Week IV – The Scribbler’s Return

Following on from a very productive week of being Mr WriterMcWriteyFace, where the words flowed like a burst water main (don’t believe me eh? Have a peek HERE), last week was more of a dripping tap in comparison.

But there have been words. Some of them thrown together to make sentences. Some of which make sense. Others will be edited over and over until they no longer exist, then rewritten before starting the process all over again. It’s all writing though, it all counts.

Seriously though, after getting so much momentum the previous week, this has been a case of ‘After The Lord Mayors Show‘.

A bit like with my fitness goals, it is at these times when I need to pull up my mojo socks and focus. Just keep turning up Kevin, keep on turning up.

James Baldwin knew.

There isn’t a ‘cheat’.

Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.

James Baldwin

There’s no Monday to Sunday updates this week – just a list of positives:

  • I wrote about 1000 words of DTDLLTO, my novel in draft.
  • There’s a blog post coming, my reminder to myself to be positive.
  • My journal has been very busy – ideas, poem drafts, diary entries.
  • I’ve listened to some brilliant writerly podcasts and other audio.
  • Dreams and half awake thoughts have been committed to paper for inspiration.

Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.

A.L. Kennedy

The host of my favourite writerly podcast, OtherPPL, has a book coming out. On the pod this week was a free sample of the audio book, read by the author himself, Brad Listi. Check it out HERE. I do harp on about OtherPPL, but that is because it really is a fine creation. Brad’s podcasts never fail to stoke my creative fires and I reckon his book will be a writerly tonic too.

Also in my ears this week has been Nikesh Shukla’s new writing craft offering, Your Story Matters, which has a fresh and pacy feel to it. Another book which is narrated by the author himself, it is a thoroughly engaging listen.

Shukla reminds us that the word count is only one measure of writing success:

Some days you get those words down quickly, other days you pad it out cos you’re tired or stressed or uninspired or it’s a hard sequence. Don’t write 1000 bad words down just to hit a word count. Think about it in terms of time rather than word count.

I’m also reminding myself that it isn’t just writing that counts as writing: thinking counts as writing, walking and imagining my characters in different surrounding counts as writing. Journaling counts as writing, listening to audiobooks counts as writing. Reading of course, without reading there would be no writing. Reading definitely counts as writing. Browsing, or better still, engaging with Writers HQ, yup that counts as writing. Blogging, diarising, taking about my writing, even tweeting my writerly chums, it all counts as writing. There’s even a tongue in cheek Counts As Writing Twitter account.

So I’m not beating myself over last week’s wordcount, in fact the process of tapping these few words has reinvigorated my get-up-and-sit-down-and-fucking-write-y-ness.

Yup, I’m all over it now.

On on for another week.

But Where Will You Get Your Protein?

“I’m not looking for someone to cook for!”

Nicky, my better half, announced on our first date.

This suited me fine as I love cooking.

I moved in with Nicky once that became easier than trying to get me to remove all of my belongings. I’d accidently left things each time I visited. From that day on, I have probably cooked about three quarters of our meals. And we’ve always eaten well I think.

And then we became vegans, and our kitchen dynamic changed.

But before we get on to that, let’s back track….. We’ve talked about become vegan for a few years now. Many of the endurance athletes we look up to have a vegan lifestyle. Not only are these guys and girls at the pointy end of their sports, they always look so flippin well.

We talk about becoming vegans, then it stalls. Again. We just couldn’t imagine ourselves without a roast, or cheese, or without chicken in our curry………

It was a cycle we were stuck in. But each time it came around, the subject was getting more and more agenda time at our house meetings. We needed something, we knew not what, to push us over the line.

We did genuinely asked ourselves the protein question (chick peas, tofu, oats, nuts, lentils….. pretty much every ingredient as it turns out). We also worried the food would be boring and predictable, although we knew our regular go-to dishes had become boring and predictable anyway.

Change was coming.

The decider for me happened about six months before we actually made the leap. I was running in a 100k event, The Ham And Lyme. It is an out-and-back course starting and finishing in Lyme Regis and turning at Ham Hill in Somerset. Out-and-back that is, unless you get lost (twice!) during the ‘out’ section! If, like me, you are that getting lost type runner, you will only experience some of the actual course on the way back (I added about 5 bloomin’ kilometres to my day!)

One of the sights I didn’t see until I was on my way back was a massive, I mean MASSIVE, factory dairy farm. I will not describe it here, but all I could think was, I want no further part in this.

I’m not that strong though am I? Six months later, still eating animal products, and I get wiped out by Covid. On the couple of days during which I was genuinely fearful for my health with the virus, I started really questioning some of my life choices. I’d trained so feckin’ hard all winter to be ready for The Arc 50 and here I was, a week before the event, unable to climb the stairs. I know the virus was the cause, but I felt, at that low point, it was time to make some changes.

My two favourite podcasts are Running Commentary and Other PPL. One of the presenters of Running Commentary, Rob Deering and Other PPL host, Brad Listi happen to be vegans. Neither have ever come across as preachy in anyway but if it ever comes up, they are both proud, happy and feel good on their plant based diet. In one interview on Other PPL, Listi made the comment I’ve used myself, he wanted no further part in the violence of it all. That has stayed with me, always will I think. On a lighter note, I also remember Deering recounting a trip abroad (I want to say Dubai but I might be wrong), after asking the waiting staff at a restaurant for their vegan options, he was offered a chicken salad!

I knew, Nicky knew, we both knew, that our snacking habits contributed to us always exhibiting a bit more ‘love handle’ than we would ideally like to. But more than that, our conversations about becoming vegans had become so frequent, so serious that we were both ready for that final trigger.

The trigger arrived in Cornwall. Enjoying the trip whilst convalescing from Covid, I sauntered into The Bookseller in St Ives and purchased (along with a few other titles, I mean it would be rude not to) Ed Winter’s new book, Vegan Propaganda. I absolutely promised not to become ‘preachy’, although, 65 days in to our vegan journey, I get it, so if you fancy reading Ed Winter’s remarkable book then the link is there. It had a massive impact on me. It brought me to tears, reaffirmed much of what I already knew or believed and the book definitely gave us that final push.

Here’s where the story gets fun.

Nicky absolutely went for it. We both did. But Nicky was in charge of the kitchen before I could say ‘black bean burrito’! She was now definitely happy to have someone to cook for!

We have acquired several amazing vegan cook books, the best of which is BOSH! and Nicky set to equipping and stocking our kitchen to accommodate our new way of eating.

I’ve been keeping a diary of how we feel and what we are eating. We are just over two months along as I write and I can honestly say, I have never eaten so well. “We’re eating like kings!” I tell anyone who will listen. And I mean it, we are enjoying food like never before. In the 60+ days since we’ve been vegan, we’ve only eaten one meat substitute meal – that was some sausages which were actually rather splendid.

Our stomachs took some adjusting to our new routine, we definitely live on the windy South West peninsula! During the first week we both felt odd somehow, very hard to explain. By the very nature of the foods we cook with, our fibre intake has increased. This is healthy of course, but takes a bit of adjusting to. Oat milk has been introduced to the fridge which is great in coffee and we’ve both stopped having breakfast cereal.

We bought one of those Nutribullet thingies and have a smoothie to start every day. This has really helped with cutting down food waste, it is amazing how a bit of overly soft cucumber can get mixed in unnoticed.

“But what are you going to EAT?”

a very close family member asked

They were genuinely concerned. Well, I’ve littered this post with pictures of our meals and my dear mother needn’t have worried. In fact, she’s now enjoying finding out how we’re doing and devoured the vegan roast loaf dinner we cooked for them.

The positives so far?

We are certainly sleeping better, we’ve both lost a healthy amount of weight without even thinking about it and we feel we are taking steps which are vital for our long term health as well as the health of the world we live in.

Reset The Dials

Quite a lot.

Is the answer.

To what question?

Maybe this one:

Anything new in my life since I wrote this manifesto?

Yup. Quite a lot indeed.

A quarter of the year has now gone. I can’t think of anything in which I’ve achieved anywhere near a quarter of my aims.

Which sounds rather negative when I say it outloud.

To discover what’s been going on, let’s unpack my 2022 manifesto.

My Journal

At least my first pledge is going well! I said I’d write in my journal every single day, and I’m pleased to say that I always, always do. Winning eh? One nil up and we’ve only just kicked off. (Spoiler alert, this isn’t going to be a goal fest!)

Submitting Fiction

Ah. Well, er, well, you see, hhmmm. I’ve submitted a couple of times to Paragraph Planet (with one success!) but, alas, I am yet to enter the Friday Flash Fiction Face Off at Writers HQ. It just hasn’t happened. Read on to find out why?

Obviously work has to be fitted in occasionally too!

The Novel

I don’t even need to look back to remind myself of this pledge! I know it was to work for two hours every single week. And I know I haven’t. And I’m disgusted with myself. Disgusted I am. What’s going on? Read on to find out.

This Blog

I don’t need to look back for these pledges either! I know I’ve not contributed a single post since the turn of the year. Not one. To think there was a time when I hoped to review every book I’ve read, never mind any other posts I fancied writing. It’s not going very well is it, this manifesto. Imagine if you’d voted for me and it turned out I couldn’t keep a single promise I’d made….

Reading

Well, at least some success here to report. I pledged I’d buy from independent publishers and book shops and I’m pleased to say I’ve been good with that. Looking at my to-be-readpile alongside books I’ve read waiting for Nicky to enjoy, there’s a few there which have come direct from indies as well as a couple bought in independent book shops.

I haven’t one poem a day (another of my pledges) but I have acquired a few fine volumes and do enjoy a few poems each week.

I also pledged to read at least 6 books (over the course of 2022) which were published at least 10 years ago. The idea being that I don’t simply follow the current fads and trends (although I hope I never have) and browsed the shelves more. Reading is happening a lot more slowly this year, for the reasons you’ll discover if you can bear to read on. I have been buying a few older books though, and have added to the backlog with some excellent charity shop hauls. So far in 2022 I’ve read these books, check out my lists from 2021 and 2020 too.

Running, Health and Fitness

I never made any pledges for my running, other than to run as much as I can and/or want to. The events I listed in my manifesto are either long gone or fast approaching and I’m not looking like toeing the start line of any of them. Read on to discover why.

As for my health, well quite a lot has happened to impact my hopes for 2022. I’ve had some serious down time and have not been hitting my strength and conditioning targets. But, I don’t feel I’ve let myself down as there has been a dramatic hit to my health this year. As I keep saying, read on……

Why Oh Why And Why Again

The Good Stuff

We bloomin’ love him, and he seems quite happy to knock about with us oldies!

Nanny & Grandad Daycare: We look after our latest grandson, Charlie, 3 days a week. He is an absolute delight, a bubbly baby with a zest for life. But maybe we didn’t quite acknowledge just how tiring this might be! It is an absolute joy to spend the time with him and watch him grow and develop.

This simply shuffles other things down the league table of priorities. And sometimes we just want to eat (ah, eating…. read on my friend, read on) and chill. Picking up a pen and notebook, or sitting at my desk typing gives way to a binge of Drive To Survive or something similar.

Call the cute police!

As we become more accustomed to our roles, I’m sure we’ll find more of our other leisure pursuits fitting in to the time available (hence this blog post happening now). None of our challenges have disappeared they’ve simply been moved around to suit our lifestyle.

Talking Of Lifestyle: We have Become Vegans: And what a bloomin’ transformation this has been. We’ve both made difficult decisions before in our lives. We’ve both found better tracks to follow over the years and feel blessed that we ended up on the same track as each other. But this lifestyle change has been such a shift in thinking and everything about it has been positive. Neither of us are interested in becoming preachy about veganism, we just know it is exactly right for us. This was the moment when everything aligned for us to make the change.

And don’t worry, we’re getting plenty of protein!

In fact, as I keep telling people, we are eating like a king and queen. The final push to make the change was probably as a result of something far less positive.

The Bad Stuff: Covid

I wasn’t a happy bunny!

As anyone who was willing to listen, or to read this blog, would know, Nicky and I have a real love affair with Cornwall (Nicky was born at Long Rock for a start) and particularly the many coastal running events we’ve enjoyed down there. This year I was finally going to toe the line of the iconic Arc Of Attrition 50 and I had trained well throughout the autumn and winter, I was ready. About 10 days before The Arc I started to feel a bit ill, and a couple of days later I was testing positive, coughing relentlessly and felt truly awful. Luckily, Nicky got off pretty lightly, but I took to the box room and curled up in a ball of self pity. I was testing negative by race day but was getting breathless so quickly I couldn’t have contemplated 12 hours on the remotest, most challenging coastline in the far southwest of Cornwall.

Covid seemed to impact everything for those couple of weeks, and certainly sucked the energy and zest out of me, and to a certain extent Nicky. I don’t want to be dramatic but I couldn’t even be bothered to read my book and certainly didn’t write anything.

For those who were wondering how Charlie is. He’s still going strong in his 13th year.

Recovery from Covid is ongoing and I’m nursing a niggly foot after standing on a rock. DOH!

We’ve got so much to be thankful for though and I will never take for granted that I have been blessed with sharing my life with such a wonderful, funny, clever, inspiring, encouraging and quite beautiful lady wife Nicky. Not only that, our amazing family , our returning health and living in such a gorgeous part of the world.

As for my personal challenges, let’s just see where it all goes.

2022: A Manifesto

2022, are you ready for me?

Well, here we are a year on from my last manifesto. It’s true it seems, there is no ‘normal’. No ‘new normal’. I can’t even remember the ‘old normal’. I think I’ll just pat myself on the back for getting through as best I could.

I started well with my pledges and some of the momentum was maintained throughout the year. But not all of it. Far from it!

In 2022, I shall do better.

Writing 

I was pretty good at keeping a journal this year, even if for simply scribbling down a random sentence or reminder, this will continue in 2022.

I pledge to write in my journal, every single day. Maybe only to report that I have nothing to report, but reminding myself to keep my head in the game. Whenever I remember, and have the time, I will carry out ‘stream of consciousness’ writing exercises in the journal. A 10 or 15 minute alarm on my phone always helps and this is a perfect way to spend some of my break at work. Prompt books like the 242 Tiny Things To Write About are great too. Whatever I’m doing, I’ll make room for the pen.

I’m trying not to make any ambiguous commitments. And so for a writing challenge, I’m going to use the energy of Paragraph Planet and Writers HQ to get my creative mind actually creating. This will help my writing craft with any luck, but also sow seeds of greater stories to grow from the ideas.

Writers HQ is a great writing community and course library offering motivation, prompts and prods by the pint pot. They also run a weekly Friday Flash Face off where members simply enter their flash fiction (very short pieces of writing) for mutual critique. ‘Tis a fine thing. As is Paragraph Planet who publish one 75 word paragraph every single day. Both are free to get involved with and are great ways to prompt writing. Like I say, many larger ideas for pieces start with a word or 75.

Still sounds ambiguous, I hear you cry. Well:

I pledge to, at the minimum, submit one piece to either the Writers HQ Friday Flash Face Off, or Paragraph Planet, every single week.

And while I’m at it, I’ll make sure I keep up with my poetry. I’ve had small successes – online journals published a few pieces and I’ll take confidence from that. Working on a draft of a poem idea for 30 minutes in my break at work is so much more rewarding than 30 minutes of the scroll of doom on my phone. I pledge to submit at least one poem per month to a literary publication or competition.

See, I’m getting into this now!

The Novel

Ahhhh, the Novel. Working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners. I’ve been chipping away at this for over 3 years now and I’m nowhere near a first draft. I think about the book a lot, I talk to the main characters, I scribble ideas in my journal. I’m very much writing the thing. I just need to, er, actually write the thing. Harping back to Writers HQ, they are exponents of the ‘timed writing’ idea – sit at a desk (or stand, or lie in a field with a notebook, whatever is available to me) and set a timer for 10, 20 or 30 minutes, phone out of reach, and just write. This definitely works for me. So, with that in mind…..

I pledge to write for a minimum of two hours (using the timed method) soley on my novel, every week during 2022.

What about The Blog? This here blog. I get ideas for a blog post come to me all the time. Particularly when I’m driving around in my job. I need to make sure I keep my notebook handy and every time I stop, jot these random thoughts down. I heard the great author David Keenan say that if he has an idea, he knows it is a good one if he can immediately recall it when he picks up his notebook. If I don’t use the notebook, a Booker Prize winning idea may well slip away!

I pledge to post at least one book review per month to the blog. I also pledge to add at least one other post, on any subject, per month as well. If I commit to any more it will only lead to disappointing myself and then slipping down the all to familiar ‘What’s the feckin’ point?’ hole! If I write more, then great. If not, at least I’ve set a reasonable target to hold myself to account.

So that’s writing. Why am I going to do all of that? Because I bloomin’ well love writing. I may or may not be any good at it. I’m certainly not going to make any money from it. People either will or won’t read my words. But even the occasional comment I receive about a piece, telling me that what I’ve written resonates, that’s enough to know I belong.

Reading

I won’t be setting a target for number of books to read this year, as with my running, it only leads to creating tension instead of the positivity I should be getting from my two favourite hobbies, but I will make a series of pledges similar to last year.

I pledge to read at least one poem every single day. Every single podcast I listen to about writing, or books on writing, every interview with authors, they all say “READ WIDELY” when asked to give aspiring writers a tip. I find poetry helps me pick apart language, it challenges the way we express ideas. Poetry also feeds the soul, nourishing emotional dark spots as well as pushing my creativity.

I also pledge to buy one book a month from an independent publisher, by an author I haven’t read before. I did this in 2021 and it’s great to rummage beyond the headline and heavily promoted books in the literary world. Not that I don’t enjoy the writing of our most famous authors, but I also know there’s a wealth of talent out there waiting to be discovered. Where possible, I will buy these books from independent bookshops too.

Not only that, I pledge to read a minimum of 6 books during 2022 which were published at least ten years ago. This is another way of avoiding the trap of simply reading off the 3 for 2 table in Waterstones. Not that there aren’t great books on the first table you come to in our flagship bookseller, but there is so, so much more to discover.

I also pledge to buy at least one literary magazine, journal or chapbook every month too. I enjoy the marvellous creative non-fiction journal, Hinterland and enjoy a subscription from them, my pledge will be in addition to that. Bring on 2022, the year of reading not scrolling I hope.

So my reading should look after itself if I carry out all of the above pledges.

I bloomin’ love reading and books!

Running And Fitness And Health

This time last year, we were facing another round of cancelations due to the ongoing Covid 19 situation and all the training I had done for The Arc 50 looked like being in vain. The situation didn’t improve and the event was sadly postponed until 2022. In precisely four weeks time I am hoping to line up on the stage of The Minack Theatre in Cornwall and tackle the 50 miles along the coast path to Porthtowan. Fingers crossed eh!?

Other events with entries booked are The East Devon Round ultra marathon at the end of April, The Stafford Half Ironman in June, The Long Course Weekend in July and a rather epic bike ride at the end of the summer.

As for Nicky, she is going to attempt to get to Copenhagen at the third time of asking for her Ironman. Add to this the Outlaw triathlon she started in 2019 only for the organisers being forced to abandon the event after the swim leg due to the biblical weather conditions. They were right to, deep flooding and fallen trees littered the bike course. So this is the 4th year of her pinning her 42 week training plan to the kitchen door.

I’ll never be as organised as Nicky…….. she has every session pencilled in for the next 8 months. Then again, she is attempting something HUGE which involves swimming, cycling and running a very, very long way! She needs to be balancing her training. Whereas I am naturally more chaotic. I will make sure I get my long runs done out there on the trails. Other than that, I’ll run when I feel like it, wherever the the mood takes me. If I’m tired from work, I’ve found there’s no point in forcing myself. I just want to carry on enjoying every step.

So, as in 2021, in 2022 I pledge to NOT attempt to follow a training plan.

My goal for ALL of these events is to do as much as I can to give myself the best chance of completing them. I will not train if I’m over tired from the combination of working, training and any other aspect of life, I will rest if rest is what’s required.

I also pledge this, as I did in 2021: I will, every single day, do either some conditioning work, strength exercises, stretches or other body maintenance. Even if that is something as simple as a few stretches, I’ll be treating my body right. My job if anything, more than the running, tends to give me aches and pains.

This will hopefully give me the best chance of keeping healthy as my aging body builds towards these challenges. As would eliminating the absolute crap I’m guilty of guzzling! So, time for another food pledge (last year’s lasted 6 weeks before I caved in to a hamper of chocolate!).

I pledge to not snack at work. I’m going to only snack during evenings after big (as in 2 hours plus) training days. Puddings will still be the law after roast dinners of course. Let’s see if we can break the pattern this year.

And Finally

We’re all just living the life we’ve got, making decisions as best we can. I think I just need to decide the person I really want to be and let that drive every decision I make.

If anyone has got to the end of this, I’ll be mightily impressed. With that sort of grit and resolve, you should definitely be the type of character who will stick to their New Years resolutions.

2022. Bring. It. On.

Cockington Christmas Caper

Well, well, well, a running race review. There hasn’t been one of them since we ran the gorgeous Big Pilgrimage Marathon back in August. Normally these blogs are reserved for those big away day adventures or marathons, but we had such a good time at The Cockington Christmas Caper that I thought I should share the story.

The event starts and finishes probably less than two miles from our house, the route takes in a selection of trails, most of which I run a couple of times a week, and the distance is 7.5ish miles. Yet I have the urge to tell you ALLLL about it.
The day started with a leisurely breakfast as the event didn’t get under way until 10.30. We didn’t even need to warm the car up as our good friend, and regular star of running stories on this blog, Martin (a.k.a. The Silver Fox), was kind enough to pick us up on the way.


Parking in the beautiful village of Cockington, we made our way, wrapped in hoodies and coats – it was feckin’ freezing – to race HQ outside the cricket pavilion at what must be the quaintest cricket club in the land. Numbers pinned, we kept our hoodies on until very nearly kick-off time before handing them to the friendly young chaps manning the baggage tent.
A word here for the event organisers, volunteers, marshals, registration staff and everybody else involved in the event – they were quite frankly awesome.

The Cockington Christmas Caper is in its (I believe) 17th year (having missed 2020 because of you-know-what) and is a truly local event. Organised by The Barnabas Sport Trust and helping to fund their great work with those less able to access education, training or sporting activities, they manage to keep the price at £14. A rather pleasant surprise to receive a tote bag, mug and medal at the finish considering the entry fee.

The 220 (sold out every year) runners set off for a brief 200 meter of downhill charge on slippery grass before starting the first of umpteen climbs. This pretty much set the tone for the run, if you like running on flat, predictable surfaces, this definitely isn’t for you. Martin set off chasing the youngsters while me and Nicky settled nicely into the pack.

The grounds in front of Cockington Court are beautiful and seeing a line of colourful running tops snaking through them as the freezing rain gave way to winter sunshine gave an added brightness to the scene.
I ran most of these trails the day before The Caper and there wasn’t a hint of where the course might go – all of the signs and tape must have been put in place early on race day. I’m quite confident (and I do have history with this) that it would be a near impossibility to miss a turn, or veer off the route, the markings were so comprehensive.

Add to that the marshals, at every pinch point and major turn a high-viz hero was there to cheerfully point us in the right direction.
What is there to say about the course? Probably 70% is on gnarly or muddy trails and fields and the rest on more made up trails like compacted gravel and about 100m on tarmac! I bloomin’ loved every step. There are so many ups and downs, totalling about 1600 feet of elevation. Some of the muddy downhill sections were bordering on ski slopes by the time half the pack had charged down them.
Martin is as generous a friend as you could ever wish for, both with his time, energy and support and he is always happy to get the coffees in. He is also known for being as tight as a you-know-what’s-wotsit when he thinks he’s being done over by marketeers…….
“How was the mud in those old road shoes Martin?”
“Terrible, I was sliding everywhere…….”
I’m saying nothing!

The finish is naughty, back up the same 200m hill we started on and with everybody watching and cheering, we felt the need to offer something in the way of a ‘sprint’ finish.

Fabulous run in a glorious location and I can’t believe that, despite it being so close to home, I’ve never run it before!

Nicky and I do get so, so much joy from trail running together and today was bliss, we ran well, the woods and countryside looked just splendid with leaves of all colours carpeting the floor and I feel like weve added to the bank of precious memories of our adventures together. And we were home for lunch!

At Last A (Big) Pilgrimage

It’s been a while………

I’m starting to really enjoy avocado by the way. We were having our first meal out since, well, since who knows when (Feb 2020?) and I elected to have a dish where avocado is listed as an ingredient.

The world might have paused on its axis during the last eighteen months, but my palette has become bang up to date, those recipes in the Saturday Guardian are looking almost accessible!

Why were we eating out? The same reason we were having our first night away from home in eighteen months too – we had gone to run an event. The Big Pilgrimage Marathon, the first appearance on the running calendar of this quirky looking offering from Big Feat Events.

I wore a shirt too. With buttons and everything. We felt so grown up as we ordered our chicken and avocado.

Contemplating avocado

Our Premier Inn sat on an identikit retail and industry park which could have been in any number of towns around the UK. Bloomin’ convenient though – as well as our meal next door in The Beefeater, we visited Decathlon and the MASSIVE Tesco without needing to use the car.. We’re from sleepy Devon see, “ooo shiny things” our gaping, gawping mouths dribbled as we hunted for a pint of milk in a supermarket the size of Paignton.

For our first ‘away’ fixture for 18 months we had been tempted by the promise of historic trails, epic skylines, farmland, beaches and boardwalks, not to mention, woods, forests, an abbey, several churches and a cheeky boat ride. Yes, The Big Pilgrimage sounded right up our street. 

The route follows the first 27/28 ish miles of a recently discovered Pilgrim Trail called The Old Way. Our section started at the site from The Pilgrim Fathers left our shores on The Mayflower (in Southampton) and finished at Fort Nelson, home of The Nelson Monument and The Royal Armouries Museum. Which was handily only ten minutes from the aforementioned Premier Inn. Which was where we were to leave our car. It’s almost as if they’ve planned this stuff.

Nothing wrong with the Premier Inn, but we didn’t have the best night’s sleep…… 

one of us is VERY organised…… (it’s not me)

“WE’VE OVERSLEPT!….. Oh no, it’s 11.30pm”

“THERE’S SOMEBODY IN THE ROOM! WHAT ROOM? WHERE AM I? WE’VE OVERSLEPT…….”

That sort of thing. All feckin’ night.

It was quite a relief when the 4.15 alarm went off.

That’s early! I hear you exclaim. Well, yes it is, but the rather snazzy, leather interiored National Express coach charged with delivering us to Southampton was leaving at 6.15am. And we wanted time for showers, coffee and Weetabix complete with lukewarm milk. 

We gathered our kit. A VERY straight forward process for Nicky as she meticulously laid it out the previous night….. I think I ‘put’ mine out and so, as usual, I left the kit gods to decide whether I had everything I needed. 

En route to the start

As the coach pulled away from Fort Nelson (nr Portsmouth) in the gloomy half light, we hadn’t yet appreciated the panoramic view from here. After finishing some hours later in the sunshine, we were astonished by the vistas on offer. The very bright and cheery Big Feat crew member had ticked our name off the coach list and counted us all aboard. The welcoming and friendly driver hadn’t quite grasped the brief as he asked “What time is your return journey?”. “We’re running back.” His face seemed to ask “Why?”

Visit The Isle Of Wight Festival” screamed the huge posters as we pulled in near the Red Funnel ferry terminal. In the spirit of Rob Deering’s Running Tracks (see my review here), this immediately evoked memories of visiting the festival in 2006. What a weekend – The Prodigy, Foo Fighters, The Kooks, Primal Scream, Lou Read, Maximo Park…..

Registration was a jolly and good humoured affair at the water’s edge. We collected our race numbers complete with our first sticker of the day. Yes, we collected stickers which we then attached to our race numbers. What a great and individual touch – a volunteer in Pilgrim hat, naturally, handed us a bespoke sticker at seven of the notable points along the route. Nice.

The race briefing delivered to the 70 or so marathon runners captured the mood perfectly. Nothing to fear. Keep the water on your right. Look after each other. Don’t fret the ferry crossing………

And we were off, a watery sun soon dispensing with the slightly autumnal chill. 

3 miles of Southampton’s waterside suburbs gave way to greenery at Westwood as we started on the trails proper. Not before we had crossed the impressive bridge over the River Itchen and received a sticker from a young Pilgrim dressed head to toe in Southampton FC gear (getting ready to host Manchester United later in the day I believe). 

From there we tackled all sorts of shore line – paths, shingle beaches, compacted mud – and weaved in and out of the industry and piers lining Southampton Water. Before long (7 ½ ish miles) we had reached the beautiful village of Hamble and its much anticipated ferry ride. Three of the Hamble Pink Ferries were shuttling runners over the short crossing and we waited a couple of minutes before enjoying our mini cruise. 

Nicky and I are quite used to trail events having quirky sections and approximate distances and so, as advised in the race briefing, we didn’t fret about the boat ride. A couple of runners were in a quandary about whether to pause their running watches. We just enjoyed the ride and were soon having to propel ourselves using our feet again as we disembarked. 

The Warsash Nature Reserve on the shoreline came next, lush and green and picturesque and still very, very flat! Through miles 9 to 12 we were still following the shore as it again became quite industrial. Nicky and I are used to running relentlessly up-and-down trails at home and the lack of elevation seemed to be tiring our legs in different ways.

As we approached the halfway point the course turned and headed inland. With the beautiful marshes of Titchfield Haven to our right, the runners in the 14 (ish) mile half marathon race were crossing their finishing line as we passed. Always looking to raise a smile, I drew on my footballing glory years and shaped to swerve left into the finishing funnel before side stepping and running straight past – this raised a smile or too and we exchanged some laughs with a couple of spectators enjoying the chilled out atmosphere in the sunshine. We then headed off through the beautiful village of Titchfield itself.

Titchfield Abbey is really quite spectacular and worth the very brief detour to enjoy in its full glory. The trails from this point on were glorious, old railway lines, farmland and woods. At some point during all of this I managed to take a tumble. “No lazy steps” is one of my trail running mantras – a few years ago I did go through a phase of hurling myself to the floor at random times. 

Anyway, on some particularly firm and even ground, I caught my feet in a trailing bramble and down I went.

“Are you ok?”

“Yes”

“Are you sure?”

“Can we talk about something else!”

“Have you hurt your pride……..?”

That might have been as we went through Wickham (around mile 21) now I think about it!

Then The Meon Valley Trail which was busy ish with families enjoying the gorgeous and accessible countryside. This was followed by The Forest Of Bere which preceded the two longest climbs of the day as we began to sense the finish line within our grasp. From mile 23, still in the forest, we had caught a few fellow runners and felt we were really in our stride. Running well and taking walk breaks for difficult terrain or to eat and drink, combined with being in the company of my partner in adventure, my beautiful and inspiring soul mate Nicky, the miles and time simply slid by.

This really is our happy place – running together on the trails, either talking dribble, solving our quandaries from ‘real’ life, or just enjoying each others company in silence as we let the peace of the surroundings seep into us. Before we knew it we were at the ‘200m to go’ sign. A lovely short downhill section on the grass and we held each others hand aloft to celebrate another challenge completed. Of Nicky’s 38 marathons and my 45, 27 have been completed side by side. It is the best feeling.

This route is a belter. The work that has happened, in advance and on the day, in creating it, marking it and marshalling it shines through. The finished product is superb, take a bow Big Feat Events.

Oooo look, a video too:

Running Tracks by Rob Deering

Some books speak to me, speak of truth. Some have me nodding along with a wry smile, like I’ve been found out. Some books find the words which have previously failed me, expressing how I feel. Some have me laughing out loud when an ironic, or comedic moment lurches from the page. Some have me needing to take a quiet moment.

This.

This book does all of that.

So. Why should YOU read this book? Read on and you will discover……

Firstly, you don’t need to be a fan of running and/or passionate about music to enjoy Running Tracks?

Not as much as you’d think. 

The years since Rob Deering discovered running are richly documented here, along with the soundtrack to those years. So, if you had absolutely zero interest in either running or music, it could potentially pass you by. But, I promise you it won’t.

Running Tracks is about so much more than that. 

Break time in the van is reading time for me.

This book is about how we progress in life, about what makes us, what develops within us. Rob Deering has music in his blood – as a musician and as a listener. Running appeared later in his life. But it has become just as much a part of his DNA. The book goes far deeper than merely chronicling that progression. The author beautifully shows us how a new hobby or passion gets moulded into our soul, our personality, our very way of life, whilst still maintaining the truth of our self. It’s a neat, clever and humbly delivered trick which worked to get me thinking about how I personally have evolved into the person I am now.

Rob Deering is a comedian, musician, director, radio host, podcaster, and now author. He is also a runner. Through his running, and the platform of his other work, he is a prolific fundraiser for Parkinson’s UK, a cause which isn’t just close to his heart, it is in his heart.

Rob Deering’s first book and he’s immediately wearing out the black marker pens!

He delivers his debut foray into the publishing world with a refreshing and poised pen. Using the parallel of music and running to coincide with moments of his life, he has given us a unique take on ‘memoir’.  

From his personally curated, but randomly delivered playlist, there’s a tune for 26 (point two, naturally) of these occasions and each paints a vivid picture of an unforgettable moment in time for Rob. 

The book feels rich and warm. His passion for the combination of music and running radiates from every page. There is nothing dictatorial about the musical choices, the author doesn’t impose his listening preferences upon us, he simply says why each piece of music so perfectly fitted each moment of the run in question, and how that reflects equally perfectly on a point in his life.

The details he adds about the structure of each tune only serves to immerse us deeper into why a rhythm, bass line, chord structure or sample hit the spot for him.

Running Tracks paints great pictures of the author’s favourite running locations.

Similarly with running, Deering has a refreshing honesty to his writing – I have no doubt that even non-runners will have no trouble relating to him. He employs an accessible style of narration and there is no attempt to mystify the act of running. The author, like most of us, has learned as he has progressed, often (again like most of us) by getting things wrong! This journey plays out through the book – putting routes together, pacing himself, finding the types of runs which bring him the most pleasure – his writing celebrates all of this and shows how available exercise can be. 

Why did I enjoy this book so much?

Running Tracks feels personal to me in many ways. Not least because (full disclosure), my name features in the back of the book alongside the many hundreds of others who supported the book at its inception. 

With fellow comedian, author and runner Paul Tonkinson, recording an episode of Running Commentary.

My to-be-read pile was always likely to feature a book about running and music. This is especially the case when it is written by half of the duo behind my favourite podcast (Running Commentary, alongside Paul Tonkinson). The fact that it is a fine work of writing is icing on the cake.

Music and running feature so heavily in my own life and even though we might often be on quite different pages in our choices of runs or tunes, it is most definitely the same love. We both put on a pair of trainers and get out of the door, and we’re always glad that we did.

Rob Deering loves the big (and not so big) city marathons, the book visits London and both New and old York, whilst I’m more likely to be found at a low key event in a field somewhere. Also, some of the random and inconsistent distances of my events might play with his head, the crowds of runners and spectators at his favourites would play with mine. BUT, it is still the same love.

And here’s the biggie, I simply don’t like running with headphones. Rob Deering feels that so much of the running experience ties into the playlist accompanying him. It is STILL the same love, we all find our rhythm when we set out on our running journeys and how we access that rhythm is a personal thing. 

All of which still doesn’t mean that music doesn’t feature in, nor evoke memories of, my own running. I admit to being slightly jealous as my running and music associations will never have the immediacy of Deering’s, but it is still, I reckon, the same love.

Take chapter 20 where he talks about the incredible band, Rush. I won’t spoil any of his stories by expanding on where and how Rush’s The Camera Eye sound-tracked a run for Rob (go and buy the book and find out!). BUT I can tell you that every time I hear Rush it transports me back to Toronto Beaches Jazz Festival Half Marathon on a trip as a guest of their long time producer, Terry Brown. A story for another day……

There are many other moments and references in this fabulous tome which speak directly to me, but the book is Rob Deering’s story to tell, not mine. I simply whole heartily recommend that you grab yourself a copy and find out for your selves. 

My copy is already well thumbed!

As a work of standalone creative non fiction, Running Tracks is a joy to me. It is a refreshing departure from those generic and formulaic memoirs of the famous. I was thrilled to read a book full of tricks and surprises which deals emotions in spades. I rolled easily from chapter to chapter, eager to peer through another window into the author’s world.

You know what, go and buy it, find out for yourself!

Links:

robdeering.com

Rob Deering’s Running Tracks Radio Hour

Running Commentary

Twitter

Parkinsons UK

The Real Thing #2

(Even Better Than The Real Thing?)

Look around and you’ll spot something which has become a virtual version of its former self.

Fitness classes performed at home. A screen full of fellow Zumba or Yoga enthusiasts has become common place. In fact, Nicky signing up for a Pilates class has meant that, 10 months after everybody else, we started to do battle with Zoom! Has it been a success? The jury is out! On week two we managed to work out how to enable the instructor to see Nicky as she contorted herself into the unlikely poses. Week three seems to have slipped by without it being mentioned!

Charlie, ever helpful with the piano!

Schooling, of course, is now delivered in multiple ways, and, in my humble opinion, teachers and school staff need bloomin’ medals for the work they’ve done these last ten months or so. Us grown ups too can be schooled via WhatsApp or tested online – Nicky has had dozens of video call piano lessons on her ‘phone and even passed her virtual performance Grade I. That was featured in one of my blogs trying to find the positives from 2020. The rate she’s already progressing, she may well be troubling the scorers for Grade II before you know it.

Job interviews, whole work places even, house viewings, trips to the zoo, literary festivals, so many of us have found, and enjoyed, innovative ways of still experiencing as much of life as possible via the internet.

We’ve already looked at the virtual world of books and book shops, so let’s have a dig into my other hobby and passion, running.

Some things you simply can’t do from home!

You’d think running was something which really can’t be replicated at home, well that isn’t necessarily so…..

Aside from people running marathons in their gardens, climbing Everest on the stairs or completing half marathons on their balconies, there is an (admittedly expensive) way of replicating running challenges without leaving the building. You’ll need a swanky treadmill and a computer and then you can run in the virtual world of Zwift.

We do have the cycling version here ourselves, as Nicky tries to keep her mileage up. Obviously it’s a bit easier with cycling as you can put your actual bike in a turbo trainer, far less cumbersome, and certainly more portable than a treadmill.

And then there are virtual events. Using apps, links to training programs and websites, smart watches or just good old honesty, we have been able to take part in events with others whilst running alone. As I put together my series of features on running events companies, I’ve been learning just what lengths some have gone to in creating virtual challenges.

Running clubs too are hosting virtual relays and time trial challenges. It not only gives members something to focus their training on, but also keeps people communicating in these anxious and sometimes lonely times.

I get to run my ‘virtual’ miles here!

I listen to a podcast, Running Commentary, presented by two stand up comedians, Rob Deering and Paul Tonkinson. Deering went all in and did the Great North Run virtual event and also the London Marathon. These events had the added technical challenge of everybody running at the same time! His reports on the two events were great episodes. Particularly the marathon, a huge achievement at any time, never mind without the usual London crowds or fellow competitors.

Me?

I’ve found myself clicking the enter now button for distance and elevation challenges. Mostly, it has to be said, from the quirky and quite excellent Bys Vyken. The Cornish event organiser has created a series of challenges during the pandemic, each with a back story related to the region. I’m currently about a third of the way through their GOAT 2 challenge (and three quarters of the way through Lamps On Lockdown too). The combination of these two virtual events means I’m often out running the local hills during the hours of darkness.

Do I miss doing events in the flesh. Oh my yes. Our road trips with our ‘team mate’ Martin are such adventures. The middle aged banter in the car, some coffee and more giggles waiting for the start are so much part of the experience. Bumping into regular faces at the types of trail events we tend to prefer give them a real community feel. Yes, yes, yes, we miss those days.

I’ve avoided any ‘see how fast you can go’ type of virtual event, but I can see the attraction for those who still enjoy training to better their previous times or win the bragging rights over a running nemesis. I’d rather ignore the watch and just keep enjoying my running on the trails we’re lucky enough to have on our doorstep.

In Praise of 2020 #3 Maps and Apps

First they tell me my entire record collection is in my telephone, now it seems there are maps inside my watch.

I know I’m old school, but surely there is witchcraft at play here!

Weeks spent exercising close to home, months spent shielding, avoiding contact with everyone, events cancelled, holidays postponed, shocking and anxiety inducing news day after day. We were ready for some adventure.

Charlie joins us for the shorter runs

We are lucky that we get so, so much pleasure from simply being outdoors. Walking the dog, running and once the weather and regulations allowed, swimming and cycling.

One thing we found helped us massively was to have an adventure once a week. On my day off work, we would create a route and drive to somewhere relatively local. After a longish run exploring some new trails we would treat ourselves to a snack of Double Deckers and cold Diet Coke (we take our sports nutrition very seriously!)

A city boy by birth, I am not a natural map reader. It hasn’t been unheard of for us to not actually be where my finger is pointing to on a map! In fact I’ve made a few navigation errors since I’ve been attempting these longer trail ultra marathons. I remember coming up behind some runners I’d already overtaken once in the Gower 50!

Elite athletes’ recovery nutrition

What a boon then, when I upgraded my running watch to one which can tell me which way to go! It felt like an extravagance. But not being into cars, flashy clothes etc, I reckoned I should use the extra pennies I’ve earned this year to invest in something which I would actually use.

And with it we’ve been on so many adventures………….

Nicky said it feels like being on holiday. After weeks of confining herself to very short trips from home, what a joy to go somewhere else and explore.

It’s so simple, even I can create a route!

Here’s how we do it – we find the trails and lanes on the paper map in the comfort of home, then create a route on the app which accompanies the watch, following the trails we’ve found. Then we sent it to the watch. I shit you not!

So Nicky and I get to joyfully skip around the countryside knowing that my watch will vibrate (honestly, I’m not making this up!) to warn me if we’ve gone off route. We’ve been caught out a couple of times: once we ended up wandering across somebody’s lawn. On another occasion, a landowner had build an ugly block wall across the entrance to a right of way!

Mostly, it’s been a succession of joyous adventures washed down with increasingly elaborate post run nutrition. What started as a drink and snack started to become a full on picnic as autumn arrived!

As we make our plans for 2021 (with the obvious caveats), it would be too easy to stop our adventure runs, particularly as Nicky starts to build towards her Ironman triathlon near the end of the summer. The running in most triathlons is on flat and even surfaces and so 15 miles of rocky, muddy and hilly coast path is hardly specific training. BUT, it really is good for the soul and so we will be substituting some of her longer runs with a few trips out into the countryside.

Love is….

I heard a great phrase on my favourite running podcast, Running Commentary as the festive season approached. Rob Deering, when asked about whether he might have new year’s resolutions, said he was going further and more in depth with his plans for 2021. He is creating a manifesto for the year. I really like the idea of this. There is no ‘new normal’, no going back to ‘the way things used to be’, there is only what we have. Right here. Right now. It’s the only place we can live. So I’m thinking about what I’d like to achieve as ‘me’ in 2021 and setting out just how I’m going to go about that.

As I said, everything comes with caveats as the world tries to juggle ways to keep us all safe but keep us all moving too.

But that is all for another day, another blog………

We really are thankful for our health and the health of our loved ones. We are also grateful and aware that we are lucky enough not to have to worry about jobs being safe. With this in mind, we know that we can keep planning to be outside, taking every opportunity to enjoy the wonderful coast and countryside we are blessed with being surrounded by.

Badger Trail Events

“We will get through this, we must be patient, races have and will come back.”

Kev Day, with the sort of positivity we all need.

My series looking at some of the characters behind trail running events in the South West continues as we meet Kevin Day from Badger Trail Events.

Kevin and Denise Day are the fabulous team behind Badger Trail Events. This really is a team operation. In fact Kev (he prefers the shortened moniker) goes to great lengths to point out just how motivational Denise is throughout this q & a. He reminds me of me, and not just because we are namesakes: Like I do with Nicky, he sees the whole of life as being faced by a team of two. 

Badger Trail Events’ first race was the Ooser Marathon in March 2018. The race having been launched in November of the previous year. Kev had taken a break from the whole world of routing and planning trail events, having cut his teeth as part of another of Dorset’s event organisers. 

Many of us were already fans of Kev’s routes, having enjoyed some of White Star Running’s great offerings, such as The Giant’s Head Marathon. Whatever the reasons for his departure from that organisation, it isn’t really any of our business, nor is it particularly relevant. Anyway, as it has turned out, it has meant even more Dorset based events for us to choose from.

Kev is always pleased to see us!

Before we delve into the birth of Badger Trail Events, a few personal memories. At those earlier events, Kev was part of the great atmosphere and was always out on the course, checking in with the aid stations, the tail runners, making sure the leaders were going the right way and generally offering banter and encouragement. I particularly remember on a baking hot day, Nicky and I being pleased to see him magically appear in the pick up truck with bowsers of water to hand out in between official drinks stations. 

Oh, and he always had his badger sporran on display, hence the ‘I felt the badger’ badges which became stuff of Dorset legend. Nicky certainly earned hers!

I digress. His self employed handyman business had already taken a back seat to race organising and he found himself encouraged to dip his toe into going solo. Except he wasn’t alone. Denise and a few close friends managed to convince him to stage The Ooser. A route was already in his mind and so Badger Trail Events was born.

Denise nervously took a step into the limelight to be Race Director. Kev concentrated on getting the route just right and reverted to his role of being everywhere at all times on race day. The support and encouragement of their network of friends (who really should get a mention; Rose, Mike and their son Elliot, known as ‘mini-badger’, as well as Jenny and Beverly) meant that this first time event was a huge success.

“The day went well. Denise was a little scared being RD (she hates speaking to crowds of people). But she did a great job. I was out on the course following the front runners and keeping an eye on the sweepers, whilst trying not to be sick with worry. I got back with the last runners to the news all went well.”

The team Kev and Denise have put together delivered The Ooser again in 2019.  Around 500 runners tackled either  the marathon or half marathon. The route explores Dorset’s hidden and forgotten trails, ancient woodlands, farmland and featuring plenty of mud, water and hills.

They managed to get two events staged in between the lockdown periods this year, and those who were able to run were quick to complement the Badger Trail Events team on how well they had been staged.

“You and your team did the best job. I managed a few events between July and now and none were as well organised and thought through as yours. Also, you have the best routes and medals and the meanest of hills” 

Social media is full of praise for all of Badger Trail Events’ Races

Both Kev and Denise have been heavily involved with creating and supporting, not only their own events, but also Parkrun and Junior Parkrun. From personal experience, I can also confirm that they are likely to pop up at all sorts of races, helping out and cheering on the runners. I remember Kev appearing nearing the finish line of The Dorset Villages Marathon one year, as I stumbled towards it!

During the first lockdown, Kev was liaising with other event organisers and Parkrun, constantly looking at ways in which running could be a community event again. 

I asked Kev how he was feeling about 2021 for Badger Trail Events in light of, you know, everything.

“Positive. That’s all you can be. The Ooser is due to go off on the 4th April, The Hellstone in late May / early June (sorting dates with the landowner) and hopefully, The FUBAR & SNAFU will happen once again at Bovington.”

And Kev really is positive when it comes to future events, a lesson to us all. Referring to the Ooser again:

“What with the vaccine and also the covid measures in place, we may get back to the 800 runner mark.”

The Hellstone is a marathon, half marathon and 10k set in open countryside, with “devilish hills”, a stone circle and even a cricket pitch. 

As for the Bovington races, they are staged at the tank museum and tank driver training grounds. Having raced at Bovington on a Kev course, expect a bit of mud! FUBAR and SNAFU? You’ll have to google it!

Kev and Denise certainly aren’t desperate to flood the market with new races, but they are constantly on the lookout for new and different venues. When pushed for ambitions with regard to future races, Kev had this mouth watering teaser:

“We would love to do something along the lines of the Barkley Marathon (“the race that eats it young”). We’re on the lookout for a route……”

When it comes to their own running, Kev quickly wants to talk about Denise’s incredible achievements and skip over his own. Before we delve into Denise’s rather impressive palmares, a little story of how Kev got into running. Those of you who read my piece on Bys Vyken will know that David (Bys Vyken’s founder) found motivation in chasing a friend when getting into running. Kev is the same. Having played football, rugby “union of course!”, cricket, raced motorbikes and even represented Dorset at pool, He found himself goaded into a running challenge:

“I was 20 ish….. A Scottish guy I worked with had entered a 5k run. He boasted how quick he was (he’d had trials with Rangers F.C , so was fit). To shut him up, I entered too, saying I would beat him. Doh! 3 months of training, over Blackhill in Bere Regis, paid off on the day, I beat him by around 10 feet!”

Kev didn’t really know about running clubs and just carried on training on his own. He got faster and fitter (running under 20 minutes for a hilly 5k). But, he’s far more interested in sharing Denise’s story….

“Denise’s journey into running started even later. Approaching a certain age (editorial licence used here!), she was worried about putting on weight…….. she worried about it so much we bought a dog……. a great excuse to get out and exercise”

Dogs are such an important part of life in the Badger household. In all weathers, every day, Denise and the dog were out there. She then felt the urge to start jogging during a walk and before long had found out about Parkrun and was keen to be fit enough to run one.

Max

With Kev pretty much stopping his own sport, he became, alongside Max, Denise’s cheerleader.

“I helped, cajoled and encouraged Denise to get out and run. I showed her how to land on her feet, all about cadence, what to eat, getting her mind right and so on.”

This worked too as before long they were celebrating a non stop mile. A month later they were again elated as Denise completed her first Parkrun. She slept for 2 hours afterwards, but a runner had been born. As Denise told me, Max the dog became her ever faithful training partner.

“When I started running seriously in 2011 (training for my first ever race – The Great South Run, because of a work challenge) we had Max. He did all my training with me including first marathon the year after (2012 London)”

Denise – thankful for the fittest dog in Dorset!

L – R Max, Daisy and Bear

Max was joined by Daisy a few years later and the dogs went on every adventure. Sadly Max passed away earlier this year. Daisy wasn’t lonely for too long though as the wonderfully named Bear has now joined the gang.

“Denise has done most of the races in Dorset. She has also done the Chamonix Half and Full and the Ex to Axe, a nasty 22 mile trail race, also her first (and possibly last) 100k run. She’s still running and one day I’ll make her do the Ooser (maybe year 5 in 2022).”

Denise remains motivated to keep fit and keep going, with Kev always in support. His own motivations are (like so many we meet in the great trail running scene) philanthropic:

“I’m always motivated by those who think they can’t, then they do. I’m inspired by the younger runners who try their hardest week in week out at parkrun, and get better. I suppose I’m motivated by the slower runners and those who are trying their hardest.”

Kev is a bit of a talent spotter too. Noticing young runners showing promise at Parkrun and being instrumental in getting them teamed up with coaches to try and realise their potential. Denise too likes to encourage and be a role model. Her own daughter has started to really enjoy exercise with the example shown by, and with the encouragement of, her Mum. Another runner born, with a marathon planned for 2021… 

I ask everyone in this series what their proudest running moments have been. Kev is sure that Denise would say her 100km ultra marathon. And Kev himself? “What Denise has done”!

The couple are rightly proud of the achievements of Badger Trail Events so far, as well as humbled by the fact that so many people choose to run The Ooser as a first marathon. As Kev says, “it’s not flat!”.

Kev acknowledges that this venture deprives him of any financial security or space in his home (something Brian of Winding Paths also told us in his interview). Sometimes he questions his sanity too. BUT, both him and Denise are inspired and enthused by the runners who sign up to their events and make race days so special.

It has been an absolute pleasure to catch up with Badger Trail Events’ story and I’m sure this most inspiring and popular of couples will take their events from strength to strength.