Winding Paths

Over the years this blog has featured so many races and events which I’ve attended with my amazing lady wife Nicky. Pretty much all of them have been hosted by small outfits creating amazing events just for us. I’m sure we can all be guilty of taking this for granted.

I thought it would be great to delve behind the scenes and have a look at the sort of characters who make up this wonderful world of trail running in our region. We can all be guilty of scrolling through life, picking snippets from a blur of social media nonsense. We miss out on engaging with some great people. And some great stories.

First up is Winding Paths, the brainchild of local runner Brian Lewis. As with all events companies, 2020 has not been kind to Winding Paths. But, a succession of cancelled events hasn’t stopped Brian from pushing ahead with his plans for the company. 

Only in its second year, Brian set the company up in June 2019, it would have been easy to let his initial enthusiasm slip during this challenging year. He hasn’t let that happen though and still strives for the very best routes, medals and finish line locations.

The loyal following Winding Paths has already acquired (social media is full of stories from those who enjoyed his events so far) is credited with keeping his motivation strong.

“what has kept me going is the very supportive comments, messages and emails from participants of my events”. 

Brian’s events do have a wonderful community spirit about them. As well as the runners, he has a great army of volunteers – friends, family and other runners all donating their time to make each event possible. Brian knows that Winding Paths’ events are nothing without this crew and he looks after them well to thank them.

As the pandemic became the author of the 2020 story, Winding Paths were immediately informing participants of their options when events were cancelled or delayed. This has been another reason why so many are staying loyal. Brian is determined to take the positivity and encouragement he gets and use it to arrive in 2021 on the front foot, looking forward.

As we speak in late November, Brian’s next physical event will be The Final Countdown, which, by coincidence, was also Winding Path’s first event on New Year’s Eve last year. 

Winding Path’s Summer Trails event was a welcome bit of ‘normality’ for those that managed to grab a place.

The Final Countdown 10k starts and finishes in the Dartington Estate and runners get to sample some of the best countryside (and mud!) that South Devon has to offer. Sold out in its first year, the route gives Brian the chance to share some of his favourite trails with the rest of us. Numbers are restricted this year and the event will feature a series of starting waves, but it is still a great chance to end the year on a muddy high. The staggered starts, and all the other measures Brian has taken, keep the event Covid secure without taking away from the atmosphere. 

Winding Paths were one of the first to host a Covid secure event when regulations permitted them back in August. On a scorching weekend, he managed to get 150 runners to complete either 5km or 10km in a series of waved starts. It was an enormous success. Those that took part waxed lyrical about the sheer volume of work which had clearly been undertaken to create the event. It is staged on the same course as his Totally Muddy races.

Brian also set up an ambitious virtual challenge – participants linked their Strava (other apps are available!) accounts and were given from May until December to complete the total distance of the South West Coast Path. The 300 places he created soon sold out, his 12 Runs Of Christmas virtual event has been similarly popular, with all the slots already taken.

Brian is very much a keen trail runner, and like so many of our local running leaders has a naturally philanthropic nature. He has been leading run groups for a few years now and when regulations and time allows he offers guided runs on his favourite trails. 

Just one of Brian’s many running achievements he doesn’t boast about – The London Marathon

When asked for his proudest moments in the world of running, his generosity of spirit again shows itself as his first thought is for the achievements of others. For five years he has coached, motivated and encouraged a couch-to-5k running group. “there is nothing that beats seeing a non-runner improve, shed the doubt and run their first 5k.”

But he can’t help but swell with pride when he sees one of his own events succeed. When pushed he’ll even allow himself to accept that his own running achievements are a source of great pride.

Brian’s initial motivation was a personal challenge. He was already involved with THHN (Torbay Holiday Helpers Network), a fabulous charity which supports families with seriously ill children, or those that have been bereaved by offering holidays, making memories to be treasured for families in their dark times.

He would attend THHN fund raising events, some of which included running, and would always dismiss invitations to don some trainers and join in. 

His interest was secretly piqued though. He was already organising events such as the fun runs and schools challenge which accompanies the flagship local road race The Torbay Half Marathon. He was inspired by the 20 THHN runners who had completed the half marathon and the following day he attempted to break into a run himself.

“I was out walking along Cockington water meadow and I decided to try and run for a bit, stopping anytime anyone came in sight” 

He was back the next day. And the next. He had the bug. A watch and some decent kit soon arrived and he had entered his first 10k (The Totnes 10k) a mere 2 months later. Those initial 1 mile runs soon grew as Brian himself started to get shrink! The running encouraged him to improve his diet and before long he had lost a considerable amount of weight and was running for the pure pleasure of feeling fit and well.

Brian even turns his own running success into the success of a fellow runner. He has special memories of The Totnes 10k and ran it ‘virtually’ this year. Managing to find way to share this with somebody else, he used the occasion to accompany a friend on the exact course to help them best their previous time on the route

I have no idea whether Brian has a trumpet, but he isn’t inclined to blow it very often if he has!

A festival atmosphere at the City To Sea Finish Line

Those first runs were back in 2014. In September of that year Brian was Race Director of the epic City To Sea ultra marathon and marathon. He is hoping that Winding Paths will make him just as proud as he is of the 4 years in which he was at the helm of City To Sea. It is a major fundraiser for THHN and is a stand out fixture on the South Devon run scene. Selling out every year, it takes a herculean effort to host. Over 60 volunteers to organise, plus the festival at the finish line, Brian is right to celebrate its incredible success. 

Brian cites Luke Tillen, the THHN founder, as being a massive motivator and mentor throughout this journey he has been on. Luke’s own ultra marathon and fund raising efforts led to the birth of The City To Sea ultra marathon and quite possibly Brian’s own adventure in running. 

Brian was also Race Director for The Pennywell Challenge, another THHN fundraiser. Nicky and I enjoyed this challenging 10k back in 2018 on a very hot evening!

He feels that the first year of City To Sea as a Race Director will take some beating – everything was new, locals moved signs and tape which caused massive on course headaches and the event was even longer back in those first years. Up well into the night marking the course, then up in the early hours to chaperone the fleet of transport to the start, runners were on course until 9pm the following night.

You can feel and sense the emotion, even 6 years on, as Brian explains:

“the event was over but we had to go up on stage, in front of everyone and the compere did a speech, going backstage myself, Luke and Carolanne (who helped with the fun day and music festival) were all in tears at the fact we had done it, we had actually done it, that was a very proud moment.”

Since that first year Brian has gone on to achieve so much with his own running. He has clocked up 20 marathons and ultra marathons, the longest of these being 34 miles. He cites his first 50km event as his proudest running moment, completing the event only a year after starting his running journey. He discovered how easy it could be to lose runners in events that day –

“at one stage around ten of us took a wrong turn ran about 100 metres through waist high stingers, realized we were going the wrong way and had to turn around and run back through them, but the joy of finishing was amazing.”

Brian celebrating running over 100 miles in a week during lockdown. But will he attempt the century non stop?

I like to consider myself an ‘ultra runner’ and those that know me will know that I came within a whisker of being a 100 mile ultra runner last year (read about it here if you fancy), so I was eagerly awaiting Brian’s answer to the question “what are your next running ambitions?”

“Dare I say, I have one eye on a 100 miler, I said I would never do it, as while I enjoy shorter night runs, I am not sure about running through the entire night, but recently I have thought that now would be the time to try.”

In fact, Brian has a 50 mile event lined up already for next spring, a stepping stone to the century? I reckon he’s got it in him!

Brian’s ambitions for Winding Paths are about creating fabulous events to be enjoyed by all who enjoy the trails, whether they are chasing at the front or taking selfies and soaking up the views further back. He is trying to have options for all – the Total Coastal event (frustratingly put back a couple of times in 2020) is scheduled for April next year and features a bruising ultra marathon from Kingswear to Shaldon on the South West Coast Path as well as equally challenging but considerably shorter half marathon and 10k routes.

There are sacrifices of course, and Brian can sometimes need to be reminded to take his Winding Paths hat off during family time! He acknowledges that working from home has helped him fit everything and he is getting better at balancing his life whilst still giving his energies to planning his events. 

It is telling that Brian’s positivity and relentless humour both shine through when asked what he’s most looking forward to with Winding Paths in 2021

“I am really looking forward to 2021 with positivity about the events, I am also looking forward to having a dining room that is not full of medals, t-shirts and two gazebos.”

Find Winding Paths – Twitter Facebook Instagram brian@windingpaths.uk

The Colours Of Autumn Running

I once ran with headphones. Well, earphones really. It wasn’t for me.

So many runners do love music on their runs. Or podcasts. What a great way to keep up to speed with your favourites. It simply isn’t for me though.

I prefer the rhythm of my stride, like a perfect metronome counting out the time signature of my efforts.

Or something.

It’s more like random stomps giving away the uneven swing of my legs as they chaotically guide each foot to the floor. Nobody has ever shouted “Oi! your beautiful running gait is pure eye candy for the endurance sport enthusiast.”

In fact, back when I ran with a training group, the coach described me as “running like a drunk man herding cats”! This is the same coach who, at a training session on an actual running track, was calling out the lap splits as we all went through 400 meters in our 800 meters reps. As the speedy guys and girls whizzed past he was calling “60, 65, 68” etc, informing the athletes of their pace. As I trailed through some way behind the young and the athletic, he called out “Thursday……. Friday…..” Ahh he’s a wit!

Where was I? Headphones, earbuds, ear phones. They are just not for me. I tend to avoid roads and so I’m never really looking to drown out any ambient noise. And, joking aside, I really enjoy the sound of my feet striking the ground, the different rhythms of uphill, downhill and flat and the textured layers of sound created by the wide variety of surfaces once I get away from the concrete, paving slabs or tarmac. Who doesn’t enjoy the squelch of deeply packed fallen leaves on a damp day?

Autumn running. Marvellous isn’t it? It’s the colours. Man, those colours. I don’t mind repeating my favourite trail routes, they look, feel, sound and even smell different on every visit. The time of day, the season, the wind speed and direction, rain, sunshine and the direction I’m running in all vary the sensations the run rewards me with. And I keep coming back for more.

An old favourite is this route
so lucky to have it on our doorstep

I was on one of my favourite long and hilly routes last weekend and I found myself so in tune with my running that it was almost dream like. The weather was changeable; strong winds, hail storms, mist and drizzle, heavy rain and gorgeous bright sunshine all made an appearance over the 26ish miles of South Devon’s finest trails.

For some reason, I started focussing on colours. Every surface varying its shade with the changes in the weather. It was like choosing a paint texture. The gloss sheen on wet, freshly fallen leaves, giving them an almost mirror like quality. The flat matt of a grazing pony’s fur as it stood in shadow. The subtle, fine silk of moss on a north facing rock. And so it goes on.

The run started as the clouds which had delayed the dawn and denied us a sunrise drifted towards the horizon. The sun appeared above them, candle flame bright and daffodil yellow. Paignton beach, soft sand above the tide line asking for an increase in effort level as every foot strike sunk deep into it, offered the perfect surface to exaggerate the power of the sun. Too coarse to be golden, but certainly more glitzy than a simple beige, Paignton’s sand is perfect for family beach days.

The South West Coast Path dominates the first 16 miles of this route, all the way from Paignton to Kingswear. It is a lung bursting onslaught of ups and downs with a brief flat respite through Brixham. The seaside fishing town rewarded me with sunshine after the eye watering blitz of a hail storm. With everything freshly dampened, the bright sun showcased the broad pallet of the cottages’ colours, looking like they’ve been painted onto the slopes heading down to the harbour. Pastel yellows, blues, pinks, reds…… it really is a living picture postcard.

And what about the sea? What colour is the sea? Under dark clouds and with a handsome swell, the water takes on a full range of military greys. Dark, gunboat shades, almost black, through to a pale matt silver, glints of light reflecting where the sun sneaks down through gaps in the cloud. From high up on Berry Head, with the old fort in the foreground, the vista could be an arty monochrome photograph come to life.

Greens! You want greens. Well, from yellowy limes, a bit like the colour of a Skoda I once owned (I also had a lime green Allegro at one time, and a shit-brown Datsun – I’ve had some horrendous cars!), fragile grasses almost translucent in the low sun. Green is such a versatile colour. From some angles the dark seas take on a green hue as the wave tops briefly capture some extra light. Lush meadows on the cliff tops make a British Racing Green statement whilst tufts of grass on the upslopes sway from light to dark with the wind.

Not forgetting the browns. Dark and blackened cow pats, shiny oak shades in muddy puddles, golden rusts of leaves about to give up and fall to the trail and plenty of beige too in the bark of trunks, peeling to reveal a smooth pale yellowing of fresh wood. Even the flakey patchwork of rusting, burned oranges on long forgotten ironmongery caught my attention on this run.

The blue/black and greys of dark clouds give way to their paler, fluffier cousins as the day brightens. Whites in every shade of the Dulux deluxe range, I was imagining Egyptian Cotton, Lamb’s Wool and Old Piano Keys might be new shades of paint to sell to those who need to impress the neighbours!

This route, on a blustery Autumn day, with the song Four Seasons In One Day becoming an ear worm, shows off South Devon in all of its finery.

The Tooth Fairy And Matt Haig

If the words “tooth” and “fairy” have placed a warm cuddly, call-the-cute-police image in your mind, soothing, calming and reassuring memories of those little traditions of childhood we cling to; the innocence and the trusting of our younger years, then I’m afraid I’m going to shatter your inner peace.


Try and imagine a pile of broken glass lying on a concrete road, then (bear with me on this) place a microphone next to the pile and connect to a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Ready? Now close your eyes and try and hear a car tyre slowly driving over the pile, grinding it further into the ground. Now place your clenched fist hard against the back of your jaw and push hard. The harder you push, the louder the glass gets crushed.


This was no milk tooth falling out to be placed delicately under the pillow as I drifted off to sleep in my fluffy pyjamas, cuddling my pet Sky Blues elephant (it even had the club badge sewn into its side).


Nope.


After the first infection developed under the offending tooth, timed perfectly with every single dental surgery (like everything else) closing down back in March, I’ve battled toothache. But, shut the back door, the last two weeks have been horrendous. Eye wateringly painful. Sleep denying agony. Obviously, this has been helped enormously by the tropical night time temperatures.


So, after five days of telephone consultations I found myself nervously loitering outside the dentists’ shop front in Union Street in Torquay. The glitzy, high end window display of the dentist felt rather out of place amongst the nail bars, boarded up shops and old school cafes of the upper stretches of Torquay town. As all walks of life were gathering at the line of bus stops and taxi ranks in front of me, I started to become as self conscious as I was anxious. Standing in my supermarket uniform, fresh from a shift which I had completed without pain killers as I was unsure whether taking them would prevent any treatment taking place, I didn’t know whether I looked like I simply needed the toilet as I rocked from foot to foot, or perhaps I was the world’s least discreet drug dealer. 


After what felt like long enough for the firebrand sunlight to raise my temperature above the threshold for being treated, I couldn’t decide whether I was relieved or terrified when a friendly, bemasked dental nurse beckoned me indoors.


I passed the temperature test and was led directly to the executioner’s chair. I’ll save you (and me) the details. And no, I was neither offered, nor asked for the offending tooth. What does happen to such delightful remnants of a life well lived? Actually, I don’t want to know, I’m sure it’s not just popped into the bin with the dentist’s apple core and hummus tub.


My wonderful wife Nicky had thankfully insisted that she drive me and after a brief dribbling call to tell her the deed had been done, the Mini pulled up amongst the Iceland and Argos bags waiting for taxis and I gingerly lowered myself in.


The pain had played havoc with my running ambitions over the previous couple of weeks and I was now resigned to a few days of further down time for my trainers as I recovered from what was starting to feel like a few slaps from Anthony Joshua.


As Nicky blitzed a banana into a bowl of natural yoghurt, I sat in the window nursing my tingling and sore jaw, marveling at just how wonderful my life truly is with this remarkable lady. My recovery would be fine, and I didn’t have toothache! 


That night I was, for the first time in a while, glad to lay my head on the pillow and looked forward to a few hours of sleep. The tooth fairy never crossed my mind (not least because I was thankfully not in possession of the feckin’ tooth anymore). Little did I know that Nicky did indeed have a ‘who’s a brave boy’ tooth fairy style treat lined up for me. 


I remember (do I actually remember? Let’s pretend I do for a minute) placing milk teeth under my pillow as a child and getting excited that there might be a sixpence (which by then was worth two and half new pence) in its place in the morning. This was significant because at the time it would have bought me a packet of football cards. While many were after Kevin Keegan and Mick Channon, I was hoping for Coventry City legends Ian Wallace, Mick Ferguson and Chris Catlin. 


I don’t suppose our grandchildren will be so easily satisfied. A mere coin might not cut it anymore. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s youngsters are only willing to sacrifice their little white treasures in return for a stretch Limousine with six of their friends, a few games of ten pin bowling and a good old Maccy Dees nosh up. Although I’m not sure how we’ll get all that under the pillow? Maybe they’ll settle for a fiver?


What, I here you bleat, has all of this got to do with Matt Haig?

A thing of beauty

In the absence of running, I enjoyed a walk with Charlie before work yesterday (Charlie being our faithful Border Terrier). When I returned there was a parcel tucked behind the gate.

With my name on it. Book shaped. How very exciting.

Nicky had hinted that the tooth fairy had been on the internet and found a surprise for me. And here it was.

I resisted the urge to tear it open and waited for Nicky to get home before, well, tearing it open. Those that know us and anyone who’s read my previous blogs will know we do love our books. You’ll also understand why, as the box revealed its contents; a signed, hardback first edition of Matt Haig’s latest novel, The Midnight Library. There must have been something in my eye, and I was certainly, at least momentarily, stuck for words.

It’s no secret that Nicky and I took extra measures, especially because of my job, to shield her from any potential exposure to Covid-19. It would be foolish to pretend that during those weeks in March and April we hadn’t been fearful. In May, my employer had given me the green light to ‘shield’ for some weeks. Up until then we were living ‘together apart’ and it definitely played havoc with my mental health. Well, Matt Haig was certainly one of the voices I turned to for comfort in those times. Not only is he a writer of beautiful novels and life affirming nonfiction, he is somebody I both relate to and draw comfort in ‘following’.

His, for want of a better word, humanity is so acutely observational, eloquently expressed and is grounded in a true belief that we should all be living as one community which is constantly looking out for each other. We should all have the opportunities to express ourselves adn chase our dreams, regardless of our background or place in society.

The new book is a thing of actual beauty just to look at and hold, and I can’t wait to start turning the pages.

Before that though, I need to get to London with Stuart Maconie. I’m lapping up his account of retracing the steps, 80 years on, of The Jarrow Crusade in his powerful, almost battle cry of a memoir, Long Road From Jarrow. We’re currently in Bedford, one of my old stomping grounds, having passed through a few public houses I frequented back in the day, particularly in Nottingham. 

So my recovery continues, I managed a hard fought 10 miles on the coast path this morning, falling well short of my hoped for mileage but I’m sure my body is still reeling from the physical and emotional assault of the last couple of weeks. 

the coast path – beautiful despite my struggle to run it today

The epic ultra marathon I had hoped to be tackling in October has been cancelled. Understandable of course, but it did leave me without a short term goal for my running. I have decided to create my own one man ultra marathon which I am now officially in training for!

In other news, the grandchildren are now back ‘in da house’ and the new sofa has no trouble in hosting the 6 of us!

With the comforting feeling that the tooth fairy really was looking out for me, onward we go……

Check out all things Matt Haig

Me on Twitter

Or Facebook

2019 – Nicky Went Long

2020 – Looks Like Nicky Is Going Long Again

I thought I’d travelled a long way back in May when I attempted the Dragon 100 ultra marathon. (I didn’t quite finish…..but did write about it…here)

Those that used to read the blog regularly will need no introduction to my amazing wife Nicky.

For those that are new here, let’s just say Nicky is my inspiration, my motivation, my rock, my world, my soul mate, my best friend and I am blessed that she is also my beautiful wife.

She is also an endurance athlete extraordinaire.

Back in September she cycled the length of Britain from Lands End to John O’Groats. A journey of 1000 miles with 50,000ft of hills averaging 75 miles per day.

Now THAT’s going long.

It went someway to battling the disappointment of her attempt to complete the Outlaw triathlon back in July. The Outlaw is an Ironman distance triathlon in Nottingham. Nicky had planned her training from December 2018 until the Outlaw, ticking off every session as she did it. She really is relentless once she sets her mind to it.

Unfortunately, the weather was to intervene. Rain and wind of biblical proportions arrived the night before the race and destroyed the bike course. I found out that the organisers had cancelled the bike leg whilst Nicky was halfway through the 2.4 mile swim. She found out as she exited the water. A massive blow and anti climax, but definitely the right decision.

So, Nicky turned down the invitation to wait a few hours in the foul weather to run a marathon which still wouldn’t give her that iron distance triathlon finish.

We headed home with a massive sense of anti-climax, and of unfinished business.

So we both enter 2020 with fitness goals, challenges and adventures firmly in our sights.

There will be running, there will be cycling, there most certainly will be swimming. Watch this space.

So how did our first week of 2020 go? All fired up an raring to go?

‘yes’ and ‘no’

Both full of chesty colds, we abandoned our traditional trip to the Chard Flyer 10k on 1st January. It is normally how we find out how much older, heavier and slower we have become! Instead we went for a splendid 6 mile walk around Occombe and Cockington.

For me, I’ve managed to cycle to and from work once (about 4.5 miles each way), but now have a mechanical issue with my ~*:^ing bike! I’ve also been out for a snotty 6 mile run, which was hard work, but I think I felt better for doing it.

And then today: I went on the trails. Yup, I’d written myself a sort of training program. What did it say I needed to run? Some tarmac bashing with some miles at a particular pace. Instead I donned the head torch and headed for the coast….. (more about this ‘training plan’ in a future post.

Nicky has fared better:

She has ran twice (6 & 8 miles)

Rode the indoor trainer (on Zwift, more on this in a future post).

Ridden 44 very hilly miles on the road

Swam twice – 1km & 1mile.

So, the first week of the new year draws to a close.

The best development domestically has been Charlie starting to pull his weight with the house work. Washing up is hard with his little paws, but he’s giving it his best shot.

(not quite) a dragon slayer

The Dragon 100 Ultra Marathon

“I knew you’d be hating this bit, I just had to come and find you.”

The words of my beautiful wife.

She was right. I was about 92 miles in to my attempt at the inaugural Dragon 100 Ultra Marathon and my soul was being broken by the roads and pavements leading me out of Barry, the famous South Wales coastal resort.

I’d made a small navigation error.

I was now beyond exhausted.

I’d been heckled by some young hipsters heading out for the night.

I was crying.

I was moving very, very slowly.

As Nicky got out of the car, we were both emotional wrecks.

For the previous 24 hours, I’d had a great big smile every single time she appeared on the route. Something which she’d managed so many times I simply couldn’t count any more.

It had all started the previous evening at the glorious setting of Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsular.

About 70 hopefuls lined up on the chilly windswept headland to set off east towards Cardiff. Alongside me was Lewis, running buddy and founder of Keywood Preston Runners, the running group where we both coach.

Nicky, Lewis’ girlfriend Gemma, and a few other hearty souls braving the icy wind, waved us off before returning to the warmth of their cars.

Following the Wales Coast Path, with its challenging ups and downs and beautiful scenery, we soon warmed up. Those of us who had put on our extra layers started to pause for wardrobe adjustments.

As we enjoyed the stunning scenery with the bright spring sun lowering behind us, we felt good.

Until Lewis caught a foot in a divot and rolled his ankle over. We’d probably only covered 3 miles and he was clearly in pain. We joked about having 97 miles to run it off, but we both knew it was potentially not good news.

The first checkpoint, at Port Eynon, was soon upon us and Nicky was there, battling the cold wind for some lovely words and encouragement. Bottles filled and snacks scoffed we headed into the evening.

The gloom started to become dark and I paused to reapply some layers and fire up the head torch. The extensive compulsory kit list may seem long, but as the night and following day wore on, I was to make use of much of it.

Lewis was keen to push on, trying to divert his focus from the worsening discomfort in his foot. As the sun set behind us and darkness fell, we made good progress towards the second check point at Southgate.

In the darkness all spectators see is your head torch approaching. We had to shout out to Nicky before she realised it was us. Again we had snacks and new drinks but best of all was the can of Coke Nicky gave us to share.

Nicky retired for the night to head off to her cold and noisy accommodation. Apparently, her upstairs neighbours sounded like they were alternating between games of skittles and tap dancing. A hair brush hurled at ceiling seemed to calm them down!

With the lights of Swansea in the distance, we turned into the Mumbles. A long, straight, flat section on hard surfaces here. I find this hard and I don’t think Lewis was enjoying it either.

We got in to stride with a number of other runners here and ticked of the miles to checkpoint 3.

Soup! A quarter of the way into the race, and way passed my usual bedtime, I found my spirits lifted by the hot food and soft bread roll. Lewis changed his socks and freshened up but he was clearly in pain. We didn’t say much, but I think we both feared for his race.

Out of the checkpoint and back to the long promenade of Swansea Bay. A beautiful location which started to lose its novelty value as the relentless hard paths started to get inside my head. We zig zagged, using the grass verges where possible to give our joints a break.

The port of Swansea was a change of focus. The route weaved around the various docks and we focused our attention on not losing the route. We ran alongside a canal for quite a while, the quiet and dark lending an eerie feel to the night.

Another road section and Lewis was really struggling now. This is a man who has covered 100 miles before, I knew it was serious. We made it to the next checkpoint and we both knew the game was up for Lewis.

I won’t dwell on this point, that painful decision was hurting him badly.

With Lewis urging me to carry on, I headed out into the night. From here the route went inland to the long dark forest trails which meant we avoided Port Talbot.

I loved the night. Through miles and miles of forest trails. I had the great company of other runners for some of it. At other times I was in solitude.

Dawn in a silent forest. The haze of day break in the distance. Birdsong, wow, the birdsong.

Only a very brief ‘dark’ 5 minutes broke the spell and I was caught by Boris and Christian, two guys I’d ran with earlier. We shared some fabulous miles as the forest came alive with light.

Something I had worried about was how I’d fare with my stomach. It was about 5 am when I asked the other two to push ahead in order to have some private time to, well, you know……

50 miles came up on the watch and I did a mental check over of how I was faring:

I’d kept my promise to myself to slow down, slow down, then slow down some more. TICK

I’d been extremely careful with my kit and hadn’t found myself hot, nor indeed cold, even though there was frost on the ground. TICK

I’d eaten and drank consistently well throughout and was feeling better after my little disappearing act behind the trees. TICK

I’d kept myself lubed in areas which would thank me for it later. TICK

I felt good. Tired, naturally, a bit sore, naturally. But good.

The seaside beckoned as I headed through Margham. A wonderful early morning telephone conversation with Nicky as she headed towards me really boosted my spirits. I joined up with another runner, Stacey, who was also on the ‘phone to his loved ones.

The dunes down to the sea were tough on the legs but we’d formed a gang of 4, with Boris & Christian catching us up again.

I wouldn’t say I was bouncing, but I had now gone further than ever before and no matter what the next 50 miles had in store, nobody could ever take that away from me.

Went through 60 miles along a great boardwalk approaching Porthcawl and there was Nicky. We were both tearful and so, so pleased to see each other. I will never stop saying it, without Nicky I would achieve nothing. We are a team.

Nicky’s role in the team was to keep supplying me with smiles, oh and welcome slurps of fizzy drinks.

As I headed to Porthcawl Rugby Club for more soup and coffee I ticked off another small victory: 100km. Blimey it felt good. I couldn’t help but start thinking about how much further there was to go. This didn’t help me much but the next section certainly did.

My Uncle Mike moved to Bridgend to work and then retire back when I was a young man. This next section of coast was his stomping ground. I have many happy memories of times around Ogmore and Southerndown. I knew I was going to run past the spot where we’d scattered his ashes and couldn’t help but be spurred on by this.

Mike was taken too soon in the same year that I also lost my sister. I ran this ultra marathon with a piece of my ‘Karen ribbon’ tied to my rucksack and with Mike and Karen very much in my heart and thoughts.

Another little navigation error as Ogmore came into view brought the focus back to the job in hand. I was back in the gang of 4 again and we found our way back onto the route before, guess what?? Nicky appeared in a little car park in the middle of nowhere!

A cuddle, a slurp of cold drink and I skipped away again, across the second set of stepping stones the route had treated us to, and along the path to Ogmore.

Here, Nicky was joined by Lewis and Gemma. Lewis very generously lending me strong support despite his massive disappointment of having withdrawn in the night.

Nicky again appeared on the next headland. I’m getting emotional just writing this. I was about 75 miles done by this point and still moving ok, but the lift I got from seeing Nicky here was just wondeful.

On to Southerndown, I ushered the other 3 on and used the beach facilities to get myself empty and fresh again before having a moment on the beach to think of Mike.

I then made another navigation error. You wouldn’t think it possible, on a coast path, but I ended up circling a headland before heading east again. Emotion was starting to get the better of me, so I walked quite slowly for a while and had a stern word with myself.

“I’m at a lighthouse, are you on a big hill?” Nicky was at Nash Point and as I crested that big hill, there she was in the distance. Another spring in my step.

You’ve got this, Kevin, c’mon you’ve feckin’ got this.

I was chatting away to myself as I descended the headland towards the lighthouse and my incredible lady.

Hurting now, and so tired, but still moving, I even ran a little up the slope to where Nicky was waiting.

No matter what the moment; good, bad, wonderful, tragic, immense, beautiful, inspiring……. any moment we share is just so precious.

Back onto the coast path again, the next section to the check point at Llantwit Major went really well. Nicky was there, what an incredibly lucky man I am. This is how we work, Nicky and I, and here we shared another emotional moment.

Christian and Boris were here and Stacey was heading out. I set off replenished with fluid, calories and emotion.

I started to struggle on the next section of coast path. The industrial skyline coming into view in the distance, the tightening muscles and fatigue were getting inside my head.

My struggle became more acute when I had a sudden and blindingly painful sensation in my big toe. I’d been feeling quite squishy in my trainer for a while. I sank to the floor and braced myself for what I was going to find inside my sock.

Sparing the gruesome details, 15 minutes later, after some self surgery, used my extensive first aid kit and half a tub of Vaseline, I was up and away.

Then came my biggest route error. The coast path (I now realise) goes up on the sea wall around Abethaw power station. Me? I headed across the ‘beach’ made entirely of boulders!

Ow! Ow! Ow!

My ‘phone rang. Nicky. What a woman. After she negotiated her way through a caravan park, and I across the beach, with Nicky’s relentless encouragement I made it back up onto the cliff path.

Fanta and a Mars Bar. How did she know?

Perfect.

With the love of the most incredible person I’ve ever known, I pushed on again. Try as I might, I think the previous few miles had already started to break me.

I arrived at the penultimate check point, at Porthkerry, quite distressed. The welcome sight of Nicky, Lewis and Gemma and their incredible support gave me just enough lift to crack on.

From here the route quickly became road, and I knew that was it for the trails now. Moving very slowly, I plotted my way through the streets of Barry.

“I knew you’d be hating this bit, I just had to come and find you.” Nicky had started to drive towards the last checkpoint but had turned around when she realised I’d be on main roads in built up areas.

Another couple of miles (with Nicky driving to every quarter of a mile or so) my body decided enough was enough.

Without going into too much detail, I seemed to go into shock. My dry feeling got worse the more I drank. I was dizzy, disorientated and broken.

I was violently sick, shivering quite dramatically and seeing double. The game was up.

A call to my incredible friend, Martin (regular blog readers will know Martin well), confirmed I was making the right decision.

Nicky wrapped me up and got me as comfortable as possible. We let the organisers know I had stopped and headed for the Travelodge.

Once I was showered and laid down, I started to feel a bit brighter and we had a late night pizza feast lying on a Travelodge bed, trying not to look at my toes!

Am I disappointed?

Not in the slightest. I’m more gutted for Lewis.

Nicky and I, as regular readers will know, are THE team. Yet again we were invincible. I covered nearly 95 miles in about 25 hours and without Nicky, I would never have been on the start line, never mind cover that sort of distance.

I’m proud. really proud.

As I leaned against the wall in the Travelodge reception, dizzy, nauseous and in a ridiculous amount of pain, I knew I never wanted running to make me feel like this again.

I absolutely love running, love challenging myself. BUT, I only ever want to run with a smile on my face.

For that reason, this has been my last 100 miles race, my last run with sleep deprivation, the last time I’ll put myself, ourselves, through that!

So, what have I learned?

I’m as tough as I hoped I would be. The mind is a wonderful thing. I have nothing to prove to anybody. I am the luckiest man alive to be half of the most incredible team, thank you Nicky x

And thank you Lewis and Gemma.

Thank you Run Walk Crawl for another epic event in South Wales. And thank you for the incredible support from the teams at all of the checkpoints.

Thank you to all of the amazing friends and family for their support for both Nicky and myself and all the wonderful messages we received before, during and after the event.

Thank you to all of the runners who shared the course, particularly those I spent time with. Special thanks the guy who offered to crawl the rest of the way with me as I was slumped on the boot of the car where I stopped.

It was a special, special weekend.

A Run in 27 Pictures

glorious south devon

A 5.30am start the day before the clocks sprung up, fell over, dropped back, or whatever it is they did, meant hitting the beaches of Paignton, Goodrington, Broadsands and Elberry Cove as the sun burned into the early morning mist.

Picking up the Musgrove Trail for a while after leaving Churston Village, some of my favourite local trails. from the top of the hill the views take in Torbay in one direction and the River Dart the other way.

Past Greenway and down to the boat yard on the creek there before climbing the field on the outskirts of Galmpton. A bit of road from there until you get into Stoke Gabriel.

Picking up Fleet Mill lane towards Totnes where I can never resist running to the end of Long Marsh, particularly early morning, for the jaw dropping view down the river.

From Totnes, picking up the Torbay/Totnes trail, through the traveller’s site which has been there for decades, passing the Mare and Foul Sanctuary and into the shadow of the spooky ruins of Berry Pomeroy Castle.

The trails towards Marldon are fabulous running on soft ground, woodland and fields (with a very slow mile as I tip toed through some young cattle!) before running under the gorgeous underpass to head towards Occombe.

Passing the marathon point of the run in Scadson Woods before popping out on Preston Sea Front then running up through Victoria Park and home.

28 miles of Devon’s loveliness.

The Tavy 13

Fuelled By Banana Cake

It’s been a while since the old trio of Nicky, Martin and myself entered a running event and had a gigglesome road trip.

For new boys and girls to the blog, Nicky is my awesome, inspirational, beautiful, relentless, stunning and quite frankly, hot, lady wife.

Martin? Or, as he’s better known, The Silver Fox. Well he’s as good a mate as you could possibly wish for. He’s also Nicky’s training partner as they limber up for one of those MASSIVE triathlons later in the year.

One of us was camera shy.

So, if you look back over the last few years of the blog you’ll find plenty of tales of our little gang’s running adventures.

Kiss your WHAT? (One of us wasn’t camera shy!)

The Tavy 13 half marathon is a community event hosted by Tavistock Athletic Club and this was our third time here. Regular blog readers may remember me taking a tumble here two years ago. (Read about that HERE)

Nervous smiles as we approached the start.

As elite athletes in our prime, all the talk in the car was of fine tuning our nutrition, getting more scientific about running and which particular dynamic stretching routine we should be using as a warm up for a hilly half marathon. Something like that anyway.

The Silver Fox fancies himself a sports commentator!

Just before the scheduled kick off, we discovered that the race needed to be held back for an hour whilst the roads were cleared of an earlier accident.

Having suffered a little for the lack of toilets, we’d had to rush straight to the start line before discovering the delay. We took full advantage of this extra hour to carry out a thorough warm up and dynamic stretching routine….. Oh hang on, no, what we actually did was have a lovely cup of coffee and a great big slab of banana cake.

Front, middle or back?

The cake sat a tad heavy in the first few miles!

We had our usual debate about where to start (my days of elbowing my way to near the front are long gone). Martin opted for the middle somewhere, whilst Nicky stuck to her preferred tactic of starting right at the back.

Starting and finishing on Tavistock’s running track, we felt like proper affereletes.
Live action from one the many welcome water stations on a beautiful day fro running.

This half marathon has 8 solid miles of climbing and descending and climbing again before the flat and downhill charge back to Tavistock.

The crowds lining the route made it feel quite claustrophobic at times.

It is a road event but captures the magic of open moorland and on some of the steep ascents, reminds us ex-smokers what our lungs are for!

With my eyes firmly on future ultra marathons, and Nicky and Martin both in heavy training towards their iron distance triathlons, none of us was predicting we would go as quickly as two years ago.

We were right.

I was more right than them though, adding a full quarter of an hour to my time.

Me and this chap from Launceston blitzing past a guy on his Sunday stroll.

I took my new toy, an action camera, with me and had some fun with (or got on the nerves of) some of the runners around me. I also tried to film the spectacular scenery and some of the dozens of fabulous marshals and volunteers out on the course.

“HI, I’m Kevin from Sky Sports.”

I introduced myself as I filmed runners trotting along with me.

I received, laughter and plenty of self depreciating humour, along with occasional bemusement and grunts. Check out the little video HERE.

A ran my race comfortably hard for those first 8 miles and then upped the effort on the 5 mile flat and downhill run for home. Whilst I may be slower these days, I felt really good throughout the run and am quietly chuffed with how it went.

And I enjoyed every step.

Martin was secretly hoping to run under 2 hours.

Couldn’t have timed it better.

Nicky, as she entered the arena to run her final 400 meters shouted something like “Stop feckin’ filming me” as I chased her round the bend. I still managed to capture her sprint finish.

Nicky outsprinted this chap before giving him a playful slap on the back as he caught his breath!

The Tavy 13 is quite a big event with nearly 500 finishers this year, yet once out in the countryside, it never feels busy or crowded. There’s a cross section of the running community here, whatever pace you run at there are always a few people around you.

With marshals at every single junction, crossing, and water stations a-plenty, not to mention rescue and medical teams, the runners are so well cared for. Great signage and a fabulous route, we’d all heartily recommend The Tavy 13.

Oh, and it was £11 to enter.

The Cousin Jack Ultra

The Alarm Is Set For When?

Nicky was right to double check. 3.30am really isn’t early morning, is it? More late night.

Tucked in our rented barn near Hayle, we listened to the rain batter the roof lights. The farm’s wind turbine was getting plenty of encouragement from the brewing storm to provide fuel with. “WHOOSH. WHOOSH.” it rhythmically insisted. The accompanying, constant whine from its motor completed the orchestra.

We did sleep eventually. But 3.30am comes around so quickly.

Shower, muesli and strong coffee and I was ready for battle.

It Takes Two (or three)

My inspiration, my world, my whole reason. That’s Nicky. Regular readers will know that my beautiful, amazing wife truly is the heart and soul of everything I do.

Nicky was ready for battle too. She has left the marathons and ultra marathons alone this year in order to concentrate on her ironman ambitions.

So instead of competing, Nicky was ready for scrambling under electric fences, abandoning the car in random locations and appearing at some of the most remote and inhospitable vantage points on the Tin Coast.

Our intrepid Border Terrier, Charlie, by her side.

And They’re Off

Bys Vyken Events‘ Cousin Jack Ultra (35 miles) set off from The Surf House on The Island, St Ives at 5.30am. A trail of head torches and tail lights snaking across Porthmeor Beach under a cloudless sky. (I know it was a trail of lights as I was right at the back so I could see all of my fellow runners!)

17.5 miles away, Cape Cornwall, in all its raw, bleak, midwinter glory, awaited us.

Our mission was to conquer this most inaccessible, isolated, desolate chunk of the South West Coast Path.

And then turn around. And conquer it all again.

Let There Be Light

A flicker of my head torch, as dawn approached, suggested an equipment failure was imminent. Fellow runner, Martin, magically produced a small hand torch, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I was able to return it to him as both the sun and my own torch both came alive.

The weather was remarkably kind to us. Sunshine was short lived and the wind was keen but the threatened storm delayed its arrival to this remarkable place until the event was pretty much over.

Cut Off

Most events, particularly in trail running, and even more particularly in ultra marathon races, have time limits within which us competitors must reach certain points on the course. Primarily for the safety of runners and crew alike, they go a long way to ensuring we prepare as best we can before tackling these challenges.

The first cut off point in The Cousin Jack Ultra was at 9 miles and we had 3 hours in which to get there. Whilst this may seem generous, the terrain can change your day rather quickly.

I was pleased to be over 30 minutes in front of that target by then, but certainly not complacent.

How Hard Can It Be?

Very.

The first (and later on, last) section, between St Ives and Zenner is about 7 miles long and probably the most challenging on the course.

Lots of rocks, awkward paths made of boulders (even a boulder beach!), mud, special knee deep cow mud, electric fences, ups, downs and an increasingly enthusiastic headwind (not to mention the first 90 minutes in darkness) all contribute to the challenge.

Yeah, it’s tough. But maaaan-alive, it’s gorgeous.

How Tough? How Gorgeous?

The entire route is trail running heaven. As I mumbled into one of the video moments I recorded during the day, “Until I do a race that’s tougher and more beautiful than this, then THIS is the toughest, most beautiful race I’ve ever done.”

Cornwall. It gets under your skin.

It was an absolute privilege to be running here.

Lest We Forget

I raised a water bottle as I passed Levant mine. 100 years ago a catastrophic man-engine failure at the tin mine here resulted in the deaths of 31 local men. Countless others were injured.

This is poignantly remembered in the engraving on the wonderful medals awarded to finishers of this incredible event.

It was an emotional day. I found myself welling up every time I saw Nicky and Charlie (7 times, you need to come here to see just what an achievement that was!)

The land has a magic to it, as I passed these almost mythical places; Zennor, Pendeen, Gurnard’s Head, Cape Cornwall, I could feel the history.

This coast has become synonymous with epic trail running, certainly in the small world I operate in, and to be here, becoming a tiny part of that history, felt so special.

Dot To Dot

As a self confessed dot watching addict (many events fit participants with trackers in order to see their location on an online map), following the trackers of runners at these types of events, it was great to actually be one of the ‘dots’ this time around.

Suck It Up Princess

Flu (and I mean actual flu, not the ‘manflu’) had wiped out two weeks of running (and anything else) and I only passed my self-imposed fitness test two days before the race. I certainly wasn’t oozing confidence at the start line. Prior to the flu, I had prepared well, so I was hoping this fitness was still in me.

Turning back at Cape Cornwall and looking back at the first few headlands to be negotiated again, I took a deep breath…… I noticed the organisers’ sign: “Suck It Up Princess, You’re Only Halfway”

I was feeling a bit weak, my thighs already objecting to the relentless ups and downs, but I was loving every step. Every single step of the way.

I sucked in that bracing Atlantic wind (thankfully now at my back), zipped up my man suit and set off for St Ives.

She’s Got My Back

Nicky and Charlie met me again as I left Cape Cornwall, at Pendeen Watch, then in a random location far from anywhere, before scrambling to Gurnard’s Head, Zenner and finally at the finish.

I may have been exhausted but my wonderful lady wife and cheeky chappie Charlie deserve so much credit for what I achieved.

Crossing the finish line, I couldn’t wait to hold Nicky and tell her just how incredible she had been and how much we shared that proud moment.

Did Someone Say ‘Steps’?

After following my footsteps back to St Ives, perhaps not quite as quickly as on the way out, I did try and save a little energy for the last half mile.

I knew what was coming. A leg burning trudge across Porthmeor beach followed by the climb up The Island’s steps to The Surf House.

Cruel. But fitting.

Such a perfect, iconic location to finish this tremendous day.

Bys Vyken Events Put On Quite A Show

A small, homely feel to race HQ and all the pre-event information gave way to an epic feel to the actual race. All race communication was brutally honest, tongue-in-cheek and absolutely comprehensive.

The Race Director, David, and his fantastic crew managed what looked like a logistic headache (there were three race distances on offer, the 35 mile Ultra Marathon , The 17.5 mile Classic Jack and a Little Jack 7 mile) and the whole event started as planned and felt as well managed as any ‘bigger’ event I’ve done.

There were enough course markings, but not too many. Well placed and thought out aid stations were manned by exceptionally knowledgeable and supportive crew. Similarly the marshal points were enough but not overkill.

I felt trusted to have prepared properly and to give the course the respect it so dramatically commands. But, I also felt protected and at no point did I feel I was facing the challenge alone.

And It’s Goodbye From Him

I only fell over once! I only (briefly) went the wrong way once. I was still running (using the term loosely) across the beach after 35 miles before hauling my sagging legs and beaming smile up those final steps.

Beating the time limit by just over 2 hours too. I’m rather proud of myself I hope you don’t mind me saying.

What Will I Take From The Cousin Jack Ultra?

A stunning medal, a handshake from the welcoming Race Director, a hot pasty and a heart full of memories.

But nothing will top the moment of cresting yet another rocky headland somewhere on the way back to see Nicky and Charlie awaiting me. In the middle of nowhere. Car abandoned, they’d crawled under an electric fence and made their way through the wilderness to the coast path.

My heart and soul fluttered.

From that moment on, I KNEW I would finish.

Inspired By Prog

Why my writing and running careers are more Grendel than Blitkreig Bop.

“Listen to me, just hear me out. If I could have your attention.” Fish whispered at the start of the nearly 9 minutes of Vigil In The Wilderness Of Mirrors.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Epic.

Led Zeppelin’s Kahmir, Pink Floyd’s Welcome To The Machine, Rush’s Subdivisions….. They all start minimal, teasing, suggesting, gently finding a path. Showing hope and promise before building, rising, becoming powerful. A lost art in the mainstream but still an art to behold.

Not that I’ve anything against a quick fire American Idiot or Wreckin’ Bar. They just don’t represent the road my writing and running are taking.

As the years have gone on, I’ve nibbled away at being a writer. This blog, in fact, and the wonderful feedback I get from it, has pushed me forward so much. And being lucky enough to have the support of someone who says “Why not?” instead of “Why?”!

My running, started with a desire to be fit, then to run a half marathon.

Here I am 12 years later, feeling like I’ve ALWAYS been a runner. Bit by bit, mile by mile, my endurance has grown.

How did it start?

Running: A desire to be a non-smoker – a few out of breath strides.

Writing: Home made comics, football and music reviews.

Mile Number 1 of a set of mile markers 0 through 10Part of the Milepost Sign Series:

Where are you now?

Running: I’ve ran 43 marathons (or longer), I run 50+ miles a week. I do some coaching and help run a group.

Writing: I’m officially a paid writer, my novel is well under way, THIS blog, managing 2 other blogs, just agreed a campaign with a lady attempting JOGLE.

How long has this taken?

Running: 12 years so far

Writing: Since I first held a pen. Nearly 50 years.

Where are you going?

Running: This year I have a 100km, a 100mile and a 24 hour event.

Writing: My goal is to gradually reduce my ‘day job’ hours until I am full time. I’d like my first draft of the novel finished this year.

The finest lyricist of a generation and inspiration for most of my tattoos!

Miles Better

I ran a mile the day after giving up smoking (14th January 2007). It took me about 20 minutes. It wasn’t pretty but it was everything I had.

I’d been lucky enough to be a teenager in a sport mad house during the 1980s. I witnessed (on a colour telly no less) the great races between Steve Cram, Steve Ovett and everybody’s favourite posh boy, Sebastian Coe. All three still feature in the all time 25 fastest times by men over the distance.

They wouldn’t get away with those shorts these days……

It inspired me. But not right away…….. 20 years of fags, booze and a shocking lifestyle later, I was setting my 20 minute mile.

When I joined forces with Lewis Keywood to help him with his wonderful run group Keywood Running (see THIS blog post to read all about us), we brain stormed some ideas to inspire the group.

I’m fascinated by the mile as distance to run. We tend to talk about our runs in miles (rather than kilometers) – miles ran and minutes per mile. The process of running a single mile, particularly if you attempt it as fast as possible, is a challenge of both speed and endurance for the body. The mile requires a steely grit to convince yourself to keep going.

“It’s a long way to sprint!” quipped one of our runners the other night.

He’s not wrong.

Post run smiles in the rain

Since 1970 it has been the only IAAF world record officially recognised over an imperial distance. Whilst it hasn’t featured in the Olympics, there many highly prestigious runs and races over the distance.

The Oslo Dream Mile, The Fifth Avenue Mile and the Westminster Mile all spring to mind.

There’s even The Christmas Day Mile – my beautiful lady wife and I head to the sea front for a flat out timed mile early on the big day before gearing up for an eating marathon.

Everybody paying captive attention to pre race instructions!

Whether you’re chasing Mo Farah, or chasing my famous 20 minutes, it is a magical distance.

Well there’s a new magical event to add to that list.

The Keywood Preston Runners Mile Challenge.

In our New Years’ brainstorming session, we came up with this:

Time our runners over a measured mile. Once they’d recovered, ask them to predict what time they’ll run in 6 months time. Simples

We set the date. We printed some numbers. We did social media (oh yes, we are SO down with the kids). We ignored the rain. We set them on their way. We, er, ‘encouraged’ a couple of cars to “WAIT!”.

Even those unable to run weren’t discouraged by the weather

We timed all the runners.

My own inspiration comes from my amazing, determined and quite beautiful lady wife, Nicky. Having ridden a 6 hour hilly ride the previous day she was quite happy to don her bobble hat and record the results. Don’t worry though, she’s a steely girl and plans to time a mile another time.

In the misty drizzle, a race briefing from this dodgy pair

With ‘the boss’, Lewis (Keywood – hence the group’s name) charging around encouraging the runners and several injured and ailing members turning up to shout support, there was a fun, excited atmosphere on the night.

It seemed that everyone who ran gave their all and were keen to predict faster times for the summer. A seemingly simple idea which has captured the imagination.

Lewis and I completed our miles straight afterwards. We love a challenge too. I hope the runners were encouraged by their coaches sinking to the floor at the finish line.

Keywood Preston Runners – an eclectic, eccentric and bloody marvellous group of humans

Coach Kevin – everything spent!