An academic in (running) tights

Blogs on education and running: My two passions


Race reviews

Highland Fling: A tale of two halves.

This is not a post about the how the Highland Fling Ultra is a race of two halves (which it is). This is a post about the good and bad with a bit of race experience and thoughts thrown in.

The Highland Fling has a reputation of being one of the best ultras out there. A family like experience with a beautiful route. Perhaps when the events of yesterday finally subside I will also see it as that.

But for now…..

I started at the very back of the last wave. In hindsight I shouldn’t have done this. The first 10 or so miles were flat. Full of bottle necks. Busy. Really piggin’ busy.

And I think it was this that put the first seedlings of irritation in my mind. I was not enjoying it. I was bored. But I kept telling myself that it’s an ultra and eventually the field will spread out and I knew that hills were coming. I just needed to be patient.

Eventually the first hill came, I was starting to enjoy the race, my hill power walking was reaping the benefits as I power up the hill with ease, overtaking people struggling to breathe. It was good!

However they all overtook me on the downhill! 😂. I was too scared of the rocky path but I remained positive and told myself that I need more practice on that kind of terrain.

I carried on.

The drop bag points were exceptional. So well organised. It was great to have a happy bag waiting for me. It’s funny how a slug puts a smile on your face.

I plodded along until around mile 27. Then it all changed.

The path around Loch Lommond is very similar to the Windermere path in Lakes in a Day. Lots of scrambling, almost impossible to run (for me), but with more undulations. After the 3rd or 4th scramble I jarred my knee. A mild twinge to begin with. It didn’t stay mild.

I’m pretty sure there was about 13-14 miles of this damn terrain. With each scramble my knee screamed, my mood deteriorated, and my language got pretty bad! I was not a happy bunny.

Eventually I left that section behind and we were back on some form of path. A rocky path with lots of muddy sections but mostly runnable. And of course lots of undulations. Unfortunately my knee did not like the uphill. The downhill wasn’t too bad. But by this point I was in such a fed up mood I just wanted to finish.

I kept plodding on.

By mile 45 ish my legs were aching but energy wise I felt ok! (Thanks Janson). By mile 47 I knew the end was near and thankfully more runnable sections. I overtook quite a few but also got held up by more damn bottlenecks 🙄. When you know you’re in a good place to keep pushing but you’re hindered, it really is frustrating.

But I got past 😛.

The finish was pretty good. Not an experience I’ve had before. It felt like my own personal fanfare. Red carpet, so many cheers, a fast finish, fantastic goody bag, a cold beer. Hot showers were waiting for us. Excellent support.

Met the minion, had a shower, lost the minion for 2 hours. Had no phone, money, knee was swollen, hungry, tired. Ended up in full floods of tears being looked after some some guy. Eventually found said minion but by this point I was so low….

I wanted the day to end.

I finished in 12:24 ish. I wanted 11.30 but I’m still happy. My overall ranking is ok. I know it could have been better but we shall not dwell.

So yes the event is amazing but I hated a lot of it.

Will I be back? If you asked me yesterday I wouldn’t have been too polite. But after some sleep…..🤔.


The most enjoyable hell I’ve been through

So, Lakes in a Day event – 7th October 2017. 50 mile ultra marathon across the Lake district with a reported 12000 feet of climb. Actual race stats puts it at 54 miles with just over 12300 feet of climb.

Spoiler alert: Continue reading “The most enjoyable hell I’ve been through”

Race to the King experience

This was my 2nd 50+ mile event. The 1st one was Gower 50 on Oct 1st 2016. This event claimed to be 53.5 miles (my fenix 3 said 54.3). To say I hit a roller coaster of emotions is a massive understatement! And the ride hasn’t stopped 48 hours later.

If any of you have read my previous posts you know that this year has been a mix of injury recovery and infections. This hasn’t meant I haven’t run, it just means I didn’t have any focus to my running. I still managed to knock out a couple of marathons, a 50k and 41 miler. I thought if I managed those with relative ease, then I should be kinda OK for RTTK. And I was OK.

So why does it feel that it was a big fat failure?

I had the right kit, I felt pretty excited at the start line, I had enough sleep and I had kept an eye on hydration and food the week prior. Even race day temperature wasn’t too bad! Humid but bearable.

I set off at what felt like a comfortable pace, walked (power walked) up the hills, stopped at the pit stops and used the portaloos. The 1st 20 or so miles were pretty fun! The scenery was great!

Then around mile 27 is I started to feel fed up. I have no idea why. It got worse. I felt I was being inhabited by ‘Kevin the teenager’. Full on moody, stubborn ‘ I won’t run any more’ mood had taken over. I was one miserable cow.

Add that with the heart palpitations and the hallucination…..(a dog about to attack me) led to an ‘interesting’ last 35 miles. Now I don’t think I was lacking fuel or hydration as I kept an eye on what was happening with urine loss. I can only put this down to heat. I actually dripped sweat and that’s something I don’t normally do to any extent. Any other suggestions are welcome!

So I carried on, stopping for lots of photos, stopping to look at the views (yes they were incredible) and took full advantage of every pit stop, including sitting down and drinking tea! According to my stats I wasted a good 45 mins on this 😀 But at the time, it felt the right thing to do.

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Around mile 35 I decided I was going to pull out of Lakes in a Day, another 50 mile event. By mile 45 I had convinced myself I useless and I should give up long distance. A volunteer at the last pit stop did her best to cheer me up and encourage me, but it was no use. I hated everything.

Until mile 51

Then I suddenly got a new lease of life and I ran……and ran….and ran! I felt good again! Obviously it was because I knew I was nearly done but that sulky teenage mood had been kicked to the ground. I actually felt like my body could have carried on running and crossing that finish line was pretty damn good.

So was the race hard? No. The route was easy (ish), there were a few good hills, the path was clear, the temp was warm but OK and I wasn’t suffering with any aches or pains and not a blister in sight. There was absolutely no reason for my mood. I can’t explain it.

I finished in 12 hours 15 mins, 18/81 in age cat, 50/171 female, 235/581 overall. For my standards that’s pretty damn good! A whole hour faster than Gower 50 and Gower was shorter by 4 miles and had less elevation.









I think I know why I’m not happy.

I really, really hate being tired! I like finishing events feeling fresh. Yes I know that means I haven’t put in the effort but it still doesn’t change the fact I like feeling relatively fresh after an event. I know I shouldn’t expect the same after 50+ miles, but I do. If I could just change this mindset and accept that ultras make you tired, then I’m sure I’d be a lot happier with my result!

I’m still questioning whether Lakes in a Day is a good idea

The Race Review

It costs £119. If you look at the price of other ultras, this seems pretty pricey! I begrudge paying anything over £45 so signing up to this was a leap of faith. Although many have said it is overpriced, I disagree. You get 7 pitstops, fully stocked with individual wrapped goodies, branded foods, full medic tent and portaloos. If anyone has every tried to arrange a race over farm land before, you’ll know what an absolute nightmare it is to arrange, and portaloos?…not a chance of sorting it unless money changes hands. So yes, it costs a lot, but you can see where the money has gone. This event and its support would not be as comprehensive without this price. Add in the discounted race entry for Save the Children, and I’d say the price was justified.

I will add that this is the 1st ultra I’ve done with full medic, loos and array of food etc at every pit stop. No grabbing of snot covered jaffa cakes at this event!

Add to the above to the lack of navigation required….I’d actually recommend this as a 1st ultra. And I’d never thought I’d never recommend anything over £50!

There are other charges to consider such as carpark and coach transfer fees but again, the carpark was on commercial farmland so I think that price was understandable. However, the coach transfer fee was seriously over priced. Thankfully I needed neither.

So yes, it’s a cracking event and yes I’d certainly recommend it even though I was miserable for the majority of the race 😀

I’m a fickle bugger!


An after thought

I don’t think I was that bothered about this event to begin with – I have had a rough few weeks with work and all I wanted to do was disappear. This might explain the extreme moodiness 😀 A few words from Matt (Running Adventures) has given me the kick I needed to change my mindset. Not only has his online coaching provided me with training to complete these ultras with relative ease, but he also gives me a mental kick when needed! For that I thank you.

So now for recovery and start to appreciate my ultra performances are improving. I have also arranged to recce part of Lakes in a Day route. The road is long….and long is good.

Dukeries 40 and what next?

This year I blogged about training for Paris Marathon in April. If you’ve seen my blogs, you know it didn’t go to plan, but overall I was happy with my finish.

So what’s been happening since? Well I ran another marathon – Newcastle Way Trail marathon 6 days after Paris Continue reading “Dukeries 40 and what next?”

Two marathons, trail running and inner peace

It’s been 6 days since Paris marathon. If you read my race report you would have seen it broke me. So 5 days of rest and recovery followed.

Then Newcastle Way trail marathon was today. I signed up to this last year and I had no idea if I could even complete half of it!

So 8am at the Ash Inn at Mow Cop I set off on the trail. The plan – to run at a pace that felt right for my legs. And that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately this also meant leaving my club runners behind. But I needed to keep the legs turning over at the right pace. 

Within the 1st mile I was so piggin’ happy! It felt like I was back home, on the trails, away from the pavements. Life felt good. I was a little nervous about the trail as this was my 1st proper trail run since spraining my ankle back in early December. Thankfully, all was well. 

The route was a mix of fields, lanes, woodland with a evil Lane just past the Swan with Two Necks (around mile 15?). I hated this Lane last year! This year it felt a lot easier. In fact the whole route felt a lot easier. 

So I carried on plodding along, running with Steve, a fellow TT and Trenthamer. By the time we reached the end of the lane I was feeling good. I knew the end was only about 12 or so km away. I could have quite happily picked up the pace. My legs felt loose, I had energy. But I didn’t pick up the pace.

I carried on running with Steve. If I’d have picked up the pace, I may have ended up running on my own and I certainly wouldn’t have felt good about leaving behind my running partner. So we carried on together. I did run off ahead in the last few hundred metres. I had to have that sprint finish. Never not had one yet. 

And I crossed the line with a time of 5:51 which puts me in around mid-field. 

This wasn’t an easy race. After all its a marathon! It has about 100 stiles and over 2000 feet of gain. But it’s certainly the easiest trail marathon I’ve done. Comparatively flat. And it’s 26.2 miles. Trust me, that’s really unusual for a trail marathon. My last trail marathon was 32 miles  (no it’s not an ultra). So relatively speaking, it’s a nice easy one to do. 

Couple that with the easy pace of 13mm and good cool weather, I finished feeling I could have carried on.

Which was a massive relief.

These last few months I’ve really questioned my running ability. Injuries, illness and sporadic training. I didn’t think I had any endurance in me. But finishing this race fully capable of running more has put a lot of fears to rest. 

I feel more positive about entering my next phase of training in preparation for Lakes in a Day. 

And I’m back on the trails. I intend to stay there.

Paris Marathon: 12 weeks of training.

Paris Marathon took place on Sunday 9th April at approximately 9.15am for the 4 hour wave runners. That would be me. If you have read my past weekly posts, you’d know that my training has not gone smoothly – namely due to sprained ankle recovery, a couple of infections and antibiotics…blah, blah, blah. The list goes on.

Based on everything that had happened over the 12 weeks, I revised my original goals of 3.50/4.00/4.10 to getting close to my Manchester Marathon time of 4:23. Deep down I still hoped for something between 4-4:10. After all, I had come off the antibiotics a few days prior to the marathon and I felt OK. I felt optimistic! Continue reading “Paris Marathon: 12 weeks of training.”

Warts n all: Wk 8 of 12 of marathon training

So the end of week 8 included a half marathon which was supposed to provide an idea on how my marathon performance was going to go and to practice race conditions. The target set for me was not met. Here Continue reading “Warts n all: Wk 8 of 12 of marathon training”

Warts n all: weeks 6 & 7 of marathon training

I dropped the ball.

Work was mental and I barely had any sleep. My health took a nose dive and my training suffered which is why there was no week 6 update: So here is my training as it stands: Continue reading “Warts n all: weeks 6 & 7 of marathon training”

Warts n all: Wk 3 of 12 marathon training

So I have just completed week 3 of marathon training and it’s been a weird week training wise. Here’s what was in my original plan:

  • Monday – rest
  • Tuesday – speed session
  • Wednesday – 40 min easy
  • Thursday – 40 min easy
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – rest
  • Sunday – Alsager 5 race (+warm up/cool down)

And here is what I actually did: Continue reading “Warts n all: Wk 3 of 12 marathon training”

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