The wheels have already come off.

Just writing this sentence makes me sad, dear reader, but write it I must. The three words no runner, cyclist, swimmer, golfer, tiddlywinker or any other type of sportsman wants to say.


Sadly not just a little niggling injury. It appears to be an actual proper injury. Its my knee. My right knee to be more precise. As somebody messaged me the other day, “When you are in your 20’s you have a right knee and a left knee. When you are in your 40’s you have a good knee and a bad knee.”

Well in my case this is very true, and my bad knee is my right one.

I can run about 8km (5 miles), and then at that point my knee really starts to hurt. I was once told that on a scale of 1-10, pain above a 4 means you should stop. I am easily at a 7 by the time I have done 8km.

Being as incredibly stubborn as I am, I could probably keep going (all be it a bit slower) and run further on this bad knee. But I can’t escape the thought that I am probably doing it more damage than good by doing this.

This is all fairly disastrous news when it comes to the London Marathon in about 12 weeks time, but fear not dear reader, all is not lost. Cause when the chips are down, you need a crazy plan. And I am the KING of crazy plans.

Step up somebody who has featured on my blog before. Mr Trevor Payne. Trevor is an ex-professional Ironman, who is now one of the leading biometric coaches in the country. I am also proud to call Trevor a friend. I have attended countless training sessions with him, seen him for physio assessments in the past and there is nobodies judgement I trust more closely than his when it comes to all things endurance and physiological.

Limping back from a failed run recently, I gave Trevor a call. Realising I was not helping my knee one bit by carrying on running, I had already hatched a plan, but wanted his approval. The plan goes like this.

  1. No more running for a while. Worst case scenario, one run a week of up to 8km (stopping before my knee really hurts)
  2. Perform the majority of my marathon fitness work on my bike. Utilising the turbo trainer as much as possible with perhaps a long bike ride outside at the weekend.
  3. Plenty of strength work (prescribed by Trevor) to work on stabilising this dodgy knee.
  4. Keep up the yoga and flexibility work, cause this always helps.
  5. No panicking.
  6. Re-introduce some extra running closer to the marathon date and see how it feels.
  7. Turn up on the day, man up more than you have ever manned up before, and get that marathon done.
Trevor runs APT. Click the image to visit his website

Trevor has endorsed my plan with flying colours. So, the wheels have come off for “traditional” marathon training, which involves a lot of running, but the wheels are very much back on for this alternative marathon training plan.

So my friends, here we have it. I will still be at the start line of London Marathon. But I am very likely to be there having run less that I have ever done in preparation for a marathon before.

Many people, especially seasoned runners, would consider me insane for attempting to run a marathon with only a relatively small amount of running miles under my belt. Conventional wisdom has you running up to 20 miles on your longest run, with some running plans having literally 100’s of weekly miles required. But who cares about conventional wisdom? Not me!

I am very likely to turn up on the day having not even recently run a half marathon. But I will be in good shape by then. I am determined to get as much cardiovascular fitness as possible. And Trevor will make sure my knee is as well recovered as it can be.

Bloody mindedness and sheer determination will take care of the rest.

As a great endurance athlete once said “how hard can it be”.



It’s all becoming a bit real……..and very very scary

So as I write this , it is 26 days until Race to the King.  26 days until I lace up my trainers, and alongside my good friend Freestone, start to run/walk/trudge/shuffle my way along 53 miles of the South Downs Way.

2017-05-20 07.28.38
Me and Freestone.  We are handsome fellas…….right?

I have been doing a fair amount of training.  Concentrating on a double run every weekend (either a shorter run followed by a long one, or the other way round) I am training my body to run on tired legs.  I have made sure to train on the South Downs as much as possible, to simulate the conditions on race day.  I have even been out running in the midday heat.

All of this is well and good, but I do seem to have developed a bit of an injury.  It was
inevitable.  I have no running pedigree.  No years of running experience to fall back on.  I have only really run any endurance type stuff for the last 4 years, and only regularly trained on long runs in the last 6 months.  The injury I have is an overuse injury of some
2017-05-07 08.46.20description.  The pain is in the area highlighted in the photo on the right.  I have consulted the good old internet doctor and think it might be a metatarsal stress fracture.  This seems the most likely option anyway.

Now the injury only hurts me once I have run for more than 2-3 hours, but consistently at around this mark it kicks in and hurts like hell. I will likely be running for around 14 hours at the Race to the King, meaning that I will have to run in pain for at least 11 hours.  This is going to be a bit tricky to say the least.

I now need to decide what to do.  I could just ignore it and keep going.  I could rest and avoid all running for a couple of weeks and see where I am.  What I really should do is go and see a physio, so I think this is what I will actually do.

Am worried that they will tell me no running, and that really I should not be doing the race.  I am doing the race regardless, so my thinking is that going to see the physio can do no harm and might actually do me a bit of good.

You never know, they might just give me a magic pill that not only sorts my foot out, but also turns me into the best ultra-runner the world has ever seen.

Stranger things have happened.



5 things to help you cope with a DNS (Did Not Start)

There is only one thing that I fear more than a DNS (Did Not Finish) and that is a DNS (Did Not Start), yet I am realising these fears tomorrow as I am not going to be running by first big race of the year, the Meon Valley Plod run by Portsmouth Joggers.  This is a very tough 21 mile off road race.  Hilly, muddy, just up my street.  Alas I will not be there.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have had a cold, but this cold just hasn’t gone away.  It has lingered on and on, runny nose persisting, cough persisting and despite eating healthy, sleeping plenty and doing all the things you are supposed to do I just haven’t shaken it.

I am also still struggling with a bit of ankle pain, following badly spraining my ankle at the Hellrunner in January. These two things combined have meant that since the Hellrunner on the 14th January I have only run 4 times (including Havant Park Run this morning).

Obviously this is not enough training for a 21 mile hilly off road race, so I have taken the sensible decision and pulled out.  I decided this mid-week last week, and am very glad I have done so.  As you can see from my heart rate data from this mornings Parkrun (in the image below), I am clearly still struggling with this virus.  Under normal circumstances my heart rate for a 28 minute 5km would be about 160bpm.  Today it was averaging at 180 and peaked at 188!  Heart is definitely having a bit of a struggle.  This just wouldn’t have worked over 21 miles.


So that leaves me with the thought, how should I react to this DNS.  Well below are my top 5 ideas.

1) Re-strategise and plan for my upcoming 13 marathon challenge.  I need to re-think how I approach Brighton Marathon in 5 weeks time, as I have done nowhere near enough training and do not want to risk injury by trying to run Brighton to fast.

2) Concentrate on the positives – Despite not making it to the start line on my first big race of the year, I am 80% recovered from my ankle injury, my cold will eventually go and I have a big year of racing ahead of me and plenty to train for and look forward to.

3) Keep my eyes on the prize – This whole year is about running 13 marathons including 2 Ultra’s, so I need to keep reminding myself of that.  There is nothing to be gained by being short-sighted,

4) Cross Train – I have a turbo trainer, a weight rack in the garage, a punch bag and plenty of space for Yoga.  I should be concentrating on this and not worrying about running.  I know I can run, I just need to be fit enough to do so.

5) Sleep – Sleep is the master healer, and I do not get enough of it.  Must try harder to get to bed early and get my 8 hours in.

So that is that.  My plan on how to come back from not starting.  Let’s see how it goes shall we.



5 things I would not have known if I hadn’t gotten injured

So it is now about 4 weeks since I got injured running the Hellrunner.  Just a badly sprained ankle.  It still hurts now, but I did manage to go out for a run at the weekend.  I thought I would just do a couple of kilometres to ease myself in and ended up running 12.  Still, I survived, and as long as I don’t try to change direction too quickly and stay on flat surfaces my ankle feels OK.

Whilst I had 4 weeks off running I thought I would concentrate on some other areas of fitness.  Below are the 5 things that I have learn’t through this period.

1. I am very bad at losing weight through diet alone

iuI have been a lot more careful about what I am eating (well at least during the week I have been) and have managed to stop myself from putting on any weight.  I haven’t gained any, but haven’t really lost any.  I eat healthily in the week and it all goes flying out of the window at the weekend.  This seems to maintain some sort of equilibrium; however I would not necessary recommend this method to anybody.  Essentially I have been beating myself up about this quite a bit.  Why can’t I just stay on course with a diet?  Why do I sabotage myself?  Why do I not care more.  Luckily this moves me onto number 2

2. I should stop beating myself up so much

By way of a regular email update I receive from the superb Darin Olien website Superlife, I was directed to this article on the website of Nate Green website, simply entitled “Why is it so hard to stay consistent at the weekend?”  It is well worth a quick read, but essentially says that it is easy to skip out on the healthy habits that you may have formed and be able to stick to during the week when you are out of routine at the weekend.  Now I am an absolute MASTER at this, but took some comfort from the article and have subsequently adopted number 3 into my life

3. I have created myself a shortlist

This is a shortlist of things that I will endeavour to do each and every day in order to keep my healthy habits in check (as per the article above).  The shortlist I have decided on is this:

  1. Get 7-8 hours sleep every night
  2. Do a minimum of 10 minutes meditation every day
  3. Eat a vegan diet, with a minimum of one whole food plant based meal per day
  4. 30 minutes exercise per day
  5. 20 minutes of stretching/yoga per day
  6. Work on your book / practice piano / updated your blog for 30 minutes per day

I should probably break these down a bit more to add a bit more context.

  1. With two children under 4 this is not always in my control, but I will be going to bed earlier at a minimum
  2. I have the Headspace App and this is easy to fit into even the busiest day.
  3. I eat Vegan 99% of the time, but it is easy to eat a fairly poor vegan diet (chips, sandwiches etc).  From now onwards I will make sure that one meal is whole food and plant based entirely.  Nothing processed.
  4. This can be either weights, running, cycling, swimming, whatever.  Just must get my heart rate up for a minimum of 30 minutes
  5. This will either be first thing in the morning or just before bed, but is essential as I do absolutely none of this now.
  6. I have wanted to write a book about my Ironman exploits ever since completing it.  I also have a piano and want to learn to play it, and should definitely be better at updating my blog.  It’s only 30 minutes after all.

4. No more watching TV

Due to being injured I had a very good excuse to just flop on the sofa and do nothing every evening in front of the TV.  I was getting really good at it too.  Often I would fall asleep on the sofa and never even make it into bed.  I was enjoying my lazy lifestyle far too much.  So I decided no more TV.  Since stopping watching it I have achieved far more every evening.  So to allow the 6 things above to happen, TV has had to get out of the way.  Do I miss it.  Not one bit!

5. I can really achieve anything if I just go after it hard enough

You would think that somebody who has completed an Ironman would already believe this, and to a large extent I do.  The difference now is that I spent time educating myself whilst I was off injured.  Looking into the amazing feats of others.  How do they manage them?  What makes them different to me?  You know what I realised?  Nothing makes them different to me.

David Goggins

I have been hugely inspired by the stories of both David Goggins and Andrew Taylor.  Goggins is an ex Navy Seal, and is widely considered the Toughest or Fittest athlete in the World.  He held the world pull up record (over 4000 in 24 hours), ran a 100 mile running race with absolutely no training at all and has gone onto complete multiple ultra-marathons, triathlons, ultra-triathlons, bike races and arduous mountain ascents, setting new course records and regularly placing in the top five.  His entire attitude is, you only fail if you don’t want it enough.  The Rich Roll podcast with him on is absolutely worth a listen to if you fancy some inspiration from a truly remarkable person.  The best part is, he is no different from you or I.  He just wants it more!

Andrew Taylor is better known as “Spud Fit”.  A genuinely fascinating antipodean who ate only potatoes for an entire year!  He lost over 114lbs in weight, his health improved exponentially and most of all he survived with no adverse affects.  That’s right, a diet of only potatoes for an entire year.  Once again, dedication and a bit of self control and this crazy Aussie did something pretty damn amazing.

Andrew “Spudfit” Taylor

Both of these guys have reminded me that if you want extreme results, sometimes you have to go through extreme measures.  I want to run 13 marathons in 12 months (including two ultra marathons now, not just one). To many this is pretty extreme, and perhaps it is.  But I am going to go to extreme lengths to make it happen.  I am going to train hard.  I am going to focus.  I am not going to beat myself up every day, but instead do something every day to move me closer to my goal.  I am going to endure, through pain, through injury, through doubt, through fear, through whatever this journey throws at me and I will complete my marathon journey!

Just like Goggins and Taylor, if I want it badly enough I will be able to get it.

Now it’s off to the garage to lift some weights, then yoga, then meditation then bed!



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Race report – Hellrunner Hell Down South

It’s 0700 hours on Saturday 14th January and my alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the Hell Down South Hellrunner.

For the uninitiated, the Hellrunner series is either 10 or 12 miles of extreme cross country running.  Featuring the “Bog of Doom” and the “Hills of Hell”, the run markets itself as “Tougher than a Tough Mudder”.

Why oh why would anybody ever sign up to this sort of madness?  Well in my case, my friends Bushy and River and others have done this and it has always been on my list, so as soon as my friend Mark from work asked if I wanted to join in I jumped at the chance.   To coin my usual catchphrase, how hard can it be?


Running late

brooks-hell-runner-logoThe Hellrunner was on Longmoor Army Base, which is only about 20 minutes from my
house.  We had been warned by the race organisers that it would take a while to get into the car parking, so I left with what I thought was plenty of time.  Sadly it took a bit longer than I expected to get from the motorway into the venue.  I was in phoning Mark (who was better organised and already there) and he was reporting back that the start was delayed by 10-15 mins.  Luckily, I was not the only one who had underestimated how long it would take to get in. This meant that our wave was due to start at 10.15

Parking my car and checking the time it was 11 minutes past 10.  I had been directed to park quite some distance from the race start, so I grabbed my gear and started to run towards the start.  Over a motorway bridge then through a field I stopped for a quick wee in a portaloo and met Mark outside the bag drop just as the 11.15 wave started running.  Dumping the bag at the bag drop,  Mark shouted to me that we could still go if we were quick, so I tied my shoes a bit tighter and together we ran to the start and we were off.

Not exactly the race start I had hoped for, and I jovially commented to Mark that I was sure that Mo Farah did a bit more warming up for his races than just turn up and go for it.  I had really wanted to do a proper warm up as the trail was all off road and very hilly and I wanted to make sure that my body was ready for the challenge.  Still too late for that now.  I was off and running in my first ever Hellrunner.


Catching up the pack

Mark is a great runner and he set the initial pace as we set off over the uneven terrain, pocked with deep muddy puddles with jagged ice floating on the top.  Soon we caught up with the tail end of the runners from our start time and started to overtake a few.  The course was up and down steep sandy banks, and wound few beautiful heathland.  There were a few deep gullys we had to run through, jumping into the black ooze then climbing up the other side.  Despite having cold feet I was loving this sort of running.  I never get much of a chance to run true cross country like this and it was definitely up my street.

As usual the GPS on my watch let me down and started to tell me we had done a lot less distance than I knew we had run, but instinctively I knew we had covered the first mile in a good time and were both carving our way through the pack nicely.  It felt good to be overtaking other people (as usually I am the one being overtaken) and I was enjoying Mark’s company and chatting with the other runners.  Most encouragingly was I felt good. It was great to be out running my first race of the year and as this is such a huge year of running for me, even better to have it underway.


Twist and CRACK

Somewhere between mile 1 and 2 there was a short uphill followed by a brief winding technical section though a wooded area.  This section was fairly narrow and there were quite a few runners around still so we had to pick our way through carefully.  Turning right to follow the group my left foot went into a hole that I hadn’t seen, my ankle rolled forward and I heard and felt a double crack in my left ankle.  I immediately stopped, my ankle searing with pain.  Uttering some sort of expletive, I grabbed a tree and stood on one leg breathing heavily trying to recover from the sudden shock.  Mark had stopped next to me and was asking me how I was, encouraging me to try and put some weight on my ankle.  Gingerly I put my ankle down and it was not good.  The pain was intense as I put my weight through it and I was cursing my bad luck.  Never the less, standing around was achieving nothing.  Even if I  was going to be forced out of the race through injury there was no chance of being collected by the marshall in the middle of a wood.  We had only one choice, keep going.

Limping forward at a slow walk I was in considerable pain, but I have had twisted ankles many times playing football and knew that you could sometimes walk it off.  After a minute of walking I sped up into a very slow jog, but each step was genuine agony.  Mark turned to me and said “there is no way you are quitting.  I will carry you over the line if I have to, but we are finishing this” and I absolutely agreed with him.  There was not a single thought in my mind about stopping.  I am an Ironman for god sakes.  If I can complete one of the hardest races in the world, I can definitely run 8 or so miles on a twisted ankle.

Slowly speeding up we continued forward.  After a mile or so more Mark confessed in me that he was struggling with his left knee, so we were hardly fighting fit but we kept on going.  For me, downhills were absolute agony.  For Mark, it was the opposite.  He was OK going down but struggled up the hills.  As this course was almost 100% hills we were making slow progress, but we were still moving forwards.


Enjoying the run

Despite my ankle pain and Mark struggling with his knee, we were enjoying the run.  The scenery was breathtaking at times and the course so varied that you never knew what was round the corner.  Hills so steep you were on all fours to get up them, then down the other side grabbing trees and shrubs to slow your descent, the race was brilliant.  We knew we had both the Hills of Hell and the Bog of Doom to come, but to be honest soaking my ankle in a freezing cold bog seemed like a great option to me.

Soon we arrived at the first bog, which is not the Bog of Doom but might as well have been.  Entering into it, the silt was incredibly deep, the water absolutely freezing and there were sunken logs to get your feet stuck under.  Wading through it was not easy, but together Mark and I made our way through.  I thought I had lost Mark at one point as he almost submerged beneath the murky down brown water, but he recovered, I pulled him up and we went on.

Mark just recovering and avoiding a full dunking


Out of the first bog

Soon we emerged out of the first bog together and on we went.  It was very cold, and the bog had really taken it out of Mark who actually seemed out of breath for the first time in the race.  In fact, I think this is the first time I have ever seem Mark out of breath.  He really is super fit, but the bog had taken it’s toll.  Never the less, we had at least 4 miles to go, still had the Hills of Hell and the Bog of Doom and were both carrying injury, so we needed to get on with it.


Devil’s Disco and Hills of Hell

Jogging further on we soon saw a group of cheerleaders dressed all in white and a big tent pumping out dance music.  This was the Devil’s Disco, and as we ran through the tent and grabbed some water and some sort of energy shot I realised we were getting closer to the finish.  Following the tent came a serious downhill, which I really struggled with.  Getting to the bottom my ankle was screaming at me.  I had to take a moment to compose myself.  Surely we didn’t have that much further to go and these Hills of Hell couldn’t be that bad.

Continuing on we climbed more hills and down the other side, ran more single track and just kept on going.  Then we were finally there, the Hills of Hell.  These are essentially a group of extremely steep trails up and down the same couple of hills.  You would slip and slide down one, only to turn 180 degrees on a switchback and go straight back up the same hill on a slightly different trail.  I could tell that Mark was struggling a bit at this point, as every time we got to yet another hill he would say “not another one”.  Luckily I could sense there was an element of comedy in his voice and knew that deep down he was enjoying himself, despite how hard he was finding the race.

Due to my ankle injury slowing me down, I actually felt OK.  Actually I felt good.  I didn’t feel tired or fatigued in any way, just had a very hurty ankle.  I knew how bad my ankle was when we started down a hill and Mark said to me “bloody hell James, your ankle looks terrible”.  I hadn’t been looking at it.  All I could manage in reply was “it feels terrible too”.  We laughed and then carried on.


Bog of Doom and done

Cresting yet another of the Hills of Hell, we were told by the marshall that it was the last one, and all we had left was a quick downhill, the Bog of Doom and we were done.  On we ran and we could see the bog, hear the music pumping out and see the crowd.  Tentatively sliding myself into the bog, I was quickly chest deep in very cold water.  Wading through, I was overtaking people.  Joking with Mark that I had found my forte in cross country, I pushed forward.  Waving at the spectators and high fiving the marshall I felt the usual boost that you do at the end of any race.  Despite having to complete the vast majority of the course on a very dodgy ankle I had done it.

I was delighted for Mark as well, who was clearly suffering with his knee despite not complaining about it.  I knew how much he had been feeling it at the end of the race and was pleased we had made it through together.

Exiting the Bog of Doom we were done.  A quick downhill and then over the line.  It had taken us 2hrs and 30 minutes to cover the 10 miles of the course.  2hrs 30 minutes of hard graft.

Across the line and we were finished the Hellrunner Hell Down South

Collecting my bag and then limping over to Mark’s car we discussed the event and how we felt.  Remarkably I felt absolutely fine.  Other than the ankle, I felt as if I could just turn around and do the whole thing again.  Perhaps I am a bit fitter than I give myself credit for, or just so pig headed that I won’t quit.  Either way it gets results.

2017-01-14-13-00-27Arriving at Mark’s car I had a look at my ankle for the first time and was shocked to see a huge swelling on the ankle bone.  You can hopefully see this in the picture.  Having completed the race the adrenaline was dying down and my ankle was really starting to hurt.

Mark was good enough to drive me back to my car and I drove home.  Consulting with my wife, I decided to visit the hospital in the morning and see what they thought.

Diagnosis has been given that it is a sprained ankle and I should keep off it for 6 weeks. This will seriously dent my training for 2017, but I don’t really care.

I loved the Hellrunner, loved running it with Mark and will definitely be back next year.

Will keep you all updated as to how the recovery goes.




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