Tag Archives: Running

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 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.

Afterwards
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.

Why

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.

Next?
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.

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.