As we approach the end of 2019, Here I am 12 months on from my last blog, thought I would piece together a summary of the year. Another year of ups and downs in performances but as I like to remind myself its not the performances but the experiences that count and getting to different places and meeting different people all make the running so much more memorable.
Early 2019 after a fairly mild and dry winter most of the local xc races were treated to dry unseasonable non muddy racing conditions so much so that when the nationals came around in late February I had the rare opportunity to run barefoot on a fantastic sunny day at Harewood House, Leeds. The slick grassy course was a real delight to run and despite getting mocked by a few folks and raising a few eyebrows i thoroughly enjoyed the run Ron Hill / Zola Budd style. I don’t always run barefoot, and don’t run barefoot to gain merit or attention, but because it feels natural and light and when the conditions are right and circumstances good I always like to give it a go. People often question ‘what if you get spiked?’ or ‘what if you tread on glass or a needle?’ of course there is risk, and they are right to ask this, but then theres risk in everything right? ‘To live life without risk, is to risk life without living’ I say 🙂
Into March a small group of us from Ripley rc headed out to Cyprus for the second year running, this time to take part in a different race in that of the Akamas Blossom Trail Half Marathon. We had discovered this area the previous year, set in the north west part of the island, the Akamas Peninsula is a spectacular area of outstanding beauty. The race itself lived up to expectations and I have to rate it up there with one of the best races I have ever done, quite a low key race but the organization, low entry cost and route of the race were 10 out 10 for me. We all had good results with plenty of prizes then celebrated by a quick swim in the chilly but calm waters of the northern Cyprus sea.
FLAT IS BORING
A few weeks later towards the end of March and back in the UK, it was the turn of the Coniston 14 road race in Cumbria once again, this time i had a good battle with good friend Ed James of Belper Harriers were we ended up in a sprint finish, with Ed just edging me for 10th position, and 11th for myself respectively.
During April our small club Ripley rc fielded a good strong team for the midland 12 stage road relay and were fortunate enough to finish inside the top 25 teams and therefore qualify for the nationals 2 weeks later at the same venue of Sutton Park. These relays are great fun and great for club bonding, everyone did fantastically well and it was a great pleasure to be part of this achievement.
With summer on the horizon, early May brought with it some fine weather and i joined forces with North Derbyshire Runners Paul Sorrell (former peak forest winner) and Tim Clayton (former Guinness drinking champion) to form a 3 man team for the Spire Ultra Relay (34 miles – off road mostly) to romp home in 1st place taking some 30 minutes off our own course record. This time everything went like clockwork, none of us got lost and all put in strong runs. We celebrated in style by them treating me to a pub tour of the delights of Clay Cross. It certainly opened my eyes .
The following day I took a leisurely walk over the fields from Ripley to Horsley were i managed to shake off my bit of a hangover in time to win the Horsley 4 mile race. All of this good running form put me in good stead for what was ahead in following 2 weeks.
Tuesday 12th May had arrived and this was to be the big trip of the year, United States Of America, I had never been to America before so was eagerly excited. A big contingent group of us, around 19 of us flew out to Boston, USA, were fellow club friend Brian Sherras had invited us over to stay on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, for the Matha’s Vineyard Half Marathon/ Marathon.
We enjoyed an excellent week on the island which some may recognize as fictional name Amity island famous for the Great Steven Spielberg film Jaws. We enjoyed lots of easy running, biking, swimming and great food. After the first few days on the island had been fairly cold, race day came and the sunshine made a big appearance with high temperatures making the race somewhat more difficult.
Without trying to make excuses I ended up having a pretty poor run by my own standards and really struggled with my breathing troubles, which ended up a stop start stop start run from mile 3 to the finish. Fortunately I managed to claw back a few positions to the end and salvaged 3rd place, which despite disappointed in the time of 1.24, overall I was pleased to finish and cheer in the rest of the Ripley rc gang. The atmosphere was brilliant, and everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves. Race of the day came from the host Brian who somehow took around 10 minutes off his p.b to finish the full marathon route in 3.28 and claim first V60.
Running over the famous Jaws bridge
Team Ripley rc at Martha’s Vineyard
The following week while most of the group flew home, myself, Alison and Matt continued the journey in USA were Brian took us back to his family home in Vermont. The contrast in Scenery here was great, we had gone from beach life to trees, more trees and more trees, wow never seen so many Trees!!!!!!
A Great week was has exploring the area and walking along sections of the Appalachian Trail, we ended the trip to the USA with one final run – The Vermont City Marathon Relay, were myself, Brian, Alison and Matt teamed up to run a 2.52 marathon and finish 5th team out of some 700+ teams. We celebrated by drinking a few pints of IPA Beer at the finish set on the verge of Lake Champlain. A Great trip away!
Vermont City Marathon Relay
Fortunately the holiday blues didn’t last to long back home as June was here and so were the local Derbyshire fell races. I live for this kind of stuff, thick and fast they came, Calver, Castleton, Edale, Cromford, Parwich with probably the pick of the bunch Chrome hill and Bakewell, were performance wise wasn’t great but in terms of sheer enjoyment they rated my favourite.
Uncle Brian showing his fell running skills at chrome hill
Unfortunately not the finishing positions at Bakewell pudding race.
Heading into peak summer season , Ashover fell race was held on the 1st Friday in July, a race which I help organize and for the 3rd year running proved to be a great success, a record turnout, and a good bit of money raised for Ashover footpaths group.
A week later I couldn’t hold onto my Holbrook Hill Race title despite giving it a good go. I was overhauled by good local road runner Dale Annable of Heanor rc. I had got into a bit of a habit of going out at suicidal pace then just trying to hold on for as long as possible. It never really works but its great fun doing it. So when Dale came cruising past me around 2 miles in, he must of thought to himself ‘what a numpty’
I finished 4th at the Crich Monument race the following day, then tapered the rest of the week for the Snowdon mountain race.
Snowdon mountain race this year fielded two local lads running for England that of Dan Haworth and Billy Cartwright so it was really impressive to see them up there mixing it with the best of the best. I had a reasonable run, a few minutes off my best but still never the less a good run in 1.18
August was to be a good month and started well with winning the Bluebell fell race after a neck and neck race with Simon Fisher (Belper Harriers)
After being contaminated with Karl Tietz’s lergy while out walking the Shropshire way leading up to the Belper rover trail race, it wasn’t looking good for race day, but I was on the start line and despite not feeling 100 per cent , set off on the 18 mile circular route from Belper. Fortune seemed to be on my side, as I started to feel better than expected once we got going and a bit of fresh air seemed to be doing the trick. After 3 miles race leader Andy Harding pulled up and out of the race, leaving me to take an unexpected lead. As the race unfolded I felt stronger and stronger, and really enjoyed the rolling route up around Alport Heights and back towards the Chevin. I was having zero breathing problems and really enjoyed the opportunity to open up and push on harder in the later stages and finish inside the 2 hour mark for 1.58. A great day and probably my best performance of the year.
Team Ripley at the Belper Rover
It hasn’t all been plain sailing and at many a race this year I have often been found walking mid race due to breathing troubles but ive tried to take it in my stride and enjoy it for what it is and not grumble too much but at times it has left me frustrated.
walking again, A familiar sight this year , Lantern pike fell race
August bank holiday weekend a group of us headed up to the Lake District to help club mate Ian Hawley on his Bob Graham attempt.(42 Wainwright fells, 70 miles, 27,000ft climb all within the 24 hours) Ian put in a tremendous effort to finish inside the 24 hour mark in 23.17 in somewhat tough hot conditions. Great fun was had whizzing round the lake district greeting him at all the checkpoints through the night and eventually around to Wasdale were I supported him on leg 4 alongside Matt Jones & Matt Nichols. As the sun rose up out of the wasdale valley that morning so did the temperatures and the heat began to take its toll, we hydrated by drinking water out of all the streams and becks along the way. Coming off Great Gable I took a slight Nav error and almost cost Ian his Bob Graham, fortunately I managed to rectify it before it was to late. Arriving at Honister for the final leg 5 I was totally done in, and was ready for quitting but then I had to imagine how Ian felt, he had been going nearly 20 hours. Into the final leg over back to Keswick and Moot Hall, Myself, Matt Nichols and Alison supported Ian to the finish, and you have to give credit to Ian, he was unbelievably strong that day. The heat was sapping and it was a great sight to see Ian running up the main street in Keswick to Moot Hall, a day to remember for a lifetime.
Bob Graham leg 4 heading out of the Wasdale Valley with Wast Water in background
September I took the annual pilgrimage up to the North East and destination Sunny South Shields. This time was my 17th Great North Run and as always a great weekend was had. This year I decided to run without my watch and just enjoy it, and run it on feel. After a steady start I gradually found good rhythm and had great fun high fiving the crowd along the way. The sun was shining as it always seems to be the case at the GNR. The crowds are fantastic and I really do enjoy the race. Coming into the finish on the seafront I was pleasantly surprised to finish in 1.15.48 was well chuffed, though Mo Farah didn’t seem that impressed when I shook hands with him at the finish.
The following week after GNR, we mustered up a team of 8 merry men to take part in the Great Kinder Beer Barrel challenge, were we carried a full barrel of beer(actually water) strapped to a ladder from the snake inn pub to the nags head in Edale over the Kinder Plateau over a self nav 4 mile tricky terrain route. Superb fun was had and a times we resembled a cross between the chuckle brothers and the Jamaican bobsleigh team, thankfully we all + ladder just about made it to the finish still intact and void of injuries. Dean Taylors dream boys finished 10th out of 18 teams in 1 hour 5 minutes, not to shabby.
Dean Taylors Dream Boys
Heading into Autumn and October I tried my legs at one of the classic Lakeland Fell Races, The Langdale Horseshoe, it was a tough old boot, but I had a grand day out in the Lakes with team mate Ian Hawley who later on that evening received his award for his completion of the Bob Graham Round at the annual dinner in Shap, were eventually around 11.20pm Ian’s name was called out and he received his certificate from the Great Joss Naylor. We eventually headed back down the M6 and back home to Ripley for around 4am, giving us plenty of time for the local bdl xc a few hours later.
Ian and Joss
The pinnacle of October was without a doubt the National Fell Relays held this year in our home county of Derbyshire, and Dark Peak Fell Runners did a grand job of hosting at the upper Derwent Valley with the backdrop of the overspilling Derwent Dam. I enjoyed my leg 2 run out with young talented runner Harvey Martin and despite twisting my ankle in brand new Inov8 Mudclaws we had a fairly good run and made it back safely.
National Fell Relays
Through November and December, a bit more of a relaxed approach to races was taken, with the year drawing towards the end, I took a few trips to Shropshire for races including Mad Jacks 5, Wrekin Wrecker fell race and Telford 10k, keeping up my addiction to races and casually enjoying them despite not running particularly well.
Mad Jacks 5 – Team LB and Stacey spider arms
…….and here we are, Christmas 2019, its been a pretty awesome year, thanks for reading and hope you have managed to stay awake, wishing everyone a fabulous Christmas and a happy new year ahead, wether your a runner or a non runner, keep moving, get outside, breath in the fresh air, soak in the sunshine, and keep close to mother nature, for your mind, body and spirit depend on it.