Tokyo to spend a month studying Japanese. I have an apartment booked for one month and I meet my tutor on Thursday. How will it go? Well, my optimism is high, but over the last 57 years I have not shown any aptitude for languages, so my optimism has to be tempered with some realism/concern.

Tonight I am stopping at the Yotel at Heathrow, as I am flying Sunday morning, and getting from Nottingham to Heathrow on a Sunday morning is quite a problem. The Yotel is probably quite a nice foretaste of Japan as it is a capsule hotel, something we often associate with Japan. My room is about 2 metres by three metres and has a bed, a desk, an area to get changed, a toilet, shower, and sink. The internet is free as are coffee and tea. The bed is interesting, the good news is that it is comfortable, but the interesting thing is that my bed is over the bed in next cabin (in the picture you can see I step up to my bed, so the bed in the next Cabin will effectively be underneath me. As well as meeting my needs really well, the Yotel is great value (by UK standards), tonight is costing me £71.

Tomorrow I am flying Singapore Airlines to Singapore, where I change planes and fly on another Singapore Airlines to Tokyo. The slightly off route is because I am spending a week in Singapore on my way back to the UK, for the Singapore MRS Conference, and this route is bar far the cheapest, and anyway I really enjoy Singapore Airlines.

Boxing Day Pie, one of my joys at Christmas

Lasagna dish

For the last decade or more, Christmas Day at the Poynter household has had a special treat to follow it, Boxing Day Pie. Our pie is a combination of family bonding, tradition, and yummy eating.

So, what is Boxing Day Pie? We take everything, well almost everything, left unserved from Christmas Day dinner and we put it in a pie! This year the pie had a short-crust base and a puff pastry top. Inside the pie we had, turkey, pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon), carrots, brussel sprouts, roasted parsnips, stuffing, potatoes, gravy and probably some things I can’t recall.

Why is the pie so great? Well firstly, the things going into the pie all taste good. They taste good for two reasons, a) they were good enough to serve on the plate of what for us is the most important meal of the year; b) they are loaded with all the fat, salt, and flavour used to cook the Christmas Dinner – remember, I didn’t say it was healthy, just really tasty.

However, the pie is more than just a taste experience, it is a family experience. When we are buying the food for Christmas Day we know that we can buy a little bit more than we need, without as much temptation to serve too much on the day – there is no temptation to try an eat everything on Christmas Day as we now that not eating things leads to a great pie. As we are tidying away the Christmas Dinner we are discussing which items will go in the pie (stuffing yes, cranberry jelly no, mashed potatoes no, roast potatoes yes).

On Boxing Day (or this year the 28th) we share up the tasks, making the crust, chopping things, making some more gravy, talking about the pie, cooking the pie, and then as a family sitting down again to eat a great pie, and being a family. This ritual probably makes the pie taste even better, there is plenty of evidence that rituals can make the taste of food even better, see Psychology Today post here.

We tend to make our pie in a very large lasagne dish, with pastry base and top, but try it, make yours the way you want to.

My first 100KM Run

Last Saturday (May 25, 2013) I took part in my first 100KM race (the London to Brighton Challenge), raising money for the breast awareness charity CoppaFeel! (more on the charity later, but you can donate via my JustGiving page). Last summer I walked 100KM in the Oxfam Trailwalk and I ran in an 80KM race along the North Downs, so this was bringing the best elements of both together.

For me the event started on the Friday, driving to London with my son Will, who provided first class support throughout the event. A few meetings in town were followed by registering for the event and checking into the hotel.

Saturday started very early, Will and I left the hotel soon after 5, arriving at the start of the run, in Richmond’s Old Deer Park at about 5:30am, ready for a 6:00am start. The good news was the rain that had been with us till Friday had cleared up and we had a fine day for running (albeit with some muddy stretches, here and there).

The London to Brighton Challenge had about 320 runners and about 1000 walkers. The competitors were due to start at various times, with me in the first group at 6:00am. A few stretches, some music, motivational words from the organisers, and we were off, about five minutes late, but no harm in that.

The route ran across the park and then down along the river bank until Kingston – ensuring a really flat start to the run. I started the run with my waterproof top on, and wearing my small running rucksack (which houses a two-litre water bladder). However, as the day, and me, warmed up I soon took off my top and at one of the support stops, switched to my running bum-bag (which holds two water bottles) – I often find a rucksack causes me to overheat.

Running an ultra, even at my slow speeds, is quite different from something like a half-marathon. You have to run well inside your abilities for hours. At, say, 40KM (25 miles), you need to ensure that you are not tired, not aching, not sore, not exerting yourself – because you have many, many hours to go. In my case I reached 40 KM in about 5 hours, feeling fine. The next 40KM would take me 7 hours, and the 20 KM after that 3.5 hours. This was a bit slower than I had hoped, but 5 hours is what I ran a marathon in 5 weeks ago, and 12 hours is what I ran 80KM in last year, so I probably got the finishing time I deserved.

The run had eight support spots, at roughly 12.5 KM intervals At some of these points the support teams (for me, my son Will) could meet us – at other times I met Will a little before or after the support stops. At the race stops there was food, medical support, toilets, drinks, and loads of smiles and support.

One of the noticeable features of the stops was how relaxed the runners were. Anybody who has run a marathon or half-marathon will be familiar with the way that water stops tend to be a mad dash to collect as much water as possible in as short a time as possible. On the 100KM run, as people entered the station they slowed to a very casual walk. They looked at the drinks and food on offer, made their selections, spoke to the people providing the support, spoke to each other, savoured their food and drink, replenished their bags and set out again. Most runners spent up to 5 mins at each of the stations (barring the very fastest), which equates to at least 40 minutes at stations – because of the extra time I spent at the 56KM station, I would estimate I spent about one hour at the stations, out of my 15.5 hours.

The 56KM stop was the biggest of the stops and it was billed as the half-way point (although the more mathematical of you will have noticed that in pure distance it was just over half way). Here the 13 hour plus runners tended to have a longer stop, eating sandwiches or even a hot meal. I went for sandwiches, but I also spent fifteen minutes getting a blister on my toe popped and dressed. One of my more recent personal rules is that on long distance events (running or walking) deal with problems as soon as you are aware of them – if you have a blister, running another 12.5KM on it does not improve things. Interestingly, the medic was not allowed to suggest popping the blister, but was happy to do it when I requested. Many of us find that popping is much, much, better than just dressing.

Other than the best runners, most ultra runners walk up the big hills. We run on the flat, the downhills, and the small hills, but we walk on the big hills. However, as the hours go by, the slower folk (including me) have a changing definition of what constitutes a big hill. At 60KM a hill that I would have run up at 20KM suddenly becomes one I am happy to walk up.

Other interruptions to running are caused by very steep descents (there were very few of these on this run), very muddy stretches (I think I spent about30 minutes, in total, waddling across mud), and stiles (there were masses of stiles, perhaps 60 stiles, so I might have spent 45 minutes climbing (ever more stiffly) over stiles. One special hazard on this route was a fallen tree. This was over 60KM into the run and I was already very stiff and I think it took 2 or 3 minutes to find a way of getting over it (rolling my body onto it, across it, and off again).

The route from London to Brighton is very flat initially, until it climbs over the North Downs. From the North the North Downs are a set of not too steep hills, until the top of the Downs are reached and the North Downs Way crossed, which is the highest point of the run. The descent down the escarpment was the only, long, very steep section. After the North Downs the route goes South across the Weald, going up and down small hills, and through lots of high quality farming land (which is where most of the stiles were). At 88KM the route reaches the last checkpoint, at Plumpton. This checkpoint looks up at the intimidating face of the South Downs. At this point I switched back to my rucksack and Will pushed my walking sticks into my bag. A short jog brought me to the bottom of the first of three hill climbs and out came the sticks. Up to the South Downs Way, then, with my sticks in one hand, a jog along the top and a long descent, this was followed by a medium hill, and then another downhill jog with the sticks being carried. At Falmer the sticks got their last outing, helping me climb a long but steady hill up to the 97KM marker. At 97KM Will met me, took the sticks and carried them as we jogged and chatted together for the last 3KM.

I had started at 6am in London. I had run all day, except for walking up the hills, climbing the stiles, waddling in the mud, and the checkpoints. It was now just past 9pm and getting dark. The last 3KM were completed in a breeze, chatting to Will and running on the flat and perhaps slightly downhill route that leads to Brighton Racecourse. The final run up to the finish is spectacular, and the crowd shout like you are the first runner they have seen (about 170 have actually already finished). I finish at about 9:30, 15hour and 32 minutes after I had started – having enjoyed almost all of it.

So, how did I do? Well, 15.5 hours was slower than I had hoped for, but respectable (for me). Of the runners I finished 178th out of about 320, which is good for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I raised over £1000 for charity – more on that in a moment. Of the 15.5 hours I think I spent 45 minutes on stiles and obstacles, about 30 minutes waddling on mud, about 1 hour at the stops and checkpoints, about 90 minutes walking up hills, so about 12 hours running. If I run that sort of distance again, I will be looking for a route with fewer stiles, I will perhaps stop less at the checkpoints and meetings, I would love to avoid mud altogether, and perhaps run up slightly more of the hills.

In terms of the event, the people were brilliant, the fellow competitors were great, the route signage was the best I have ever seen. I was not a fan of some of the small paths, nor of the stiles (by comparison the North Downs run is on much wider tracks, with very few obstacles). I would certainly recommend the London2Brighton Challenge to any runner or walker who was looking to take part in a well organised 100KM event, on an iconic route.

The charity
I was running to raise money for the breast awareness charity CoppaFeel! Please read Kris’s story, then read about the charity.

If you have read this far, please consider making a donation to CoppaFeel! It is a great little charity doing great work. You can make a contribution via my JustGiving page.

Australia’s Toughest Marathon?

At the end of May I am running a 100KM race, the London to Brighton Challenge (to raise money for the CoppaFeel breast cancer awareness charity), if you’d like to sponsor me, please visit my JustGiving page. Although I have run an 80KM race before, this will be my first 100KM, and it requires a fair bit of training and ideally mini-goals along the way. One of my challenges, in terms of my training schedule, was that April was a heavy travel month for me, with conferences and meetings in Vietnam, Japan, and Australia – so I was on the lookout for a goal in Australia to add focus to my training.
Whilst searching the internet for a marathon (or similar) in the Brisbane area on the weekend of 30/31 April, I found the Mount Mee Classic, to be run on 31 April. This marathon is billed by its organisers (The Run Inn) as possibly the toughest in Australia. What makes it tough is the fact it is an off-road race, with about 1400 metres of climb (which is about the same as running to the top of Ben Nevis in Scotland). The 2013 route has more downhill than uphill, but downhills don’t actually compensate for uphills, and several of the downhill sections are too steep to run down comfortably.
So, the Mount Mee Classic it was!

The Day
The first challenge was getting to the start. The race started at 6:00am, inside the D’Aguilar Range, about 24KM miles from the finish in Dayboro. The race starts so early to avoid the worst of the heat of the day (even so, we were running in 27°C by the time we finished, despite starting at 6:00am and even though Australia is moving towards its winter).

At 4:30am, I got a lift to the bus pick-up spot in Dayboro, where it was still very dark – the sun not being due to appear until just before 6:00am. At 5:00am a bus ferried us to the start, at a place called The Gantry. We arrive at The Gantry at about 5:40am and it is still dark, with runners being registered by the light of lamps. At about 5:50am it suddenly becomes light. The Gantry, just North of Brisbane and is at 27° South, which means the switch from night to day happens very fast, especially for somebody from Nottingham (53° North), where, because we are so much further from the equator, the switch from night to day is much slower.

Just after 6:00am we are off, with me near the back of the pack of just over 100 runners. In theory the first 10KM (six miles) are downhill, but we quickly discover that the descent to Rocky Hollow is broken up with numerous uphills and some of the downhills being so steep and slippy that non-elite runners need to check their speed. At this stage we are all fresh, the sun is not too hot, so progress is good. For me, the first 10KM is completed in about 1 hour (but the next 32KM took about 4 hours).
From Rocky Hollow the run climbs back up to the Gantry, regaining all the height lost in the first 10KM, but with plenty of downhill sections to make the climb longer, and with two rivers to be crossed, ensuring we run the rest of the race with wet feet. (I also discover that Australians do not call a section of road crossed by a river a ford.) At this stage, the slower runners (including me) adopt the traditional recourse of the non-elite ultra-runner – we walk up the steepest of the uphill sections.

At about 17KM we have finished the loop to Rocky Hollow and have returned to The Gantry. We run along the ridge and start to descend into Pleasant Valley – which in about 25 KM will bring us to the finish in Dayboro.
By now it is past 8.00am and the sun is very strong and temperatures are climbing up to the 27C they will remain at for the rest of the run. Since the race is off road, through the Australian bush, the race rules include carrying water – even though we are supplied drinks and sweets about every 7KM. I was carrying two bottles, each with about 0.6 litres. Initially I was happy with just drinking the water, isotonics, and cola at the drink stations, but as the run progressed I found I was using my own bottles more and more, and indeed I had to refill both bottles during the race (drinking about 80% of the water and tipping perhaps 20% over my head and neck to help keep cool).

At about 27K we emerged from the bush and the dirt tracks turned into the tarmac, the road that would take us to the finish. At this stage the uphills and downhills were less pronounced than in the bush, but hills (both up and down) were still much more common than flat sections. At about 32 KM there was a short loop to ensure the race would be the regulation distance, so we ran 2KM up a side road towards Mount Pleasant Hall, and back, up two hills and down three hills on the way out, and up three hills and down two hills on the way back. The final 6KM was described as undulating by the team at the last drink station, but they were also the least scenic as we were now on a busier stretch of road and closer to the town of Dayboro.

As we reached to the outskirts of Dayboro, with about 2KM to go, I switched back to my regular running style, i.e. of running up hills, as well as running on the flat and downhills – confident that the end was near and that I had reserved sufficient energy.

As with any marathon, the end is always glorious, the organisers are clapping, the people who have finished recently are clapping, and as I cross the line my hand dashes to my GPS watch to ensure I record my time correctly, followed by a greeting and a photo.
The time is slow, very slow, 5 hours 7 minutes. My slowest ever marathon, and the first time it has taken me over five hours. However, it was definitely the hardest course I have ever run. It may or may not be Australia’s toughest race, but it was my toughest!

After numerous cups of water, and after clapping home some people who finished after me, it was back to the Queenslander, a shower, and out for lunch and a spot of Dayboro shopping and sightseeing, followed by dinner, and an early night and a long sleep.
Monday was a leisurely start, a visit to the art gallery in Dayboro (the commercial sort where they sell the paintings), and back to Brisbane and ‘real life’.

The race and its organisers

The race is organised in a fairly low key simple way, but very effectively. The marking of the route was excellent, nobody seemed to get lost, the drink stations were at the right place, well stocked, and manned by really supportive people.

The race has a long history, having been a 50KM ultra until a few years ago. The Run Inn (a Brisbane-based running equipment shop) organise the race and do a great job.

My one recommendation to the organisers would be to integrate the race more into the community of Dayboro. Most of the shops and people we spoke to in Dayboro did not know about the race, and a great event could be even better if it were more integrated into the Dayboro community.

The Dayboro, Samford, D’Aguilar National Park Area

I have visited Brisbane many, many times, and I am familiar with the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, and Mount Cootha within the city. However, Samford, Dayboro, and the whole D’Aguilar National Park area were completely new to me, and they came as a massively beautiful surprise. The D’Aguilar National Park is perhaps the most beautiful area I have visited in Australia (for me ahead of the Blue Mountains). Samford is just 45 minutes outside of Brisbane’s CBD (central business district), and it is a wonderful collection of eating places, kitch, crafts and is a very pleasant relaxing place (although with a tendency to close about 3pm).

Dayboro claims it is the place where the East ends, and certainly beyond Dayboro the scenery gets a lot wilder, hillier, and more beautiful. Dayboro is not as pretty as Samford, but it has a nice feeling to it and I’d recommend the information centre, the art gallery, and the deli.

Beyond Dayboro is the D’Aguilar National Park, with walks, cycle routes, and routes for four-wheel vehicles. High on the Mount Mee road is the Pitt Stop, a café popular with motor bike riders, and with a view that is stupendous. The views include: the hills, the forests, the valley back to Dayboro, and on the horizon, the high rise buildings of Brisbane’s CDD – a graphic reminder that this paradise is a just a short drive from the heart of Brisbane.