This incredible book has been devoured. You know a book has you when you are drying yourself after a shower one handed in order to grab a quick page. At emotionally vulnerable times it could easily have felt corny to seize on a book with a torrid, heart breaking tale, put your favourite sad songs on repeat simply weep.
This book, though, about a journey on our very own South West Coast Path, told by Raynor Winn, but also about the incredible journey of a time in life with her beloved husband Moth, hits that sweet spot emotionally. Stomach twistingly heart breaking, yet so beautiful it paints rainbows across your tears. Winn crafts this deeply personal, brutally honest wander through the roughest tracks of life with such poise, it seems outrageous to think she hasn’t been previously published.
Thrown into the void of life after being evicted from their home, their life’s work gone, the follow up punch comes instantly when Moth is given a terminal diagnosis. What to do? They head for Minehead.
And from there, learning the errors of their preparation, or lack of it, as they go, they set off for Lands End (and beyond?) on foot. Camping wild and surviving on £40 a week, their wits, their humour and the spark they’ve carried together through their entire adult lives, they battle on.
Progress can be slow, painful or simply non-existent and Winn describes, sometimes agonisingly, often hilariously, the people they meet, the towns and villages they pass through, or linger in, and their encounters with the elements.
So life size is the narration, I found myself smelling their clothes, feeling the drying of their skin, hearing the sounds of the Atlantic, the call of the sea birds and shifting uncomfortably with the book as she describes some of the ground they slept on.
I can’t pretend that the books proximity to home (both in geography, emotion and ambition) doesn’t add an extra personality to its appeal to me personally, but please, please believe me, it is a wonderful thing.
Winn echos the message so delicately reinforced by my very own wondrous adventurer, soul mate and partner for life in reassuring me that hope is actually a GOOD thing. Why not hope, dream, dare or just ****ing DO IT!
If you want your spirits lifted, your emotions exposed, your adventurous bones ignited then this is surely the book for you. It has already become one of our most treasured possessions.
Check out what else I’ve read so far this year HERE.
Well, an email plopped into my inbox. “THREE WEEKS TO GO!” Blimey, it’s here already. The (in)famous lime green vest will be handed to me at some point in the evening of Friday 11th August.
What is this nonsense of which you speak? I hear you gasp. Well, those of you that are regular consumers of this world of wonky wittering may well be aware that I’m a bit of a fanboy when it comes to the Roseland August Trail (R.A.T.) festival of trail running on the fabulous Roseland Peninsular in Cornwall.
Having ran the 32 mile Black Rat for the last 3 years with Nicky (who also ran the Red Rat, 20 miles, 4 years ago), I have taken the plunge and am tackling The Plague, an out and back version of the Black Rat. Yup, starting at 5 minutes past midnight on Saturday 12th August, a couple of hundred of us will step into the Cornish darkness and attempt to get to St Anthony’s Head and then back to Porthpean before they bring the curtain down on this fabulous event.
The furthest I’ve ever been in one go was The Gower 50 (Read all about that HERE – be warned, may feature fooked ankle pictures!) and I’ve not ran through the night before. I may not have done all of the miles I’d hoped for in this build up and I may not be the weight I’d hoped to get down to, blah, blah, blah, sandbagging, woe is me, blah, blah…
Here’s the thing guys and girls, I’m going to pull that lime green vest on and set off and give it everything I’ve got. And THAT will be enough for me to be proud, proud to be on the start line and proud to be taking on a CHALLENGE. If it was guaranteed I could ‘complete’ it, it wouldn’t be a challenge.
So, the mojo socks are being readied and they’ll be pulled RIGHT UP, I’ve oiled the zip of my mansuit so that too will be TO THE TOP……….
I’m going to run the runny bits, walk the hills and steps and try and enjoy every single moment of it.
Nicky will be getting off the coach at the St Anthony’s Head Black Rat start line and setting off at 8.30am. If my night has gone well I’ll have already turned by then and be heading East again. I have until 9am to make that turn, but if I’m close to that at halfway, I could well be struggling to make the following cut offs. And if that’s the case then so be it.
Check out the route HERE. There are A LOT of steps. And I’ll doing the all up and down (hopefully). See last year’s blog for how Nicky told everyone who’d listen that this was her last year on these steps…….
Mudcrew also stage the epic Arc Of Attrition on a bleak winter’s weekend every year. Nicky and I witnessed some of this incredible event when we were in Cornwall on holiday when this blog was in its early days – I mentioned how I’d never considered running 100 miles on a coast path, in winter. Nor indeed tow a caravan – Check out that bizarre wordery HERE.
You’re not going to believe this, BUT anyone who successfully completes all 100 quad busting kilometers of The Plague gets presented with a scroll inviting them to take up a guaranteed place in the following year’s Arc Of Attrition………..
Anyway, I ran 4 miles on the coast path with Charlie this morning, so I’d say I’m pretty much ready!
So, some of you will know that I signed up for a ‘Creative Writing’ course recently. Well, I took a let less than the 15 days available in the ‘trial period’ to return it. I felt with the limited time I could commit to my writing I would be breaking my soul following their guidance. I don’t want to construct false ‘real life’ letters for trash magazines in the hope of getting paid sixty quid!
When I explained why the course wasn’t for me, the company told me that ALL writing courses are about trying to get paid. I knew then that I’d made the right decision.
For me, writing is like running, it’s something I just love doing. So they’ve done me a massive favour. I feel free to write what I love. I’ve 100% realised that, whilst I’d be thrilled to be paid for writing, it would need to be because people are thrilled with what I write.
So, highly motivated, I dived head first into a weekend of lovely running, patrolling the beach whilst Nicky swam in the sea and having a jog with my beautiful step daughter Alisa as she starts back on her road to fitness. Not to mention a glorious walk with my amazing wife, Nicky and a good friend. Oh and taking ourselves off for a few hours r & (w)r tucked away with our faithful Border Terrier, Charlie, a picnic and our books.
The aspects of life which are harder to deal with are, well, easier to deal with my soul mate soothing my soul. To be able to just enjoy some peaceful outdoor time together this weekend was perfect. One of the BILLION reasons I am so madly in love with my incredible wife is that we don’t place demands on each other. We have long since dispensed with television and we are so, so comfortable sat reading, soft tunes in the background. Or Nicky practicing the piano whilst I scribble away or clatter the keyboard. And don’t we just love the trails and being outdoors.
Saturday’s run was all trails and photography followed by an hour on the beach with my notebook whilst Nicky swam. Check the run out HERE.
Sunday’s started with a crack at a 7 mile time trial using an old route from when I used to really chase times and ended up with another mooch on the coast path. Check that run out HERE
Then, my step daughter, Alisa joined me for her first run for a while. A very proud step dad, having run 27 miles in 2 days, certainly didn’t mind another 2. All the while we were keeping our eyes on Nicky in the sea.
With our home town being absolutely rammed with people thoroughly enjoying the Torbay Air Show in the glorious sunshine, Sunday afternoon was all about hiding away for us. Being less than gregarious, we squirreled ourselves away in a far corner of the Coleton Fishacre grounds and enjoyed a lovely picnic and a few hours reading (Nicky) & writing (me).
Progress with my novel has been positively bursting since realising that it’s ok to love what I write and just see where it goes. There are courses and mentoring and support groups a plenty out there and when one is right for me then maybe I’ll sign up. In the mean time the main characters in my book, **** ****** and *** ********* have actually encountered each other in chapter three as the views and sea air have fed my muse.
#dogsthatdontlookliketheirowners is still the working title of the book and when our eldest grandson, 9 year old Callum, came to stay last week he was fascinated to learn that I am writing a book and has already started work on the cover artwork for it. I have, of course promised him a heathy commission in return!
A massive compliment came my way from our good friend (and Saturday’s walking partner) Gloria. She declined hearing any specific news on how the book is going as she is going to wait until she can pick it off the shelf and read it!
I’m growing a beard. Although, by the time you read this I might have abandoned it and burned it off……. It’s a bit itchy and scratchy and, quite frankly, not quite the suave silvery stubble I was hoping for.
Unlike Martin. For the uninitiated, Martin is our good running buddy who is known for his (VERY) chatty nature, the numerous sugars he shovels into his tea, and for being, well, ‘The Silver Fox’!
T’was the Templer Ten last Sunday, sold out this year, it is a lovely jaunt towards Bovey Tracey from Stover school, with barely any hills, but plenty of varied terrain. Organised by the Teignbridge Trotters, one of the most active clubs in the area and organisers of several of South Devon’s finest events.
As ever, they provided umpteen friendly, smiling and encouraging marshals, cajoling and guiding you through the countryside.
There’s a fabulous (I mean AMAZING!) cake stall, teas and coffees (including a free post race cuppa for the runners) and bacon baps to replace those calories burned.
There’s also a 1 mile fun run around the grounds of the school. Grandson, Callum, was pencilled in for this but at the last minute decided a morning performing stunts on his new Rocker bike would be much more fun……. Up steps Faith…… 6 years old, with that butter-wouldn’t-melt princess smile, and full of life and energy and, well, character…. “I’LL DO IT, I’LL DO IT!” she exclaimed, seeing an opportunity to upstage her brother.
Somehow, Grandad Kevin was volunteered to run with her….. “COME ON SLOW COACH” she giggled to anyone who’d listen as she whizzed around the playing fields in her treasured silver Hunter wellies.
Everything seems silver today.
Apart from my beard!
I bumped into a smashing friendly chap, Mark, whilst on my first post injury long run, the previous weekend (did I tell you I’d ran a 50 mile ultra marathon? No? read allllll about it HERE).
Well, Mark, it turns out was also at the Templer Ten and we pretty much lined up alongside each other, by pure coincidence. It wasn’t to be last we’d see of each other. (This, and all my other running can be found on STRAVA).
Also lining up alongside us on the start line was Ferg, race director and general top bloke from Mudcrew, organisers of many a fine event, including my all time favourite, the R.A.T. (you guessed it, read all about how Nicky and myself got on back in August HERE).
Mudcrew also host the scarily named Ark Of Attrition, which Nicky and I followed when we were on holiday in Cornwall (read all about it HERE), back when this blog was a brand new thing. It wouldn’t be the last I saw of Ferg either. And, the Ark is, well, hopefully where it’s all heading for me……..
In the interests of sharing the plugs for local events…… Steve from Pure Trail was also there – they have just announced a rather splendid looking 100 miler on Dartmoor.
Nicky started at the back. Nicky likes starting at the back. (Nicky, for those new to the blog, is my wonderful, WONDERFUL, lovely lady wife, soul mate and setter of endurance challenges) Nicky, she won’t mind me saying, is, like many of us, quite capable of having dips in confidence, particularly if she gets streams of runners overtaking her. So she starts at the back. Problem solved.
Considering she smashed her previous time on this course by over 6 minutes, and overtook 70ish people, I reckon this tactic is working very well. One of the first subjects I felt the urge to write about, when this blog was a youngster, related to how we can all support and encourage each other in this wonderful sport – read that post HERE.
Ferg ran away from me whilst Mark and I jostled for position (I’m probably exaggerating there!) as the first couple of miles unfolded.
Actually we did exchange places several times during the race, both sneaking past Ferg later on as he paid for his blistering early pace!
As regular readers, friends of the blog, friends, people I meet in the street, anyone who’ll listen, AND anyone who won’t, will know, I’m getting quite into this ultra marathon idea (hence the beard!)
With this is mind, as I ‘come back from injury’ and up my mileage, I decided to follow a lot of the training advice I read and go back-to-back. That is, I did another coast path long run on Saturday (HERE) so that this hard race effort, the following day, was on tired legs. It worked, I was proper blowing at the end.
Mark steamed past me in the final few yards to claim bragging rights for when we next bump into each on the coast path. So, I may not have been as nippy as last year, but really pleased to be fit and running well (see how my race unfolded HERE).
All three grandchildren enjoyed their trip to Stover and the late autumn sunshine meant they joined us for some more weekend fun in the garden……
Don’t forget, there’s plenty of my witterings over at…..
Quite often our mantra whilst we’re casually googling potential new challenges.
Swim 10km? How hard can it be? 50km over Dartmoor? How hard can it be?
You get the picture.
Also my work chum and myself……. plumbing? roofing, underfloor heating etc? Just how hard can they be?
So, a couple of days with the eldest grandson, Callum, taking him away for his birthday treat. Not a problem?
I’m often found to be idly flicking through the well-thumbed pages of Ultra Marathon websites, ooohhh, ahhhh, mmmmm, ha ha ha, how hard can they be?
But multi-day events. Ow! Not sure that’d be up my street, not my bag, unlike my cup of tea (which is actually coffee, anyway). Nope, as regular readers will know, I DO have ambitions for long single stage events, but multi stage events, nahh.
Legoland. Two days. Two CONSECUTIVE days! I know!! Is there a test of endurance to match it?
I’ve been blessed. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and my rather wonderful, beautiful and, quite frankly, HOT, lady wife, Nicky keeps telling me to stop being so soppy. I’ll be making the avid readership feel nauseaous, she reckons. BUT, I truly am blessed.
From the moment Nicky bundled her way into my soulless life and filled it with all this phenomenal love, adventure and laughter, I have felt, well, blessed!! AND I became Grandad to her two bundles of fun filled granchildren, which has now become three. And I absolutely love it.
Late on day 2 in this world of a billion coloured bricks, we found a perch and had a selfie with a lego batman soft toy. We looked drained!! In the most wonderful way. Callum has been full to the brim with excitement, with wonder, with awe and has, for two whole days been nothing but a joy to share the time with.
A 6am start (sounds like an identikit race report coming up….) followed by 4 hours in the car and we arrived at the park. It’s big! Luckily, we had booked, as the place was sold out, mostly because it was open late for fireworks.
Yes, we’ve had our moneys worth, getting to the Holiday Inn Express in Slough about 8.30pm that night (we know how to live!!) where we promptly ordered a Dominoes gorge fest. The three of us propped ourselves up on the (less than) double bed and feasted our tired, hungry faces. Bliss.
Callum slept well on his put-me-up, whilst we enjoyed the aural delights of Heathrow, and before we knew it, day two was upon us.
By the time we climbed into the car at tea time, we were all suitably sated of our lego desires and the trusty Mini devoured the miles home.
An extra hours sleep?
Nah, an extra hours RUNNING!!!
(Did I mention I’d completed a 50 mile Ultra? – read alllll about it HERE) I reckon the three weeks since my Gower exploits haven’t yet flushed the fatigue from my legs. Combined with the previous two days adventures, I was never going to break any records on THIS run.
BUT, I loved the three hours around the bay, much of it by headtorch, and, after the ‘injury’ at Gower, I seem to have also been blessed with amazing powers of recovery too.
I know, we will, and I’m sure Callum will too, treasure these moments forever!
Keep on keeping on people, don’t let the b******s grind us down….
Nicky and I have completed four 50km events whilst running together, and she has, of course, topped all of that with her South Downs Way 50 miles.
So, with the East Farm Frolic looming and the small matter of Snowdonia Trail Marathon still heavy in my legs, I set off at the crack of dawn….
Knowing I intended to run on some very challenging terrain, and that I hoped to be out for 6 hours, I set out tentatively.
I always feel so lucky that Paignton faces East. These early morning runs are so often blessed with such dramatic lighting and colours, today was no exception.
It’s also great when the tide is out. Running along the
beach, reigning myself in, drinking in the fabulous, flickering, coloured reflections of the
sun and clouds on the wet sand.
Determined to keep to as many trails as possible, I ran the grass next to hard footpaths wherever possible
to protect my aging bones!
Again, I also feel lucky that I simply enjoy the very basic pleasure of running….
I’m not really a ‘group’ runner, but love running with Nicky & Charlie (the border terrier). I’m also quite happy, and motivated to run and train alone.
I was expecting this epic to test the meditative state running can give me to it’s limits.
Before Nicky and I were together I was less adventurous with my running, mainly sticking to roads, and entering events with ‘PB potential’.
But, I was always motivated to train hard and rack up the miles on my own. I did speed train in a group from time to time. It was focussed, eye balls out, intervals and time trials and I could always dig deep for them.
Now, I feel I have taken that rather single minded focus and have added a layer of adventure, a layer of exploration and of finding new challenges in endurance and terrain.
I’ve found, since writing this blog, that I read more and more excellent blogs from other runners. It always astonishes me how much detail people remember.
I know I enjoy waxing lyrical about this life of adventure and running with my wonderful wife, soul mate and fellow adventurer, Nicky, but I can never remember the points of a run in any sort of chronological order.
Hence this blog. I set out to take a photograph at every mile or so, then upload them in order.
The idea being, for those that are interested, the ‘journey’ of this mammoth training run can be charted by way of photograph.
By my Garmin watch I covered 50 kilometres , but the Strava app on my phone gave me 32.5 miles or so. Check out the route here.
There was definitely a ‘Snowdon Shuffle’ feel to this run, particularly in the latter stages, after that brutal coast path from Kingswear to Brixham.
On a couple of the tougher stairs sections, I actually had a word with myself to ‘Man the F*** up’! as my good lady wife would say.
‘Tis tough though, as anyone who has run or walked it will know.
I wonder how many people actually talk out loud to themselves whilst running in deserted, wind and rain swept. It feels bloody lovely.
Until you round the next corner and bump into an intrepid family hiking in the rain! I’m sure they were smiles of pity as they quickly scurried past me!
Well, this year I’ve run (at the time of writing) 1,450 miles, climbing 125,000 ft of elevation at an average of 45 miles a week. I run about 8 hours a week on average.
The event is 12 hours on a loop of about 4 or 5 miles, off road and hilly.
Not as hilly as this though!
Whilst I was battered after 6 hours and 31 miles, I did do 5900ft of climbing, only 6 days after doing 5800ft of climbing in The Snowdonia Trail Marathon, so I am pretty pleased.
Another 6 hours is a bloody long time though!
I think I shall (*stolen from Steve Skedgell) be the tortoise not the hare!
I even practised eating!
I had a mars bar, two packets of honey and oat bars and a bag of mini cheddars.
I also drank my full bladder, 2 litres of zero sports drink.
I’m ignoring the question….
12 hours running round and round a farm in Dorset. How hard can it be.
I’m off again Saturday, maybe a slightly less brutal route and maybe slightly further than last week. hopefully a bit quicker. Although it’s the time on my feet I need, rather than any particular pace.
Anyway, enough of this rambling, time has beaten me this week, so hopefully you’ll enjoy the rest of the pictures from this run.
Please keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter, Strava, by commenting on here, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org
My father-in-law, Frank, informed us over dinner tonight what a fabulous day today had been. Nicky and I support Frank with some of the detail of life and we all live together. With us both working full time, as well as cramming in our adventures and all the training we enjoy. Timetabling everything for everyone can be a juggling act, but today we think we got everything just right. For all of us.
I woke in the early hours from a very real dream where I was running along the coast path carrying grandson, Ollie, under one arm. He’s a big unit, our Ollie, and I was struggling! I got back to sleep but was soon responding to the 5am alarm and crawling, bleary eyed, to the kettle.
Whilst I was enjoying the lush run from home to Teignmouth, Nicky was organising Frank and Charlie (the Border Terrier), collecting grandson Callum, and taking the rather less taxing transport method to Teignmouth, the mini…..
The coast path from Torquay to Shaldon is BRUTAL. And STUNNING. I set off determined to ‘run’ it all. There are so many steps on this section I soon abandoned this plan and 20 miles and 3 and a half hours later, I was rather glad I had.
Arriving in Teignmouth, I encountered Pete Wilby and his troupe of ‘advanced’ sea swimmers, including the previously, frequently, mention (chatty) Martin readying themselves for their dip.
With Nicky partaking in the ‘merely accomplished but not quite ready to be called advanced’ group afterwards, this meant I had about 20 minutes before our rendezvous. A lovely, FLAT, out and back along the sea wall brought my mileage to 20. Perfect.
Callum is 8. He loves trains. Whilst Nicky was being chaperoned around some big green buoys, the boys took a walk along the sea wall next to tracks. Several trains, with enthusiastic waves from drivers and passengers and plenty of trains’ horns later, we returned to the beach to witness the end of Nicky’s lesson.
With the Teignmouth rowing gig regatta playing out in front of us, we enjoyed coffee and chat in the sunshine before heading back home for the arrival of Callum’s siblings and mother for a belting afternoon in the sun.
We even snuck off for a cheeky ice cream and to collect Nicky’s bike from the rather lovely man at Dialled-In-Bikes (a think there may be multi-sport training coming…..) whilst Alisa disappeared to top her tan up 😉